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Comparison -- Russia-China Showdown: DBA-02 vs. GR07

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Thread Starter 

Two IEMs have arisen on Head-Fi lately as products that offer top-tier sound quality for mid-fi money --- they’ve received very high marks from several veteran reviewers and have gone on to become hot topics of discussion, including the age old question of “Which should I buy?” This comparison review attempts to put this question to rest.

 

Also, I apologize in advance for my wordy prose (this review nears 6000 words), but hopefully the review is laid out in a manner that is clear and organized for readers. I also apologize if my (admittedly subtle) attempts at humor are not to peoples’ tastes. My DSLR is getting a tune-up, so I also shot these photos with only a compact digital camera. Thus, the details are a little rough and the dynamic range is pretty poor, but I didn’t want to spend too much time in Photoshop cleaning it up. They should suffice, though.

 

INTRODUCTION

In this hi-fi version of the Sino-Russian war, the VSonic “Panda” GR07 and the Fischer Audio “Bear” DBA-02 face off in an epic battle of symphonic proportions! Okay… maybe not, but in what seems like a clash of ideologies, the Panda and the Bear are two very different IEMs. The former utilizes a multi-layer, bio-cellulose diaphragm dynamic driver, while the latter implements dual balanced armatures for its sonic output. Yet, despite the different drivers, both are known to be extremely detailed and articulate. So without further ado, let’s dive into the specifics!

 

 

DESIGN, BUILD QUALITY & ERGONOMICS

 

DESIGN

 

Skin-Deep. The GR07 bears a slight resemblance to the Sennheiser IE8. It is most likely an evolution of the square VSonic R04 design, which seems to resemble the IE8 even more. An extremely Spartan affair, the GR07 is much like a stealth fighter --- its 11mm drivers are enclosed in a matte black plastic housing. As a suggestion, I feel that VSonic could’ve added a rubberized finish to certain aspects of the GR07 a la the t-JAYS Three for a better tactile feeling. Oddly enough, as noted by several others before me, the face of the housings contains the lettering, “Walkaudio GR07”. Whatever ‘Walkaudio’ means to VSonic is anyone’s guess. It seems to suggest that the GR07 is built for street use, but while it works well on the go, I feel it’s more at home in a studio or a listening room. (More on this later) While also quite understated, the DBA-02 is a little more colorful, tinted in a shiny baby blue color with a transparent casing. The zebra-striped cables add to its unique look.

 

IMG_8296a.jpg

The Fischer Audio DBA-02

 

IMG_8257a.jpg

The VSonic GR07

 

 

Up or Down? Although both IEMs are designed to be worn over the ear, the DBA-02 is a little more versatile in that it can also be worn straight down (much like the Klipsch Image S4), while the GR07 cannot be worn straight down. This, though, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can (or rather, should) wear the DBA-02 to work and then change configurations for a night out on the town.

 

Left or Right? The L/R markings are obvious on the GR07 but difficult to find on the DBA-02. I don’t really find this an issue for either IEM, since both have chiral designs; unless you’re new to IEMs, it’s very easy to identify the left and right sides without reading the markings.

 

Plug it in, plug it in! Most people prefer a right angle plug --- the GR07 has one, the DBA-02 doesn’t. Both fit a recessed jack (but who the heck still uses a first generation iPhone?). Technically I find this accommodation to be very nice, as I can use a specialty ¼” adapter that only takes plugs that have this feature. It makes the plug into my amp very low profile.

 

IMG_8259a.jpg   IMG_8258a.jpg

The L-plug and functional head cinch of the GR07.

 

Copycat. Unfortunately, the soon-to-be released Brainwavz B2 utilizes the exact same housings as the DBA-02, and although the production version of the B2 will be a red color to the blue of the DBA-02, anyone can see that they come out of the same factory.

 

Overall, both IEMs are solidly designed; the hard edges on the inner face of the DBA-02 bring better symmetry from a design standpoint, but are also a source of discomfort. On the other hand, the GR07 are more contoured on its inner face than on its outer face. For me, the design edge goes to the GR07, mostly on the basis that, unlike the DBA-02, the housing seems to be an original, non-OEM design (despite its slight similarity to the IE8). Both IEMs are well-implemented in design, but the GR07 seems to have been given more thought in its overall usability and aesthetics.

