Grado GR8 Review

grado gr8 review

Grado GR8

“Grado steps into the 21st century with the aptly named GR8, a high-end in-ear headphone that upholds the company’s outstanding reputation for great sound with no frills.”
  • Highly accurate sound
  • Solid performance to price ratio
  • Lightweight and extremely comfortable
  • Lightweight cord tangles easily
  • Limited selection of ear-tips
  • No carry case or adapters
  • Thin, feeble feeling cord
  • No cord clip

Introduction

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.

Performance

Grado Labs have earned themselves a reputation for offering products that are well balanced, yet lively; dynamic and refined. We are pleased to find that this standard of sound reproduction is upheld by the GR8 headphones.

Having tested some 8 different pairs of in-ear headphones in recent weeks, it is understandable that we would suffer some listening fatigue. Different sizes, weights and hours of listening can wear even the most enthusiastic listener down over time. To be frank, when we first listened to the GR8 headphones, we didn’t leap out of our listening chair in excitement. Having endured some pretty overblown sounds over the past few days, our ears had become desensitized to a degree. Fortunately, we heed our own advice and take a few days to let our ears relax to a neutral position before scrutinizing anything audio related.

After a brief respite, we approached the GR8’s with an open mind and open, rested ears. What we experienced reinforced our assertion that one’s ears will desensitize themselves as they are overexposed to certain sounds. This time around, the sound we experienced had us sitting up and paying attention.

True to Grado’s style, the GR8 exhibited an open, uninhibited sound that offered a remarkable amount of texture and detail. The high, mid and low frequencies were very well balanced. The dynamic range of these in-ears was also impressive. The GR8’s were able to go from an extremely quiet moment to an extremely loud one with the sort of finesse that you would only expect from a large pair of over-ear headphones. They also showed a remarkable capability of exposing harmonic overtones.

We found that the stereo separation and resulting “sound stage” was three dimensional and realistic. High frequencies were balanced and honest. Midrange frequencies were effortless in their appeal. Vocalists sounded very natural and didn’t suffer from coloration. Bass response was tight and accurate, but we wouldn’t necessarily describe it as deep or profound. If big bass in your face is what you crave, you might want to consider a different set of cans. If , however, you like honest, accurate sound that is true to the recording, we think you’ll be delighted with the GR8’s.

Conclusion

The Grado GR8 in-ear headphones might best be described as the audiophile’s in-ear headphone. Unlike their multi-driver counterparts, the unique design of the GR8’s allows them to offer an extremely coherent sound that rivals larger, on-ear or over-ear designs. When well sealed within the ear, the GR8 offers a respite from most of the noise around the listener. They are as comfortable as they are great sounding and may be the lightest set of in-ears we’ve ever tested. To get the best fit, however, some listeners may have to look into an alternative ear-tip. Though we can’t recommend this set of in-ears for those who like to listen while moving around a lot, we know those searching for a super comfortable, superior sounding earphone will fall in love with the GR8.

Highs:

  • Highly accurate sound
  • Solid performance to price ratio
  • Lightweight and extremely comfortable

Lows:

  • Lightweight cord tangles easily
  • Limited selection of ear-tips
  • No carry case or adapters
  • Thin, feeble feeling cord
  • No cord clip

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