Sunday, May 13, 2007

Grado SR80 headphones: A review by Dave "Lovesick" Strom

My old Sony headphones at home were falling apart. I wanted new ones. Ones that would cover my ears to block some external noise, and stay on my head better.

First, I though noise-canceling headphones would be neat. After trying them, I found they do the job, but only on low rumbly frequencies, not on whiny kids in coffee shops. So they would be great for an airplane (don't fly as much now), train (rare), or car (don't use headphones there). I will change my mind if I fly or train more in the future.

So I looked for the headphones that would sound the best. And whadda ya know, I found great ratings at Consumer Reports online. Some brand called Grado was rated highly; the Grado SR80 headphones for $95 were second only to the Bose $300 noise-canceling headphones. I looked on Amazon; everyone loves Grado SR80.

I need to try before I buy, but these are hard to find in a local store. I found an audiophile store in Berkeley that sells them. (Music Lovers Audio & Video,1995 El Dorado Ave, Berkeley, CA. Complete with audiophile hardware and a very pettable store kitty.) They are not Frys; if you buy, you keep. I listened. They sounded good. I bought ($95, even on Amazon), trusting the reviews.

Today I REALLY listened, whilst eating Pho and reading my Sunday paper. I am not an audiophile, so I will not talk about different frequencies, warmness of tone, crispness of blah, blah, blah. OK, I noticed that bass sounded bassier, and trebles sounded, uh, treblier? I noticed that with many songs, I heard stuff that I had not heard before. Hey, I had not heard that tambourine! Or that beat! These headphones sound GREAT!

Then I turned on "Mystery Achievement" by The Pretenders. (* I love that song.) The beginning drums sounded clear as a bell. And 13 seconds into the song, I heard... IT.

Chrissie Hynde drew breath. "Huh..."

I had never heard THAT before!!!! Was I imagining it?!?!? Was I getting even MORE Chrissie??!? With trembling, fumbling fingers, I set my iPod to the beginning of the song again. 13 anxiously awaited seconds later...


Oh, Chrissie. Oh, Chrissie! OH, CHRISSIE!!!! Move over, Tyra Banks! I'm in love with my old crush again!

If you want to hear more of your music that you have ever heard before, if you want more high/mid/low range sound, if you wanna hear every little delight hidden away in your music (like Chrissie's smooth sexy little inhale 13 seconds into Mystery Achievement), get the Grado SR80 headphones. You can't find better headphones for less than $100 (before taxes).

The only debits: After an hour, before you get used to the headphones, you might adjust the fit some. Or maybe it is just that you won't wanna take them off. But I find these headphones are feeling better and better. Also, they will not block out external sound, with their foam earcups, quite as well as the top-of-the-line Bose, with their deep plastic earcups. But the SR80s sound so good, you won't notice the external noise (much). I know I am gonna get spoiled.

* Many years ago, I saw The Pretenders live. When Chrissie Hynde sang, I cried out in a lovesick plea, "Chrissie!!!", every 1 minute and 22 seconds, give or take 10 seconds and my testosterone levels at the time.