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Photo by: Robert Williams

The SR125 has also gained "LEGENDARY" status as has the SR60.

The SR125 has received rave reviews from around the world and is one of the most commonly recommended headphone on the market today.

The SR125 was awarded

in two categories,
"The Accessory of the Year"

and the prestigious
"Budget Component of Year".

More Reviews


GRADO SR125 Headphones
By Edward M. Long

My first encounter with Grado Labs was at a New York Hi-Fi show in the late 1950s. Joe Grado, the founder of the company, was using the "Buck Dance" track on Dick Shory's stereo album, Bang, Baroom and Harp, to demonstrate his latest moving-coil cartridge and tonearm, the sound was so spectacular I have never forgotten the impact it had on me. Grado had assembled a pair of custom loudspeaker systems that included an Ionophone ionic tweeter for the ultra-high frequencies, a Janszen electrostatic for the midrange and high frequencies, and an AR-1 for the low frequencies. (This combination soon became widely copied by audiophiles.) Two things impressed me then: The fabulous sound and the fact that Grado took the time and trouble to assemble a special system. It made me realize that he was willing to make the extra effort to achieve the highest possible sound quality. Because of his quest for the best sound, the Grado moving-coil cartridge was considered by most audiophiles to be the top of the class. Grado even designed and manufactured a tonearm (I have one in my "classics" collection) to achieve the best performance from his cartridges. I didn't realize that he was the inventor of the moving-coiling cartridge until the 70s, when various companies started making them for the audiophile market. By that time, Grado was making inexpensive moving-magnet cartridges of very high performance.

In recent years, Grado Labs has begun producing high-quality earphones. The initial offerings, the Signature series, were moderately priced, by today's standards, for the level of performance they achieved; the thrust of the newer Prestige series of earphones is to bring high performance at even lower prices. The SR125 earphones are in the middle of the five-model Prestige line, which ranges in price from $69 to $295. From what I have seen over the years, the goal of Grado Labs -- from founder, Joe Grado, to Joe's nephew, John Grado -- is to design for the best sound possible and then make it affordable. Not a bad idea at all.

The physical design of the SR125 earphones combines simplicity and elegance. The simplicity can be found in the design of the headband and bails, while the elegance is seen in the raised silver lettering on the black molded earcups. The flat, spring-steel headband is covered with leatherette. Although there is no padding in the headband cover, the comfort level was, surprisingly, more than acceptable.

The ends of the headband are anchored in plastic pieces marked by large, raised silver letters that distinguish the left and right channels. The metal bails, which connect to the plastic yokes, also pass through the plastic anchors. The bails can slide up and down and also rotate in the anchors. The yokes have pins that hold the earcups and allow them to adjust to your ears; they also allow the earcups to lie flat, so they're easy to pack with a CD player, for instance. At the rear of the earcups is a perforated screen to allow the SR125s to be acoustically open. The front of each earcup has a perforated plate covered by a transparent scrim cloth to protect the transducer from dust or damage. The foam earpads, which fit around the periphery of the earcups, can be removed easily for cleaning or replacement. the cord is about 6 feet long, from the gold-plated stereo phone plug to a "Y"- shaped plastic part; from this point, two foot-long cords connect to the earcups. The total 7 feet of cord is reasonably long; if you want it longer, you can buy an extension cord at Radio Shack or a similar electronics store.

The SR125s foam pads rest directly on your ears. Although I prefer circumaural earphones, which have earcushions completely encircling the pinnae (outer ear), I found I could use these phones for up to two hours without experiencing any real discomfort. The sliding bails and the swinging yokes allowed me to adjust the SR125s very easily. The side-to-side clamping pressure was just right for my head, and the earphones stayed in place even when I tried to dislodge them by vigorously shaking my head.

Before I had members of my listening panel audition the SR125s, I made a series of technical measurements. By doing so, I could make certain the earphones were performing properly, with no defects that would affect performance and invalidate the results.

The positive portion of the output pulse is always identical to the input pulse, indicating that the high-frequency response easily extends to 20 kHz. The recovery, back to normal, of the negative portion of the signal is amazingly fast, which indicates that the bottom-end response extends to a very low frequency. I measured the amplitude versus frequency response; these measurements confirmed the fact that the SR125s are, indeed, very wideband. However, the response was not perfectly flat. The SR125s were very flat up to 2 kHz, where the output rose to about +3 dB at 3 kHz, reaching a maximum of +5 dB at 5 kHz. The output remained at this level up to 10 kHz, where it rolled gently down (5 dB) to the reference level at 20 kHz. I didn't measure above 20 kHz, but the pulse response of the SR125s indicated that they go well beyond this point.

I measured the left and right earphones; both of these tracked well except between 3 and 6 kHz. This could affect the presentation of sound images, so I looked for comments from the members of the listening panel; there were none. The Grado SR125s have a rated impedance of 32 ohms, which is lower than most earphones; I measured 33 ohms for both the left and right, which is very close to the specification. I also checked the SR125s with variety of sources -- receivers, cassette decks, and CD machines (including portable CD players) -- and found that they were all capable of driving these phones to loud levels.

