My thoughts now turned to Jonathan himself given that he is now going to be rather synonymous with the 3rd generation of Grado headphones being charged with the marking drive of the line up. After all 3rd gen cans and he himself is a 3rd generation Grado.

Jonathan the new 3rd gen of Grado headphones have an improved sound but they still distinctly look like a Grado headphone. Is it a case of like Father like son or is there a new set of ears in town?

JGWe were fortunate enough to have not only my great uncle’s ear but also my dad’s ears. I’d consider my ears still in training right now. It’s almost like Jedi training. I need to put on the headphones, shut the lights, and find specific instruments and visualize their locations. Might sound ridiculous but it works and I’ve definitely gotten better at determining location and spacing.

John Grado and Jonathan Grado in the Listening Room

Jonathan I guess you have grown up now in a modern era where digital audio and fashion are more dominant than say 10 years ago. What are Grado listeners demanding today that is different to say 10 years ago when headphones were maybe not as high profile in high end audio?

JGOther than closed back Grados? I think a great sound has always been on the top of their list. That demand as never changed, and I like to think we’ve been supplying that Grado sound this whole time. Some might have specific needs for their headphones: waterproof, bluetooth, etc, but sound has always been our main focus.

Modern times mean new ways of delivering music in different formats. How have you kept up with modern digital listening, the advent of DSD and the hi-res era?

JGTo tell you the truth I think that “keeping up” with that introduction never had to happen. With hi-res songs more easily accessible today, I think more listeners can take advantage of what the Grado headphones can do. The more hi-res the file is, the more information can reach your ears. You’ll start to notice that one elusive note you’ve never heard before. My favorite is when Grado users say they can hear the conductor’s sheet pages turn. That still makes me extremely happy to hear. We did change all the headphone plugs to the 3.5mm (except PS100e and GS1000e) to be better suited for on the go listening.

Did you know our most popular article last year was a DIY guide on making Grado style wood cups for the RS1i. What do you think of the whole DIY culture of modifying Grado headphones? Good thing or bad thing?

JGWhen I was younger I would see modders calling modded Grado “Jonathan Grado’s”, and I was always confused. Now I completely understand. I think the fact that their using our headphones, in any capacity, is a good thing. If they find something they want to change and then follow through and add detachable cables or a different wood, I’m not going to stop them!

I am from Ireland Jonathan, I live 40kms away from Bushmills and was thrilled when you guys did the Bushmills project. How did the Bushmills project come about?


JGBushmills reached out to us and asked if we’d be willing to make headphones out of whiskey barrels (white oak)…there’s no way we could say no. It seemed like a challenge, one we couldn’t pass up. We wouldn’t have gone through with it though if we didn’t think the white oak could produce a sound we’d be proud of. It turned out that white oak can make a pair of cans, so we did it!

You guys often just do a brand new headphone out of the blue with a specific niche focus like Bushmills. I remember getting the HF2 a few years back myself and really enjoyed it. Will you consider doing another fan type headphone such as the HF1 and 2 in the future?

JGI don’t like to say never; Grado hasn’t advertised since 1964, but does that mean we’ll never be in a magazine or in a poster on the subway? Who knows? Right now there aren’t plans to do any of that but I don’t want to say, “We’ll never do that.” We may have limited edition headphones in mind, but where’s the fun if we give it away early!

Grado GS1000e Hero

No advertising since 1964? Why has Grado’s “word of mouth’ technique been so successful when you compare this to say Monster’s all out marketing assault and a Fort Knox like advertising budget?


JGI think word of mouth is the most organic and natural way to spread the word. There’s also a feeling of doing something right with word of mouth, we’re putting something out there that people want to tell their friends about. It’s a great feeling. That’s not to say a marketing blitz is “wrong” though, great marketing is great marketing.

I couldn’t help but notice your mini website that pretty much photography drive and you are a self confessed passionate photographer. Do you think all audiophiles are secret camera and photography nuts?

JGI can’t speak for everyone, but I know that photography is a very strong passion of mine. I go on shoots whenever I can, either travelling or just get a few pairs of Grado’s and take different shots. I’d probably be doing more with photography if I wasn’t in the headphone industry, but I’d never heard of audiophiles being camera nuts. Maybe it’s true! Maybe it’s having an eye and ear for detail, and photography and music are outlets for them, respectively.

