Today we’re reviewing an all-new planar magnetic headphone from ADVANCED, the GT-R.
ADVANCED’s freshman offering, the M4, was an awesome little micro-driver based earphone with a reasonably neutral signature. It’s build was fantastic and price right at under 50 USD. My next experience was with their Model 3, a warm in ear with a detachable MMCX equipped Bluetooth dongle and low profile, Shure-style housing. That particular earphone showed that Bluetooth earphones needn’t be compromised and could offer up great sound in a convenient form factor. With the GT-R, ADVANCED is diving head first into a very competitive full-sized headphone market. Not only is this one of their first headphones, but the use of a planar magnetic driver is new to the brand as well.
After spending about a week and a half with the GT-R, I think ADVANCED has done a stellar job and has a quality product on their hands. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Peter at ADVANCED reached out a few weeks ago to see if I would be interested in listening to the GT-R. Given my past experiences with the brand and that they had up to this point focused primarily on dynamic driver only in-ear monitors with a few other projects under their belt, I was curious to see what they could do with a different style of product and some new driver tech.
The GT-R has been on loan since November 3rd, 2017, and will be returned to ADVANCED following the posting of this review. This sample is representative of the final product which is now on Kickstarter. They did not provide any monetary incentive for writing about the GT-R. All thoughts and opinions within are my own and do not represent ADVANCED or any other entity.
(Update June 6, 2018) They have fired up another Kickstarter for the GT-R which you can check out here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/991035804/gt-r-planar-magnetic-headphones-0?ref=418725&token=c407b669
The GT-R is quite easy to drive, but sounds flat and dull without a suitable driving force. As such, it was used primarily with my desktop headphone amp, the TEAC HA-501, which cleanly drove it to comfortable volumes. For walking around my house I paired it with my Shanling M1+Walnut F1 combo which sounded really crisp with a punchy low end.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, MacaW GT600s, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.
Driver type : single-sided n48 planar magnetic
Driver size : 65mm
Driver diaphragm : silicone composite
SPL : 100dB±3dB (1KHz/1mW)
Impedance : 32ohm
Frequency response : 20Hz – 20,000Hz
Maximum input power : 20mW
Rated input power : 50mW
Cable length / type : 1.5m / detachable 2.5mm jack
Output connector type : 3.5mm jack
Packaging and Accessories:
Since retail packaging wasn’t provided and they only accessory included was the cable, that’s about all I can say here. Onwards!
Design, Build, and Comfort:
I find the GT-R is a very attractive headphone. It has a practical design with straightforward lines and few flourishes outside of the two part metal headband, similar to Meze’s 99 Classics. The GT-R’s all-black color scheme is appropriate and accented only by some subtle white text on each ear cup. This text quietly announces you’re looking at the Advanced GT-R and that it utilizes “Planar magnetic driver tech”.
Overall build quality is top notch with great fit and finish. Channels are denoted by black and red knurled bands above the pivot points. The red band rattles a bit, but it’s not distracting or worrisome at all and is a small flaw in an otherwise perfectly put together piece of equipment. Despite being composed of mostly steel and protein leather, the GT-R is also very light. The only plastic I could find surrounds the base of each ear cup. It has a smooth, matte, grippy texture to it that makes holding the GT-R a non-event, unlike the Susvara which tends to slip out of my hands.
The cable is quite good too, and nearly identical to the one included on the HiFiMan HE-350. It’s thick and durable both above and below the y-split, terminated in a slightly chunky 90 degree 3.5mm jack, and not too long to be inappropriate for mobile use. I consider that a plus given how easy the GT-R is to drive. Yes, they are technically open back and will let in plenty of outside noise, and let out whatever it is you’re listening to, but at the very least you can use them while walking around your house or property.
The protein leather used on the floating, self-adjusting headband is of high quality. While lightly padded, I never had any significant issues with comfort or hot spots given the way weight distribution is handled. My only qualms would be the clamping force out of the box is too tight, and that the head band moves too freely so it feels like the GT-R is about to slide down your head a bit, though it never does. If you find the clamping force too strong, you can either take a chance and try to bend the supporting steel beams slightly, or if you’re patient I found it loosened up significantly over the week and a half I’ve had them.
