Thursday, 13 September 2012

Nuforce Cube Review

Nuforce Cube Review

Thanks to Nuforce for the sample

First Impressions:  This thing is small.  It is really small and has quite a bit of weight to it.  It’s very solid feeling and I must say is rather pretty.  Disappointingly though the back of it’s black rather than silver so I now rather wish I’d gone for black but hey ho.  It’s not like you should normally see the back anyway.  Plugging the thing into my phone, the notoriously quiet Galaxy Nexus and there is a vast difference in volume.  Oh my, this little tiny thing can really fire out noise!  Hmm, black cable.  Totally wishing I’d got the black one again.  I don’t like this connecting cable but I suppose it’s necessary.  Immediately my nephew insists on putting a film on (Cloudy With Meatballs) and proceeds to sit and watch it on the phone with the cube plugged in, propping up the phone from behind.  Hmmm, audio making phone stand.  I am asked by a parental unit if could be plugged into a TV and commented that it would be good for that.  Certainly it would be a big step up on most TV speakers.

Okay I better go charge the thing properly and let it run in a bit.  Must try to beg borrow or steal a 6G Ipod Nano.

Source varies vostro 3350 when using the DAC and otherwise whatever DAP was appropriate, I’ll specify as I use them.

Lows:  Here I have somewhat mixed feelings.  The speaker is pretty tiny, being just a 2 inch driver in there so I don’t think it will came as any surprise that this does not have the same low end abilities as a 15 inch sub.  I note that Nuforce don’t give frequency range in the specification on their web site and I can understand why.  If you want the floor to shake you will have to look for much bigger things.  That’s not what this is for though, it’s the kind of thing you reach for when you want portable and you want to use your DAP (let’s be honest, it’s going to be a phone) or maybe a tablet when you are out and need to get some more volume out of it.  So in that respect it does a pretty fair old stab at doing a low end.  It gives you enough to know what should be going on, it’s a got a bit of punch and while it rolls off rather early it’s not half bad.  Of course if you want uber bass heavy music its maybe not the thing for you, you need something with bigger drivers.

Firing up Jurassic Park and all its rip roaring, thunderous sounds, well is it perfect? No.  It does however beat the living snot out of my Ipad and my phone.  While I don’t have kids to entertain nor am I much of a road warrior this could really go a long way to providing the audio for such things.  Let’s face it phones, tablets and laptops do not cut it in the lows, often they sound tinny and a bit poo generally.  They are often so small they make the 2 inch driver look colossal in comparison and it shows.  My little Vostro 3350, it’s a great little machine, it has an SSD in it, I whipped out the optical drive and replaced it with a conventional HDD.  It has a decent GPU in there too and all things considered it’s a little beast of a machine.  Little here is a key word as it’s only a 13 inch machine.  So one of the compromises Dell made is in the speaker, and no that’s not a typo, speaker.  There is just one in there and search the net and you’ll see many people complain, not that its mono (as the Cube is too) but that it’s so quiet.  You certainly get next to no low end information, like many laptops.  So if you were to try to use the machine as a portable media device it might work for just one person if you are silent.  Not something small kids are likely to do.

Mids:  Here the Cube somewhat shines.  It’s really not bad at all!  It’s actually really impressive for something so small, vocals are where a driver of this size should do best and it really does.  Vocals are clean and very transparent, it really suits vocal heavy music.  It’s pretty even handed in its handling of both male and female vocals, it does miss a bit in the lowest vocals, not quite giving the scale and depth to some but with a the girlies it is pretty faultless.  It’s good enough to make me smile.  For me the best test of things is does it make me want to sing along and this does, it’s really fun and lively.  I know its missing a bunch of bits but for something this price and this size it’s really good.  Impressively loud too and no distortion at all.

The vocals here are really enjoyable, maybe a little out in front for some tastes but I like it.  The quality cannot be faulted and this means that not only is it very capable at music it also suits very well TV and films.  In fact it’s the first thing that was commented, how well it would work as a replacement for the speakers on a TV.  I’m not saying I’d buy one for that as clearly it its mono and runs off a battery, it’s just not meant for that.  But…… I think if you’re on holiday and have a tablet or laptop, or even a phone and want to watch stuff then plugging this in makes it a real option.

Highs:  Fairly good, clearly there is no dedicated tweeter so you won’t be using this as your dedicated audio monitoring speaker but its gives a pretty good rendition.  It can get a teeny weeny bit rough and uncomposed when you max the volume with songs with a lot of splashy treble.  It can show a little bit of a rough edge but this is quite directional.  So unless you’re being directly faced by it then that actually works in its favour, you know like it being behind a tablet.  That little bit of bright is mellowed and if it wasn’t there would make it sound like there wasn’t enough treble.  Still if it’s in your face I’d maybe want to take it a little easy with the really treble heavy stuff.

