Pros: High impact, lively, audiophile quality, sparkling detailed sound. High value.
Cons: comfort may be an issue,and retro, somewhat cheap looks
Joseph Grado has manufactured many highly respected audiophile quality products in his career, and with their line of headphones, has cemented themselves into the one of the favorite products among many an audiophile's mind. I remember owning many fine Grado phono cartridges.
These Prestige line of headphones is one of their best ever, offering extremely high value for the absolute level of hi-fidelity they offer. The model line starts at the SR-60, and steps through 80/125/225 and 325 models with the 325i which was just recently released in an improved version. The 225 sits as the second model at the top of their Prestige line which is below their Reference line. In many respects, it is one of their best models.
Some of the design principles of the Grado sound involve: very low resonance design, large air chamber, low mass diaphragm, handcrafted construction. Its safe to say this design works, as the whole line of Grado Prestige headphones is continually recommended by audiophiles all over the world. For this tiny company (less than 20 employees) to churn out the excellent products that they have, which are a match for any of the big giants like Sennheiser, AKG, Beyerdynamic is quite remarkable.
The SR225 looks very similar to the SR60/80/125 models, and incorporates the same overall design. A metal headband covered by vinyl, earpieces attached to the headband by height adjustable rods, which allow 360 degree swivel adjustment, and adjustable top/bottom angle of the earpads using a swivel on forked arms on each earpiece. The swivelling allows the earpieces to fold completely flat when setting the headphones on a table, allowing easy transporting of the headphones. The look is very retro, looking like something out of the 1970s. Its safe to say you wont be buying these as a fashion statement unless you think retro is cool. The build quality is somewhat low rent, with plastics that seem more in line with something costing about half as much, so this is not a headphone you buy for that high-end feel and style. The earcups are a rather stiff high density foam (bowl/doughnut shaped with holes in the middle) that allow the driver to be exposed. The earpads are stiff and made of a slightly scratchy material, and because they arent soft, some people complain they are uncomfortable. Grado does offer some soft flat earpads as a replacement if you cant attain a comfortable fit with the bowl shaped doughnuts. Fortunately, most of the concerns of comfort can be remedied (as recommended in the manual) by bending the headband for a looser fit. For the most part, I find them reasonably comfortable. They are comfortable enough for me to put up with them to enjoy the sound quality. What a sound it is!
The Grado SR225s are a high impact, very lively sounding set of headphones. Bass is very punchy and these sound great with rock or pop music. The bass has a nice slam but yet is completely controlled, tight, fluid and completely distortion free. Now, the bass is good, but the midrange is just as exceptional, with vocals sounding very well voiced with nary a hit of midrange "honkiness" or nasality you find in some cheaper headphones. Midrange is prominent and forward, another Grado hallmark. And Im not done yet, the detail of these headphones is exceptional, every instrument has an air around them, you can hear each instrument precisely defined, even in complex mutilayered orchestral pieces. Some people may find these headphones just a bit "bright", but I think some of that judgement is because they are used to duller sounding headphones. If you have a friend playing one particular instrument in a band, you will be able to hear him through these headphones. Resolution of soundsis conveyed with a sense of sparkling high resolution detail that you only get with a very nice set of speakers. Even coming from my previous AKG electrostatic headphones, there aren't many stones these Grado's leave unturned in terms of detail recovery. The soundstage is fairly deep but not that wide, you mostly get the feeling you are in the front row. The Grados may be a tad more fatiguing to listen to just because they present the details so prominently, but for me, thats a good thing to hear those details. Low resolution MP3s and bright harsh recordings are presented with all their flaws, so make sure you have good source material with a clean output. People say that these Grado's really come alive with an external headphone amplifier, I can believe it because these Grado's thrive on clean material.
So, the sound is exceptional, but even better is that these headphones are relatively easy to drive with a portable device with a 32 ohm impedance rating, and you could theoretically enjoy first rate sound even through an iPod. It is terminated with a ? plug so you will need an adapter to use it with your iPod though. Grado sells a $15.00 headphone to miniplug adapter cable for this purpose (it's well made). An external headphone amplifier is not absolutely needed to extract the goodness of sound out of this from a portable source.
I think the SR225 is the best of the Grado Prestige line, the cheaper SR125s are a bit leaner sounding. Coming from a 125, you get a improved vent design that allows for the better impact. You also get better matched left and right drivers (0.05 dB instead of 0.1 dB). The 325i costs a lot more and you get a nicer leather headband and metal housing which really adds a lot of weight which impacts their comfort. And Im not convinced they are even better sounding, they are maybe a bit brighter and maybe a bit more detailed, but I found their sound to be a bit more grating to listen too over a longer period. So I think these are the best value and overall has the best sound character out of all their Prestige series.
Lastly, to put in a plug for other Grado models, if you can't quite afford the $200 USD of this SR225, go for the SR60, which offer a very similar sound signature missing the some of the resolution but at a category killing $69.00 USD MSRP. Your ears will not be happier with anything else under $100.00