The Grado SR80e are on-ear headphones, the new version of the SR80i released more than half a decade ago.
Headphones have changed plenty in that time, but the SR80e are much like the SR80i, but with a slightly tweaked build and redesigned drivers.
Although the SR80e prove poor for listening on buses, trains, or out and about in cities, in terms of the audio quality you get for the price, they're hard to beat for just £89.
Related: Best Headphones
At first glance, the Grado SR80e sport a retro flavour. Everything from the fonts used to the chunky shapes of these headphones could have been beamed from the 1950s. Luckily, they come across as "cool" rather than "out of date".
They're entirely out of step with the way modern on-ear headphones operate, too. The Grado SR80e are open-back headphones with foam pads that are permeable.
They block out almost no noise. As such, the Grado SR80e are best used in a quiet environment, where sound leakage won’t prove to be an annoyance.
Their fit is unusual. Like all larger Grado headphones, the SR80e’s pad foam is fairly firm, and doesn’t feel as soft as leather padding. As a result, they don't offer a luxury-like fit; they're not as comfortable as other sets at the price. However, I’ve been able to wear them for a few hours at a time without any serious discomfort.
Comfort is also aided by those metal rods that protrude from the headband. The cups swivel freely around these, letting the headphones fit to your head instantly.
Extras in the Grado SR80e box are slim, with no carry case included. There is a 3.5mm-to-6.3mm adapter, though.
The Grado SR80e aren’t suitable for all occasions. However, they do offer great sound for the price.
Excellent dynamics and the sheer speed and razor-cut tautness of the sound makes a lot of sub-£100 headphones sound quite lazy and basic. Mid-range detail and the integration of mids and treble are quite exceptional, giving the Grado SR80e a high-end flavour for which you'd normally pay a premium.
There’s no fat or bloat here at all; a lot of headphones at this price introduce some extra bulk in the bass or mids to make the sound more accessible, but it can gum together parts of a mix.
Bass punch is great for a pair of on-ear headphones, all the more impressive when you consider that the SR80e use grilles on the rear of each cup that open the driver cavity to the outside world. Open headphones tend to have more diffused bass.
These are uncompromising headphones – in a great way. However, they won't be for everyone.
The SR80e can sound slightly raw in parts, making for a challenging listen at higher volumes. This borderline hardness tends to sit right in the area in which the Grado SR80e impress most: the mid-range. As a result, aggressive guitar lines and searing vocals will wow you with their clarity and definition while also challenging your ears with their non-smooth texture.
The Grado SE80e also put music up-close to your ears, rather than taking a more laid-back approach. Neither is wrong, but the Grado style gives music plenty of energy, while sacrificing a little sound scale/size.
If you want to save a little money, consider the Grado SR60e, which I reviewed a few years ago. Listening to the two side-by-side; the SR80e have tighter bass, but their sound styles are otherwise similar.
If you're after a set of headphones to use on your commute to and from work, or for an office in which you're in close vicinity to colleagues, then the Grado SR80e won't be for you.
The SR80e aren’t particularly relaxing headphones either, with their less than luxurious foam pads and borderline aggressive presentation of music.
With those caveats out of the way, the Grado SR80e are among the best headphones you can buy for the money, offering superb definition and energy.
Great headphones for those who don't mind sacrificing practicality for sound quality.