Soundstage:  It varied on where it was faced.  When it was pointed directly at you it was rather small and the speaker rather directional but face it away from you (so the back is facing you) it sounded much larger.  I say much larger but it’s still not huge,  room filling sound is not the order of the day.

Dynamics:  This little beast could make itself admirably loud, impressively loud.  Its dynamic range wasn’t quite as wide but particularly in the mids is really good.  Julie London sounds sultry and delicate and all round great.  In movies too vocals have some range to move about in and it’s a vast jump up on inbuilt speakers.  The highs and lows are less so, both clearly beginning to stress the boundaries of that the tiny driver can do.  The lows are more convincing at lower volume and as you max the volume the lows can’t quite rise in response. 

Power:  Great.  Okay that needs a caveat, it’s great for its size.  The cube is not going to give you room filling, room shaking, “wooo beach party!!!!!” type of volume.  For a nice picnic, watch a film in a hotel room that it does very well.  Think grace and poise rather than party party.

Aesthetics:  The Cube comes in a bunch of colours, red, blue, black and silver.  As you can see I went with silver (of course I now wish I’d got black but no doubt if I had I’d now wish silver) and it’s a really nice looking little thing.  It is really petty but I wish the back was also silver.  For the aluminium top and side, if you have seen something made by Apple then you know the drill. Its aluminium, it is pretty, it is sleek and minimalist.  For me the other colour ones aren’t my thing but if you like colours they are there and why not get one to match your phone or Ipod Nano.  I’ve said it before about a Nuforce product but this ought to live in an Apple store, it is the very same sleek, minimalist industrial aesthetic.

Build and Durability:  Without throwing across the room or dropping it, which I have no plan to deliberately do, all I can say is it looks and feels good.  That it’s made of aluminium (okay I can’t find Nuforce actually specifying that it is aluminium but my eyes think it is, it’s certainly metal of some sort!)  It looks like it would stand up well to being carted about in a travel bag.  What I’d love to know is how water and sand resistant it is.  Yes I’m thinking beach use.  Also I’m thinking I live in the UK and the weather here on the whole is carp.  This year especially has been beyond terrible so I’d love to know how rain resistant it is.

DAC and Headphone Amp:  First, you obviously can’t separate the two so they shall be tested as one.  Plugging in the GR01’s (I meant to use the 7’s but got fed up hunting for them in the IEM storage tub) I immediately am thankful I paused the music.  When using as a speaker I had it more or less running near max volume, connecting the IEM’s and I could instantly hear a lot of hiss and turned the volume right down.  I think if I had just plugged them in I’d have either blown the IEM’s or my eardrums.  So be warned.  Quality seems rather good.  Swapping over to the HD600’s and I’m rather less impressed.  I get the immediate impression the little amp inside is like having a good but small engine trying to drive a Rolls Royce.  It can make it move but don’t expect it to perform at its fullest.  Still this clearly isn’t intended to replace a proper desktop headphone amp.  It’s about being markedly better than the rubbish laptop maker’s use and at that it succeeds well.  The amp drove the GR01’s well and that’s much more the sort of thing it’s meant for.

Value:  If you live in the US it can be yours for US$119 exactly from amazon.  If you live in the UK I found one place that has them, for £109 exactly.  Hmm so at today’s exchange rate that equals just over US$173.  That is quite the jump but this seems the norm, Nuforce stuff just is not widely available in the UK so you pay more.  At that price I’m hard pressed to say I’d buy one if for no other reason than the hike in price irks me.  If you are in the US then it’s a lot better, especially if you’re going to use more of its functions.  I think the killer use would be if you travel a lot or travel with kids.  A tablet, Netflix and this and boom! Instant little media set up. 

Conclusion:  I have very mixed feelings about the Cube.  It does certain things really well and for some things its perfect.  I loved it for TV and film use, that it’s a mid centric in its acoustic abilities worked superbly for this.  Vocals shone forth and on stuff like “The Corpse Bride” it worked wonders over built in speakers.  The music and vocals were leagues ahead of the built in one in my laptop.  I realise that my laptop is one of the less good ones in terms of built in sound but it’s not something any thin, portable device does well.  Just have a try watching a film on your phone and you’ll see what I mean.  Sure you can do it but it is not a great experience.  The addition of the Cube transforms the experience to one that’s actually good.  Clarity and transparency are both very impressive given its size.  The mid range in particular is very good being subtle and detailed and above all clear.  You can really hear vocals and not have to strain to make out what’s being said. 

Another use I think is for living in a kitchen.  Should this be paired up with something particularly a 6G Nano then it would make for a great little kitchen audio player.  This is a pairing Nuforce clearly thought of as they offer a little adapter that pairs up with it.  I have one but try as I might I couldn’t track down a Nano to borrow to try it out with.  It seems no one I know uses a Nano. 

