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Grado Labs GR 10e In-Ear Monitors

03-28-2019 | By Robert H. Levi | Issue 102

Just when you would figure John Grado would take some time off with his vivacious wife and spend time at their pied-à-terre in Paris, (if they have one, they should go there!), Grado's new and improved creations keep rolling in. With the improvements wrought by balanced armatures to IEM's and a few other engineering tweaks, the improved GR 10e are now available. Now for the astounding bit which only a family owned non-conglom company can accomplish. While improved in several ways over the outstanding GR 10 flagship, the price is exactly the same! The word "fantastic" comes to mind.

Audio Specifications

  • Driver: Moving Armature
  • Connector: 3.5mm stereo mini-plug
  • Frequency Response: 20 -20,000 Hz 
    Sensitivity: 113dB/1mW
  • Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Max Input Power: 20mW
  • Cable: 51"/130cm
  • Weight: 9 grams 

Included Accessories

  • 3 pair ear tips (sizes S M L) proprietary blend of two silicons
  • Ear wax proof cloth x4
  • Ear wax proof cloth ring x2 

Exactly the same, too, are most of the specs of the original GR 10 released in 2011. Only the efficiency has changed with the new GR 10e now 113dB sensitivity vs. 116dB for the GR 10. All other published specs are the same, including the weight.

The Performance

I recently received a custom pair of Ultimate Ears Live which I named state of the art at $2200 plus artwork. Custom-fitted with a laser at the factory, they are outstanding in every way. The Grado GR 10e has multiple tips and fits quite well for a more generic universal application. At $400, we are talking low cost comparatively, but folks, they are at least 75% as excellent in every way as the "LIVE." 80% as good if you are just focusing on the Grado's midrange definition and powerhouse dynamics. I have never auditioned universal-fit wired IEMs better than the Grados at any price. I change IEMs and headphones with my socks, so I know what I know.

The midrange is extraordinary and lifelike. With 75 hours of run-in on various FM stations utilizing the Grado Headamp, you will hear you-are-there mellifluous, smooth, musical tonality and the luscious layering of delicate textures.  With the A&K Ultima1000, 24/192 PCM and DSD downloads were exciting and elegant, were clear as air, and powerful without strain. Yes, IEMs start at $5 and yield a semblance of musical truth. The Grados give you virtually everything you might want from any top source. The GR 10e are audiophile cans, no doubt about it. Only custom-made cans may outgun them, and those start at about $800.

The highs are smooth, airy and neutral. Tape hiss is clearly defined, as opposed to cymbals or triangles. Violins are layered and delicate with realistic tonality. If anything, they are slightly tipped up on top-enhancing sparkle. They were less tipped up on the microZOTL from Linear Tube Audio, and richer, too. I'm not totally sure where the Grado's tonality starts and the ZOTL/A&K begin. The ZOTL plus Grado GR10e combo is delicious to the max.

With the Manley Absolute headphone amp, I really have no idea about the Grado sound, as the Absolute lets you tune the cans to the top of their performance. With 3-4dBs of feedback, low Z input, and maybe a tiny touch of bass boost, the Grados will compete with anything and everything. The Absolute puts the fun back in headphones and IEMs!

With my primary reference headamp from Tim de Paravicini, the HP4 tube headamp, the Grados were cleaner and clearer overall, and similar to the A&K, except sweeter and warmer. The E.A.R. combo was the tip top best marriage of technologies I have ever experienced. Clarity was off the charts, the definition was limitless, distortion of all kinds disappeared, and the highs appeared extended and more natural. The full rounded tonality of the Grado/E.A.R. brought emotion into the performance. Given the price of the HP4, it's certainly not an economical approach, but is one that gets you exactly what you want to hear.

The Bass

Try the DSD download from Acoustic Sounds of Tea for the Tillerman, some excellent UIT Audio Cable with the E.A.R./Grado combo, and the bass is impactful and layered. It is linear and unforced down to the center of the earth. With the Manley you can boost the bass if a nice bump at 40Hz is your style. If linearity down to 20 Hz is your cup of tea, you just found your IEMs. I would actually recommend the Grados to audio engineers as an extra check to their adjustments. The imaging is so solid, even in the deep bass, microphone setup and room nodes would be clearly identified. Vocals are downright spot on and never overload. Your ears will crap out first.


Remember to play them for 75 hours to warm them up initially before critical listening. Otherwise, you are not hearing the big sonic picture. A travel case for your pocket should be included. I found a small one in a drawer to use, but it, unfortunately, advertises someone else.


Grado Labs GR 10e In-Ear Monitors, newest version replacing the GR 10 introduced in 2011, give you more performance across the boards for no increase in cost. Time to give the older buds to your child or grandchild, and treat yourself to the state of the art in universal-fit IEMs. With more definition and dynamic range than the GR 10, the changes in the balanced armature design take you closer to the musical experience than you thought possible. Match them with A&K, E.A.R., Manley, Grado, or LTA microZOTL, and the musical truth will touch your heart and soul. Plus, they are very, very comfortable!

Grado Labs Universal Fit GR 10e In-Ear Monitors are most highly recommended...in fact I do not recommend any other in-ear monitors right now from anyone. (I have not auditioned the new Grado GR 8e yet and they will save you a hundred bucks.) My friends, the GR 10e are in a class by themselves, lonely and waiting for a good music loving pair of ears. John Grado may have only designed the GR 10e, but his extraordinary taste levels are clearly present.

GR 10e In-Ear Monitors

Retail: $400

Grado Labs, Inc.

4614 7 Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11220


[email protected]


All photographs courtesy of Grado Labs.