What is a soulless person but an empty shell? Headphones without music are also just an empty device. So join me in this attempt to marry two products that desire each other, but are often separate. This is a double look at Grado’s GW100 wireless headphones and an advanced listen and look of soul singer Leon Bridges’ new album. Its gold diggers.
Grado is a bit of an audio boutique brand originally born and now thriving in Brooklyn, New York. The family business manufactures cartridges for turntables as well as various types of headphones and earphones. These GW100 v2 are the company’s latest revision of its wireless on-ear headphones and designed for people who want the legacy without the 3.5mm headphone cable.
At Sound of gold diggers, Leon Bridges evolves his music as he did for his last two albums. While there is no reason why fans of his previous work couldn’t come easily, the album is a departure and tries to create a specific atmosphere from start to finish. Bridges proves that he can not only capture the definitive sound of rock and roll soul but now also rhythm and blues.
Wired headphones turned wireless
Grado is all about building on the heritage, for everything that surrounds it. In this case, he decided to take his open-back headset design and make it wireless. It lists the GW100 as the world’s first and only open face helmet. This will make their use on a train or plane less than ideal for many people. The opening of these types of headphones is ideal for a more natural sound, as it gives the instruments more room to breathe and blend with your surroundings. It’s less good, however, in public spaces, when the songs can be heard by everyone around you. The wireless aspect of the GW100 makes it more convenient in the home and with modern devices. Due to the openness aspect, these don’t necessarily provide the same utility as other Bluetooth headphones.
To be fair, one of the features that Grado listed is exhaust sound reduced by up to 60%. I could tell less sound was escaping than my other open back headphones, but it always happens.
I have a pair of Grado SR80e’s, and due to their wired connection, I have removed them less frequently over the years. The wireless option makes them much more attractive to put on around the house. These wireless headphones solve that problem, and they’re awesome.
The GW100 has the traditional rough style foam on the ear cups that will either be an immediate stop or a nostalgic surge. I found them quite comfortable, but the on-ear cushions weren’t immune to discomfort after several hours of listening. The padded headband is one area, however, that has always remained comfortable. Plus, their lightweight frame never puts too much pressure on your head.
In terms of specs, the frequency response is 20Hz to 20KHz, uses Bluetooth 5.0, and lists battery life at 40 hours. All combined, the GW100 achieved all expected features, including a built-in microphone for calls. They don’t necessarily go above and beyond other $ 250 headphones, but you buy them for their unique sound profile and commitment to audio fidelity in general rather than extra bells and whistles.
This attention to sound is evident from the start of Leon Bridges’ “Born Again” with its wobbly, slow and funky keys.
A Reborn Leon Bridges
After a minute of Bridges singing on the album’s opening track, the drums kick in and the bass begins to hit and reverberate through the headphones. “Born Again” is a slow and largely ethereal song that spends almost 4 minutes building and layering horns and other miscellaneous instruments, starting things off on a delicate tone.
Even at the end of the first track, it’s hard to say which musical style Bridges will continue in this collection of songs. “Born Again” is silky but less defined. But then “Motorbike” digs in where the previous song left off, and it feels like a more dedicated and purposeful start to the album with its understated addicting chorus. The jerky trap keeps the track moving as Bridges hits you with the catchy, extended “oohs”.
“Steam” is where it becomes clear that Sound of gold diggers is a question of mood and rhythm. The lyrics follow Bridges’ past singing style on specific situations, but on this album their content swings between details of romantic love and heartbreak.
The first four songs are dripping R&B style, but it’s “Magnolias” that soaks up the genre completely. The sultry lyrics run over a deep, punchy bass drum and really hammer home the essence of what Sound of gold diggers is in fact. The second half of the album then jumps into the deep end of the pool that the early songs built with their outer limits.
“Details” continues to ride low frequencies, and the GW100 headphones show it off with warm thuds and breezy reverberations. The bass line of “Sho Nuff” is another solid example of the reproduction quality that the GW100 are capable of. The song is one of the highlights of the album. This is a solid example of Bridges’ ability to woo someone with a few honest and flirty words.
Although the album is largely coherent around the theme of the ups and downs of a romantic relationship, “Sweeter” stands on its own. It focuses on the racial divide still present today. Bridges released the song last year, 2020, as the first single right after George Floyd’s death, and its lyrics make it sound like a direct response to the event.
“I thought we had passed the darkest days, did the king’s words disappear in the air, like a butterfly? Someone should hand you a crime / because you stole from me, my luck ‘to be …. / Hoping for a sweeter life / Instead, I’m just history repeating itself / Why am I scared with dark skin like night? / I can’t feel the peace with those eyes that judge. “
The song was not a direct response and had been completed before Floyd’s death, pointing to an even more revealing message that Bridges presents. “Sweeter” features Terrace Martin playing a light, airy horn over a rumbling bass. Bridges’ silky voice hovers alongside minimal instrumentation. The pieces come together for a terribly dark reminder of an elusive peace for so many.
âDon’t Worryâ comes out of âSweeterâ with a six-and-a-half-minute journey that continues the thread through the ins and outs of a romantic relationship, relying heavily on the title words to cover its duration.
I listened Sound of gold diggers as well as many other musics on these GW100 cans. Still, the open-back wireless Grado headphones feel made to play the often punchy and groovy sounds Leon Bridges defined on their latest iteration. Bridges’ sound has a classic, natural presence that matches the vibe of the album perfectly. If you are lucky enough to pair this album and these headphones, it’s worth it. Otherwise, both are equally worth the time on their own.
Buy Grado GW100 from Grado.
Buy Sound of gold diggers at Amazon.
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