In the main I like to listen to my music through real speakers, but, being the henpecked member of the farmyard, Hifi Pig sometimes has to either turn things off or resort to the use of headphones. Now I have my own listening space (to call it a listening “room” would be wholly inappropriate as its just one end of a large living area) I’m listening to lots more music and, let’s face it, sometimes the drivel on the television is just too much to take and a retreat to the sty and some soothing tunes is all there is for it.
It’s with the above in mind that I recently took the bull by the horns and decided to invest in a pair of decent quality headphones. The choice is bewildering, but I had certain criteria I needed to meet and so a short list was made: They needed to be comfortable, they needed to be open back ( I find that closed backs actually sound a little closed in and less airy than their open back counterparts) and they needed to sound good.
Now I’ve owned Grados in the past and liked the presentation and, despite many calling them uncomfortable, I’ve had no problems with them in this respect at all. So it was with a certain degree of piggy trepidation I ordered a pair of the company’s 325is headphones.
Out of the Box
First of all let me say that they took a good while to arrive and I believe the company I ordered from didn’t stock them and had to order direct from the US. When they finally arrived I was surprised by the understated packaging – exactly the same as others in the range, but perfectly acceptable at protecting the ‘phones from bumps and scrapes in the post. Retail is £349 with most outlets offering deals of £315.
Taking them out of the box you are immediately struck by their weight – the drivers are encased in non-resonant, hard-alloy housings. They feel “purposeful” and on first inspection they are exceptionally well put together with the retro design making them look sort of cool in a steam-punk kind of way – Mrs Hifi Pig approves!
What I don’t approve of is the ridiculously short cable that is supplied with most headphones. The cable attached to the Grado 325is is just 1m (or thereabouts) and, unless I’m to lay on the floor of the sty with my head next to the hifi, this is completely and utterly useless and so I had to go to a cable manufacturer and have a 5 metre extension made to enable me to luxuriate in my usual listening seat.
On the head the Grados are comfortable for extended periods of listening, with the headband being flexible and position of the open-cell foam cushioned “ear cup” altered via a substantial slider. The position of the latter does alter the sound and a certain degree of experimentation is needed to get the sound that you are happiest with. Once in position however, they remain in place and I’d happily use these whilst walking and using a portable player.
I’d read a few reviews of these ‘phones and was expecting them to be somewhat harsh in the upper frequencies, but to my ears they aren’t – there is plenty of top end detail, but to call them “harsh” is unfair, though I can understand why some folk would confuse detail and sparkle for harshness. I’ve listened for extended periods and have found them not to be fatiguing as I had thought they may be having read reviews. Some have called the 325s “metallic” but in fairness I think this has little to do with the actual sound and is yet another case of “they are made of metal and so must sound metallic”; we read this all the time in reviews of kit.
At the bottom end of the scale the bass is punchy and tight without being overstated and bloated. This surprised me a little as I expected the ‘phones to be a little bass-light straight out of the box. On Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” the bass bounces along and certainly gets the toes tapping. On heavy dub reggae the bass is certainly adequate for a pair of headphones and I really didn’t find them lacking in anyway. I will be interested to hear how the bass changes over time on these.
Using the same Fleetwood Mac album (it’s an essential album for new kit here) the atmosphere of the lone voice and piano on Songbird is presented beautifully. Mid range on the whole could be said to be a little forward which is no bad thing in my opinion!
I like to listen to headphones from time to time, despite what I said in the first line of this review, as good ones give a real “out of the head” experience. The Grados certainly do this with aplomb and the soundstage is as it should be – I think this is enhanced by the sparkling higher frequencies and the fact that they are open backed. Instruments are easily identifiable in the mix and clearly separated from each other on good recordings.
I like these headphones a great deal, but I can understand why some people may have issues with the upper registers –though I again that I think they are confusing clarity and sparkle for harshness! All in all they represent great value for money. They are great with well recorded material and provide an intimate and involving listening experience.
Author – Stuart
Impedence – 32 Ohms
Frequency range – 18-24000Hz
Signal to Noise ratio- 98dB