As unusual as it is to find an electronic gadget manufactured in the U.S. these days, it’s even more unusual for that gadget to hail from New York City — but that’s exactly where Grado’s SR60i is made. Appropriate, because just like the city, these cans have an unpolished-but-genuine persona that’s a little off-putting at first, but incredibly charming once you get past the gritty exterior.
I recall tweeting about how carrying these cans around felt like having a dead squid in my bag because of the long cable and funky gasoline-like smell emanating from the unit’s plastic bits when it was new (the smell has long since disappeared). The cable is ridiculously long and beefy; so much so it seriously hampers any attempt to become mobile while wearing the cans. I’ve tried stuffing the excess cable in my pocket, wrapping it around my neck and using it as a sort of belt, but nothing really seems to feel comfortable when moving about.
They’re also not much to look at. In fact, they sorta look like a prop, liberated from the set of a 60’s-era Doctor Who episode, that one of the prop monkeys had scraped together from some speaker cable, plastic model kits and a TV antenna. In other words, don’t buy these to attract members of the opposite sex.
There’s also no bag included, and the only concession to portability is that the cans themselves fold flat.
Finally, because they’re open-backed, ambient noise tends to intrude annoyingly (and will likewise annoy any neighbors) if they’re used anywhere even moderately noisy, like a coffee shop.
For such a no-frills set, they’re surprisingly comfortable. The headband carries zero padding, the cans are surrounded by nothing but cheap foam and the fit system is very low-tech — one adjustment that can be made is to bend the metal strip in the headband to loosen or tighten it — but I found I could wear them for hours with no discomfort or feeling of pressure.
And because they’re so stripped-down, they’re also among the lightest set I’ve ever tried, which adds to their ability to be worn for longer periods.
Pop ‘em on your head and hit play though, and every possible drawback of the SR60i melts away in a wave of melodic happiness.
Sound is perfectly tuned — the smooth, creamy mids that Grado is known for are there, but they’ve tuned the SR60i to push the bass a little deeper than the older SR60 (without the “i”), and the effect is an extremely pleasing sound that works well with almost any kind of music — bass is never imposing, but never lacking either. And while highs could be a little clearer, they’re still chirpy without sounding harsh.
What really impresses though, is how crisp and clean everything sounds, even with the sound cranked up; details like the use oxygen-free copper for the wiring — which ensures the sound remains free from oxidation, which can harm the sound’s integrity — most likely take credit here.
It’s no stretch to say these cans are at least a match, sound-wise, for sets costing double or even triple. And if I don’t turn any heads because I’m walking around with a cable wrapped around my neck, that’s ok — I’ll be so lost in my music, I won’t even care.