Grado Labs was founded by audio legend Joseph Grado in 1953. Joseph is the inventor of the moving coil phono cartridge and holder of more than 48 patents. Now retired, Joseph was inducted into the Audio Hall Of Fame in 1982
John Grado, the current CEO, grew up sweeping the factory floor and learning to listen from his uncle Joe. John led the development of the Prestige Series of headphones, winners of more awards than any other headphone line in the world.
Jonathan Grado, John's eldest son, is the V.P. of Marketing for Grado Labs, Inc. "I grew up on the top floor of Grado Labs," says Jonathan, "so now I'm working with people who have known me all my life".
Grado is famous for remarkable headphone and phono cartridge designs.
Born in New York, Joseph Grado left vocational high school at age 16, where he had been studying watch-making and had been at the top of his class. He went to work for Tiffany & Company and also taught the craft of watch-making in the evenings. When he discovered hi-fi sound in the early fifties, he visited Saul Marantz to get help in improving the sound of his audio system. Impressed by Joseph's gifted ear, Marantz sent him over to Sherman Fairchild's floundering hi-fi division. With Saul Marantz making the introductions, Joseph promptly landed a top position in the company. As soon as he came up with a design for a viable product, he went out on his own. Scraping together $2,000, Joseph began to produce phono cartridges. In 1953 he started production of his cartridges on the kitchen table. In 1955 Joseph opened a factory in Brooklyn on the site of his Sicilian born father's grocery business which, to this day, has been the home of Grado Laboratories.
In the early years Grado also produced speakers, turntables and the highly acclaimed wooden tone-arm, which came in several models. In 1963 all of Grado's resources were dedicated to creating the world's finest phono cartridges. Grado Labs ceased production of all other products and, for the next 21 years, focused only on cartridges. In 1976 phono cartridge design was taken to the next level and the first true high-end cartridges were created under the tutelage of Joseph Grado Signature Products. These new cartridges were very highly regarded and were the first to reach a price tag of $1,000. In 1984 Grado introduced the Joseph Grado Signature Tone-arm that was so well received that, even now, years after the last one was shipped, calls are still received inquiring whether any are available for sale.
In the late 1980s Joseph began the development of what was to become the first true high-end dynamic headphone. The introduction of the Joseph Grado Signature Series of headphones was a major event in the evolution of headphone design. Joseph's painstaking design process, combined with nearly a half century of experience manufacturing precision audio devices, astonished even the most critical reviewers. Joseph extended headphone performance to levels previously attained by only the very best full-range speaker systems in areas of dynamics, pitch control, harmonic accuracy and bass quality. In the process, he once again created a new category - true audiophile quality headphones.
Taking the reins in the 1990's, John Grado undertook a new challenge. He set out to redesign the entire Grado line of phono cartridges. John took the knowledge gained while designing the wooden Reference headphones and applied this in the cartridge designs. Grado's system of damping has virtually eliminated resonant distortions in the magnetic and electrical circuits in the cartridge, bringing analog to a new level of performance.
The wooden Reference and Statement Series of phono cartridges have been praised by analog aficionados as "the most significant advancement involving analog reproduction in the last thirty years", and honored with a Golden Note Award for analog design. Grado also revised the entry level cartridges with the Prestige Series which has been touted as the "Best Value" in phono cartridges in the world.
John Borwick of Gramophone wrote about the Prestige Black model, "The Grado brought out most of the tonal accuracy and excitement and, though I've heard better, that was only with cartridges costing about 10 times the price." Hi-Fi Choice rated the Prestige Gold model "Best Buy" in a field of moving coils costing 3 to 4 times the price. John then created the Grado Statement cartridge, which a world-renowned analog reviewer stated "might just be the best cartridge i have ever heard." In 2008 John and the design team reworked all the Grado cartridges, from the Black to the Statement models, and all were upgraded to create the "1" designation. This new series of cartridges, and the continued pursuit in the evolution of analog, shows that Grado intends to be the major player in phono-cartridge design with their continued support of analog.
John Grado also decided, with the urging of his sons Jonathan and Matthew, to enter the in-ear headphone market. The boys realized the importance of this booming segment of the headphone market and that the third generation of Grado would be a part of it. Jonathan and Matthew were both instrumental in the process of voicing of the iGi, GR8 and the GR10.
Jonathan Grado is now Vice President of Marketing for Grado Labs, and in charge of the launch of the third generation of headphones... the 'e' series… in 2014. Although the new headphones look suspiciously similar to the older models, everything about them is improved. From the housings to the wiring, to the cones and coils, The 'e' Series represents our third generation of audio excellence.
An early brochure | Joseph is also an accomplished opera singer | John demonstrating headphones at a hi-fi show in London | Product tester Jonathan | Joseph with his concert poster at Lincoln Center | Rich Grado, V.P. of Business Development, with brother John in Brooklyn
John and Loretta Grado with sons Matthew (L) and Jonathan (R).