If You Read This Review and Still Buy Beats Headphones, You’re An Idiot

Tasting Garbage
Worth A Thousand Words….

If you want to buy headphones because of who is promoting them, or because you’ve seen product placement for them in almost every (bad) music video that’s come out in the past two years… then it’s too late for you.

You’re going to over-spend on plastic-y garbage that defines ‘fashion over function’.  You’ll blow your hard earned cash on Beats by Dre… and that’s okay.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 3.45.00 AM
Don’t Think, Just Buy!

 

But the headphones I’m about to review are too good for you.

I know that there are droves of people who buy brands like Beats and Bose, because their high price and marketing cause them to be perceived as the ‘nicest’ brand offered at most electronics retailers.  They do the most effective advertising, and consumers typically confuse high price with high quality.

The question is whether you’re willing to fall into the same trap.

Image Credit: Reddit (http://bit.ly/1KvKCSH)

Instead of buying for fashion, try something real, like a pair of Grado headphones.  The ones I’ll be reviewing today are the Grado GR8e in-ear headphones, which retail for $300.

http://bit.ly/DMNGrado
Grado GR8e

Let’s quickly compare. The Beats By Dre Pro cost a whopping $400!  As you can see from their webpage, Beats claims that these are ‘the headphones used to mix in every major studio’ which is an absolute lie.  I know people at several major studios and they would not use fashion headphones for actual mixing.  One person who works in a major studio even told me that he bought a pair of these headphones and promptly returned them because the bass was so overpowered.  It was causing pressure on his eardrums, even at low volumes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 8.02.08 AM

 

In contrast to that, you can get an ‘on-ear’ pair of Grado headphones for as little as $80 (SR-60 pictured below) and I’m willing to bet that these will surpass the quality of even the $400-600 offering from Beats by Dre (and the $300-400 ‘top of the line’ offerings from Bose).

 

http://bit.ly/DMNGRADO60
Grado SR-60

I’ll buy you a beer if I’m wrong.

For a second opinion, I spoke with a real music professional, i.e., some who makes music for a living and has a certified ear for quality.  The earphones he owns and uses daily for listening are the Bose Q20i in-ear headphones with noise cancellation (retail price: $299.99).  We both did a quick A/B comparison using the same content on the same audio player for a fair comparison.

61uVjq4JH3L._SL1500_
Bose Q20i

Even inside the industry, there’s only partial knowledge about headphone quality.  Once my outside authority was wearing the Grados and the music was playing, he was very clearly impressed.  He told me that the quality he got from the Grados was substantial enough for him to be able to work on the music he is making outside of his studio.  He had never experienced the same feeling with any other in-ear headphones.

This simple case study is the reason that Grado should be advertising, or at least getting their product distributed through electronics retailers (right now, Grado distributes through direct sales and hi-fi specialty stores).

Grados are at exactly the same price point as the Bose headphones, while offering so much more fidelity and warmth than Bose can provide.

As part of this review, I’ve been spending the past couple of months bathing my ears with the smooth, rich and creamy sounds of the GR8e headphones, and I am loving every minute of it.  As far as content, I have been listening to vinyl archives stored in 24bit-192Khz lossless files as well as high resolution music from HDTracks, some 320kbps MP3s and some .flac rips of CDs I own and playing them through an AudioQuest Dragonfly (v1.2) DAC/headphone amp.  My software setup is Audirvana+ on OS X and USB Audio Player Pro on Android.

The earphones come with three sizes of silicone tips, intended to fit most ears.  I had a significant amount of noise caused by the cable brushing against me while walking and found the solution was to loop the cable around my ear and basically insert the earphones upside down.  Acknowledging that this was not ideal and caused me to look a damn fool, I found a new solution.  I ordered a pair of foam tips that not only stay in place more securely, but also isolate the music better and block out more external noise.

Foam Eartips
Foam Eartips

I do have one complaint or shortcoming that I felt could be improved on the Grados.  The rubber cable felt cheap and I think would be improved by having a fabric covered cable.  Aside from this (extremely minor) issue, I genuinely enjoy every minute with these headphones.

http://bit.ly/GRADOSTATS
Grado GR8e

Grado president John Chen recommended that I give them ample time to break in, although 100 hours may have been a bit more than required.  But the sound definitely opened up as time went on.  Maybe that’s part of the beauty of having a moving armature design instead of having three or more armatures jammed into a tiny package.

