Visit to my Hometown and the Legendary Grado Factory in Brooklyn.

Growing up in Brooklyn as a kid I used to walk down to Sunset Park with my friends during the hot summer days in the city to use the public swimming pool that was open for Brooklyn residents. Sunset Park was about 2 miles from my Bensonhurst neighborhood and a healthy walk for teenagers.  In 1918 the Grado family purchased a home, which would eventually become the site for one of Brooklyn’s most cherished manufactures.  Joseph Grado, founder of the company, designed the first high end moving iron cartridge, a product which is still in production today. My entry into the high end dates back to 1979 and my first turntable was a NAD table with the Grado black cartridge. The cartridges were $50 installed at the time and it was the first time I heard the Grado sound and I was hooked. The live musical sound kept me focused and spinning vinyl into many early morning hours. The black cartridge is still in production and sells for the unbelievable price of $75. The sound is still amazing and has brought me back to the time when I first became involved with what has been my lifelong addiction to music and high end sound. The cartridge is currently in my system for an upcoming review of the Grado cartridge and the new VPI Prime Scout turntable.

I met John Grado and his family at the Los Angeles Audiophile Society annual banquet and award ceremony and for the first time we had the opportunity to talk, so I asked him if I could review the new Grado PS2000e reference headphone.  John was there to receive the Los Angeles Audio Society annual Founders award for his continued contributions and achievements to the high end audio. Graciously, John agreed to let us review the new flagship headphone and I told him I was from the neighborhood and would call him to arrange a visit to his factory.

I may have  left 30 years ago but I still consider Brooklyn my home. John made time to meet with me and gave me a tour of the Grado factory, which is still in the house his grandfather purchased in 1918. The building itself brought back fond memories of growing up in the city, my childhood and early married life.  John took  us all to a neighborhood BayRidge restaurant and bought us all lunch after touring the Grado  factory and the taste of the exceptional food and conversation with the Grados and John Chen made me feel we all knew each other for years. The warm reception I received was greatly appreciated and the day flew by quickly.

John Grado holding the RS series reference headphones, which are still in continuous production. Grado Labs makes the headphones for consumers and also will do custom work for companies that want to have their name engraved on the wood cups.

The Grado listening room has the new reference EPOCH $12000 flagship cartridge designed by John Grado. The sound was musical and brought the musicians into the listening room. Listening to Eric Clapton it was as if I was transported to the recording studio and listening to a live performance.  The sound was exceptional and exciting. The recordings John played all exhibited exceptional transparency with soaring dynamics. The EPOCH is a statement cartridge and the musicality and tonality were as good as I have heard in any cartridge design.

Grado  custom  speakers with 32 headphone drivers per side.  The two bass modules employ a single capacitor in the crossover designed to crossover at 100hz and completely integrate into the system. The listening chair was 5 feet away from the speakers yet the soundstage was  wall to wall. The system is built around Audio research electronics and sounded dynamic with an exceptional tonality. The speakers completely disappeared and the musicians were all in defined spaces with pinpoint imaging. The tonality of the instruments and vocals was exceptional. The amazing sound and musicality were first rate. The system was dynamic and made recordings come to life. The non fatiguing sound of vinyl made all the recordings come alive. 

Assembly station in the headphone building room.

Wood cups, parts and wire all ready to be assembled.

Inventory ready for distribution.

Workers hard at work assembling Grado headphones. Each headphone is hand assembled by experienced and skillful technicians.

Grado cartridge assemble is still all done by hand. The Grado team of amazing employees build the legendary moving iron design. The tedious and time consuming work is all a labor of love by the Grado team. The workers are skilled craftsman who care about building the finest cartridges in the world and it is still done the old fashioned way with hard work and patient technicians to produce some of the finest cartridges in the world. All made in Brooklyn, NY.

John Grado  explaining how the designs are made by his dedicated technicians. The work is an art and his team were all friendly and involved with building cartridges.

The are all tested and run through a quality control process to make sure that they are ready for packing and distribution.

John Grado’s Founders award received from m the Los Angeles Audiophile society sits on the same table as a hand signed Beatle Box collection, signed and sent to John Grado by George Martin. WOW!

65 year old machinery in the basement still all operational. John explaining to me that the machines are reliable and usually low maintenance.

The Grado  philosophy of building stellar products has not changed over the years. The visit was an treat for me to actually see the  factory where my first cartridge was built. The Grado team is still committed to making products by hand and building moving iron designs. The Grado Black John asked me to review is currently sitting on my VPI Prime Scout and it amazes me that this cartridge is still in production and is as good as many cartridges costing significantly more money. The sound is smooth and the tonality exceptional both dynamic and musical. John’s two sons are now running more of the business and committed to expanding and building the brand. The resurgence of vinyl and the growth explosion of headphones guarantees we will continue to see more designs from the Grado family. The legendary family of affordable products are all built in Brooklyn, NY by a company dedicated to making some of the best headphones and cartridges in the world.

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Frank Iacone

Frank started his journey in high-end audio in 1978 and was quickly hooked. Frank’s passion for music and great sound reproduction is stronger than ever. His main focus is with high-end headphones and portable related gear. He is a regular contributor and is a co-founder of Headphone.Guru.


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