Grado Labs

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Grado Labs
IndustryAudio electronics
HeadquartersBrooklyn, New York, United States
Key people
Joseph Grado (1924–2015), Founder
John Grado, President & CEO
Jonathan Grado, VP of Marketing
ProductsAudio electronics for consumer, professional, and business uses
OwnerJohn Grado

Grado Labs is an American audio manufacturer known for hand building high-end dynamic open-back headphones and cartridges in Brooklyn, New York.

Grado Labs was founded in 1953, by master watchmaker Joseph Grado. The Brooklyn company is currently run by President and CEO John Grado, who bought the company in 1990 after running day-to-day operations since the 1970s.[1] John's son, Jonathan Grado, recently entered the company as the third generation of Grado.[2]

Grado specializes in dynamic open-air, supra-aural, high-fidelity headphones. In its over 60-year history, Grado has kept a very low profile by relying on word-of-mouth among audio dealers and consumers instead of mass advertising campaigns.[3] Nearly all of Grado's products are hand-crafted in Brooklyn, New York.

In 2014, Grado released their new line of headphones,[4] The e Series, and was named in the Top Eight Most Social Small Companies in America by Mashable and American Express.[5] In 2015 JetBlue partnered with Grado to bring their headphones to their Mint Flights.[6]

In June 2020, Grado Labs introduced a limited edition model utilising hemp, a world’s first. The fibre, used in conjunction with maple. is said to create a damping effect. “We had no clue how they’d turn out, but they ended up sounding pretty amazing,” declared Jonathan Grado.[7]


Foundation and phono cartridges (1953–1989)[edit]

Grado Labs was founded in 1953, by master watchmaker Joseph Grado. The origins of the audio company date back to the early 1950s, when Joseph left Tiffany & Company and Sherman Fairchild to start crafting phono cartridges at his kitchen table in Brooklyn, NY. After seeing a market for cartridges, he went around the corner and closed the existing Grado fruit shop, opening up Grado Laboratories.[8] Joseph went on to invent the first stereo moving coil phono cartridge while building up Grado's cartridge lineup.

Throughout his time at Grado, the company made cartridges, speakers, turntables, and tonearms, with cartridges being the only product line not discontinued.[9] In 1965 Joseph's nephew, John Grado, got his first job at Grado and began sweeping the floors.[2] John spent time training with his uncle, and in 1975 John started running day-to-day business at his family's company. In 1982, Joseph Grado was inducted into the Audio Hall of Fame.[9] The peak of cartridge production took place in the mid-1980s, reaching 10,000 units a week. Their all-time low took place a few years later, dipping to 12,000 units for a year.[1]

Resurgence and first line of headphones (1990–2012)[edit]

Headphones, Alessandro Music Series, MS-1

On the brink of closing, in 1990 John Grado bought the company from his uncle, becoming President and CEO. John created the first line of Grado headphones, building them at a workbench with his wife, Loretta, in the early half of the 1990s.[10] At the time, John and his family lived on the top floor of Grado's Brooklyn building as well. Due to the company not advertising, John would travel to audio shows around the world to spread the word. When he had established a sizable distributor list throughout multiple countries, he completely stopped going to shows to spend more time with his family.[10]

At one point, the family was going to build Grado Towers: ceiling tall speakers made of their headphone drivers. With the unexpected immediate success of their first headphones though, the speakers never made it past five pairs.[11] Over the next two decades, John created over three generations of headphone lines and oversaw Grado's cartridge reinvigoration, bringing units per year north of 60,000.[12]

Grado goes social and the e series (2013–present)[edit]

In 2013 Jonathan Grado, John's son, entered the company under his father with a goal of modernizing their word-of-mouth style and expanding the brand. Originally embarrassed about his family's company, Jonathan had a change of heart in his sophomore year of college and started the Grado Facebook and Twitter pages.[13] The hobby soon became his main focus, becoming Social Media Director over the course of his college career. After graduating and working at Sonos, he started full-time with Grado Labs.[13] Late 2013 brought Grado's first large collaboration, creating an experimental headphone out of Bushmills wooden whiskey barrels, which Gizmodo called "warm and clear, with a sweet-spot right in the mid-range, as Grado products are known for."[14] The New York Times also praised them, although noting they might not fit everyone's budget.[15]

