I always find great new makers and brands among the Martha Stewart American Made finalists, but they tend to be more about handmade home decor, accessories, stationery–pretty much anything other than technology. So I was really happy to discover a new-to-me but not at all new tech company there, in Grado Labs.
This third generation family-run business still makes their Grado headphones by hand right in Brooklyn to optimize sound dynamics and fidelity and the results look and sound amazing. It’s not surprising that they’ve developed a major cult following among serious audio aficionados.
The Prestige headphone series (above) is the entry point into the line, and includes the SR60e headphones and SR80e which get very nice reviews, especially for under $100. They’re not meant for travel, and from what I’ve read they’re not ideal in noisy environments, but if you keep a pair at home for listening, it’s an affordable option that delivers comfort and very good sound quality.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find the mahogany Reference series headphones which are in the $500 range and get outstanding reviews from tough critics. But if you want a seriously splurgey holiday gift for a seriouslly picky audiophile? Check out the Statement Series GS1000 headphones (at very top) which (are you sitting down?) rings in at $995.
But then, look at them. Think of them as the Amati of headphones.
Also worth a look: The limited edition Bushmills x Grado Labs headphones ($395) designed by Elijah Wood (yes, that Elijah Wood) with Zach Cowie, and made from premium leather and recycled white oak barrels from Ireland’s Bushmills distillery. Whoa.
This is a terrific brand for someone who doesn’t want the oversized shiny plastic look of Beats headphones or the modern sleekness of the V-Moda headphones (which I happen to adore). Grado is all about handmade craftsmanship, sound over showmanship, and a name that speaks to a smaller cult following of Grado lovers.
You can vote for Grado Labs in the Martha Stewart American Made Awards, or learn more about them at the Grado headphones website