The Grado SR125e headphones are a nearly perfect headphone for me. They have all of the tight bass punch I need in that jazz drum beat and bass strumming while maintaining the utterly crisp and detailed mids and upper register for which Grado is so famous. This is all within the context of a slightly warmer sound over the SR80s (which have a slightly warmer sound than the 60s). Mind you, I’ve yet to find a pair of Grados that I don’t like, but they do improve at each price point so that, at least for these three, they seem the best value of their respective price points for quiet listening. They also have a cool story behind them: they’re family owned and run right out of Brooklyn where they’re hand built. Read here for more about the Grado family. Oh, and all those cool pics of Grados in unlikely places are taken by Jonathan Grado.
They are, after all, open air, hence the wonderfully large soundstage. So, sound seeps out and into the headsets. When I need to close off the world, I go to my Sennheiser Momentum’s (see Cans: A Personal Journey Through Soundscapes for more on the Sennheisers) and for more mobility I use LG Platinum Tones with Comply Sport Earphone tips (see LG Tone Platinum Tone Brings the Clarity and Detail, Comply Sport Earphone Tips make Your Workout Bassalicous for more on these). There is another reason for the 125e’s to be perfect for me; I have moderate hearing loss mostly in the upper register as well as some in the lower registers. I have an amazing bit of tech in Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) Signia’s Pure Primax 5 hearing aids which accentuate these registers so that I do not need louder sound levels to hear them well (they also do a whole lot more; see Signia Pure Primax – Bionic Hearing in a Small Package for more). I’ll dive into the benefit of the design of all the Grado Prestige line that help with RIC hearing aids in a separate post. This is just to say, this combination is as good as it’s going to get; the sound is delivered into the RIC speakers that essentially provides an individualized equalizer to provide a fairly neutral sound by emphasizing the registers weakest for me.
I have loved the Grado line ever since my first pair of SR60s which I bought a little over eight years ago. The hallmark of Grado headphones is clarity and detail combined with an open soundstage. The SR 60s bring exactly that. There is nothing that touches them in that price range. If they are so good, why move up? Two reasons: the supporting base is reasonable but it lacks oomph and the overall tenor of the sound is a little analytic. I prefer something slightly warmer. The SR125es bring all the richness with tight bass while keeping that sparkling clarity and penchant for detail. They also are relatively easily driven, so, while an amp will help these, they don’t require one. I mostly listen to them with my LG V20 phone which sports an ESS Quad DAC that can push 32 bit / 384 kHz sound with a solid amp. Much of my music is FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files ripped from CDs in the standard 44.1 kHz, 16-bit mode. I also have some lossless WMA files, 320 mp3, 256 mp3 and a smattering of others. However, I also have a mix of HD music (from HDTracks) ranging from 24 bit / 44.1 kHz to 24 bit / 192. I also traverse from classical orchestra and string quartet to jazz to electronica and mashups (think Lindsey Stirling’s dubstep pieces). The SR125es handle this eclectic mix of genres with aplomb. I would also say that the bass is slightly tighter than my Sennheiser Momentum as well a more detailed mids. That’s saying something since the bass and mids on the Momentums are smooth and clear with an astonishingly good soundstage for completely closed in over-the-ear (circumaural) headphones.
What do you need to know about owning these? Well, when you first get them, the headband might be a bit tight; it loosens up over time. The cable to the headphones is thick and a bit stiff at first. It will also lose its tendency to not want to uncurl. It’s also permanently attached to the headphones, so if it breaks (unlikely with this set), you’ll need to send them in. I did this once with my SR60s; they were quick and the repair was reasonable. On par with a new set of cables. While breaking them in may improve them, they sound great right out of the box. As I indicated above, they need a relatively quiet environment but in such, your $150 will be well rewarded.
I cannot recommend these enough.