Most audiophiles who’ve been around for a while retain fond memories of at least one Grado product. Over the years, the Brooklyn company has carved out a niche in phono cartridges and headphones that marries value with musical excellence. At the same time, that musicality often gets associated with a certain “Grado sound”. That sound sets Grado apart from other companies, and is held in reverence by Grado fans.
As part of our ongoing headphone work, we felt it necessary to examine what Grado’s most recent headphone work involves. We are working to get the latest Grado statement product, the PS 1000, but it seemed appropriate to start with a model closer to the “value” end of the spectrum. Grado’s Prestige Series is the home of the famous Grado SR60s, so we decided to look at that group. We selected the new SR325is because it is the top of the Prestige line – we wanted to see what the best of the value Grados could do. The SR325is has a street price of $295.
Our few early observations won’t surprise anyone familiar with Grado headphones. The SR325is has sonics that are clearly related to the SR60 and the SR225i, to name two headphones we know pretty well. The thing that immediately strikes you about the 325 is the clarity and smoothness of the midrange. This clarity shows up as natural instrumental tone for instruments in the midrange, and it comes through in the excellent sense of instrumental separation the headphones give.
Tight bass is the second obvious element of the 325is. The Grados don’t give off any sense of bass bloat. You might say the bass is on the light side, and it is just so, but there is enough mid-bass to give a sense of musical foundation. I would say that the upper bass and lower bass are reticent, and this robs the Grados dynamically a bit. At the same time, this bass approach is of a piece with the clear mid-range, so the overall presentation feels open and revealing even if one can find flaws (which is possible with pretty much every transducer – the question is as much whether the flaws are musically coherent or not as it is about the size of the flaws).
On initial listening, the Grado’s treble isn’t bright, but perhaps it could be smoother. On occasion, the treble sounds slightly splashy. But again, the well-chosen balance avoids getting in the way of the music.
We have begun comparing the 325is with the excellent Shure SRH840. That is an interesting comparison of two different but very well done headphones in this broad price category. We’ll have more on that in our full review.