As a reference during the listening tests, I used the very high-quality electrostatic Stax Omega earspeakers with the Stax SRM-Tis driver amplifier (which has a vacuum-tube output stage). I utilized Headroom's Supreme amplifier to drive the Grado SR125s directly and also to feed the signal to the Stax amplifier. Hence, I could use the Headroom Supreme's crossfeed circuit to achieve better results with multimiked recordings that were optimized for listening through loudspeakers.

When I set up the earphones for the tests, I started by listening to the Stax Omegas. I played a new Sheffield CD (10050-2-F), Sonic Detour, featuring the Freeway Philharmonic, a group of four very talented...


...own material. When I switched to the Grado SR125 earphones, I found myself enthralled by both these phone and the Freeway Philharmonic. This sort of thing doesn't happen to me very often, and I listened all the way into track 11 before I was interrupted by the telephone. (No, I didn't want to switch phone companies! At that point, I just wanted to disconnect the one I have!) I not only enjoyed my experience with the SR125s and the Freeway Philharmonic but was pleased to know that I hadn't become completely jaded and that listening could still be really fun! I then proceeded with the tests with my listening panel, all the while knowing I didn't really care what they thought; I loved the experience the SR125s had given me.

I asked each panel member to listen to a variety of CDs while comparing the sound of the Grado SR125 earphones to the Stax Omega earspeakers. After listening to the Freeway Philharmonic's performance of Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" (from Rodeo) on Sonic Detour, the panel members were unanimous in their praise of the SR125s. In comparison with the Stax earspeakers, panel members commented: "Bass seems to have more impact," "Bass is tight and strong," and Bright but not harsh." For the "Bullfrog Rag" track on the same Sheffield CD, the comments were similar, with two additional ones: "Like a live performance in...


...more distant perspective. Panel members then listened to "Miyake," by the Heartbeat Drummers of Japan on Kodo (Sheffield Lab 12222-2). The panel's comments indicated that the Stax earspeakers allowed more inner detail to be heard, while the Grado earphones had a stronger bass impact. "Bass deep but not boomy" was one of the comments given. The harpsichord is always a difficult instrument to record and reproduce, but I used the excellent recording of the Sonate in d-Moll fur Cembalo, by Benedetto Marcello, performed by Hans Ludwig Hirsch on Sonatas for Harpsichord, Op. 1 (Jecklin-Disco JD 5001-2). This recording prompted the following comments: "The Grado SR125s put you at the keyboard; the Stax Omegas place you in the audience" and "Harpsichord is bright but not harsh on SR125s."

It was obvious to me that the panel members were very impressed by the Grado SR125 earphones. When I told them that they cost a very affordable $150, they were truly amazed. If you have less than $300 to spend on phones, the Grado Labs SR125s have no peer.

Reprinted with permission from Audio Magazines, Inc Hachette Filipacchi


Vented diaphragm

Non Resonant air chamber

HPLC copper voice coil wire

Standard copper connecting cord

Buy Grado Direct from
Tranducer type
Operating principle
open air
Frequency Response
Normal Impedance
Driver matched db

What does the i stand for in the new SR125i from Grado? Improved, that's what! Grado's ability to combine lightness with extreme rigidity and internal damping has been put to good use on the SR125i. Based on the same design as theSR80i, the SR125i also features an improved driver and cable design utilizing UHPLC (Ultra-high purity, long crystal) copper voice coil wire. With the new 8 conductor cable design you will notice improved control and stability of the upper and lower range of the frequency spectrum, with both better supporting Grado's world renowned midrange. The Diaphragms are put through a special 'de-stressing' process in order to enhance inner detail. The way the SR125i's new driver, cable and plastic housing move air and react to sound vibrations are now less affected by transient distortions. Bass, midrange and treble are all more open and you will enjoy the fine tonal spread and balance.

"simultaneously musical and revealing of every nuance recorded"
— Robert J. Reina, Stereophile
"Nearly every headphone-using colleague I spoke to in the USA keeps either SR60, SR80, or SR125s handy for reviewing."
— Ken Kessler, HiFi News & Record Review
"It was obvious to me that the members were very impressed by the Grado SR125 headphones."
— Edward Long, Audio Magazine Vol.79, No.8
"Still, in its own realm the Grado SR125 is a real winner and an excellent value. I cannot imagine a better sounding headphone at anywhere near its price."
— Julian Hirsch - Stereo Review Vol.60, No.5
"Analytical listening was helped by the well-defined locations of individual instruments and voices. If headphones can be as musically satisfying as this, they must be pretty good."
— Gramophone
"Winner of "Critics Choice" Award"
— presented by SOUND & VISION
"We all agreed the Grado SR125 headphones are excellent, and that they would be a fine choice for anyone looking first to audio quality"
— Paul Bergman / Ultra High Fidelity Magazine (Canada)
"For me the Grado SR125i's produce some of the best sounding vocals I have ever heard. I felt like Leona was singing in my living room. I was also impressed how well these headphones worked for gaming. I fired up NHL 09 and every puck that clanged off the goal post and every check that a player gave sounded better than every before. I had used a pair of Sennheiser headphones in the past with this game, and it was like I was listening to a different game. Overall these headphones impressed me on every level."
— / Jason Gillard