The Hemp Headphone is the latest limited edition release from Brooklyn NY-based headphone and cartridge manufacturer Grado Labs. Rolling-in at $420 USD they’re available from Grado’s online store and other global stockists. You can check out some of our previous Grado reviews here.
Note: A review sample of The Hemp Headphone was sent directly to us from Grado Labs in exchange for sharing our honest impressions with Headfonia readers. Our thanks go out to John and the team for the opportunity.
Let’s talk about hemp
The Cannabis Sativa plant really is nature’s overachiever. For over 10,000 years, we’ve cultivated one of its sub-varieties – Hemp – for all kinds of useful things including fabrics, food, and building materials. It’s actually one of the world’s fastest-growing plants, reaching maturity in around 120 days, and also happens to be one of the strongest natural fibres that we know of. Hemp is also quite the clever plant, with Cannabidiol extracts (CBD) offering all kinds of therapeutic and medical benefits.
Hemp’s more notorious cousin, that other strain of Cannabis Sativa – Marijuana – may have got a little more bad press over the years thanks to its, ahem, leisure-enhancing benefits. But let’s not beat around the bush: weed and music have gone hand-in-hand since time immemorial. Irrespective of what side of the fence you sit on regarding pot and its legal status, a pretty decent chunk of music at your local record store wouldn’t exist were it not for a little dabbling here and there with the reefer (cue: Bill Hicks). So for that reason alone, cannabis is something worth celebrating.
The world’s first ‘hemphone’
And celebrate is exactly what Grado Labs have done with their latest model to roll-off their Brooklyn NYC-based assembly-line: The Hemp Headphone (I would have gone with ‘Hemphone’, but that’s just me). As well as the practical use of hemp fibres for the construction of The Hemp Headphone, the Grado-clan has had a bit more fun with this particular release. If you couldn’t tell by the suspiciously-convenient $420 USD price tag (please don’t make me explain it) or the minefield of puns on their website, then surely one look at the leaf-emblazoned button on the cups will tell you that Grado is giving slightly more than a wink and a nod to pot culture with their latest offering.
A new spin on ‘heritage’
The Hemp Headphone follows the four ‘Heritage’ edition models released by Grado as limited-edition models over the past few years, and more recently The White Headphone which I reviewed for Headfonia readers earlier this year. Like all Grado headphones, it’s a fully open-back design using a 38 ohm, 98 dB/mW dynamic driver. The design and layout will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s caught a glimpse of a pair of Grado headphones before – the old-world design has managed to persist for many decades without much by way of wholesale change. These are totally open-backed headphones, so expect to be able to hear everything around you while wearing them, which makes The Hemp Headphone perfect for situational awareness during safety meetings. On the flip-side, you can also expect people nearby to be able to hear what you’re listening to.
The permanently-attached thick cable and the gimbal + rodblock headband assembly are classic Grado-fare, but there’s a couple of interesting changes that make The Hemp Headphone unique among the line-up. The most obvious feature to note is the hemp material used for the construction of the driver cups. Grado has spliced the hemp with maple wood for the driver housing, a timber they have experience in using from their GH1 and GS3000e models. The other notable inclusion is the choice of the ‘F-Cushion’ pads which is unique among their current lineup but may be familiar to Grado-philes who may know them as ‘TTVJ’ pads.
One-off pun, or one-of-a-kind find?
As both an Open-Minded Person and a Grado fan you could say I was genuinely stoked when The Hemp Headphone landed on my doorstep in Sydney for this review. Jokes aside (and let’s not kid ourselves – this article could venture into really bad pun territory), I also wanted to see how The Hemp Headphone stacks-up against other models in the Grado line-up, and whether it’s worth considering at its $420 price-point. According to Grado, if they applied their usual pricing formula The Hemp Headphone would cost much closer to $500, but they were happy to eat some margin in order to hit the magical 4/20. I’m sure the whole exercise is more than just a happy accident from Grado Labs – by leaning-into weed culture they’re no doubt looking to appeal to a much broader base of customers, hoping to tap into a mindset rather than just ‘young people’.
Ok, so it does come across a little bit like ‘Dad at the disco’ in the cool stakes, but you know what? I’m all for it. Headphone manufacturers and the (high-end audio industry generally) can get a bit too serious, and so a bit of fun really is welcome for a change. Can you imagine sitting in a product-planning meeting at Sony or Sennheiser and see someone pitching an idea like this? Naaah, me either. Rather than choosing a forgettable random mix of letters and numbers for the model designation, this headphone pays homage to a plant that makes music fun. The Hemp Headphone is inspired by music enjoyment and is therefore designed to put you in a good mood. Which is what it’s about at the end of the day…right?
Anyhow, so could The Hemp Headphone be the perfect gateway drug into the Grado line-up for newcomers to the brand, or higher-end listening more broadly? Let’s take a closer look at what we have on our hands.
Head over to page 2 to read more about The Hemp Headphone.