Vsonic GR01 Review
Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample
First Impressions: This, unusually is being written many weeks after the first time I heard them as I had a mishap. Thu very first day I tried them I was meeting a friend. When we met I pulled them out but left them dangling over my ears. As we walked along I felt something fall but thought nothing of it, it was only when we sat down I realised that the end had come undone and fallen off. I now have another end sent out by Vsonic (Frogbeats couldn’t as they didn’t have GR01’s in stock yet, I got their one and only.) So now all I can say from those weeks ago is that I was impressed. As impressed as I’ve come to expect from Vsonic who are just slaying the competition this year. I’m beginning to wonder if Vsonic have created a clone of me somewhere and are tuning things just for me?
This review almost became a rant about the difficulty in getting the end bits off Vsonic but it’s not an issue paying customers are likely to have as they would deal with their retailers and the sound. The sound pretty much makes all forgiven.
Source 5G iPod Video line out through a Practical Devices XM5 with LM6171 opp amps
Lows: Practically perfect. There are a bunch of caveats to that naturally, this is a BA so it lacks the thunderously capable lows of the GR07 but they feel so much more rounded than those of its cousins. By cousins I mean other dual BA things like the DBA-02 and q-JAYS. It feels really quite full bodied and effortless, no punching hard to give all the impact it can in some act of desperation, no desperate yearning for me to hit the bass boost button. The balance is just superb. Sure it’s a little BA and it can go low but it isn’t a big air mover and it doesn’t go all the way down. It seems to roll off gently as it goes down to better cope with the range were it can perform well. Its the right thing to do and aside from the Custom 3 is the only dual BA that doesn’t make me want to hit that bass boost button. Of course you could if you want to but unlike the DBA-02 and my long loved q-JAYS they both kinda need it. This gives such a more natural feel to the low end. Its quick as you would expect from a BA but it’s not so lighting fast like the CK10 that blink and it’s been and gone, they have slowed it a touch to be a little more dynamic like and it works. It works so well! This a flawless all rounder, its fast but not too fast, full but not soft etc etc. You know the drill by now with Vsonic stuff, its walks a fine line of nothing too much in any direction and just enough of everything to do everything pretty much perfectly.
This is for me the best and most low end friendly dual BA you can buy at present. The KC3 was maybe a smidge better but Klipsch don’t make it anymore. It’s so well rounded it’s not funny.
Mids: Like everything from Vsonic. Not too much this, not too much that, yada yada yada. It’s not silky smooth and flowing like the SE530 or RE-262 and it’s not hyper open and dry like the CK10 or RE-272 so if you like something at one of those extremes then this way not be for you. But……. If you want something tuned so perfectly to sit in the middle it can nail both then this could be the one. Again it’s not as good things that suit either end of the style spectrum but since most normal folk don’t have a different IEM for every style then I’m really hard pressed to think of anything better than these. These easily beat the GR07, pass the q-JAYS and they even beat the KC3 which has long sat in my opinion had some of the best mids out there. Yes ladies and gentlemen the GR01 really is that good. Voices sing at all ranges, from the low male stuff to the high girlies and all are handled admirably. I must confess they aren’t the most nuanced and detailed though, the cold crispness of the CK10 are much more detail orientated and here things are a touch soft focused. Not that I find that to be a problem these are more about enjoying than analysing. Of course at the other end they lack the sultry allure of things like the SE530 too. Nothing can do everything as good as the best at all musical types. This may be as close as I have seen though.
Highs: Dual BA things are generally known for being bass light and treble happy. It’s not a rule as the KC3 bucked that trend but otherwise has largely held to be the case. I’m pretty treble sensitive so things like the DBA-02, while others loved it, I found it hard and tiring on my ears. There is little of that here. The treble is as in line with the mids and bass as you could hope for. It’s a touch diminished at the very top particularly in comparison to its cousins. This means no hard, abrasiveness shattering in ears. Yet all the detail is still there, sure it’s less obviously noticeable as it isn’t being hurled at you the way others can. This is about the most refined treble I’ve heard on a dual BA. For me it was one area the KC3 lacked as it rolled of a bit much and the lovely q-JAYS got a bit brittle. The DBA-02 I never liked much, brittle and bright and blasted at you like a treble cannon. Here you get the best of both words, spades of detail but none of the brutal aggressiveness. It’s another truly fantastic tuning job that Vsonic have pulled off.
Of course if you like that crazy bright and detail being hurled at you then you may find this a touch timid. Likewise if you really want that warm, rolled off high end then maybe it’s not for you either but I’d be willing to bet its balanced enough to make both camps happy. It is that good.
Soundstage: The slightly softer, less abrasive detail cannon type sound makes these sound rather larger and fuller than most dual BA’s. They do a good sense of scale and can do side to side well but it’s more like a cylinder running through my head. They don’t give you the vast scale that the top end dynamics can. BA rarely do give you vast impression of space. Neither is better, just a preference.
Fit: These do want to sit rather deep so be prepared for that, they also have slightly large nozzles for a deep seated IEM. I didn’t have trouble with either but I did rather quickly swap to Comply’s. When reviewing you pull things out rather often and swap to have a listen something else and been so deep and with silicon tips got tiring very fast. You probably wouldn’t have that issue. They also were happy to be worn up despite the angle of the cable being directed so that they would rather sit down.
