Grado GS3000x review

Are these the best headphones Grado has ever made? Tested at £2195 / $1995 / AU$3299 approx

Open-back headphones: Grado GS3000x
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Grado’s range-topping GS3000x are wonderfully musical and entertaining but aren’t particularly luxurious


  • +

    Effortlessly detailed and fluid sound

  • +

    Impressively articulate midrange

  • +

    Sonic agility


  • -

    Open-back design makes these very leaky

  • -

    Some rivals deliver more in the way of bass punch and power

  • -

    Lacks the luxurious feel expected at this price

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There are reasons not to buy Grado’s new GS3000x range-topping headphones. They feel more functional than luxurious, which is a bit of a disappointment given their hefty price, and like every other Grado open-back headphones we’ve tested, offer next to no isolation from outside noises. You will hear everything that happens around you, and perhaps just as annoyingly, everyone around you will be able to hear whatever music you are playing.

Build & design

Open-back headphones: Grado GS3000x

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

So, why buy them? If you can get past those hurdles you will find one of the most musical and enjoyable headphones available at this kind of money. We were big fans of the last generation GS3000e but the move to ‘x’ status has seen plenty of sonic improvements. This new model uses earpiece housings made of a metal core surrounded by Cocobolo wood in a bid to deliver a structure that combines high rigidity with good damping. The previous generation model’s housing didn’t use metal at all. There is a new drive unit too, a 52mm design (up from 50mm) that features a more powerful motor unit, a lower mass voice coil for improved responsiveness and a revised diaphragm. The aim is to improve efficiency and reduce distortion.

Grado GS3000x tech specs

Open-back headphones: Grado GS3000x

(Image credit: Grado)

Type Open-back, wired

Noise-cancelling? No

Cable length 2.0m

In-line remote and mic? No

Weight 365g (without cable); 515g (with cable)

The GS3000x’s cable is around 2m long and is made up of 12 separate conductors covered with a hard-wearing sheath. We are pleased to report that we didn’t have any issues with cable noise during our time with the Grados. The cable is terminated with a standard 6.3mm jack. 

Elsewhere you will find a wide and minimally padded leather covered headband that is way more comfortable than it looks. The Cocobolo wood on the earpieces looks suitably exotic and adds a touch of class to what is otherwise an understated design, though it is fair to say that Grado’s trademark foam earpads just look plain cheap. The ones fitted here are the deeply dished Type G pads that sit securely on our heads but feel a little scratchy. This kind of foam earpad is very much a part of the brand’s DNA but it could be time for Grado to find a classier alternative, particularly at this premium price level.

The GS3000x’s claimed nominal impedance is 38 ohms, which shouldn’t cause an issue with any partnering headphone amplifier. While these headphones will deliver decent levels with even the most budget of tablets or portable DACs, they demand a top-quality signal to shine. After all, why pay this much for a pair of headphones if you aren’t going to give it a signal of suitable quality?


Open-back headphones: Grado GS3000x

(Image credit: Grado)

Given the GS3000x’s open design, it is fair to say that they fit firmly in the domestic camp rather than being ideal for out-and-about use. With that in mind, we test with our reference Naim ND555/555PS DR music streamer and Technic SL-1000R turntable as sources with the headphone output of our Burmester 088 preamp driving the Grados. We also have Chord’s Hugo TT2 DAC/headphone amp on hand as an alternative to see how these headphones react to electronics of differing characteristics.

Don’t judge these headphones straight out of the box. Our sample sounded forward and edgy for the first few days and then settled. Once that happens, the GS3000x are immensely articulate and insightful performers. Give them a dense recording such as Radiohead’s Kid A and they can cut through the complex production revealing plenty in the way of subtle details and interplay between the instruments. Vocals come through with exceptional clarity, with the Grados communicating the nuance and texture in Thom Yorke’s voice beautifully. This is a more rounded and refined presentation than we’ve come to expect from the brand, but without losing the sense of life it is traditionally so good at conveying. The rhythmic drive on songs such as Everything In Its Right Place is delivered with control and verve, giving the music a strong sense of propulsion.

Open-back headphones: Grado GS3000x

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The GS3000x are impressively responsive performers with little sense of inertia to the way they track dynamic shifts, be they the large-scale orchestral crescendos of Tchaikovsky’s Marché Slave Op.31 or the quiet, contemplative Living Room Songs from Ólafur Arnalds. These headphones are clear and crisp without ever sounding hard-edged – unless the recording is particularly poor or aggressive, that is.

Tonally, the GS3000x are decently balanced, but they lack some of the low-frequency weight and punch of the likes of Sennheiser’s HD800S or Focal’s Clear Mg, both of which are also open-back designs. Importantly, the shortcomings in this respect aren’t so severe as to become a problem and there are upsides in the clarity with which these headphones can differentiate between different bass notes and the richly detailed way they render low frequencies in general. 

In comparison, most rivals tend to sound a little blunt and unsubtle in this region. Another positive is how seamlessly those lows blend into the midrange and don’t dominate the proceedings.


Open-back headphones: Grado GS3000x

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We tend to award five-star verdicts to great all-rounders. The kind of product that it is hard to pick holes in. That’s not the case with these Grados. They don’t feel as luxurious as the price point demands, even though they feel sturdy and durable. The GS3000x also give way to rivals when it comes to delivering low-end weight and authority. But, give them a signal of suitable quality and they also produce one of the most articulate and musical cohesive performances we’ve heard anywhere near this level. It is the kind of presentation that had us listening for hours on end and works well across a wide range of musical genres, from Nirvana to Nina Simone. 

If you are lucky enough to have this kind of budget to spend on a pair of headphones put these Grados on your shortlist. You will be happy you did.


  • Sound 5
  • Build 4
  • Compatibility 4


Read our review of the Sennheiser HD800S

Also consider the Sony MDR-ZR1

Check out our guide to the best wired headphones and the best audiophile headphones

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  • Gray
    'Lacks the luxurious feel expected at this price' ;)
    Now there's an understatement if ever I saw one.
    (I've got some old wartime headphones in my loft that could compete with these on looks).
  • Old Lorenzo
    Have an older Grado SR325e's that do a decent job w/ bass. Recently replaced ear pads w/ larger/thicker over-the-ear pads. Really enjoy, but just won't fit as nicely as Senn HD650's or my Philips Fidelio X2HR's (still really enjoy these thru my old Benchmark DAC1. IF... I wanted to spend $2k I doubt I''d go with the GS3000x.
  • poulpup
    I owned these GS3000x and it was my worst audio purchase ever. It's crap for the price and considering the competition at equivalent price. I preferred my sr80s, a shame. Don't buy them.