Grado’s “High” Fidelity Hemp Headphone – Review

Hey man, have you heard about the new Grado headphones? They’re made of hemp man, and they sound killer. I’ll put a stop to this bit now and introduce the new Grado Hemp headphones properly. Grado is an exciting brand. On face value, I never expect anything superb out of F-cushion type headphones, but I was very impressed with Grado’s reference series. I’ve never heard such a quality studio headphone not feature over the ear cups, but Grado never lets up in the sound department. The new limited edition Hemp headphone is Grado’s latest venture. It may seem like just a gimmick on the surface, but the Hemp headphones have a lot to offer for the price of $420 (I get it). 

For those unfamiliar with Grado, they’re a Brooklyn based family company that’s existed since 1953. Their headphones have sort of a DIY aesthetic to them. Each headphone is handcrafted with care and precision. I highly recommend going to their website to check out their videos detailing how each headphone is made. It’s like having a family recipe passed down from generation to generation, but for headphones. When you buy a pair of Grado’s you’re joining a family of audiophiles who care about quality and craftsmanship. This family includes Neil Young, who’s known for championing audio quality in the industry, and has specifically mentioned Grado headphones. That must feel validating. 

What You Get

The Hemp headphones come in a small white box containing a signed letter from the Grado family, and the headphones of course. The first thing you’ll notice is the smell, yes that’s definitely the hemp. The headphone cable is undetectable but includes a quarter-inch adapter for its eighth-inch connector, which is always a big plus for me. The cable itself is very thick. It’s an 8 pin conductor cable, a type of cable you’d usually see connecting a speaker system. You don’t usually see a lot of consumer headphones sporting this type of cable, but it’s a durable cable that makes for a good quality signal flow. 

Fit

Grado doesn’t exactly make the comfiest fitting headphone in the world, but In my opinion, I don’t believe a lot of F-cushion headphones are. It’s the superb audio quality that’s going to make you listen for a long time. I have comically big ears and just don’t think this type of cup works for me, but if you have normal ears I don’t see this being a big issue. They’re relatively small and light, and they rest on your shoulders pretty well since the cups also turn and face down. I experienced some ear fatigue after a while of listening, but again I don’t see this happening for everybody. The headband is made from fine leather and sits atop your head pretty nicely. 

Design 

As I said before, Grado headphones have a DIY like design, and the Hemp headphones are no different. The overall design is simple but elegant. The hemp material is highly compressed, creating a dampening effect that’s meant to expand the width of the frequency spectrum. The maple housing works in conjunction with the hemp balancing the overall output. This makes for a more full, engaging sonic quality. Grado’s brand new dynamic drivers are specifically suited for this material. They’re de-stressed which controls the diaphragms resonance supporting a tolerance of .05dB. 

Output

I previously talked about the cable being of a certain quality. You’ll get the best output from a higher-end system, and using that quarter-inch adapter. I recommend investing in a solid headphone amp, or soundcard. But if you want to connect straight into your computer or mobile device you’ll still get quality output from the Hemp headphones. The nominal impedance of the headphones is 38 ohms. 

Soundstage 

For a small, f-cousin headphone the soundstage is rather impressive. The hemp headphones have a controlled resonance but represent spaciousness well. It’s a tighter, warmer overall sound, but resonance sometimes leaks away and their presence becomes known. You can fell cymbal crashes reflect off your outer ear, and reverb tails can be perceived through and around you. The string sections of classical tracks and film scores waft through the air like on the soundtrack for “Once Upon a Time in the West” from Ennio Morricone (RIP). The sounds never feel like they properly expand as much as they’re supposed to since the soundstage is kept pretty closed in, but somehow Grado was still able to represent a unique resonance that feels lush, and ambient. 

Low End

This is a thick and punchy low end. Hip-hop and electronic beats have a thumpy, throat feel that makes for a powerful tone. Synthwave tracks have an extra drive to them as well. The Midnights latest LP “Monsters” is a good example of this, so is the in your face sounds of Carpenter Brut. These aren’t the smoothest bass textures, but they have a growling tonality and a rounded edge. 

Mids

A significantly lively set of textures. There’s an emphasis on the low mids here, which makes distorted guitars feature an extra amount of roar to them. Acoustical instruments are where this headphone shines. Beck’s “Sea Change” has a warm and intimate feel, as the sound signature represents the intimate nature of the performance with smooth strums and definition in the vocal range. Higher mids could get a tad harsh, but very rarely. A very full range featuring an energetic set of textures. 

Highs

The Hemp headphones soar in the high end, featuring the smoothest textures out of the frequency spectrum. Thanks to the notable soundstage higher frequencies can present a significant amount of sparkle. There’s also a noble amount of separation going on that the other bands don’t really have. There’s brightness at play here but it works in the overall timbre the high end produces. Cymbals sound like they drift off into the ether, and smooth out creating a lush tone. Great for more ambient tracks, or a soothing female vocal. 

Summary

So the Hemp headphones are more than just a gimmick. They’re a genuinely enjoyable listening experience, featuring complex textures, and pristine color. I recommend the Hemp headphones to any listener, whether you’re an audiophile or not. It’s fairly accessible to all kinds of listeners, plus you can tell your hip friends your headphones are made from hemp and look really cool. If you want to get in on the Grado family, don’t miss out on the Hemp Headphones.   

Available at Audio 46

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