Going Open

December 24, 2014

Recently I decided to upgrade my computer audio experience to match my improving and expanding music library. So I bought a DAC and some new headphones. The former is the Audioquest Dragonfly v1, a well-reviewed DAC which I got for the ridiculous(ly low) price of $99 in a clearance sale at Online Hi-Fi. It took a lot longer to come to a decision on new headphones. After doing some research, I decided going open-back would be a good upgrade from my closed-back Sennheiser HD-212 Pros. I went to the absolute gem of a store which is The Listening Post where they have a whole lot of mid-range headphones available for audition with an amp. The staff directed me straight to the Grado SR125i, on sale for $199. I was expecting the bass to be a let down with open-backed heaphones such as these, but the Grados had enough deep bass for a bit of electronic music. The Sennheiser HD-558 was quickly dismissed for lack of bass, despite its quite frankly astounding comfort. I had a quick listen to the store’s Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (a headphone I had listened to many times before) and the bass seemed boomy and confined after the open-backed offerings. I settled on the Grado SR125i.


The Dragonfly-SR125i combo has been a revelation for me in many ways. Rock music has come alive with a new level of detail. In more simple tracks like R.E.M.’s Nightswimming, the action of the piano is clear and vocals are reasonably forward. Complex tracks such as Dirty Work by Steely Dan sound layered. I’ll admit it though, while the SR125i’s bass does have decent extension (Clean Bandit’s Nightingale is a great subbass test) and presence, it lacks the punch of my trusty HD-212 Pros. I’ll definitely be keeping my previous headphones for their extremely fun (if far-from-neutral) sound signature, which is well suited to electronic music, as well as for their isolation.