ADV Model 3 BA2: Purposeful
Today we’re checking out the Model 3 BA2 from ADV.
Four years ago (has it really been that long!!??), ADV released the Model 3, a 6mm micro driver equipped earphone with MMCX removable cables. It had a stylish, low profile shell similar in style to products from Weston and Shure. Depending on which version you ordered (Live or Mobile) it came with either a silver-plated cable, or a standard cable as well as a Bluetooth module. It sounded fantastic in either configuration and didn’t cost all that much coming in under 100 USD.
Enter the Model 3 BA2 which uses the same housing but now in a stylish blue. It swaps out the tiny dynamic for ADV’s proprietary dual armature configuration and ditches the original cables for the uber high quality silver plated cable that came with GT3 and GT3 Superbass. From what I gather based on the marketing info, the BA2 is taking on a more professional, monitor-oriented role compared to the consumer-focused, warmer and bassier sound of the original Model 3. I’m not a drummer, bass player, vocalist, sound engineer, or composer so I can’t attack this review from any of those angles. However, I am an audio enthusiast who has had access to high end stereo equipment since I was a child and have built my own speaker enclosures. I’ve also tested and reviewed literally hundreds of headphones and earphones at this point in my wage-less “career”, and spent time with countless more, so I like to think I know a thing or two about good sound.
Does the Model 3 BA2 offer good sound for it’s 199.99 USD price tag? Let’s find out.
What I Hear The BA2 has a fairly flat, well-balanced sound signature with a prominent, organic midrange that steals the show. Keep in mind that the mids might at first seem veiled. They are notably more lush and thick sounding than what I’m used to. But after just a few tracks with the BA2 the “veil is lifted”, so to speak. This is not an earphone you can just pick up and listen to for a few minutes. You need to give your brain time to adjust to the presentation. Once you do you get a great look at just how full and complete the BA2 can sound. The midrange is where the BA2 shines as a result. It’s presentation is quite linear from lower to upper with no bias towards male or female vocalists. Notes are dense and rife with texture. Timbre is not the most accurate with a somewhat typical, BA-like dryness to it that may turn some off. If you’ve never been a fan of balanced armatures, the BA2 won’t do anything to change your opinion.
Upper ranges on the BA2 are quite relaxed and really the only area where it sounds unbalanced. The brilliance region is relatively under-emphasized. As a result, shimmery, sprinkling effects like the hi-hats on Gramatik’s “Blue Step” lack impact and presence. This also contributes to the BA2’s compact staging and closed in presentation. Lower treble isn’t boosted to compensate which is probably a good thing. As it stands, it’s prominent enough to keep the BA2 from sounding overly dark and gives it good detail and clarity down into the midrange. But again, this is really only after spending some time with the earphone to become accustomed to the tune. On first listen or after trying something with a more vibrant upper range, the BA2 feels slightly cloudy.
The BA2’s low end carries on the fairly linear presentation you hear elsewhere. That said, midbass is perceived as slightly more prominent than other regions thanks to a lack of visceral feedback provided via subbass regions. Thankfully that midbass provides a solid punch with pretty decent control. You don’t have to worry about it sounding bloated or loose, or suffer with bleed into the midrange. Texturing is prominent so while the low end doesn’t carry tracks like bassier, dynamic driver-based cousins, the quality is there. Speed is satisfying as well. While not as quick as the drivers in something like the EarNiNE EN2J, rapidity here is no slouch and the BA2 gives notes a realistic decay that is quite satisfying, especially with drums.
When it comes to sound stage the BA2 is quite intimate thanks to that forward midrange, vocal presence, and lack of upper treble emphasis. Depth is greater than width giving tracks an in-the-head, but well layered feel. Instrument separation is fine, sounding most competent in the midrange and weakest in the treble where it can become mildly congested since there isn’t a lot of air for notes to play around in. Imaging quality is in line with others in the price range with sounds moving cleanly between channels. The BA2 does a good job of keeping the listener immersed within the track.
Overall, I found the BA2 to be a hard one to put my finger on. It is tuned far from the bright and bassy, “consumer friendly” sets I’ve become so accustomed to. As the marketing suggests, it sounds like a musician’s tool and is tuned with a purpose that goes beyond raw entertainment.
Compared To A Peer
BGVP DM6 (199.00 USD): DM6 is the bassier of the two with a heavier, more impactful midbass presence. Subbass extension is similar with the DM6 having a hint more emphasis. The BA2’s midrange is noticeably more forward with vocals carrying more thickness, weight, and density throughout a mix, though at the cost of timbre accuracy which sounds more dry than the DM6. Treble of the DM6 has more presence in the brilliance region aiding in the more airy presentation it provides. Lower treble of the BA2 is more emphasized improving detail and clarity only through the mids while the DM6 retains an edge in the treble. The DM6 has a wider, deeper sound stage but doesn’t move sound from channel-to-channel with the same accuracy as the BA2. It does a slightly better job of layering and separating sounds though.
