The Polycarbonate enclosures are designed to leak less sound than typical Grado open-back headphones.
Grado's vintage look and sound — on the go
The Grado GW100 headphones are the company's first wireless model, and also the first open-back Bluetooth headphones I've ever seen. And Grado figured out a way to play music wirelessly from your phone — the way many of us listen these days — while still preserving their legendary sound quality. I got my hands on a pair, and I think fans of the company will be pleased. These lightweight, industrial-styled headphones are ALL Grado.
Old-school sensibility, new-school functionality
If you're unfamiliar with the Grado story, it is one of my favorites. This family-owned business has operated out of the same shop in Brooklyn since 1953, building audio gear by hand. Their time-honored approach has helped them deliver some of most well-respected open-back headphones ever, notable for their refreshing, spacious sound.
Still, the company couldn't survive this long without looking forward, too. That's why they've included a built-in mic for taking phone calls and on-ear controls for music. Plus, the GW100's enclosures and acoustic chambers have been redesigned from scratch to better suit listening in public. So while you enjoy some of the acoustic advantages of the open-back design, Grado claims 60% less sound will leak out compared to their previous designs.
My hands-on experience
The GW100s felt really light in my hands, but they had a tighter clamp on my head than I expected. It was snug around my crown, but the oversized foam pads kept them from feeling unpleasant on the ears. I tend to move around more than usual when there's no connecting cord holding me back, so it was nice to have the headphones stay in place.
I could definitely hear my surroundings with the headphones on, but my office neighbor said he barely noticed when I turned on the music. Even when I listened to a Migos hip-hop track and bumped the volume up, he said that it wasn't obtrusive. He couldn't even pick out which genre I was playing from his seat.
I pulled up an album from yMusic — an orchestral ensemble whom I recently saw live, backing Paul Simon on his farewell tour. Their music has a lot of interesting stuff going on in the upper mids and highs with the viola, violin, and various wind instruments. Grado headphones tend to be revealing in that area, so I worried it might be too much sparkle for me to handle.
Instead, I found the extra detail helped me appreciate what the musicians were doing. The fast-paced song "Bows" was a particular highlight. I could imagine this track sounding grating on less-nuanced 'phones, but it sang beautifully through the GW100s. One of those rare musical moments where I'm both wowed by technical ability of the performers, and caught up in the emotion of it all.
Next, the classic Talking Heads album Remain in the Light helped show off these headphones' full range of strengths. The soundstage is huge, way outside of the head, and one of the largest I've heard from a set of wireless headphones. Imaging was spot-on. Each instrument sounded properly placed, and the vocals popped out of the mix. And since the drivers were so close to my ears, it felt like the Afrobeat-inspired percussion bounced with an extra liveliness.