Fair and Balanced: Grado GR8 IEM

Unplggd Test Lab

Product: Grado GR8 In-Ear Monitors
Price: $299
Rating: Recommend

For those of you who know your audio brands, Grado's been around for quite some time with the reputation for producing some quality headgear that's both timeless and trusted in terms of performance. When we heard they were producing a portable IEM (in-ear monitor or earbuds) for our ultraportables, we had to check them out. Does this exploration in a new market manage to live up to the Grado name? Our impressions below the jump!

Pin it button big

Let's start off by taking a look at what you get for $300, shall we?

IN THE BOX:

  • Grado GR8 IEM
  • About 5 pairs of different replacement tips (three silicon tips, two sets of replacement earwax filter and rings)
  • A t-shirt clip (for runners or something)

And that's about it. Some may initially complain about the lack of accessories at this point, but looking at all the other crap we carry around in our bags, we're going to say this simplistic approach is surprisingly refreshing. Then again, if you're looking for a sexy carrying case, stickers, and all that other junk manufacturers tend to throw into their earphone packages, this might be a deal-breaker. For others looking for audio bliss, read on.

Pin it button big

I've never been too big on IEMs primarily due to the fact that they tend to be a hit or miss in terms of comfort, but since Grado included so many replacements, I eventually found that I loved - the largest silicon one. It created a nice even seal in my ears, blocking out about 90% of the outside noise and had the optimal sound quality when listening on my iPhone or laptop.

I'll also note that the cable can be ran straight down or over the ear (up to your preference, really) and in both configurations have a very comfortable fit that's barely noticeable in the ear. You also don't get that obnoxious cable rubbing noise (a common issue with IEMs), which is a definite plus.

Build quality is pretty top notch. The cable is tough and durable, the connector gold plated, and the plastic, while a bit shiny for taste, is strong enough to withstand the somewhat rough tests we put it through while running around in 30 degree weather.

For our tests on sound quality, we allowed a week for burn in, testing it on mobile, laptop, and dedicated headphone amps. The genres of music tested ranged from old school punk to 90's hip-hop to chill wave released in recent months.

Pin it button big

I would describe the sound signature as something in between highly natural and smooth as silk. When folks tend to describe sound as "natural," bassheads tend to run for the hills, but I always say, "Hey, relax - you don't need to blow out your ear drums." Sit back and enjoy those sweet highs and mids; the GR8's deliver sound that's right down the middle - not too bright, not too warm, just plain GR8 (sorry, had to do it).

But a little more about the bass. Tight bass is hard to pull off without sounding like it's completely lacking, but this could also be due to the fact that the 120 ohms impedance means it's best to listen to these through an amp (which we did test and the solid, tight bass did manage to make an appearance), but I don't find carrying around an external amp very practical, especially for IEMs. If listening to it on your iPhone or laptop, it sounds best with classical, Sade, or some smooth laid back ambient jams, not so much pumped up disco jams or contemporary indie/hip-hop.

Best of all, the sound feels very much Grado. The biggest plusses from their SR line of headphones is how natural sound flows in, much like air, never giving the impression of feeling forced. It's an incredible feeling that's unlike anything we've heard in previous IEMs before. A definite plus in our book.

Overall, we were very impressed with the Grado GR8's. The tight bass and beautiful highs/mids makes for one of the best sounding IEM's we've tested in this category, but it may be hard sell in terms of value for those looking for the "do-all" earbud due to lack of accessories and pre-requisite of an amp for optimum performance.

Pros: Excellent sound signature, very comfortable once you find your fit, build quality rocks
Cons: Bass is a bit lacking w/out an amplifier, doesn't come with many accessories, high cost

Our Ratings:
Strong Recommend
Recommend
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did loan us the product for testing and review purposes.