GoldPlanar GL12 review featured

GoldPlanar GL12 Review | Planar IEM

TESTED AT $198
WHERE TO BUY

The GoldPlanar GL12 is a planar magnetic IEM with aluminium alloy shells and a 12.5mm planar diaphragm. The MSRP is around $198.

GoldPlanar is a Chinese manufacturer that previously specialized in planar magnetic headphones. Now they have an in-ear monitor as well and I hope this is a line they continue to work on going forward (because we love IEMs)!

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Linsoul for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.

Pros
  • Build quality
  • Ergonomics and fit
  • Easy to drive
  • Included cable is great
  • Satisfying bass slam
Cons
  • Veiled midrange
  • Thick, dark general presentation
  • Detail retrieval could be better

GoldPlanar GL12

Specifications
  • Driver: 12.5mm planar diaphragm
  • Style: semi-open style
  • Impedance: 20ohms
  • Sensitivity: 108dB/mw
  • THD: <0.5%@20-20KHz
  • Frequency range:20Hz ~50KHz
  • Magnet type:N52neodymium
  • Earphone type: wired earphone
  • Connector: 0.78mm 2Pin
  • Cable material: high purity OFC silver-plated 4.4mm balanced cable
  • Earbud weight: 6.49g/each
  • Cable length: 1.2m
Packaging & Accessories

The GL12 comes in a textured black box with gold text on the top. Opening the magnetically sealed top of the box reveals the contents within. Here’s what I found in the box:

  • GoldPlanar GL12 IEM
  • Detachable silver-plated OFC 4.4mm balanced cable
  • 4.4mm balanced to 3.5mm single-ended adapter
  • Wooden carrying case
  • 2x pairs of tuning filters
  • 2x pairs of silicone eartips (S, M)
  • Fabric carrying pouch
What's in the GL12 box

Design

The GL12 adopts an aviation-grade aluminium alloy shell with a matte finish. It’s available in 2 colours: gold and black. It has silver coloured faceplates with the GL logo etched into the top above a v-shaped perforated vent.

There are two pairs of tuning nozzles included with the GL12. Both have a good lip that holds eartips securely in place. However, only the wide-bore nozzles have a protective mesh. On the top front edge are the 2-pin sockets that sit flush with the surface. Nice attention to detail is the red right socket, making it easy to differentiate the left and right earpiece.

GoldPlanar GL12 shells

Looking at the GL12 shells, they’re quite large with a simple cone-shaped nozzle section. At first, I thought it would be difficult to get a stable fit due to the size and simplistic shape. But in fact, I find the GL12 to be really comfortable and it feels very secure in my ears.

Passive noise is excellent and even when music is playing quietly I can barely hear any external noises. Despite being so large, the shells are only around 6.5g each. I can happily wear them for hours at a time.

Cable

The stock cable is a Litz braided silver-plated OFC with a 4.4mm balanced termination. It’s thick and robust yet still fairly light and supple at the same time. The 2-pin connector housings, chin slider, Y-split and straight plug are all matching polished aluminium.

When it comes to handling the cable performs very well. It drapes nicely and doesn’t have any noticeable microphonics. This is a gorgeous cable that feels very premium and durable. It’s actually identical to the Shuoer Tape Pro cable except for the termination (Tape Pro is 2.5mm balanced).

GoldPlanar GL12 with Phatlab Chimera amp

Sound

Gear used for testing includes:

It’s apparent from the moment you start listening that the GoldPlanar GL12 is a smooth listen. It has a warm, buttery presentation that you can listen to for hours without experiencing any fatigue. The bass response is full, the mids thick and forward and the treble is somewhat lethargic.

Like most planar IEMs, the overall resolution is quite good thanks to the speed of the driver and extremely low distortion levels. But the amount of detail retrieval is underwhelming and the staging lacks behind other IEMs in the GL12’s class. Unlike some planar magnetic IEMs such as the Tin Hifi P1, the GL12 is relatively easy to drive and a phone with a dongle DAC or low-powered DAP will suffice.

I will say that the GL12 responds quite well to EQ and if you pull back some of that upper bass (150Hz-300Hz) and bump up the 5kHz-8kHz it can sound much nicer. I generally dislike using any EQ and frown upon IEMs that require it in order to sound passable. But if you’re willing, it can make a big difference here.

GoldPlanar GL12 frequency response graph
GoldPlanar GL12 frequency response.
GL12 tuning filters
Filters

The 2 sets of tuning filters subtly alter the sound signature. The wider, open filter adds 2-3dB of upper midrange and lower treble energy compared to the narrow mesh-covered filter. I prefer the wide-bore filter as that little extra treble adds overall definition and a bit more energy.

GL12 tuning filters
The wide-bore filter (blue) vs the narrow filter (red).
Bass

Bass lovers will likely be pleased with what they hear in the GL12’s low frequencies. The bass is full-bodied and comes with a good amount of slam. Leading edges are slightly blunted, probably due to the large dip between 5kHz-7kHz that affects definition.

Mid-bass notes have decent texture to them and ample impact. The sub-bass has a satisfying presence and a clean, controlled rumble. In Scarface’s “Untouchable” the recurring 808 bass that hits every 2 bars is clearly audible even during the verses.

Mids

If you like a lush and rich midrange you’re in luck; the GL12 mids are forward and thick. Everything is romanticised, including vocals and instruments. Even thrash metal songs like Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” sound velvety smooth on the GL12. However, guitars lack bite and texture and everything sounds a little too smooth.

This affects not only the soundstage and instrument separation but also the overall tonality which comes across as being somewhat dark and congested. Looking at the measurements, it’s clear that the upper bass and lower midrange are heavily emphasized, leading to the overt thickness and smothering of the treble.

Treble

The GL12’s lower treble is softened by the large dip between 4.5kHz to 8kHzz. As a result, some instruments, especially percussion, lack definition and sharpness. Vocals and instruments, in general, have a veiled and somewhat dark sound.

The level of detail retrieval is below average for something at this price point. Despite the overall resolution being quite good, micro-details are easily lost within the warm blanket of mid-centric sound created by the GL12. The end result is a sound signature that comes across as non-fatiguing but at the same time a tad dull.

Soundstage

Depending on the music, GL12’s soundstage can be constricted or moderate. In general, the soundstage is fairly narrow due to the lack of treble presence. When it comes to depth and layering, this IEM fares fairly well, as most planar magnetics tend to do. But it’s highly dependant on the track and if it’s a busy song, the soundstage is likely to become congested and intimate.

GoldPlanar GL12 IEM

Conclusion

The GoldPlanar GL12 is an IEM that I wanted to love but couldn’t quite come to grips with. I can’t help thinking a sharper roll-off above 200Hz or the addition of a high-frequency balanced armature driver could have made this a real killer. But as it stands this is an earphone with a heavy focus on the midrange and an unnatural timbre defined by an overtly sweet thickness.

The included cable is fantastic. The build quality and fit are definitely worthy of something at this price point. But the sound falls short when it comes to clarity, accuracy and engagement. It’s unnaturally thick, plus it lacks dynamics and clarity. I wanted to cherish this IEM, and I feel that in many ways it was headed in the right direction. But the end result is something that I would not recommend at this price point unless you’re willing to EQ.


Founder of Prime Audio
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