An Audiophiles True Wireless? – Grado GT220 Review

grado GT220 earbuds

Over the course of a few decades, the homegrown Brooklyn company Grado has garnered a significant amount of notoriety for designing handcrafted headphones. Their selection offers some of the best on the market today, with their reference, professional, and prestige series of headphones. They’ve also dabbled in wireless headphones and IEMs as well. When I listen to a Grado product, I get a unique timbre that’s almost addicting to listen to. One of the only other areas Grado has yet to dabble in is true wireless, and now, they’ve reached that milestone. The GT 220 is their first true wireless earphone. It costs $259.99, which is a competitive price that looks to compete with the likes of Apple and Sennheiser. Can Grado transfer their particular sound to true wireless?

Packaging contents

What You Get

Grado’s white box packaging makes a return here in true wireless form. Like most buds of this style, the packaging quite simple, and includes limited accessories. The earpieces and charging case are separated in their foam inserts, while the rest of the contents are stored inside a white box. The only other items included are your USB-C charging cable, and two extra sets of ear tips. You’ll also get a user guide, which will help you in figuring out the GT 220’s touch-sensitive interface.

Earbud body

Look and Feel

You can usually differentiate a Grado headphone from an assortment of other brands. Their DIY like aesthetic makes for a unique design that’s easy to spot and gives Grado a certain aura of personality. It’s hard to bring that character to a true wireless system, but the GT220 still brings a certain flavor to their design. This is probably the most modern a Grado product has ever looked, with its sleek, black housing shape, to the LED light-up insignia of its touch-sensitive faceplates.

The GT 220 is also as light as a feather, making for less pressure on your ear, as you can almost feel your head become lighter. That’s not to say you can’t feel the housing, because the larger body makes it a bit more apparent of a fit. Luckily, it never distracts from your listening, just make sure to twist the earpiece in the right place as the user guide says. This way you’ll get the best fit, and the best sound. The spout seemed a little long at first but turned out to be exactly the right size for my ears. 

Earbud touch controls

Design and Functionality

True wireless drivers are never really much, but it’s worth mentioning that the GT220 uses 8mm dynamic drivers that can output a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz. It’s a simple system that promises Grado’s quality of rich and colorful signal output. Most of the interior design goes into powering the GT220’s touch-sensitive controls. Having easy to navigate controls on a true wireless is an important factor in their overall value, as even though the sound is the main selling factor, simple operations for accessing features matters a lot for people looking for multi-purpose use from their earbuds.  

The left and right buds each hold different touch-sensitive controls. The user guide can quickly help you figure it out, but playing around with the earbuds for a short while will probably give you enough knowledge of the system. The surface uses finger taps to activate its features, with the right bud relegating most of the playback controls and the left bud accessing voice assistant and phone calls. A single tap on the right side will activate play/pause, while double-tapping skips to the next track. Holding down each bud at different times will switch between increasing and decreasing volume. Each action is on a tiny delay but is incredibly responsive, and I never had any issue using these controls. Some actions even have a very satisfying feedback sound, which gives the GT220 a more future-like feel. 

Earbud battery

Bluetooth

The GT220 supports Bluetooth 5.0, for the latest wireless connection that features high bandwidth and range.  The only CODECs featured here are SBC, AAC, and aptX. I would have liked to see at least aptX HD, or LDAC, but the GT220 only backs these options.

Battery Life

On a single charge, the GT220 can last up to six hours. The charing case contains 5 full charges, which along with a 2 hour charge time, gives these earbuds a total of 36 hours of life. Not substantial, but definitely an ample amount of use that will definitely last you through subway rides, long car trips, and long walks for you’re commute. 

Soundstage

An impressive true wireless soundstage is hard to come by in my opinion, but the GT220 produces an enjoyable interior headspace. A lot of musical elements don’t appear as expansive, but the more extreme panning information is respected to a certain degree. Elements like vocal harmonies and ambient effects do a good job branching out of what feels like a flat circle of a stage. In tracks like “Wolf in the Breast” by the Cocteau Twins, where multiple voices can be heard surrounding the main vocal of the chorus, the harmonies sound distant, but effective in the spatial placement of the mix.

Other instruments like chimes or a reverb–caked guitar strumming a single, echoing chord sound get a respectable amount of space for a true wireless, even if the amplitude is a little less forward. When the track calls for it, the GT220 can show some adequate stereo width in a linear fashion. However, most of the time instrumentals seem to have a locked space operating closer to the center of your head. Drum kits never leave the middle of your head, but the layering does an okay job of getting this limited space to sound articulate. The best aspect that the GT220 has going for it in terms of sound quality is its imaging. Everything just sounds bigger on the GT220, which is the closest the sound signature gets to resembling Grado’s likeness.          

Low End

The bass isn’t necessarily boomy, or thick in any way, but instead has this very clean and present tonality. It shows a sense of depth in some areas but is entirely consistent in its forward-leaning coloration. On the track Invisible Lights by Tangerine Dream, the lead synth bass embraced a clear sophistication that played with the dynamics of the song really well on this earbud. The bass will definitely satisfy bass heads too, and the powerful image response mixed with the strong clarity in the low end gives bass-heavy tracks a significant amount of weight. There’s a track called “La Mala Ordina” that features The Rita, clipping, Benny the Butcher, and Elcamino where synth bass dives deep enough to make the dooming nature of the song effective. When the track dissolves into a messy, low-end noise-induced chaos, the GT220 surprisingly presents it with full clarity, which is very impressive.

Mids

As forward as the bass leans, the lower mids come with it. They take all the clean qualities from the lower end and lift them up into the lower mid register, with a few notches here and there. Electric guitars are granted a bit more shape and power from here, making for some explosive hard rock, and punk sounds, but other elements like vocals don’t share equal limelight. While tracks like “Open Wound” by Svalbard contain heavy rushes of solid metalcore progressions, the screaming vocals from both performers on the track aren’t given the proper appearance. However, upper mids are extremely more clear by comparison. Male and female vocals with upper mid registers offer a lot more clarity.

Highs

One of my personal highlights of this true wireless, the higher end of the GT 220 produces its share of sweet tones. The highs give these buds a nice sense of top-end emphasis that evens out the tonality of the more powerful imaging of the bass. Although the response can appear somewhat thin at first, they started to grow on me the more I listened. Tracks like “Driving” from the band Grouper do a great job reproducing the high-end reverb tails of decaying pianos and vibrating melodic vocal resonance. It was a really delightful response that did a great job filling out the overall timbre of the GT 220.

Summary

In terms of overall quality, the GT 220 stacks up with the rest of the popular true wireless models in this price range, even if it’s a little inflated for being labeled as audiophile earbuds. Even though they might not reach the audiophile standard Grado has accomplished with past products, the GT 220 still proves to be a valuable item. With its superb and functional interface and its highly satisfying imaging, Grado has shown a new talent for delivering a solid true wireless system, and with future improvements, has the potential to really be one of the best. 

Pros and Cons

Pros: Powerful imaging, satisfying controls, stable fit

Cons: CODEC options, price.  

Specs

Bluetooth  5.0
Battery Life  36 Hours
Headphone Battery  6 hours; 50mAH
Case Battery 5 full charges; 500mAH
Charging USB-C, Wireless; 2 Hours
CODECs aptX, AAC
Frequency Response  20Hz-20kHz
Impedance  32 Ohms

The Grado GT220 is available from Audio 46.

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