Grado Labs is located in a nondescript four-story building in the Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, where Joe Grado started manufacturing phono cartridges in the early 1950s. John Grado (Joe’s nephew) took over day-to-day operations in 1978, and in 1989 Grado Labs jumped into the headphone market. John and Joe hand-built all of the company’s first-generation headphones—the HP-1, HP-2, and HP-3—and those ’phones now fetch anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 on eBay! Grado Labs is still a family-owned business, and John’s son Jonathan came aboard in 2014.
The Grado Reference Series RS1e sports African mahogany earpieces, the headband is covered and padded with genuine leather, and there are newly designed 50mm drivers (the left- and right-channel drivers are matched within 0.5 decibels). There’s no automation or glistening robots cranking out these headphones; it’s all still done on a very human scale. Most of the workers were trained by John Grado, whose hands have crafted thousands of headphones.
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