The first big step up from the SR60, the SR125 are great headphones for home use. The Grado name suggests high quality and great sound, and the SR125 are no exception. They produce a detailed musical presentation, showing off good highs and mids, with tight, controlled bass. Their only downfall is that they tend to be a bit uncomfortable, but this can be remedied by bending the headband around. The SR125 can be used with a portable player or with an amp.
It's been a long road in my journey to discovering the full potential and capability of my SR-125's, with lows as well as highs, and I hope to give as complete and neutral an account of my experience as possible to aid readers in making an informed decision.
First of all, after 2 years listening to and experimenting with these phones in an often frustrating attempt to get the best possible sound out of them, I am finally and fully convinced that Grado SR-125's are indeed all they're cracked up to be. I can now hear everything that its proponents have been raving about, from the crystal clear detail and flat response, to a real, perceptible soundstage and sound imaging - without the aid of any EQ or processing. With respect to the latter, especially on recordings that had been properly reverbed, I feel I can achieve an audio presentation that even approaches the sound of loudspeakers.
But what took me so long? First, after the first few months, I upgraded my sound card from a $30 one to an audiophile-quality one with 100+ db snr. That obviously made a big difference. Quality of source is definitely the biggest factor, and I would go so far as to speculate that there exists no headphone, no matter how good, that can overcome a bad source. Secondly, I found that removing the foam ear pads and putting the driver units directly over my ears allowed for the greatest clarity and accuracy. This is a controversial claim, and some will definitely disagree that Grado's sound best this way, but I think it is a matter of preference. Placing the drivers further away from the ear will clearly enhance the bass, but with some loss to detail, but will probably sound better, for instance, on a source that either can't produce enough detail in the first place, or isn't neutral. Finally, after quitting my job in manufacturing in Dec 2008, I was surprised to discover that my hearing had been subtly damaged by constant background noise, without my even realizing it. Resting my ears has restored an amazing amount of detail that I had mistakenly thought was missing in my SR-125's. :p
In conclusion, having heard my SR-125's both at its worst and best (well, to date), I just want to stress how important it is to match them with the right source. If your phones don't sound as great as expected, especially if they sound outright bad, it could be from any number of reasons, even hearing damage like in my case. Just try to remember that the problem *probably* doesn't lie with the Grado's.
I find this headphones to sound too bright on most recordings. Only the best quality material sounds balanced. To me, the sound is very detailed and you can hear the last piece of information(great monitors). But the overall presentation tend to be brigth and unfortunately my amplifier has no tone control. So, i am a bit dissapointed with them , to the point that i prefer to listen to the main loudspeakers by far.About the bass, i think is beautifully presented but a bit laid back.
On the other hand, I find them comfortable and well made for the price.The old styled design has little importance to me. The open design allows you to hear what is going on while listening music, which I think is ok.
So, if your system has a tendency to enphasize the high frecuencies or you have recordings that are not perfect , I would not recomend these headphones.
Music Hall mmf 7 turntable
Dynavector DV 20 H cartridge
Dynavector P-75 phonostage
Sony CDP 485 CD player
Technichs ST 505 tuner
Creek evolution integrated amplifier
Yamaha NS 555 speakers
Regular speaker cables
I agree with the previous reviewer about the character of these headphones. I have a 45 Wpc AMC solid state integrated amplifier, a Cambridge 640cV2 CDP and decent Audioquest interconnects, and I find the 125s sound fantastic in terms of dynamics, accuracy, tone and pace. With that said, I also think they sound a bit bright on most recorded material. I listen to a wide variety of musical types and recordings from most recent and highest quality to older jazz re-releases. The 125s not only reproduce the entire spectrum of music (except the lowest low bass) with precision and authority, but also the hash present in the recordings and in my modest electronics. I have found that backing off on the treble and up on the bass just a bit makes the listening experience the most enjoyable. Activating the tone controls not only colors the signal, it also lays the slightest veil over the presentation and smoothes out the rough edges exposed by the 125s. My speakers and room acoustics are more forgiving (less good), and so I switch on the tone defeat setting when listening to them.
I listened to many different brands of headphones at different price points and on different kinds of equipment. I went down in price until I could still hear a convincing facsimile of the highest priced models played through the best equipment on hand. The 125s are really good for the money. Listening to them at one hi fi store through a Cambridge 640c connected to a Creek headphone amp was a revelatory experience and was what finally sold me on the Cambridge CDP. I intend to buy a dedicated amp for the Grados as my next purchase, and will be looking at system with tubes whose roundness and sweetness provides a counter point to the Grado's air and accuracy. While some people complain about Spartan design and lack of comfort, I have no complaints. Rating of 5 stars is based on similarly priced competition. Try em, I think you'll like em.
Do not be fooled by the length of time I have had these headphones, I have spent a great deal of time with them. I will try to provide a very usable review for the non-expert music lover who does care about the music and how it sounds. First, my general opinion is that these headphones are very sweet, they aren't perfect of course, but they are quite good.
First I say you must know your music and listening style, what characteristics in a headphone will work with your music or against it? Consider the source of the music, is it very bass centered, very vocal, strong high frequencies, mellow, reserved or any other adjective/combination you can think of. Within musical genres there will be huge differences in recording quality so try to have realistic expectations and do not generalize based on just a few albums. The more varied the sources you use, the more enjoyment you stand to gain from these headphones.
As many have stated, these headphones provide a very detailed, accurate reproduction of the music. I find the bass and mid-range to be very articulate, fluid and controlled. The bass is very accurate and well defined. Note the bass isn't coloured with engineered emphasis at the headphone level, Grado has left that to the people who engineered and recorded the music.
