Vsonic GR04 Pro Flagship Review
Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample
First Impressions: A pretty if familiar box is see before me. On removing the outer sheet I see something else that’s familiar. (going to a have a small rant now.) The name on the box, does it match what they are? Does it F! Just what the hell Vsonic get your naming sorted and if you’re going to give something a name then for the love of all that’s holy why the hell would you print something different on the box! Do you have any idea how bad an impression this gives? I’m not even going to comment on the fact they are actually called the GR04 Pro (sticker on the box is halfway right calling them the R04pro) I really don’t care what you want to call them but get the writing on the box to match what you call them. Fix it!
Note: I’ve just had it confirmed that what I have is not the GR04 Pro but (oh good god) the GR04 Pro Flagship. Yes that’s right they called something Flagship. Honestly the naming mechanism is something that I can only assume makes total sense in Chinese. I don’t speak Chinese so I’m going to assume that Vsonic (and they aren’t alone) genuinely see no problem in having products called the GR04 Pro and the GR04 Pro Flagship. I can also only assume that the only way I can tell I have the Flagship is that the impedance is circa 50 ohms in the mostly Chinese manual. Not anywhere else, on the box or the insert is Flagship mentioned. They are consistently called the R04 Pro and that’s it. World fail me in trying to express my incomprehension at this naming scheme.
Okay I’ve calmed down a bit and a look at the buds really reminds me of the GR07 (R07) they have the same shape which is pretty distinctive. A quick listen to them also reminds me of their siblings, a nice balance to them if maybe a touch middy. Depending on the pricing and taste of the user these could be M3 challenging. Burn in time.
Source 1G iPod Shuffle mostly and the HiFiMAN HM-601.
Lows: A little bit of this and a little bit of that. Right off I’m going to say that it’s a shame I have heard the GR07 before I heard these as I absolutely cannot help but compare the two in my head. Anyone who has read anything about or indeed heard the GR07 won’t be surprised to see me say that these fall short of their more costly siblings. I know it’s so unfair of me but I just can’t help myself. If you will it’s actually quite the compliment to want to compare the two even if the GR04Pro come up short, in that they aren’t so far apart as to be incomparable. Still as it is I do find the GR04Pro to be a touch lighter in the low end than I really want and they do roll off in the lows quicker too. Having just written that I have to pause and question myself, I’m wrong. It isn’t lightish in the low end it’s just that the mid/high peek often makes the bass take a back seat to the action. If you find something that’s bass dominant then these will quite happily thunder it out at you. They don’t quite have the snappy, quick impact that the 7 can muster nor its extension and control. Still when I stop being so horribly unkind and compare to something closer to its price range (the M3) the 04 seems so rich and abundant. Honestly it’s so tonally in the middle that I find it difficult to comment on it. Yes it’s pretty controlled and tightish but it’s also very full. If anything its best attribute is its sense of scale, it sounds vast and the bass behaves in such a manor as to give you the impression it once had great abundance but is at such a distance, it really mellows it. It will really depend on what you prefer and what you listen to which style is better suited. If you like things on the more gentle, slower and more mellow side then the 04 does well. It all very good quality wise but honestly it’s just not very exciting.
I should note if you connect it to ever greater amounts of power the low end really cleans up. Plugging it into the FiiO E9 really let the bass tighten and become ever so much more hard and punchy.
Mids: This is where the GR04 Pro Flagship begins to shine. As I said in the opening it’s a little middy and with some time on it I can say yes it is with certainty. It’s not overwhelmingly middy that puts off many people but just enough to let you know this IEM is all about the vocals. It feels as though it has been tuned with Jamie Callum or Katie Mellua in mind. They just do all you could want for either of them. These have a grand sense of scale and air while retailing a good level of warmth to them. They are honestly everything you could want for a grand and relaxing listen and still offering a great level of detail. These don’t however do upfront intimacy very well and I think that’s just fine. It’s not a failing it’s a choice, personally I love an upfront intimate sound, something more akin to the PL-50 or even the M3. When comparing these to the M3 the difference is clear, the M3 sound so thin and in your face and these sound so vast. Smooth and just so likeable. One of the key, if unmessurable factors for me in any listening experience is the degree to which they make me want to burst into song in inappropriate places. (Usually on a bus.) This is just what these do, my brain may be comparing to the GR07 and the M3 on the technicalities and find them wanting but I dare anyone not to like these. One note of warning, on occasion they can exhibit a touch a sibilant tendency’s. I never found them to be outright ear stabby but if you push them on certain songs then their mid/high focus can get rather shouty. Still it’s a small complaint.
Highs: Again I’m finding hard not to compare these to the GR07 which inevitably they fail to live up to. Not a lot can live up the GR07 so this isn’t really a fair comparison anyway. They don’t have quite the extension that I want but they a remarkable job of portraying distance and scale yet a good level of detail. There isn’t exactly anything wrong with the treble, I can’t fault anything but it doesn’t just quite manage it. It gets so close to being really good that it bothers me all the more that it just isn’t quite there. Don’t get me wrong it is pretty excellent but I just cannot make myself forget the GR07, the 7 is just plain better. Since Vsonic market the “Flagship” as for audiophiles (actually I think they market all their products thus) I just absolutely cannot help but constantly thinking “ahh yes these are really good” and leaving it at that. There is the tiniest little bit of grittiness going on and that mid/high sibilant area is enough for me mark them down. In so much it’s not about what you get right but about what you don’t get wrong and I did once of twice find myself skipping a track because of it. On the whole it is nicely shimmery and very detailed so long as your happy to not have treble being the main focus.
