Advanced Sound Alpha Review: Alpha? More Like Final Release!
Advanced Sound is on a warpath to claim a top spot in every audiophile category, and at every price point. With previous hits such as the M4 and Model 3 under their belt, Advanced Sound launched themselves into the messy market of planar-magnetic headphones with the Alpha.
You can find the Alpha for sale here, on Advanced Sound’s official website, for $500.
Disclaimer: This unit was provided to me free of charge for review purposes. I am not affiliated with Advanced Sound beyond this review. These words reflect my true, unaltered, opinion about the product.
Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoyability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, mid-bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
Source: The Alpha was powered like so:
Hidizs AP100 3.5mm out -> FiiO A5 3.5mm out -> headphones
HiFiMAN SuperMini ->FiiO A5 3.5mm -> headphones
PC optical out -> HiFiMe SPDIF 9018 Sabre DAC 3.5mm out -> headphones
HiFiMe SPDIF 9018 Sabre DAC -> Sherwood AD230B -> headphones
All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.
I find that it usually takes my peasently ears a bit of time to adjust to the highly detailed profiles of high-end headphones like planars. My experience with Alpha was no different. At first, the treble felt sharp and grainy. There was some that just didn’t seem right and I could never put my finger on it. But after a day or so of listening that feeling had completely disappeared. My ears had adjusted to the expanded frequency range offered by the Alpha.
Post aural adjustment the sound signature became more clear to me. The Alpha makes use of a relatively even sound signature with some boosting to the upper mids and treble for an added sense of clarity and articulation. The mids are uncolored and the bass is solid, linear, and highly extended.
Treble has traditionally been the strong suit of Advanced Sound’s audio products. The Alpha does not deviate from its heritage and is clear and articulate. You can hear every little detail all the way down to the tiny modulation in the synths of Midnight City, all without every feeling overblown or too aggressive.
The sheer speed of the treble also makes for a great sense of spatial placement in songs like Outlands. I could make out distinct groupings of string-based instrumentation very easily in ways that I have previously only been able to with headphones like the AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon.
Satisfy also proved to be a workable experience. While I can’t say that the treble was totally inert, it was definitely calm enough to not distract me from the song or put me in any level of discomfort.
It’s no secret the Harvey Danger didn’t master Flagpole Sitta very well. On lower-tier headphones and earphones its common for the upper mids to devolve into a mess. That being said, the Alpha marks the third entry into my very short list of earphones and headphones that can articulate it correctly (after the NightOwl Carbon and Earnine EN120). As it turns out the opening riff has both guitars actually playing more than one note, So that’s pretty neat!
The Alpha just kept eating all my test songs for breakfast. It never missed a beat when working with any of the mid-bound instrumentation in any song. The many keyboards from Jacked Up and the long sonorous vocal runs of I Am The Highway sounded wonderful, carrying with them a phenomenal timbre and clarity.
The Alpha does well with both male and female vocals but does display some form of preference towards female ones. They sound sweet and full in a way that just makes you want to listen more and more. Vocalists like La Roux sound especially good.
Bass is very level and mature but never feels stingy or flat. The bass guitar in Moth had lots of depth and character to it throughout the whole song.
The Alpha provided just enough bass for Gold Dust to feel like a worthwhile experience. While I could have definitely used more rumble and higher impact, I get that this isn’t designed to be a basshead product. That said I was definitely able to get more bass quantity out of my Alpha by abusing my Sherwood AD230B’s analog equalizer, raising everything from 10Hz–250Hz by about 3.5dB.
In For The Kill’s bass-line in tough for most transducers to accurately reproduce as it reaches very far down into the sonic spectrum, requiring lots of extension to actually sound good. The Alpha performs strikingly well, bringing the oft-messy bass-line into existence with great clarity and solidity.
Packaging / Unboxing
The unboxing experience of the Alpha is purely luxurious. The headset is snugly fit into a precisely cut indentation in the protective foam. In the middle, you can find the cable cleanly and, most importantly, unabrasively, wrapped around an oval of foam in the middle.
The driver housings appear to be made of some composite material. It’s definitely not metal, as the housings are far too light for even aluminum. While I’m sure that this material is durable (it didn’t flex or bend at all in my fairly comprehensive stress testing) I would like to see this material refined and beefed up a bit.
The front panel is made from aluminum and looks quite attractive, especially as the black paint contrasts with the white lettering. I’d imagine that the paint was powder coated on (or applied via some similar process). This gives the paint a lot of staying power and should prevent rub-off in the far future. Note that the Alpha makes use of an open-backed design, and as such sound will travel unimpeded into them from your surroundings.
The left and right sides are marked by colored metal bands on the rotating hinges that band the drivers to the headband. Red is for right, and black is for left. There are two hinges on the headband. One allows the driver housing to rotate along its horizontal axis while the other allows it to rotate along its verticle axis. I have had to troubles what so ever with its articulation range either, which is a relief.
The headband is framed with an outer metal band and makes use of an inner leather head-strap. The whole thing is self-adjusting and works very well. It easily accommodates both smaller and larger heads.
The cables are detachable. The female connectors are well made and have no wiggle in the housing. They seal tightly onto the cable and allow for very little rotation, which is exactly how I want them to behave.
The earpads are also built quite well. Both sets were stitched with extreme accuracy and I could find no deformities or abnormalities in the padding. They were both immaculate in terms of visuals too.
The cable is made from copper and seems to be coated with a clear grey plastic, giving it a refined color. If you look closely you’ll be able to see the individual threads making up each strand. The geometry on this cable is also pretty impressive. There were no poorly pulled “chain-links” above the Y-splitter nor any failed braids below it.
Advanced opted for a 3.5mm jack as a termination. It has a metal housing, as do the left/right connectors on the other end. They too are color-coded (which helps soothe my OCD).
The Alpha is very light. It weighs a mere 425 g For comparison here’s the weight of some other popular headphones:
- Audeze LCD2: 489 g (planar)
- Audeze LCD3: 548 g (planar)
- HiFiMAN HE560: 375 g (planar)
- Meze 99 Classics: 260 g (dynamic)
- Sennheiser HD 650: 259 g (dynamic)
So it’s easy to say that the Alpha is among the lightest in its class. This makes it incredibly easy to wear for extended periods of time. The self-adjusting headband simplifies things, even more, making it so that fiddling with headband extenders is a thing of the past.
The Alpha doesn’t come with many accessories, but what it does come with is high quality. Inside the box you’ll find:
- 1x braided cable
- 1x pair of dense leather pads
- 1x pair of breathable cloth pads
- 1x leather cable strap
The Alpha is, in spite of what its name may suggest, not a deeply flawed unstable device. It reflects a level of polish and sophistication that I wouldn’t expect from any company on their first pair of headphones, let alone their first pair of planars! These power-hungry headphones are an absolute steal for their price. Solid construction, excellent detail retrieval, and great balanced tuning make it an exceptional buy. I highly recommend it, and give a hearty congratulation to Advanced Sound!
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