95ab616d7ed3755e887c0c8abd77dfdd0fef68b0 Grado GW100X review: Wireless open-back magic | Tech Maniac

Grado GW100X review: Wireless open-back magic

(Pocket-lint) - Grado is a family-run headphone manufacturer from Brooklyn, New York, with a seven-decade history. It focuses almost exclusively on open-back headphones and is thought by many to produce some of the finest examples in the world.

In 2018, it introduced its first Bluetooth model, the Grado GW100. The heritage was plain to see, but the wireless functionality opened up a new world of convenience.

Now, the brand has launched the GW100X. On the surface, a very similar set of headphones, but with new drivers, an upgrade to Bluetooth 5.2 and longer battery life, the GW100X could prove to be something quite exciting.

We've been listening to them over the past few weeks, and here's what we've learned.

Our quick take

The Grado GW100X are undoubtedly a niche set of headphones, designed primarily for home listening, but with the wireless connectivity normally associated with portable products.

However, if you hate being tethered down by wires, and want to experience uncompromising spacious sound, these are just the ticket.

The battery life is incredible and multipoint connectivity makes them more convenient than ever before.

The sound is absolutely stellar, with a wide soundstage, sparkling detail and a suprising amount of low end response.

We only wished that they felt a little more premium, but in some ways, the rudimentary retro constuction just adds to the charm.

If you're on the hunt for Bluetooth open back headphones, these are likely the best sounding option on the market.

Grado GW100X review: Wireless open-back magic

Grado GW100X

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended

For

  • Exceptional sound quality
  • Superb battery life
  • Bluetooth 5.2 with multipoint
  • Very lightweight

Against

  • Pricey
  • Flimsy-feeling construction
  • Uncomfortable for glasses-wearers

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Design and build

  • Weight: 188 grams
  • Plastic construction with a metal padded headband
  • Classic Grado styling

We haven't tried a new set of Grado headphones since the SR80, which we purchased almost a decade ago. In terms, of design, not all that much has changed in the time since. That can be said with all of Grado's cans dating back to the early nineties, there's a distinct retro style that's found on all of the brand's offerings, and we're big fans of the aesthetic.

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Grado GW100X review: photo 2

The GW100X are constructed mostly from plastic, with a metal mesh back situated behind the drivers. The usual friction-based pole system is present for adjustability, although this has been updated since the older models and no longer allows for full 360-degree rotation. We were pleased to see the addition of these hard stops as the old free-spinning design allows cables to tangle, and even though this model is wireless, each earcup is connected by a wire running through the headband, so it could still cause trouble.

The headband is made from a flexible metal band, covered in a leatherette fabric with a decent amount of padding. This is another addition that we're pleasantly surprised by, as a number of Grado headphones forego padding entirely, including our ageing SR80s.

So far, so good. However, for those less familiar with the Grado brand, we expect you might not be so pleased with the build quality. This is a premium set of headphones, after all, with a premium price tag to match and the build feels quite the opposite. 

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Grado GW100X review: photo 8

The headphones are very lightweight, and the open design leads to them feeling quite hollow. This is a positive when they're on your head, as it adds to the comfort, but it also means they feel pretty flimsy, and you'd certainly think twice before chucking them in a backpack without some kind of case.

The retro styling also means that there's no folding mechanism for easy packing, but given the open-back nature of these headphones, they're more likely to be used around the home than on the go, so this probably won't matter to most users.

The ear cups have a flat foam padding that sits on the ears, rather than around them. This is again very similar to our old SR80s. With both headphones, we found that this padding takes a little time to get used to, but is fairly comfortable once broken in. However, we did notice some pinching when wearing glasses, which was rather uncomfortable, so you might want to take that into account.

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Grado GW100X review: photo 10

On the left earcup, we get a chunky volume rocker and power button for controlling media playback. There's also a 3.5mm input for connecting wired sources and a USB-C port for charging, both cables are supplied in the box. 

Interestingly, the USB-C port is covered by a rubber bung, and we have no idea why. There's no weatherproofing to speak of, so this bung doesn't really serve a purpose. It doesn't matter, it's easy to remove when needed, we just found it curious.

Sound quality

  • Open-back design
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
  • 4th Generation 44mm dynamic drivers

The Grado GW100X are about one thing above all else, and that's the sound quality. We're pleased to report that, in this area, they don't disappoint at all. It's unmistakably the signature Grado sound, with an airy openness, exceptional detail and wide staging.

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Grado GW100X review: photo 14

We were worried that the addition of Bluetooth hardware, along with the work that has been done to reduce sound leakage, would negatively affect the sound produced. On the contrary, these might be the best-sounding Grados that we've tested to date. Compared to passive models, there's a significant addition of warmth that's very welcome and doesn't impede on the mid-range performance. It's a lovely sound.

If we had to pick out a negative aspect, it might be that the staging isn't quite as wide as the brand's passive headphones, but it's not a dramatic difference.

We did most of our listening connected to an Android smartphone over Bluetooth using AptX Adaptive, and the fidelity is hard to fault. With a wired connection, using an external DAC connected to a Windows PC, there's a slight increase in detail rendition, but the overall signature sounds very similar.

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Grado GW100X review: photo 3

Grado says it has reduced escaping sound by up to 60 per cent on its wireless models, but make no mistake, there's still a lot of leakage. It is noticeably reduced from passive models, but you'll still be emitting enough sound that you're unlikely to want to use these headphones in a shared office space or on public transport.

This, combined with the amount of sound that is let in, means you are quite limited in where you can use these headphones. Around the house they are superb, so long as there's no screaming kids about, and you certainly won't miss the doorbell ringing. You can also cross roads very safely while wearing them, but the noise of a major city will likely prove too much to contend with.

Features and battery life

  • Bluetooth 5.2 or 3.5mm wired input
  • Bluetooth multipoint connection
  • 850mAh battery - 46 hours per charge

Aside from the new drivers, the features that set these headphones apart from their predecessors are the upgrade to Bluetooth 5.2 and extended battery life. The expected playback time is now a staggering 46 hours at 50 per cent volume, and given how loud these can go, that's likely where you'll find yourself.

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Grado GW100X review: photo 18

We charged the headphones up on arrival and still haven't managed to run them down fully, we can't imagine anyone having complaints about their longevity. There's no fancy fast charging tech here, but depite that, the GW100X only take 2 hours to charge up from flat.

Bluetooth pairing was extremely easy and multipoint meant that we were able to connect to our PC and phone at the same time. If you're unfamiliar, this tech means that you can listen to music or watch a video on your computer, then if a phone call comes in, the audio will seamlessly switch to the phone whilst also pausing your media. It's extremely handy, and hard to live without once you get used to it.

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Grado GW100X review: photo 12

We found the Bluetooth connection to be extremely stable, with no hiccups at all. These headphones can't stray as far from the source as our Microsoft Surface Headphones 2, but you can wander far enough for it not to be a hinderance.

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To recap

If you want the best in spacious open-back sound, but hate being tethered by wires, these are the headphones to buy. They come at a significant cost, but with a sound like this, they're worth every penny.

Writing by Luke Baker.


Source: https://www.pocket-lint.com/headphones/reviews/163639-grado-gw100x-review