 

WINNER: GR07

 

ERGONOMICS

 

The best feature of the GR07 is the articulating nozzle. It is decently long and sports a removable grille for cleaning purposes, but the best part about it is that it simply allows for a huge range of fitment styles, allowing the GR07 to feel comfortable in just about anyone’s ears. As briefly mentioned beforehand, the smooth contouring of the GR07’s inner face also helps with the comfort.

 

At the end of the day, the DBA-02 also gives me a very nice, tight ear-hugging fit which is excellent by any standard, but doesn’t quite melt away in my ear like does the GR07. Its slightly oblong shape, with a rounded tail allows me to fit the housings across my entire intertragic notch, but because the nozzles are non-articulating, I don’t get quite as snug a fit. The head cinch on the DBA-02 is also next to non-functional, so I would much rather wear the GR07 when running. In terms of everyday wear, when on the go, I prefer the DBA-02 as it is slightly more isolating. The GR07 isolates very well for a vented IEM, but the DBA-02 is excellent for isolation with the right tips and the right fit. I would not hesitate to wear the GR07 outdoors, however.

 

I use the default medium sized silicone tips on the GR07. They are tapered at its ends, allowing them to sit comfortably inside my relatively small ear canals, while providing good levels of noise attenuation. In my opinion, however, the included “foam” tips detract from the GR07’s solid accessory set. One other odd thing with the GR07’s tip set is the smallest size silicone ear tips. They’re so small they seem to be made only for one purpose --- to fit the ears of 4’ 10” Chinese girls with proportionally small ear canals. As much as it may seem thoughtful that VSonic would go to such lengths to serve the pint-sized female demographic, the relatively thick (~4mm) nozzles seem to suggest that the GR07s wouldn’t feel comfortable in these girls’ ears despite appropriately sized tips.

 

Despite these minor oddities, the overall feature set of the GR07 is pretty good and I particularly appreciate how the single flange tips extend below the axis of articulation for the nozzles. They really help minimize any type of skin clipping that can happen when readjusting the nozzles inside the ear. This type of protection doesn’t come when using foam tips (including VSonic’s own) and many third party silicone tips.

 

IMG_8260a.jpg

The awesome articulating nozzles of the GR07.

 

The included eartips for the DBA-02 are not great. The triple flanges don’t even fit tightly on the nozzles, and the black tips look quite roughly made. The best tips are the ‘hybrid clones’, which come in a smoke/blue or clear/green variety. However, I still found them a little odd in that the different colored tips didn’t vary much in size, only in height. Third party tips are a much better choice on the DBA-02. Personally, I use the Klipsch oval silicone tips, which are still, to this day, the most comfortable universal fit ear tips I’ve ever tried. I have fairly small ears, and thus I’m very picky with my tips, and every size Klipsch tip works well with my ears. I also use Shure olives and Comply T-100s on occasion. Both work great with the DBA-02 if you want a slight cut down on the treble.

 

WINNER: GR07

 

BUILD QUALITY

 

Much has been made about the build quality of the DBA-02. Some people say it’s decent, others say it’s terrible. Most people have more confidence in its housings. Made entirely of plastic, it’s not the best, but certainly not the worst. For the most part, they seem competently put together if not exactly bulletproof. The GR07 is a bit better, and despite also being made of plastic, they feel more solid to the touch. The nozzles are also made of metal, which is a good touch.

 

Strain Relief. Neither IEM has great strain reliefs; the ones on the DBA-02 are too short, while the ones on the GR07 are too hard. One thing to mention is that the Y-split of the DBA-02 provides really great strain relief, while the one on the GR07, while also robust, is again too hard to be flexible.

