While I have not done a direct A-B comparison with other brands/models, I did try out several headphones in a retail store using my own portable media device, then compared the Grado at home with the same device. The other brands (Sony, Bose, Beats, JVC, and Skulcandy, running up to $300) sounded unremarkable in comparison, maybe even muddy. (They didn't carry Grado at the store). The sound is clear, bass is strong and distinct, and high frequency nuances from cymbals, hi-hats, and tambourines and chimes in the background are distinguishable and realistic, as if they are right in the room. To me, the highs are clear but not overbearing or harsh as some reviewers commented. (However I do prefer to adjust playback equalization down a few dB at the upper mid-range at 2000 Hz.) Everybody I have try these headphones has been super impressed. I have not tried them with an amplifier to see if there is any improvement, but I have not felt there was any deficiency being powered directly from a portable device. Build quality is good, and the cord is durable and well made, although the headphones themselves are a little plain and don't have the elegant styling, metal embellishment, or finishing touches you might expect from a nice audiophile set. But for $100, these are a great deal and will outperform many that are more-expensive. I love these phones, I can relax and listen for hours, and all my contemporary jazz tunes feel like a new experience.
Pros: Impressive audio clarity, uncolored response, ample solid bass all the way down, and distinct highs without being harsh. The open-air design provides a more natural response and sound placement than phones that surround and seal over the ear. Build quality is excellent, cord and stereo plug are high quality.
Cons: Styling and finishing touches might seem a bit plain and less elegant than some more expensive audiophile headphones. But this should not be a deterrent to your investment.