Over the past few months, my assortment of headphone reviews has grown to a point where you can find reviews of gaming, music, and everyday headphones. What I have come to learn after all this is that to construct audio equipment it takes time, precision, and a knowledge of the audio market.

When it comes to our headphones, we expect them to last for years and never miss a beat. We also expect a modern style that continues to stay popular and unique.

Manufacturers that have been in the audio business for a long time, and make their income from audio equipment, tend to have the headphones that really speak volumes. No one can wake up one day expecting to join the already crowded audio market, as knowledge on how these devices work is vital.

Headphones that can meet the expectations of a general everyday user are the headphones ones that I personally prefer. The reason behind this is because I don't want to be forced to switch headphones just because I wish to play a PC game or listen to music. Finding a headset that can excel in a music, video, and gaming category can be challenging.

Before we get started on looking for a new headset, we need to ask what makes a quality headset. I’ve mentioned in previous audio reviews, the location of where the product is made is crucial. Here in the United States, we have seen many low quality overseas products and tend to stay away from them when possible. Personally, I attempt to seek out American or European made products to make certain that I am purchasing a quality product.

When looking online for new headphones to review, I stumbled upon a Brooklyn based audio company, Grado Labs, that has been hard at work for over sixty years. Since 1953 this company has been working with audio equipment in the same Brooklyn factory for three generations. After reading the fascinating story behind the company, I took a moment to seek out their products. Split into four different series, Prestige, Reference, Statement, and Professional, Grado Labs have incorporated their own unique style into each and every handmade headset. After researching and watching videos of the Prestige Series, they were a category that I had to try out.

Welcome to my Grado Labs SR225e Prestige Series headphone review. Throughout this review, I will be covering the following topics: the unboxing and story, design, audio quality, and my final thoughts. I would like to give a special thank you to Grado Labs for providing me with the SR225e to review.

The Unboxing and Story

My first impressions of the SR225e begins with a product unboxing that could be improved. For a product that has a “prestige” claim in its name, the product box is anything but.

With it's a flimsy olive green box, the exterior has some product branding as well as a black silhouette of the SR225e. My negative comment is because the cardboard used reminds me of a T-Shirt box you would receive for a birthday present.

Nevertheless, opening up the product box of the SR225e boosted my impressions as I was greeted by a warm welcome letter from the Grado family. This well written letter gives you some insight into the Grado family background of how they have been working hard for three generations.

Moreover, once you have finished reading the welcome letter, the SR225e is removed from the soft touch protected foam and included as an accessory is a 3.5mm to 6.35mm audio adapter. There are also two lengthy paragraphs, printed on the interior of the box, one stating warranty information and the other outlining how the headphones are intended to be used. What’s nice is that the paragraphs written inside the box negates the need for a user manual and allows the box to be your guide; you are also provided with a support phone number and email.

After reading the family letter, I was curious to learn more about the company. It all began three generations ago in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York. The founder, Joseph Grado, began the company by producing stylus cartridges for record players. Later, his nephew, John Grado, took over as CEO of the company. During the 1990s, Grado Labs took the bold move of crafting handmade headphones for the open market. Still manufacturing in the same Brooklyn factory building today, each and every pair of headphones crafted by Grado Labs is completely handmade. A handmade US product can be very hard to come by nowadays, but the quality of such a product is surely to out-compete any other mass produced unit on the market.

Visit the Grado Labs website and you’ll find a story page labeled “heritage matters”. As the webpage explains the family background and how it’s been passed on to each generation, I took away more than that. What I understood from their story, was the fact that the company has acquired sixty years of knowledge. Grado Labs has reached a point where they understand how to craft such a prestige product. I recommend taking a moment to watch this video about the family background that Grado Labs likes to share:


Moving on, we reach my favorite section of headphone reviews, the design. Headphones are a personal statement that allow us to express the type of style that we enjoy. There are some people who enjoy the flashy white and red color scheme of Beats Headphones, whereas, there are others who enjoy a subtle look to their headphones.

The SR225e offers an iconic style that is subtle, yet still expresses a premium design. Take a look at images of studio headphones and styles similar to the SR225e will appear. In my opinion, I find the style of the SR225e to be a representation of an old fashioned style headset with their circular ear cups and metal mesh plating.

