Open-back headphones are highly regarded by the community to be better than closed-back headphones. They typically produce an airier, wider, and more realistic sound compared to closed-back headphones. However, the price of most of these headphones isn’t usually accessible.
When you hear about open-back headphones, it is usually about more expensive offerings such as the Sennheiser HD660S or the Sennheiser HD800S. This can be quite intimidating, especially for beginners who just want to try out the open-back headphone experience.
But with that said, there are some great-sounding options in the budget price point. And one of our favorite pairs that we always recommend on this website is the Grado SR60e.
This headphone is certainly not a perfect pair. It has its fair share of downsides and compromises to help keep the costs down. However, it has some strong points, and it still delivers a solid experience, especially for first-time open-back users. Keep on scrolling to find out what makes the SR60e such a great budget pair.
Disclaimer: I purchased the Grado SR60e at full retail price. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Grado SR60e Review
Packaging and Accessories
The headphones are certainly the main attraction of the Grado SR60e. But before we continue, let us quickly go over the packaging of these headphones.
The packaging is often overlooked with Grado’s headphones. You might think this is because the headphones come with a throwaway box that isn’t worth mentioning. However, it is the opposite.
The SR60e comes with a clean and minimalistic-looking white box. Once you open the headphones, you are greeted by the SR60e along with some paperwork that explains the history of the Grado brand.
It is always nice to see more information inside the packaging as it makes the experience more interesting. And the fact that they tell you that most of these headphones are handmade makes these headphones feel extra special.
The SR60e does not come with a lot of accessories, and the unboxing experience isn’t too complicated. However, Grado shows exactly how a product should be presented.
Design and Build Quality
Grado headphones are fairly similar in terms of their design and build quality. Aside from small variations, they mostly look similar. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since you won’t be missing out too much by purchasing Grado’s entry-level headphones.
The Grado SR60e has a simple build with a retro-inspired look. Its unique design easily makes the SR60e stand out from the rest of its competitors.
The build is, however, not the greatest. The quality of the all-plastic build is quite decent. There are some metal parts, such as the headband adjusters. The overall build isn’t too flimsy. However, it doesn’t feel too sturdy either. The SR60e is certainly not on the same level as the build quality of Audio Technica and Sennheiser’s offerings.
I highly advise being cautious while using these headphones. You certainly need to purchase a carrying case if you wish to transport these headphones.
Additionally, the SR60e has some outdated features. The most notable one being the non-removable cable. Although it is an inconvenience, removable cables aren’t always a big issue, especially for budget-priced pairs.
However, the issue is that the cable’s quality isn’t that great. The stock cable is quite thick and is incredibly hard to manage. The cable is single-handedly the worst part of these headphones and is a no-go for portable use.
The good news is that the Grado SR60e is moddable. You can either replace the cable with a higher-quality one, or you can even modify the housing to accommodate detachable MMCX cables.
Additionally, given the SR60e’s basic build, there are plenty of things you can do with it. You can do simple mods such as replacing the headband to add more cushioning.
You can even do crazier things, such as completely replacing the ear cups with wooden shells. This not only makes them look more interesting but also changes the acoustics and how the drivers respond.
Despite being an on-ear pair, the Grado SR60e is quite comfortable. With the soft ear pads, I found these to be more comfortable than other on-ear pairs, such as the Audio Technica ES88 and ES700. You can also swap out the earpads with aftermarket options such as Yaxi Pads for an even better experience.
But with that said, my ears still started hurting after a few hours of use. You can’t really do much about it since the SR60e’s on-ear design will be pressing directly against your ears. The SR60e will certainly not replace over-the-ear pairs for long listening sessions.
Tested With: Fiio M11, iFi Nano iDSD Black Label, ddHiFi TC35B, Audirect Beam 2SE
What makes the Grado SR60e truly special is its sound quality. It is arguably one of the best open-back headphones that you can get in the budget price range.
And while it isn’t the most resolving pair that I have tried, it has all the qualities of a great open-back pair. For me, this is the perfect pair to try out if you have never experienced an open-back headphone before.
The Grado SR60e has a warm sound signature. It is very relaxing to listen to since it does not have any aggressive peaks in the upper midrange in the treble frequencies. Additionally, the low end is handled perfectly and avoids the SR60e from sounding too thin.
The SR60e has a good amount of bass. Lows are punchy and well textured. And with how good its bass is, the SR60e performs well with tracks that are traditionally not meant for open-back headphones. The SR60e was very enjoyable to listen to with pop, electronic, and other bass-heavy music.
However, the bass is perfectly controlled and does not bleed into the lower midrange. It knows its place pretty well and does not try to steal the show away from the SR60’s stellar mids.
And speaking of the mids, vocals are quite forward and enjoyable to listen to on the SR60e. The presentation is fairly intimate and makes it feel as if the vocals and guitars are being performed right in front of you. This creates a very engaging experience and allows you to pick up small details easily,
The highs on the SR60e are well controlled. They aren’t too extended but give enough shimmer to make instruments such as high-hats sound realistic. Instruments in the treble region can be perfectly heard, but they won’t be shattering your ears.
The SR60e does not have the widest soundstage. However, it is wide enough to make tracks sound spacious. Imaging is also decent but does not have the precision of higher-end open-back pairs.
The overall sound of the Grado SR60e isn’t analytic, and I would not expect anyone to use this pair for critical listening or professional work. However, this is one of the most relaxing headphones to listen to and is something that I would grab if I just wanted to enjoy my music.
The Grado SR60e isn’t a very demanding pair. It will still perform well even when using a less powerful source such as a smartphone dongle.
Of course, we still advise pairing the SR60e with a high-quality source such as a DAC/Amp or a dongle to get the best results.
For an entry-level pair, you honestly cannot go wrong with the Grado SR60e. It has great sound quality and perfectly delivers the open-back experience. It also maintains a strong presence in the low end, which ensures an enjoyable listening experience no matter the genre.
Of course, there are a number of compromises, specifically in the build quality. These won’t be quite as robust as higher-end pairs and will certainly break if you accidentally drop them or step on them.
But as we mentioned earlier, the SR60e is a perfect platform for modifications. And if you are willing to spend some time modifying this pair, you can get a truly unique pair that performs just as well as it looks.
If you already own closed-back headphones or IEMs and are looking to try out something else, then the Grado SR60e perfectly fits the bill.
- Transducer Type: Dynamic
- Operating Principle: Open Air
- Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
- SPL 1mW: 99.8 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
- Driver Matched dB: .1 dB
Albums Used For Testing
- Milet – Who I am
- Babymetal – Legend Metal Galaxy
- Mamamoo – Travel
- Periphery- Periphery 3 and 4
- Blackpink – The Album
- Final Fantasy VII Acoustic Arrangements
- Square Enix Jazz- Final Fantasy VII At Billboard Live Tokyo
- Sawano Hiroyuki – Best of Vocal Works
- Yorushika – Plagiarism
- Intervals – Circadian