Grado GW100 v2 Bluetooth headphone review: A wireless wonder

In 1950, Joseph Grado started making phonograph cartridges at his kitchen table in Brooklyn, NY. Once he exceeded the limits of that table, he moved the operation to a more professional venue nearby and founded Grado Labs in 1953. Now, three generations later, the company is still family owned and run, continuing to make highly regarded phono cartridges as well as headphones, which were added to the product catalog in 1991, by hand at its Brooklyn location.

The GW100 is Grado’s first wireless Bluetooth headphone. It was first introduced in 2018 and was recently upgraded to version 2. The company cut no corners and took its time to get the sound just right, and the result was well worth the effort.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best headphones, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

Features

The GW100 v2 is a lightweight, on-ear, open-back design with foam earpads and that distinctive, somewhat retro Grado styling. It incorporates specially designed 44mm dynamic drivers within a finely tuned enclosure. In addition, the company claims to have decreased sound leakage from the open-back earpiece by 60 percent with careful placement of circuit boards and other internal components.

grado gw100 with player Grado Labs

The Grado GW100 are a great companion for a high-end digital audio player, but their open-back design will likely deter you from using them when you’re out and about.

The frequency response is specified to extend from 20Hz to 20kHz (no tolerance given), and the drivers in each unit are matched to within 0.1dB of each other. And they can play plenty loud—up to 99.8 dB SPL from 1mW.

This is the first Bluetooth headphone I’ve encountered that does not also offer active noise cancellation (ANC). According to Grado, ANC can degrade the sound quality—which is certainly true with many but not all the headphones I’ve tested—so the company decided to omit it altogether.

Instead, Grado focused on providing the best possible Bluetooth experience. The GW100 v2 implements Bluetooth version 5.0 (as opposed to 4.2 in the original GW100) with support for the aptX, AAC, and SBC codecs. It can work up to 10 meters (33 feet) away from the source device thanks to an upgraded antenna.

The updated 850mAh battery charges in two hours and provides up to 40 hours of play time, which is based on a 50-percent volume setting. Other upgrades include a USB-C charging connection instead of micro USB (good move!).

In addition to omitting ANC, this is the only wireless headphone I’ve come across that does not include a hard-shell carrying case. You can buy one from Grado for $39.95, which brings the cost to $288.95 for what you’d get with just about every other comparable headphone.