An evening walk in the neighborhood along a row of custom homes that could be harboring anything sinister or genius, Sean mentions an article he’d read about Grado Labs headphones.
John Grado’s company operates out of a south Brooklyn townhouse tinkering on and assembling some of the most coveted headphones on the market. They haven’t advertised since the 1960s, rarely evolve the drivers, and, under the son Jonathon’s recent supervision, are slowly adapting to social media platforms.
According to Casey Johnston in “The Never-Advertised, Always Coveted Headphones Built and Sold in Brooklyn,” Grado will “expend as much quality as cost allows on the audio itself, often at the expense of style on the lower-end models.” They build their brand and reputation on quality of sound rather than latest trending style. Grado Labs function as that unusual testament to someone doing it their own way, not giving into the market or dominant cultural pressures, and succeeding.
When Johnston asked: “What if a big company, say, Apple, came knocking wanting to expand into a new hardware area? ‘It's not for sale,’ John said. He likes the hands-on process of taking headphones from pieces to product and being involved in the minutiae of the business. Selling, or even expanding the space enough that he would become more removed, isn't in his interest.”
Even as Jonathan prepares to raise Grado Labs profile, Johnston says there is no intention to “bring back advertising or celebrity endorsements. For the foreseeable future, it's just the Grados in their narrow townhouse making the little-known, well-loved line of headphones.”
The streets remained fairly quiet, empty porches suggesting nothing. It is a thrilling idea, imagining a mad audiophile tinkering their way past cluttered floors to a plush listening room to spin vinyl renditions of Ella Fitzgerald. I wonder if anyone in this little planned community is, like John Grado, going against expectation on purpose with purpose.