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Grado GT220 Review – Built Different

The Pitch –

The GT220 is Grado’s first TWS model. This is an audio-focused product with in-house designed dynamic driver. It retails for $259 USD.

Pros –

Excellent seal and passive noise isolation, Streamlined and reliable connectivity with wide codec support, Natural yet high-energy sound tuning, Above average technical performance

Cons –

Below average call quality, No IP rating, Treble extension leaves to be desired, Background hiss

Verdict –

The GT220 is easily one of the most tasteful and refined TWS earphones on the market for both critical and portable listening, making it hard to beat for those wanting a non-frills experience and excellent sound quality.


Introduction –

Grado are an all-American company with a wonderful story and heritage. They’ve been making audio products since the 50’s when the word DAC would cause scared and confused glances. The company is most known in the modern day for their headphones, the lower-end models being frequently recommended to new audiophiles for their modest pricing and revealing sound tuning. They’re handmade in Brooklyn and carry a rich personality. Within this, the GT220 comes across as an oddity. Following the GW100, this is the company’s 2nd wireless product but also a huge departure from their usual form factor with an entirely new shell design and form factor in general. Despite this, Grado promise their signature sound tuning and performance.

The GT220 retails for $259 USD. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a set here.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Busisoft and Grado very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the GT220 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Bluetooth: 5.0 with aptX, AAC and SBC
  • Battery life: 6 hours/36 hours with case
  • Charging: USB-C, Wireless
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Impedance: 32 ohms

Behind the Design –

Custom Driver

You rarely know what to expect with TWS earphones, some being generic, some genuinely impressive. Grado were never one to launch a product half-heartedly and the GT220 is evidently no exception. Inside is an 8mm dynamic driver made in-house by the company. It has a PET construction which is a standard thermo-plastic with good properties such as decent rigidity but also very light weight and likely also what the company is most familiar with. Moreover, Grado has tuned the driver and acoustics to provide their ideal sound. It’s clear here that the sound is a priority for the GT220 which is actually not always the case with TWS earphoens, many of which focus on providing a more rounded feature-rich experience instead.

Unboxing –

The GT220 comes professionally packaged within a clean white hard box whose classic aesthetic harkens back to the pizza-boxes of older Grados. Inside users will find the earphones and case within a foam inlet in addition to a Type-C charging cable and a total of 4 pairs of silicone ear tips including those pre-installed on the earphones. As with most TWS earphones, this is a fairly non-frills experience but sufficient to get the user started.

Design –

Coming into this review I had no idea what to expect from Grado given their very limited experience with this kind of product. At the very least, the GR-series are some of my personal favourites, and it’s clear the company has a knack for more than just headphones. In person I found myself enjoying the GT220 far more than I expected – especially given that I found online content made the GT220 look somewhat generic. They assume a 2-piece construction that feels sleek, modern and charming. Though they look cheap in some photos, I found the soft-touch finish and high-quality plastics to provide a very pleasant in-hand feel. There’s a small seam running their perimeter but soft edges that don’t cause discomfort. Similarly, this is a very shapely earphone that really complements each curve and fold of the outer ear.

Due to their long nozzles, tip selection is imperative and something I feel the company can work on in terms of the included accessories. I do wish the nozzles were angled slightly upwards, generally I find such deep-fitting earphones with this shaping give a more reliable fit whereas with the Grado’s I do need to twist them a few times to get the best seal. I do enjoy the clean white on matte black colour scheme that imbues a charming retro aesthetic and sprinkles of the company’s rich legacy into an otherwise clean, modern design. The faceplates are touch sensitive and a small mic cut-out is visible just in front of the faceplate. This is a very admirable first effort from the company and it’s clear a lot of thought was put into this design though do note the lack of IPX rating.

Fit & Isolation –

With a highly ergonomic shape, the GT220 provides one of the best fits I’ve experienced from a wireless earphone once seated correctly. It feels like a good faux-custom IEM with a long nozzle promoting a notably deep fit and excellent seal. They aren’t especially low-profile, however, as the housings are larger than average. In return, as they appear to be fully sealed, I found wind-noise during outdoor use to be a non-issue. Of note, I was getting an inconsistent seal with the stock tips, however, switching them out for more traditional flat-top TWS tips gave me a much more reliable fit. As aforementioned, I do have to twist them to achieve an ideal seal due to the nozzle shaping, articulating tips like Final E-tips can help here that said. I found these to be a comfortable earphone, though again, tip choice is imperative here to ideally orientate the larger housings in the ear.

