Grado SR80E is an extraordinary headphone with a very modest price tag coupled with amazing sonic performance for the money. This potent combination has allowed the SR80E to snatch plenty of accolades ever since its debut. It is certainly worth the investment in getting a high-quality DAC to match with the Grado SR80E headphones but the question is which one?
Other than finding a matching DAC which will complement the Grado SR80E sonic characteristics, your own requirements will matter as well. This is why we need to learn more about the SR80E headphones and also find out more about your DAC requirements. Once we are done with all of these, you can then check out the list of the best DACs which we have prepared for you.
Sound Characteristics of Grado SR80E and Your DAC Requirements
The Grado SR80E is very light for an open-back headphone and it feels quite sturdy which is good. Due to their lightweight and not being as bulky when compared to other larger headphones, the SR80E are rather portable but we wouldn’t suggest using them outdoors or while commuting though. With how poor their noise isolation capabilities are, you will be hearing lots of environmental noises. Not to mention, there is high sound leakage and this may annoy others around you. So it is best to sit inside a quiet environment and enjoy the music. The stability of the Grado SR80E is catered for casual music listening.
We wouldn’t suggest using them while you are exercising. As mentioned earlier, they are more suitable for casual listening as any big movements might make the Grado SR80E fall off your head. They are comfortable to wear and don’t really make our ears feel warm. Even so, if higher quality materials are been used to make the Grado SR80E then it would be even more comfortable to wear them. Still, we can’t really nitpick on a headphone with such modest pricing. Based on their sensitivity, the Grado SR80E will work better with a headphone amplifier driving them, and fortunately, they have very low impedance.
This is an entertaining headphone to listen to and you can hear its enthusiasm when playing your favorite tunes. The Grado SR80E has that fast-paced music presentation with well-placed timing which makes the overall musical performance sound engaging. It is lively and it is an entertainer, listeners who want a more relaxing music listening session should look for another headphone. The Grado SR80E has clarity as well where we can clearly hear the highs and mids. They also sound highlighted which does make them sound bright and can cause listeners’ fatigue after a period of time.
The bass performance of the SR80E is polite and lacks weight. Even so, the bass delivery is tight and agile which enables it to keep up with the upper registers. All in all, it is best to avoid pairing with bright-sounding DACs unless you want a more emphasized treble. You might also want to match the Grado SR80E with a more warm-sounding D/A converter. The sonic traits you are looking for in a DAC should be jotted down as requirements. You should also work out a comfortable budget which you are willing to spend. This will be used to filter out DACs which are above your budget.
Do you need a portable D/A converter due to moving around to different places on a daily basis? If yes, then it would be another requirement for you. The size of the DAC can be an issue especially if you have limited desktop space or you simply just want to keep it after use. How high the sampling rates and audio files you need the DAC to decode will be an important requirement too. We will suggest taking some time to list out more DAC requirements or better yet, talk with someone who owns a DAC to get some more opinions. For headphone enthusiasts who are firm with what they want, then please take a look at the list of the best DACs to go for.
Grado SR80E Specifications
- Type: Open-back
- Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
- Nominal SPL: 99.8dB
- Weight: 154g (0.34lbs)
Best DACs to match with Grado SR80E
Schiit Audio Modi 3+ is an entry-level DAC that is well suited to match with the Grado SR80E. It has an affordable price tag and has amazing sonic performance for the money. The Modi 3+ helps to provide fuller sound quality and without making it sound unnatural. The soundstage becomes a bit more focused and there is a slight increase in size. Schiit Audio Modi 3+ bass performance is a suitable match to the Grado SR80E headphones as well as it provides a touch more weight and doesn’t compromise the agility. The DAC also brings out the midrange frequencies which all in all, makes this budget DAC really remarkable.
For listeners who have really tight budget, the FiiO E10K is an ideal choice for your situation and your Grado SR80E headphones. This is a compact USB DAC with the ability to decode up to 24-bit/96kHz sample rates. FiiO E10K is probably one of the most affordable DACs out on the market and it even has an integrated headphone amplifier that could drive the Grado SR80E headphones efficiently. It also adds a little more punch and weight with its “Bass Boost” feature. We have nothing to really nitpick about this budget FiiO E10K DAC and it is certainly worth the time to check them out due to their affordable price point.
This is another excellent entry-level DAC and the JDS Labs Atom DAC+ will pair well with the Grado SR80E. The JDS Labs Atom DAC+ has a pleasing sound quality and will provide its listeners with an enjoyable listening experience no matter the recording. There is this warmth in its overall sound reproduction, adding more body and a slightly richer sounding bass. The smooth music delivery of the JDS Labs Atom DAC+ has a hint of colorations as well but it still sounds natural. It will be a compatible DAC to the Grado SR80E headphones and more importantly, doesn’t sound overly bright when pushed.
If you require a powerful DAC without breaking the bank then the Topping E30 will be an exemplary choice for you. The Topping E30 is able to support up to 32bit/768kHz (PCM) and decodes up to DSD512 which is enough to playback most high-res audio files currently available. It is modestly priced and has the sound quality to boot, matching well with the Grado SR80E. Topping E30 is musically refined but still maintains enough rhythm and has a wide dynamic range to engage its listeners. It also enhances the soundstage and stereo imaging, making each musician sound more defined.
The Schiit Audio Modius is a large DAC with XLR balanced outputs and will be an ideal partner for your Grado SR80E open-back headphones. Headphone enthusiasts who have limited desktop space might want to look elsewhere. Schiit Audio Modius has a more impactful bass performance which will work well with the SR80E since the headphone itself lacks the low-end punch and the D/A converter can help to improve it. The Modius DAC is also capable of organizing the music details and presenting them to us in a highly defined way without sounding congested or strained.
Headphone enthusiasts who prefer a DAC integrated with a headphone amplifier might want to check out the xDuoo XP-2 Pro. This DAC/amp is powerful enough to drive the Grado SR80E with ease and has the sonic characteristics to match with the headphones. The xDuoo XP-2 Pro has a neutral sonic character with a touch of warmth which is great, as it doesn’t add additional brightness to the treble. It has clarity and can dig out plenty of music details without sounding harsh. The bass performance of the XP-2 Pro will complement the Grado SR80E really well too. Giving the low-ends more body and depth.
To Sum It Up
The price points of the listed DACs are all quite closely match with the Grado SR80E headphones. For listeners who have a higher budget, you can use this list as a reference when looking for higher-end digital-to-analog converters. Whether you will be choosing the DACs from this list or from your own search, you should always hear them out first before making a decision. Always use your own Grado SR80E headphones during the DAC audition so as to achieve a more accurate test result.