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Review Grado GW100x: wireless headphones, but not like all the others

Review Grado GW100x: wireless headphones, but not like all the others

GW100x grade: review in a minute

The Grado GW100x are the Brooklyn-based brand’s latest wireless over-ear headphones. They replace the outgoing GW100, and not before time – that model originally launched in 2018 and was updated to “v2” a couple of years ago.

The Grado GW100X’s $249 / £249.99 (about AU$399) price tag suggests they’re designed to compete more or less head-on with the best wireless headphones from the likes of Bose, Sennheiser and Sony, but don’t forget that we’ve dealing with Grado here, a company we usually cover with practical and affordable wired headphones. So while the GW100x are adequately equipped for the serious business of delivering music, they don’t really provide the “full service” experience that nominal rivals offer.

But let’s be clear, the sound quality is excellent. As a very rare open-back wireless headphones, the expression and expansiveness of sound are unmatched for this sort of thing, even if it means they leak sound in both directions.

The Grado GW100x uses Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless connectivity, with compatibility with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs, and features multipoint pairing. They feature large (44mm) full-range drivers from Grado’s latest ‘X’ series and promise a frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz – the full range of human hearing, in other words. And as long as you don’t go too far in terms of volume, battery life is a whopping 46 hours.

Grado Gw100x headphones open back and close up

The open back design is unusual and has an effect on the size of the soundstage the GW100x can create. (Image credit: Future)

And as far as sound quality goes, the GW100x do their auspicious branding proud. The open-back design is unusual in the extreme when it comes to wireless on or over-ear headphones, and the company has obviously gone to great lengths to prevent them from leaking sound the traditional open-back way (though obviously compared to the closed headphones, there are leaks). This has a knock-on effect on the size of soundstage the GW100x can create. By Grado’s standards it’s reasonably tight, but if it were any other brand of headphones I’d be very positive indeed about the spacious, well-defined and airy soundstage these headphones generate.

The overall sound balance is really well judged. The low frequencies have a lot of body and weight, but are well structured and carry a lot of fine detail, and are controlled well enough to give the rhythms the right expression and keep the momentum levels high. At the opposite end of the frequency range is the same kind of eloquence, the same kind of fanatic retrieval of detail, and the same kind of natural, colorless tonality. In between, the midrange projects well and makes the singer’s technique and attitude absolutely clear. And the entire frequency range integrates well, so the GW100x sounds as balanced as it is powerful.

Dynamic headroom is considerable, so when a band transitions from “whispered middle eight” to “almighty charge in the final chorus,” the Grado can follow volume changes without issue. And they’re equally unstressed when it comes to the more subtle harmonic variations that help make a recording sound full and complete. There’s a muscularity to the GW100x’s sound that means they can handle the tough stuff with ease, but are equally capable of being tender and understated if the music calls for it.

So the GW1000x covers the ‘sound’ aspect in a big way, but where now the talk would normally turn to all the other stuff like active noise cancellation, control app functionality and so on, the Grado cabinet is bare . There’s no active noise cancellation here, no control app that lets you adjust EQ levels and stuff… heck, the Grado GW100x doesn’t even come with a carrying case.

Grade GW100x control buttons on earcups

All controls on the Grado GW100x are all physical (Image credit: Future)

The lack of case means the controls are all physical: the right ear cup houses three rather plasticky buttons in its fairly plastic circumference, letting you take care of ‘on/off’, ‘Bluetooth pairing’, ‘play/pause’, ‘skip forward/back’, volume up/down’, ‘answer/end/reject call’ and ‘call voice assistant’.

Interactions with your source player’s native voice assistant are smooth, and the same can be said for call quality – the GW100x’s built-in microphones get the job done with a certain panache. The right earcup also has a USB-C input for battery charging and a 3.5mm input for wired use.

“Plasticy” is a perfectly good description of how the GW100x look and feel when you compare them to any comparably priced rival: like nearly all Grado headphones, “sophistication” isn’t on their list of virtues. The feel is cheap, from the minimally padded headband to the standard foam earpads. If I were a less charitable man I might even call them “farmers”. The perceived value, it is safe to say, is not particularly high here – you have to listen to them to understand where the money goes.

They’re comfortable, though—weighing just 188g and not a burden to wear. And adjusting the headband to put the earcups in place is easy, too, thanks to Grado’s familiar (and, let’s not get around the bush, slightly agricultural) “friction post” mechanism.

Grado GW100x headphones above branded box

Grado GW100x brings the company’s usual simple style to a wireless model. (Image credit: Future)

Grado GW100x review: price and release date

  • Cost $249 / £249.99 (about AU$399)
  • Launched in November 2022

The Grado GW100x are on sale now and in the UK they’re priced at £249. In Native America the Grado’s sell for $249, while in Australia you’ll have to part with AU$399 or so.

At that price, they rival big names like the Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose QuietComfort 45, and the aforementioned Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless. The competition is fierce, but the Grados are different.

Grade GW100x Review: Specifications

Drivers 44m
Active noise cancellation NO
Battery life 46 hours
Weight 188g
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2 (SBC, AAC, aptX adaptive)
Frequency range 20Hz – 20kHz
Waterproofing NO
Other characteristics Nobody

Should I buy Grade GW100x?

Characteristics Battery life is good and it’s great to have aptX Adaptive. Not much going on here otherwise… 3/5
Sound quality As good as wireless headphones come in at this price point. Natural, expressive and incredibly detailed. 5/5
Project Comfortable and light, but not very premium overall. 3/5
Value I can’t fault them for audio quality at the price, but you certainly can for the flexibility of features. 4/5

Buy them if…

Don’t buy them if…

GW100x Grade Review: Also consider

How I tested the Grado GW100x

  • Tested for a week or more
  • Used in the office, on the street and (once, bravely) on public transport
  • Apple iPhone 14 Pro and Nothing Phone (1) as source players

The upsides of the Grado GW100x should be obvious by now: they sound great, they’re super comfortable, and they last a long time between charges. They also have multipoint pairing, so I was able to connect them to my Apple MacBook Pro and smartphone while I worked.

They’re an equally effective companion when out and about, except on public transport, where their shameless loss of sound made me tremendously embarrassed (and also rather unpopular with my fellow passengers). No other wireless headphones have made me so eager to be at home, alone.


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