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You Go On A Head
Despite a life almost entirely dominated by technology I find it odd that the things I admire the most tend to be very traditional. I suppose thereís no reason to assume that a predilection for technology should make me any less appreciative of olde worlde values like quality, craftsmanship and value, in fact itís probably the nature of todayís throw-away society thatís fuelling my fondness for such things.

One of the companies that has made it onto my ďmost admiredĒ list is Grado, a company that has not only managed to remain family owned and run, but which has done so despite the abundance of cheap foreign imports claiming to offer more for less. Of course survival stories like this are rarely down to luck, there needs to be at least one solid product driving the refusal to be beaten, or as in Gradoís case a whole catalogue of them.

Audio Hall of Fame member Joseph Grado started out making phono cartridges on his kitchen table back in 1953 but when the decline of the record player in the 80s started hitting profits, Joseph decided the time was right to bow out gracefully. It was his nephew John, who'd been part of the business since the age of 12, who stepped in to buy the brand name and, spotting a gap in the market he set about working with one of the few remaining employees left, engineer John Chaipis, to develop a prototype headphone design. After producing their own machine tooling, they introduced their first three models of headphone in 1991 then later on, in response to requests from their dealers, they developed a lower priced line which began to fly off the shelves. The rest, as they say, is history.

Perhaps one of the best known and most praised models in Gradoís lineup is their budget SR60s. With the brave claim that they offer genuine, high-end audio capable of satisfying even the most anal of listeners at a price that doesnít even make it into triple figures, Grado have amassed a legion of die-hard fans based solely on the merits of the SR60s, not that thereís a shortage of listeners happy to sing the praises of models sitting higher up the product range.

You may recall I published a 10-way earphone roundup a couple of weeks ago, and knowing this was a perfect opportunity to see just how well the SR60s stacked up to their smaller, in-ear counterparts I contacted Grado and asked if theyíd send over a set of SR60ís to test, and Iím thrilled to say they did just that.

Click to enlarge

Admire them or not I should make one thing clear, to me there are certain aspects of audio that I donít buy into. Itís a bit like modern art where some ponce is explaining how an unholy mess of colours thrown on a canvas represents the loneliness of his childhood, you may find ten other idiots staring at the picture nodding in appreciation and smiling politely but Iíll be the one suggesting heís talking from his fuel dump. And some people are the same with audio. You may just about be able to hear a difference between two makes of speaker cable over long runs but anyone who wants me to believe they can tell the difference between different kinds of connectors by listening to the specific tone of the Saxophone playerís stomach rumbling in the last chorus isnít likely to find me nodding and smiling politely.

Grado may have earned my respect, but a little devil on my shoulder wants the SR60s to sound very ordinary so I can play the hero and finally lay an unwarranted myth to rest in the name of all thatís good and true. Iím such a sensation seeker!

Before we actually listen to them letís take a look at what your money buys you.

Vented diaphragm
Non Resonant air chamber
Standard copper voice coil wire
Standard copper connecting cord
mini plug with 1/4" adaptor

type - dynamic
Operating principle-open air
Frequency response - 20-20
SPL 1mV - 98
Normal impedance - 32ohms
Driver matched db - .1