Last question Jonathan. Mashable called you a “social small business” – what does social mean to you and the team at Grado?

JGI think it’s fitting. We’ve always been a word of mouth company, and social media is just the digital word of mouth. We wanted to make a community where if you talk about Grado, there will be engagement. Tweet us and you’ll get a response, and most time we’ll talk about other topics too with you. Thinking about it now, finding a home on social just made sense.

Click on the final page for some lingering thoughts…

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27 Responses

  1. Adrastos34

    Really enjoyed this article. I am going to have to give the new “e” series a try. I have used the Grado RS2i as my daily at home cans for years now. I have spent a ton of time with them on ear (if I am on the computer they are on my head) and absolutely love them. Its funny you mentioned the photography nut thing as it was my passion growing up and is now my profession. I think it definitely has to do with the reasons Jonathan mentioned.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the article. Glad your making money out of a hobby that I must profess to be a quiet fun thing for me but nothing on a pro level. I think Jonathan has a photography blog somewhere and he has a bit of talent in that respect. Hope you enjoy the new ‘e’ series!

      Reply
  2. donunus

    I am jealous Marcus! I would have had a million questions too if I were there. Although I am currently a Sennheiser type guy so far as headphones are concerned, Grados have always had a special place in my heart. My old sr60s and sr80s during the 90s were more enjoyable to me than Sennheiser hd580s and Koss ESP 950 electrostats back then. Now these E series cans have got me interested again Grrrr ado :D

    Reply
    • headfonics

      I know. Dang I have been thinking of the ps500 e a lot again :(

      Reply
      • donunus

        yah that and the rs2e is really calling out for me :D I dont like it when something out of my 200 dollar rule calls out hehehe. The B&W P7s have been bothering me as well so it is starting to become a sickness again.

    • skogber

      All Grados are better sounding than 95% of Sennheisers. I’ve tried several from both on many amps and most Sennheisers are not even close.

      Reply
  3. enu

    Grado, my favorite brand in Headphones. Seriously, when does Jonathan plan on making them more comfortable ? The age of surface modeling and 3-printers is here. Plastic mold injection via die is gone. I really really like grado’s for about 20 minutes then I have to take rest.

    Reply
    • ohm image

      I agree about their headphones. You really sometimes have to work it. But their earphones… dear me, more comfort than a grado earphone I can’t imagine.

      Reply
    • headfonics

      The way they make them can be almost as important as the end product itself. For some that old fashioned hand made process is endearing and to others it is old hat.

      Reply
  4. Les

    It is assumed the vulnerable plastic pins are still used for the driver/head band interface. It would have been nice to see a flanged female insert in the driver body and a threaded pin on the head band, this given a shoulder to allow head band movement. The present plastic pins either snap or work loose causing the driver to fall from the head band. To me this is the only weak point in the Grado design and I have been told that spare plastic pins are unobtainable. :-(

    Reply
    • headfonics

      When I spoke to the SG distributor he mentioned that he has no issues taking in Grado cans that have issues and fixing them and if possible keeping the charges really low or none at all. Might not help if you are outside Singapore though.

      Reply
  5. Josá Vitorino

    As a long time Grado user I find the adoption of a 3.5mm plug a mistake in hifi terms and more garbage in the signal path for the sake of fashion. It should be standard only in the lower range. Any respectable headphone amp, like Grado’ s own, needs a larger plug.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      I believe they kept the quarter jack for the professional series.

      Reply
  6. dalethorn

    I assume some of those paintings you see in that room are by Angelo Grado. Now, after owning Grado headphones, I wouldn’t mind having a genuine Angelo Grado painting. It’s all good….

    Reply
    • headfonics

      I would says that is indeed correct and they are Angelo’s paintings. A talented family.

      Reply
      • johnvictornunez

        It’s great to know that Grado is continuously holding on to their legacy. I distinctly remember the feeling of owning my first open back headphones in the form of the SR80, and until now, I still am a fan of their craft.

      • headfonics

        The sr80 and the Aiaiai Tracks are the only sub $100 headphones I am tempted to go back to just for that initial wow feeling.

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