Advanced Sound Alpha

I didn’t see any posts regarding the original Advanced Sound Alpha and now that the revision is up on Indiegogo, I thought I would drop my original review on here so you can have a reference as too how they sound since the revision isn’t making changes in that department. Here is a link to the revisions: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/alpha-1-2-ultimate-planar-magnetic-headphones#/

Advanced Alpha - Review

Advanced Alpha - Review

Preface:

I am not a professional reviewer, nor am I an audio guru; I do not have “trained” ears so my explanation of sound may be what some consider “simple” or in “layman” terms. I am not a photographer either, all pics were taken with my LG V30.

Also, I purchased the Advanced Alpha headphones with my hard-earned money, I am in no way associated with Adv-Sound. I purchased the Advanced Alpha because I wanted an upgrade over my other headphones and they seemed to fit the niche I was looking for based off my findings in researching this purchase. This review is unbiased and unaltered and is my own personal opinion of the Advanced Alpha.

My preferred sound signature can be described as an extended sub-bass with a balanced and textured mid-bass. The mids should be forward but less than the treble but in front of the bass. I prefer a bright and sparkly upper range but not sibilant or shouty. My current headphones are the Monoprice M560 and M1060, Beyer Dynamic Custom Studio, Hifiman HE-350 and the House of Marley TTR noise cancelling headphones. I also have the RHA CL750 and Advanced Model 3 in-ear monitors.

I used the following equipment to “test” the Advanced Alpha. Microsoft Surface Pro 3 connected via usb to a Topping D30 dac and A30 amp. I also connected a Little Dot MKII to the Topping D30. A Hifiman Megamini DAP was tested solo and also with a Fiio Q1. I did some listening also from my LG V30. The majority of files were FLAC but I did use some lower quality just to see how the Alpha scaled them.

I listen mostly to the following genres; country, classic rock, classical, new age, Christian contemporary and southern gospel. Some sample songs I used while “testing” out the Advanced Alpha: Randy Travis – Diggin’ Up Bones Aaron Tippin – Working Man’s Ph.D. Alabama – Song of the South Brooks & Dunn – Boot Scootin’ Boogie Charlie Daniels – Night Hawk Darius Rucker – For the First Time Eric Church – Smoke A Little Smoke Hank Williams – All My Rowdy Friends Coming Over Tonight AC/DC – Highway to Hell Aerosmith – Livin’ On the Edge Bon Jovi – This Ain’t A Love Song Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA Yanni – East Meets West Chris Tomlin – God and God Alone Sandi Patty – We Shall Behold Him Steve Green – Lift Up a Song Petra – This Means War Brian Free & Assurance – Just A Little Talk With Jesus Gold City – Power of the Cross Greater Vision – Heaven’s Hero Il Divo – Aleluya Amber Rubarth – Edge of My Seat Apocalyptica – Nothing Else Matters Patrick Doyle – The Great Plains James Newton Howard – Waterworld (main titles) Bob Marley – Turn Your Lights Down Low Celtic Thunder – Ireland’s Call R.E.M. – It’s the End of the World as We Know It Crash Test Dummies – Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

Review:

The Advanced Alpha is a full-sized open-back planar magnetic headphone. Based on the specs and design, these are meant for home or quiet office setup. These are not headphones designed for portable use. Even though they have low impedance of 34ohm the demanding 90db efficiency make them somewhat hard to drive. I highly recommend the use of a dedicated amp or a device that has sufficient power, i.e. Hifiman Megamini or the LG V30 (more on those devices later). The price point of $499.99 puts the Alpha squarely in competition with some bigger names, Hifiman Sundara and HE-400i, Monoprice M1060 and the such. When I was researching this purchase, I was very high on the Sundara. After reading and watching numerous reviews; I nearly pulled the wallet out. But then, my HE-350 broke after just a month and I was skeptical of the Hifiman durability and reliability. So, I started a more intensive search on the Alpha. I wanted to stay under $500 and I wanted to try something new and/or different. Bam, the Advanced Alpha fulfilled those wishes. At the time of purchase, I hadn’t heard the Model 3 so I was not familiar with Advanced products. I took a chance based on what reviews said and there are limited reviews online. I didn’t get to hear them before making the purchase either.

