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Grado SR325X Review – The Intangibles

Sound –

Tonality –

If you’re familiar with or have read into purchasing a set of Grado’s before, you may be surprised by the new SR325X. Relative to its predecessor, the SR325E (and most Grado’s for that matter), the SR325X implements a more robust bass and lower-midrange in addition to sounding more even in the upper-midrange. In turn, it is endowed with a weightier and more substantial sound in addition to achieving subjectively good tri-frequency balance, not just for a Grado. As it retains abundant top-end energy and a focus on large, intimate vocals, it remains a sound that is distinctly Grado-esque in nature. It is nonetheless much more forgiving and versatile if perhaps no longer so appealing to those who enjoyed the hugely revealing nature of Grado’s past. Conversely, it will be more inviting to newcomers to the brand.

Pads

The beauty of the Grado design is its modularity. And, while I found the stock flat pads a perfect complement to the SR325X, the L-Cush pads that came with the E-model do provide more of that classic, revealing Grado house sound. Switching over, bass was diminished, and treble came to the forefront. You do regain the airy, open top-end and midrange clarity and the new drivers do pump out noticeably more bass and body than before even with the brighter pads. I feel those who enjoyed the SR325E but found them a bit thin and metallic will enjoy the more granular changes imbued by this combination.

Yaxi’s aftermarket pads provided quite the opposite experience and may be suitable for those averse to brightness. There was a noticeable drop in sensitivity and high-end presence. At the same time, bass was brought forwards and vocals were evened off and more laid-back, assuming a slightly more balanced presence and a fuller, more coherent voicing. To my ears, this sapped some of the “magic” of the sound, as though more even, it was even a bit too smoothed off. Though not the most comfortable option, I did personally prefer the flat pads most. All comments below will be using the stock flat pads.

Bass –

Grado bass has always been a double-edged sword. Between the inability of its non-sealing form factor to create sub-bass heft and the well above average tightness enabled by their low-resonance design, these models polarise more than most. The SR325X, thankfully, is one of the less divisive models. Sub-bass roll off is clearly noticeable albeit less prominent than on past models. You still don’t get a whole lot of pressure and slam but instead, the user is treated to a very quick, tight albeit laid-back rumble and a super punchy mid-bass. An uptick of fullness in the upper-bass, imbues an inviting warmth and body that continues into the lower-midrange, counterbalancing the loss of sub-bass presence to some degree. Notes are a touch enlarged, sitting just behind vocals but never being overshadowed by them. Separation also remains strong as emphasis isn’t to a great degree. In addition, the timbre is pretty spot on too, slightly full, but suffering from no bleed, bloat or muddiness.

Whether due to the denser metal housings or the revised driver design, the SR325X delivers an especially tight and well-controlled bass on top. It isn’t lightning fast, but provides a faster attack paired with a more natural decay, avoiding coming across as overly aggressive. This enhances the perception of fullness, imbuing some euphony into its voicing and bringing out the fine texture in each bass note. Dynamics are not its forte, you don’t receive an especially hard-hitting presentation, and the SR325X is characterised more by its sensational timing and separation on behalf of its linear tuning bass combined with strong control and definition in the mid-bass. As a result, the mid-bass really stands out for its impressive, satisfying punch, being both enriched and full, yet very tight. So, though not forward, bass will satisfy most listeners in terms of quantity and critical listeners surely will enjoy the combination of snappy timing and high resolving power on offer. It certainly has more drive and depth than the E-model too.

Midrange –

As before, the centrepiece of the SR325X’s presentation is its forward, intimate vocals empowered with larger-than-life size and clarity. There’s a small bump in the upper-bass and lower-midrange so the midrange has a natural sense of body filling in its larger vocals and a light, inviting warmth on top. At the same time, vocal presence is bolstered by the 2kHz emphasis and openness and clarity are further enhanced with a 4kHz bump too. As the 3kHz region has a small dip, vocals aren’t too forward and strained yet still clear and delicate. The voicing is natural, Grado’s have always excelled with vocals and the story is no different here; they are displayed front and centre and rightfully so.

I think the defining difference between this model and other Grado’s is the combination of a more substantial warmth and body and greater evenness within the midrange itself that contributes to a notably improved vocal timbre. While the treble remains energetic it doesn’t stand at the forefront as on the SR325E. In turn, the SR325X is delicate and open yet avoids strain, sibilance and sharpness. This applies equally to both male and female vocals, similarly, instruments are not overshadowed and presented with good transparency. It is a vocal-forward signature with masterful execution and good taste.

