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Grado GT220 review: Superb wireless earbuds that justify the price

The Grado GT220 true wireless earbuds cost a few dollars more, but for class-leading sound they're worth it

Grado GT220 inside charging case held in hand
(Image: © Grado Labs)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Compared to price rivals, Grado's GT220 could leave you feeling shortchanged, but one listen and you'll quickly discover these wireless earbuds are brilliantly executed and deliver class-leading audio quality on the go.

Pros

  • +

    Balanced and authentic sound

  • +

    High comfort levels

  • +

    Good battery life

  • +

    Useful touch-controls

Cons

  • -

    Fiddly when changing ear tips

  • -

    No active noise-cancelling

Grado GT220 specs

Price: $259

Colors: Black

Battery life (rated): 6 hours, 36 hours (with charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0

Processor: N/A

Size: Not stated

Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud): 1.5 ounces (charging case)

There’s no shortage of heritage audio brands looking to get in on the wireless earbud market, but Grado’s GT220 true wireless design costs a bit more while raising the audio bar for quality audio fanatics.

A Brooklyn-based audio specialist, Grado has a respected reputation among audiophiles around the world and its signature sound has attracted plenty of plaudits for the way it goes about bringing music to life. Grado has been in business since the 1950s and is perhaps best known for its phono cartridges aimed at all kinds of vinylistas as well as its somewhat quirky, old-school headphone designs. 

The GT220s are the company’s first wireless earbuds and bring connectivity via aptX Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC and AAC codecs also catered for.

Grado GT220 wireless earbuds review: Price and availability

You can buy the Grado GT220 earbuds for $259 via the company website that links to 4ourears.com (opens in new tab) — or you can pick them up in the U.K. discounted to £180 direct from grado.co.uk (opens in new tab) and down on the original £250 retail price. Black is the only finish available and you get a charging case, USB-C charging cable, multiple silicon tips and an owner's manual bundled.

Grado GT220 with accessories placed on marble tabletop

(Image credit: Grado Labs)

Grado GT220 wireless earbuds review: Design and comfort

  • Discreet design
  • Secure fit with high comfort levels
  • Water resistant certification could be higher

The Grado earbuds sport an understated design and look pretty similar to the Sennheiser CX True Wireless earbuds currently available at $128. The matte black polycarbonate housing of the GT220 is expertly finessed, but doesn’t offer much in the way of visual detail apart from the ‘G’ logo on the outward-facing surface that lights up in different colors to indicate connectivity status.

Unlike some of Grado’s full-size headphone designs, the GT220 true wireless is a thoroughly discreet model and I like that there’s no weird attention-grabbing stem as with the AirPods Pro. Inside, the GT220s employ a single 8mm PET (polyethylene terephthalate) driver. Each earbud weighs in at 0.2 ounces and is clearly marked left and right to avoid any confusion when it comes to fitting. The contoured shape makes a good fit in my ears and three pairs of silicon ear tips are included to help achieve the best acoustical seal; I opt for the larger sized ear tips, which are effective at blocking out external background sounds.

Grado GT220 with charging case on stone slab

(Image credit: Future)

The ‘twist to lock’ fitting process takes a couple of tries to master but once secure, comfort levels are high and there’s no sense of irritation or discomfort even on longer listening session. I'm impressed by just how well Grado has managed to balance comfort levels with the feeling of a secure fit on its first set of wireless earbuds. The IPX2 water and sweat resistant certification means you can be reasonably confident about wearing the GT220s out and about, but I’d look for a higher rated model as suitable partner for a sweaty workout routine.

Grado GT220 wireless earbuds review: Controls and digital assistant

There’s no control app — you really won’t need to tweak the EQ — but Grado has built-in a high level of touch-control functionality. The ‘G’ logo on each of the earbuds is touch sensitive and a quick tap on the left bud initiates voice assistant — Siri and Google Assistant compatible — and phone controls, while the right gives music controls. For the latter, a single tap will play or pause a track while a double tap selects the next track and a triple tap reverts back to the previous song. Pressing and holding the left bud reduces the volume level and the same action to the right earbud raises the level. 