As I sit right now I’ve basically let the whole of “The Corpse Bride” play out and while I wish the Cube was a pair and had some stereo separation I cannot in any way fault its clarity.  Vocals on what is pretty much a musical are very enjoyable on this little wonder.  There isn’t a vast amount of low end in the film so it lacking somewhat isn’t really noticeable.  In the opening sequence of “Lord of the Rings 1” when Sauron goes boom, that sound, its just not there.  No hint, just not there at all and if that’s a problem for you then be aware but I don’t think anyone can reasonably expect something this size to do so.  What I felt was stand out as I have mentioned was the clarity.  These are a great giant leap over what your phone can do.

Nuforce, were quite keen that I played a bit with these outside and  unfortunately the weather more or less made that not happen.  It has been worse than terrible this year in Edinburgh but if I’m honest I’m a touch relieved.  Perhaps its more of an American thing with vast houses, gardens measured in hectares, that thing called sunshine, that means using speakers outside is something you can do.   Here erm, well  I’m not sure I could see myself doing but then I don’t have a garden, actually I don’t know anyone in Edinburgh, socially, that has their own garden outside of block gardens which no one ever uses.  It’s what parks are for isn’t it?  Still you can’t buy the Cube here anyway. 

So is the Cube for me, well I do like it, it’s a really pretty and fun little do dah.  I wish I’d been able to borrow a Nano and I could see I’d find it super handy to use in my kitchen or bathroom.  Well if I didn’t have things set up there already.  I would have liked it too have an off switch and Bluetooth would have been handy too.  Still the quality of the device I can’t fault.  It was tremendously good watching stuff on the Ipad, a truly vast improvement and compared with phones the Ipad has pretty credible sound.  Do you ever use your phone to play music or watch TV via its speaker?  If you do the Cube likely to be a really nifty thing.  Its certainly the best looking of the mini portable speakers I’ve seen.  The Cube is really pretty and it really does look like it belongs in an Apple store.  The Nano adapter clearly shows it’s really aimed at just that Apple buying crowd.  It’s a product that’s there to be convenient, small and attractive.  It’s not going to replace a proper audio set up but for travellers I think it’s perfect, the Cube would easily fit in your bag and add your phone, Ipod etc etc and there you have a holiday music system and mini AV system.  For me that is where it shone and that you can make use of its square shape to prop things up was just gravy.

Nuforce Cube Quick Review

Nuforce Cube Quick Review

Thanks to Nuforce for the sample

Brief:  Nuforce makes a tiny, pretty DAC/Amp/Speaker

Price:  US$119 (about £74 but hard to find outside the US)

Accessories:  3.5mm stereo cable 0.6M, USB Cable 0.7M, Soft carrying pouch

Build Quality:  Lovely, it feels solid and its metal exterior feels rather premium.

Aesthetics:  Very pretty, very, very pretty.  I do wish the back colour was matching but that’s my only quibble.  Overall it looks great, no question.

Sound:  The device is a compromise product and for music I cannot say I loved it.  It was impressive for its size but I am somewhat of an audio snob and for music it may have been unquestionably a great leap up on the rubbish laptop speaker but it wouldn’t be my first choice.  Now if I was a real road warrior then using the Cube is a lot more attractive as it’s so easy to take with you but for music, I’d still struggle to use it and not move to headphones.  Where it really shone for me was in AV use.  It does mids super well and TV, films, podcasts all were excellent, just great for on the go use.  If there was a reason to make me part with cash that would be it.  If I was traveling and had kids then this and a tablet would be invaluable, a brief stint with Netflix, my phone, the Cube and my nephew was enthralled with the combo.  My own use with a tablet was a very positive experience and better yet, it doubles as a stand too!  The DAC and headphone capabilities were icing more than core functions I felt, clearly much better than the rubbish on most laptops but not going to replace dedicated DAC’s and amp’s if you have them.

Value:  For a portable speaker it’s not the cheapest you’ll find but it’s clearly of a good quality and unquestionably the most attractive I’ve seen.  You get what you pay for and this is more costly but its quality reflects that.

Pro’s:   Very pretty, great quality mid range, superb for AV use.

Con’s:  Rather directional sound, no off switch, hard to find outside the US.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Nuforce NE-600X Review

Nuforce NE-600X Review

Thanks to Nuforce for the sample

First Impressions:  Hmm, compared to their siblings I have here (the NE-770X) these ones have had a mishap with the ugly stick.  Not that I really think looks matter, you can’t see them when you’re using them so what difference does it really make?  Some care, I know but it’s not something I’d really mark down for.  It does come in a variety of cable colours if that floats your boat though.

