Grado SR80e Review - Open-back On-ear Headphones Any Good?

Grado SR80e Review

Grado sr80e open back on-ear headphones

Classic looks, top notch build quality, unbelievable sound, and an affordable price make the Grado SR80e an excellent choice for anyone wanting a great set of on ear headphones.

Check out the following Grado SR80e review and see why the company has become a premier name in the headphone industry.

Pros: A classy looking set of headphones; incredible sound quality; great build quality; Grado’s renowned midrange tonality.
Cons: Unique design will not be for everyone; some may not like the way they feel, at least at first; open backed on ear design prevents outside noise attenuation; open backed design allows audio to leak from the headphones; does not come with a case or carrying bag.


  • Headphone Type: Open backed, on-ear, wired
  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Operating Principle: Open Air
  • Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 hz
  • SPL 1mW: 99.8 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Driver Matched dB: .1 dB

Package Contents

  • Grado SR80e Headphones
  • Warranty Information
  • 6.5mm Golden Adapter


The Grado SR80e is a somewhat unusual design in that it is an open-backed, on-ear headphone with a retro look that reminds me of vintage radio style designs.

This is not to say they aren’t comfortable to wear; they’re actually very comfortable. Some may find, however, that they take a bit of getting used to.

The ear cups sit on your ears and do not wrap around them as over ear designs do. This allows the Grado SR80e to be smaller and more compact, making them more portable than over ear audiophile models.

The earcup pads are made of foam which is a somewhat unusual choice. Most headphones in this price range have leather style padding. The foam is thicker, however, than those commonly found on cheap headphones and I found them to be comfortable to wear, with none of the scratchiness that cheap foam earpads seem to offer.


Overall, the Grado headphone in this review was well built and well designed. My only concern is that the foam earpads may be susceptible to tearing.

On the other hand, they are fully and easily replaceable if something goes wrong.


This is a basic wired set of headphones with no additional features or bells and whistles. Their main qualities are their unique design and unbelievable sound quality, which is discussed in detail in the next section.


While the SR80e doesn’t offer a lot of extra features, it more than makes up for this in sound quality. The sound portion of the Grado SR80e review consisted of listening to several types of music, as well as podcasts and audio books. They excelled in every area.

Their newly designed driver and open backed construction allow for a full and rich sound that will please even the most demanding audiophiles. The lows are tight and defined, with a response that extends well into the sub frequencies.

Grado headphones are known for their extremely low distortion and the SR80e is no different. In addition, they provide rich harmonics, with just the right amount of tonal color.

It is impossible to do a Grado headphone review without mentioning Grado’s renowned midrange. It’s one of those things you have to hear to truly understand. They have a sort of signature harmonic color that lets you know they are Grados.

The midrange is not quite as smooth and detailed as it is in more expensive Grado models. Still, for the price, this is an amazing set of headphones. They still have the “Grado sound” just not to the degree of their headphones in the $500 and up range.

The highs are smooth as silk and never brittle, with a sweetness that is synonymous with the Grado name. In fact, the quality of the highs is my favorite part of this headphone.

In addition, the stereo image is wide and clear; sound images appear distinctly in various parts of the stereo spectrum. Plus the audio is incredibly dynamic. Guitar solos seem to jump out at you, while vocals are detailed and present.

Because of the low distortion and accurate frequency response, the sound is cleaner and clearer than on most headphones. The bass doesn’t interfere with, or muddy the mids. The mids don’t affect the highs either, allowing each element of the frequency spectrum to be clean, clear, and dynamic.

I should point out that due to the open backed on ear design, this set of Grado headphones has very little outside noise attenuation. Also, they do not stop sound from leaking out. This is not a design flaw; in fact it is the very thing that makes them sound so amazing.

However, they are not the best choice if you want to block out external noise or keep sound from your headphones from being overheard by others.

Our Verdict on Grado SR80e

Doing a review on the Grado SR80e has shown me that while they are an incredible set of headphone for some, they may be less than ideal for others. Most everyone will find their sound quality pleasing. However, some may not like the retro look or the way these headphones feel.

If you’re like me, however, and love the retro vintage radio look, smaller size, and portability the SR80e offers, then you find numerous uses for these headphones. They are perfect for watching TV, audiophile listening at home, gaming, and other forms of daily use.

If you take them out and use them in public, be prepared to answer questions. People will notice them, compliment them, and ask where you got them.

You’ll also be part of the community of Grado fans throughout the world. Don’t be surprised if another Grado fan stops you and compliments your headphones.

While perfect for numerous uses, the SR80e is not an ideal choice for gym use or exercise. For these types of uses I would recommend a closed back Bluetooth on ear or an earbud style headphone.
In summary, the Grado SR80e is a quality audiophile level headphone at a great price.

They will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for some, they may be nothing short of perfect.

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