Advanced Sound Model 3 convertible earphones review

Wired or wireless? Advanced Sound's Model 3 connect both ways, and sound great

The ADV. Sound Model 3 sound fantastic, whether you’re using them in wired or Bluetooth modes.
The ADV. Sound Model 3 sound fantastic, whether you’re using them in wired or Bluetooth modes.
The ADV. Sound Model 3 sound fantastic, whether you’re using them in wired or Bluetooth modes.

Highs

  • Cool, translucent aesthetic
  • Snug fit with wireless guide
  • Powerful bass response
  • Clear, warm sound signature
  • aptX, HRA support

Lows

  • Flimsy MMCX connectors make switching configurations a bit precarious
  • Included foam tips are terrible
  • Ambitious design bites off more than it can chew

Last year, Advanced Sound impressed us with the super-affordable M4 earbuds. This time around, we’re evaluating their newest sibling in our Advanced Sound Model 3 review.

A few minor design flaws notwithstanding, we’re happy to report that the Model 3 met our lofty expectations, delivering top-notch sound quality in both Bluetooth and wired configurations. For just $80, you’d be crazy not to give them a shot.

Out of the box

We found the Model 3 clothed in two layers of packaging; a white outer sleeve displays the earphones proudly, with some inspirational branding on the sides and a list of features and included components on the back. Inside, a nondescript black box slides out, sealed magnetically. Both boxes bear the slogan “Break Free.”

Undress the packaging further, and you’ll find the earbuds encased in gray foam, already outfitted with a pair of Kelly-green foam tips and attached to their Bluetooth guide/necklace. Directly below the Model 3, a small, zippered hard pouch houses all the included accessories, including three sizes of black silicone eartips, two sizes of foam tips (green again), a Micro USB charge cable in the same shade of green, and a 3.5mm-MMCX cable.

Per industry standards, all these accessories (save the charge cable) are interned in individual plastic bags, which are small and re-sealable. Underneath the pouch, there’s a small instruction booklet to help get you up and running.

Of note: The official Hi-Res Audio logo is proudly displayed on the front of the outer sleeve, indicating that the Model 3 are capable of producing frequencies at or above 40kHz.

Setup

Getting started with the Model 3 is extremely simple, and should only take a few seconds. Enable Bluetooth on the device with which you’d like to pair, then press and hold the Power button until the tiny LED flashes white and orange. A voice prompt will first announce “Power on,” and then “Pairing.”

Next, select “ADV. MODEL 3” from the list of devices to pair. If you’ve got one of the earbuds in, you’ll hear an English woman say “Your headset is connected.” You’re all set to start listening.

Alternately: if you’d prefer to first use the Model 3 in wired mode, pull on the end of the cable (the black part) that’s attached to each ‘bud until it pops out. Don’t twist the connector or pull on the guide (the grayish part). Take the 3.5mm cable out of its plastic baggy, remove the twist tie, and snap the connectors into the MMCX ports on the earbuds themselves. Plug the 3.5mm jack into your headphone port and you’re good to go.

Features and design

The model we received for review purposes was the clear colorway; the Model 3 also comes in black. The earbuds’ casings are translucent, which is neat, providing a glimpse into the buds’ innards. Twin ear guides connect the earbuds to the leash; they’re about eight inches long, in a silvery color.

The leash itself consists of a triangular main control unit – intended to hang on your chest – with two fabric-y cables running to either side of a magnetic clasp, which hangs behind your neck and cleverly houses the Model 3’s charge port.

When the battery dies, you can replace the Bluetooth leash with a regular old 3.5mm cable, and carry on listening.

All these cords feel substantial and durable, so you won’t have to worry about fraying. The ear guides do seem a little bit longer than they need to be – while wearing hooded jackets and sweatshirts, they would get bumped out of place on occasion – but not egregiously so. The magnetic clasp doesn’t connect very strongly, it seems, which also became a bit of an issue while wearing heavier clothing with more of a presence on the neck.

Altogether, the Bluetooth design seems intuitive, but could have been executed better. Once removed from their home around the neck, the ear guides tend to wrap themselves around the leash, which can be annoying. The buttons on the control unit are a bit smaller than we’d like, which can lead to unintended consequences after a small slip of the finger. As the Model 3 aren’t intended for use while exercising, this shouldn’t present too much of a problem.

For reference, tapping the top and bottom buttons will navigate forward and back a track, while holding those buttons down adjusts volume. Tapping the middle button pauses and plays, as well as answering and ending calls, if you’re connected to a phone. Double tapping the middle button calls back the most recent number in your phone, and holding the button down powers the ‘buds on and off (as well as pairing, of course).

