The folks at Grado Labs are well educated in matters of high performance headphones. Their SR60i headphones, for example, made our Best Headphones of 2010 list and are frequently praised as the best sounding on-ear headphones you can get for under $100.00. Considering the popularity of the iPod and other portable players, one might think that offering an in-ear model would be a foregone conclusion. For whatever reason, though, Grado has quietly gone without an in-ear model…until now. With the introduction of the GR8, Grado acknowledges that the portable media player is here to stay and that a large segment of listeners demand a high quality, comfortable set of in-ears to go with their iPod. In this review, we’ll take a close look at the GR8 and see if they really are as ‘great’ as their name might imply.
Out of the Box
The GR8 model headphones from Grado are packaged very simply. Inside the compact box you’ll find the GR8 headphones, three different sizes of silicone ear tips and…well, that’s it. The GR8 do not come with a carrying case or any adapters. We think Grado expects you’ll pull them from the packaging, plug them in and never look back.
Features and Design
The GR8 headphones don’t jump out and grab your attention with any sort of outlandish turbo-jet styled design or gold plating. In fact, their small, bullet-head style seems deliberately plain in comparison with some of the other in-ear headphones we’ve seen recently. However, their extremely light weight does catch our attention. Where other manufacturers have gone so far as to point out the stout nature of their product, Grado has opted to create a headphone that is so light that you might just forget you’re wearing them.
The cord is also very light. In fact, at times we felt like it might be too light. The cord, while not flimsy, is not nearly as robust as some of Grado’s competitors nor does it include a clip. We also found that it tangled easily- a minor quibble but annoying quality issue nonetheless. We can’t really classify the GR8 as the ideal work-out headphone. That said, the feather-weight cord combines nicely with the extremely light ear-phones to offer an extremely high level of comfort.
The specifications at Grado’s website indicate that the GR8’s use a “moving armature” design. Not sure what that is? It means that a moving armature design comes with a few specific advantages over more conventional magnetic transducers (speakers). For one thing, they are incredibly efficient. For the listener, that means that less power is required to generate more sound. They are also capable of creating deeper bass and more extended high frequencies while remaining extremely small in size, thus explaining their light weight. Dynamically, they are also superior. These are all great attributes but they don’t come without trade-offs. For instance, this sort of design benefits from having a really great seal in the ear. Without that seal, the sound is compromised.
That very important seal is achieved by way of a headphone’s ear-tips. The Grado GR8 in-ears come packaged with three different sizes of specially designed silicone ear-tips. The included ear-tips are soft, supple, light-weight and extremely comfortable. If the provided ear-tips happen to fit your ear, that’s fantastic. However, as is often the case, it is nearly impossible to provide an affordable ear-tip that will reliably fit a large range of ears. For this reason, we suggest that you consider an after-market ear tip if you find that none of the three provided ear-tips work well (and that goes for any in-ear headphone). For the best sound performance and noise isolation, the ear-tip should completely seal the ear off from the outside world and hold securely.