Little known and less often written about is the sound quality that the iPhone 4, iPad, and the latest iPod touch are capable of outputting. Apple must’ve upgraded something in the hardware or software design because these iDevices can output near laptop quality sound. The only thing holding the iDevices’ sound quality back is a full blown custom equalizer, like that found in iTunes, which would allow you to “tune” your iDevice to sound as good as a dedicated CD transport. (Audiophiles debate that all you want. I’ve got my iTunes tuned to match my audiophile CD transport and I could A/B test anyone to guess the wrong source.)
The main point here is if your using the original headphones that came with your iDevice you’re missing out on all that yummy sound quality, and the difference is breathtaking.
I recently upgraded to a pair of Grado SR60 headphones, and while I’m huge mega home theater/stereo buff, a home theater isn’t exactly portable, so I wanted to be able to take some high-quality audio nirvana on the road and at work.
What makes good sound?
There’s plenty of other over-ear “cans” headphone makers out there. A LOT of cheap headphones, and more than you would like to know of the expensive ones, impart a certain sound quality. One of the more recent trends has been to artificially amp up the bass, or attempt to make everything sound silky smooth.
Great sound is a neutral, non-fatiguing sound that plays everything for what it’s supposed to be. High-end speaker manufacturers attempt to do this for the most part, but it’s amazing to me that even the cheapest Grados available also set out to produce an audiophile grade headset.
The Grado SR60s sound quality continues to impress me day in and day out. In fact, their sound quality is more like an audiophile grade speaker than a headset. I’ve used previous supposed high-end on ear headsets before, but they didn’t exactly exude sound quality comparative to high-end audio like the Grados can. The SR60s produce an extremely clean and neutral sound with tight bass. You won’t get overbassed with the SR60s. Songs made with deep bass notes will have deep thumpin’ bass, and songs without won’t. Exactly the way it should be. I’ve never considered headsets worthy of audiophile sound quality praise, but now my eyes are open and I simply cannot recommend upgrading to the Grados enough.
As an “open back” design, wherein the back of the speaker is open, the Grado’s are not for sitting in a quiet space among others. This open back design tremendously improves sound quality and comfort level, but results in a little sound emitting from the back of the speaker. It’s not too loud, but in quiet areas others will know what your listening to.
OMG, the Grados are comfy. Fully adjustable pins allow for easy adjustment, without being skull crushers like so many other headsets are. Also, the open back design allows your ears to breathe, so there’s no disorienting suction cup pop when you go to take the SR60s off. Adding to the comfort level, the Grados are extremely light… so light that it’s a bit surprising when you first pick them up. Heck, the shipped box felt like it was empty.
The SR60s are not noise cancelling. If fact, you will be able to hear the room around you while you’re listening, which I’ve found very convenient at work so I can hear what’s going on around me.
All important is the efficiency of the headphones. Many over-ear headsets require a bit more power to move the larger speaker drivers. The Grados are surprisingly closely matched to the iPod headphones for volume so they can play soft or really loud; unlike other headsets which require the volume level set to about 75-100% to play at a decent level.
The Grados come with a thick and long cable. They’re not exactly a set of headphones you would run around or workout with, but rather a nice high-quality sounding headset when you want to sit down and hear some great sound.
Do yourself a favor and upgrade to a set of Grados and hear what you’ve been missing with your iDevice. OWC’s Grado lineup offers competitive prices, awesome shipping rates, and award-winning customer service.
It’s seriously been a long time since I’ve been wowed like this with an audio product, and at $79 for the entry level priced high-end sounding SR60s, it’s just crazy affordable for how big an upgrade in sound the SR60s offer.
But don’t take my word for it, get a set of your own… your ears will thank you.