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Review: ViSang R02 [Brainwavz ProAlpha] - Too Good, Too Soon?

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 

Intro

ViSang, one of the daughter companies of Chinese earphone OEM VSonic, has already released one budget-oriented in-ear earphone this year, the R03. In my review, I concluded that the R03 is a very capable performer in the sub-$100 category. Now, however, ViSang has launched the R02, an even cheaper variant. Falling within the <$50 price bracket, the R02 sources elements from both the big-brother R03 and older VSonic IEMs. My love for low-budget IEMs caused me to pick up a set early on and put it through its paces. My conclusions? With an unambiguous resemblance to the superb R03 in sound and boasting a significantly lighter price tag, the R02 may just be the ticket for everyone confined to spending less than $50 on a set of quality in-ears.

 

 

Edit: 11/01/10: For clarification here is a table of the ViSang/Brainwavz earphones to clear up any confusion that the nomenclature causes:

 

 

ViSang Earphones and their Brainwavz equivalents

ViSang R04 ($100) Brainwavz M3 ($90)
ViSang R03 ($65) Brainwavz M2 ($60)
N/A Brainwavz M1 ($40)
ViSang R02 ($45) Brainwavz ProAlpha ($40)
ViSang R01 ($35) N/A
N/A Brainwavz Alpha ($15)

 

 

 

 


Packaging & Accessories:





Like the pricier R03, the ViSang R02 comes in a handsome black cardboard box with a slide-out foam insert. Simple and to the point, the packaging is similar to that of Music Valley and Lear earphones. Inside the box you will find:

-3 sets (S/M/L) single-flange silicone tips
-1 set double-flange silicone tips
-1 set foam tips
-Shirt clip
-Hard clamshell carrying case
-Manual and warranty card

Appearance & Build Quality





The R02 utilizes the all too familiar OEM VSonic housings shared by past greats such as the Cyclone PR1 Pro and VSonic R02ProII, as well as some less popular offerings (Grado iGi, Skullcandy Smokin’, Lear Le01/Le01+, and more). The rubber strain reliefs are functional and much shorter than those used on the Grado iGi and R02ProII, resulting in earphones that easy to wear cord-up or cord-down. The Cu-Ag alloy cable and 3.5mm straight plug are identical to those used on the R03. The cord is sturdy, fairly flexible, and very low on microphonics but possesses some long-term memory character, leading to a tendency to kink if held in a particular shape for a long time. The lack of a cable cinch is slightly annoying but a standard shirt clip is included.

Fit & Comfort


ViSang R03 on left, R02 on right


Despite the metal nozzles, the R02 housings are light and easy to wear for prolonged periods. The tapered shape gives them an unobtrusive fit and the short strain reliefs mean they can easily be worn cord-up or cord-down. Like the R03, the R02 work best with a relatively shallow fit, which is easy to achieve with any of the included single- or bi-flange tips. The earphones are also easy to insert/remove by gripping the rubber bits on rear of the shells. Though L/R markings are present on the housings, the earphones are actually asymmetric and can be differentiated by feel after a bit of practice.

Isolation & Microphonics

Like all of their similarly-clad brethren, the R02 are ported on the side of the housings for increased air flow. They are a little more susceptible to wind noise than the R03 but the isolation they provide is quite similar – perfectly reasonable for my daily commute but probably not ideal for airplane use.

The cable carries little noise and the included shirt clip helps further. However, wearing them over-the-ear while moving about is still recommended. Though no cable guides are included, the wire will actually conform to being draped over one’s ears after a few weeks of use.

Sound

Technical Specifications:
-Type: Dynamic Driver
-Driver Diameter: 10.7mm
-Impedance: 20Ω
-Sensitivity: 112dB @ 1mW
-Frequency Range: 20~20,000Hz
-Distortion: <= 1% @ 94dB
-Channel Balance <= 2dB
-Rated Input Power: 10mW
-Maximum Input Power: 40mW
-Plug: 3.5mm, straight, gold-plated
-Cord length: 1.3 meters, y-type

Testing Setup
All on-the-go listening was done straight from an unamped Sansa Fuze using a selection of tracks in 192-320kbps mp3 format featuring a variety of genres including different subgenres of Rock & Metal, Pop, Acoustic, Blues, Jazz, and Electronica. Benefits of a portable amp are deduced from running the earphones through a 5x gain mini3 connected to the Fuze via a vampire-wire LOD. All critical listening was done via an optical-fed iBasso D10 with stock opamps using a significantly wider selection of tracks in FLAC and Windows Media lossless formats.

When I first got my hands on the ViSang R02, my R03 was out on loan and not available for a direct comparison. Listening to the R02 for the first time I had to keep checking to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake and mailed out the wrong earphone. Indeed, direct comparisons aside, the two sound exactly alike. Like the R03, the R02 boast a full-bodied and weighty low end with an emphasis on mid- and upper bass. The low end response is very smooth and calm, completely unobtrusive until called for. The tonal balance is slightly dark, with a warmed-up midrange and treble almost completely devoid of sparkle.

