Joseph Grado, Founder of Brooklyn-Based Headphone Shop Grado Labs, Dies Aged 90

Courtesy of Grado
Joseph Grado, founder of Grado Laboratories.

Joseph Grado, the Brooklyn-based watchmaker-turned-audio engineer who founded the well-respected headphone manufacturer Grado Laboratories in 1953 in the space previously occupied by the Grade Fruit Shop, died in his sleep this past Friday (Feb. 6) in South Carolina, aged 90.

Grado began his business in the early '50s, making turntable cartridges -- inventing the stereo moving coil turntable cartridge in the process, a type still preferred by audiophiles -- on his kitchen table. Three years later, the aforementioned fruit storefront would be converted to Grado Laboratories, located in the same spot in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to this day.

Grado remains a family affair. Joseph's nephew, John Grado, worked at the company sweeping floors in the '60s, eventually purchasing the business from his uncle and releasing the company's first pair of headphones in the early '90s. Our email to the company for a comment was returned by their vp of marketing -- Jonathan Grado.

"It weighs heavy on us," Jonathan Grado tells Billboard, "but at the same time it makes us feel good to think of him digging Grado's roots in Brooklyn. For 62 years we've not only kept it in the same city, but in the same building as well. Without his cartridges, my dad wouldn't have gone on to do headphones and we'd probably still have a fruit store."