I found myself going back to acoustic and more mellow acts with the GW100s, again, the genres I feel they handle best. I listen to a lot of bluegrass -- Punch Brothers, in particular -- and Grado's first wireless headphones handle the layered instrumentation well. Mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo and bass all stand on their own, complete with soaring vocals laid gently on top. Jazz albums like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue come across the same way, and are just as much a joy to listen to with the GW100s. And don't worry, there's no discernible difference in the audio if you opt for Bluetooth or wired use.
In terms of design, the GW100s have many of the same elements as Grado Labs' Prestige Series -- a line of wired headphones that ranges from $79 to $295. The earcups are black plastic shells with an open grill and recently updated Grado branding on the outside. Half-circle swivels connect the eacrups to an adjustable arm that slides up and down to help you find the right fit. The GW100's headband has a touch of padding the SR60e does not, but the earpads are a similar soft foam that's on many Grado Labs headphones. The company does have more premium-looking models (including wood shells), but the GW100 isn't one of those.
All of the business is on the left earcup. Here, the micro-USB charging port, 3.5mm jack for optional wired use, volume controls and power button all reside. The volume buttons double as track controls: short press to change the volume levels, long press to skip to the next (or previous) song. The power button can also pause the audio, put the headphones in pairing mode if it's held down, or activate your voice assistant with a double press. They're raised from the surface, so they're always easily located, and have a nice tactile clicky quality to them.
USB-C is becoming the standard on new headphones, so it's a little disappointing to not see it here, but it's far from a deal breaker. There's also a microphone on this left side to assist with calls, in addition to summoning your virtual assistant. An LED light will inform you of charging/battery status. Solid blue indicates a full charge, while flashing blue means the headphones are powered on. When charging, the GW100s show a solid red light and when it flashes red, your battery level is running low. In pairing mode, the light will alternate blue and red.
In terms of battery life, Grado Labs promises up to 15 hours on a charge. That's much less than you'll find on $300+ flagship noise-cancelling headphones. The company sets that figure with the caveat of using them at 50 percent volume, and depending on the genre you're listening to. So I was stunned when after around 15 hours, Siri indicated the GW100 was still at 50 percent. I kept the volume at around 75 percent or all the way up, and I didn't carefully select a music style. During that time, I connected to an iPhone and a MacBook Air (not at the same time), and took a couple calls -- basically a "regular" day of use for my needs. After sitting for two days, I got about three more hours out of them before I had to charge. The GW100 also has a battery-saving feature that will automatically turn the headphones off if they're on and unpaired from a device for 10 minutes.
Since the open-back design on the GW100 is unique among wireless headphones, there aren't any direct comparisons. And right now, these are the only wireless option from Grado Labs. While they aren't open-back, if I was pressed to suggest an alternative, it's the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT. They're a wireless version of the company's popular ATH-M50x over-ear headphones. By design, you get more noise isolation here since the GW100 is an on-ear model, but there's still no active noise cancellation (ANC). The ATH-M50xBT does sound amazing though, and it offers up to 40 hours of battery life for $199. Again, it's a bit of an apples and oranges comparison.
Even though I knew it would arrive eventually, it's nice to finally get my hands on the first wireless headphones from Grado Labs. The company has a lineage of quality audio gear, and that continues with the GW100. These headphones aren't the best option for an all-around set, mostly because the open-back design is a blessing and a curse. Sound bleed aside, the audio quality is very good and the headphones have reliable connectivity alongside intuitive controls. Just don't crank them up to 11 in the confines of your quiet cubicle.