2014 had Jonathan become Vice President of Marketing, but having to get creative due to a "zero dollar ad budget".[2] Soon afterwards in the same year, Grado was named in the Top Eight Most Social Small Companies in America by Mashable and American Express.[5] Jonathan is currently training with John, as well as learning the business.[13]

In early 2015, JetBlue Airways chose to partner with Grado to be their official headphone for their Mint Class flights.[6]

Joseph Grado died February 6, 2015 at the age of 90.[8][16]

Current headphone lineup[edit]

Grado's current line of headphones is The e Series, introduced in 2014.[17] Charts are ordered by the manufacturer's list price.

Standard wired open-back models[edit]

Model Class Construction Improvements over previous model
SR60e Prestige Polycarbonate S pads, 44 mm drivers, 1/8" (3.5mm) plug, 0.1dB driver matching, 4-conductor cable
SR80e Prestige Polycarbonate De-stressed drivers
SR125e Prestige Polycarbonate Driver voice coils use oxygen-free copper, 8-conductor cable
SR225e Prestige Polycarbonate L pads, 0.05dB driver matching, metal rear grill
SR325e Prestige Aluminum alloy Leather headband
RS2e Reference Mahogany
PS500e Professional Hybrid mahogany/aluminum
RS1e Reference Mahogany 50mm drivers, metal gimbals, optional XLR balanced plug termination
GS1000e Statement Mahogany G pads, 1/4" (6.35mm) plug, large chamber, 12-conductor cable
GS2000e Statement Hybrid mahogany/maple
PS1000e Professional Hybrid mahogany/aluminum
GS3000e Statement Cocobolo Wooden flagship model, special 50mm drivers, wide leather headband
PS2000e Professional Hybrid maple/aluminum Flagship model

Portable and in-ear models[edit]

Model Notes
eGrado On-ear model with rear headband and SR60e drivers
iGe3 IEM: In-line mic/volume control
GW100 On-ear wireless Bluetooth model
GR8e IEM: No in-line mic/volume control
GR10e IEM: Flagship model, no in-line mic/volume control
GT220 IEM: True Wireless, built in controls and mic

Past production[edit]

Grado RA1 headphone amplifier

The Joseph Grado Signature Products HP-1000 series headphones were limited to 1000 units produced. The HP-1000 series consisted of the HP1, which had polarity switches, the HP2, which lacked them, and the HP3, which was a short-run variant of the HP2 with looser driver matching.

Grado produced a headphone amplifier called the RA1. It accepted RCA connector input, utilized AC or DC power via two 9-volt batteries. The output was 1/8" (6.35mm), and the circuitry was encased in a wooden chassis.

Grado also manufactured 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 encompassed the entry-level MS1 with plastic housing, the MS2 with an aluminum driver housing, and the MS Pro, which featured a mahogany housing similar to that of the RS1.[18]

Headphone model Notes
HP1000 First headphone model created by Joseph Grado. No longer supported by the current Grado Labs.
SR40 A portable, made-in-China on-ear model. Succeeded by the eGrado.
SR100/200/300 Produced with leftover HP1000 drivers that did not meet standards. Succeeded by the SR125e/225e/325e.

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[19] 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 has been a flagship of Grado Labs since its early history.[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.



  1. ^ a b Johnston, Casey
  2. ^ a b c Rothfeld, Lindsay
  3. ^
  4. ^ McGauley, Joe
  5. ^ a b c Rothfeld, Lindsay
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ May, Steve (17 June 2020). "Limited edition Grado Labs Hemp headphones promise smoother highs". The Luxe Review.
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ a b Bigg, John
  11. ^ Brown, Joe
  12. ^ Guttenberg, Steve
  13. ^ a b c
  14. ^ Aguilar, Mario
  15. ^ Schmidt, Gregory
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Alessandro's Official Headphone website". Archived from the original on 2005-11-01. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
  19. ^ Official website
  20. ^

External links[edit]