Comparing these to other IEMs I have tested, Grado easily outshines anything I have heard.  Even while attending the Newport Beach Home Audio Show and testing out IEMs with price tags well over $1,000, I found nothing that could compare with the realistic sounds that were pumping through my Grado pair.  They have great separation between instruments with powerful, booming and realistic bass tones.  I could deeply appreciate the higher quality of HD Tracks’ re-release of the self titled Red Hot Chili Peppers, and appreciate the smoother strings with more powerful choruses in orchestral music like Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack.

I challenge any other headphone makers to create the same level of quality; I’ll happily review the attempts.

http://bit.ly/GRADOSTATS

Here are some tech specs, for the serious listener:

  • Driver: Moving Armature
  • Connector: 3.5mm stereo mini-plug
  • Frequency Response: 20 -20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 118dB/1mW
  • Impedance: 120 ohms
  • Max Input Power: 20mW
  • Cable: 51″/130cm
  • Weight: 9 grams

65 Responses

  1. Jackson

    Beats suck. I have a great pair of Bose headphones though that I love listening to and using for reference mixes. Don’t really like how this article puts Bose and Beats on the same level because Beats are pure plastic crap.

    Reply
    • Noah
      Noah

      I’m not trying to put them on the same level. Beats charges close to twice as much for some models and are twice as bad. I’m not saying Bose is always bad, I’m saying the same price from a different brand can get you better quality.

      Reply
      • Jason

        Most of headphones today are completely overrated. They look damn ugly, like if i was a flying a f… plane. And those headphones make my ears sweat. And the “other ones”… like the one youre reviewing… are just plain stupid. Every time i try one of “those” i feel my f…ing. earwax going deeply to the bottom of my ear.
        I dear you motherfu…. to review the best headphones i ever had in my life….and i keep buying them till this day (ebay, amazon)….
        And those are ….. Sony MDR W014 or Sony MDR W08……..best f…. headphones since like….. ever… PERIOD. Sony should bring back those headphones.

        Reply
        • Lee

          If you’re using fashion, sweat and earwax to determine why you should buy a pair of headphones, you shouldn’t even be reading this article, because you clearly have no idea about sound. You have a great pair of Sonys. Awesome. This article is about sound quality and why Beats is an absolute lie, not whether or not you’re comfortable in the headphones you buy.

          Also if you’re continuing to buy the same headphones consistently, they either can’t be very good, or you don’t take care of your headphones.

          Reply
          • Anonymous

            I love beats. I was given them for nothing cause I bought a new drill. Great drill!

        • Nathan J.

          ATH
          Sennheiser
          Shure

          3 companies that make good products for the money.

          Reply
    • Grado SR 60s... $75...

      Grado SR60s are the absolute best value in headphones. $75 for stunning quality and performance that rivals actual real studio grade headphones priced 3-4x’s as much. Beats is genius branding, that’s it.

      Reply
    • Alan

      I was going to say the same. Bose aren’t the best available, but their sound cancellation IS the best (or was when I last investigated). They are nowhere near the same ballpark as Beats and their compact products are very good and great. It’s their larger products that leave something to be desired. My point is Bose headphones and Bluetooth speakers = good but surround sound = bad and overpriced.

      Reply
  2. Alvin

    I wear only Rage by Noah headphones. My ears are a little chapped, and that’s okay.

    Reply
  3. I have ears

    I’ve always hated in-ear buds because of the cable noise, and the fact that I hear myself breathing when I use them. I never thought of the foam tips; do you still hear breathing when you use those? I’m thinking they might have a different type of seal, and, while they might insulate more, they would do so in a different way.

    Reply
    • Noah
      Noah

      The foam did improve the cable noise and the breathing noise but it’s also more like wearing earplugs. It feel weird to talk while wearing them using Skype for example

      Reply
      • I have ears

        I wouldn’t use them with Skype. I record a podcast every week, and I can’t use on-ear headphones that isolate too much; it’s like I’m talking under water. So I imagine it’s the same. But if I didn’t hear myself breathing, that’d be an improvement over standard in-ear headphones. I actually never thought of trying something other than the silicone plugs. I may try foam; thanks.

