Whiskey a Grado: The Company's First Closed-Back Headphone

I love the Grado SR60, it's one of the best sub-$100 headphones available, and has been for a long, long time. While the sound of the remainder of the Grado line isn't up my ally (a little too bright and lacking in bass tightness for me), these ear-pad, open acoustic headphones have garnered praise and a loyal following for decades.

Grado tends to do their marketing in a very low-key manner. They're rarely at trade shows, and they rarely advertise. I guess they reckon they don't need to spend the money, and I reckon they're probably right. They seem very happy to just serve their loyal customer base and dealers. Every once in a while though, Grado does do something promotional. For example, on two occasions that I know of they've produced special versions of their headphones for Head-Fi. Well...this time they seem to have taken promotion to a whole new level, and have produced the first ever closed back (vented, but not really sealed) headphone.

Evidently, Bushmills reached out to Grado Labs with the idea of making headphones from Whiskey barrels—swords into plowshares, or something like that. Elija Woods (movie star) and Zach Cowie (a DJ and movie soundtrack producer) were also brought in on the project. The Bushmills X Grado headphone went on sale exclusively at Turntable Lab yesterday here...and today it's sold out.

That worked well!

Evidently no reviewer units were released, but if anyone here in the US bought one and would like it measured I'd be glad to pay the shipping both ways and get them back to you within a week. Contact me at tyll(at)innerfidelity.com to arrange it.

I'll not pretend to have done any reporting on this and for more information will simply point you to:

Mario Aguilar's Gizmodo post here (probably the best story about it).

And lastly, this video with Elija Wood and Zach Cowie visiting John Grado at the factory.

As ButtUglyJeff said in this Head-Fi thread about the Bushmills X Grado, "I've never wanted to smell headphones before....." Yeah, me too, it's almost like you'd have to smoke a stogie to complete the listening experience.

Argyris's picture

I'm looking forward to your impressions and measurements if somebody takes you up on your offer. C'mon, people! Send Tyll a pair to do a write up on! smiley

clohmann's picture

The first "audiophile" headphones for me were Grados budget SR60s, The sound was SOOO enjoyable and engaging! As a long time Stereophile reader I had to get a pair after reading their review of these cans way back. I ended up getting their flagship cans from the 90s. All stainless steel they looked cool and sounded great. Now I'm all about the Sennheisers (HD 600s, 650s and the amazing 800s). But listening to those Grados with my Melos SHA-1 Tubed headphone amp/preamp was the bomb! I still use that same headphone amp after 19 years... I just might another pair of Grados some day...

KG_Jag's picture

For about a day now.  Will there be another batch for road?

oscar dziki's picture

I had sr125 cos i had a chance 2 get them for like 50$ and for me it was an opossite of an engineering masterpice. Not very comfy, cable was idioticly thick, heavy and kinda cheapy. I've found their sound  mediocre. Given msrp price around 200 $ it seemd to me surreal. Well i sold them for 120$ :) The buyer was delighted with how they played. I just don't get it. 

Argyris's picture

The Grado sound is a love-it-or-don't kind of thing, and that can even mean that you love it for some music and absolutely hate it for other stuff. I once had an SR225i for a few weeks. Sadly, at the time I was looking for "the One", and they weren't it. They only worked for a few genres, though I can't remember rocking out harder than when I had those things. They reproduced vocals unlike anything else I've ever heard, and they they could communicate a groove in such a way that you couldn't help headbanging like a maniac. Unfortunately, they also made strings sound like tuned, shrieking banshees, so back they went.

Every so often I half-heartedly consider getting another pair of Grados (a bit downstream; I'd probably go with the SR60i), but I always find something completely unrelated to buy instead. I just feel like it's hard to justify even $80 on something I probably won't use all that often.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

....ahhhh yes...from Tyll on this site and in the Ultimate Headphone Guide opening article about how we headphone enthusiasts often share other interests such as whiskey.   I remember the quote as it certainly applied to me!  

Ive heard nothing but good about Grado for years (Consumer Reports* has listed them on the tops of its limited headphone suggestion list for years)...mostly the 80's and 60's...but havent purchased primarily because most of my listening environments are better served by closed back 'phones....which makes these very attractive.   However the list price seems a bit up there...3-4x the cost of the SR80s??  hmm.    Anyhoo,  i hope Tyll gets a pair to try out and shares his thoughts.  

Peace .n. Living in Stereo with a nice glass of Rye or Bourbon.


PS:    I just picked up a Consumer Reports year end electronics suggestion guide.  I was pleased to see they (finally) dedicated a little more page space to headphones.  Havent checked out all the suggestions but was pretty dissapointed to see several Beats headphones on their...sigh....the horror...the horror.


GNagus's picture

Grado did something similar with Dolce & Gabbana but it seems to be a re-branding of the GS1000

Jazz Casual's picture

Love it and the headphones look great. I'd be most interested in hearing a closed Grado. I own a few headphones and have auditioned several others, and Grado's remain the most engaging headphones I've heard. 

thelostMIDrange's picture

would be proud.

donunus's picture

Interested. Want to listen to one and hoping that they are the Grado that sounds just right!

RudeWolf's picture


LAmitchell's picture

Those are BEAUTIFUL!


deckeda's picture

Hey John G, what about a rifle tie-in?

John? Eh, nevermind that's OK.

As a very long-time SR60 owner of course this caught my eye. Irish whisky? How can you go wrong?

I didn't see what they're basing the design on, but if it's their first closed-back model, what could it be?

Gizmodo article link, FYI: http://gizmodo.com/grado-labs-made-gorgeous-cans-out-of-irish-whiskey-ba... -- whereupon they screw it up and say John (the nephew of Joe) is the founder. WTF.

wyd4's picture

Hi there,

So I received my Bushmill X Grado's and what can I say.

Sure they may not measure well, they may not be the last word in soundstage, detail, neutrality etc etc, BUT, and its a big BUT, these are the first headphones I have owned since my LCD2 r1's (with silver dragon cable) that have just made me smile and relax while listening to music.

I cannot comment enough about how engaging and downright pleasent these are to listen to.  I forget I am listening to music and just absorb the sound as if it were completely natural and a part of my conciousness.

Obviosuly everyone has different idea's and preferences, however mine are musicality over technicality and these have it in spades.

Sure I will keep a more neutral pair of headphones on hand for those brief times where I feel the need to pull music apart, but these will be getting most of my head time.  Well when I am not commuting atleast, I will leave that for my little Amperiors.


P.S.  Anyone looking for a closed can, look elsewhere.  These have a vent that is approximately 75% of the circumfrence of the outer cup.  These leak isolate equal to any open can I have used.  These are 'closed' purely aesthetically.


ParkerSmith's picture

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Hear The Difference's picture

He offered (above). I just got a pair and if interest is there, I'm happy to send to Tyll for measuring. It would be most interesting to see the effect, if any, of the "semi-closed" design on isolation as compared to the fully open Grados.

By the way... word to the wise: the white oak wood becomes brittle and fragile with age, compounded by the thinness of the wood that makes up the vent. Mine cracked on each earpiece: Grado did a SUPERB job, very fast, in replacing both cups. Handle them with care and Do Not Squeeze Or Drop Them - they are Way More Fragile than other wood Grados.