Once fit appropriately, they are incredibly stable even during active use such as running and skipping despite a lack of stabilising fins or rings. I personally prefer this approach since the rings can aggravate my ears over time, the GT220 was comfortable for my ears over its 5hr runtime. Convsersely, those averse to wearing pressure from sealing earphones may find the deep fit here uncomfortable. Isolation is also a high point as expected. They attenuate far more than the average TWS earphone and about as much as a good sealed wired IEM. I found them to be more isolating than even some of the better ANC models on the market simply due to their level of fit depth and seal. These are a great choice for commute and noisy environments as a result.

Case –

The case follows suit with a rubberised finish and plastic construction in addition to having a chic rounded design. It’s very lightweight for its size but still feels well put together in the hand. However, its thickness, likely necessitated by the elongated nozzle of the earphones themselves, means it is one of the less portable and pocketable cases on the market. Otherwise, the hinge is a little light but has minimal wobble, a weak reverse magnet and strong lock when closed for good action overall. The earphones themselves are also very well secured with strong magnets, and I found them to reliably and quickly power on and off – where some competing designs sometimes wouldn’t register in the case or were easily jostled loose even with the lid closed.

The case is also able to power off the earphones when depleted and features Qi wireless charging or wired over USB Type-C, quoted to take around 2 hours. 4 Status LEDs are visible on the front that turn on when the earphones are returned to the case, revealing the remaining charge in the case itself. I was fully expecting the finish to grow tacky over time, but it does feel noticeably better than older rubberised finishes and I haven’t experienced any abnormal wear or breakdown over my months of testing which is a great sign. I do wipe down each earbud after workouts for peace of mind, and would recommended this simply for personal hygiene. 

Usability –

Connectivity

The GT220 continues momentum, implementing the latest BT5.0 capable chipset. LDAC, which is the most capable codec, is missing but the chipset offers AAC and aptX HD which provides the 2nd highest throughput, maintaining a strong experience on both IOS and Android among other platforms. Upon removing the earphones from their carrying case, they enter pairing mode and, if already paired, will attempt to auto-reconnect. The GT220 connected over aptX HD to both my Pixel 4 and Xperia 5 II and offered very good, just shy of great range. The connection was stable and free of cutouts during my testing, even in as busy an area as we see nowadays during the pandemic. They were edged out in range by only a select few models such as the Sennheiser MTW2. They are able to pair independently in mono as well, and each earpiece can switch between master/slave too. They provided one of the more streamlined and reliable wireless experiences I’ve encountered.

Charing & Battery Life

Grado quote 6hrs of runtime on their website with the case offering an additional 5 full charges from the case for a total of 36hrs combined. As the earphones offer very high volume, I was content on the lowest volume setting where I was frequently beating the rated figure. After 6hrs of listening, Android reported an additional 20% charge remaining, a great result. Grado reports it takes 2hrs to fully charge the case and don’t mention charging time on the earphones themselves.

Touch Controls

TWS earphones really popularised this control scheme and, thankfully, appear to finally be implementing is properly in the latest generation of models. The GT220 offers relatively reliable and responsive touch controls that weren’t ideal but also not irksome during my testing. They aren’t nearly as responsive as the capacitive panels on the smart Pixel Buds nor the new Sennheiser Momentum, but accurate around 95% of the time. The simple tap gestures and clear boundaries on the faceplate surely aid this. One strange niggle is that the audio feedback doesn’t always play on a successful command and there’s a slight delay which can slow down operation.

Call Quality

Unfortunately, the earphones falter here. As with most audio-focused TWS products, the mic quality is just serviceable in a pinch but not reliable for frequent use. Recipients noted I sounded distant and hollow, discernible only in quiet environments. There’s minimal to no ambient noise cancellation making them a poor choice for those prioritizing headset functionality.

Next Page: Sound Breakdown

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