Comparison Review: Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 vs ATH-GL3 – Earth and Air

The ATH-GLD3 and ATH-GL3 are the new additions to Audio-Technica's gaming series.
The ATH-GLD3 and ATH-GL3 are the new additions to Audio-Technica’s gaming series.
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Audio-Technica continues its journey to conquer the gaming industry with the release of the ATH-GDL3 and ATH-GL3 entry-level headsets.

Thank you, Audio-Technica Southeast Asia (S.E.A), for providing the ATH-GDL3 and ATH-GL3 gaming headphones for review.

Audio-Technica has always been highly regarded by audio enthusiasts, audiophiles, and music industry professionals. Audio-Technica is an undeniable leader in the audio industry with its experience, expertise, and consistently great products.

The audience targeted by Audio-Technica is not comprised only of professionals and audiophiles. With the release of the ATH-G1 and ATH-G1WL series of gaming headphones, which I previously reviewed, Audio-Technica extended their expertise to the gaming industry. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, this industry has boomed because everyone is encouraged to stay at home, and as a result, there is more leisure time available for gaming.

To strengthen its gaming headphones lineup, Audio-Technica recently released the open-backed ATH-GDL3 Air and closed-back ATH-GL3 Earth. Both are priced below USD$150. Today we will put to the test these two wired gaming headphones.

ATH-GL3 Earth Overview

What We Like
  • Excellent build quality
  • Immersive bass response
  • Comfortable
  • High-quality microphone
  • Friendly towards multiple platforms (PC and consoles)
  • Passive isolation
What We Don't Like
  • Separation between notes is not as good as ATH-GDL3
  • Smaller soundstage

ATH-GDL3 Air Overview

What We Like
  • Excellent build quality
  • Good clarity
  • Tight and accurate bass
  • Comfortable
  • High quality microphone
  • Wide soundstage with precise positional accuracy
  • More comfortable and cooler ear pads
What We Don't Like
  • Lack of isolation

Company Introduction

Founded in 1962, Audio-Technica is a worldwide group committed to designing, manufacturing, marketing, and distributing problem-solving audio equipment. Audio-Technica started its journey in the audio industry with its well-known state-of-the-art phonograph cartridges.

The company did not stop there. Audio-Technica now produces high-performance microphones, headphones, wireless systems, mixers, and electronic products for home and professional use.

From critical government installations such as the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to significant broadcast music events like the GRAMMY® Awards and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, Audio-Technica’s products are chosen because of their reputable track record.

Technical Specifications

  • Form: ATH-GDL3: Open-back gaming headphones, ATH-GL3: Closed-back gaming headphones
  • Drivers: 1 x 45mm dynamic driver
  • Impedance (Ohm): 45 Ohms
  • Sensitivity (dB): 98dB/mW
  • Frequency Response (Hz): 10 Hz – 35 kHz
  • Removable Cable: Y
  • Source Jack: 3.5mm TRRS unbalanced jack integrated with microphone / 3.5mm split headphones and microphone
  • Cup/Shell Jack: 4.4mm
  • Mic: Y
  • Weight (g): ATH-GDL3: 227g (with detachable microphone), ATH-GL3: 237g (with detachable microphone)
  • Microphone Type: Electret condenser
  • Microphone Sensitivity: -43 dB (1V/Pa, at 1 kHz)
  • Microphone Frequency Response: 30 – 20,000 Hz
  • Microphone Polar Pattern: Hypercardioid

Packaging

Kentaro Yoshida, an artist based in Australia, designed the box packaging for these two models. This design immediately conveys the Japanese aesthetic of the headphones.

It’s a shame that the design is not printed on the headphones themselves.

Audio-Technica’s decision to portray the sound signature of their headphones by using the elements of nature is quite innovative. The ATH-GL3, the closed-back version, are named Earth and they have an earthy, warm, closed-up signature. The open-back ATH-GDL3 are associated with Air, and like all open-back headphones, their primary characteristic is a more spacious, airy, with a less congested sound.

Kentaro Yoshida, an artist, based in Australia, designed the box packaging for these two models.
Kentaro Yoshida, an artist, based in Australia, designed the box packaging for these two models.

In the box

  • ATH-GDL1 Earth gaming headphones / ATH-GL3 Air gaming headphones
  • 1.2m 3.5mm TRRS cable
  • 3.0m 3.5mm split headphone and microphone cable
  • Detachable boom microphone with windshield
Two cables and a detachable boom mic are included in the packaging of both models.
Two cables and a detachable boom mic are included in the packaging of both models.

Cable

Speaking of wires, you can choose between the included 1.2m length that terminates in a 3.5mm TRRS connector and the 3.0m length that is split into separate 3.5mm plugs for headphones and mic, allowing the headphone to support a broader range of devices. Be aware that they use a 4.4mm TRRRS connector on the headphone side, which is unusual if you want to swap out the cable or upgrade in the future.

One of the cables is terminated with dual 3.5mm - separated for headphones and microphone.
One of the cables is terminated with dual 3.5mm – separated for headphones and microphone.
On the headphone side, Audio-Technica uses an unusual 4.4mm Pentaconn jack.
On the headphone side, Audio-Technica uses an unusual 4.4mm Pentaconn jack.

