My experience with Grado goes back over a decade, waiting at my aunt’s house in Cleveland, Ohio for a pair of the brand’s long standing open-backed Prestige 225 headphones and a Prestige Gold phono cartridge to arrive. Such was the anticipation, I missed out on a day trip to the famous Lolly the Trolly tourist attraction for them, but the years of listening pleasure and reliability both have afforded me since have shown that Lolly was worth the sacrifice.
Founded in 1953 in New York, Brooklyn’s Grado Labs has carved out a reputation for its moving-iron pick-ups and uniquely styled open back cans, while remaining a family run business. In recent years the brand has branched out into different headphone flavours, ranging from its higher end Reference models, to wireless and in-ear offerings, highlighting how they’ve evolved with the times for a range of music fans.
The GT220 under review here Grado describes as a ‘true wireless’ design, offering connectivity via aptX Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC and AAC codecs also catered for.
Crafted from high-density acoustically optimised polycarbonate, the GT220s also boast 8mm polyethylene terephthalate full-range drivers, with a claimed frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz.
Removing them from their sleek, compact case, which also acts as a charger, I marvel at how small they are, as they come to life automatically, denoted by their signature ‘G’ icon lighting up. Pairing to my iPhone 11 Pro is straightforward, as they appear in my Bluetooth search as ‘Grado GT220’. With a choice of three sizes of silicon ear tips included, finding the best fit is easy enough and their ‘twist to lock’ movement makes for a snug and secure fit, although this can take a few tries to get right.
At 5g per bud, they’re relatively light weight, which helps them stay put when you’re on the move.
The GT220’s offer the functionality you’d expect from a modern pair of quality wireless headphones. The ‘G’ icon is touch sensitive and a quick tap initiates voice and phone controls on the left bud and music controls on the right. For the latter, a single tap plays or pauses while a double tap chooses the next track and a triple tap reverts back to the previous song. Volume level is controlled by holding the left bud to bring it down and right bud to crank it up.
Given their small physical stature could they live up to Grado’s hallmark sound for accuracy and openness in abundance?
Kicking off proceedings with Springsteen’s signature Born to Run track streamed via my iPhone from iTunes gives the GT220s a range of sounds and instruments to get stuck into. The depth these buds bring to the music is immediately apparent, much more so than my go to AirPods or PowerBeats3.
Detail is also plentiful with the Grados. When on the move using my other buds, I often miss the nuanced elements in this song, but with the Grados there’s no cutting corners as they reveal the instrument mix with ease, including the subtle xylophone, which sounds clear and distinct.
As a long distance runner, it’s vital any earbuds on my test bench are up to pounding the pavements in my company. With trainers on and Redbone’s bass rich Come And Get Your Love played at a healthy volume, the Grados deliver the track’s low-end with ease, aided by their snug fit which keeps them in place and helps block out external sounds. To underline the point, back home and dancing around my lounge to Christine and the Queens’ Tilted shows that once they’re fitted, they stay put.
Equally you can consider them ideal for more serious listening at home. Streaming Amy Winehouse’s debut album Frank via Tidal at hifi quality on my laptop, reveals how capable they really are when asked to step up. Amy’s voice sounds rich, yet raw and full of presence, with a rich and warm tonality that’s reminiscent of my Grado Prestige Gold cartridge that’s bolted to my turntable’s tonearm. And best of all, with six hours of play on one charge I’m able to experience all of the above without a single recharge.
Knowing the pedigree behind these buds I set them a high bar to overcome from the outset, and thankfully for a compact earphone, the GT220’s exceed my expectations by some margin. I’m off back to the US later this summer, so it’s only fair I warn Lolly now that with the Grados on hand, she’ll need to find another date this time too.