The Grado GW100 is the company’s first-ever wireless open-back headphone featuring Bluetooth 4.2 and up to aptX decoding capability. It is priced at $249.00.
Disclaimer: The Grado GW100 headphones were sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. Thank you to Grado and 4ourears USA for giving us this opportunity.
You can read more about other Grado products reviewed on Headfonics here.
I am a Grado aficionado, always have been. The PS500 original version was my favorite Grado headphone and remains my favorite midtier headphone that I’ve ever heard. It was a pleasure to finally get to hear their newer GW100, a wireless Bluetooth model for the new era and new-age casual enthusiast of the audio hobby.
The GW100 comes in a standard fare box with only one set of foam earpads and a portable length 3.5mm cable that is a proper 1.2m long, should you opt for using a wired connection, instead of Bluetooth, as well as a charging cable.
Grado has always used very lightweight materials and plastics and this newer GW100 feels just like the SR-line from yesteryear, which is a good thing when you consider this headphone is intended for moderately active owners.
The headphone is entirely plastic on the exterior with a metallic mesh for the face grill area. The headband is a softer leatherette material and the ear ‘foamies’ are a flush design this time, not a classic Grado donut with a void in the middle of the earpad. They are similar to the Sennheiser 414s and I am happy they offered this type of earpad and not the bowl designs that come with the other models in the SR and PS line.
Truth be told, the plastic design doesn’t infringe. Unless you are literally tossing this headphone on a hard surface, carelessly and without any regard for it, the headphones build quality will hold up over time. My original Grado 325 and 225i from years ago are still in near mint condition without a scratch on them. Just take care of them, like you should be doing in the first place, and the plastic housings will hold up very well over time.
Comfort & Fit
These pads rest on your ears, but are fairly large and do not add any pressure at all to my lobes. The clamp factor is less than moderate, which to me, is highly desirable. The headphone does not get uncomfortable with extended usage and remains comfy and cozy for hours on end.
The headphone is stupendously light. I do enjoy the earpads a lot, although, they do get just a bit warm on your ears after a fair amount of use. But, that is to be expected with some flush sitting foam earpads pressed on your ears for so long. The experience is still very comfortable overall.
Bluetooth and Mic
This GW100 has taken a bold leap into the modern area, taking the classic Grado design and blending it with modern technology for wireless needs. Grado’s first solid Bluetooth headphone is a win in my book and I want to see more like this from them in the future. Advancing the field is what this hobby is all about and I am absolutely delighted that they’ve opted to try dipping their toes into wireless with this model.
The Bluetooth functionality will last about 15 hours, as per the ratings on the specs. I’ve gotten a little less than that, as well as more. It depends on the type of audio format you are listening to and what your volume is set to. The GW100 operates with Bluetooth 4.2 and aptX, so you will get excellent wireless sound compared to the older generation codecs, at least, in my opinion, though it is missing LDAC.
The headphone is also capable of taking calls and the call quality is just okay in my book. But, for the price of $249.99? This headphone is a headphone first and a call taker far, far down the totem. This is a bonus, not a primary quality. So, it doesn’t bother me much that I found the quality of audio for taking calls to be relatively average.
On the flip side, the Bluetooth button and pairing are lovely and very quick to sync to my sources. I’ve not had a single cutout or issue with anything in the way of pairing the headphone to anything wireless.
From the looks of it, this GW100 is roughly the same level of fidelity as the 225i model, which is a solid headphone that is loved by many, myself included. The low-end quantity factor is less than stellar and Grado has never been about Bass and hefty low end. What is there, is less than moderate in quantity granted, even with bass boosters active.
I run a whopping +6 and +7dB with realbassexciter.dsp on Foobar2000 when I listen for personal enjoyment needs with this headphone. That is a lot of bottom added in and it still sounds less than moderate in quantity factor.
The overall fidelity and purity factors are just good for the price. This is no JVC SZ2000, the bass king in this price range, nor any Sony XB series model from the original lineup. So, don’t expect that. Do expect polite bass with a little body to it that is balanced and very easy on the ear.
The physical strike and dynamic kick factor are low on this model, it can be used indefinitely and likely you’ll never get fatigued from the low-end kick factor. Generally, some Grado’s have some snap to them on the bottom, more harshness in physical dynamics. This model is soft in the presentation. It is relaxing, elegant and easy on the ear.
