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Review: Grado GH1 Headphones Are Big On Sound, Tradition

Review: Grado GH1 Headphones Are Big On Sound, Tradition

Good sound never goes out of style, and in the audio world tradition is a uniquely strong credo.

In keeping with that thought, I’m currently leaning back in an Eames Lounge Chair dialing in on a copy of the Citizen Kane of headphone-listening albums, The Dark Side Of The Moon Remastered.

I’m listening to this classic album with Grado’s latest pair of limited-edition cans, the first model in their Heritage Series line. These Grado GH1 headphones may be brand new, but they are every bit classic Grado.

The maple wood-bodied GH1’s have a fresh look but the same great sound, albeit a different flavor of it. The company bills these limited-release headphones as their first pair made from a Brooklyn tree. They sit on the higher-end of Grado’s line at $650. They’re pretty awesome.

Big on Sound

These headphones sound stellar, pure and simple, yet they aren’t suited for everybody.

Open-ear headphones adopt their own brand of lifestyle. The structure of the headphone leaks a ton of noise, which doesn’t make them ideal for spaces where tranquility is the soul of wit. You hear pretty much everything that’s happening around you due to the headphones’ design so these definitely aren’t the ones I’d bring on a plane.

Fans of Grado’s sound are unlikely to be surprised by any of this, and this is clearly a headphone built for the brand’s devotees.

“The [GH1’s] are just a different flavor of the Grado sound,” CEO John Grado told me. “You might like vanilla ice cream, but you like Ben and Jerry’s. I like Haagen Dazs. It’s still vanilla but they’re just a little different.”

The Grado GH1’s are anything but vanilla.

What stand out about open-ear headphones are the fullness of sound that they bring. The music never really felt contained by the body of the headphones because the open-ear nature placed them in the context of the environment I was in.

Grados generally dominate on the mid-range and the GH1’s are no exception. The crazy chord progressions on DSotM’s “Any Colour You Like” were dynamic as all hell and I could feel the difference in my bones when I cranked the GH1’s to high volume.

The sound felt a little less encompassing when listening to more bass-reliant tracks, but with these headphones there are always moments of brilliance. A few songs on a more modern choice, Dr. Dre’s “Compton,” felt a little flatter then I’d like, but the vocals always popped through with a vigorous intensity.


Big on Tradition

John Grado is a working class-style Italian dude who appreciates laying out a good backstory.

“We’re an old-style Italian family that’s kind of big on tradition,” he prefaced as I asked him about what makes the GH1’s unique. From there he launched into a history of Grado Labs, Inc, a company housed in a building that his grandfather Joseph bought in 1918.


CEO John Grado, left, with his son Jonathan Grado, VP of Marketing, and the Brooklyn tree that the GH1’s housings are carved from.

By the 1950s, Joseph was beginning to build and sell phono cartridges that were highly respected for their quality. In 1965, a 12-year-old John came to work in the shop sweeping the floors of the factory.

From there, John Grado’s Brooklyn accent guided me through the introduction of their headphone line in 1989, the acoustic stability of wood-bodied headphones and the unique opportunities to experiment that Grado Labs is afforded in being a small family-owned business.

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Posted by brainiac / Posted on 19 Aug