There is no doubt that VSonic is a big name in the portable audio industry - considerable OEM experience aside, the company has previously brought some very impressive earphones to the sub-$100 bracket under its own brand name. Therefore, my excitement at the announcement of a new VSonic flagship – one priced to compete with the likes of the Sennheiser IE7 and Head-Direct RE252 – was understandable. Huge thanks to lendmeurears for the test unit and, consequently, for reducing my chances of going bankrupt this year.
Packaging & Accessories
Like the previous VSonic earphones, the GR07 comes in a spacious and elegant cardboard box. The package is functional and restrained - flashy designs and fancy materials are nowhere to be found. Inside the box a foam insert holds the earphones, accessories, and paperwork. Accessories include an excellent hard clamshell case, over-the-ear cable guides, and six sets of eartips. The cable guides are actually quite useful as the cable can be rather stiff at first. The tip set is comprised of three sizes of single-flange silicone tips, two sizes of bi-flanges, and an interesting white foam tip mounted on a yellowish core. All of the bases certainly are covered and the accessory pack is easily on-par with those offered by high-end dynamic-driver earphones from JVC, Sennheiser, and Radius.
Design & Build Quality
Intended for use as a stage monitor, the GR07 is a nondescript beast of black and gray plastic. Rectangular in shape and designed for over-the-ear wear, the GR07 manages to be impressively ergonomic due to the rounded edges of its housings and adjustable-angle metal nozzle. Like the earphone itself, the cable of the GR07 is gray and beefy. It is reminiscent of the silver cord used by the old VSonic R02ProII and can be somewhat resistant to staying behind one’s ears without the included ear guides, at least at first. The kevlar-coated cables used on the similarly-priced Sennheiser IE6, not to mention the twisted cables on Westone monitors, are far more flexible and tangle-resistant but the GR07 cord is reasonably good for the asking price. The strain reliefs on the VSonics’ housings aren’t as flexible as I would like either but otherwise the build is extremely well thought-out.
Fit & Comfort
Though the GR07 uses fairly large 11mm drivers, the form-fitted over-the-ear style housings actually work very well for prolonged listening with their slim profile and rounded edges. Fellow proponent of simple shapes Earsonics could really learn a thing or two here. In fact, the design of the GR07 would work even with a fixed-angle nozzle, so the ability to adjust nozzle angle by ~40º is just icing on the cake. The plastic shells are also fairly light and the generous tip selection helps further in making the GR07 a very comfortable in-ear.
Isolation & Microphonics
Like most dynamic-driver monitors, the GR07 is vented but the fairly long nozzles help keep isolation reasonably high. The GR07 makes quick work of the isolation offered by Sennheiser’s IE-series offerings, competing instead with HiFiMan and Monster earphones and offering a reasonable alternative to most of the common BA-based stage monitors. Cable noise is very low as the GR07 can only be worn in the over-the-ear configuration. Although the conventional cable clip is missing from the accessory pack, the cable cinch and ear guides can be used to fix the cord in place.
Driver Diameter: 11mm
Driver Type: CCAW high dynamic transducer with multi-layers bio-cellulose diaphragm Impedance: 50Ω +/- 10%
Sensitivity: ≥105dB (@ 500Hz)
Frequency Response: 7Hz-30,000Hz
Stereo Plug: 3.5mm 8μ 24K Gold Plated L-Plug
Cable: 1.3m Silver Cable
Testing note: all on-the-go listening was done straight out of a Cowon J3 portable player loaded with 192-320kbps mp3s. Critical listening was done using an iBasso D10 DAC/amp with stock opamps using a wider selection of lossless tracks in FLAC and WMA formats.
Despite the rapid growth of the IEM market in the past couple of years, competition in certain niches is still fairly low among higher-end earphones. One such niche is the dynamic-driver professional monitor – a market segment VSonic clearly had in mind when designing the GR07. The earphone utilizes an 11mm bio-cellulose transducer and delivers more than enough sonic bang to compete with similarly-priced offerings from Western brands. One catch of this particular driver is the importance of break-in – the earphones fail to impress when it comes to resolution or smoothness until several days in. I am generally quite sensitive to sibilance and listening to some of my tracks with the GR07 was downright unpleasant until 50 hours in or so. Happily, the earphones do eventually settle into their intended sound, and what glorious sound it is!
