Grado Labs

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Grado Labs
Industry Audio electronics
Founded 1953
Headquarters Brooklyn, New York, United States
Key people Joseph Grado, Founder
John Grado, President & CEO
Jonathan Grado, VP of Marketing
Products Audio electronics for consumer, professional, and business uses
Owner(s) John Grado
Grado SR60 with "Grado Labs" name displayed

Grado Labs is an audio manufacturer known for hand-making high-end dynamic open-air headphones and phonograph cartridges in Brooklyn, New York.


Founded by Joseph Grado in Brooklyn, NY in 1953, Grado Labs, now run by John Grado who became President and CEO in 1990, specializes in dynamic open-air, supra-aural, high-fidelity headphones, which have won awards and accolades from audio-related publications such as Stereophile magazine. Grado Labs holds 48 patents as of October 30, 2006. Grado currently produces five families of headphones, (including the iGrado, GR8, and GR10 In-Ear Monitors) at different price points:

  • The Prestige series (5 headphones)
  • The Reference series (2 headphones)
  • The Statement series (GS1000i as the sole offering)
  • The Professional series (2 headphones)

An older series of headphones (the "HP Series") designed by company founder Joe Grado are also held in high regard in the audiophile community, often selling for high prices on the used market. Currently all present and future Grado headphone models are designed by John Grado. John Grado's son, Jonathan Grado, will be the third generation to enter the family run company.

Grado iGrado street-style headphones

In addition to their headphones, Grado has also produced a highly regarded series of phono cartridges for over 40 years.

Alessandro MS1i

In its over 60-year history, Grado has kept a very low profile by relying on word-of-mouth advertising among audio dealers and consumers instead of mass advertising campaigns to protect its brand image. Nearly all of Grado's products are hand-crafted but all are produced in low numbers.

Grado also produces three models of headphones for the Pennsylvania-based Alessandro High-End Products company; the Alessandro Music Series One, Two, and Pro. These are built from the ground up and are not based on any existing model Grado produces at the moment, although they share many components. In addition, Grado produced a model for a German Distributor, which they call the PS1, and was sold in the US for a retail price of US$1400. However since this is a discontinued item, and almost all new stock has been depleted, secondhand PS1s have gone up in value and have sold for upwards of US$2,000.[citation needed]

Current line of headphones[edit]

All Grado headphones operate using Grado's vented diaphragm technology, dynamic transducers, open-air, "circled" 40mm driver-oriented supra-aural earcups (excepting the circumaural GS-1000 and PS-1000), an Impedance of 32 ohms, and a Sensitivity level of 98 dB. All Grado headphones have a non-resonant air chamber (with the SR325i having an aluminum version, and the Reference and Statement headphones having wooden versions), and all Grado headphones use high-energy neodymium magnets for each earcup. All Grado headphones are available only in one color with the exception of the iGrado, available in either white or black. The iGrado use the same drivers as the SR60, but are assembled in China to reduce cost.[citation needed]

The improvements made for early 2009 include upgraded driver designs, enhanced ventilated diaphragms, eight-conductor cable design, and refinements to cup housing, just to name a few.[citation needed] Each product before the PS1000 carries the "i" designation which means "improved" with the exception of the SR325, which carries the "is" designation. Below is a table of Grado's current headphone line-up:

Headphone Model Headphone Class Driver-matched dB Construction Earpads Termination US MSRP
iGrado Prestige 0.1 Plastic Comfort Pads 1/8" (3.5 mm) plug $49
SR60i Prestige 0.1 Plastic Comfort Pads 1/8" (3.5 mm) plug with 1/4" adaptor $79
SR80i Prestige 0.1 Plastic Comfort Pads 1/8" (3.5 mm) plug with 1/4" adaptor $99
SR125i Prestige 0.1 Plastic Comfort Pads 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug $150
SR225i Prestige 0.05 Plastic Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug $200
SR325is Prestige 0.05 Aluminum alloy/ Plastic inner sleeve Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug $295
RS2i Reference 0.05 Hand-Crafted Mahogany Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug $495
RS1i Reference 0.05 Hand-Crafted Mahogany Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug $695
GS1000i Statement 0.05 Hand-Crafted Mahogany Circumaural Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug $995
PS500 Professional 0.05 Hand-Crafted Mahogany/Aluminum Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug $595
PS1000 Professional 0.05 Hand-Crafted Mahogany/Aluminum Circumaural Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug $1695
Grado RA1 headphone amplifier

In addition to the currently available headphones listed on this table, Grado sells a Headphone Amplifier called the RA1. It utilizes AC, or DC power supplied by two 9 volt batteries (depending on model). It has two RCA connectors and a 1/4" (6.5 mm) jack, enclosed in a solid mahogany box.