Comfort: Constantly pulling these out did make my ears sore from the pressure but Comply’s sorted that and unless your pulling them out all the time it’s not likely to bother you. Other than that they were fine but they want to sit deep. Practically Ety deep so if you don’t like that be warned.
Cable: Hmm it’s a bit thin but it seems to work well. I’d have preferred the sturdy one from the GR07 but then since these should be worn down it may be then too heavy. The Y splitter and jack look functional but neither scream sturdy.
Microphonics: Wearing these up as I do you don’t really get any but wearing down, you get a lot and no chin slider. I don’t know why you would wear them down though.
Amped/Unamped: These are good enough that they deserve to be amped and they do get rather noticeable better for it too. They are fine of course from a normal source too but they won’t truly come to life until you throw some power at them. Give them good bit rates, good sources and a good amp and you’ll be getting close to the best. Adding impedance however did not help, many things with crossovers react is unexpected ways and here they sound peculiar. Your welcome to try it but I certainly would not suggest you buy an impedance adapter for these, it does nothing positive.
Isolation: The traditional trade off with things sitting brain implant deep is that the isolate like mofo’s. These are no exception. Screaming child or roaring jet engine nearby? Slap these in and POOF! It’s gone. The kind of thing you do want if you visiting New Zealand and as ever my precautionary, so very easily enough to make you a road stain if you don’t look where you are going. You will not hear that bus or truck until you hear it impact your skull.
Accessories: Here I am a touch disappointed. While you get a crazy number of tips (13 pairs) the case you get is just a little baggy. As baggy’s go it’s quite nice but this is a relatively high end IEM and deserves better. I know you can just go on fleabay and get one but given the likes of the amazing cases DUNU give you it’s a shame. It wouldn’t stop me buying a pair though.
Value: So these are rather new and as such you can’t really find them freely available, I know Frogbeats haven’t been able to get their hands on stock and I know of nowhere in the UK that has. At current exchange rates these appear to be coming in at around £130 with is rather more than their closest competition (Brainwavz B2) which sit around £100. Are these 30% technically better? Well no, probably not but I found them to be at least 30% more enjoyable. These take where the B2 was going and just do it better but I can’t deny the B2 is great too. It’s splitting hairs though, both are tremendous value and I would have no trouble suggesting if you have £130 to spend you should really look at these. They are worth every penny and many, many more.
Conclusion: These are true to form for Vsonic. They manage to walk a line that is in the middle and yet gives you the very best elements of every sound signature and style without giving you much in the way of down sides. Its remarkable how they keep doing it but they have done it again. This IEM is probably the best dual BA out there. I like this even more than I do my two former favourites, the KC3 and the q-JAYS. They both had faults, some glaring faults (yes Klipsch I’m looking at you and your coat hanger wire!!! The worst cable on anything, ever. Honestly I’ve seen better coat hangers.) I have said it before but when you get to the higher end things it’s not about what they do well but what they don’t make mistakes on. In the q-JAYS it was the brittle highs which is a common complaint with dual BA IEM’s. The Brainwavz B2 went some way to curing that but Vsonic and their magic blend of crack and fairy dust have got it just spot on. So often manufactures take a balanced armature and try to make it sound like a dynamic and manage to kill the good things about armatures, speed and accucacy, yet still not give you the qualities of a dynamic that a dynamic won’t do for better. A worst of both scenario. Vsonic are doing something as these, like the GR07 before them, are just spot on. Just exactly where you want things to be to hit all bases. I don’t know how they are doing it but they are doing something very right.
They have managed in the GR01 to take the very common TWFK series of drivers and make something truly different. It’s no secret that I never really loved the DBA-02 or the CK10 (although I’m willing to admit the CK10 is truly superb, just very not to my tastes) but the GR01 gives you practically all the same detail as treble cannons like the DBA-02 with none of the ear ravaging ferocity and aggressiveness. What’s even better is it takes all that over exuberance from up top and somehow (with the aid of dark forces I’m sure) transforms it to a more rich and full low end that’s truly listenable. Even more shockingly, listenable without the bass boost button in use! Only the KC3 has managed that before and it just didn’t have the skill in the highs that this has. This is for all intents practically perfect, I can’t find anything that I’d consider a fault. There is just nothing it has trouble at, nothing!
Of course the trouble being with being an all rounder is that you can’t ever truly excel at anything in particular, for instance the CK10 is far better for analysing, the SE530 so much more enjoyable for Nora Jones and the IE8 so much more entertaining for Lady Gaga. They however while excelling truly at something’s just plain don’t suit others. Does anyone out there use a pair of IE8’s for Nora? Sure you can but that’s not where their talents lay. I’ve yet to find anything the GR01 can’t handle and handle well. The last thing I heard that was so masterful at this was the GR07. It was the greatest all rounder I’d heard, now I have to hand that crown over to its newer sibling. So long as you’re willing to trade a little power in the low end, the dynamic in the 7 can simply move a lot more air but for the additional detail I’m happy to.
It’s all so good I’ve almost forgotten to mention the filter issue. These still aren’t out in the wild much but I did on first use have the silver filter housing fall off and getting another was a time consuming pain. It’s the one real fly in the ointment but one that’s easily fixed and given how they sound its one (whether I like it or not) I find I’ve forgiven. These are probably the best dual BA IEM money can buy. I like these so very, very much.