        Reply
        • Noah
          Noah

          I’m happy I could help! The ones I got are made by a company called Comply and they shipped and arrived pretty quick so I was happy with them.

          Reply
    • asdf

      Most ear buds come stock with silicone tips. These create an uncomfortable suction of air and amplify all kinds of unwanted ambient noise, like breathing or chewing. I switched to Comply foam tips (http://www.complyfoam.com) years ago and never looked back. They’re great. More comfortable, no unwanted noise, and way better sound isolation etc. I think it’s because the porous nature of the foam prevents the suction of air and doesn’t carry, and in fact absorbs, unwanted ambient noise. I can’t recommend foam tips enough.

      Reply
  4. Neil

    Comapring Grado Sr60s to Bose seems silly to me. Grados are are fantastic earphones but their on ears are open back and are no use when your anywhere but in your home. Bose make the best noise cancelling phones one the market and are the only set I take when traveling. Hey have very different use cases.
    Personally hate all in ears…they lack any spacial depth compared to on and over ears. But that’s said grado is where I would go if I did.
    I speak as an owner of Grado sr80,sr325 Bose Qc15

    Reply
    • Noah
      Noah

      I know what you mean, they are different in what they are going for. But on paper, the sr60’s provide a lot more bang for the buck than any bose could just on a fidelity/price comparison. I also have the bose over the ear noise canceling headphones and they’re good for what they are but they also make other headphones that are not noise canceling and I would generally recommend something like Sennheiser for closed back.

      Also, I use the Grado open back’s while walking around in the traffic-y streets on my daily commute sometimes. I use the RS1i’s and I feel that they can get loud enough to use comfortably outdoors as long as you are using a headphone amp.

      Reply
  5. ng

    i love grados. i think they are definitely the best for the money. the only problem with the “on-ear” grados is that they are not “enclosed” and thus not made for listening outside of the home and/or studio….i.e. the subway, streets, etc…because they are not enclosed, outside noise very easily gets in the way of/drowns out the music and you need to make them very loud (and sometime they don’t go loud enough in noisy places like the subway), and vice-versa, the music you are listening to leaks out of the phones to the person sitting next to you…

    Reply
    • Noah
      Noah

      I totally agree that they are more ideal for home and studio use with their on ear models (though I’m okay with wearing the on ear models around outside as long as you use a headphone amp). But this review is for their in ear models, which still sound amazing. I recommend checking them out if you’re already a fan of Grado.

      Reply
  6. Btmkrs

    Dumb article . Now we have headphone snobs ?
    It was a DEAD WEAK segment & now the popularity given to it by Beats has dummies writing snobbish articles.
    How many of you own Grado btw ? Maybe 3 of you .

    Beats brought in a new customer that will learn & upgrade to better headphones over time .
    Similar to the Moscato craze a few years ago that helped spark the spirits industry

    Reply
    • Noah

      Maybe I’m a headphone snob but I’m really just trying to advocate for consumer rights…

      Marketing with an endless budget and placing misleading advertisements like Beats does (see the Web page from beats in the article) and telling them that they are producing studio standard quality for $400 per unit. The fact is that beats would never be used in major studios. Meanwhile, you CAN get a good quality starter set for studios from Grado for 80 bucks.

      This review is meant to inform consumers about getting more for their money, whether they are starting a studio or just like listening through quality headphones and save them hundreds of dollars.

      In fact, I think we have the same goal here. You mentioned, Moscato. Imagine paying hundreds of dollars for a bottle when they’re are good ones for 20 per bottle. That’s an accurate comparison to how Beats is approaching pricing.
      Why not inform consumers about better products that cost less?

      Best,
      A headphone snob (I guess)

      Reply
      • Paul Resnikoff
        Paul Resnikoff

        The case study around Beats is an interesting one, not unlike Budweiser. Budweiser isn’t the greatest beer, but traditionally it has outsold competitors through intense, blanketed advertising. Their advertising budgets are massive but their success proves that taste and the actual beer itself are just a small part of the overall sales equation.