ADVANCED Model 3 earbuds charger open
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

One of the big draws here is the earphones’ convertible nature; when the battery dies (or if you just prefer not to use Bluetooth), you can replace the Bluetooth leash with a regular old 3.5mm cable, and carry on listening. The included cable is satisfyingly long, and it feels sturdy enough, but the MMCX connectors themselves…don’t. Unplugging the leash from the ‘buds can be difficult, as the cable sometimes just doesn’t want to pop out. The way the port is angled makes it difficult to get a good grip, and the connectors in the 3.5mm cable feel a sight less resilient than the ones on the leash. We haven’t experienced any major issues with this yet, but it just kind of feels like a disaster waiting to happen.

One of our biggest gripes: The included foam tips are simply awful. Unlike popular memory foam tips like Comply, which compress easily then expand to fit your ear canal, the included tips aren’t very pliable, and if you’re the type to take your ‘buds out (and put them back in) a lot, they can cause discomfort. The included silicone tips were fine. The Model 3 support Qualcomm aptX, but we tested exclusively with Apple products, so we can’t comment on its efficacy.

Performance

OK, so there are a few minor design flaws. For some earbuds, that would be the nail in the coffin, but not here. What the Model 3 lacks in convenience, it more than makes up for with stellar sound quality, justifying ADV.’s claim that they were built “for the love of music.”

Given the meager size of the monitors themselves and the single dynamic drivers within, we were astonished at how full the bass response was. Funky basslines like on Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust sounded fantastic, and the grimy electronic sound of Earl Sweatshirt’s Hive was satisfyingly unsettling.

Cymbals and drums sound great on the Model 3, particularly in rock songs. The sound signature is well-balanced, with complex arrangements like Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered coming through in full – from tambourine in the left ear to sitar in the right, it’s all here, even listening at lower volumes.

Cranking the volume to max, we were happy to note that the ‘buds got LOUD, in wireless and wired modes alike.

The Model 3 handle dynamics with ease; slow-burning electronic songs like Flume’s Helix and A Baru in New York build momentum before dropping with oomph, and soft ukelele echoes eerily in Young the Giant’s Art Exhibit. Sounds float effortlessly across the x- and y-axes, though we didn’t find too much depth in the soundstage.

Overall, vocals are warm and full-bodied, standing out on their own (Pentatonix’ Hallelujah sounded breathtaking) and blending well with instrumentation. Highs were clear, and the midrange was always present, if reserved at times. Occasionally, details got lost in busier tracks with lots of synthetic sounds, but that was a rarity.

Despite their modest profile, the Model 3 certainly pack a punch; cranking the volume to max, we were happy to note that the ‘buds got LOUD, in wireless and wired modes alike. The advertised battery life is five hours, and we found that to be fairly accurate, though we preferred using the ‘phones in wired mode anyway.

We had zero problems with the Bluetooth connection – no dropouts, no fuzziness, nothing. Noise isolation was another strong point; even at the gym or while waiting for the bus, nearly all ambient noise was blocked out. We imagine that investing in some nicer eartips would still be a good idea, though.

Warranty information

As long as you’re in the United States, all ADV. products include a 3-year limited warranty. This is awesome, considering how nervous the tiny MMCX connectors made us. Unfortunately, the warranty doesn’t cover acts of God, so if you get struck by lightning with the Model 3 on, you’re out of luck.

Our Take

Despite some questionable decisions when it comes to design, the Model 3 are a truly exceptional product. For less than $100, they’re comfortable, versatile, and they sound amazing.

ADV. claims that these are for “audiophiles craving that crystal clear and mind-blowing detail;” after listening to these earphones, we have no doubt that the target audience will appreciate the Model 3.

Is there a better alternative?

For the money? No, not really. Few earbuds sound this good, and fewer still offer the convenience of both wired and wireless playback. Still, there are reasons to look elsewhere.

Gym rats, for example, should look for sweatproof ‘buds, which the Model 3 are not. Check out Jaybird’s X3 Sport, which sound great and fit like a glove.

Audiophiles in search of superior sound don’t have many options when it comes to IEMs, but the 1More Quad Driver provide greater detail and a brighter upper register without breaking the bank.

If a fully wireless earbud is what you seek, there are better options than the Model 3, hamstrung slightly by its complex Bluetooth leash. Try out Bragi’s The Headphone instead. For more choices, take a look at the best wireless earbuds.

How long will it last?

In terms of physical build quality, we’re a bit concerned that the MMCX connectors will wear down with regular use. The 3-year warranty assuages this fear, though, and otherwise, the Model 3 feel sturdy. As wireless and audio technologies improve, we expect these ‘phones will become a bit antiquated, but for the price, they still can’t be beat.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Model 3 simply sound too good to pass up at $80.