Grado SR255e Sound Quality and Subjective Listening
This is actually my first time to experience a Grado headphone. I haven’t tried one before so I can’t compare it to its predecessors. So I’m going to focus on the sound characteristics of the SR225e and compare it with some of the headphones I have tried or reviewed.
When I first listened with the SR225e, I wanted to test the waters first so I fired up Air Supply for some easy and soft listening and then moved on to some rock and heavy metal music. Out of the box I noticed that the SR225e was a bit sibilant and bright for my ears. I was also surprised to hear that the there was a much less bass presence, but I am used to and coming from a much warmer B&W P7 headphone. For my first impression, I was not so impressed with the SR225e for the first few hours of listening with it. But I didn’t give up on the headphone since I believe that the drivers just needs some breaking-in to reach their optimal state.
When I break-in a headphone, what I usually do is plug the headphone to a portable player and let the music play for an hour or so a day. I don’t want to overwork the drivers on the headphone so I make sure that the volume is just right, not too loud and not too soft. After a few days of breaking-in it was time to do some critical listening again. I played the same music from Air Supply and Metallica, and this time there was a noticeable (and significant) improvement in its sound quality.
The highs became tamed and they are no longer hash or sibilant specially the “tss” or “tzz” sound. The bass became more present and details became more revealing. Overall, after the break-in period, the SR255e became smooth and easy to listen with. At that point, the overall tonality of the Grado SR225e is neutral or natural, lively and well-articulated. I definitely would want to take advantage of its open-back design so I listened to a number of classical music, like Johann Bach’s Air and Pachelbel’s Canon on Strings. They were just fantastic! Every detail was just present and every instrument is clearly distinguishable.
Classical music didn’t reveal much of its lower regions so I tried a more aggressive or invigorating approach with Hans Zimmer’s Drink Up Me Hearties and Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones opening theme. The lows from both music were well articulated and present. There was enough rumble and slam that left me in awe. I wasn’t expecting that the SR225e could produce that level of bass with great accuracy and control. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a boomy headphone but I was not expecting that the SR225e was capable of reproducing that level of bass.
Let me break it down for you more. To my ears, the highs of the Grado SR225e are well extended giving you rich and clear details without being too sharp or edgy. The mids are smooth and revealing, not laid back or too forward as well. You get to enjoy the artist’s voice, male or female. When I listen with the SR225e, it feels like the singer is singing to me, right in front of me or right beside me and not just within my head. You can feel the emotion of the singer, thanks to its clear, lively and natural tonality.
The Grado SR225e doesn’t have a well extended bass region. It’s not over emphasized and not boomy, and it doesn’t have that kind of slam or punch you get from a warmer headphone like the Bower & Wilkins P7 or the V-MODA M100. The bass in the SR225e is natural and well-articulated. It’s not very present in music or a sound that doesn’t have much bass presence, but when the lower frequencies are called upon they will show up. No, I don’t think this is a headphone for the bass lovers or EDM-savvy people, but I certainly enjoyed listening to Lindsey Stirling’s music with the SR225e.
One trick I noticed is that if you want to reveal more of its bass frequencies better pair the SR225e with a warmer DAC/AMP. In my case, I prefer to pair the SR225e with my iFi Micro iDSD. The combination is just fantastic to my ears specially when the XBass is turned on; very easy listening, fun and never fatiguing.
Soundstage and imaging is best observed in an open-back design, and the Grado SR225e certainly excels on these areas as well. Most of the time when I listening to a music or watch a movie at night and suddenly there’s a small whispering sound coming from behind, I thought that someone was making that noise or sound from my back and it makes me look around (most of the time). But to my surprise the sound didn’t came from my back, instead it came from the headphone. I have never observed or experienced that kind of situation with a closed back headphone. Well sometimes, but not as convincing as with the SR225e.
On to the conclusion part…
Price and Availability
The Grado Prestige SR225e open-back headphone is now available in the US and comes with a retail price of $200. Grado Labs offer a limited 1 year warranty from purchase of the product.
Grado SR225e Review: Conclusion
The Grado SR225e headphone is one of those things that teach us that we should never judge the book by its cover. Compared to other headphones I previously tried and tested, the SR225e isn’t built to impress in terms of aesthetics. The physical design is retro, simple, and rugged and that’s how a Grado headphone looks like now and even before. You may either hate it or like it, but the most important part here is its audio quality.
I think the SR225e just turned me into a Grado fanboy. I got hook with its natural sounding tone and got captivated with its excellent soundstage. The SR225e delivers a great level of sound reproduction and superb level of detail and clarity that made me wanted to listen more from one music to another. Soundstage is fantastic thanks to its open-back design and you get a well-controlled and accurate bass. It’s just like what Grado said, the SR225e was made so that we could enjoy our favorite music the way it was meant to be heard. No coloration, no distortion, no bloated bass, no veiled vocals, just pure, clean and crystal clear audio quality that I definitely enjoyed.
While the Grado SR225e does offer a fantastic audio quality that could match some headphones two or three times its price, you don’t get that premium feel with this particular headphone. If you want something premium better consider Grado’s Reference or Statement headphones since they used real Mahogany wood on the ear cups, or the Professional series that comes with Aluminum cups. However, these headphones are priced above the $500 range, and the next best thing you could get from the Grado line is the SR325e which is around $295.
I think the Grado SR225e is a great pair of headphone and I definitely wouldn’t hesitate recommending them. I have been using them as my daily driver and I’m very satisfied with the musical enjoyment it has brought to my ears. If you are on a budget and you’re looking for the best pair of headphones under $200 for your audio or music enjoyment, better consider the Grado SR225e on your top list.