Sticking them in my ears and for some reason I’m getting plenty of driver flex in the right ear.  Since I cannot face the minute or so to wait for things to equalise themselves I’m slapping Comply’s on.  Note to dynamic IEM producers, I’d much rather they isolate less but never offer up any air pressure issues or driver flex.  Granted I’m not a normal user as I’m pulling them out frequently to compare things.  With the Comply’s on though, these are not bad, not bad at all.  The bass is huge but pretty good, I’m double checking the price.  I know it’s been a bit since I heard the GR99 and NE-770X but these seem better and that can’t be right can it?  Burn in time.

Source 1G iPod Shuffle with and without a 75 ohm adapter added and a Fiio E9

Lows:  They were slightly helped by the use of Comply’s but not a vast amount once the normal rubber tips settled.  Basically the bass here is very large, it’s overinflated and bitchin’.  It’s subtle like a brick to the face but it pulls it off, it’s crazy good. I had to keep checking other el cheapo things and this is a lot better.  To the point its concerning, as in its better than the 770.  How can that be right?  AB’ing them and maybe it’s that these are so much more sensitive and so much louder or that there is so much more bass (and it’s not like the 770 was light) perhaps it’s just a perfect synergy between the 600x and the 1G Shuffle?  Am I drunk?  I can’t work out what’s going on but these are a lot better than they ought to be.  Of course the bass is huge and that’s the only thing I can come close to complaining about.  Its depth is superb and it’s stupidly agile for being this big and cheap. 

Mids:  They are too far back, much to far as that big bass tends to over shadow but the clarity is astounding, like the bass I keep AB’ing things as I keep thinking something is wrong.  They shouldn’t be this good, so good I’ve just gone hunting for the ViSang R03’s (Brainwavz M2 Twin’s) and while the two cast vastly differing amounts the R03’s aren’t all that far ahead.  It does show up just how the 600X lacks air and just how far back the vocals are but one is US$60 and the other US$25.  If you a big mid lover as I am then there aren’t really going to suit you as they are really somewhat V shaped and the bass clearly dominant.  But screw that, these sound astounding for what equates to about £15.  I was going to say it’s unbeatable but I see the Radiopaq Jazz going for £10 which is insane. But then they don’t have the prodigious bass response of the 600X.  Bugger me these are good.

Tonally they are a touch on the warm and the mountains of bass really do suck out the air and any sense of breathy delicacy but at this price what do you expect.  These trump the GR99 without any trouble.

Highs:  I cannot say they are the most refined ever but like everything else its way batter than it should be.  So long as not too much is going on that is, should things get too heated the highs begin to break up and loose it becoming a bit of a splashy mess.  Still I’m actively looking for complains as these for what you pay are insanely good.  I keep wondering if I have a nonstandard pair, could maybe Nuforce have sent the wrong thing in the box?  These are genuinely good.  How can these be better than their much prettier siblings?  I don’t know.  These impact just about right and have a good almost natural decay that veers over to the safe and edge sanded side of things.  It won’t satisfy those looking uber crisp, bight and edgy treble but in this price range this is the best way to go.  The result is just much better than it has any right to be.  I keep thinking I must be getting some crazy synergy as I don’t see other reviews of the 600X being so positive but I really can’t find fault with it.
Quantity wise as I mentioned before these are a bit V shaped and the treble does stand somewhat before the mids but it’s not really coming close to the bass. 

Soundstage:  It can do scale and in the mids distance but it’s really not got much in the way of air and space.  It’s a presentation choice rather than being one the right way to go or not.  Instrument separation is great, particularly in the different frequency ranges.  Usually the bass should cloud things but here it really seems to make little difference to anything else.

Fit:  Good.  It does have a flat cable which I’m never much keen on but it still let me wear them up and be comfortable.  It did once or twice pop off over my ear but they really gave any other bother.

Comfort:  Well aside from some air pressure and venting issues fine.  In normal use I don’t think it should be much of a problem. 

Cable:  Hmm, it’s flat and a touch plasticy.  It works fine but it’s clearly nothing special.  You do get a cable slider though which is good.

Microphonics:  Wearing up I got none but you wear down you can basically cure things with the chin slider. 

Accessories:  Not a lot, but then I wouldn’t expect a lot at this price.  Why add in stuff you may not ever use?  You get 3 pairs of tips.

Isolation:  Fairly good but nothing out of the ordinary.  It’s enough with ease for normal day to day things, walking, on a bus etc but not so much for long flights.  It’s a dynamic I’d actually have preferred a little less isolation and better venting.  That said my usual warning, it’s enough to get you run over if you aren’t looking where you’re going.

