Grado SR80i review

Best home on-ears up to £150, Awards 2013. Whatever you play, these Grados will make it sound superb Tested at £110

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Best home on-ears up to £150, Awards 2013. Not for public use, but for pure sound quality at this price, a superb buy


  • +

    Beautifully revealing, detailed and musical performance


  • -

    Open-backed design leaks so much, people might think it's a ringtone

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

You can't have everything. Sometimes, when it comes to hi-fi, those pesky ‘laws of physics' come along and smugly insist that it simply can't be done. Compromises just have to be made.

In this case, we're referring to the sonic performance of headphones, and what can – and can't – be achieved in terms of real quality: clarity, detail, naturalness, fluidity, transparency, etc.

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The fact is, headphones are used for private listening. Which means most models utilise a closed-back design, which keeps you from inflicting your music on those around you.

But this design also creates a plethora of internal reflections, enclosure vibrations and standing waves – all of which are seriously detrimental to sound quality.

So, what's to be done? Well, it's to Grado's great credit that it decided to answer that question with a method of mind-boggling simplicity: make open-backed headphones that leak sound like there's no tomorrow but which, as a result, sound sublime to the person wearing them.

Sound quality

And it's not as if these colander levels of leakiness are their only idiosyncrasy. With their retro-looking ear-cups attached to a leather headband via a short metal rod, they look for all the world like a headset for a 1950s shortwave radio.

But the SR80is have a serious point. And that point is how they sound – sharply timed, awesomely detailed, musical, natural and – with the right recordings – simply beautiful.

Don't take them on the train with you: the person next to you will hear every single note, and, let's face it, not everyone likes Michael Buble.

But, for home listening where it won't bother the spouse, the SR80is are simply a stupendous buy for £110. Sound per pound? You betcha.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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