I’ve never gravitated towards Grado. I have great respect for them and what they do, but I usually like my low frequencies too much to marry one of their headphones. However, every time I review some Grado cans, I’m reminded why they are so frequen’ amazing. And as soon as I listen to a classical piece, my passion for that unique sound is rekindled. The GH4 is a limited edition headphone among their other exotic wood models in the Heritage Series. If you’re familiar with Grado, especially the RS2e, you won’t run into any surprises. Just prettier wood. But for folks who are new to this brand…What is all this fuss about Grado, and why do all the cool kids own a pair? Let’s find out in this Grado GH4 Headphones Review.
Grado GH4 Headphones Review
Is there anything better than resting your head on a fresh cotton towel? Well, that’s what it feels like to wear a Grado headphone. Say what you will about your preferences for sound, but these cans are the comfiest headphones I’ve ever worn. Feather light and leather free. No hot, itchy ears. No suffocating “snugness.” Just the gentlest touch of a room temperature cushion against your ear. Nighty night.
Wood doesn’t just look cool. It has a very unique sound that aluminum cans can’t imitate. The limited edition, GH4 is made from pine. To be specific, Norwegian wood. Isn’t it good? Ugh. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Anyway, Grado advertises this material as adding warmth and texture to the sound. We’ll put this claim to the test below.
Other than the limited edition pine, Grado has employed its usual dynamic drivers and famous open-back design to create a very familiar sound signature. RS2e anyone?
One thing that Grado has over almost every other open-back headphone is the low impedance. You don’t have to be a geeky audiophile with an outrageously expensive amp to own a Grado headphone. These things are efficient enough to be driven by your iPhone. But as a geeky audiophile, I highly suggest you a buy a simple DAC, like the FiiO Q1 or Dragonfly.
In terms of durability, maybe treat these pretty cans with care. The Y-shaped cable, though thick, is not detachable. Therefore, if something goes wrong with the cable after Grado’s 1 year warranty period, you’re screwed. So, don’t go stepping on it. The good news is that the ear cushions are easily replaceable. I’ve also heard that Grado’s products generally last a while. So, don’t let the seemingly delicate retro design discourage you.
As for portability, the GH4 folds flat like other Grado models. And they’re a cute little size, so they’ll easily fit in your bag. But wait…Where’s the accompanying carrying case? Sorry folks, Grado keeps things ultra simple, delivering these pricey cans in a pizza box. But if you do want to pick up a Grado case, they’re available on their website for around 40 bucks.
If you like a rich low end, then Grado headphones are probably not for you. The bass on the GH4 is unobtrusive, if not a little shy. Most audiophiles will say it’s honest. But pop and hip-hop fans might disagree. That being said, it still offers a tiny bit of punch. But let’s talk about what Grado is great at; a uniquely melodic presentation of bass instruments with an unparalleled level of detail for a headphone in this price range. If you listen to classical and jazz, rest assured that few other headphones will convey such a natural performance of acoustic bass instruments. The tonal quality or texture of the GH4 is extremely realistic, and considering the price, I haven’t heard any other critical listening headphone that can match its performance in this respect.
This mids are quite even and present in the mix. But the upper-mids are a tad more forward than the lower mids. The result? Slightly forward leaning vocals and a bit less body. The GH4 is not for those who like their sound lush and weighty. Still, the low-mids aren’t completely ignored, and you’ll still get the full spectrum of sound in this frequency range. It does have some warmth, folks. Is it fleshy enough to make rock choruses sound massive? No. But that’s not what Grado is about. If the devil is in the details, then the GH4 is one devilish headphone. Acoustic instruments, man. I’ll say it again. Grado is somehow able to extract the most romantic subtleties in string performances that I’ve ever heard.
While a straight critical listening headphone might get a precise reading of sound, the GH4 interprets it in a way that no Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic can match. Vocals have an airy quality that make any great soprano singer sound like she’s whispering God’s message into your ears. Strings seem to deliver the essence of the musician’s emotion, conveying an extremely authentic timbre that is as expressive as it is accurate. And although this headphone is on the brighter side, it delivers peaks with slightly softened edges, making the highest registers relatively easy on the ear. Trust me, stoners,..Nothing will get you as high as the high frequencies of a Grado headphone.
The GH4 delivers a predictably spacious soundstage, with a definite sense of depth and height. Certainly, the expansiveness of the GH4 is hard to beat at this price.
Nothing else on the market sounds quite like a Grado. So, you’ll be the owner of a very unique headphone, especially with a limited edition model. But if you’re strapped for cash and don’t care much for pine, go for the more classic and cheaper RS2e. It sounds extremely similar, and if one were to do a blind comparison, only the shiniest of golden ears could tell the difference.
Headphone Dungeon Score
If Grado would only put a touch more low-end in their cans, I’d give it 5 skulls. Ugh.
You can find these headphones for the best deal at:
Transducer Type: Dynamic
Operating Principle: Open Air
Frequency Response: 18 – 24,000 hz
SPL 1mW: 99.8 dB
Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
Driver Matched dB: .05 dB
Find the GH4 for the best price at Audio 46: Grado GH4 Headphones