        Reply
        • Justin

          There is a fundamental difference between a product like beer and products like headphones.

          The satisfaction one realizes from consuming a product like beer is derived from their tastes. While the quality of ingredients that go into a given batch of beer might vary, most people aren’t really concerned because ultimately what tastes good to them is what they will purchase. “There is no accounting for taste”, as they say.

          This doesn’t really apply to an item like headphones, where quantifiable evidence can be used to determine the quality of the product. This quality typically dictates the price of the product, e.g. an all-wheel-drive Lexus with leather interior will cost more than a front-wheel-drive, no-options Kia because of the inclusion of technology and amount and quality of materials used. While one person might prefer a Kia over a Lexus, nobody can deny that the increased price tag of the Lexus is justified.

          Likewise, while one might like the way Beats headphones look, or perhaps even the way they sound, over any other studio-grade headphone, there is no arguing that the Beats headphone is of lesser quality (based on it’s use of technology or quality of materials) compared to the majority of other products in the Beats price range.

          So what does this mean for us as consumers? Essentially the same thing it does anytime a product of lesser quality is being marketed and sold for the same amount of money as a higher-quality product: you are being ripped off. Beats parent company is banking on the ignorance of the consumer in order to reap outstanding profits.

          It’s virtually impossible for the average consumer to have an expert-level knowledge about every product that exists. For that reason, it’s important for us to do as much research as we can in order that we feel confident that we haven’t wasted our hard-earned dollars on products that are of inferior quality compared to others in the same price range. The author of this article sought to inform us, as consumers, about this particular product. I feel he has done a decent job of that, for which I commend him.

          Reply
  7. Wazza

    Nice Grado infomercial.

    Well, I’m a “professional” musician and mixer and :

    1- No one in the world uses in-ear headphones for mixing.
    2- No one uses Beats or Bose headphones either. Those are consumer headphones, and that’s not a negative thing actually. Consumer headphones have a frequency curve that is often skewed in favor of a more “exciting” tone, where pro headphones tend to have as flat a frequency as possible ( wich sometimes makes them sound unexciting compared to the consumer ones )
    3- There isn’t any one headphone model that is standard in pro studio. There are several favorites from several brands. Akg (K720/240), Senheiser (HD600/650/800), AudioTechnica ( Ath m50) , BeyerDynamic (dt770 pro), Sony, Grado, Ultrasone, Focal, etc.. Many of these models are over 400$ ( 1000$ for the outstanding Sennheiser HD-800 for example ).

    Reply
    • Jesse B

      Yeah. I love the Q701’s (my current cans) from AKG. They’re kinda like more stylish K720’s. And you’re right, this is basically a Grado infomercial…

      Reply
    • Jesse B

      Yeah. My current cans are a pair of Q701’s. They’re basically more stylish K720’s. And you’re right, this is basically a Grado infomercial…

      Oh, also. Awesome sound stage on these as well <3

      Reply
  8. Cameron

    I suffered from owning a pair of beats for about 2 years (were initially a gift). When they finally shit the bed for good (they kept failing, one ear would cut out, bass would drop), I just wanted something worth my money. Not trying to spend a ton, but something I can run/workout with. I bought a set of JBL’s and am quite happy with them. I am interested to find a pair of these Grado’s though, or any of the aforementioned, and give a listen.

    Reply
  9. danwriter

    “a certified ear for quality.” With a framed certificate from Berklee, perhaps?

    Reply
  10. Chris

    If I’m doing something in front of an audience I’ll use in-ears. If I’m on a airplane I’ll use a noise canceling set. However, to work on tracks in my home studio I’ve never heard anything better than Grado’s SR60s for the price. Thanks for the article….now I want to check out their in-ears.

    Reply
  11. Woooowwww

    Sure, beats are lame. But so is this acummy form of advertorial.

    Reply
    • Noah
      Noah

      This isn’t advertorial, it’s a review where I chose to focus on more than a singular product and it’s specs. Advertorial would mean we got paid to write it and we did not

      Reply
  12. Thedenmaster

    I have auditioned beats. They are possibly among the worst headphones ever made. Overhype the music so bad the things rattle. I fear for the level of crap people are willing to accept from celebrities or politicians. Use your own ear. Stop making stupid people famous.