Value:  Kick ass.  In the US amazon will ship you set for princely sum of US$24.95.  That’s about £15, so long as you want a hugely bassy sound or are happy to EQ it away you’ll be hard pressed to best these.  Of course you’ll be hard pressed to actually get them in the UK without paying almost as much in postage costs, according to ebay these would come to £24.68 today.  Even at that these are still good value but not the clear champ they should be.

Conclusion:  As I have written this I have constantly thought something must be wrong.  These are on paper not to my tastes at all, they are stupidly bassy, mid recessed and yet I find I really like them.  What the hell is going on?  I honestly don’t know, maybe it’s some crazy perfect synergy between these and the 1G Shuffle?  Sure as hell these don’t want to be paired with a warm DAP as these are plenty warm as it is.  Warm and oh so bassy, maybe that’s why the naturally cold and a touch bright 1G Shuffle works so well?  Surely not this well?  I keep thinking I must be hearing something wrong as I haven’t seen anyone else give them such praise but as I continue to AB them against others they shine.    The only real problem with them is their sound signature.  These are not catering to the Head-fi crowd, it’s as simple as that.  They are mountainously bassy and normally id be the first to slate them for that but it is actually really well done.  Granted it’s still so much it gets tiring on my ears with bassy songs but it’s actually got quality! I’m beginning to think I may be going a bit crazy.  Okay I need a break I think.

Almost a week has now passed and I have read what other had to say about the 600x and I am beginning if I have something different than they as what they describe.  At present Whitney is belting out “Run To You” and she sounds far too good.  I flick back to the 770X and they just sound like ass in comparison, how the hell is that possible? Ditto the GR99 and the Tridents.  I think I have to go check prices of things again. Is it that after the wave of rather bassy things I have in lately has broken my ears and brain?  I have no idea what’s going on but there are just amazing compared to everything else I’m trying.  I think I’m even getting used to the huge bass.  I really do just not know what’s going on, if I have some super set fluke or I’m having some aural breakdown but these are just far better, than their price suggests.  It’s not what I expect, perhaps I’m doing Nuforce a disservice but I expect the shocks to come from the likes of Vsonic, Dunu, maybe even MEElectronics.  These are outstanding, just outstanding.  Hell they are so good I think there must be something wrong somewhere!  Did the factory make a mistake and put the wrong drivers in them?  I’m at loss as these just sound incredible, how come no one else has gone nuts over these?

At this point I think I may be heading towards some sort of breakdown.  My ears are repeatedly telling me there are incredible for this price, my former top 2 in what I call the el cheapo range were the GR99’s and the Trident’s and these just stomp all over them both.  There isn’t a “oooh this one does this better etc etc” they just flatten them.  These with the bass reducer option applied are frighteningly close to the rather excellent Visang R02/Brainwavz M2 (they were the same things just different branding) and they are US$60.  So given others haven’t said similar, I mean these are not close to their price rivals so why has no one else said so?  I keep thinking I’m doing something wrong but no matter what is going on I can tell you these are freeking me out.  These are punching so far above their weight I can’t help think something crazy is going on.  Am I getting some insanely congruent pairing with sources? Have I had a stroke? I don’t get it, I just don’t get it.  These should not surely be better than their far prettier siblings the NE-770x and it’s not like I thought they were bad but these just demolish them.  Sure they really, really do need a bass reduction setting applied and even then they are bassy but the detail is just amazing.  The tonality too is just incredible, the dynamics and enthusiasm are all so outstanding.  Yet they are priced at practically throw away money!

I suggest if you’re in the US you buy a pair, right now.  The cost is so low and if you get what I’m getting you’ll be more than impressed.  I’ll grant it’s a concern that other reviews haven’t seamed to hear what I’ve heard but I can only really go by my own ears and these are disturbingly good for the money.  So please go buy a set and if you don’t agree with me send them back.  US Amazon has a good returns policy doesn’t it?  Just be aware it’s one of the most bass heavy things out there so be prepared to live with that or EQ it down a lot.  That bass mountain and its beating from the ugly stick are neither reasons to not at least try one of these.  I hear a lot of things and usually things aren’t so clearly better than those of a similar price but this is.  It is priced so cheaply it is just wiping the floor with what should be its competition.  It’s just a shame that it is erm, a little fugly and all that bass.  Please maybe do a version 2 with the bass dialled down?  The looks however are something I personally don’t care about but it would be a shame if people didn’t buy this or it not get the attention it deserves because it’s the ugly sister.  The sound quality is simply stunning.  Literally I have been so stunned I’ve been emailing others to ask what they made of it and to check if I was going mad or not. 

Seriously people, go buy a set as these things are just stupid good at this price. 

Nuforce NE-600X Quick Review

Nuforce NE-600X Quick Review

Thanks to Nuforce for the sample

Brief:  Fugly but oh so awesome!

