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Grado headphones best Beats and Bose

The Grado Prestige 325is is now our top-rated headphone model

Published: July 02, 2014 03:30 PM
Grado Prestige SR325is
The new top dog in our headphone ratings.

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Grado headphones don't tend to garner headlines like flashier competitors such as Beats and Bose, but the company has been making consistently great-sounding headphones for decades out of the same family-run shop in Brooklyn, N.Y.

While some lower-priced Grado headphones have been in our Ratings for several years—including the Prestige SR60i ($80) and SR80i ($100), recommended models that are both CR Best Buys—we recently bought the pricier $300 Prestige SR325is over-ear model and put it through our battery of tests.

The result: It's now our top-rated headphone, with an overall score higher than any Beats by Dr. Dre or Bose model in our Ratings, though headphones from both those companies have done well.

There's a lot to like about the 325is, though anyone who wants a bit of flash to go along with their Pharrell should probably look elsewhere. The headphones rock a retro-looking, throwback design (powder-coated aluminum housings, black ear surrounds and headband), and are offered in a Henry Ford-approved color choice—black.

Find the best model for your needs and budget: Check our headphone buying guide and Ratings.

I don't know about you, but I don't especially care what my headphones look like—I can't see them while I'm wearing them, and I'm not counting on headphones to enhance my admittedly low social status. But I do want them to sound good, and in this area the 325is 'phones excel, providing excellent overall sound, with a neutral to cool character. Like the SR80i model, these headphones are fairly open sounding, with good dynamics. Bass has good impact, is well defined, and goes fairly deep, and midrange is very clean and has exceptional detail. Treble is similarly detailed and extended. Compared to the SR80i, the SR325is has sound that is more detailed and dimensional. In short, it sounded good enough that many listeners will find it to be the benchmark for sound in this price range.

While the 325is has high sensitivity—meaning the headphones can be used with all but the lowest-powered portable devices—the headphones are fairly large, which could matter if you want an easily portable model. Also, they have an open-air design, so they don't block out external noise the way many in-ear and over-ear models do. And a decent amount of sound can escape from the earcups, which might be a concern if you don't want to bother others while you get your groove on. As such, they're probably best suited for use in quieter environments, or in situations where you might want to be able to hear what's going on around you while wearing the headphones.

The Prestige 325is model is still widely available, but the company just introduced a new Prestige "e" series that will replace all the "i" and "is" models, including the SR60, SR80, SR125, SR225, and SR325. We hope to get some of these newer headphones into our labs for testing soon, so keep checking our headphones Ratings for all the latest updates.

—James K. Willcox

   

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