To audiophiles, the term 'Grado' is quite a special one. It refers to a firm who've been making headphones in New York City for the last seventy years, and over the course of the last few years, John Grado's business has become a byword for fun-sounding open-back headphones that are almost obligatory for audiophiles to own. Here, I've got a pair of their SR325x headphones within their entry-level Prestige lineup, and boy are they good.
Upon first inspection, the SR325x don't look like a £262/$295 pair of headphones, with a retro-inspired aesthetic that looks closer to 1953 than 2023. However, it's arguably that retro aesthetic that sets these Grado headphones apart from other similarly-priced choices. They look absolutely fantastic to my eyes, and feel excellent in hand too.
What sets the SR325x's apart from the cheaper options in the Prestige range by way of their construction is the fact the earcups are comprised of aluminium. This gives them a little bit of weight and justifies the price tag a little more than the plastic models do. In addition, the headband on the SR325x is made from actual leather, as opposed to vegan alternatives, and feels excellent, too. My only qualm about their construction is that the earpads here are made of a thin foam, as is typical for Grados, and they do feel as if they could end up falling apart... although at least replacements are pretty inexpensive. Other than the earpads though, the SR325x feels rugged and their construction is excellent.
It may not look as if these Grados support your noggin particularly well, but even with a lack of padding, it's a case of shaping the headband to your head and letting them simply rest on your ears. For someone not too used to on-ear headphones, it took some getting used to, but when you set them just right, the SR325x is a rather comfy set of headphones. The clamping force isn't too much, depending on how tightly you adjust the cups to sit, and a weight of 340g makes these some of the lighter headphones I've tested. They're only a couple of grams more than the Drop + Hifiman HE R7DXs I looked at a couple of months ago, which means they don't feel like your head is straining much when you're wearing them.
The party piece for these Grados comes with the fact these are open-back headphones, meaning they let as much noise out as they do in. Compared to more conventional closed-back cans, open-back designs offer a wider soundstage given there's less physical restriction on how wide the sound can go. While this may be good for audio quality, it means these headphones are designed for home use only. They let in a lot of noise, so they aren't suitable using on your commute to work or when walking around town, and likewise, other people around you will hear every note of your music too.
For their designated purpose of listening at home in a quiet room though, the SR325x sound fantastic. Grados have typically been noted to offer more of a sparkly sound profile that deals out the treble while withholding bass, another characteristic of open-back designs. These SR325x offer a surprisingly robust bass response though, with a punchier low-end than other Grados alongside an excellent soundstage. Their sense of width when playing Rush's 2112 became apparent in the opening Overture section where Alex Lifeson's guitar drives scatter around, making for one of the most immersive listens of the 1976 track I've had in a long time.
The fact the bass here isn't too overpowering or muddy makes the Grados more of a natural listen with mind-blowing clarity and detail. This was clearly presented in a listen to James Taylor's I Was A Fool To Care with a certain crispness to his fingered acoustic guitar, and a sharpness to his vocals that I hadn't noted on other headphones. A listen to some more JT favourites also revealed the width of that soundstage once again, with plenty of breathing room afforded for the rest of the band, especially the strings in the background.
Where it's perhaps little surprise that the Grados really shine is with their presentation of the top-end. As expected, it's wonderfully crisp and clear with the brand's signature sparkle that worked wonders on Steely Dan's Do It Again, whose opening minute of competing percussion can be a minefield for headphone. The SR325x dealt with them marvellously, while that track also acts an exhibition for the true vastness of the can's soundstage. The synth notes at the top of Steve Hogarth's Cage also reinforces the excellent top end, and further contributes to these SR325x's being an astounding listen. As well as this, in Rush's Working Man, Neil Peart's cymbal rides in the song's instrumental section were notably sparkly above the rest of the track's harsh and powerful guitar work.
They're also a solid set of headphones for gaming. The wide soundstage keeps you immersed in all manner of games, especially more cinematic titles, while the more robust bass response compared to other Grados also aids in giving games some impact as well as immersion. I ended up rigging the SR325xs up for some rounds of CS:GO, and this all became apparent with the sheer power of the gunfire and explosions around me, as well as with how expansive matches sounded. Moreover, in having a play with Forza Horizon 5, the immersion factor also came through in races or in freeroam.
All of that above combines to ensure the SR325x's make for some of the best headphones I've tested, especially when paired with the right source material and running them through a powerful DAC such as the Chord Mojo 2 I've got here. With this in mind, the 38-ohm impedance is quite low, so you can run these headphones easily even with a smartphone or a computer's integrated audio.
£262/$295 might seem like an awful lot of money for a pair of headphones in the grand scheme of things, but it's more than worth it for a class-leading pair such as the Grado SR325x. They offer a gorgeous sparkle with oodles of clarity and detail to their sound that makes them an enjoyable listen for all sorts of genres of music and games too. Their status as open-back headphones means they also impress in terms of their soundstage against closed-back opposition. With this in mind, they may take a little bit of time to get to fit right, but other than that, these are some fantastic headphones that are well worth trying for any budding audiophile.
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