What are the best all around headphones for the iPod? The winner is… Grado Labs SR 60.
I compared the sound quality to many popular but common headphones of every ilk found at the local superstore. Obviously the best of the best headphones are priced too far out there for the average consumer and most of the high end cans (the headphone enthusiast community calls headphones “cans”, no joke) require too much power to run off any portable playback device. The ipod has a surprisingly robust powered output for a portable unit. Most portable CD players can’t match the ipod’s ability to fill headphones with sound. That’s no idle boast dear readers. I admit to having been clueless about the portable audio scene up until the last month. But the word on the street is that the ipod has done more for portable hi-fi than anything since the original Walkman.
iPods come with ear buds. These are little sponge wrapped speakers they expect you to stick into your ears. I’ll tell you what; stick something in my ears, I’m going to punch you in the face. That’s how I feel about ear-buds. Take your basic headphones that come with any portable audio device and throw them in the garbage. I never knew headphones could even sound good (as in full sized stereo system good) until I slapped on the Grado SR60s for the first time. Their bulky old school look reminded me of the oversized space cadet looking headphones my dad owned. But I must admit their retro look is appealing, it harkens to a bygone era in hi-fi that scoffs at your modernist Blackberry toting portability-is-king-conventions. Attaching them to an ipod, the very last word in hyper-modern esthetics of scalability, can be seen as a fashion statement in itself. The reviewers over at Headphone.com may have a problem with how the Grado’s look. But I see the Grado SR60/iPod combo as defiance against the very despotism the fashion police represent. Seize the opportunity to thumb your nose at the cognitive atrophy of the masses being marketed by the likes of Toyota, IBM and Microsoft’s over-polished advertising campaigns. This is your chance to thumb your nose at anything slick and aerodynamic, the Grado SR60s allow you to throw off that yoke granting you the liberty to be clunky, the way we fallible, pimpled humans are meant to be.
But enough about how they look, the real substance is how they sound. For under $100 US (about $100 Cnd) these headphones put you into the center of the musical performance. Most headphones I’ve listened to have difficulty with deep bass plagued by scratchy, tinny sounding highs, thin mid range. Some headphones specialize in boomy bass by forsaking every other range. I compared them with many slightly cheaper headphones, the likes of which the average portable headset consumer will pick up at Best Buy for their iPod. They don’t hold a candle to the Grado’s. At first I actually liked many of the cheap headphones, some of which weren’t so cheap. But when I first put on the Grado SR60s I had an instant Platonic “Allegory of the Cave”; an awakening of the true capability of headphones. The Grado SR60s attached to only the headphone jack on your ipod will hold together under the most strenuous bass and provide smooth, detailed mids and highs. What I particularly like about these headphones compared to others in their class is the Grados simply have more “bounce”. The ability to give you a detailed bass experience that finds the full range of any beat. Some will say these headphones are made for hard rock and rhythmic bass music. While that’s true, it’s their detailed mids and clear highs that will make you go wow when the rest of spectrum kicks in.
There are better, more expensive, higher end headphones on the market than the Grado SR60s. But bigger, badder headphones aren’t designed to be powered by a portable playback device. The SR60 provides the best sounding headphone experience that can be powered by a portable unit anywhere near its price class, period.