Build of the DM6’s earpieces is a step up. This is due to their hand built natural and use of high quality acrylics. The lack of seams and general upscale feel to the materials just gives it an air of quality not found in the construction of the BA2. Cables are another story. While the DM6’s cable is clearly a high quality offering, it is much too stiff, sticky, and heavy to be enjoyable to use. The BA2’s cable looks just as good but is thinner and significantly more manageable.
Overall I much prefer the build of the DM6, while the more balanced, thicker sound of the BA2 wins me over, even if I end up missing the DM6’s more satisfying upper treble presence.
Campfire Audio Comet (199 USD): The single-BA Comet has a fair bit more treble presence, upper treble in particular. This gives it more shimmer and sparkle, as well as a more airy, open feel. Lower treble is similar in presence with the BA2 showing off slightly more detail, amidst similar clarity. The BA2’s midrange plays a much larger role in the overall presentation with vocals and instruments in this range coming across much more full, prominent, and closer to the ear. It is a much more intimate presentation than what you find on the Comet. Timbre is in the Comet’s favour thanks to it’s additional warmth. The low end of the BA2 is a bit less linear with more midbass emphasis. Both lose emphasis in subbass regions, with the Comet retaining slightly more presence. BA2’s drivers slam a little harder though, and provide more texture. Sound stage is much wider on the Comet with the BA2 sounding deeper and more well-rounded. Imaging is slightly more nuanced on the Comet while the BA2 does a better job with layering and separation.
In terms of build, Comet gets the nod. Its hand-polished, stainless steel housings exude quality and are immaculately put together. Campfire’s cable is also very nice, though I do prefer ADV’s slightly thicker, more durable feeling inclusion. It’s also better in cool weather than the Comet’s cable which gets pretty stiff. Not great when fit and comfort are far from class leading, unlike the BA2.
Overall I prefer the BA2. The Comet’s tuning is much more successful as a daily driver and I really enjoy how it sounds, but the BA2’s vastly superior comfort and overall fit, along with good sound quality, tip my preference in it’s favour. If the Comet were nicer to wear, I’d be picking it up more often.
NuForce HEM6 (349.00 USD): Both earphones have a fairly flat tuning with slight skews in different directions. Upper treble on the triple-BA HEM6 is more prominent and while neither could be called sparkly, the HEM6 does display more shimmer and shine than the BA2. This also helps give it a more spacious and airy presentation, especially when it comes to sound stage width. The BA2’s notably more forward midrange and additional lower treble emphasis gives it a more intimate presentation. Clarity is slightly improved on the HEM6 while raw detail is about the same. Imaging quality is similarly good while the HEM6 has slightly improved layering and about equal separation. The BA2 has more low end presence in both sub and midbass areas and does a better job with providing some visceral feedback. Neither digs particularly deep which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The BA2’s drivers aren’t quite as quick. Notes have a heavier presence with a longer note decay. When notes do hit the initial attack is more impactful. The BA2 is also more textured and it does a better job with grungy notes. Both earphones have a fairly organic, analogue sound to them with the HEM6’s slightly darker presentation coming across a bit more realistic to my ears.
In terms of build, they’re fairly equal. The HEM6’s plastics feels tougher and more substantial, especially in the similarly slender nozzle. It’s somewhat proprietary 2-pin system is not as versatile as the BA2’s MMCX ports which is a downfall because the stock cables are not fantastic, especially compared to what ADV included with the BA2. Since they both have low profile, bean-shaped housings fit is pretty much identical. Isolation is pretty much the same too.
Choosing the two comes down to preference and price since they both perform a similar function, both physically and auditorily. I found myself gravitating towards the HEM6 while comparing the two because of it’s larger soundstage, slightly improved technical ability, and additional upper treble presence. That said, if I were to buy one or the other the BA2 would get my hard-earned dollar. The HEM6’s improvements over the BA2 are simply too mild to justify an extra 150 USD.
In The Ear The BA2 shares it’s DNA with the regular Model 3, and that’s a good thing. The housings are all plastic yet feel fairly thick and solid. Inside the housing is a diamond-like texture which gives the earphone a stylish aesthetic. Given the BA2 uses a snazzy clear blue plastic this time around, this design motif is highlighted more than it was on the original, clear coloured Model 3. The v-shaped ridge protruding from the outer facing portion of the housing perfectly caressed the tip of your finger allowing for easy insertion into your ear. Often with low profile earphones of this style, I spend a lot of time fiddling around trying to find the perfect seal. The BA2’s long nozzle and tip selection negates this, and I have no issues getting them into position quickly and comfortably. The low weight and ergonomic shape make this something you can wear for long periods without experiencing any discomfort, useful for the target demographic who will likely have them in for hours at a time.
While I haven’t seen anyone having problems with this, it is still worth pointing out that if you’re someone that is careless with your earphones, you might want to reconsider buying the BA2. It features the same slim plastic nozzles found on the regular Model 3. They’re made of fairly thin plastic in the style of Shure’s SE215. Someone that tucks these into their pocket without first depositing them into a case will risk snapping off the nozzle. And if my father-in-law is any indication (I still love you though!) it could also be something to watch out for when changing tips, taking care not to bend the nozzle and snap it off.
