Grado Labs ‘The White Headphone’

Packaging, presentation and build

 

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I was pleased to see that Grado seemed to have stepped-up their packaging in recent times. Rather than arriving in the familiar cardboard Grado ‘pizza box’, The White Headphone has a nice hinged display box that’s both keeping in the colourless colour palette, and also fittingly premium to match The White Headphone’s limited edition status. Inside you’ll find a 6.3mm adapter (the cable is terminated in 3.5mm), a note from the Grado Family, and the headphones themselves sitting in cut-out foam. And that’s about it – it’s a minimalist affair in every sense. 

The White Headphone’s retail packaging.

The White Headphone is, you guessed it, white. Visually the headphones are dominated by the large, flat maple driver housings which are finished in a matte white paint scheme, with a faint ‘GRADO’ logo carved into them in a way that’s reminiscent of ‘THE BEATLES’ embossed logo on the album cover. This is Grado’s second maple headphone, the first being the GH1 released as the first in their ‘Heritage Series’ range in 2015, which also happens to be perhaps my most treasured pair of cans. 

The other ‘nod’ to their Beatles-inspired heritage is the white stitching on the leather headband, which is the wider style featured on Grado’s PS1000e/PS2000e from the ‘Professional Series’ and the GS1000e/GS2000e/GS3000e from the ‘Statement Series’. Like the aforementioned Grado headphones, The White Headphone also features the wider ‘G-Cush’ style earpads, sometimes referred to as the ‘salad bowl’ pads in enthusiast circles. The inclusion of these accessories places The White Headphone in an interesting place in the Grado line-up, placing it above the RS1e/RS2e and PS500e which feature the smaller L-Cush pads, yet lower in price than the $995 GS1000e. The White Headphone features a 50mm driver, the same diameter as the RS1e and GS1000e, but my understanding is that the driver is all-new for the new limited edition model. 

The White Headphone’s 50mm drivers.

The rest of The White Headphone will be instantly familiar to the owner of any Grado headphones, including their entry-level $79 SR60e: a permanently attached chunky cable (reminiscent of an electrical extension cord); plastic gimbals and rod-blocks for extending and swivelling the ear cups; and a thin leather headband. And that’s about it – there’s certainly no mistaking it for any other brand of headphone, it’s a Grado through and through. 

The White Headphones are light – shockingly light, in fact. Despite the fact that they look enormous, the wooden cups weigh next to nothing. As a result, there are no complaints whatsoever on the comfort-front. Even though the headband has only a paltry amount of padding, those large G-Cush pads rest comfortably around your entire ears and you forget that you’re wearing them…until you catch sight of yourself in the mirror. Now, I know that Grado headphones can look a little…‘funny’ compared to other headphones, but The White Headphones are something else altogether – they look absolutely hilarious when worn. I know that the Grado family wanted to pay homage to The White Album, but in doing so they’ve ensured that The White Headphones are a strictly at-home-only affair. Of course, you’re not likely to really hit the streets in a pair of open-back headphones, but the sight of what looks like two white radar dishes protruding from either side of your head is bound to turn heads. 

The White Headphones, with White Cat (for scale).

So while Grados are already something of an ‘acquired taste’, the look of The White Headphone is another layer of ‘love it or hate it’ on top of an already interesting aesthetic. I’m just going to say that they look distinctive, and leave it there. My only other complaint is that the cable sucks in the way that all Grado cables suck – they’re permanently attached, and weigh a ton. Because they weigh nothing at all, that garden-hose-esque cable can tend to pull The White Headphone off a desk if it flops the wrong way. Again – if you’re familiar with Grados, this will be no surprise at all. I’d dearly love to Grado boldly opt for 3.5mm detachable cables down the line, but after nearly 70 years I’m not going to hold my breath…

But, at the same time, Grado’s dedication to doing things the way they always have done gives them a certain kind of frustrating ‘charm’. You know you’re holding something that’s steeped in time-honoured tradition, and you do get an immediate understanding about what the company holds dear – as they say on the box, ‘Heritage Matters’.

Sound Quality

The White Headphone is first and foremost, a Grado headphone. And that generally means two things when it comes to listening: you can power them off just about anything; and they’re going to be clear, bright, and aggressive. The White Headphone does not disappoint in either regard. 

With only 32ohms impedance and 98dB sensitivity, it doesn’t take much juice to get The White Headphones running loudly. My Samsung S9+ happily got them up to ‘loud enough thank you very much’ at around 70% on the volume dial. And you can bet that they’ll be a breeze to pair with any number of portable and desktop amps in terms of power requirements, as long as their output impedance is comfortably low and is not messing with the frequency response. 

Grado Labs White

The White Headphone + Hagerman Audio Tuba amplifier.

In terms of their voicing, The White Headphone is treble-forward, bright, and has an overall very lean tonal signature. While much of that is classic Grado, I think they’re actually a little more treble oriented than any Grados I’ve come across before. In terms of amplifier pairing, I found pretty consistent performance out of most devices, but I must note that The White Headphone was particularly enjoyable for me with both the Chord Mojo, as well as the Hagerman Tuba amplifier – the Tuba ‘sweetening’ the upper octave some for a slightly mellower type of listening session. 

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Matty's a musician, music-fan, and 'gear-phile' from Sydney, Australia. Outside of his day-job in creative advertising, Matty enjoys live music, lawn bowls, craft beer, and spending far too much money collecting vinyl.

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