Grado GW-100 Wireless Headphone followup review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Oct 5, 2018.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Youtube review:

    This followup review of the Grado GW-100 addresses 4 issues that I considered in my original review process, but did not include in that review because there were too many things to cover:

    Q) Is the GW100 a bridge between lightweight portable headphones like the eGrado and "over-ear" models like the Prestige series (SR60 to SR325)?

    A) I don't think so. Ignoring wireless features for the moment, the GW100 is more-or-less the same size and driver type as the Prestige series, and in my opinion the sound signature and quality is on a par with those headphones. In wireless/Bluetooth mode, some high-resolution detail is necessarily lost, but even when all Bluetooth codecs become full Redbook CD quality, you still won't hear the full detail when walking around outdoors or doing things other than just listening indoors.

    Q) Apple's Airpods are wireless and non-isolating. How do they relate to the wireless and non-isolating GW100?

    A) The Airpods aren't directly comparable, since they're not an ear-canal IEM nor an earbud like the original Apple earbuds. The Airpods (and the wired Earpods) sit in the outer ear, but their sound is highly variable depending on how close the sound-ports sit to the ear canal openings. In my case the bass is weak and the treble way too strong, but for other users the balance may be better. Whereas the better IEMs have a true high-fidelity sound, the Airpods design doesn't quite get there, although with careful equalization they can sound fairly good.

    Q) What sort of options are available to get the best sound from the GW100 in wired mode?

    A) One good feature of the GW100 is having a true passive wired mode, since there are some Bluetooth headphones today that require their electronics to be active even when a cable is plugged in. Even better is the fact that the GW100 sound signature is essentially the same in wired or wireless mode, unlike some headphones that EQ the Bluetooth sound because their passive sound lacks fidelity.

    The GW100 can be plugged into most DACs and headphone amps with the supplied cable, and a 6.35 mm (1/4 inch) plug added as necessary. Whether a different cable can sound better or not I don't know. When using the GW100 with a modern iPhone that lacks a 3.5 mm jack, you can use Apple's little $9 dongle that contains a DAC (the Lightning port has no analog audio), or use the Belkin 3.5 mm to Lightning cable to eliminate the dongle.

    Q) If the GW100 was tuned for the most natural sound with acoustic and refined music (traditional classics, jazz, etc.), would it be less suitable for other types such as EDM, Rock, or Metal?

    A) Grado headphones have a solid reputation among fans of Rock music, and I have a representative collection of Rock, Metal, and EDM myself. So following that line of thought, I'm including 16 music tracks in this review which are very different from those in my original review, to see how the GW100 performs with other genres. Caveat: I'm not testing this headphone with any purely artificial or experimental music. Note that the GW100 was evaluated here without tone controls or equalization.

    Above & Beyond - We're All We Need (feat. Zoe Johnston): A very nice tight but impactful bass with crystal clear vocals - the GW100 plays this with great ambiance.

    Anamanaguchi - Planet: A complex mix of percussion sounds and hummed vocals. The bells and other high-frequency percussion are highly detailed, the bass line has good impact, and the bass detail is surprisingly good.

    Armin van Buuren - J'ai Envie de Toi (Orig Mix feat Gaia): Decent bass impacts, breathy vocals, lots of fun noise - the GW100 plays this perfectly.

    Avicii - Feeling Good: Classic female vocal in movie-theme style - the GW100 brings this to life like nothing else I've heard.

    Carl Kennedy-Tommy Trash ft Rosie Henshaw - Blackwater (Original Master): Nice strong tight bass impacts, female vocal, rendered delectably by the GW100.

    Crystal Castles - Wrath of God: Atmospheric tune with vocal sound effects and strong bass line, plus some unique treble percussion sounds. The GW100 brings these unique sounds to life.

    Digitalism - Pogo: A driving beat with a detailed bass synth and great vocals ("There's something in the air...") - the GW100 makes this very enjoyable.

    Dino Lenny-Lino Di Meglio - We Will Make It: Atmospheric tune with mixed vocals - the female vocal is a special treat with the GW100.

    DJ Shadow - Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt: High-pitched tones and strong deep piano chords with a hummed female vocal - ultra-cool with the GW100.

    Fairmont - Poble Sec: Awesome detailed bass impacts with some nifty pingy guitar/synth effects. I discovered this tune at the time I purchased a v-moda M100 - the GW100's reproduction is not as dark and bassy, but definitive nonetheless.

    Giuseppe Ottaviani - Lost for Words (On Air Mix feat Amba Shepherd): Strong bass impacts behind a female voice - a large-scale sweeping sonic image reminiscent of epic adventures in an exotic land. The GW100 is playing on a whole new level here.

    Hecq - Enceladus (With Skyence): Prodigious deep bass and clean at that. This tune's melody is more abstract than most of the others here, but the GW100 makes it a real adventure.

    Katy B - Crying For No Reason (Tom Shorterz Remix): Oh myyyyy, I love Katy B. The vocal mix here is awesome and the bass is solid. This is the GW100 at its best.

    Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch: I first heard this in The September Issue film and soundtrack, as the backdrop for the opening catwalk (watch Andre grinning at 1:51 - all you need to know) - the GW100 plays this amazing tune perfectly.

