These headphones have a real retro style and feel that wouldn't look out of place in a world war two German U-Boat. Build quality and finish is to a high standard, although the Sennheiser of old probably have the edge. Still my Grado 125's look and sound as good as new 5 years on. Some complain that the thick cable can detach from the headphone casing and require resoldering - so I handle carefully. The cable is far too short for most general use at 6 foot - my 1970s Sennheiser HD424's lead come in at a far more useful 8.5 feet. So expect to huddle in close to your amplifier or buy the Grado extention lead. Plus the lead only has a 1/4" [6.3mm] standard jack, with no 3.5mm mini-jack for MP3 players/TVs (again you can buy the Grado 15cm mini-jack 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter). The headphone lead is also very thick and inflexible, so it's relative shortness isn't that helpful when using a small MP3 player (with the optional Grado 3.5mm converter). For my MP3 player I use a lighweight pair of £60 noise cancelling Sennheiser PXC 250 mk1 headphones (that are great and came in black or white varieties), so these Grado 125s are used strictly with my vintage Arcam Alpha 9 amplifier/Alpha CD home HiFi system (also equipped with an Arcam rDAC-kw to take the wireless audio feed from an iPod 160Gb Classic/Arcam rWand+ or laptop/Arcam rWave). The thick cable on the Grado 125s probably mean thick wires, suggesting better sound quality. And that's where the headphones do excel. Bass is tight & powerful, mid-range vocals are clear & precise, and the treble is slightly bright but pleasantly so, and there's the typical open-back spacious soundstage. I listen mostly to rock, pop, and a little folk/country&western music, i.e. a lot of vocals, which the Grado's excel at reproducing. These headphones sound best with high quality HiFi sound sources, and like my Arcam HiFi they are quite neutral and don't add any electronic 'characteristic' or warmth to the sound. With an MP3/iPod player, that's say bass light and bright with MP3 compression artifacts, they will show up the inferior sound source ruthlessly, and the iPod headphone out may not drive them properly anyway (so don't blame the headphones).
The tough, but lightweight and soft, bubbly foam ear cushions make for comfortable long-term wearing, although I had to very slightly bend open the headphones on first use to stop them clamping far too hard on my head - after which they were fine. Some complain they are uncomfortable for extended use, but once modified I can use them for hours. Alternatively you can slowly 'wear them in'. These are supra-aural headphones, i.e. the foam cup presses firmly against the ear rather than surrounding it. The headphone cups swivel round, so you can put one cup against the ear recording engineer style, if you don't mind forgoing sound quality and stereo image (actually very handy when recording on tape/CD and checking levels etc when the TVs on). The fact the headphone cups can spin around & around can really twist the cable where it enters, so watch out for this (it may well be the cause of the reported wiring failures) - using the GRADO HEADPHONE CARRY CASE
will prevent the cups rotating when not in use.
I did have to spend another £40 on the Grado 450cm Extension Cable [6.3mm jacks] and the Grado Adaptor Cable 6.3mm to 3.5mm (15cm Length)
lead to give the SR125's full functionality. These very solidly built Grado extension leads work really well (unlike the £12 generic one I had that never connected properly). Plus the extension cables 'are constructed from the same high quality wire as Grado's headphone cable'. I knew that the headphone lead was too short, there was no 3.5mm adapter, and that I would have to get these extension cables after I bought the SR125s though. With the massive Grado extension lead I can now sit anywhere in the room and sound quality isn't compromised. So other than the few gripes (which could lose the SR125s a star if they didn't sound so great), I can recommend these Grado SR125 headphones for serious audiophiles.
I have used these headphones for five years now and like them a lot - my elderly HiFi was quite expensive & largely British built, and these headphones compliment it well for iPod, PC, CD, tape, LP and TV sources. More importantly I don't get any bass distortion when playing loud(ish), which led to me dumping my old 'Cyberman' Jecklin Floats. Overall, I like the retro look, like the punchy `rock and roll' sound quality, but always handle the headphones very carefully [and never let the kids use them]. I haven't compared these SR125s to their identical looking but cheaper Grado SR60/80's siblings though, I just took Grado's word for it that they offer superior sound quality for the extra money - independent reviews seem to confirm this. The SR125s feature 'an improved diaphragm and voice coil design and UHPLC [Ultra-high purity, long crystal] copper voice coil wire' compared to the £80 SR80s. I chose these over Sennheiser models, but have yet to discover what Grado's after sales support is like. With my 1970's HD424's I can still order spare foam pads for them cheaply from Sennheiser, and when they were many many years old I could still even buy replacement HD424 leads and speaker units - which is fantastic after sales support. I just hope Grado can match this when I need it (although I'd probably use it as an excuse to jump a bit further up the Grado quality tree). From new, the 125s have a 1 year Grado UK warranty that assumes you purchased them from an "Authorised Grado Dealer", and the Grado UK website sells replacement 125 ear foam inserts and offers a bespoke repair service for out of warranty repairs.
Update August 2012: My Grado SR-125s have found a new lease of life beyond the HiFi system with my gaming PC and the superb Arcam rPAC Personal Audio Converter USB DAC & Headphone Amplifier
- you need headphones of this quality to get the best from this Arcam PC USB2 digital to analogue converter (DAC) - CD tracks have to be ripped to ALAC Apple Lossless via iTunes though for the best sound.