When it’s all said and done, Grado Labs will have their place on the Mount Rushmore of Hi-Fi History. Firstly for inventing the Moving Coil as we know it, and as headphone connoisseurs are concerned, secondly being the sole-torch-bearers for high-fidelity bespoke built audiophile (not studio) headphones during the ‘90s and early ‘00s. For all the young whipper-snappers out there, give respect and credit where it’s due. None of this would exist (including two-channel) without the efforts and achievements Grado Labs. When you look at your headphone wall (or collection) tonight, do try to understand that the most historically significant and meaningful headphone you own may be a Grado Labs design. However then, if a pair of Grado Labs headphones is not currently in your collection — insert condescending chuckle — then you’re probably doing it all wrong.
Carrying on. It’s been awhile since, say since maybe a CES in the ‘90s when Grado Labs has shown product in any form of “Hi-Fi Show.” So with their return to the circuit, and with a sprawling display of classic Grado Designs, it was Grado having the last laugh as many first time listeners of Grado’s higher-end offerings had their expectations duly shaken and overturned. Many smiling faces were seen on both sides of the proverbial exhibition table.
Go big or go home they say, so with that Grado launded something special that was created specifically for Head-Fi CanJam SoCal 2019, and the Head-Fi listening community. As the story goes, back in the early Head-Fi days John Grado and Todd The Vinyl Junkie helped support Head-Fi (the website infrastructure and CanJam) with a commemorative Grado Labs headphone that celebrates the Head-Fi community. The resulting headphone was the Grado HF-1 and Grado HF-2 which were produced in limited runs, with a portion of the sales proceeds directed towards funding Head-Fi’s growth. Both the Grado HF-1 and Grado HF-2 featured unique combinations of materials, seldom (or possibly never) seen before in Grado’s existing production models. Needless to say, these special edition headphones sold out quickly and became sought after by many of the passionate headphone connoisseurs in the Head-Fi community. History repeats itself, and with that Grado Labs attended CanJam SoCal 2019 and launched their Grado HF-3 headphone to commemorate the success of the Head-Fi community and CanJam show tour. This time a portion of the sales will go towards select charities as the Head-Fi community and it’s partners now want to give back.
The Grado HF-3 is a hand-built headphone, made in their Brooklyn factory just like every one that came before it. Preorders opened during the show exclusively to Head-Fi CanJam 2019 attendees.
Also showing were the new Grado GW100 wireless, which are the first and only open-back Bluetooth headphone. Particularly interesting were the GS3000e headphones that featured a single body Cocobolo wood throughout. And if you got a chance to sit down and speak with the family, you begin to understand the hi-fi significance and pedigree that comes along with the Grado family name.
Also tucked away on the display table just off the main exhibition hall was a live demo of the upcoming “The White Headphone”. The unique limited run headphone is slated for an approximate mid-summer release and is priced at $795. A specific number of units for the special batch isn’t projected, but all sales will fall under a predetermined timeline and when that endpoint is reached, the headphone will no longer be available for sale to public. A quick listen to the model on hand provided an interesting out-of-head experience along with an entertaining tonality – a good indicator for headphone collectors of every stripe.
by Eric Shook and Brian Hunter