The BA2 comes with the same silver-plated copper cable that was shipped with both GT3 models. The clear sheath is 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. This is the sort of cable that other manufacturers would do well to emulate.
When it comes to isolation the BA2 is outstanding. The housings are fully sealed which combined with their ability to fill your outer sear, means little noise leaks through. This is especially true when using the included foam tips. However, even with just the basic stock silicone tips the BA2 is pretty successful as an earplug. With no music playing, the snicking of my keyboard is barely audible and cars driving by my open window sound breeze-like. Taking the BA2 into a more demanding setting like the local coffee shop during rush hour shows the isolation holds up. Yes, you can still hear those around you, but the moment you toss on some music that all pretty much fades away. I can listen to music at my regularly low volumes with the BA2, regardless of my setting.
In The Box ADV is one of those brands that usually sends out their products in a nice package, though one that isn’t overly wasteful. The BA2 is one of those lucky recipients. The exterior cardboard sheath is an attractive sky blue with BA2 plastered in giant letters across the front. Below in tiny lettering is the full model name along with mention that these are “Professional Dual (2) Driver In-Ear Monitors”. Flipping around to the back of the sheath you find tucked away at the bottom a measurement graph and specifications. An image of a drummer jamming out at a concert completely dominates the background. Sliding off the sheath we see a more traditional semi-gloss black box with the ADVANCED logo printed on the front, magnetically sealed shut. Lift the flap and pull back the lid and you’re greeted by the amusingly named Tenacious case. Inside the case is the earphones and all accessories. In all you get:
- Model 3 BA2 earphones
- MMCX silver-plated copper 3.5mm cable
- 3 pairs of blue Fidelity foam tips
- 3 pairs of white Fidelity silicone tips
- Tenacious case
- 1 leather cable tie
- 1 1/4″ adapter
Back to the Tenacious case. This is one of those completely over the top Pelican style cases made from chunky, dense plastics with beefy hinges and a seal all around the rim that makes it impervious to water. Add to that what looks like a very long strap (I don’t dare undo it) and you’ve got a killer kit for carrying around a small dap (ex. Shanling M0) with your earphones. The rest of the accessories are all quality units too. The silicone tips are grippy and flexible, yet feel quite durable. The foam tips compress well and expand slowly enough to get a good seal the first time around, but not so long as to make it feel like they’re holding you back from listening to your music. Overall a very nice unboxing experience.
Final Thoughts The BA2 is an interesting product. I’m glad it’s not being marketed as a consumer-focused earphone that is great for everyone. If it was, I can see ADV having a few unhappy buyers on their hands. It is tuned like a niche product, and if the way it’s being advertised is any indication, it is. It’s being marketed as a tool for musicians with a tuning style that will benefit drummers, bass players, vocalists, and composers. Given the strong midrange performance and satisfying drum reproduction, ADV has done a great job of nailing down something useful for the target demographic and tailoring the BA2 to them. The product page isn’t full of the usual marketing fluff that makes something sound awesome without reflecting what that product is actually like (i.e. your typical reseller page on Amazon, Aliexpress, etc.). What they say is what you get, and it’s seriously refreshing.
That said, as a general listener and consumer of music of varied genres, one that doesn’t use their earphones so much as a tool but instead for entertainment, I genuinely enjoyed my time with the BA2. I in no way fit the model demographic for this earphone either. As someone that likes boosted treble, the BA2 is unquestionably lacking in that area for my tastes, and I’d rather not have to go through a few tracks to become reacquainted with the sound every time I come back to it from a different earphone. However, the strong midrange did a fantastic job of pulling emotion from the artists voices, and the punchy, well-defined bass backed it perfectly. Once I really sat down to understand what ADV was trying to do, it clicked and I found myself liking it more on each listen.
So what it comes down to is this; if don’t make or monitor music, you are unlikely to find a ton of appeal in the BA2. But if you do, this seems like it would be a great option. Small, comfortable, killer mids and quality bass, and relaxed highs so you can work for extended periods without ear fatigue. What it was designed to do, it does very well. I might have to bust out my old laptop containing a copy of FL Studio and revisit some of my old attempts at D’n’B from back in the day.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer Thanks to Hannah with ADV for sending over a sample of the Model 3 BA2 for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on time spent listening to the BA2 over the last month. They do not represent ADV or any other entity. At the time of writing the BA2 retailed for 199.99 USD: https://www.adv-sound.com/products/model-3-ba2
- Driver: Dual (2) balanced armatures
- Impedance: 10 ohm +/- 15%
- Sensitivity: 118dB +/- 3dB @ 1kHz
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40kHz
- Rated Input Power: 2mW
- Max Input Power: 3mW
Devices Used For Testing LG Q70, XDuoo Link, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501, ifi hip dac, Shanling M0
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams