A visit to Grado's Brooklyn headphone factory
The Audiophiliac visits Grado's Brooklyn factory to document the fabrication and assembly of the most affordable "e" Series headphone, the SR60e.
Grado manufactures all of its new "e" Series headphones (and phono) cartridges in a funky looking four story building in Brooklyn, NY. There's no "Grado" logo or signage of any kind, just a graffiti covered door on the storefront. I've been there before, but most first time visitors probably think they wrote down the wrong address. I rang the bell, and was greeted by a smiling John Grado, and after we said our hellos he introduced his son Jonathan, who just recently joined the company. Grado is a family-owned business, founded by John's uncle, Joe Grado, in 1953; it started making headphones in 1989.
The company rarely introduces new models, but just recently Grado revised the headphone line. The "e" Series of headphones starts with the entry-level SR60e and goes all the way up to the PS1000e flagship, there are 10 models in all. John started working on the "e" Series two years ago, and he built countless prototypes that didn't make the cut before he was satisfied. Jonathan Grado is working on social media and marketing for the "e" Series. Grado products are distributed in 68 countries worldwide.
I wanted to see how headphones are made, so they took me downstairs to start the tour. The injection molding of the plastic parts and pressing metal parts are done by human operated machines, but the headphones are hand-assembled on the upper floors of the building. There's no automation or robots cranking out headphones, here in Brooklyn it's all on a very human scale. The workers really seemed to enjoy the process; most of them were taught by John Grado, who has handmade thousands of headphones. If he needs to roll up his sleeves to build a bunch of headphones to get an order out on time, he'll do it. Jonathan is learning how to assemble phono cartridges.
Every square foot of the space is utilized, but John Grado doesn't want to move to a larger building, so some headphone parts are fabricated offsite. For example, Grado drivers are made by a local supplier in New York and other parts are sourced in New Jersey and Connecticut. I've heard the new Grado SR80e and SR325e headphones, and they're both superb!
I shot a series of images to illustrate the building of a set of Grado SR60e headphones; it's a fascinating process.