Price:  US$24.95 or circa £15 (of course hard to get outside the US)

Specification:  Driver Size: 11mm, Impedance: 32 Ohm, Frequency Response: 20 to 20kHz, Rated Power: 1mW, Max. Input Power: 3mW, Sensitivity: 100dB+/-3dB, Connector: 3.5mm 4-pin iPhone compatible-plug

Accessories:  3 pairs of tips

Build Quality:  Looks alright, doesn’t scream posh but all seems sturdy enough.  Cable feels decent and the jack is rather sturdy.

Isolation:  Rather good.  It’s about the new norm for a dynamic, actually I’d have rathered a little less and no venting issues.  Still as is its quite enough for normal on the street, on a bus type stuff.  Not really stuff for a long flight.  Enough to get you run over though if you aren’t looking, so look.

Comfort/Fit:   With the stock tips I got a bit of air pressure issues with venting but Comply’s cured and it really was only a problem because when reviewing your always pulling things out instead of leaving them there.  Comfort was fine wearing up even with the flat cable.

Aesthetics:  Well, looks aren’t everything.  Most Nuforce stuff looks fantastic but these just don’t unless the option of a green or red cable float your boat. 

Sound:  So good I thought something had to be wrong.  The bass is waaaaay too big but otherwise these are just incredibly good for the price.  They are so much clearer and have vastly better tonality than their “competitors” I kept thinking there has to be a mistake.  These can’t be this good, they just can’t be!  So either I have some fluke set that’s incredible, I have gone mad or these are just outstandingly good.  At this point I don’t know which is true.  If you’re crazy you won’t know you’re crazy will you?  The bass here is vast, it’s easily its biggest fault and there is just so much of it.  EQ’ing the bass down helps but it’s still hugely bassy.  Quality wise though it’s stunning.  Quick, agile and punchy well beyond its price point.  I’d expect so much more bloom and softness given cost and gargantuan quantity.  Mids are excellent but rather pushed back.  Still then sound wonderfully natural, a touch warm but excellent and clear.  Guitars really twang and snap well.  Highs are almost crystal clear, very natural sounding, well for this money anyway.  They have just a hint of edge and decay really impressively well.  They are very clear too and stay clear very well even when stuff starts getting busy.  Of course they do get a bit lost but long after its competition does.  Instrument separation is superb, a clear step up on others.  It’s way better than its price tag suggests.

Value:  If you’re in the US, jaw dropping good, I suggest you buy a set.  Elsewhere, still excellent.

Pro’s:   Sound jaw droppingly good.

Con’s:  Waaaaay too much bass, a bit fugly.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Vsonic GR06 Review

Vsonic GR06 Review

Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample


First Impressions:  Okay so I can’t help but notice is no case, some little baggie thing in its place and Vsonic, I do not think is a change that’s a good one.  Please can the 6 come with proper hard case seeing as the 4 Pro Flagship does (still think that’s the stupidest name ever.)  The buds do look really nice and they still have their strangely attractive bronze cable.  It’s so nice to see something other than the typical black/gray that isn’t hooker red, not that there is anything wrong with any of those but the bronzy colour is gentle and muted yet still has a bit of colour to it.  It’s nice to see the inclusion of about 3 million tips too,  it pretty much ensures you’ll get a good fit, if not then you’ll just need to get new ears.

First listen I must say I’m disappointed.  Now I’m just going off memory and that’s sometimes not always spot on but these aren’t close to the 7.  I remember at the time thinking the 4 Pro Flagships did manage to get rather close and these from their name I’d expect to be close.  Then again these do seem to be going for a pretty low price in comparison.  They wouldn’t position these below the 4 pro Flagship’s would they?  Still let’s send them off and see what a burn in does before I can really begin to properly comment on them.


Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added and an HM-601

Lows:  Right what strikes me about the low end here is that it a little different from what Vsonic normally gives up.  It’s a little looser, warmer and more expansive; this is particularly noticeable when going head to head with its sibling the GR04 Pro Flagship.  It makes it feel a little slow and heavy but it’s not that either is the right way to do it, it’s a personal preference thing.  That said it’s not like the bass can’t kick it up a notch if you want it to hit a little harder and be a little more punchy, it’s a more “consumer” orientated sort of bass.  It also being tuned such isn’t quite so linear and feels as though it tails off a touch when you start sending it down low.  You probably wouldn’t notice this and even if you did I’m not sure you’d care.  I keep having to remind myself that while this isn’t the GR07 it also doesn’t cost anything like it.  When you feed it some additional impedance it tightens it up nicely too and becomes what I’d call truly impressive.  This price just should not sound like this.  It has just great articulation and texture, the only criticism I can really offer is that it doesn’t have the spectacular depth of the GR07 but it’s a third the price, it super impressive.  Quantity wise it is a touch elevated but not so much it’s what I’d really even call it bass heavy.  I’m sure some would love more but then that’s what bass boosting amps are for.  The quantity I think is pretty spot on for a consumer friendly product while keeping budding audiophiles happy too.


