In 1950, Joseph Grado began making phonograph cartridges at his kitchen desk in Brooklyn, NY. As soon as he exceeded the boundaries of that desk, he moved the operation to a extra skilled venue close by and based Grado Labs in 1953. Now, three generations later, the corporate continues to be household owned and run, persevering with to make extremely regarded phono cartridges in addition to headphones, which had been added to the product catalog in 1991, by hand at its Brooklyn location.
The GW100 is Grado’s first wi-fi Bluetooth headphone. It was first launched in 2018 and was just lately upgraded to model 2. The corporate reduce no corners and took its time to get the sound excellent, and the outcome was effectively definitely worth the effort.
This assessment is a part of TechHive’s protection of the perfect headphones, the place you’ll discover evaluations of the competitors’s choices, plus a purchaser’s information to the options you must contemplate when searching for the sort of product.
The GW100 v2 is a light-weight, on-ear, open-back design with foam earpads and that particular, considerably retro Grado styling. It incorporates specifically designed 44mm dynamic drivers inside a finely tuned enclosure. As well as, the corporate claims to have decreased sound leakage from the open-back earpiece by 60 p.c with cautious placement of circuit boards and different inside parts.
The frequency response is specified to increase from 20Hz to 20kHz (no tolerance given), and the drivers in every unit are matched to inside 0.1dB of one another. And so they can play a lot loud—as much as 99.8 dB SPL from 1mW.
That is the primary Bluetooth headphone I’ve encountered that doesn’t additionally supply lively noise cancellation (ANC). In accordance with Grado, ANC can degrade the sound high quality—which is definitely true with many however not all of the headphones I’ve examined—so the corporate determined to omit it altogether.
As an alternative, Grado centered on offering the very best Bluetooth expertise. The GW100 v2 implements Bluetooth model 5.0 (versus 4.2 within the unique GW100) with assist for the aptX, AAC, and SBC codecs. It could actually work as much as 10 meters (33 ft) away from the supply system because of an upgraded antenna.
The up to date 850mAh battery costs in two hours and gives as much as 40 hours of play time, which is predicated on a 50-percent quantity setting. Different upgrades embody a USB-C charging connection as a substitute of micro USB (good transfer!).
Along with omitting ANC, that is the one wi-fi headphone I’ve come throughout that doesn’t embody a hard-shell carrying case. You should purchase one from Grado for $39.95, which brings the associated fee to $288.95 for what you’d get with nearly each different comparable headphone.
All controls and connections are discovered within the decrease half of the left earpiece. The facility and quantity up/down buttons are bodily distinct, making them straightforward to search out by really feel. Along with their main features, in addition they carry out different duties. The facility button additionally initiates Bluetooth pairing, performs and pauses music playback, solutions and hangs up telephone calls, and prompts the telephone’s voice assistant, whereas the quantity up/down buttons additionally skip to the following or earlier track.
As talked about earlier, a USB-C port is used to cost the battery, and a 3.5mm jack permits you to join the GW100 v2 to an audio supply with a normal audio cable (which is included, together with a charging cable). In that case, the headphone presents a nominal impedance of 32 ohms.
A bicolored LED subsequent to the three.5 mm jack signifies charging/battery standing in addition to Bluetooth pairing. Lastly, a hidden microphone captures your voice for telephone calls or voice instructions.
The GW100 v2 is super-comfortable—very light-weight with low clamping stress. Being an on-ear design with foam earpads, it presents no passive isolation from ambient sound, which implies you gained’t hear its full potential in a loud atmosphere.
One small ergonomic concern is the skinny wires that emerge from each ends of the headscarf and hook up with the earpieces. As I put the headphone on and took it off, I believed there was an opportunity I’d accidently hit the wires with my fingers and break their connection. I believe it’s a comparatively low chance, but it surely’s one thing that caught my consideration.
As regular, I listened to a wide range of music from Tidal’s Grasp library of lossless high-res tracks on my iPhone XS. First up was “Sleeping on My Desires” from Jacob Collier’s Djesse Vol. 3, which options some fairly deep synth bass. The GW100 v2 produced a really open sound with glorious imaging and large sound stage. The synth bass was well-defined and ample, and the vocal was proper up entrance the place it ought to be.
With the latest passing of jazz legend Chick Corea, I needed to take heed to certainly one of his basic tunes, so I cued up “500 Miles Excessive” from Mild as a Feather together with his band Return to Ceaselessly. Chick on electrical piano, Stanley Clarke on bass, Airto Moreira on drums, Joe Farrell on sax, and Flora Purim on vocals—man, what a lineup!
The GW100 v2 had a pleasant, open sound with a large soundstage and nice imaging. Every instrument was clearly delineated, although the bass was maybe a bit vague and the piano was extra ahead throughout different solos that I’d have most popular. Each of those observations had been most likely because of the combine slightly than something the headphone was doing. (I confirmed this throughout my comparisons; extra in a second.)