Grado also manufactures an alternate headphone line for Alessandro Music Products; a maker of higher-end guitar components. Known as The Alessandro Music Series, these models have roughly the same external appearance with those from Grado, but feature a slightly different printed text and lack the identifying "button" of many lower-end Grado models. The series has said to have been designed for the musician market, and encompasses the entry-level MS-1 (or Music Series 1) with plastic driver housing, the MS2 with aluminum cup and plastic driver housing, and the "professional grade" MS-Pro, which features a mahogany driver housing similar to that of the RS-1.[1]

Past production[edit]

The Joseph Grado Signature Products HP-1000 series headphones were limited to 1000 units produced. The HP-1000 series consisted of the HP-1 (with phase/polarity switches), HP-2, and HP-3. They came in two varieties of cable. The Joseph Grado Signature Ultra-Wide Bandwidth Reference Cable and the Signature Laboratory Standard. Please note that the older, non "improved" models in Grado's lineup (such as SR-60 and RS1) are not contained within this table because the improvements were not significant and they directly replaced the older models in the lineup.

Below is a table of headphones no longer offered by the manufacturer:

Headphone Model Headphone Class Sensitivity (dB) Impedance (Ohms) Driver-matched dB Construction Earpads Termination Succeeded by
SR40 Unknown 100 32 Unknown Plastic Foam 1/8" (3.5 mm) plug with 1/4" adaptor iGrado
SR325 Prestige 98 32 0.05 Aluminum Alloy Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug SR325i
HP1000 Joseph Grado Signature Unknown 40 Unknown Aluminum Alloy Flats 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug No Successor
SR100 Prestige Unknown 32 Unknown Plastic Flats 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug SR125
SR200 Prestige Unknown 32 Unknown Plastic Flats 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug SR225
SR300 Prestige Unknown 32 Unknown Plastic Flats 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug SR325

Limited edition/specialty headphones[edit]

Most of these headphones are rebranded and/or limited versions of Grado headphones. The Grado HF1 was sold exclusively to the Head-Fi online community, which had a total of 450 original November sales, one replacement (December), seven waitlist sales, three March sales and twenty April sales, each numbered 001–481. RRP for the HF1 was US$200. The HF1 is, arguably, one of the most sought-after Grado headphones. Most contend that its sound stands unique among the models.

In May 2009, the limited edition HF2 was announced, also for sale exclusively to Head-Fi members. The production limit was set to 500 units or however many units sold by the end of July 2009, whichever came first. The 500 units quickly sold out, ending the sales of the HF2 early. It was announced on October 12, 2009 by Todd Green that there were several left unsold, bringing the total number produced to 524. These extra pairs also quickly sold out. RRP for the HF2 was US$429. As of February 2010, there was a run of 26 B-stock HF2 that were released, totalling the production to 550. The B-stock serial numbers began from #550 and went until #575.

The PS1 Pro was a special production order for a German Distributor, and was more expensive than any of the Grado line. A partnership between headphone manufacturer Grado and wireless technologies manufacturer FreeSystems paved way for the FreeSystems headphones. The FreeSystems package included an integrated Grado RA 1 amplifier (as mentioned above), headphones which have a physical appearance similar to that of the Grado PS1, and a Free Systems infra-red transmitter and receiver. The RRP was $3,800. The system was intended for release by February 2002, but was never released.[2][3]

All headphones have a 32 ohm-Impedance.

Headphone Model Headphone Class Construction Earpads Termination Production Limit
HF1 Limited Edition Plastic and Hand-Crafted Mahogany Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug 481
HF2 Limited Edition Mahogany and Aluminum Alloy Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug 550
PS1 Pro Limited Edition Aluminum Alloy Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug 250
FreeSystems LE Limited Edition Aluminum Alloy Unknown Unknown Never released
DS2012 (Dolce & Gabbana) Limited Edition Mahogany Circumaural Bowls 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug Never released
The Bushmills x Grado Labs Limited Edition Wood from Old Oak Barrels Comfort Pads 1/4" (6.5 mm) plug Unknown

Phono cartridges[edit]

Each individual cartridge manufactured by Grado is hand assembled and tested for frequency response, channel output, channel balance, phase linearity, inductance and resistance.

Prestige Series[edit]

The Prestige series of cartridges are designed for high output and stability under much use. A considerable tip mass reduction results in a manufacturer-reported frequency response[4] to 50 kHz and tracking forces from 1 to 2 grams.

Prestige models available in both ½" mount and P-mount. 78 RPM styli are available for these models. All styli in the Prestige series are user replaceable.

Reference Series[edit]

The Reference series of wooden cartridges are a fixed coil design, handmade at Grado labs from a specially selected species of mahogany. A curing process is performed between production steps to achieve Grado Labs' desired sound. Unlike the Prestige series, the Reference series generator/stylus module is not replaceable allowing a redesigned one piece magnetic circuit and a reduction of chassis resonances. The Reference Series is considered by some to be among the finest cartridges in the world, and has been a flagship of Grado Labs since its early history. Recommended tracking force ¾ to 2 grams[citation needed].

All Reference series cartridges are ½" mount. 78 RPM styli are not available with the Reference series. All re-tipping on the Reference series is done by Grado.


Grado Labs was named in Mashable's Top 8 Social Small Companies in America[5]
The Grado SR80i has won the What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision annual award for "Best home on-ears up to £150" award since 2010.


External links[edit]