Again I’m going to comment that the highs really do appreciate additional power, in cleaning up.
Soundstage: Really quite impressive and rather reminiscent of the GR07 but here it’s more stand out given they excel less elsewhere. They give a grand sense of scale and distance. Imaging and instrument separation is less defined but I don’t mind. The sound here is all about the integrated whole and they do it excellently.
Fit: Okay so no fancy adjustable nozzles here but it didn’t really matter. I had no trouble with them in the slightest. Shoved into ears and that was it, done.
Comfort: As above. No bother at all.
Cable: Hmm, it’s a little on the stiff side and it very much wanted to keep its boxed kinks. That said it never caused me any bother and it feels very durable. Oh and I know it’s stupid but I just laved the colour, it’s a bronzy brown. It’s a really nice change to the usual black/silvery but still being dark and subtle.
Microphonics: Since you can’t really wear these down that’s not an option. Wearing up gets you none and they come with a chin slider too. Top marks.
Accessories: Pretty good, you get a good selection of tips (5 pairs) a set of ear guides and most importantly a little case to keep them safe. I don’t think you could really ask for anything else.
Amped/Unamped: There was a pretty noticeable change all over but where I really most noticed the difference was in the highs and the lows. Both were much more refined and honestly I think that if your buying these you will be better off the better your amp is. They may not quite scale the same as the 7 but I noticed a reasonable jump from the shuffle to the HM-601. Actually the 601 went particularly well with these as its upper end spike differed from the one on these so they smoothed things out. It also leant fullness to the very bottom where these lack a touch too. As pairings go I really don’t think I could have asked for better, they are perfect for each other. Additionally I used these a bit with the FiiO E9 (mostly out of convenience) and they really did like the extra power particularly low down. Oh and they really did not love having the 75 ohm adapter added, it smoothed the edges in the highs but it overly softened the bass.
Isolation: Pretty good. They are a bit above average for a dynamic but nothing miraculous. As I frequently say I’m sure it’s enough to get you with a bus and for normal out and about activities. I used them on a bus happily. Still if you a daily tube user or about to visit New Zealand they wouldn’t be my first choice.
Value: Hmm this is going to hard. Firstly because I can only see one price for them at present (£89.) Is that price unreasonable? No. So what’s the problem then? Confusing name aside I can’t help but wonder if there is £20 worth of difference between the GR04 Pro and the GR04 Pro Flagship and I’m sure others will too. The other problem is the GR07 at £119 is just so good I would have a hard time ever suggesting to anyone that these represent better value for money. The price is close enough that I’d say stretch if you can. Like it or not people think in round numbers and this is so close to 100 that’s how we will budget. So while it’s arguably as good value per £ as the 7 it just doesn’t sit at any particular price point.
NB. After secret negotiations I am told that these may be coming at a price point of £72! Now that rather somewhat changes things as it really begin to open up some distance between itself and the GR07. Now I don’t know about you but in my head this makes the GR04Pro Flagship almost half the price of the 7. Okay so I know it’s not exactly but it’s a pretty big margin between the two now. That pretty much pushes these into absolutely great bargain territory. Now I’m not going to say they are better value than the 7 because you expect diminishing returns at this level and that’s what you get. Honestly if you can afford the 7 I’d take it but for quite a lot less money this will get you really rather close to it in terms of performance.
Conclusions: I really do wish I had heard this before the GR07. In case you hadn’t noticed, time and again I continually refer back the 7 and every time I do this just falls short. I can’t help it and it’s a real shame. The GR04 Pro Flagship is a fantastically accomplished IEM that does so very much right and next to nothing wrong beside its stupid name. Yeah it gets a little sibilant from time to time but that’s about it. So why have I been so less than enthusiastic? Part of me help can’t help but feel its ridiculously stupid name has subconsciously tainted me but I really think it’s the GR07’s fault. The 7 is so just so good, so good at absolutely everything how can I not compare them. Okay so there is a reasonable cost difference but its still in the realm of way more than average people are going to spend so why not spend that little bit extra. Another way for me to look at things is in terms of the M3 that I’ve also mentioned once or twice, I can see it for £50 and that’s almost half the price! That’s if you take the price as £89. Head to head I’d give the win to the GR04 Pro Flagship with little to no bother but proportionally it’s a big price differential. However with the new price I’ve been told the price gets too close for comfort for the M3. Frankly the M3 just isn’t as good and would see many being happier spending and extra £20 and getting the GR04 Pro Flagship.
Taken on its own merits the GR04 Pro Flagship is an all round excellent IEM that I would dare anyone not to like. If you have a decent source and can feed it some good bit rate music then this could make for a really great and balanced listening set up. It is good, very good but it’s over shadowed by a greater sibling. I am sure the very same thing was said about Hilary du Pré. No doubt she was a wonderful and talented musician but let’s face it she just pails before the more talented and world class sister.