I value a strong, detailed neutrality in the audio sources I use. While that itself may mean different things to different people, my goal is to hear what was recorded as truly as I can with my equipment.
By no means do I own the elite of audio, but I do have what I think is a very nice listening system capable of reproducing accurate, pleasing, high-quality music. I have a classic NAD 2600A Monitor Series power amplifier coupled with another NAD classic, a 1300 Monitor Series Preamp. My CD player is a new NAD and finally I listen with Energy C-5 floor standing speakers. The speakers by the way are just amazing, if you find some new in any audio shop, please listen to them, you will be very glad you did.
I feel it is important that the reader has some frame of reference in respect to the system any reviewer uses in order to gain any real idea from what it is the reviewer is trying to illustrate. Let's face it, there are no words that can actually portray a sound, only sound itself can do that.
I enjoyed what I felt was a well presented vocal portrayal for both male and female voices. The vocals were balanced, engaging with plenty of warmth and presence. With some very bright, detailed recordings such as The Dave Matthew's Band album Crash, the highs may move more toward over-presented. Lowering the volume will significantly improve this. The same is often true for a great deal of rock which by it's nature, moves toward over-stated, edgy sound and this is magnified the louder you play it as with all music. I have loved listening to the new Tool album, 10 000 Days with the Grados. The album is very well recorded offering you an intricate listening experience full of power and texture with many breaks into rich quiet and dark passages. One of the few rock albums I have been able to really enjoy at a higher volume. Still at the upper edges I wish the Grados a tad less bright, but let's not split hairs, this is really hard rock music played loud, highs will become intense.
My current music listening favorite is a gem of a Peter Gabriel album titled Up released in 2002. This is an album full of amazing music, three tracks from it are just pure art. Track number 3, Sky Blue is an intense discovery of why well recorded music is such a decadent treat, as are the following two tracks, No Way Out and I Grieve. This to me is a prime example of the caliber and recording style of music that makes these headphones simply sing. I was not at all afraid of volume, and even driven very solidly, the 125s performed magnificently. The detail and clarity of the music is spectacular with loads of texture and warmth.
I have spent some time listening to Holly Cole, Tears for Fears, Pink Floyd, Rush, Thievery Corporation, Three Days Grace and many others. I have yet to listen to any choral or orchestral music, nor any Bach, but I will soon as I really love to listen to as many styles of music as I can.
For my conclusion I would feel comfortable saying these headphones are likely to most appeal to and please people with a diverse listening style where quality recordings are sought out. If you liked artificially emphasized bass boom, you will not be 100% satisfied. I play the drums and I love to listen to the bass lines in music, but for me music is a complete sound immersion. These headphones provide a very accurate, engaging bass experience which I found very pleasing and very capable of bringing the bass to life as it was intended to be heard.
Mid range is also very rich and detailed, but with poor or edgy source recordings and any real volume, I find some less than pleasing moments in the music. Again, please put that in context, if the music lacks balance and is very bright itself, these detailed headphones will portray that to a detail that is not always pleasant, but not unexpected.
This is a follow-up to my prior review below - because I've been so impressed with the SR125's compared to the best headphones available.
Sound: I concur with the reviews of the SR125's by www.goodcans.com - which has the most complete, accurate reviews of all of the Grado headphones and of the Senn 600's.
The SR125's render the precision and detail of the music better than any other headphones I've tried - and according to www.goodcans.com (once you've sifted through their reviews), equal to or better than most other headphones for less than $800+, including all of the Grado headphones.
I've tried the SR325's, which have a slightly more extended bass, and a slightly fuller sound - but they can't match the precision, clarity and detail of the SR125's, which provides that "you are there live" sound. You quite literally can hear the "rosin rasp of the bow" on the bass, or cello; and the fine texture and squeak of the fingers on the guitar or bass strings; or the mellow aged timbre of the brass of the sax, or trumpet - it is truly amazing, and virtually unequaled at anywhere near the price.
The bass is solid, punchy, well defined... and detailed, although not quite as big, or as extended as the SR325's, RS-2's, and RS-1's. The mids and highs are clear, accurate, well defined... and detailed. If you're looking for the inarticulate "bass boom" of the "low-end, run-of-the mill," speakers, or headphones, sought by the unrefined ears of rap, hard rock, or metal fans - the SR125's will not likely be for you. But, if you're seeking pure, refined, detail and musical accuracy - you will find none better.
The overall sound tends to be more pristeen and analytical than warm and mellow - as I said "it's detailed," giving you the impression, other's have correctly described, that you're "sitting right on stage" with the musicians. The image, or soundstage, is big and wide, but a bit narrower than the more expensive Grados, or Senns.
Whether instrumental, or vocal, the SR125's resolve any type of jazz, classical, country, or acoustic music as well as, or typically better than, all other headphones available at less than $800+ (although reportedly the Senn HD600/650's with the Cardas, or perhaps Equinox cables may be better - bigger soundstage, more extended bass, and perhaps the same detail... but at a much higher price).
Anyway - if you're "an audio nut" with a refined appreciation of music with all of it's nuances - you will find none better Grados, or others.
Of course, I should note, these observations were made using an upgraded Music Hall MMF CD-25 CD Player, and Musical Fidelity X-CAN v3 headphone amp -which greatly improves the performance of any type of headphones. However, all of the Grados can be easily driven by portable audio devices without an amplifier - it's just that you'll likely obtain a better sound with a good amp.