The Advanced Sound Model 3 Packs A Fantastic Value Into An $80 Package
The last encounter I had with Advanced Sound was a decent while ago, right around the release of their first IEM, the M4. That was their freshmen release, and for the most part, they did a pretty good job. However, it’s always been part of Advanced Sound’s mission to create products that are, well, advanced. The Model 3, while not perfect, is an impressive product.
You can find the Model 3 here, on Advanced Sound’s official web store.
Disclaimer: This review is based upon a sample unit provided to me by a manufacturer or distributor in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any way from the writing of the review. I would like to thank Peter at Advanced Sound for sending me this review unit.
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 enjoy-ability 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, 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 Model 3 was powered like so:
PC optical out-> HifiMe 9018 SPDIF DAC -> 3.5mm out -> earphones
Nexus 6P -> Bluetooth -> earphones
All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.
Please note that all critical listening is done over a wired connection for consistency and accuracy’s sake.
Bass. That’s the first thing I noticed, as it’s a big departure from the M4’s sound signature. However, Advanced Sound’s “house sound” has always lain with their very satisfying and detailed treble, which is still present in the same form it took on the M4. Mids and vocals do have a very slightly warm coloration to them. It’s not super subtle, but isn’t too obvious either. Drumb beats are particularly good, with a solid impact and resonance. In fact, the Model 3 is among the best IEMs I’ve tested in terms of drum realism.
The Model 3, while retaining much of the treble’s overall signature from the M4, does suffer a bit in comparison in terms of resolution. This is what naturally occurs when there are more frequencies at play at higher volumes. For example, in White Flag, some of the guitar strumming that was clear on the M4 is a little more pushed into the background on the Model 3.
Midnight City’s treble-bound synths were placed roughly in the middle of the mix, but remained surprisingly clear and dynamic.
From the moment that I fired up Outlands, I knew I was in for a ride. The M4 excelled at creating a convincing level of air and separation in the treble, and the Model 3 is no different. Tonality and timbre of the violins is good, and is on the level of some higher-end IEMs, something I give Advanced Sound props for.
Anyone who’s heard Flagpole Sitta will understand that the song is quite energetic. However, it’s easy for the song to get a little too bleak and washed out. Thankfully, the Model 3 does a great job balancing the lower-mids with the rest of the song, and doesn’t compromise general transparency for for a meatier sound.
Jacked Up’s pianos had a decent hardness to them, indicating that the Model 3 has good speed of attack and decay in the mids. The guitar’s electric distortion came through very well, and meshed well with the song. In fact, the mids’ harmony made it feel more like I was attending a jam session than listening to a song on my earphones.
The vocals, as I mentioned earlier, have a slight warm coloration to them. Additionally, the vocals are placed pretty close to the rest of the mids, but still manage to stay in control, without feeling disconnected from the rest of the music.
This was one of the categories I was most excited for, as I hadn’t yet heard what Advanced Sound was really capable of in the bass department. Needless to say, they delivered. While the bass is a little too strong for my tastes, it’s obvious how it could appeal to other, more bass-friendly, listeners.
The kick-drums of Lights and 99 problems were very lifelike, more so than most other IEM’s I’ve personally heard. But it doesn’t stop there. Be it a Green Day album, a Muse album, or a Alabama Shakes album, the Model 3 consistently delivers very satisfying drum beats.
“But wait! How does it do in electronic music? I’m all about that bass, you know”. Well, why didn’t you ask earlier hypothetical audience member? The Model 3 definitely has you covered. With a strong amount of both mid and sub-bass, you can be sure that the new underground EDM artist you found on Soundcloud will sound good through the Model 3. Taska Black’s “Leave Me” was a trip, and notably wetter than on my other preferred bass earphone, the Auglamour R8 (but in a good way). The same can be said for Gold Dust. That being said, the bass can become a little too boomy for me in some of my Rock and Alternative songs.
Unfortunately, Throne didn’t perform too well on the Model 3. The vocal harmonies didn’t come through too well, and had some smudging. The upper register of the song was similarly tamed.