Considered one of my favourite huge bands in highschool was the Don Ellis Orchestra. I discovered solely certainly one of his albums in lossless Grasp high quality on Tidal, Dwell at Montreux, so I listened to “Sporting Dance,” a full of life tune that options unimaginable dueling trombone solos. As I had come to count on by now, the GW100 v2 had a wide-open sound with good tonal steadiness and imaging, and the trombones had been very effectively rendered and separated within the stereo combine.
Currently, I’ve actually been having fun with Lee Ritenour’s solo guitar work on Dreamcatcher. The title monitor options some good enjoying on processed electro-acoustic guitar, which sounded principally glorious on the GW100 v2. The low midrange appeared a bit thick, which may have been the combo. In any other case, the guitar sounded good and wealthy.
For some nation rock, I listened to “It’s ‘Trigger I Am” by Callista Clark from her album Actual to Me. It’s a dense, satisfying combine, which sounded nice on the GW100 v2. It had an open sound with numerous bass—maybe a bit an excessive amount of, however not overbearing.
As I used to be wanting round Tidal for some classical music, I got here throughout an album of trombone concertos entitled Concertos & Fairytales that includes trombonist PK Svensen and the Malmö Symfoniorkester from Sweden. The album was recorded by famend engineer Morten Lindberg for his high-res audio label 2L, and the recording high quality is clearly evident. It was super-clean on the GW100 v2, with a wide-open sound, nice imaging, excellent rendering of the trombone, and clearly delineated orchestral sections.
The orchestra on Concertos & Fairytales is comparatively modest in measurement, so for one thing bigger, I turned to certainly one of my favourite symphonic items of all time, “Pines of the Appian Means,” the fourth motion of Respighi’s The Pines of Rome. There are a lot of nice recordings of this large symphonic tone poem; on this case, I selected the Philadelphia Orchestra beneath Riccardo Muti. As I had heard earlier than, the GW100 v2 had a giant, open sound with a large soundstage and glorious imaging. As well as, the headphone’s dynamic vary did full justice to the piece, which grows from a whisper to a roar.
Comparability with Cleer Movement II and DALI IO-6
Sadly, I didn’t have some other open-back headphones readily available to match with the GW100 v2 throughout this assessment. The closest I may come by way of value was the Cleer Movement II ($199.99) and DALI IO-6 ($499). Each are over-ear, closed-back, wi-fi Bluetooth headphones, and each present lively noise cancellation in addition to passive isolation with earpads that seal the ears. (DALI additionally presents the IO-4, which doesn’t supply ANC and lists for $399.)
I listened to every monitor on all three headphones, ensuring the ANC on the Movement II and IO-6 was deactivated. As you may count on with closed-back, over-ear designs, the sound of the Cleer and DALI was far more “inside” my head with a smaller soundstage. The Movement II nonetheless had a transparent, open sound high quality however with barely much less bass than the GW100 v2.
The IO-6 had a hotter, richer, creamier sound than both of the opposite headphones, with a barely closed in, congested high quality on some tracks. The bass was definitely extra pronounced than on the Movement II and maybe even a bit greater than the GW100 v2. Additionally, I confirmed that Chick Corea’s piano was certainly combined too ahead throughout different solos on “500 Miles Excessive.”
The GW100 v2 is essentially the most comfy of the three, particularly for lengthy listening classes, because of its low clamping stress and on-ear foam earpads. The Movement II has a equally glorious sound, however its earpads are too small for my comparatively giant ears, making them a bit difficult to seat correctly. Additionally, the clamping stress is simply too excessive for long-term consolation. The IO-6 has bigger earpads and decrease clamping stress, so it’s extra comfy to put on for prolonged durations.
For a few years, I used the Sennheiser HD 414 SL on-ear, open-back headphone in my dwelling recording studio, and I favored its sound very a lot. The Grado GW100 v2 feels and sounds a lot the identical as my beloved Sennheiser, with a clear and open sound, large soundstage, pinpoint imaging, and glorious tonal steadiness from deep bass to clear midrange to ethereal treble. Add wi-fi Bluetooth functionality, and also you’ve obtained a winner.
The primary caveat is that it presents completely no mitigation of ambient sound, both with lively noise cancellation or passive isolation. Grado made the aware determination to omit ANC with a view to protect sound high quality, which is completely cheap. The corporate additionally determined to go together with an open-back, on-ear design, which is an effective a part of why its sound is so open. The tradeoff is that your listening expertise shall be considerably degraded in any noisy atmosphere.
At $249, the worth is definitely not out of line for this stage of high quality. Alternatively, it’s essential to fork over one other $40 for a hard-shell carrying case, which is included with nearly each different headphone I do know of, bringing the worth near $290. The Cleer Movement II sounds nearly pretty much as good for $200 (albeit with a bit much less bass and a narrower soundstage), and it presents ANC and good passive isolation, but it surely’s means much less comfy than the GW100 v2.
If you would like a great-sounding, super-comfortable, Bluetooth headphone strictly for quiet environments, I extremely advocate the Grado GW100 v2.