Mids:  These again I’m a little torn as I want to compare them to the 4 and the 7 and in comparison they come up a touch short.  I like the presentation they offer a little more.  They are more focused on providing a transparent, open, and a touch drier sound.  The vocals here are a little more rich and thick.  It’s in that touch of thickness they can lose a little of the clarity you may be looking for but don’t mistake that for me saying they aren’t good.  They are very good.  They just suit a rich, liquid sound that wants to flow or perhaps ooze over your ear canals.  They can swoon and sweep but hand on heart; I did feel them to be a little lacking when it came to Beverly Craven and her awesome vocals.  Not that I have any right to feel that way but I can’t help feeling these just fall that little bit short of my expectations.  However those expectations are absurdly high as I just keep bringing back the GR07 in my head.  Yes I keep forgetting these cost £32 not £100.

So tonally these do suit a more liquid voice they are still fantastic at turning their hand to anything else.  The separation they offer too is very good with the mids always standing out clearly.  Its unusual at this price and even more so given these are maybe a touch mid recessed.  It’s very slight but the low end is nudged out it front and I’d much more expect the mids to get a touch fuzzy but no, they always cut cleanly through no matter what.


Highs:  Now normally I give some comment about highs are really hard to do and what not but Vsonic are really putting everyone else to shame here.  They have got the highs here just so achingly spot on its frightening.  Now I think it may not be quite as crispy and edgy as some would want but the quality is just outstanding.  They have nailed it with a legion of fully automatic nail gun wielding nailers.  It’s got just the perfect hint of edge and then a great, smooth natural decay as only ever a dynamic driver can quite do.  Quantity wise it’s a tiny, tiny touch ahead of the mids but mostly like them it’s that they are so well separated and come through so cleanly.  Nothing really getting lost when things start to get more complex and that is really impressive at this price.  I should though really point out if its hard, crisp, aggressive treble your after then you’re probably wanting to look elsewhere.  It’s not to say this is overly gentle but it’s more about being accurate and smooth.  Okay so it could maybe extend better but saying that feels like I’m flying on Easyjet and being unhappy that I’m getting no complimentary Gin and Tonics.


Soundstage:  Much like their siblings, it’s good but it’s not going to blow you away.  They give a good sense of scale and power.  They really do however score well on instrument separation, okay so they aren’t in UM3x territory but they do sooooo very much better than a product in this price range ought to.  Everything does seem to be a little fixed in range though, nothing in too close and nothing too far away.

Fit:  Like their siblings I had not the slightest trouble with these.  The inclusion of at least 700 tips of course helps there.  Get one that works for you and they are just a case of shoving in your ear and that’s it.

Comfort:  See above really, perfectly comfy.


Cable:  It seems to a be combo of the 7 and 4 cables, it’s the colour of the 4 yet seems as flexible as the 7 one.  I really can’t think of anything more I could ask for in a cable.

Microphonics:  None.  However there is no chin slider if that matters to you.

Accessories:  Full marks for the inclusion of just about every tip there is that would fit them.  What’s not full marks is the bag they give instead of a real case.  What’s worse it’s that it’s not some cheap stupid baggie it has some weird clasping thing that surely much have cost at least as much to produce.  Please Vsonic, id really much rather the little hard case back.


Amped/Unamped:  Now I recognise that products in this price range are not going to be encountering expensive amps.  It does improve with one mind but what really helped was the addition of a 75ohm impedance adapter.  I’ve pretty much yet to find a dynamic driver IEM that doesn’t improve with one and since they are only circa £10 I think it’s a much more realistic option than a £100+ amp.  Impedance adapter and a little FiiO makes for a grand pairing with these.  It’s like a baby audiophile set up for circa £50ish.

Isolation:  It’s pretty decent.  It’s a touch above what I’d think is average (or at least by what used to be average) perfectly usable for normal everyday usage and as a I always warn, enough to make you road kill if you aren’t used to it and aren’t looking when you walk out in front that bus you didn’t hear behind you.  Not really long flight stuff though.

Value:  Stupid good.  £32 is insane.  Not even the PR401 can come close to matching these. I do however see the 4 Pro Audiophile (I’m guessing that’s what they are calling now what I was told was the Pro Flagship) for £40.  If it is the same then its pretty crazy stunning value too if perhaps a less consumer friendly sound.