I’m Not Alright fared better, but still had some smudging issues during the very busy chorus. The background trumpets and violins did have some difficulty cutting through the mix as well, though still audible in the back of the mix.
Packaging / Unboxing
I was impressed with build quality once I picked up the Model 3 — not because it exudes the premium qualities of a more expensive product, but because Advanced Sound managed to keep the build quality overall pretty good despite the aggressively low pricing of the Model 3. Let me elaborate.
The driver housings of the Model 3 are build from a hard transparent plastic. It’s textured, making it easy to grip. The nozzles are also solid.
The wired cable is made from a simple plastic, and is thinner than your average cable. This, however, does not make it feel cheaper or more frail, which is a plus.
The Bluetooth cable is where the build of the Model 3 really begins to shine. Since the Model 3 is designed to work with both the wired and Bluetooth MMCX cable, Advanced couldn’t really but all the components necessary for a wireless earphone where most other companies would but them: inside the driver housing. This lead them to design the Model 3’s Bluetooth cable so that it looks like it does. While confusing to use at first, taking a second look reveals, in my opinion, quite good judgement of the Model 3’s designers’ part. You are supposed to wear the Model 3 with the control unit hanging in front of you like a necklace, while the magnetically clasping charging port / battery container goes behind your neck. It’s pretty nice once you get used to it, as it feels more secure than you standard Bluetooth earphones.
The inline controls are also interesting. The housing is made of a matte soft-touch black plastic, while the actual buttons are made from a translucent black plastic with a glossy finish. Underneath the buttons are a couple LEDs that illuminate when the device is at low battery, charging, etc.
The actual cabling is decent as well. The cable from the battery to the controls is covered in a cloth, while the cable the battery to the driver housings is made from a grey rubberized material.
Connectivity / Batter Life
Advanced quotes some decent battery life specs. With a charge time of 1.5 hours and playback time of up to 5 hours, the Model 3 is certainly no slouch. The Model 3 charges over Micro-USB, so chances are, if you forget or loose your included cable, someone else will have one for you to borrow.
Interestingly enough, the Model 3 comes with both a wired MMCX cable, and a Bluetooth 4.1, aptX enabled MMCX cable. This versatility is quite freeing once you get used to it. I can quickly and easily switch from a wired connection for my critical listening, to a Bluetooth one for my workouts.
I am a little worried though. Switching between cables frequently accelerates what is an already notable speed of deterioration of the MMCX ports on the driver housings. However, Advanced has got us covered. They offer a 3 year limited warranty for the U.S.
My only issue so far has been that after initially pairing the Model 3 to my Nexus 6P, there is a good amount of stuttering before my music can actually start playing. After that, however, I have no playback problems.
There’s a lot of functionality built in to the controls of the Model 3. Here are the functions:
- Skip Track
- Previous Track
- Play / Pause
- Answer Call / Hang Up
- Increase / Decrease Volume
- Call last known number
Additionally, when you get a call, the controls will read off the number of the incoming caller.
The Model 3 is made to be worn over-the-ear style, Advanced Sound included an ear-guide to help secure the driver housings when you are moving around. The driver housings are small, so this keeps it securely in place, even during my rock-climbing and BMX sessions. Do bear in mind though, the Model 3 is not sweat or water resistant, so exercise with it at your own risk.
I’ve yet to have any comfort or seal issues with the Model 3 given the generous amount of memory foam included with the Model 3.
Advanced really didn’t skimp out on the accessories. Included in the packaging are:
- 3 pairs of memory foam eartips (small, medium, large)
- 3 pairs of silicone eartips (small, medium, large)
- Bluetooth 4.0 MMCX cable
- 3.5mm MMCX cable
- Micro-USB cable
- Semi-hard carrying case
The case is pretty good too. It’s spacious enough to store literally every single accessory included with the Model 3, but is still reasonably sized for on-the-go use. It feels pretty tough as well.
For $80, the Model 3 is a solid choice for someone looking for the best of both the wired, and the Bluetooth worlds, so long as they don’t mind a bassy sonic presentation. While a version of the Model 3 with a little bit less bass and an updated Bluetooth chipset certainly couldn’t hurt, I think that in it’s current state the Model 3 won’t disappoint.