Grado SR325x Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Marvey, Jun 20, 2021.

  1. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Many moons back, I decided to write a series of posts re-examining classic Grados such as the RS2, but with TTVJ Deluxe Flat Pads. The reason is that once Grados seemed to be en vogue with the audiophile crowd (this was back during the days of veiled Sennheiser vs. bright Grados) and then suddenly fell out of favor. Tyll was well known for not preferring Grados for being too bright. I wanted to present a possibility that Grados didn't need to sound bright at all when using different pads. I mean, I had already done my spiel on why the Sennheiser HD650 and its variants were great headphone, so why not Grado? Besides, things change and it would seem that the HD650 may have lost its luster recently with this HD650 "hate" thread reminding us how slow, plodding, and veiled the HD650 still is to this day.

    Lo and behold, imagine my surprise when Grado released their Hemp with their version of the flat pads, the F-cush. And now it looks like Grado has completely revamped their Prestige series, of which the SR225X and SR325X now come with the F cushions! So course I had to grab what was known as the most aggressive and energetic of the Grados, the SR325, and take it for a test run. This time however with the included F cushions. I will also see how the F cushions perform vs the TTVJ Deluxe Flat Pads on various Grados later on in the thread.

    DSC01693.JPG
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    The first question (from another thread) is "does it screech". The quick answer is no, it does not screech. But the SR325X does maintain its forward aggressive and energetic nature, which was exactly what I was looking for. I select certain headphones to review for a reason. I had a hunch and my expectations here well met. BTW, a big thank you to the folks at Grado for providing this for review! I plan on picking up an SR225E for comparison, unless @Vtory beats me to it.
     
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  2. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    More than the headphones themselves I feel curious how the F Cush pads compare to the TTVJ Flats. That said, if they make the 325s listenable then that's a massive leap forward (pending eval of how tizziness in upper-upper range, hah).

    Just going by ergonomics how does it compare to the other Grados? The flats are the closest to "I can maybe wear this for an hour" and if this is comparable that's a bit encouraging.
     
  3. YMO

    YMO Chewbacca's hairy brother

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    It helps when you stretch out the headband plus have the pads on your heads for awhile. The sandpaper feeling of the pads goes away thanks to oils in your ears and the Grados almost become like air.
     
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  4. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Grado SR325X
    Frequency Response
    Flat Plate Coupler (no pinna, compensated)
    upload_2021-6-20_12-54-44.png

    Note: Because these are circumaural, that is on the ear, it's been speculated that the 2kHz bump and smaller 4-4.5kHz bumps are less audible as bumps because of lack of pinna gain which resides from 2kHz-5kHz.

    Here are comparisons to other Grados using the TTVH pads. We will do an apples-apples comparison using the F-cush later.

    Grado SR325X (TEAL/RED) vs Grado RS2E w/ TTVJ Deluxe Flats (GRY)
    Frequency Response
    Flat Plate Coupler (no pinna, compensated)
    upload_2021-6-20_13-0-27.png

    Grado SR325X (TEAL/RED) vs Grado HF3 w/ TTVJ Deluxe Flats (GRY)
    Frequency Response
    Flat Plate Coupler (no pinna, compensated)
    upload_2021-6-20_13-2-45.png

    Generally, we can't say much about the F cushions themselves yet. However we can say that the SR325X has deeper bass extension, a bit more low/mid bass, and a bit more aggressive mids than the RS2E and HF3 using the TTVJ pads.
     
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  5. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Personally, I've never had a problem with comfort. I gave my son the HF-3s with the TTVJ. At first he was like these are uncomfortable. And then without two minutes, he was like: These Grados make the old headphones he was using (the LFF Paradox) sound like garbage. I'm sure planar-heads would take umbrage at this statement, but it is what it is. Part of it is new toy syndrome, but a bigger part was the openness, the zippy transients, and liveliness which helped to impart a sense of immediacy. What I wanted to say is that I haven't seen him have a problem with these on all day playing Minecraft.

    As far as the sound of the SR325E, they are going to be more energetic than the RS woodies or plastic SR225E. It's been a while since I've handled any of the 325 series, but the outer cup is a BIG chunk of aluminum that I could use to crank open someone's skull. (I do not advise this as you will probably go to jail and to be sent to hell after you die).

    DSC00516(1).JPG

    As such, it's not any different from the sound of turntables. For example platters which use metal instead of acrylic. Or carts that use wood, stone, metal, plastic. There is a resonance play thing going on here. The Grado woodies like the RS2 and RS1, sort of mellow out and draw out the decay into wood tones. The metal is like a hard slam! I get that some people may not like this, but Grado offers us a lot of choice with respect to materials in their product line. The Grado method is interpretative, and now the the F cushions also provide for a higher level of accuracy with respect to frequency response.

