BH wishes to pay tribute to Joseph Grado, founder of the eponymous company, who passed away 1 month ago at the age of 90. A visionary, he is notably recognized as the inventor of the moving coil cartridge…
Grado Labs was founded in 1953 in Brooklyn by joseph grado (1924-2015), son of a Sicilian immigrant. Now famous, the Grado firm is internationally recognized for its headsets and his phono cartridges. Credited as the inventor of the moving coil cartridge, and holder of more than 48 patents, Joseph Grado was a true genius in audio engineering.
Born in New York, joseph grado left vocational high school – where he studied watchmaking – at the age of 16. He worked for Tiffany & Company, luxury jeweler since 1837, while providing evening classes. When he discovered High-Fidelity in the early 1950s, he visited Saul Marantz to help him improve the performance of his audio system. Impressed by Joseph’s golden ear, Mr Marantz sends him to the businessman’s Hi-Fi division Sherman Fairchild, so lacking in inspiration.
With the recommendation of Saul Marantz, Joseph manages to move up the ranks quickly. Once he was able to design a viable product, he wisely decided to go his own way. It brings together 2000$, and began production of phono cartridges in 1953, with his kitchen table as his only workshop! A kitchen which will therefore be the first house of the firm grade… Two years later, Joseph Grado opened a modest factory in Brooklyn, on the site of the grocery store that once belonged to his Sicilian-born father. Until now, all Grado products are made in this small factory in Brooklyn!
At its inception, the company grade also manufactured loudspeakers, vinyl turntables, and even arms for record players (its concept of wooden arms, available in several models, was acclaimed by connoisseurs). But in 1963, all of Grado’s resources were focused on creating the best phono cartridges in the world. Grado Labs ceases all other production for the next 21 years.
In 1976, phono cartridge design reached a whole new level, and the first true high-end cell was created under the tutelage of Joseph Grado, through his Signature range. Highly coveted, these cells were the first to flirt with the thousand dollars! In 1984, Grado extended its Signature line with a choice piece: a tone arm. It was so appreciated that even today, the firm receives phone calls to find out if a copy might be lying around in a corner of the workshop… True!
At the end of the 1980s, Joseph began to develop what would very quickly become the first truly high-end dynamic headphones. The introduction of Grado Signature helmets on the market represents a major turning point in the evolution of headphones. Joseph’s thoroughness and dedication, combined with nearly half a century of experience in crafting precision audio components, impressed the most critical audiophiles of the time.
Headphones have never achieved such high performance: only the best loudspeaker systems could claim such high-level dynamics, bass and harmonic precision. Once again, he is at the origin of a new segment, that of Audiophile Headphones. The name of Joseph Grado thus found its place in 1982 on the Audio Hall of Fame, and will forever resonate in the memories of audiophiles everywhere.
John Grado, his nephew, took the helm of the company in 1990. He is at the origin of the product lines that we know today. John invented more than 25 different helmets, and the Prestige Series has won more awards than any other helmet line in the world. It’s been a long time since he was sweeping the floor of the workshop in the 1960s… At first, John lived with his family on the top floor of the factory in Brooklyn. With his wife loretta, he built his own headphones on a small workbench, every day, for several years.
At the same time, he had the idea of building the Grado Towers : 1.80m high speakers, each equipped with 32 RS1 transducers contained in a wooden box. Due to the incredible success of its helmets, the house grade does not find great commercial interest in relaunching itself in the loudspeaker segment… The Towers remain at the prototype stage, wisely installed until today in the Grado Listening Room. A listening room that Wired magazine calls ” The Magic Room !
Headphones in mind, John Grado did not forget the roots of the brand, and set about redesign the entire range of cells phone. He draws inspiration from his work on the Reference Series wooden headphones, and applies this concept to phono cartridges. the damping system imagined eliminates all vibrations in the magnetic and electrical circuits, taking analog sound to the next level in quality.
The Reference and Statement wooden series very quickly acquired an excellent reputation among the most demanding vinyl players. These cartridges embody the biggest step forward in 30 years in terms of analog sound reproduction, and receive a Golden Note Award. John Grado took the redesign of his cell line to the Prestige series, which certainly has the best price/performance ratio in the world.
John has taken Grado helmets from one generation to the next, introducing all the helmets that are available today. In 2008, he gave birth to the i-series, which embodies the second generation of Grado helmets. For the first time, he decides to create a in-ear headphones, to meet the request of his sons Jonathan and Matthew. This pair of intras was born in 2011, and his boys pushed him to make new models, of which they would be the privileged guinea pigs (iGi, GR8, GR10…)!
jonathan grado is now Vice President of Marketing for Grado Labs: “I grew up on the top floor of the Grado factory”, “I now work with people who have known me all my life”. In mid-2014, Jonathan was entrusted with a mission of the utmost importance: to launch the “e” series, which is none other than the third generation of Grado headphones. Although aesthetically similar to the old one, this new batch nevertheless benefits from an in-depth redesign: everything has been improved!
In 2015, joseph grado, historical founder of the brand and talented tenor in his spare time, died at the age of 90 years old. He leaves behind a rich audiophile heritage, and a brand that is among the most respected in its field. His nephew John and his grand-nephew jonathan intend to perpetuate this family tradition! ” When someone buys a helmet from Grado, they become part of the family”.
Much of the information collected for this article has been translated from English by me. You can find the original text, written in the language of Shakespeare, on the manufacturer’s website.