Today we're going to be checking out a wallet-friendly earphone from SOMiC, an established Chinese brand; the V4.
When researching the brand for this review, I was surprised to find that SOMiC has been around the block, first appearing on the scene 18 years ago. Unlike many companies who outsource aspects of their business, SOMiC does it all themselves.
Their two production facilities in Shantou and Dongguan, China, handle research and development, engineering, driver and cable production, injection molding, assembly, jet printing, and quality control, able to output around 2 million sets of headphones per month, at least according to their company information. Their dedication and hard work has net them a number of awards over the years, and they're currently selling products in over 200 countries around the world.
Their motto "Credibility Centric, Quality First" is readily apparent in the V4. This earphone sports a balanced and detailed sound signature which emanates from twin 6mm biological dynamic drivers, per side. The independent driver cavities reduce interference, and a beautiful 18 core, silver-jacketed braided cable ties everything together. All of this combined adds up to one of the best budget earphone experiences I've had in a while, making their paltry price tag that much more appealing.
Let's take a closer look at the V4 to find out what makes this earphone so special.
The SOMiC V4 was purchased by me from Gearbest to the tune of 23.40 CAD. I am not associated with Gearbest or SOMiC. The opinions and thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent them or any other entity. You can purchase the V4 through a number of online retailers, but I chose to go with Gearbest since they are a Head-fi sponsor and I've only had great experiences with them in the past.
Here is a link if you want to check them out for yourself; http://www.gearbest.com/earbud-headphones/pp_351816.html?wid=21
My Gear and I:
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I'm a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI's multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don't do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I'll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was an HTC One M8, an XDuoo X3 (w/ Rockbox update), a Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. A Shanling M1 was recently added to the crew. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures, I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. My favorite in-ear, the Echobox Finder X1[i[ is a fantastic example of this with their grey filters installed.
Packaging and Accessories:
Daniel Kahnman, an Israeli Psychologist, once said;
"Your first impression of a thing sets up your subsequent beliefs. If the company looks inept to you, you may assume everything else they do is inept."
SOMiC's V4 makes a positive first impression with a subtle, unique looking and cleanly designed package that provides a fuss-free unboxing experience. The silver wireframe image of the earpieces set on a metallic brown background strays from the norm and is especially eye catching when set among more typical packaging. Flip to the rear where you find a list of features in roughly translated English and a list of specifications which you can see here.
One feature that really caught my eye was this;
"Nanoscale biological vibrating diaphragm makes sensitive and dynamic response."
That to me sounds like the V4 is sporting bio-cellulose drivers, ala. VSonic GR07. I reached out to SOMiC to see if they could provide any additional information on the tech they're using, but I have yet to receive a response. Should that change, this section will be updated.
Flip open the front flap like the cover of the book and you find to the left another wireframe image, this time reflecting the inner workings of the V4's earpieces. To the right is some legal jargon under a casual viewing window.
Inside the V4 is held securely in place with a hybrid foam/plastic tray system. Normally it's one or the other, but this combination of the two is smart. The cable isn't held in place at weird angles nor is the V4 difficult to remove. Should you wish to throw out the package once you've got the goods stashed inside, there's not much waste.
Accessories are limited only to spare ear tips in small, medium (x2), and large sizes. Oddly, no single flange tips are included. They're all bi-flange.
Overall the unboxing experience is quite pleasant. I like the design and simplicity, and the foam/plastic hybrid tray works well to hold/display the V4 safely. A wider variety of tips and a basic carry pouch would have been welcome inclusions.
Should you want to watch an unboxing, here's mine. Please keep in mind that I don't make many videos;
Build Quality, Isolation, and Comfort:
Quality construction is one of the most important aspects of any earphone to me. It can sound as amazing as anything, but why would I want to drop my hard earned cash on something I know isn't going to last? From the limited impressions of this earphone I could find, they looked to be a well-designed and solidly constructed earphone and I wasn't disappointed. They certainly look more upscale in black, coming across a little cheap in the blue I selected, but they don't feel cheap which is key.
The clear plastic construction of the ear pieces comes across thick and cleanly molded, and you can see the quality soldering inside. The silver protrusions out back, to my surprise, are screwed in place. Tilt the housing sideways and the V4 looks like a ship straight out of Star Wars.
The cable is frankly amazing for something in this price range. As noted earlier, the V4 utilizes an 18 core, silver-jacketed braided cable. Microphonics are fairly minimal worn cable down and are completely absent worn cable up or when taking advantage of the effective chin cinch. Strain relief could be better, but I've definitely seen much worse (none for example). Memory is mild, and over the last couple weeks of use has been straightening out more and more. This has been my experience with other braided cables in the past so nothing unusual there.