    Reply
  13. StreamingIsPiracy

    Cool post. I fully agree and it’s great to see the graphs all in one place.

    Reply
  14. Pat

    I’ve used Beyer 770’s in studio and they’re super comfy for long listening sessions and they sound pretty flat to me. The process is usually mixing on monitors, putting on HD280’s to tweak, and then finalizing with 770’s to make sure everything sounds good on a variety of products. Then test it out over your macbook speakers because that’s 75% of how people will listen to it, haha

    Reply
  15. Randy

    Noah, its one thing to give a positive review for Grado. And an obvious thing to state how poor Beats are. But when you go as far and boast some challenge as if these Grado ear buds standup to any of the top brands (AKG for example has pro and studio headphones plus earbuds that leave the Grado in the dust) it makes it seem like you’ve never listened to any real headphones before. If you want to share your opinion on a brand you like go ahead. But acting as if you are any type of reliable source who did any type of research is a flat out sham and DMN should remove your article for it. (Unless this is now just a personal blog and not a news service, than I apologize and please proceed)

    Reply
  16. Nathan Granner

    I’ve seen the few articles that have popped up recently about Beetss being bad. I just don’t agree. It’s not that I’m a tool; I’ve gone through a number of sets of headphones, sampling them. Mind, I’m only trying out headphones I can afford (low-end Beats for example) from non music-leading stores such as Behst Bughy and the like. I enjoy Beattz and think they have a nice sound regardless of how cheaply they’re made or what metal chunk is placed in them.

    Do I have a pair? No. They were still a little too much for me, so I got a pair of Marshalls from URobB(A)iNgmeblind Outfitters, which I like quite a bit.

    I don’t mix with them, I just listen to my music with them.

    I get the feeling though that there is a kind of zeitgeist that is all about the take-down of Appleh products now, as if they are evil.

    I have my complaints about the Cupertino products Apfel Muzik for example. I love the ramifications of what they are trying to do, connect artists, music and fans. That particular connect integration is buggy, but the thing is much better than whatever the craptastic thing they had before was.

    I’d much rather connect with my fans on my own sites, but it’s cool to be able to upload a song or vid directly to Itughnes. I truly hope they get the coding worked out before the free subscription runs out because I’m still paying for the former Napster, which is for me a better option than Sporkifigh.

    This is my first post, so I cant’ wait to be called names and all of that fun stuff because I have a different opinion.

    regards, Naythun

    Reply
  17. renon

    I never heard of Grado. They look really cheaply made but could make nice tracking headphones. I imagine those foam pads will get hot after a while.

    As mentioned above, noone in the world uses in ear headphones for mixing. Not in the professional world, though this article is not geared towards that. Still try leaving in ears in for hours, they start to get annoying. Even if the technology may be there.

    A better comparison would be something in the price range of Beats. Anything from Sennheiser in the $400 range is going to destroy Beats in sound and in looks. Try the HD-600 or Q701 if you want to spend $400 on headphones.

    Reply
  18. renon

    Guess I’m out of the loop cause I just looked up Grado and they look very popular in the video world. Anyway, these look way cooler than the Beats IMO. I’m sure they sound better as well.

    Grado RS2e

    Reply
  19. renon

    ok, geeking out on headphones now. Grado seem to kinda suck for tracking. They are waaay too loud. They do sound good though. —gearslutz research

    just get the HD600 s

    Reply
  20. gracie

    I’ll stick to my HD25 over any mentioned here.
    They are neutral and I mean K701 and UM3X neutral.
    Only quibble for studio use is a small sound stage in comparison to the HD600.

    Dj’ing though, best bang for buck you can get. I have two pairs one of which has done 25 years of gigging and still sound tight. Best part is replacement parts for everything.

    Great portable and studio and gigging / on the go headphones.

    Reply
  21. Versus

    Plenty of other studio standards to consider, from the inexpensive Sony 7506, to the superb Beyer 880 Pros, and the AKG K70x series, and of course Sennheiser.