Offering a feather-light weight, the SR225e are some of the lightest headphones I have ever used. To maintain this light weight, Grado Labs took a strange approach and did not add any support padding for the head band. Its debatable whether the SR225e requires the support padding, as the light weight allows for minimal force on the top of your head.

Focusing on the head band for a moment, we find a leather sleeve that houses a metal band which connects the two ear cups. The black leather sleeve has a quality feel to it whilst the metal band allows for the headphones to extend horizontally. The lack of padding on the top can feel strange at first, but you quickly become accustomed to the feel.

Next, we have the design of the ear cups. Although they went with a circular ear cup style, the ear cups are actually quite comfortable. Each ear cup contains two thick soft touch foam pads that are there mainly there for noise cancellation. Inside the ear cups is a plastic covering that is perforated to allow sound to pass through. After long periods of use (around three to four hours) the headphones begin to put a strain on your ears and this is, unfortunately, due to the circular design of the ear cups which I think would have been better if they were an oblong shape.

Looking at the outside of the ear cups you will find some unique styling that I personally like. Around the circular ear cup is the prestige series branding along with the company name. In the center is the model name which is surrounded by a metal mesh plate. The metal mesh plating is a strange approach as it allows your ears to breathe and not become sweaty during use, but it also allows for some sound leak at very high volumes. At low volumes on my Windows 8.1 machine, I found there to be little to zero sound leakage.

Lastly, the ear cups are connected to the head band in a unique way. The ear cups use a metal rod for vertical movement on your head. What's nice is the fact that the metal rods allow for precise movements. Since there are no cables running in the head band the ear cups offer a complete 360 degree turning motion. Never before have I seen a headset ear cup rotate 360 degrees.

Finally, we have the non-detachable cable. The cable itself is long and should provide adequate length for devices like a laptop, desktop, and your mobile device. However, the cable used is quite thick, to a point that is almost annoying. The thick cable tends to remember bends and creases and having it not get in your way can be hard since it connects to both the left and right ear cup by using a Y splitter.

Audio Quality

As I said in my introduction, the product box states that Grado sees these headphones being used in a music environment. The SR225e, and most of Grado Headphones in general, use a low distortion which means they provide a satisfying sound at low volumes; there is no reason to crank up the volume. Therefore, when it comes to rating their music quality it should be spot on. When listening to a large collection of top 40 songs along with rock and roll music, the SR225e have an outstanding and wonderful clear sound to them. Voices are crisp and music instruments are loud, but not overdone. Having a 20 – 22,000 Hz frequency response, lows, mids, and highs are all enjoyable and relaxing. At such a frequency, the SR225e music playback is nearly spot on when comparing it to other headphones and speaker systems.

Next, I took a spin on listening to some YouTube and Twitch videos. To my surprise, the SR225e did quite well. Voices in the video were clear and I could easily understand what was going on. Likewise, the headphones worked well when two sources of audio were played together. If music were to play whilst a person was speaking in the video, both the music and voice were still understandable and there was zero interference. In other words, the audio multitasking is great, unlike other headphones that struggle when multiple sounds are used simultaneously.

Even though these headphones are designed and marketed towards the music lover and listener, I decided to try them on a PC based game. I launched a popular card based game, Hearthstone, and put the SR225e to the test of being those “general” headphones. Yet again, to my surprise, the SR225e did quite well even for not being marketed towards any type of gamer. Although loud explosions and game based actions were not the best, they certainly exceeded my expectations when it came to gaming on the SR225e. Although I would not recommend these to a major gamer, they certainly can perform when needed.

In the end, the audio quality of the SR225e is nearly excellent. Being an over the ear design headset, I would have liked better noise cancellation as there is very little to begin with. Grado’s low distortion matched by an impedance of 32 ohms certainly offers a “wonderful and pleasure-filled experience”. Music lovers everywhere would be more than happy with the audio quality of the SR225e.

The Conclusion

With their feather-light weight craftsmanship and handmade US quality, it’s hard not to recommend the SR225e. Throughout my review, I enjoyed every moment when listening to my music collection and watching some online videos. Grado Labs have created a headset that certainly deserves to be in the prestige series. At a listing price of $200 they make a great competitor against other headphones on the market and their audio quality is certainly supreme.

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