Conclusion:  I must admit when I first heard these I was not happy with them.  They need a bit of burn in and their thicker, warmer sound wasn’t what I expected.  Thickness and warmth obfuscates detail and makes them less immediately transparent.  Given a little time though they are simply superb.  They are so dirt cheap and so good sounding it’s a shame these are going to be hindered by Vsonics absurd naming.  I have no trouble saying these sit below the 4 Pro Flagship, or at least what I know as the product called that.  The 6 to me implies these should sit above them and just a hair behind the fabulous GR07, which they don’t.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to say I know more about the headphone world than most and I still find it confusing.  Dear Far East friends, the higher the product number the better the product range, okay.  Please have a look at how ATI does it for example.

Now if I can try for a moment to think of these as a £32 product all I can really conclude is that if Vsonic do a good job getting these out into the retail channel then they are going to move a lot of them.  They are far better than anything at this price has any right to be. They are every bit as outstandingly and amazingly good as the GR07 was but at a different price level.  The difference is these could cost double what they do and I’d still pretty much be saying the same.  These are so good in comparison to others out there, the PR401 had been my cheap but a still really like and these are just on a different level, I’m thinking about 3 levels higher.  Honestly I A/B back and forth and look at what I wrote about the poor PR401 which I did really very much like and I’m astounded at how far things have come.  These are staggeringly good, for their current price and I cannot see how these with do anything but obliterate everyone else’s sales.  A compare to the Vsang R03 / Brainwavz M2 and its like comparing Liz Hurly in Bedazzled to Devine Brown in her mug shot photo.  Sure there must be someone out there that likes what Miss Brown has to offer but for most, there is just no competition.  They just are not comparable. 


In this price range and extending quite a bit upward too the GR06 beat everything.  They don’t excel at anything quite in particular not unlike the 7’s but they do everything very, very well.  Okay so they do have a flavour that may not appeal to everyone but they aren’t so flavoured I could see anyone hating them.  Not even to the extent that I think anyone who hears them won’t pick these over something more suited to their tastes.  Maybe, possibly the PL-50 which I adore but it cannot hope to match the GR06 in the low end.  The GR06 is just simply about as good as I can imagine it ever getting at this price.  It is awesomely good and I really think everyone else is going to have an extremely hard time coming up with something that can challenge this.

Vsonic GR06 Quick Review

Vsonic GR06 Quick Review

Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample

Brief:  Vsonic once more slays all before it.

Price:  £32

Specification:  Impedance      24 Ohm, Cable Length 1.3m, Sensitivity > 108dB, Frequency Range          10 Hz - 20000 Hz, Driver 11mm High-Dynamic CCAW Drive Unit

Accessories:  1 Set Foam Ear Tips, 1 Set of Bi Flanges, 3 Sets of Hybrids with Foam, 3 Silicone Ear Tips (S/M/L), 5 Sets of Hybrids, Silicone Ear Hook, Storage Case, Warranty Card

Build Quality:  Very good, excellent cable.

Isolation:  It’s okay, it’s enough for normal out and about usage but nothing special.  About average for a dynamic of this type.  Still probably enough to make you road kill if you aren’t used to isolating IEM’s but not the one the pick for that flight to New Zealand.

Comfort/Fit:  I’ll grant that its square shape may be off putting but like its siblings they gave me not the slightest hint of trouble.  I can’t promise the same for all but I do not recall seeing anyone else having any problems either.  Plus they come with so many tips I’m sure at worst you just have to try more till you get the one for you.

Aesthetics:  I really rather like them, I like the bronzy colour particularly on the cable.  It’s not garish and vulgar but still adds a little hint of colour to them.  The buds are the same colour and again it’s nice that it’s something other than black. 

Sound:  I naturally want to compare these to their siblings the GR07 and in comparison the just fall short all over the place.  They are just not anything like as good.  Then I remember these just have stupid names and are priced a million miles away from the excellent and great value GR07.  Sound wise though they are nothing like a million miles away.  They are stylistically a bit of a departure for Vsonic, much more of a warm and thick sound than I’m used to seeing.  I miss the air and transparency that they do so well.  What you get here though is a thick, luscious sound that is full of power and yet still can do shimmering delicate treble.  It’s not too unlike one of my favourites, Senn’s IE7.  It’s a beautifully natural (okay maybe a little bass heavy) sound that flows over the ears.  It’s still got the speed and agility though to spring to life and dance with a musicality that puts many costing vastly more to shame.  Bass could do with better extension; mids could do with more transparency and be dryer.  Highs could have more edge but really I cannot complain.  These sound freaking fantastic.  Bassy, warm and oodles of bounce with clear yet smooth treble.  Vsonic are onto a winner here.

Value:  Insanely good.  These beat the poo out of everything near their price.  Unless you have a very particular requirement them these can be bested but otherwise these are like their brothers.  Excel nowhere but so good at everything no all rounder can touch them.

Pro’s:   Freakin’ awesome sounding. Great cable. Stupid cheap.

Con’s:  Won’t really suit treble heads, not something to use on the Tube.