Isolation is about what you would expect from a dynamic driver earphone, if not a little worse. The V4 is a very shallow fit earphone so they dull outside noise bleeding in, but do not nullify it completely. For the best isolation you'll want to toss on some foam tips and wear them over-ear.
Comfort, well, it's outstanding. The V4 is extremely light and the stubby nozzles mean they perch daintily on the exterior of your ear canal. Wear them cable over-ear and the V4 shows itself to be a VERY low profile earphone, completely opposite of how they sit when worn cable down.
Overall the V4 is a solidly built earphone will a killer cable, acceptable isolation, and well above average comfort. I can see the tall housings combined with a stubby nozzle causing some issues with getting a good seal, but that's where some quality, inexpensive KZ "Starline" aftermarket tips come in.
Tips: Given the stock tips really didn't work for me, I set about trying a variety of other options to find a suitable replacement. My testing resulted in the selection of Sennheiser-style large Havi dual-flange tips being my preferred option. They provided a very comfortable and secure seal and the exceptionally wide bore balanced out the V4's sound even further by lowering mid-bass presence and enhancing treble clarity. My second choice would be large KZ "Starline" tips. Their length and semi-stiff silicone material help compensate for the V4's shallow fit and they sound nearly identical to the Havi tips. I would recommend someone order the KZ tips along with the V4 given their low cost of less than 2 USD per package (s/m/l).
Source/Amping: The V4 doesn't need to be amped given they are very easy to drive, but I did hear improvement moving from the HTC One M8 through the XDuoo X3 to the Shanling M1. The M1's extremely clean and detailed presentation paired magnificently with the V4 further enhancing it's already capable sound. The V4 seems to scale nicely as the quality of the source used increases.
The SOMiC V4, despite what it's flamboyant design would suggest, is a reasonably balanced product with a warm tilt and a silky smooth presentation. It's dual drivers are seamlessly integrated and interact with each other to provide listeners with a coherent and engaging sound. Anytime I listen to them I'm reminded of the organic Meze 11 Neo and 12 Classics which are outstanding buys in their respective price ranges. While the V4's overall build and presentation isn't up to the standard of Meze's offerings, the quality of sound it outputs is.
Treble extension rolls off a bit at the highest registers but the V4 maintains a sparkly and detailed presentation that somehow avoids any harshness or sibilance. Clarity in the upper registers is also excellent aided by a clean, black background and good separation that avoids congestion. Throwing on treble heavy tracks like Bluestep by Gramatik, or Grace by The Crystal Method which can sound positively horrendous under the wrong circumstances, are handled with impunity.
The V4's midrange sits just behind the treble and bass but gives listeners a full and lush experience, especially with female vocals. There is just a touch of thickness and weight that gives emotional tracks the power needed to convey the track's meaning. Guitars have adequate crunch and grit to them as well, belying expectations given the V4's general impression of gliding effortlessly through a track.
When it comes to the low end the V4 departs from my preferred balance, placing more emphasis on mid-bass punch and speed where they truly excel. The V4 is unexpectedly nimble and doesn't unseat itself even when you've got a crazy metal-infused double-bass session playing over a raw and powerful guitar riff. It's drivers can dig reasonably deep and provide a satisfying rumble, but nothing that's going to please a seasoned bass head.
The V4's soundstage encompasses your head extending out almost to your shoulders on some tracks, giving you a good sense of space and air. Even more impressive is their separation, layering, and imaging which easily outclasses similarly priced products like the Piston 3.0 or FiiO F1. It's presentation is more in line with earphones nearing that 100 USD pricepoint; Brainwavz S5, Meze 12 Classics, thinksound MS02, and other like earphones.
While the V4 doesn't immediately blow you away out of the box, through repeated listening you come to appreciate the balance and capabilities of their tuning and the way it's drivers interact with and present your music. It's a mature sound that doesn't really match the physical design. Someone expecting a high energy, v-shaped signature with excessive treble and monstrous bass will be disappointed. Those looking for something more balanced with a mild bass and treble boost and clear, unimpeded midrange will be right as home.
KZ ZST (~10-20 USD): Anyone that's been following my posts over the years will know I'm a KZ fanboy through and through. The ZST is KZ's first earphone using a BA driver. In my opinion it's probably the best product they've released to date, even if it's not one of my favorites.
It's got a cool design and uncommon features at this price range, such as a removable two-pin cable. It's w-shaped signature, open soundstage, and above average laying and imaging show it to be an especially capable budget earphone, though it's not without it's faults. The V4 is a notable step up to my ears.
The ZST suffers from unnecessarily boosted, slightly unnatural sounding treble that can come across harsh and unpleasant at times. The V4 is cleaner and more natural sounding while offering up just as much, if not more detail. The ZST's midrange is unbalanced with it's lower midrange being most prominent. As a result female vocals suffer, coming across slightly raspy. Not an issue with the V4. While the V4's bass is more punchy and nimble, the ZST is balanced more to my liking with excellent extension and sub-bass prominence with a reduced mid-bass hump. Even though the V4's bass is of higher quality, I like the ZST's low end presentation more.