Design

There are many similarities between the ATH-GDL3 and ATH-GL3, including exposed rails, metallic headbands, and round ear cups. While the headband design is similar to the earlier Audio-Technica gaming headphone series, it has been revised. There is a thin metal band around one of the overarching bands, while the other has a thicker black enclosure that allows the wires to pass between the two earcups.

The suspension headband helps in spreading out the weight, resulting in no hot spot pressure on my skull even after long gaming sessions.
The suspension headband helps in spreading out the weight, resulting in no hot spot pressure on my skull even after long gaming sessions.

The suspension headband enhances the level of comfort. Even without a cushion on the headband, the suspension band effectively distributes the weight evenly across my head, making it feel as if the headphones weigh almost nothing.

The honeycomb mesh on the ATH-GDL3 model displays the blue driver inside.
The honeycomb mesh on the ATH-GDL3 model displays the blue driver inside.

These two models vary only in two physical characteristics. To begin with, the honeycomb mesh on the open-back model allows viewing of the internal drivers, while the closed-back model uses an entirely plastic cup.

The ATH-GL3's closed ear cups provide better isolation and passive noise cancellation.
The ATH-GL3’s closed ear cups provide better isolation and passive noise cancellation.

The earpads also differ between models. The ATH-GL3 Earth closed-back headphones feature hybrid earpads constructed from fabrics that touch the head while synthetic leather lines the outside and inside. The earpads contain sound while providing long-wear comfort and reducing heat build-up. They are slightly thinner than the pads on the Air and my ears touch the inner walls.

The ATH-GDL3 open-back headphones have slightly thicker fabric earpads that I find more comfortable, less hot, and make me more aware of my surroundings. However, there is no sound isolation, so anyone around you can hear the sound produced by the Air.

The Air's ear pads are fully made of fabric, allowing better ventilation.
The Air’s ear pads are fully made of fabric, allowing better ventilation.

The volume knob and the mute microphone switch are located on the left ear cup of both models, and can be operated with your left thumb. I prefer in-line controls where I can see whether the microphone is turned off or on.

I need to make a mental note of the position of the microphone switch. It would be nice if there was a tactile marker that my thumb can feel and I use to recall which direction is “on.”.
The buttons on the headphones for volume control and microphone muting are large enough for easy manipulation.
The buttons on the headphones for volume control and microphone muting are large enough for easy manipulation.

Internal

Both models use the same 45mm dynamic drivers for sound production. The microphones on both the ATH-GDL3 and ATH-GL3 are the same quality as those on the ATH-G1, and provide clear, detailed output with a reasonable degree of bass and depth in my speech. I particularly like that the microphone is removable, which allows me to use the headphones for more than just gaming.

The detachable boom microphone can be easily removed from the headphones for casual media playback.
The detachable boom microphone can be easily removed from the headphones for casual media playback.

Sound Comparison

There is a difference in the audio tuning between the headphones and they do not sound the same. Due to the open-back design, the ATH-GDL3 Air provide a more airy sensation and emphasize the treble spectrum. The sound is spacious, while the instrument placement is more distant and spread out. While the frequencies are crystal clear, they are not close enough to hear finer details.

It is a completely different experience with the ATH-GL3 Earth. The bass is more pronounced – an expected benefit of closed-back headphones – and there is also a fuller midrange, which gives the headphones a somewhat warmer tone. The fullness is well controlled and does not sound excessively bloated.

Although the treble and vocals are not as bright-sounding, they sound closer to me in terms of spatial imaging. Furthermore, the ATH-GL3 are more adept at delivering details.

Nothing can be more frustrating than lousy bass when using a pair of gaming headphones. Thankfully, the ATH-GL3 have clear and cinematic lows. Even though the bass is not the most pronounced, it improves the overall gaming experience by having a tight and controlled low frequencies rather than boosted bass.

Low frequencies are usually used sparingly in games; primarily for onomatopoeic effects during intense moments, and so their subdued nature enhances the impact of the action.

The open-back ATH-GDL3 Air provide a more immersive experience if you play games that have an open-world setting, such as GTA V, as the audio is better distributed within the soundstage instead of being blasted directly into your ears.

I primarily play competitive shooter games, such as Fortnight, so I am more comfortable using closed-back gaming headphones. I find audio cues, such as footsteps and ability sounds, more distinct and pronounced with closed-back headphones. However, due to the openness of the soundstage, the ATH-GDL3 Air can place audio cues (such as distance) more accurately, so both designs do have their own strengths.

Both models are capable in their own way - no matter what your needs, Audio-Technica has a solution for you.
Both models are capable in their own way – no matter what your needs, Audio-Technica has a solution for you.

Where to Buy

Conclusion

In terms of acoustics, both the ATH-GL3 Earth and the ATH-GDL3 Air gaming headphones provide balanced sound without excessive tweaking of frequencies. These headphones deliver accurate and genuine reproduction of audio signals, although each design has their own strengths, and they don’t sound the same.

Audio-Technica has delivered what they claim: “a purity of sound that’s all too rare in gaming.”

Choosing between the ATH-GDL3 and ATH-GL3 for gaming really depends on the type of games you play and the type of audio experience you prefer. Starting near USD$100, these are excellent basic gaming headsets that offer comfort, well-balanced sound, and different listening experiences.

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