ADV GT3 vs. GT3 Super Bass: spanning the range from treble lovers to the treble intolerant.
Updated: Oct 3, 2020
Hey guys, welcome back to the neighborhood!
Today we have a comparison review of two IEMs from ADV Sound. The brilliant GT3 and its emo cousin the GT3 Super Bass. I’d like to thank Dave from DBS Tech Talks for sending in the GT3, and Farsil the Wizard for sending in the GT3 Super Bass for this comparison.
ADV is a company out of New York in the good old US of A, making IEMs for audiophiles and the pro-audio crowd alike. And let me tell you guys, these earphones are not cheap. The GT3 comes in a price tag of $300, and the Super Bass costs even more, at $350. And for their costs, these things both are built extremely well. Both appear to be made out of a weighty, CNC-machined stainless steel. The GT3 has a shiny, matte-silver finish, while the Super Bass has a brushed, metallic-black finish.
Outside of the colorway difference here. The internal package included with each IEM appears to be rather identical. Each unit came stock with 1 MMCX silver-plated cooper quad-braided cable, a separate mobile cable with 3-button remote and mic for portable carry, a carrying pouch, a leather cable tie, and a variety of tips; including foam, double flanged silicon, and single-flanged silicone. Again both earphones were both built very well, and came with a decent number of high-quality accessories for your money.
Three tuning filters were also included with each set, a red treble filter, a silver neutral filter, and a black bass filter; so, you can adjust each IEM to your sonic preferences somewhat. But let me talk about each IEM in general first, before I get into the filters.
In general, both IEMs are very resolving, and have astounding detail and resolution capabilities for what appears to be a single dynamic driver. I’m not sure what the GT3’s voice coil is made of, for sure, but the Super Bass’ voice coil was said to be made of high-purity copper wire, and I suspect that the GT3’s is also made from this, but I could not confirm this. ADV claims that the voice coil is 30% lighter than a traditional driver, and this leads to “electrostatic-like” sound. In practice; however, these don’t really sound much like electrostatics, despite their detail and resolution capabilities.
In the end I think these things sound closer to some combination of a Beyerdynamic headphones mixed with a Sennheiser HD800. Each of these is somewhat delicate in its presentation, and I would describe their general timbre as thin, tinny, brittle, and metallic sounding; with a certain amount of sheen to it.
Despite this presentation, I did find that both IEMs had decent sub-bass extension, but in each case, the bass was also weak with regard to its overall magnitude. In other words, you could hear the bass notes fairly deep into the sub-bass region, but their impact was extremely diminished.
One interesting phenomenon that I observed about the bass in comparison between these two earphones, was that overall bass representation was similar between the two sets, despite the fact that one variant is labeled as the Super Bass IEM. Unfortunately, the bass in the Super Bass variety was just more diffuse and mushy sounding, which lead to an overarching haze in the mix on this set that seemed to infect the entirety of the frequency response spectrum; depending somewhat on filter choice.
So, what are some other differences between these two. The GT3 is crisper, airier, and has sharp treble, like an Ice Pick. If I was picking an IEM for ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), it might be this one.
Depending on how it was amped, and the tips that were used, the GT3 either reminded me of the Beyerdynamic T1 or the Sennheiser HD800. On the Gold Note DS-10 for example, it was airier and more delicate, and sounded more like an HD800; whereas on a starker, solid-state amp such as the THX AAA 789, the GT3 came across as more directional and intensely so, mirroring the presentation of say the T1. The Gold Note presentation benefitted most from the double-flanged silicon tips, while the 789 benefited most from the grey, single flanged silicon tips. Overall, I found that the GT3 lost some of its alluring, effervescent quality with this tip, but was generally less sharp with the smaller-bored single-flanged tips.
The grey tips were also the only tips that I would recommend with the Super Bass, but the only amp that did not produce shout in the midrange was the Gold Note DS-10, and the Super Bass, in general, was rather wonky sounding, and offered a treble-reductionist perspective to its listener. While I’ll get into the filters in a second, I would say that the only filter I would recommend for the Super Bass would be the treble filter, as it offered the least relaxed presentation. Yet, with all the filters, the Super Bass ended--up presenting itself as overly relaxed in the end. The Super Bass isn’t just for people that like a rolled-off or warmer treble, it’s for the treble intolerant.
Although the GT3 could be perceived as the opposite; being marketed towards treble lovers instead, this resulted in a unique set of problems for the GT3. In addition to the GT3 being rather sharp and poignant, it also suffered for a variety of sibilance issues. While these issues weren’t of the super-offense, or ear-piercing variety; thanks, in part, to GT3’s delicate character, sibilance ostensibly was present, and effortlessly exposed on harsher recordings.
In contrast, the GT3 Super Bass offered an overly relaxed character that was somehow still tinny and crisp, but significantly duller than the GT3. Resolution was good, and details were there, but obfuscated by bass warming. Treble lacked presence and was thin, but extension at both ends was there oddly. I would summarize the GT3 Super Bass as being dark but detailed, and definitively veiled.
So, let’s talk about the filter differences briefly, because there are many of them, and I don’t want to bore you.
Let’s begin with the GT3.
The bass filter, generally brings everything forward. In listening to the GT3, with the bass filter on, I feel like I’m mainlining coffee. If you feel sleepy in the morning, then just put these on. Having said that, this filter was the dullest out of the three, especially on an amp like the THX AAA 789. Nevertheless the bass filter was also less shouty than the others, despite its general forwardness.
The neutral filter was crisp, airy, and the most delicate. In combination with the Gold Note DS-10 and an IEMatch, this sounded the most HD800-like, but things were more direct on the THX 789. If you’re going for ASMR, this would be the filter to go with.
On the Gold Note DS-10, I found the treble filter of the GT3 to be the most transparent. Interestingly the bass was just as good as the bass on the treble filter, but less intense and more pleasing to my ears. The treble filter also displayed an earlier mid elevation that was very apparent. On the Gold Note DS10 the treble filter may have actually been my preference; however, on the AAA 789, the treble filters were too strident.
For the GT3 Super Bass, I found the treble filter to be the best across-the-board for this set; however, vocals were still recessed, treble was lacking, and its detail in the upper range of obfuscated by the rest of the mix.
The neutral filters did not sound neutral or natural at all, and instead sounded wonky and shouty.
Ironically, the bass filter did not really increase the bass; instead, warmth simply leaked from the low-end, and veiled the rest of the range- producing a swampy effect for the Super Bass.
In the end, I cannot recommend the GT3 Super Bass to any legitimate human being. Someone would need to be so treble intolerant for this to be their earphone of choice, and I’m not sure that, that human--being exists in this world? But, then again, I’m sure they’ve sold more than a few sets, so maybe they do?
Additionally, I would only consider the “O.G.” GT3 as an earphone only for a particular person. If you’re someone who has a headphone collection that includes only a Sennheiser HD800 and a Beyerdynamics’ T1, then this may be the earphone for you! Or maybe, you’re just into ASMR? But, in the end, it’s too bright and brittle for me. Thanks again to Dave from DBS Tech Talks for sending over the GT3, and Farsil the Wizard for sending over the GT3 Super Bass. And with that, I’m out for now!
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