Pros: Clarity, detail, speed, and control – Outstanding build quality – Comprehensive accessory kit
Cons: Limited signature variety via the included filter set
Today we’re checking out one of ADVANCED’s newest releases, the GT3.
A few years back ADVANCED, then known as ADV.SOUND, got their start with the crowd funded M4, a gorgeous, budget friendly, micro-driver equipped earphone with sand-blasted and diamond-cut aluminum housings. Since then their lineup has expanded greatly with a wide variety of products, from Bluetooth models like the EVO-X and Model 3 to the Alpha, a set of full-sized planar magnetic headphones.
Now see the release of the GT3 which has some nice features like a nozzle based tuning system, MMCX removable cables, and an all new driver that boasts a super light weight voice coil designed to improve a variety of aspects of the driver’s performance.
How does it all come together? Let’s find out.
A big thanks to Hannah at ADVANCED for reaching out to see if I’d be interested in reviewing the GT3, and for arranging a sample for review. The thoughts within this review are my own and do not represented ADVANCED or any other entity. There was no financial incentive provided to write this review.
At the time of this writing, the GT3 was retailing for 199.00 USD: https://www.adv-sound.com/products/gt3
Edit (01-mar-2019): Current price is 299 USD. At this price the GT3 is harder to recommend. Still a good earphone though.
Source and Amping:
For at home use the GT3 was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp with my Asus FX53V laptop sourcing music. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, Shanling M1, HiFiMan MegaMini, or HiFi E.T. MA8. While they all brought it up to a comfortable listening volume easily enough, I recommend running the GT3 through an amp if going mobile. It requires more power than your average earphone and sees increase bass and treble control when powered adequately.
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, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when reading my thoughts on how an earphone sounds
- Driver: Light-coil multi-damping single dynamic driver
- Impedance: 32ohms+/- 15%
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 40,000Hz
- Sensitivity: 92dB+/-3dB at 1kHz
- Rated Power: 1mW
- Input Power: 5mW
- Cable Length: 1.5m (SPC) / 1.2m (mobile)
Packaging and Accessories:
If you’ve been following ADVANCED over the years, you’ll be right at home with the GT3’s excellent unboxing experience. From the masterfully designed exterior sheath to the neat presentation inside, it’s nothing short of impressive.
The front of the sheath contains a high resolution, glossy and ever so slightly raised image of the GT3 dangling gracefully in the air. Top left is the ADVANCED logo, top right their slogan “Designed for Musicians”, bottom left the Hi-Res Audio logo, and bottom middle the model information. The right side of the sleeve contains an image of how the GT3 is worn along with a bit of marketing fluff. The left side of the sleeve breaks down the construction of the ear pieces and the unique drivers within, and a description of the driver tech and their goals;
“The GT3’s proprietary driver uses a light-weight voice coil which is up to 30% lighter than a conventional counterpart. Its tremendously improved treble response is the core tuning philosophy of the GT3’s driver. The proprietary multi-damping structure of the driver aid in sub-bass extension that does not affect of bleed over the mid-bass region, making its sound characteristic extremely similar to that of a pair of full-size electrostatic headphones.”
That last sentence makes a pretty impressive claim, one I can’t verify since I don’t happen to have any electo-stats on hand. Sorry ’bout that.
Flipping to the rear you are provided a lot of information. Top left is a frequency response graph that shows how each of the three tuning filters alters the GT3’s signature. It’s accurate too, as you can see when comparing it to third party measurements. Top right is an image of the ear piece and a single reference (silver) filter. Just below is an explanation of the Hi-Res logo and what it means. Further down they show off the included MMCX cables, one being silver plater copper and the other equipped with an inline mic for mobile use. Finally, you find an expansive list of what is included with the GT3, as well as the specifications. In all you get quite a bit;
- GT3 earphones
- Silver-plated copper cable
- 3-button remote/mic cable
- 3 pairs of foam tips
- 3 pairs of single flange silicone tips
- 3 pairs of dual-flange silicone tips
- Clam-shell carrying case
- Magnetically clasped leather cable tie
Finally, the user guide is included in three languages; English, Japanese, and Korean. It covers The MMCX system and how to unplug the cable, how to wear the GT3, the filter system and how to use it, the inline mic and remote functions, and the various ear tips. It also goes over an extremely generous 3-year warranty.
Overall this is a fantastic unboxing experience. The packaging is attractive, the GT3 is easy to unbox, and you get a slew of accessories that are actually useful. Good stuff as always from ADVANCED.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
I’ve yet to come across anything from ADVANCED that feels poorly constructed. Not even the all-plastic S2000. The GT3 certainly isn’t an exception. The second you pick them up you know you’re holding something that has been built to last.
The CNC machined steel housings are nigh flawless with amazing fit and finish. The seams that join the front and rear halves of the each housing are impossibly tight. The threading for the interchangeable nozzle filters is smooth and precise, letting you easily screw new filters into place without having to worry about the threads binding. Each filter is also equipped with a rubber gasket preventing unwanted vibrations from de-threading them unexpectedly. They stay securely in place. GT3 and ADV are laser printed on each housing so you don’t have to worry about paint interacting with the oils from your skin and wearing off over time. On the top of each housing is a dense rubber protrusion containing the MMCX receptacles. These too line up and follow the curvature of the housings perfectly. Other companies could learn a thing or two from ADVANCED when it comes to the construction of their housings. The GT3 is drop dead gorgeous. Now, if I were to levy criticism it would at the rear of each housing which is quite sharp. Thankfully, the way the GT3 fits keeps this edge away from your ear so comfort isn’t an issue.
The two cables are quite nice as well. Let’s start with the silver-plated copper one. The clear sheath feels extremely dense and tough and shows off the shimmering strands of wire within. The braids are tight and uniform with excellent strain relief everywhere, including both entering the exiting the y-split which is not at all common. The chin cinch slides freely but holds position well and does a great job of minimizing the already limited cable noise. The preformed ear guides are long and flexible, extending well past the bottom of the ear making for a very secure fit. The y-split and compact straight jack are all metal, matching the indestructible build of the ear pieces.
The mobile cable is more traditional with a rubber sheath above the y-split and a cloth sheath below. The rubber section is a touch on the thin side, but the material feels fairly dense so there is little worry about durability issues. The y-split and 90 degree angled jack feel excellent as a result of their steel and rubber construction and are well relieved. The knurling is pronounced and grippy with some laser etched branding that won’t rub off. The inline mic and remote is really nice too with a layout that seems to be taking hold within the industry; the multifunction button is on the bottom with the volume controls denoted by + and – signs sitting above. This feels more natural than when the volume controls surround the multifunction button, leading to fewer mis-presses. Lastly, the preformed ear guides are flexible and comfortable with a significant rubber relief that also seems to act as a weight for some extra stability.
Comfort is better than you’d expect from a fairly large, steel-bodied earphone. The slight angle of the nozzle combined with the weight displacing ear guides leads to something you can wear comfortably for quite a while. Isolation is good too, slightly above average for a single dynamic in my experience. This is especially noticeable with the foam tips installed. I had no issues listening to these at a comfortable volume while walking around the city.
Tips: The stock tips provided with the GT3 pair well with the device, with my preference leaning towards the more dense, small-sized foam tips.They softened the treble slightly and let the extended bass shine. I also really enjoyed the GT3 with Spinfits and Sony Isolation Hybrids. Spinfits provided a very secure fit and let in some outside sound, while the Sony Isolation hybrids provided a more convenient alternative to the foams with similarly excellent isolation levels.
Filters: Black = Bass / Silver = Reference / Red = Treble. The GT3’s filters focus on the upper mid-range, specifically between 2k and 5k, an area that people are particularly sensitive too. Given the narrow focus of these filters, your perception of how the frequencies interact plays a large part in how the different filters’ sound. I found the “Bass” filters the most balanced, so that is what the below impressions were gathered using.
The GT3 has a vibrant, v-shaped response with emphasis on the upper mids and lower treble. Since those are the areas of focus, the lower and middle mid-range are set back but still manage to retain outstanding clarity and presence that is befitting the GT3’s snappy, crisp driver. Bass plays a supporting role in my experience, resulting from a sub-bass focus with minimized mid-bass presence.
The GT3’s upper ranges are elevated and prominent with the presence region giving it’s presentation some impressive clarity without falling into the trap of being overblown or overly aggressive. Though, on some tracks like Metallic’s “Wherever I May Roam”, I noticed some mild graininess. Using the black filter in particular, the move through the mid-range to the lower treble is gradual, avoiding any jarring disparity between any particular frequencies. That said, this is still one area where the GT3 could benefit from some additional filter variety with a focus on taming treble further. Past experiences have shown this style of treble can be somewhat divisive lending to a “love it or hate it” feedback loop from listeners.
The decidedly upper mid-range focus of the various filters gives the GT3 a somewhat varied experience when it comes to timbre and fatigue. The overall presentation is a little too bright to be called natural, but timbre with the black filters is well done when comparing to the JVC FXT90. I also didn’t find them particularly fatiguing with the black or silver filters, keeping in mind I listen quietly the majority of the time. With the red filters, my tolerances were exceeded as a result of an overly aggressive attack that instruments picked up. I found both female and male vocals to share a fairly equal presence, though both felt a touch on the lean side, male vocals more so. While not necessarily desirable for someone wanted a meatier mid-range, I personally enjoy leaner vocals on a product that focuses on speed and clarity like the GT3 does. They tend to highlight these strengths which makes for an entertaining yet analytic listen. I felt similarly about the Astrotec Lyra lineup of ear buds.
The lower ranges of the GT3 are balanced in a way that focuses on sub-bass, though overall I found everything quite reserved. This is not a bassy v-shaped signature. The low end stays out of the way and as said above, plays a supporting role. Even on tracks heavily skewed towards a rumbling low end, like Kavinski’s “Solli” it doesn’t pull forward like you find on competing products like the LZ A5 or Echobox Nomad. Texture, speed, and control are all quite impressive, and even with a lot going on the GT3 remains composed. Decay is extremely quick following a snappy attack that lends itself to a solid impact on each note.
Sound stage is not particularly expansive giving the GT3 a pleasantly intimate presentation. It is not bad by any means, but not a stand out quality in the segment. It makes up for this with accurate imaging and great depth to it’s layering. Separation is also quite good, avoiding congestion on convoluted tracks like King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black”. These were a great earphone for gaming, though some extra low end would go a long way on more varied media such as film.
Overall I found the GT3’s signature to be immensely revealing and analytic. Should a brighter signature be a quality that lines up with your preferences you’ll be rewarded with a product that you can use to accurately deconstruct a track, picking out it’s finer nuances. The GT3 would also be worth consideration if you are handy with an EQ or wanted to dabble in basic modding. I found it quite receptive to minor frequency adjustments and the filters can easily accommodate a wide variety of materials, like fabrics or foams, letting you alter the sound output to your satisfaction.
Select Comparisons (Black filters on GT3):
LZ A5 (red filters) (265.00 USD): A5 has a leaner note presentation with more 7k emphasis that gives it a more shimmery, spacious feel than the GT3. A5’s treble feels less controlled and more splashy. A5 has more low end emphasis, particularly in the sub-bass regions. Neither are particularly mid-bass heavy. GT3’s bass has more texture; it’s faster, more focused, and better controlled as well. A5’s bass provides a bit more visceral feedback due to the sub-bass emphasis. GT3’s bass seems more about accuracy vs. the A5’s which seems more tailored towards entertainment. Both have dipped lower mids with raised upper mids, though the GT3’s mid-range is slightly more forward and weighty and has a somewhat woody or breathy texture to it. It comes across more natural in my opinion. Channel to channel imaging is more precise than on the A5, but the A5 feels more layered and allows more space between the individual aspects of each track. A5’s filter system provides more variety, affecting a wide range of frequencies; GT3’s system only alters between 2k and 5k with the greatest affect between 3k and 4k. I find the A5 more v-shaped and less balanced; clarity and micro-detail is quite similar, though I prefer the GT3’s more raw, unfiltered tonality. Build on the GT3 is vastly superior, regardless of whether you’re looking at the housings or cables. The packaging and accessories are too.
Echobox Nomad (black filters) (249.00 USD): I found the two to be quite similar in tone with varied takes on a v-shaped signature. The GT3 is less v-shaped and has a thicker note presentation and more forward sound. The Nomad is more spacious and open, but doesn’t display the same layering in it’s depth of stage. Nomad places a little more emphasis on the upper treble giving it slightly more air and shimmer. GT3 comes across better controlled with a cleaner, more controlled notes. The Nomad’s mid-range is more recessed and set physically further back in the overall presentation. Detail and overall clarity is excellent on both with the GT3 showing slightly more natural timbre. Bass on the Nomad is much more skewed towards the low regions, giving off a layer of visceral feedback lacking in the GT3. The GT3 is quicker and better controlled, though texture on both is quite impressive. The Nomad has a larger sound stage with greater depth and width, though the GT3 comes across slightly more layered. Separation is stellar on both. Imaging is too, with crisp transitions between channels. The Nomad’s filter system is similarly basic with only three options. Build on both is absolutely stellar. I’ll give the Nomad the edge due to the use of titanium which is even more durable. The inner silicone sleeve also feels great against the ear. Both have excellent cables, though I appreciate that ADVANCED includes two and that they are very different from each other.
ADVANCED’s enthusiast products are consistent. Their drivers are clear, detailed, quick, and well controlled with some treble emphasis that keeps them lively. The GT3 exemplifies and embraces these qualities, giving listeners an experience that both excites and impresses on a technical level. The filter system is a welcome feature, even if the changes they offer lack variety beyond the upper mid-range.
In addition to sounding outstanding, the GT3 is equipped with a generous suite of accessories. ADVANCED includes a wide variety of unique tips to ensure you can find a good fit, necessary for experiencing any earphone at its best. The inclusion of two cables is appreciated and avoids redundancy through one being equipped for mobile use via the built in mic and remote. Last and most impressive is the sheer quality of the build. The materials used feel the part of a premium product with each component fitting together with impressively tight tolerances. ADVANCED’s confidence in the build is evident too. You don’t back your product with a three year warranty unless you know it’s going to last.
The GT3 name is fitting for this product. Like it’s German namesake, its build quality is excessively good and its performance isn’t for the mainstream. It focuses on technical prowess and knife edge accuracy. This thing is very good at what it does.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (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 Bone) (Album)