    Lee and Malinda - Truth Will Set You Free (V-Moda Mix): Lee Kalt is the master, this is the masterpiece. The drum (or tom-tom) hits here have a very realistic skin-tone, the female vocal is seamlessly integrated into the driving beat, and the synth effects also blend well - the GW100 just owns this.

    Markus Schulz - Mainstage: The granddaddy of synth bass is in this track, and while the GW100 plays it with a decent amount of drama, this type of synthetic bass falls outside of the GW100's design scope.

    Last word: Anyone playing these tracks on the GW100 who has come from other Grado headphones will likely be pleasantly surprised by the sonics here, but others who come from using darker bassier headphones might not appreciate the abundance of treble energy in this music.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    I finally configured my best-guess EQ curve for the GW-100, based as usual on reducing peaks and recesses, toward achieving a real-world natural sound. This is a better result than what I got with the SR325e, and much better than my GH1 (although the wood for the GH1 naturally varies from sample to sample). The actual settings are in the HiFi Misc./EqAppReview document.

    Although I haven't been able to determine the comparative fidelity vis-a-vis the other Grados (I don't have those on hand), I was able to get a pretty good handle on the deep bass quality after boosting 35 hz by 3 db. Playing the Kellogg Auditorium 16 hz sample organ pedal track, I was surprised at the amount of fundamental (including 32.7 hz doubling I'd guess) as well as the detail of the 16 hz 'beats'.

    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Grado_Gw100.jpg
     
  3. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Tonight, 7-1/2 days after receiving the GW100, the factory battery charge finally ran out. While I did quite a bit of listening in wired mode at home (and the sound is excellent), I'd guess my Bluetooth use amounted to far more than the rated 15 hours during these 7-1/2 days. The first few days were pretty intense doing various tests, with lots of outdoor listening in areas with moderate to low noise levels. As best I remember, the low-power voice warnings started about 45 minutes before the "power off" notice occurred, as the headphone shut off -- out of power. The good news is there was no distortion or interruption (other than the voice warnings at ~5 min. intervals) to compromise the sound as the power wound down.
     
  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    I came across this interesting review on the 'MajorHiFi' site, and thought it would be worth highlighting here, because of the unique design of the GW100 as an open-back wireless headphone. Here are a few excerpts and a link:

    "As an open-back wireless headphone, this model has almost no competitors."

    "Compared to models from Audio Technica, Sony, Sennheiser, Marshall, Bowers and Wilkins, and Bose, nothing at this price point can even compete with the GW100 in terms of sheer sound quality."

    "For those seeking isolation, choose any of the above and enjoy what you can. For the rest of ya, this Grado is everything you could want in a headphone."

    http://majorhifi.com/grado-gw100-review/
     
  5. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    I added a new video to address additional questions:

     
  6. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    A new question about the GW100's replacement earpads came up on a large headphone forum, and I thought the answer given was for the wrong earpads, so since these earpads are easy to lose when they fall off unexpectedly, I thought it would be good to post the correct replacements here and elsewhere.

    Replacing any headphone's stock earpads with a different design is likely to make a major change in the sound, and the change is more likely to be negative than otherwise.

    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod...8178&msclkid=790f7bcdba9d16cccb6a200730f9f6df
     
  7. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    My two reviews of the Grado wireless have run their course now, and today I watched this 20-minute video by someone I hadn't heard of before. 20 minutes is a pretty long watch, but this guy's presentation is good enough to make it worthwhile for anyone interested.

     
  8. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    The great Steve Guttenberg has opined on the GW100, saying that it's OK but not quite like a real Grado (quote approximate). The user comments are interesting, and I answered a few:

     
  9. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Today, 13 November marks 42 days since I received my Grado GW-100 headphone. The third charge has finally been depleted (original factory charge plus two charges by me), so it appears I'm getting about 14 days per charge, using it in Bluetooth mode at least 2 hours per day. I remember something in the specification about volume levels affecting battery life, and since my usage is walking around in relatively noisy areas with light street traffic, my volume levels are about 5-6 db above where I listen at home. My home headphone use is at "audiophile volume levels", or just enough to hear very small details without blasting my ears on the loud parts.
     
  10. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Two items today:

    One, I leaned over the railing at my local pier today and watched one of my GW100 earpads tumble into the ocean. I've temporarily lost a GW100 earpad a few times already, but this time it was permanent. Fortunately I had a backup set on hand. They do fall off very easily.

    The other item concerns my quandary regarding the benefits of a closed back design for portable and outdoor use, versus the sonic advantages of an open back design, albeit I have to find a low-noise place to enjoy those sonic advantages. I took one day away from the GW100 to use a good closed-back headphone for walkabouts, and went right back to the GW100. It seems to me that I never would have gotten to this point of preferring an open-back portable headphone, if I hadn't talked myself into going against instinct and giving it a 6-week tryout first. The trick is finding those low--noise listening places, if it's even possible for a lot of people.
     
  11. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Last night the 4th charge for my GW100 ran out - 4 full charges (3 plus the original factory charge) powered me for 58 days, or about 2 weeks per charge. I'd guess I'm getting about 22-23 hours per charge at a little less than maximum volume. I let it run all the way down each time, since I carry the backup cord.
     
  12. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
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