It’s perhaps a bit too easy to initiate unintentional commands if I raise my arms in a stretch above my head or accidentally touch my ear, for example, but after a few unexpected track skips and inadvertent playback you quickly learn the gestures to avoid.

Grado GT220 wireless earbuds review: Sound quality

  • Expertly balanced sound across all frequencies
  • Clear and effortless vocals

With a suitably sized ear tip in place to give best acoustical seal, the level of musical involvement delivered by the 8mm full-range driver is truly remarkable. I’m surprised to see that aptX HD isn’t supported for the highest quality Bluetooth signals given the company’s audiophile heritage, but in terms of outright sound quality via standard aptX, the GT220 is seriously impressive.

The depth these buds bring to music is immediately apparent. Rudimental’s “Spoons (feat. MNEK & Syron)” is delivered with a surprisingly deep bass sound without being over bloated. There’s plenty of texture and detail to the vocals and I feel I am hearing Newton Faulkner's version of “Teardrop” just as the artist and recording engineer originally intended. Some earbuds have a contoured and slightly unnatural sound where I often feel I’m listening to a nuanced interpretation of a song, but with the Grado there’s no cutting corners and every instrument is revealed in the mix with ease.

As a fair-weather cross-country runner, it’s vital any earbud is up to the task and won’t work itself loose. I’m pleased to say that the snug fit keeps the GT220 in place when the running conditions allow.

Grado GT220 on black marble slab

(Image credit: Grado Labs)

Most of my streaming is done using Qobuz via an iPhone and the Grado buds are perfectly pitched for showing off high-quality content from my Studio tier subscription. I love how much more involved in the music I feel thanks to the extra detail I can hear on tracks such as “I Do This All the Time” by Self Esteem and “Strong” by London Grammar. Spotify streams also fair well even at the lower data rate and Billie Eilish’s bass heavy “Bad Guy” comes across with plenty of punchy impact. The track’s finger clicks perhaps show up some artifacts of the lossy format, resulting in a slight reduction in clarity, but it’s very minor and the GT220s seem remarkably at ease with anything I play.

Grado GT220 wireless earbuds review: App and features

  • No app control
  • No active noise-cancelling

As with the aforementioned Sennheiser CX True Wireless, the Grado doesn’t support active noise-cancelling (ANC), allowing the company to focus its efforts on the audio tech developed to deliver simple, beautiful sound. The lack of ANC could be seen as a disadvantage at the price, but the snug fit and effective seal from the ear tips ensure good levels of passive isolation from noisy surroundings.

Grado GT220 wireless earbuds review: Battery life

  • Good – 6 hours
  • Full recharge in 2 hours

Grado claims up to 6 hours playback at a moderate volume level. Total battery life extends to 36 hours and is based on fully charged earbuds (6 hours) combined with a fully charged case, which can bring the headphones back to full capacity 5x over. Recharging takes just 2 hours.

Grado GT220 in the palm of hand

(Image credit: Future)

Grado GT220 wireless earbuds review: Call quality

A useful feature for any wireless headphone is the ability to accept incoming calls. Conversations come through loud and clear and voices sound cleaner and more intelligible than the earpiece of my iPhone 8, making a significant improvement to the sound quality experience of a call. Bluetooth signal connectivity remains reassuringly stable too, even when I wander away from my phone into a neighboring room.

Grado GT220 wireless earbuds review: Verdict

Grado’s GT220 true wireless earbuds are one of the best-sounding designs I’ve heard. With decent battery life and recharge time they're perfectly pitched for listening to all kinds of music either on the move or for more serious listening at home. 

They're aimed at audiophiles looking to hear Grado’s signature sound in a true wireless product with top audio quality as a priority over everything else and as such, the lack of active noise-cancellation and control app facilities really shouldn’t be seen as a deal breaker at the price.

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.