Overall balance is definitely a strong suit of the GR07. Presence is excellent across the range and the earphones remain refined and detailed at the limits – something I’ve always particularly liked about Sennheiser’s IE-series models. The low end of the GR07 is deep and punchy. For a dynamic-driver earphone, the GR07 is rather quick, which does show through in bass control and accuracy. At the same time, the bass is well-weighted and carries realistic attack and decay, striking a fine line between the slightly thicker bass notes produced by the Sennheiser IE6 and IE7 and the leaner bass presentation of armature-based monitors such as the Fischer DBA-02 and Westone 2. The only other higher-end dynamic that could be used for monitoring – the HiFiMan RE252 – doesn’t fare nearly as well either when it comes to bass extension, body, or overall presence.
The midrange is balanced properly with the low end and maintains the same impressive levels of clarity and detail. Unlike the similarly-priced Sennheiser IE7, the GR07 is not at all forward in the midrange. It is also nowhere near as warm and thick as the Sennheisers, instead taking the RE252 route with a leaner (and arguably more realistic) note presentation. Tonally, the mids of the GR07 are quite neutral, leaning only slightly towards warmth and having no coloration at all compared to the majority of higher-end dynamics. Texture levels are very good but, as is the case with almost all dynamics, the detailing is not very aggressive compared to higher-end BA-based monitors from Fischer, Etymotic, Audio-Technica, and the like. This makes the GR07 seem smoother and gives it certain finesse in getting the complete sonic picture across without inducing listening fatigue. At the same time, it makes the volume easier to turn up inadvertently when listening to the GR07 – something I caught myself doing on several occasions.
At the outset, the GR07’s lower treble is probably the only real problem with its sound signature. Luckily, it is also the part that undergoes the most dramatic change with burn-in, becoming noticeably smoother and balancing out nicely with the rest of the frequency spectrum. Don’t get me wrong – the GR07 has excellent treble presence and remains noticeably brighter than Sennheiser’s IE7 - but, once settled, places a bit less emphasis on the treble than on the midrange. Sibilance, so striking out of the box, becomes a non-issue at low-to-moderate listening volumes. Like the low end, the highs of the GR07 are well-extended and always remain crisp and detailed. Of course the GR07 can’t quite match the bell-like clarity of an ATH-CK10 or the sparkle of the JVC FX700, but then it isn’t meant to. As a neutral and accurate monitor, it performs exceedingly well.
The presentation of the GR07 is again very competent on every level. The soundstage is wide and spacious. It is slightly oblong in shape, losing out in depth and height to competitors such as the IE7, and tends to position things a bit farther away compared to more intimate-sounding dynamics such as the Radius TWF21. At the same time, the GR07 can’t quite throw sonic cues as far as the TWF21 or JVC FX700 when push comes to shove, but then it is deep-fit stage monitor and not a consumer-oriented open-back canalphone. Instrumental separation is still excellent and the GR07 is anything but congested-sounding. To my ears it provides a very cohesive sound without becoming overly analytical despite impressive levels of separation and layering – not an easy task by any means. Without a doubt the presentation of the GR07 is helped along by decent imaging and a good dynamic range. On that point, the sound of the VSonics is very effortless – almost as much so as that of the HiFiMan RE262. Lastly, a note on usability – although the GR07 is fairly transparent to source, its high impedance makes it a consistent performer and its signature isn’t particularly susceptible to poor synergy. In addition, the integrity of its sound is not dependent on tip choice to the same degree as, say, a DBA-02, making it a great first step into higher-end in-ear territory for those with limited hands-on IEM experience.
Designed for use as a stage monitor, VSonic’s new flagship is a very strong performer on several levels. Utilizing bio-cellulose drivers that undergo marked improvement with break-in, the GR07 does have the right sound signature to become one of the few studio-friendly dynamic-driver earphones. Its biggest selling point is the excellent balance across the spectrum, offering controlled but well-weighted bass, clear and articulate mids, and accurate treble. As is the case with some of the pricier in-ears from Ortofon, Westone, HiFiMan, and even 1964EARS, one of the GR07’s greatest strengths is its lack of real weaknesses, both in sound quality and overall usability. Putting aside the eternal debate on the virtues of balanced armature vs. dynamic transducers, especially for monitoring applications, it is quite easy to see that the GR07 is worth the asking price, and maybe more. Those looking for a particular sonic flavor may want to steer clear of the GR07 but for everyone else it is an easy one to recommend.
Edited by ljokerl - 4/15/11 at 7:28pm