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HIFICRITIC
Volume 7 No. 1

Headphone Shootout!
Review By Martin Colloms

 

Bowers & Wilkins P5 (250)
These more upmarket Bowers & Wilkins headphones are again compact on-ear closed back units, but with a more engineered headband bracket giving a good firm fit, alongside slightly larger and more comfortable leather-covered earpads. They weigh a reasonably light 195 grams and have a 1.2 meter cable with a 3.5mm jack plug. The cord is detachable with a mike and iControls plus an aeroplane adapter. Fit and finish in black and chrome is superb, and a fancy padded carry case is also supplied.

Sensitivity is above average. The midrange has a slight metallic coloration but shows good clarity in both bass and treble ranges, alongside improved spaciousness and transparency over the P3. The tonal balance is pleasant with quite good extension to the frequency extremes. These qualities result in a worthwhile score of 74 marks, so the P5 deserves recommendation.

 

Grado PS1000 (1700)
I had high hopes for these bold looking, heavily chromed 'professional' open style headphones. They have open-cell black foam pads that are large enough to go over the ears, fit quite well and are comfortable despite their significant 500g weight, though they're strictly for static and sedentary use.

It comes with a standard (1/4in) 6.3mm jack plug on 1.8m of heavy duty flexible polymer cable, plus a 3.5mm adapter and a few metres of extension cable. Since the sensitivity of these 32 Ohm units is the lowest on test; even on full blast, an iPad cannot drive it well.

Inexplicably, the sound deviated considerably from the norm, with a massive 'loudness contour' comprising a smooth if recessed midrange, an isolated mid-bass boom, and a detached and 'spiky'-sounding treble. It took ages to adjust even partly to this highly characterful performance, which is defiantly an acquired taste. However, lurking within is some promising open clarity, fine detail rendition, and low distortion. That said, and despite the high build quality, we cannot score it.

 

Grado SR80i (120)
These small, lightweight open back moving coil headphones have a simple and rather rough finished moulded plastic casing. A continuous acoustic foam earpad rests on the pinnae with moderate pressure, and was a little itchy. The headphones come with a 1.8m cable terminated by a 3.5mm jack plug, and the whole assembly weighs a moderate 200g. Relatively low sensitivity is accompanied by a 32 Ohm impedance

While the SR80i has an open crisp sound, first impressions included a mild metallic coloration in the lower treble, audible for example on rim shots, and a thinning of trumpet timbres, while the upper treble was considered dulled. The bass lacked extension and could have been more weighty and even, but the '80i has a clear open soundstage with pleasing stereo. The mid treble roughness could add a 'breathy' effect at times, and more low midrange weight would also help. As it is, these headphones scored 66 marks and are worth considering.

 

Grado SR325i (350)
An upmarket version of the SR80 (but in truth more a development of the '225i), this openback headphone is an over-ear type with open aperture foam earpads. Weighing an average 330g, construction is typical Grado, with a thick 1.5m cable and a 6.5mm jack plug. The earpad feels a bit hard and slightly scratchy but the headphones are actually quite comfortable and fit well.

Below average in sensitivity, the '325i has a clear sparkling treble as if a super tweeter is switched on. The midrange was considered open and clear with spacious stereo images. Upbeat and entertaining, it does have a hint of metallic 'tang' coloration in the upper midband, and there's also some evidence of a loudness contour a rather heavy bass alongside a thin and recessed midrange, which is something of an acquired taste. However, the good detail and spacious sound earns 70 marks and a cautious recommendation (for use with headphone amplifiers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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