Presentation:

The presentation of the Alpha is by far the best I have experienced of any of my headphones. The Advanced Alpha come in a luxurious box that also can be used for storage if you don’t use a headphone stand, similar to Hifiman. The headphones fit snugly into the cutout mold and take some effort to remove but that gives comfort in knowing that they won’t break if transported in the box. There is a cable winder slot that is hard to put the cable back into. Extra set of pads are in a nifty cutout in the lid, I really like that I don’t have to stash the extra pads in another box or drawer. Advanced also includes a cable tie that is of genuine leather, nice touch but not necessary. They do not include a ¼” adapter which I find odd considering these headphones are not for portable use. But who doesn’t have an extra adapter lying around.

Build:

The build quality of the Advanced Alpha is top notch. They feel and look premium; the Alpha has a durable but elegant feel to them. The earcups are made of plastic with a matte black finish to them. The grills are made of some sort of metal that has a glossy finish. The yokes, arms and headband are metal. The entire headphone feels solid in the hands and doesn’t evoke any worries of durability or reliability, unlike my HE-350 which is all plastic. It feels light but rugged at the same time, whereas the M1060 is heavy and rugged but feels flimsy. The earcups rotate smoothly without any squeaks or creaks. The Advanced branding is tastefully placed and doesn’t dominate the look. The pads are soft and plush, they are like pillows on the ear. The deeper pads, which come stock, are indeed deep and wide, they should fit ears of all types. The shallow pads, are about ½ as thick as the deep pads and may cause some ears to touch the inside of the cup or rest on the pads. The shallow pads do have a hybrid build, protein leather on the outside and cloth on the inside. The auto adjusting head strap is comfortable and disperses the weight evenly. I have no complaints about the pressure or clamp of the Alpha. Some may find the clamp and head strap pressure to be too tight, as noted in some online reviews. The cable, is where I think Advanced could have done better. The cable quality itself is well built and good looking, even if it is brown. The cable is short, 1.2m or 47.25 inches. I can barely use it at my desk, it makes me feel like I am tethered to my desk. I would much rather they include a longer cable of 2m. It is like Advanced took one of the cables from there IEM line instead of producing a new, longer cable for the Alpha. The cable works great if you sit inches from your source. I did ask Advanced about cable options and the do not offer a longer replacement cable at this time. I am going to try some different cables and if I come across a viable alternative, I will update the review.

Sound:

When I received the Advanced Alpha and gave them a first listen, from my LG V30, I was pleasantly surprised but also disappointed. The Alpha had nice tone, good extension and forward mids but the highs were peaky. Sadly, I was leaving for a week on an international trip and couldn’t take them with me, nor could I do my normal routine of sitting them down for a 24 hour “break-in” session. But, after I returned from my trip, I gave them another short listen and then proceeded to “break” them in. I let them play through some random songs for an 8 hours period, listened to a couple of songs and repeated the process 2 more times. After that process was complete, I started listening to them daily for several hours for about a week. I think I can now with confidence give you my impressions and thoughts on the Advanced Alpha.

Bass:

The Alpha provides enough bass to be accurate, smooth and balanced, not overly impactful or thumping. The bass extends well and has solid texture. The Alpha has good speed and attack and doesn’t distort unless you are listening to very high-volume levels. The impact is a little lacking but not a deal breaker. Also, the bass doesn’t bleed into the mids, it has a smooth transition.

Mids:

The mids are boosted forward slightly, not so much that they are in your face but more just in front of the bass and below the treble, just the way I like it. This gives the Alpha excellent timbre and clarity. Vocals sound full and alive in away that makes you want to never stop listening. The mids are clear, balanced and have a natural sound.