    Grado-heads who loved the old bowls may have mixed reactions to the F cushions, but I applaud Grado taking a risk to appeal to more people while retaining much of the Grado's interpretative approach to sound reproduction. While this may still not meet the standards of the Audio Objectivists Scientists Perfectionists (who look at SINAD and preference scores based on deviation from Sean Olive's curves), instead of listening to music, as far I am concerned, they can all go away.
     
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  6. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    CSDs
    FPC Grado SR325X L.jpg FPC Grado SR325X R.jpg

    Yup looks like a Grado. Some ringing at 2kHz and a bit less so near 4kHz and 10kHz. Note the area between 6k to 10kHz is clean before 1ms.

    to be continued later this evening...
     
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  7. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Okay Marv, you have my attention!
     
  8. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    Unfortunately never happened for me but I guess I have baby-butt sensitive ears, even with the headband stretched yeah. Sigh, circumaurals and IEMs it is then, fun as Grados can be. Still regret letting go of the RS1...
     
  9. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Grado SR325X
    Impedance and Electrical Phase.
    (GRN = on ear, YEL = free air)
    upload_2021-6-20_16-35-9.png

    Compared to RS2 (TTVJ Pads)
    Impedance and Electrical Phase.
    (GRN = on ear, YEL = free air)
    upload_2021-6-20_16-32-46.png

    SR325X uses a inherently less damped driver than RS2E, but not by much in the overall scheme of things. There's more difference between the free air and sealed impedance peaks. Fs is a bit lower by 10Hz on the SR325X. Is the bass extension that we saw in the FR plots a result of this or the pads? We'll see later on.
     
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  10. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Grado SR325X
    Distortion (H2, H3, H4) vs Frequency at SPL
    upload_2021-12-8_11-16-27.png

    With such a small driver, we expect distortion to be on the higher side. Most distortion is second order in the lows and upper mids that rises with volume. Third order H3 is well controlled at lower levels and only rises at the loudest volumes in the lows. H3 is the one that I think sounds worse, causing indistinct texture and veil in the lows and sharpness in the highs - although high levels of H2 can do this too. Fourth order goes up with SPL a bit more in the lows than most other headphones. The midrange distortion from 300 to 3000Hz looks low at all volumes with the exception of the narrow peak at 1.7kHz.
     
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  11. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    So remember back in the day (this was 10-15 years ago) when folks kept harping on the HD650 veil when comparing to Grados? Was this because the Grados were brighter and thus masked the veil. Even not too long ago, I felt that the Grados were able to transcend any veil (distortion) because of their "faster" transient response. Well, taking a look a the above distortion graphs (and really, the Grados aren't too bad), I realized something. I had never done these Distortion at SPL plots for the HD650. So here it is. Do we see anything on why the HD650 were attributed with having veil while the Grados never were?

    Sennheiser HD650
    Distortion (H2, H3, H4) vs Frequency at SPL
    upload_2021-6-20_17-29-56.png


    Let's focus at H3 from 50Hz to 300Hz. maybe even to 1300Hz. Maybe we are onto something here. Maybe not. Let's put a pin in it for now.

    Sennheiser HD650
    Distortion H3 vs Frequency at SPL
    upload_2021-6-20_17-32-20.png

    Grado SR325X
    Distortion H3 vs Frequency at SPL
    upload_2021-6-20_17-33-51.png
     
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  12. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    The F cushion and TTVJ Deluxe flat pads are more comfortable than the standard bowl pads IMO. This is because the bowl pads don't have an entire flat surface area that sits more evenly on the ears. The foam on the F cushions seem to be about the same density, but the F cushions are marginally thicker. Both pads have small slots which are cut out radially, but more material is taken out from the TTVJ Deluxe pads. With the Grado F cushions, it's hard to even notice the slots are cut.

    TTVJ Deluxe Pads (left) and Grado F Cushion Pads (right)
    DSC00001(4).JPG
    DSC00002(3).JPG
     
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  13. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    So this is very interesting. I put the F cushions on the RS2E. As we noted, the SR325X with the stock F cushions had better bass extension and with a small rise in bass volume in the low/mid bass. The question was whether the SR325X pulled this off as a result of 10Hz lower Fs on the driver or if the pad had something to do with it.

    The answer is both?

    Grado RS2 TTVJ Deluxe (ORA) vs. Grado SR325X F Cushion (GRY) vs. Grado RS2e F Cushion (GRN)
    Frequency Response
    Y-axis compressed to better denote differences
    upload_2021-6-20_18-2-17.png

    The RS2e with the F cushion does get a bit more bass extension and more mid-bass volume. It splits the difference between the SR325X response and the old RS2e with the TTVJ Deluxe pads. The nulls and peak from the midrange on up are shoved 1db up at most. I actually tested this last night and think the F cushions are a winner with the RS2e! Subjectively the F cushions sound less thick than the TTVJ pads. This was my one complaint with respect to the RS2e - that the TTVJ pads imparted a sound that was just a wee bit thick. (The TTVJ were perfect with the HF-3) I don't know if this is because of the 1db higher elevation from 300Hz to 1kHz of the TTVJ pads or if the 1db greater on the highs with the F cushion is the cause. Maybe the combination of both.

