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January 19, 2022
Original: $129 USD
6 x 7 cm (ear pad interior)
1.2m or 3m (cables)
The Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 is a unique offering in the world of gaming headsets. It features an open-back design, with a focus on sound quality and simplicity. Unlike some other contemporary gaming headsets, this one connects via a good, old-fashioned headphone jack. It seems Audio-Technica has the confidence to believe this headset is strong enough on its own merits without additional gimmicks or computational trickery, but is it correct?
We spent two weeks with the Audio-Technica GDL3 and found out everything you need to know.
What is the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 like to use?
The headset is generally comfortable for me and easy to use for long gaming and listening sessions. On the left ear cup, it features a volume slider for easy adjustment, as well as a mute switch for the microphone. You can easily remove or articulate the microphone, which also features a foam pop filter to improve audio quality.
The design of the ATH-GDL3 is generally very minimalist, with lightweight plastic and metal throughout. The plastic can creak and shift a bit when I take the headset on and off, but once it’s on my head, I don’t notice. You won’t find any excessive features like RGB lighting, which may be a benefit to those who don’t like over-the-top designs.
Compared to other headsets in this price range, The ATH-GDL3 isn’t the most comfortable one available. A rubberized headband adequately suspends the headset atop the wearer’s head, but it lacks padding. It’s comfortable enough most of the time, but you may notice slight discomfort after wearing it for a short while. In general, it’s adequate for several hours at a time.
Open-back and closed-back headphones have unique advantages and disadvantages. Closed-back headphones generally handle isolation better, blocking out unwanted outside noise. With open-back headphones, air passes through the ear cups from the speaker driver’s rear, and low-frequency build-up from the rear enclosure (of closed-back cans) isn’t a concern with open-back headsets. When you open up the headphone chamber like this, the benefit is what many refer to as a “wider soundstage,” meaning you’ll be able to better observe things like left-to-right panning.
Most people usually find open-back headphones to sound superior, but the lack of isolation makes them difficult to use in a wider variety of circumstances.
(Click the image to expand.)
How do you control the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3?
The Audio-Technia ATH-GDL3 has a simple control layout. You’ll find the volume up/down buttons and mute toggle on the left headphone, the same one that houses the removable boom mic. There’s no game/chat mix dial or software for you to customize the buttons, so what you see is what you get.
Is the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 good for gaming?
The Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 is an excellent option for gamers who are looking for a higher level of audio quality from their games. The open-back design compliments the sound design of games like Control and Elden Ring very nicely, and the detachable microphone is an excellent option for those late-night Discord sessions and online multiplayer games. Unlike other gaming headsets, the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 doesn’t include complementary software to handle things like surround sound or EQ (although you should be able to find similar third-party applications to handle these things yourself).
How does the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 connect?
The Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 comes with two detachable audio cables which you can easily swap out depending on your setup. A 1.2m cable features a 3.5mm TRRS jack, most commonly used for connecting headsets to phones or console controllers, with full support for the microphone and playback over the single connector. The other cable (3m) splits the connection out into two 3.5mm TRS jacks instead, one for your computer’s audio output, and the other for microphone input.
There’s no USB connection, which may be a detriment to some, but it means any device with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack will work just fine with this headset. This includes most computers, some phones, and game consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S through the headphone jacks on their controllers. It also works well with the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode thanks to its headphone jack, but you may find issues using it in docked mode. The headset also works with the audio spatialization technology on each console, including PS5 Spatial Audio and Microsoft’s Windows Sonic on the Xbox Series X/S and PC.
Does the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 block out noise?
Since this is a set of open-back headphones, a significant amount of ambient noise gets through when wearing the headset. While the open-back design has the benefit of making for a larger perceived soundscape, it means you’ll have to do your best to minimize the amount of outside sound present in your listening space. As you can see in the graph above, the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 isolation only affects frequencies above 1KHz, and not to a very great extent.
How does the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 sound?
The Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 frequency response (cyan) is generally enjoyable, although it deviates from our target consumer curve (pink) significantly. The headset has a slightly exaggerated bass and mid sound; less than ideal, but by itself not enough to be detrimental to a good listening experience. However, it also has a noticeably exaggerated high-end sound, which may please or disappoint the listener depending on the source material. For example, orchestral music fares very well here, but music with harsh sibilant cymbals is sometimes grating.
Lows, mids, and highs
When listening to Nightsiren by Melt Yourself Down, I’m impressed by the present but not overpowering bass. Some other songs however had cymbals and hi-hats that sound odd and have a hiss, such as Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill. Other songs had too much sibilance coming through in the vocals, such as Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Late of the Pier. Overall though, songs with a solid and well balanced mix sounded excellent on these headphones, such as 2 + 2 = 5 by Radiohead.
In general, music with a slight emphasis on bass will sound quite good on the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 headphones due to its tempered (compared to typical gaming headsets) bass response.
How is the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 microphone?
The Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 has a decent, clear sounding microphone for a gaming headset. It will certainly get the job done for most casual conversations and exciting gaming moments. The frequency response of the microphone emphasizes the high-frequency elements of speech, resulting in good intelligibility, but can make sibilants a little objectionable. The microphone is detachable, and easy to maneuver into an ideal position. It also features foam padding over the tip which acts as a pop filter.
Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 microphone demo (Ideal):
Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 microphone demo (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3?
The Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 is fairly easy to recommend for those who know that they want a gaming headset with an open-back design. Since it’s a fairly unique design for a gaming headset, it makes it a very interesting product in this category.
However considering the price, the exaggerated treble sound is somewhat questionable, and the comfort isn’t the best it could be (although certainly not awful by any means). The lack of dedicated software is also something to keep in mind, some people may even prefer the simplified nature of setting up the headset. If you know what you’re getting into and what you want, the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 is almost certainly a solid option for a gaming headset with a focus on sound quality.
What should you get instead of the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3?
If you’re looking for a gaming headset around the same price range with a solid focus on audio quality, the Beyerdynamic MMX 150 would be an excellent place to start. For something cheaper that has more software features than the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3, the Razer BlackShark V2 would be a solid choice. Finally, if you’re looking for an open-back headset that delivers excellent sound quality but which isn’t a gaming headset, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO should be the first headset to check out.
Maybe you already own a great pair of open-back headphones, well, you can actually use that pair of headphones for gaming by slapping a microphone onto it (or using a free-standing mic). You can read our list of the best headphones for gaming, which includes headsets like the Sennheiser HD 559 and Philips Fidelio X2HR.
Frequently asked questions about the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3?
The Audio-Technica ATH-GL3 is a closed-back version of the Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3. In most respects, both headsets are very similar, with the only difference being the open back or closed-back design for the ear cups. A closed-back design generally blocks outside noise more than an open-back one, but the soundstage is a bit narrower.
The Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 comes with two different cables that you can use to connect it to different 3.5mm headphone jacks. However, the end of this cable that connects to the headset is slightly larger than the standard 3.5mm jack, which means it’s unique to the ATH-GDL3. If you need a replacement cable a generic one won’t do, you’ll have to acquire it from the manufacturer.