 

IMG_8305a.jpg

The straight plug and robust Y-split of the DBA-02

 

Cables. The cabling of the DBA-02 looks more like that of a Panda than of a Bear. Braided with a black-and-white Zebra pattern, it’s not built as well as the similarly braided Westone cables, but is much softer and seems to confer more elasticity. The softness and stretchiness of the DBA-02’s cable are both blessings and curses. On one hand, its softness feels great and has absolutely no memory at all, but on the other hand, it’s very prone to tangling and appears fragile. As mentioned before, the head cinch of the DBA-02 is terrible; the one on the GR07 is at least functional. Some people have mentioned that their cables on the GR07 are slightly asymmetrical in length (due to the GR07’s hand assembly) but it doesn’t seem to be a major problem.

 

WINNER: GR07

 

SOUND

 

Foreword about sound assessment --- all stationary comparisons are made with my HP dv4t notebook computer using foobar2000 v1.1.6 through WASAPI in exclusive mode. D/A conversion and amplification were provided by a DA&T U2 (Galaxy TENOR TE7022L USB receiver, Cirrus Audio CS4398 DAC chip, solid state Class AB amplifier) through its high damping factor (read: low output impedance, better driving precision) output. Portable sound assessments are made with an Apple iPod Touch 2nd Generation 8 GB un-amped or amped via a Firestone Audio Fireye Mini.

 

There has been enough discussion on both the sound signatures of the GR07 and the DBA-02 that I don’t really need to rehash it to death. The GR07 is mostly neutral, has a very linear bass response, and adds a subtle tinge of warmth to everything despite having great transparency and detail. The DBA-02 is one of the most crisp sounding IEMs in existence; its boosted treble and overall tuning characteristics make details easy to spot. It’s also one of the most transparent universal IEMs money can buy.

 

Frequency Response. I used specially generated logarithmic tone sweeps inside Sony Sound Forge 10 to test this section. I first did a general test, from 15 Hz to 20,000 Hz, and then sequestered the bands from 20-50 Hz, and 8000-24000 Hz.

 

Both IEMs are fairly flat throughout the frequency range, with no obvious dips or peaks, at least from the quick tone sweeps that I used. With typical listening volumes 20Hz is quite present for the GR07. I was quite confident it could reach lower than 20 Hz, and with a newer file 15 Hz was still present, although more felt than heard. I was unable to detect anything on the DBA-02 until the mid to late 20-30 Hz region. Persistent presence of bass on the DBA-02 only happens above 30 Hz.

 

For top end extension, the GR07 holds good volume until the very end of 16 kHz, where it rolls off sharply. Luckily, at normal listening volumes I don’t hear much better than 17.5 kHz, so it’s well extended enough for me. At high listening volumes, I can barely hear a 22 kHz tone through the GR07. Barely. I guess I still have the ears of a teenager! The DBA-02 also rolls off at 16 kHz, but it’s a gentler roll off that massages itself into 17 kHz.

 

Bass. Let me get this out of the way --- the DBA-02 does NOT lack bass! One thing the DBA-02 does extremely well is have the bass as a supplemental, accompanying frequency range to the music. It is never too forward, but always present. It’s very fast and tight, but where it loses out to the GR07 is the enveloping feeling. The bass of the DBA-02 feels very planar and ephemeral, rather than the ethereal presence of the GR07’s bass. Thus, the DBA-02 just doesn’t feel as layered or textured as that of the GR07, despite also being very well-detailed. It’s also important to note that although the DBA-02 rolls off earlier than the GR07 in the low end I can still hear it producing faint sound in the mid-20 Hz region.

 

The GR07 shines in the bass region. It isn’t bassy by any measure of the word, but it has great bass extension and even better control and speed. These properties allow the GR07 to be highly layered and textured with its bass, from the sub-bass region to the mid-bass region. When required, the GR07 is able to belch out great amounts of bass, but most of the time, it controls the bass very well. At times, it controls the bass a little too well, and the listener might even hope for some ‘messiness’ in its bass, as it can at times come off as ever so slightly dry.

 

It is important to note that a lot of these differences boil down to the selection of driver type in these two IEMs. The GR07 is dynamic, and naturally is able to have greater extension and texture, especially when played at louder volumes, while the DBA-02’s balanced armature driver has the speed, but doesn’t necessarily have the natural slam nor the reach to compete with the GR07’s well implemented dynamic driver.