    Does anyone know where I can buy F cushion pads?

    BTW, I'm sure someone will ask this eventually? Does not the SR325X compete against the RS2e when it comes to technicalities, resolution, plankton, ability to reproduce low level information, microdynamics? The answer is that the RS2e is still the better headphone in those respects. While I am smitten by the energetic presentation of the SR325X with its metal cups and will use them because of this different presentation, the RS2e is still the better headphone, particularly when paired with my best component chain.

    I'll do a Distortion vs SPL for RS2e with the F cushions in a bit. But even if this doesn't explain it, the RS2e is just better (like how the 300-ohm Sennheisers are better than the 150-ohms Sennheisers and likewise for the classic Beyers). Most of the time, measurements or SINAD can't explain everything. Those who believe that a single number or two, or a graph or two explains everything - well, they can just die. There's no point in arguing. Better to vanquish ignorance and stupidity.
     
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  14. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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  15. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Oooh, half price of TTVJ pads. I'm sold.
     
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  16. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    You read my mind on testing the pads. This means I need F cushions for my RS2e, and also I’m extremely curious how the RS2x will measure and perform in comparison with the e equipped with an F cushion.

    Edit: Ordered two pair of F Cush from biodegraded’s link, will report back.
     
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  17. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    FWIW, the TTVJ Deluxe pads kill the fun from the SR325X. Grado definitely had a vision for the SR325X. I'm not surprised actually. The TTVJ pads are bit more leaky and we saw from the impedance plots (inferring higher Qts) how sensitive the SR325X were to seal.

    Grado SR325X stock F Cushion (GRY) vs. Grado SR325X TTVJ Deluxe (GRN)
    Frequency Response
    Y-axis compressed to better denote differences
    upload_2021-6-20_19-4-50.png
     
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  18. donunus

    donunus Friend

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    Just pulled the trigger on the last stock of sr325x available here in the Philippines. The stocks on these are extremely low here.
     
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  19. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Grado SR325X
    Attack and Decay Envelope From 10-Cycle Burst
    B1696 SR325X.wav_burst.jpg

    OK guys, did we expect differently from my description of the sound? Note the 4.8kHz attack has similar characteristics to that of the LCD-2C and Koss ESP95X headphones. The SR325X is indeed zippy, maybe even more so considering the 500Hz and 1.5kHz also have an overshoot with the first sine in the burst. The 50Hz decay is exceptional. The 4.8kHz decay doesn't quite totally die even after 5 cycles - this a classic Grado trait - love it or hate it.
     
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  20. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Conclusion

    The latest X series from Grado with the F cushion pads moves the Grado sound into this decade's sensibilities where everyone and their grandmother has a headphone measurement rig. The overall tonal balance now tilts less bright, more neutral, darker even in some respects, while maintaining Grado's DNA on the upper mids. The SR325 was known before as the most aggressive and energetic among all Grado headphones, perhaps too much so. This X revision, the SR325X, is a retuning to make it more approachable with a slight V-shaped response while maintaining the energy, excitement, crunch, speed, and articulation of the prior SR325 iterations. For those who find this still too aggressive for their tastes, the SR225X or RS2 with the F cushion pads may just suit their needs. At $295, and made in the USA, the SR325X is a steal given the morass of overpriced underperforming headphones today. I don't remember the last time Grado raised their prices. The SR325X is a perfect complement to the rather more staid (and more veiled in the case of the HD650) Sennheiser HD6** headphones. The SR325X with its solid metal cups also provides a different and interesting enough presentation to the woodie RS2e where I plan to keep them both side by side. The RS2e is still the better headphone with respect to immediacy and resolution, but the SR325 isn't far behind for significantly less in cost. And I forgot to mention: we don't need a powerful amp. These run great from portables, phones, tube spud amps, CMOYs even.

    OK, so who thinks I should get the remainder of the latest Grado line and write up a compendium?



    P.S. My four headphones that I have been secretly using, in no particular order, in the prior weeks to this review:

    1. Grado RS2e (with TTVJ pads, now to be the latest F cushions - a mainstay)
    2. JAR HD600 (new second mainstay, replacing HD650)
    3. Verite Closed (when I'm in the mood of soapy suds with Sofia Vergara)
    4. Koss ESP950 with iESL (probably a temporary fling)
    My SR1a are on extended loan because I don't have the space to have x2 Aegir to power them. They really need x2 Tyr.
     
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