As with the R03, the midrange of the R02 is right where it needs to be, clean and clear and with no lack of emphasis. Detail is very good for the price though the R02 is certainly no RE0, especially in the treble. Soundstage width is quite good and seems to be one of the areas in which the R02 has the R03 beat slightly. Depth is similarly average, though instruments are very well-separated and imaged.

The midrange transitions effortlessly into the treble, becoming a bit more laid-back along the way. Treble smoothness is very impressive and extension is perfectly tolerable, though not class leading. The treble is never fatiguing – harshness and sibilance are terms the R02 is not familiar with. Overall, the treble of both ViSang earphones takes a backseat to the bass and mids, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call them recessed at the top. Like the R03, the R02 also surprise with their speed, which is very close to the much more expensive and very fast Monster Turbines, and natural timbre, which really puts a lot of the other sub-$50 earphones to shame.

Also like the R03, the R02 do not require an amp. However, running them through a 68-ohm impedance adapter and a mini3 evens out the sound signature somewhat, bringing forward the mids and treble and making fine detail easier to pick out.

So, what differentiates the pricier R03 from the R02? Well, A:Bing the two for several hours reveals a few small differences, most likely the effects of different acoustic properties of their respective housings. The R03 sounds a little bit thicker and more ‘concentrated’ in tone. The R02 sounds a bit more diffuse in comparison, with slightly less immediate bass punch (closer to ‘boomy’ than the R03 is, if that makes any sense) and more ethereal positioning. Indeed, the R03 does seem to place instruments with slightly more precision than the R02 but again the differences are extremely minute. I am sure there are head-fiers out there who would be able to tell the two apart without a direct comparison but I am not among them and the average consumer probably isn’t either.

Conclusions

Undoubtedly, the ViSang R02 is another high bang/buck contender for the best sub-$50 IEM title. What’s more of a question is whether ViSang undercut their own higher-end R03 model by releasing the R02 at a significantly lower price point. Honestly, I would say yes. There are sonic differences between the two but they are almost minimal enough to neglect. What it comes down to is the generic housings used on the R02 versus the excellent metal shells of the R03. The R02 housings are slightly larger in volume and look a bit bigger in the ear. However, as the few Cyclone PR1 Pro and VSonic R02ProII owners will attest, these shells are very easy to get used to. There are other small differences – such as the R02 being slightly susceptible to wind noise – but for most users I would expect the R02 to be the better deal. For me, it is one of the top three sub-$100 price/performance powerhouses, trailing the venerable Cyclone PR1 Pro and Head-Direct RE0. Naturally, personal preferences play a large role, but if you are looking for some of the best overall sound available for less than $50, the R02 deserve to be near the top of the list.


Edited by ljokerl - 11/1/10 at 12:25pm
post #2 of 42
Thanks alot for the review... I was set on getting the Brainwavz M2's but after reading this review the cheaper R02's seem like another option to seriously consider..
post #3 of 42
The M2s are 49 bucks if you're willing to pre-order.
post #4 of 42
If this model ended up with a similar repackaging at mp4nation like the R03-->M2s, then I'd consider it.

Until then, it's worth any minor price difference there might be to wait until my pre-ordered R03's ship, as they have the angled plug and I have always liked plugging this type of jack into my portable players more than straight plugs. (too bad it wasn't also J-corded, but unfortunately those never caught on so I guess you can't have everything)

If it turns out I like the sound of the R03s, the only thing that might make me put up with the straight jack on these R02s if I have issues with wearing the R03 over the ear. I've heard mixed reports as to how exactly how comfortable that is considering the longish strain relief coming out of the R03s housing.

The strain relief with these R02s are a lot shorter and look like they might be more comfortable wearing over the ear.

Side by side, I like the look and smaller profile of the R03s though, so maybe I could do some minor Xacto surgery to shorten the reliefs a little on the R03s if it turns out to be an issue...as usual I'm thinking a little too far ahead, time to stop writing & get back to my life.
post #5 of 42
MP4Nation is set to release yet-to-be-officially annonced Brainwavz M1s (scroll down to the last post). Could they be Visang R02s?
post #6 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by sepinho View Post
MP4Nation is set to release yet-to-be-officially annonced Brainwavz M1s (scroll down to the last post). Could they be Visang R02s?
that's very likely.
post #7 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingpage View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by sepinho View Post
MP4Nation is set to release yet-to-be-officially annonced Brainwavz M1s (scroll down to the last post). Could they be Visang R02s?
that's very likely.

Heh if that is true I should really go get one. Especially if they have a preorder deal like the M2. Which is a good $15-20 discount.
 

post #8 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by sepinho View Post

The M2s are 49 bucks if you're willing to pre-order.