Grado is usually about vocals and excellent mids. In this case, the experience is very linear feeling with equal bottom, to mids, to highs. The physical placement of midrange is in the near-forward realm, meaning it isn’t quite as forward as some of the Audio Technica’s known for very forward mids, but it also isn’t as relaxed as some other Grado’s I can mention.
The experience is highly immersing and enjoyable for vocalist experiences, no doubt there. I absolutely love Big Band genres with this model, Seth MacFarlane (Yes, the Family Guy dude) has a wonderful Jazz album that sounds marvelous with this GW100. It is soft on impact, relaxing and vocal-interesting to boot. I love it. I can sit back and hear a forward sound, finally, without wince factor and it being harsh on my ear.
This is a rare type of sound signature that I’ve not come across very often. Grado bats a win for me on this one.
Again, the name of the game in the presentation is relaxing appeal. So too, the high end and treble experiences of this model are a pleasure to listen to. There isn’t even a hint of harshness or brightness that is annoying or even thin feeling. This headphone model has some body and weight to it.
The upper end is very gently colored and shimmery, although sometimes, it falls a little short of what I would like to hear in the way of engaging tonality. I want more bite and density up there, but at this price, this is just fine for a wireless headphone and it would actually ruin the tonality overall if I had that in this model.
It would be a stark difference from the low and middle ranges, which are softer on appeal than most headphones in the price range. If the treble were boosted, it wouldn’t be a linear feeling headphone so I am glad they didn’t opt for that and kept things a pleasure to listen to from top to bottom, each area being soft and relaxing overall.
Sadly, the GW100 doesn’t fair to well with imaging size. Its strengths lay in the qualities of coherence and presentation shape, which are both very, very good. For the price, not many headphones offer placement and sound field that feels this complete.
Grado does vocals very well, the midrange really helps solidify the experience in imaging and the physical placement of sounds in the void feel like they are very well centered. That means that there isn’t a lacking center image.
Also, that there is not more width than height or more height than width. The physical presentation and imaging sizes are just acceptable to me and very typical of Grado’s staging properties in most of their budget to mid-tier models. The strength of the headphone lays in the effortless appeal of the presentation as a whole, it lacks nowhere but also doesn’t impress anywhere either. Coherent sound is a rare commodity in this price bracket.
The headphone is very efficient and if you are going to use the wired connection, you are probably going to use a portable amplifier if you are an audiophile. If that is the case, note that you should be opting for fidelity over power output. The headphone doesn’t improve with more wattage. I prefer very musical and warm sounding headphone amps for my personal setup.
During testing, swapping from very neutral to very warm didn’t do much for the tonality of the headphone. It almost always sounds the same in tonality and colorations top to bottom. This means the headphone is picky when it comes to sources and amping needs.
You really don’t need to amp it at all, best to just drop right into your DAC if it has an amp circuit and not feed that DAC/AMP to another dedicated amp with this model. Stick to a solid source and enjoy. The headphone is only 32ohm, so don’t worry.
Grado took a chance on this model and the end result was a fantastic mid-tier Bluetooth model. It is an absolute pleasure to listen to and very easy on the ear to use for extended hours. The top end is polite and the imaging factors are extremely coherent for an open back Bluetooth model.
Sure, the build is almost entirely plastic, but at $249.99? I don’t really care on a subjective level. So long as you take care of them and don’t chuck them on the ground or on a table after you use them, these are going to last a while. I’d rather have a lighter headphone at this price point intended for nice walks outside, bike rides, trips between classes on the college grounds and paths, and so on. I’d rather not have metal in a Bluetooth model because this model is intended for active users and not home listeners so much.
A portable and wireless soft-sounding 225i-ish model is what we received by Grado and I couldn’t be happier. The stock cable is just right and not absurdly thick or intrusive. The Bluetooth function lasts an entire day for me and it recharges fast. The earpads are comfy and the sound is more than justified for the price point it is sold at. I don’t know if asking more of them is justified at all, I got more than I would expect at this price point.
If you want a polite sounding headphone that is wireless, this is a great option for you.