Overall the V4 comes across as a more refined and even experience. The ZST is an awesome budget hybrid and a wonderful first attempt at that style of earphone from KZ, but it really can't compete with the V4.
Meze 11 Neo (59.99 USD) and 12 Classics (79.99 USD): Here we have a more apt comparison. I absolutely adore these two earphones from Meze and think they are outstanding offerings at their respective price points. If you feel inclined to do so you are welcome to check out my reviews of them here; 11 Neo / 12 Classics.
Build and material quality between these earphones is excellent, but I'd give the edge to the Meze twins. The beautifully formed housings and high quality materials and fit and finish (more so on the 11 Neo than 12 Classics) are top notch. I think the cables on all three are great, but microphonics on the 11 Neo and 12 Classics ruin the experience unless worn over-ear. SOMiC's cable is more comfortable and compliant and noise is not a problem.
The V4 and the Meze twins are tuned in the same vein though the V4 comes across slightly thicker and more meaty with a less prominent midrange. While the V4 is extremely refined compared to peers in the same price range, the Meze twins feel just a touch sharper and more accurate, though they give up some ground in soundstage with a more intimate presentation. The V4 sounds larger, more open, more bombastic.
Overall the Meze twins are worth stepping up to as they offer a more complete package, but the V4 shows you can still get amazingly competitive sound on a tight budget.
VSonic AN16 (limited release): For those who aren't aware, the AN16 is a GR06 housing with the GR07 driver. It was released in conjunction with the VSD2 as part of a pre-order bonus through LendMeUrEars. I think it's safe to say they were released in limited quantities.
To my ears the AN16 is a warm, somewhat mid-focused earphone with rolled off treble that lacks sparkle. As a result, they can occasionally come across a bit muted or blunt. They still offer up acceptable levels of detail and are very non-fatiguing. The V4 is notably thinner, brighter, and more energetic. Their greater treble emphasis makes them come across more detailed and accurate up top.
The AN16's midrange is it's sweet spot. Listening to classic rock is an absolute treat with guitars and vocals take up front and taking centre stage. You're treated to equal presence from upper to lower mids. The step up in detail is noticeable moving from the V4 to the AN16.
The AN16 places greater focuses on providing a clean, tight, mid-bass punch than the V4 with extension into sub-bass regions seeming about equal. I find the V4's twin micro-drivers better able to handle quick, complicated passages though. The AN16 can get a bit muddy under those circumstances.
Soundstage size clearly goes to the V4. It's much more airy. AN16 provides you with a much more focused listen. Imaging and separation are still a touch more accurate on the AN16.
The V4 comes across more balanced. The AN16 lacks the versatility of the V4's signature, hindered most by their recessed treble. While the V4 can work well with pretty much anything, the AN16 is at it's best with vocal-focused tracks where it shines.
VSonic VSD3 w/ removable cable (replaced by an updated model): The V4 and VSD3 were much more alike than I was expecting and sound fairly similar, albeit with a few key differences. The VSD3 is brighter and a bit sibilant in mids lack the precision on Ts and Ss of the V4. The VSD3 bass digs deeper and is more prominent, though it lacks the tight, clean punch of the V4. The V4 lacks the upper end sparkle and extension, especially noticeable with cymbals, which I really missed going back and forth between the two. Some find that fatiguing though.
Choosing between the two would really come down to signature preference I think. If you want a more fun, exaggerated listen with big bass and prominent treble, go for the VSD3. If you want something more balanced that isn't sterile and can still entertain, the V4 would be a good fit. If you want something that sits between these options, that's where the Meze twins come in.
Earphone stand provided courtesy of AuralLife
The world of entry level portable audio is a crazy place. There are tons of really, really good products vying for your cash, each with their own purchasing pros and cons. Every day you read about a new company with a new product that stomps last week's next big thing.
What makes the V4 worth your time? Well, over a month of consistent use has shown them to be a very versatile earphone with good build quality, outstanding comfort, and most importantly, a wonderfully cohesive sound that belies their very affordable price tag. Definitely worth a look if you're in the market for an new earphone that doesn't empty your wallet.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Aesop Rock - Saturn Missles
BT - The Antikythera Mechanism
The Crystal Method - Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes)
Daft Punk - Touch
Gramatik - Bluestep (Album Version)
Incubus - 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
Infected Mushroom - Deeply Disturbed
Infected Mushroom - The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Jessie J - Bang Bang
Kiesza - Hideaway
King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black
Pink Floyd - Money
Run The Jewels - Oh My Darling (Don't Cry)
Skindred - Death to all Spies
Supertramp - Rudy
The Prodigy - Get Your Fight On
Witcher 2 Official Soundtrack