Highs –

Preference and sensitivity to treble sharpness have always been barriers to entry for Grado headphones yet the SR325X seeks to address this. No longer does the high-end sit at the fore, at least, not with the flat pads. Treble is energetic with good bite in the lower-treble but not too much forwardness combined with a slight upper-harmonic lift that imbues satisfying energy and sparkle. There are no outstanding peaks that wear on the ear and treble sits, on a whole, about on par with the rest of the sound. However, though not so forward, the voicing is still distinctly Grado, with middle-treble being a touch brighter. This instigates an airy, open and dainty voicing as beloved on past models if not quite to the same extent as them.  

Technically, the design is showing some age. Still, though there isn’t a heap of resolution and micro-detail in the top-octave, this tuning means you still get abundant headroom and small details are brought to the fore. This is at the cost of a perfectly accurate instrument timbre; like most Grado’s, the SR325X provides an engaging over natural presentation. Instruments sound thin but clean and free of grain or glare. There’s no sharpness or ringing but crisp, sharp transients and a relatively natural decay after. It is a nicely detailed headphone for the price, hardly class-leading, but with a tuning that maximises the presentation of what is there. This has always been a forte of Grado headphones and the SR325X executes this style of tuning with tasteful moderation.  

Soundstage –

With no loss to extension but less forwardness, the SR325X does provide a noticeably wider soundstage than its predecessor but still cannot be considered an overtly spacious headphone. It’s on the more intimate side but makes good use of its space, despite the new warmer voicing. Imaging is pretty sharp, I feel the inconsistent fit due to the nature of the pad design means it isn’t razor sharp or holographic, but each instrument in a busy track is easy to localise, nonetheless. Similarly, directional cues are sharp and accurate.

Layering is much improved especially; it has impressive background/foreground contrast despite the brighter middle-treble which gives it a more nuanced and dimensional sound than past Grado headphones. Separation remains very strong as well as this is hardly a thick and full headphone relative to the rest of the market. The bass is clean and defined, mids are open with great separation between lead vocalists and instruments. Though not the most technically impressive headphone, the SR325X’s tuning meant I was never left wanting.  

Driveability –

While the driver and sound has been heavily revised, the sensitivity and impedance remain unchanged from its forebearer at 32 ohms and 99.8dB. This makes the SR325X pretty easy to drive and not too taxing in terms of current or volume. The flat pads as well I found to boost sensitivity, being about 4dB louder at the same volume setting than the L-cush pads, likely as they place the driver closer to the ears.

Output Impedance Sensitivity

With a single DD design, the SR325X sounds identical out of basically every uncoloured source. I confirmed this by comparing between the Hiby R6 (10-ohm) and Shanling M2x (1-ohm) where I found the SR325X to sound nigh identical besides colouration of the sources themselves. This also means the SR325X is well suited for tube amps as it will remain faithful to the designer’s intention even from high output impedance sources.

Driving Power

The SR325X is very easy to drive both in terms of volume and current, which is likely one of the reasons why Grados are so popular with beginners just getting into the hobby. While it does scale nicely, achieving a faster and more dynamic sound from my desktop amplifier than my smartphone for instance, the soundstage and resolving power don’t have much room to improve. Conversely, the well-separated tuning means you don’t miss out on too much when running the SR325X from a less powerful source. While a good amplifier brings welcome benefits, the SR325X can be enjoyed from a wide range of sources.

Suggested Pair Ups

The SR325X is probably the easiest headphone to drive I’ve tested yet. This is, in part, due to it simply being an efficient design, but is also due to its versatile tuning. By maximising separation, a loss of driver control on less powerful sources doesn’t harm the sound performance nearly as much as on most competitors. Similarly, the added warmth here means the SR325X works out of both neutral/analytical sources and warmer sources given its energetic and separated sound. This is, again, another avenue where users can tailor the experience to their preferences and the Grado is especially accommodating of a wide range of source pairings in all regards.

Next Page: Comparisons & Verdict

4 thoughts on “Grado SR325X Review – The Intangibles Leave a comment

  1. I really enjoyed this thoughtful review. One question I have (which seems to be harder to answer by simply googling than I would have thought) is about the length of the cable especially if it’s soldered in place. How long is this one? Thanks again for your review.

    Like

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