Yeah I am still looking around at other IEM's but I will probably pre-order the M2's soon... The best deal I can find on the Visang R02's is on ebay and after shipping and exchange is included the M2's will only be about $5 more than the R02's so I will opt for the M2's instead.. The M2's look to have better build quality so the minimal price increase will be worth it to get the M2's instead of the R02's..

post #9 of 42

Cool, sounds like a good option for sub-$50 recommendations, that's a pretty good entry pricepoint.


Edited by bcpk - 5/6/10 at 3:54pm
post #10 of 42

Can anyone compare the ViSang R02 to the Maximo IM-590's?

post #11 of 42
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FSNDET View Post

Thanks alot for the review... I was set on getting the Brainwavz M2's but after reading this review the cheaper R02's seem like another option to seriously consider..


Honestly, the difference is minimal. With a $5 spread I'd make the jump to the M2/R03. Any more than that and I'd have to think about. But of course you have to remember that preorders from mp4nation generally don't get to you very quickly.



Quote:
Originally Posted by sepinho View Post

MP4Nation is set to release yet-to-be-officially annonced Brainwavz M1s (scroll down to the last post). Could they be Visang R02s?

To be honest I wouldn't count on it. Mp4nation is a pretty tightly-knit community. Releasing a cheaper R02 rebrand will really cut into their M2 profits after someone on the forums posts that the two sound very, very similar. 



Quote:
Originally Posted by mglak51jk View Post

Can anyone compare the ViSang R02 to the Maximo IM-590's?


Sure. The iM-590 is the more neutral earphone. The bass is flatter while the R02 has a mid/upper-bass hump. The R02 is warmer and a bit darker. The iM-590 sounds more airy but the R02 sounds more spacious. Imaging is better on the R02 but positioning is more precise on the iM-590. The biggest difference would be in the treble, which is very crisp and prominent and sometimes a tad harsh/sibilant on the iM-590. The R02 rolls off earlier but is very, very smooth and a good amount thicker-sounding. For a more quantitative comparison you can look at the respective scores I gave to the R03 (again, very similar to R02) and iM-590 in my multi-IEM review thread.

post #12 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by ljokerl View Post

 



Honestly, the difference is minimal. With a $5 spread I'd make the jump to the M2/R03. Any more than that and I'd have to think about. But of course you have to remember that preorders from mp4nation generally don't get to you very quickly.


I ended up pre ordering the M2's today for $49.01 Canadian dollars shipped.. If I had bought the R02's from the ebay seller which was in US funds the difference would have been approx $2.50 cheaper so hardly not much cheaper at all.. I prefer the look of the M2's better than the R02's and the build quality does look better on the M2's than it does on the R02's..Am I correct in saying that?  Really I'm in no real hurry to get the M2's from Mp4nation but I couldn't pass them up for less than $50 Canadian shipped and as long as they arrive safely and in working order I will be fine with it.... Thanks for the reply and the R03/M2 and R02 reviews..

post #13 of 42


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sepinho View Post

MP4Nation is set to release yet-to-be-officially annonced Brainwavz M1s (scroll down to the last post). Could they be Visang R02s?

 

The M1s announced this morning have a different housing and stats than the R02s, and are $15 dollars (minus m2 review credit) cheaper than the M2s.

 

 

Quote:
Type Dynamic Driver
Channel Balance: <= 2dB
Driver Diameter: 10.7mm
Rated Input Power: 10mW
Sensitivity: 110dB @ 1mW
Distortion: <= 0.3% @ 94dB
Maximum Input Power: 40mW
Impedance: 32? Closed Dynamic
Plug: 3.5mm, 45 degree, gold-plated
Frequency Response: 20~20,000Hz
Cord: 1.3 meters Y cord (CU/Ag) PUR

 

I still like the look & profile of the M2's aluminum housing more, but if they really are the identical (or almost the same) driver, then it looks like a coin flip.   Frankly for 29.50 shipped http://sn.im/m1z, I might have tried the M1s first instead had I not already committed to the M2s.  If advance reviews hold up then it might be hard to go wrong with either one.

 

Since the M2s will likely never be cheaper than $44.50, I don't think it can hurt to stick to the one that looks like it might also have a better build.


Edited by Wrist-Fi - 5/11/10 at 11:44am
post #14 of 42

Thanks for the heads-up on the M1s, I totally missed that on MP4Nation today. The housing on those looks exactly like the Cyclone/Lear one.

Is that just a generic shell used by different manufacturers or is there one and the same OEM behind all of these IEMs?

post #15 of 42


... Errr. Housing and cable look exactly the same to me. Stats, well, that's a different story altogether: Some specifications such as driver size, rated and maximum input power are the same, other like impedance differ. Still, my question stands: Generic housing or same OEM...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrist-Fi View Post


 

 

... The M1s announced this morning have a different housing...

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