The stock ear pads are really nice too, and if we’re going by Zeos terms is a solid three-knuckler in size. They’re plenty spacious enough to fully enclose my ears, and deep enough to keep them from touching the driver plate. They’re also very plush out of the box, and only get more so in time. These pads are awesome, which is great because at this time they’re not removable though that is one item that might be subject to change. I’ve put in my vote to make it happen. People like to pad swap.
Overall the GT-R is very well built and comfy on the noggin once the clamping force starts to ease up after some use. The design is also interesting but understated, and is one of those headphones that I think will hold a certain visual appeal well beyond 2017.
After almost two weeks of critical listening with the GT-R, I have come away impressed. The GT-R’s signature has a decent balance between treble and bass with the mid-range pushed forward taking centre stage.
Though I’ve found the GT-R’s overly forward mid-range to dial back slightly as the 65mm planar drivers have burned in, it’s still quite forward. Thankfully, even at high volumes they aren’t shouty or sibilant. Ts sound like Ts and Ss like Ss. As noted in my preview, it just physically appears a couple steps forward of the rest of the signature. At times this means background vocals are too prominent, or guitar work that should be playing a supporting role sticks out a touch more than it should. It might not appeal to you if you’re looking for a purely neutral sound or are used to the typically deep mid-range recession applied to most “consumer” tuned headphones. Those that listen to vocal prominent tracks, however, should come away very happy with the presentation.
The GT-R’s treble response is very clean and smooth with great extension. It finds a nice balance between being bright and rolled off, falling into neither category to my ear. On BT’s “The Internal Locus” chimes and cymbals sound realistically sparkly and with a sensible decay. They have just the right amount of bite on the initial hit too. Detail retrieval is impressive as well, with minute textures showing where on other headphones they are glossed or smoothed over.
Leading into the low end the GT-R has a pleasantly mild boost with a nice balance of mid- and sub-bass. As expected from a planar, the bass is quick and punchy and it maintains composure even on congested and complicated tracks. I really enjoy the final minute and half of Skrillex’s “Ragga Bomb” which transforms from a fairly generic dubstep track to a drumstep masterpiece. It’s tempo picks up greatly and introduces a D’n’B inspired drum beat with a deep reverberating bassline trailing along. Slower headphones tend to muddy the low end detail on this section, but the GT-R doesn’t break a sweat.
The GT-R has a pretty solid soundstage, larger than I thought at first. Due to the mid-forward sound it wasn’t always apparent, but as I spent more time with the GT-R I noticed the stage expanded in a cone away from my head, leading with vocals. It was especially noticeable with acoustic tracks and on Daft Punk’s “Touch (feat.Paul Williams)”. In the somewhat creepy opening sequence when the robotic voice is saying “Touch. I remember touch.” ghostly sounds are swirling about in the background. That brings us to imaging which is very clean and smooth in transitions between channels. Layering and separation qualities are impressive too which instruments playing on their own field, though I would like it if there was more forward and backward movement which would aid in further separating various layers.
Overall I find the GT-R a very engaging headphone. It’s bass is deep and punchy, it’s treble vibrant but not fatiguing, and it’s mid-range prominent and clear. Dialing back the mid-range somewhat would help with sound stage presence, but as is it’s still very good.
Normally I would be tossing in some select comparisons about now. Since I don’t have any of the GT-R’s competition on hand, I have decided to leave the comparisons out since they would have been pretty one-sided. My other headphones are either much cheaper and mostly closed back dynamics, or much, much more expensive in the case of the HiFiMan Susvara.
ADVANCED has a nice headphone on their hands and as one of the first in their lineup with a driver tech new to the brand, it’s quite the achievement. If the GT-R is indicative of the direction the brand is taking their more premium products in the future, we have reason to be excited.
The GT-R’s detailed sound is engaging and well rounded with a mid-range focus that makes vocals the central focus. The design is attractive and the build quality impressive. Despite the low weight, you really get the impression you’re holding and using a durable product that you won’t need to baby. It’s also appreciated that they went with a fairly standard 2.5mm connection for the removable cables. I know many who will want to upgrade that right out of the box, even if it isn’t required. The stock cable is great in itself. If I would like to see anything improved upon in the future, removable pads would be at the top of the list followed by a slightly lighter clamping force and a more supportive floating headband.
Thanks for reading and thanks again to ADVANCED for the chance to listen to the GT-R.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
BT – If the Stars Are Eternal Then So Are You and I (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)