Hemp headphones from Grado Labs

"It's hard to imagine that headphones look better or sound better."

  • Amazingly detailed sound

  • Precise and clear compensation

  • Nice wood design

  • Comfortable for long listening sessions

  • Strong quality control

  • Some rough surfaces

  • Open design limits usability

  • Restrained bass reproduction

Grado Labs made headlines with its affordable hemp headphones for $ 420. When John Grado explained to me why hemp is an excellent material for making headphones, I was curious to hear the results for myself.

Now that I have done it, I am beginning to understand the complex tone of coziness and seriousness that I heard from Grado during this interview. Hemp may seem like a gimmick, but the performance of these cans is no joke.

No frills, classic design

There is not much to consider with the functions of the Grado Hemp headphones. They are refreshingly simple. Plug them in and they work. The hemp headphones come in a discreet white box with a letter from the Grado family.

These open-ended wired monitors consist of only two parts – the headphones themselves and a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter that I immediately covered from the end of the cable and put in a drawer because I didn't have an E -Guitar play or no recording make studio.

After using over-ears with a single cable that ran from one side for years, it initially felt strange to put on the hemp headphones. They throw you back to a time when cables were king and every headset needed them.

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

Speaking of cables, the cables are particularly thick with the hemp headphones. Compared to my Sony MDR-7506 studio monitors, they are about twice the size and not wrapped. If I don't wind the cable, I don't get it nearly as tangled as my MDRs, but it also means that the cable is incredibly long.

I understand why Grado contains so much wire, but there is a lot of cable to find a place and it usually ends up in my lap. Plus, the added cable has a certain weight, and although it's not that much of a nuisance, I've definitely noticed it compared to other wired headphones.

The ear cups are simple. Nowadays, you generally see some kind of leather or leather-like material wrapped around memory foam, but Grado chooses a material that they have chosen specifically because it works with the drivers to produce sound. In this case it is a simple, classic foam. It feels a little rough, but the headphones breathe well and are good for long listening sessions, provided you don't move them a lot.

I do not recommend exchanging them, although you can. I switched it to the "more typical" leather foam as a test, and the audio quality dropped dramatically. Grado knows what it does when it selects materials.

The details

The outstanding feature of the hemp headphones is of course the hemp. Because of the way they had to mix it to make the material work like normal wood, the grain of each headset appears unique. The two-tone circular wooden swirls are beautiful from afar and up close. The ear cups attract your eyes and keep them there.

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

This is good because other parts of the headset are not quite as sophisticated. The joints that connect the hemp and maple earphones to the headband are made of plastic and are not completely smooth. If you've ever designed a model that requires you to pull the parts out of a plastic sheet, you know what I mean when I say that there are edges and slight bumps that you can feel when you run your finger over them .

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

In addition, the mesh that separates the driver from your ear is somewhat frayed and imperfect.

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

In short, it looks like this headset was assembled by hand. What it was. I can't blame them too much for that, but since the hemp headphones cost $ 420, I should mention that most of that cost doesn't apply to some of the non-audio parts.

That doesn't mean they're overpriced. No, they are worth every penny.

An incomparable listening experience

I've always been a headphone junkie, so I have a lot of experience of how music sounds from a variety of sources. Despite this experience, I wasn't prepared for what the hemp headphones sounded like.

I sat motionless for about 15 minutes when I let Tidal play a series of songs based on an artist I like (The Decemberists, for those who are wondering). While it was run by artists I didn't know and tracks I had never heard, it didn't matter. I feel with these Grado headphones.

I heard the nuances of the vocals, the melody, every single instrument and the nice mix of everyone who came together. The reproduction is both different and mixed. It's a beautiful audio paradox that I'm still trying to turn my head around.

But I can hear everything and it almost brought me to tears. I heard not only with my ears, but also with my heart.

I feel with these Grado headphones.

With the Grado I have the feeling that at a concert I pressed my ear to each Soundstage speaker at the same time, but without being limited to my unique physical existence (and blowing out my hearing). I played drums in a band and this music makes me feel like I'm back on the top of the stage.

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

Speaking of volume, these can be loud. Given the fact that the hemp headphones really produce excellent audio, it can be tempting to really increase this volume, which seems to improve in quality when I press it up. Keep in mind that if you press it too loudly for too long, you can really damage your hearing.

I think the best way to describe how the sound sounds is in one word: balance. I claim that music in highs, mids or lows shouldn't be too strong. Sure, booming bass may sound good, but too much bass overwhelms other frequencies and hides too much of the nuance of the music. These hemp headphones are like studio monitors on steroids, because they are excellently balanced, offer neutral reproduction and at the same time offer a really outstanding clarity. My Sony MDR-7506 monitors are also balanced, but don't offer the level of detail that the hemp headphones offer.

If you turn my arm, I admit that the Grado's bass isn't quite as strong as I would like it to be, but it could also be because most people are used to overblowing the bass. To be completely honest, I prefer the detail and precision that can be found here.

I think the best way to describe how the sound sounds is in one word: balance.

The hemp headphones have an open style that is praised for their sound quality but not for their sound isolation. In order to enjoy them to the fullest, you need a quiet room in which you can be alone with your music. Open backs also tend to let out as much sound as they let in and are therefore not suitable for an office environment (not that this will be a major problem in 2020).

Our opinion

The swirling hemp looks beautiful and its implementation in headphones from Grado sounds so good here that it makes your heart beat faster. This is a masterful combination of visual and auditory beauty. The details of the build are not perfect, but it doesn't matter. You will find it hard to find this type of music experience anywhere else, and almost certainly not at a lower price.

Is there a better alternative?

"Better" is subjective here, but there are alternatives. The V-Moda M200 Studio reference monitors are a little cheaper and offer a similar EQ experience, but they don't offer the same expansive sound that we praise Grado for. For much less, the Sony MDR-7506 studio monitors offer the same neutral sound, albeit an overall flatter audio expression in comparison. They honestly don't think of a candle for the audio reproduction of the hemp headphones, but they are the industry standard, so this has some weight.

How long will they last?

Grado offers a one-year warranty on the hemp headphones, which is pretty standard. Open-back headphones are inherently more fragile than their closed-back brothers. Therefore, treat them with caution. If you do this, they should take a long time.

Should you buy them

Yes. The Grado hemp headphones are absolutely worth the price just for their sound reproduction, and you get the added benefit of a unique hemp wood pattern.

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