Treble:

The Advanced Alpha will have a love or hate response to the highs. The extension is impressive, there is a lot of detail and air. But sometimes there is an unbalanced sound in the upper highs. Some tracks can sound harsh or overly bright, this is mostly in tracks that are very treble prevalent. Also, the harshness is more pronounced when the headphones are not amped correctly. I find that the harshness if very minimal when played with my Topping stack or Fiio Q1.

Soundstage and Imaging:

The Advanced Alpha is not going to overwhelm with its soundstage. The width is average and displays a decent range of space with layers. It sounds very natural, there isn’t any artificial sounds being portrayed. Imaging is amazing, everything sounds like it should on a consistent basis. Instrument separation is detailed and layered throughout. You can pick out different sounds and places and hear little details. In the lower frequencies, some songs can lack detail but not to degree of sounding muddy or distorted.

Equipment Pairing:

Connecting the Advanced Alpha directly to the Hifiman Megamini was a pleasant experience. The Megamini powered the Alpha to great sound but it did require it to be nearly maxed out on volume. Adding the Fiio Q1 along with the Megamini added a little more detail to the music and the bass boost added a nice warmth to the vocals and a little bit of impact to the sub-bass.

The LG V30 also had to be pushed to the max but this time it was too quiet. Sound quality had a nice texture and warmth to it, bass was deep and impactful. By adding the Q1 into the mix the volume improved and so did the detail.

Obviously, the Advanced Alpha likes power to push it to its full potential.

The Topping Stack is a fantastic pairing for the Advanced Alpha. Putting the stack on high gain only improves the sound, clear, detailed and balanced. The Topping just manages to power the Alpha with ease without distortion. The D30 dac has a clear and uncolored sound and that plays right into the sound signature of the Alpha. The A30 is powerful enough to power just about any power-hungry headphone so the Alpha is right at home on it.

I tried the Little Dot MKII with the Advanced Alpha. I don’t mind the tube sound with the Alpha. The Little Dot has enough power to bring out the best of the Alpha. I can hear different tones and subtle distortions depending on what tubes are in the Little Dot.

Comparison:

The only planar that I have to compare is the Monoprice M1060 in this price point, kind of. The M1060 has a warmer/darker sound and more bass impact. The highs are not as extended and are not as detailed and defined. The M1060 lacks clarity and detail in the highs. The mids are warmer but not as defined as the Alpha. The soundstage is about the same width but the Alpha has more layers. Imaging is decent on the M1060 but the Alpha is superior in this area.

I know that IEM and planar headphones don’t play on the same playground but sound wise the RHA CL750 matches up in some ways. The CL750 is what a lot of people would classify as a bright sound. It is a sound that I like a lot. The CL750 has decent bass extension and detail for an IEM, can’t compete against planar bass (whatever that truly is). Mids on the CL750 are comparable to the Alpha, they are forward, warm, smooth and detailed. The highs on the CL750 are little brighter and less controlled. The Alpha has better extension and detail and control. Imaging is about even on both. Soundstage isn’t even close as the Alpha is open and the CL750 is a closed IEM. The main comparison is the treble, if you don’t like the CL750 treble then you more than likely will not like the Alpha.

Conclusion:

Overall, the Advanced Alpha has met all my expectations and gone beyond. The build quality is fantastic and should last for years to come. Comfort is not an issue with the soft, plush pads and the auto adjusting head strap. The sound is pleasant, smooth and detailed, puts a smile on my face every time I listen. For a headphone that hasn’t gotten a lot of publicity and is somewhat of a love or hate product; I love them and highly recommend them. I like the M1060 but I love the Advanced Alpha. Give the Advanced Alpha a listen, who knows they might become your new favorite like they are mine. PROS: Build quality, comfort and good tonal balance CONS: Short cable, smidge of treble wonkiness and requires amp to display full abilities

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