    Reply
  22. Þorsteinn Halldórsson

    I have to agree on all fronts – Beats are only good for one thing…missing beats in music. Bose are mostly loud without definition……..Grado is a great product and I would recommend them as well as this small German company that has an unbelievable reputation and high quality – BeyerDynamic Headphones which are used in studios and are a standard.

    Reply
  23. Ichneumon

    I’m pretty content with my Bower and Wilkins P5s for listening and actual music work. They’re not perfect hi-fi but they have a nice, warm, even frequency response and a solid soundstage that really conveys position and distance well. The only problem is when I’m walking the cord gets hooked on things, but that’s all me…

    I do think you sound a bit infomercial-y with the Grados thing, but pretty much every musician and serious listener I know has said that, while Beats have improved since Apple bought them out, they’re really not worth even a third of their price point, with the older models being truly awful.

    Reply
  24. Nick

    I have a pair of pro Beats. I haven’t noticed any problems with them, even though they’ve been dropped a few times, so they seem to be durable. Also, the sound is very warm, with a powerful yet balanced bass. I have used it to write electronic music, and it works well for the purpose. I have absolutely no problems with my Beats. Am I missing something here?

    Reply
    • Cameron Connor

      ‘Balanced bass’ All the sound from those pieces of crap is coming from two speakers. One in the left, one in the right. No surround sound – just wet, sloppy beats.

      Reply
  25. defalt

    Beats actually sound good now and look 1 billion times better than all the other earbuds

    Reply
    • Cameron Connor

      Tools are fooled into thinking the earbuds are cool as they are mesmerised by the beats logo. You’re saying a red ‘b’ makes earphones look 1 billion times better?

      Reply
  26. Sam L

    I agree beats headphones will not deliver the performance you would expect after spending $200.

    Reply
  27. Pete11

    I honestly never listened to any of beats headphone so I can’t comment on them, but I really will never understand this hype for the cheap models of Grado. To me they are extremely aggressive sounding and have no bass. To a point for me they are unlistenable. I have a few pair headphones, some more expensive, but I prefer by a large margin the Koss Porta-pros which are like 40$, as opposed to SR60 which are gathering dust.

    Reply
  28. Radon

    Uhhhh… Noah, are you taking this too seriously? Bass is liked from some, so why say something like “you are an idiot?”

    Reply
  29. Doop

    This is not the same use case at all. Why are you comparing a different category of product entirely? Why would I buy in-ear phones over Beats if I hate in-ear phones? This article could have been so much better if it weren’t just an ad for a thing you like.

    Reply
    • Doop

      Or actually if you just dropped the Beats thing entirely and wrote your review of the other phones, but that wouldn’t generate nearly as many clicks.

      Reply
  30. Bro

    Well, Noah is right again. Most of the commenteers above do not even have any beats sound sources, but they commnet and comment and comment…
    I have beats speakers+bass on a HP high class priced notebook and they sound as cheap as the speakers on my chinese clevo alienware copy notebook.
    But there is a “b” proudly painted in red on that HP, and I feel like there is a “s” , missing after.

    Reply
  31. ethan

    i use a pair of bluedio r’s there 100$ and are the best quality headphones ive ever used they make beats look like a pile of crap. the only con is that there durability is not the best

    Reply
  32. Dooo

    I don’t understand why people hate on Beats so much? The consensus is that they sound like complete shit which is not true at all. I’ve recently purchased a pair of Solo3’s since I was looking for something wireless and they fit the bill perfectly. Good thumpy bass, great battery life, seemless integration within the Apple environment, and fast charging. When I listen to my music I prefer a nice bass kick. Plus if you’re on the go I’d say these are the headphones to buy. I’ve owned and listened to other high end headphones like AKG , Grados, and Sennheisers. While they all sound great in their own respect I think it comes down to the type of music and environment you’re in.

    Reply
  33. Stan

    Beats are by no means non consumer headphones, and the main reason people have issues with them are because almost anyone with any knowledge of high quality sound or have tried out more than the just headphones on display will understand why beats are overpriced. Sure, Beats sound okay in store, and that’s because of clever marketing, and songs that are heavy in bass. Beats have ‘good’ bass because a lack of any treble accentuates the bass. Nothing about Beats is worth the price save the fashion statement.

    Reply

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