Grado Prestige Series SR80e review: Strikingly good sound for less than $100

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The Good The Grado SR80e headphones offer impressive sound for the modest $100 price and are comfortable to wear, especially for an on-ear model. Thanks to the open-back design, stereo imaging is more spacious and natural.

The Bad Open-back design lets noise in; beefy plug isn't compatible with many smartphone cases.

The Bottom Line While the open-back design isn't good for noisy environments, the Grado SR80e headphones sound exceptionally good for $100 and are also comfortable to wear.

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8.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Sound 9
  • Value 9

This is the SR80e, Grado's next-gen version of its SR80 Prestige Series on-ear open-back headphone. It replaces the SR80i and at $99 (£99.95 in the UK, AU$179.00 in Australia), it's easily among the best-sounding headphones you can get for under $100 USD.

Grado has not changed the exterior design of the headphone from its predecessors, so -- for an on-ear style headphone -- it's quite comfortable and relatively lightweight. In fact, we found the SR80e's black foam pads more comfortable than the $295 USD SR325e's "bowl" pads, which apply more pressure to the outer edges of your ears.

Our only complaint about the design is the plug. It's very sturdy but with more people using their smartphones as music-playback devices, Grado would have ideally made it more case-friendly. As it is, it's so beefy that if your case ends up recessing your smartphone's headphone jack -- even by half a millimeter -- you just won't be able to plug the headphone in. (Yes, you can buy an adapter dongle, but you shouldn't have to in this day and age.)

As far as extras go, there really aren't any. You do get a 6.33mm (1/4-inch) jack converter for plugging into a home stereo system, but that's it. No case, no inline remote of microphone. Grado remains true to its no-frills audiophile roots, and it's worth noting that every Grado headphone -- even higher-end models -- still come in very simple "cheap" packaging, which is refreshing.