Headphones For Listening

February 16, 2012

Headphones for Listening

I’m in the audio business.

The media business, really – I’ve hosted on TV, I write here on PTO, I do web video – but the core of what I do for a living goes in your ears. As such, I’ve been vexed in recent years as I’ve seen more and more overpriced, overbranded headphones being sold to folks who simply don’t know any better. I care about how my headphones sound, especially when I’m listening to music, so I thought I’d offer a quick recommendation for folks who are looking for cans that will sound gorgeous at a decent price.

Grado Labs specializes in headphones. Unlike Beats Audio, they’re not the audio equivalent of a George Foreman grill. Unlike Sennheiser, they haven’t mass-marketed their once-quality products into extinction. Instead, they focus on making headphones with a simple aesthetic, a decent pricepoint, and exceptional sound.

As you can see above, they look like headphones. Classic headphones. They’re not comically oversized, and they don’t feature a goofy, futuristic logo that also advertises your favorite hip-hop producer and soft drink. They’re comfortable, and feature open construction, which means that you’ll be able to hear what’s going on around you in addition to your music. This is how your ears and brain were designed to process sound, and will improve your listening experience, not hinder it. Trust me.

They’re designed for the long-term, as well, with replaceable and repairable parts and a solid build quality that you simply don’t get from most consumer electronics these days.

The SR-60, their base model, sells for about $80. The SR-80, pictured above, sells for about a hundred bucks. Both are exceptional values, and will sound better than the $300 set you might buy from whatever Circuit City is called now. You know… the ones with the red “B” on the side. Of course, Grado has a whole range of options that go up from there for serious audiophiles, but the difference between what you’re listening to now and even their most basic model will be huge.

If you’re looking for something smaller and cheaper, there’s another old standby, the Koss Portapro. The aesthetics are less elegant, but for less than $40, you’ll get exceptional sound for the price, and from personal experience, Koss will replace them for you if they fail for almost any reason.

There’s nothing more inelegant than the wrong tool.