Grado GT220 review: Stellar sounding wireless earbuds that cover the basics

You’d be forgiven for assuming a set of Grado true wireless earbuds sound amazing, but I can confirm that assumption is accurate. There’s outstanding clarity in the audio profile, so you can pick up subtle details you might miss on other buds. The depth and dynamic range keeps music from sounding overly compressed. I picked up on things like natural reverb from the studio on things like snare drums (where the artists intended it to be heard) and grungy metal guitar distortion has more texture. It’s not just noise, there’s nuance, and the GT220 led me to discover new aspects of old favorites.

That clarity is paired with a well-tuned EQ. There’s ample bassy thump when it’s needed, like when you’re blasting the bombastic drums of Gojira or the droning beats of PVRIS. The GT220 keeps vocals and instrumental details crisp and clear with ample low-end tone, leaving every source of sound layered on top of each other.

Since there’s no companion app, you only have the stock tuning on the GT220. Frankly, that’s just fine because these are quite good sonically right out of the box. There’s also no active noise cancellation (ANC) here either. For me, the GT220 offered a tight fit once I found the right eartips, and the passive isolation was enough to block out any TV noise radiating from my nearby living room. Of course, you also lose any ambient sound mode. That’s not always a companion to ANC — some earbuds like the Galaxy Buds+ have it without noise cancellation — but more often than not, the two come as a pair.

Battery lifeGrado promises its trademark sound in the GT220, the company’s first true wireless earbuds. It delivers on that, bundling it with better-than-expected battery life and the convenience of wireless charging. The overall design is rather plain and the fit is slightly awkward do the earbuds’ construction. There also isn’t a companion app for any customization. However, you wouldn’t need to tweak the sound anyway, because these are some of the best-sounding earbuds we’ve tested.

Billy Steele/Engadget

Much to my surprise, the battery life on the GW100 headphones far exceeded what Grado promised during that review last year. In fact, I got three more hours than the company claimed. With that in mind, I figured the GT220 would have no trouble hitting the stated six-hour mark, and that there would be a good chance it would exceed that number. Indeed, I managed eight hours of use with the earbuds before I had to dock them in the case. And Grado goes further than most headphones companies when it comes to the charging case. Not only does it offer wireless charging, but it also holds five additional charges for 36 total hours of use. If you’d rather use a cord, the GT220’s case can also be topped off with a USB-C cable.

The competition

Despite its age, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 still sits atop my “best of” list when it comes to true wireless. The earbuds are big and bulky, but few even come close to what Sony offers in terms of audio quality and noise-cancelling performance. Plus, the company packs a load of customization into its companion app and will automatically adjust presets based on activity or location. That is, if you’re willing to give the software certain permissions. Perhaps most importantly, the WF-1000XM3 is around $30 cheaper than the GT220 if you have to pay full price. More often than not these days though, Sony’s earbuds hover around $170-$180.

Grado does beat Sony in terms of pure sound though, and if that’s your primary concern, the best alternative is Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2. The MTW2 doesn’t quite offer the complete package that Sony does, but the earbuds sound really good. Sennheiser also packed in ANC, though it doesn’t block out the world quite as well as Sony or Bose.

Speaking of Bose, if noise-cancelling capability is of utmost importance, the QuietComfort Earbuds are your best bet. Like the WF-1000XM3, they’re chunky, but Bose managed to bring its outstanding active noise cancellation tech from its over-ear headphones to true wireless earbuds. You’ll find a better mix of features elsewhere, but you’ll have a hard time matching the QC Earbuds’ noise-blocking abilities. Again, sound quality isn’t as good as what Grado has, and this Bose model is pricier at $279.95.

Wrap-upGrado promises its trademark sound in the GT220, the company’s first true wireless earbuds. It delivers on that, bundling it with better-than-expected battery life and the convenience of wireless charging. The overall design is rather plain and the fit is slightly awkward do the earbuds’ construction. There also isn’t a companion app for any customization. However, you wouldn’t need to tweak the sound anyway, because these are some of the best-sounding earbuds we’ve tested.

Billy Steele/Engadget

There’s no question the GT220 sounds amazing, and for some people, that’s all that matters. When you factor in the battery life, wireless charging and reliable on-board controls, Grado covers all the basics with its first true wireless earbuds. However, some will want ANC to counter noisy environments, while others would like the ability to change up the touch inputs. And if you’re like me, you may have to contend with a slightly awkward fit. Grado falls just short of the complete package here, but for a company obsessed with sound quality, it delivers on nearly every promise it makes.