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GR8 REVIEW

Grado GR8 earphones
iPhoneWorld.ca
Reviewed by: Bill Henderson

When we receive products for review, there is pressure to review it pretty quickly. Rarely does that pressure come from a manufacturer, mostly it's self-imposed. We just like to get the information out in timely manner but also spend enough time to give an honest assessment. But sometimes – for various reasons – it can take weeks before reviews are posted. And sometimes, thats turns out to be a real good thing.

For instance, if we had pushed a review of the Grado GR8 earphones, we would have had some not-so-nice things to say about them. But as it turned out, other things got in the way, so we listened to them more and more as time passed. And the GR8s just seemed to get better and better.

We don't know if they loosened up or we just got used to them, but with each use, they started to become indispensable. So lets break down what it is that is so "right" about these earphones.

First, there's the armatures – or armature in this case. For those of you who aren't up on all the earphone lingo, armatures are basically tiny speakers (though not like your traditional speaker design) that are tuned for different audio frequencies coupled with crossovers that determine how those armatures handle those frequencies (single armature earphones have no crossovers). Its the same thinking that goes into bookshelf speakers. The downside to this expensive approach is that if not designed properly, the music can sound muddy or 'not quite right'. However, if done right, the results are stunning. It goes like this: more armatures means better sound. Simple, right? We have heard many dual armature earphones that will amaze you. And there are many triple, quad and even more armature setups available. And they are priced accordingly, meaning from out of a normal person's financial reach into insane territory.

So why do the Grados – which are priced as much or more than most double armature earphones – sound so good with only one armature? We haven't a clue. Seriously, we don't. There are only two single armature earphones we've heard that sound as good as duals: These and the Klipsch X10.

We try to avoid direct comparisons of different brands of earphones, because usually the sound differences are more preference than quality. But we will say that the GR8s sound as "fun" as the single-armature Klipsch's and even our dual-armature Westone 2s, Not better or worse, but just as pleasurable. It's really hard to quantify since each brand has what is known as a "signature sound". But we could easily listen to the GR8s all day with no fatigue. Believe it or not, that is rare, even on more expensive earphones.

We listened to the GR8s for almost 2 months, testing them in all kinds of musical genres which, in turn, also let us get used to them. Like we said earlier, they took some getting used to. Initially, we had a seal problem. They were just too shallow and 'fat' for deep insertion, so bass was awful. And the puny choice of tips didn't help much. The GR8s come with three. Thats it. We've received less expensive earphones with 10 different tip choices. If Grado has determined that only three different sized tips are needed, then they could have at least supplied two pair in each size. And also, where's the case? This is one big oversight. We can't explain that one. You do, however, get some replacement wax filters which is rare even in this price range.

But we stuck with the supplied tips and finally realized that inserting the GR8s upside down while wrapping the cord around behind the ear did the trick. That allowed the earphone to be pushed deeper into the ear canal which made for a fantastic seal. Wow, what a difference. And while the bass was – and still is – not forward sounding, it's there and it kicks. Actually now, the GR8s have a round, warm sound that is not harsh or clinical as some armature-based earphones can be.

Listening to complete albums back-to-back just brings smiles. Human League's "Sound of the Crowd" features a synthetic bass and drum line that permeates the song within a wide soundstage. It's all over your head. The orchestral "Heroes" by Philip Glass, David Bowie and Brian Eno sounds every bit as good as a live performance. Instruments are left, right and in front of you. It's like you are in the middle of the orchestral pit. The highs are not bitter at all and the bass is just right without being boomy.

The GR8s really bring out all the analog-synth glory of Wendy Carlos' "March from a Clockwork Orange". The fake choir and orchestral symphony is almost magical. Turned up loud, some of the notes physically hurt – but in a good way. You understand the allure of Beethoven for Alex, the main character from the book and movie.

You can feel the power in George Thorogood's "Who Do You Love?" as he mercilessly crashes down on the strings with his pick. On lesser earphones, the bass would have drowned out half of the mids. Here, mids are up front where they belong.

All in all, we think that the Grado GR8s are more suited to older rock and orchestral than the newer, more bass-heavy music popular now. If you like your hip-hop and such, you may be happier with cheaper earphones that vibrate your brain.

The looks of the GR8s can be deceiving. At first glance, they look like black, generic earphones packaged in a nondescript brown box. Look more carefully, and you begin to notice that the 'Black" plastic is actually a very dark blue with a silvery sheen. It's the kind of paint treatment you might find on a hotrod car. Plus they are banded by a simple aluminum ring. Its an understated look that grows on you. Also, on the left earphone, there is a tiny, almost invisible bump in the plastic so you can feel which one is the left one without looking. It's a neat trick.

It's been written that the GR8s have that famous "Grado sound". We don't know anything about that because we haven't heard any Grado reference headphones. All we know is that the GR8s sound really, really good. What else matters more than that? I couldn't have said it better myself.

GR8

Features:

Raised dot on left earphone provides tactile indication of channel allowing earphones to be put on correctly even in the dark.


Buy Grado Direct from 4OurEars.net

Includes:

3 pair ear tips (small, medium, large; proprietary blend of two silicon rubber materials)

Ear wax proof cloth x4

ar wax proof cloth ring x2

Driver
Moving Armature
Connector Type
Standard mini plug (gold over brass)
Frequency Range
20 -20,000 Hz
Sensitivity
118db/1mw
Impedance
120 ohms
Maximum Input Power
20mW
Cable Length
51"/130mm (oxygen-free copper wire)
Weight
9 grams including plug and cord

A proprietary wide bandwidth moving armature design provides the listener with unsurpassed performance.

Small size allows earphone to nestle well within the ear canal, maintaining an excellent air seal for improved bass and reduction of outside noise without causing discomfort.

"The GR8s give sensational clarity to vocals and present even the very highest register frequencies with precision and plenty of headroom. Per typical Grado fidelity, rock, pop, and soul tracks are rich with expressiveness and emotion and even classical tracks radiate through the frequency spectrum."
— TONEAUDIO / Bailey S. Barnard
"Not only does the bass of the Grados go deeper and the treble sound more lifelike, but real instruments and voices sound much more like real instruments and real voices."
— Enjoy The Music / Tom Lyle
"As a music lover more than anything and also musician, the GR8est just brought out the heart and soul of the recording and music. I had a lot of fun listening and felt like I was listening to a very high end system. I could, and hope to, live with these for a long time as my IEM of choice and traveling companions."
— TTVJ.com / Todd Green
"The GR8s gave me one of the most pleasurable listening experiences I've had from a set of in-ears in quite awhile... if your overall focus is getting great sound in a really small and lightweight design, they're pretty hard to beat."
— B&H Insights / Kevin Reylek
"It's been written that the GR8s have that famous 'Grado sound'. We don't know anything about that because we haven't heard any Grado reference headphones. All we know is that the GR8s sound really, really good. What else matters more than that?"
— iPhoneWorld.ca / Bill Henderson