 

WINNER: GR07

 

Midrange. Both the DBA-02 and the GR07 are very good here. Out of the box, the GR07 is not as articulate in this region, but by 150 hours of burn-in, any excessive warmth in this range goes away and the midrange strikes a very good balance with the rest of the frequency spectrum. Even at the onset, the GR07 is very detailed and is excellent with highly realistic timbre reproduction. By contrast, the DBA-02 is ever so slightly more forward and colored. Yes, I said colored. Compared to the GR07, the DBA-02 doesn’t sound as realistic, but it does help convey emotional cues in the music better.

 

Vocals. I made this a separate category because the overall rendition of vocals covers all of the midrange and parts of the treble. In terms of sound, the DBA-02 is at every frequency more suited for instruments and voices that require more precision. The boost in the upper midrange and treble helps the DBA-02 at times convey better emotion. The texturing of the sound in the GR07 makes it great for darker, thicker voices and those specific emotional correlates. Neither IEM brings vocals forward and out of the mix. Those looking for especially forward vocals need to look elsewhere.

 

WINNER: Tie

 

Treble. The DBA-02 is simply stunning in the treble area. Some call it fatiguing, others call it aggressive --- I call it effortless. Compared to the GR07’s treble, yes, it is quite a bit more aggressive and the advantage is that details are a lot more pronounced and crisp in the upper end, but there is just something magical about the tuning of the treble driver in the DBA-02.

The highs of the GR07 are also great, but they are a bit overshadowed by those of the DBA-02. They have a tendency to be slightly uneven at the lower end, but in general there are no complaints. They fit well with the GR07’s design and tuning.

 

WINNER: DBA-02

 

Soundstage. When I first bought the DBA-02, I absolutely did not expect such a pleasant soundstage. I had been underwhelmed by the soundstage presentation of the Grado GR10, and the DBA-02 was a significant improvement. It’s not large by any interpretation of the word, but it comes off as very natural and the airiness of the sound signature helps accentuate that fact. One issue is that the soundstage depth seems to be constrained to the back half of my head. Vocalists don’t usually appear in front of me, and instruments seem placed to the side or behind my head. I often wonder whether or not it is an issue of my placing the DBA-02 nozzles at too high an angle of attack into my ear that it alters the directionality of the sound going through my ear canal. When I wear the DBA-02 straight down instead of over the ear, the issue isn’t as pronounced.

 

As nice a soundstage as the DBA-02 has, the GR07 is even better. It complements the non-fatiguing nature of the IEM and has great side-to-side width. It is a bit egg shaped in that its front-to-rear and top-to-bottom reach isn’t as well pronounced, but it is nevertheless very good for placing things in its place. I’ve discovered, however, that if the IEMs are worn too openly, the soundstage can sound a little ‘hollow,’ similar to what the Sennheiser IE8 sounds like.

 

WINNER: GR07

 

TRACK ANALYSIS BY GENRE

 

US Pop

 

'Last Friday Night (TGIF)' – Katy Perry, Teenage Dream (FLAC)

This is very much a bubble gum track, with a fairly pronounced mid-bass. Both IEMs make the track sound good, but the DBA-02 gets the edge here because of its better sparkle.

 

Preference: DBA-02

 

Asian Pop

 

'First Love' - Utada Hikaru, First Love (FLAC)

The single that launched Hikki to stardom is a very nicely recorded track with a great natural sense of air. I have no idea how it was actually recorded, but it imparts the feel of a recording done in a large auditorium, similar to the style of early 90s pop ballads from the likes of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. The DBA-02 did well with this track, especially with the tambourine, but the GR07 took it one step further, with a presence that made it sound like a full-sized headphone. While the sibilance on this track was fairly pronounced, the GR07 didn’t bother me any more than the DBA-02.

 

Preference: GR07

 

'Forgotten Times' - Tsai Chin (FLAC)

By the way, if any of you want to listen to a quality vocalist for Mandarin music, Tsai Chin is the way to go. She's an oldie but a real goodie. If she got in the recording booth today with the best equipment, she'd give singers like Rebecca Pidgen a run for their money. A bit of trivia -- this song was prominently featured in the opening scene of the HK film 'Infernal Affairs', the movie from which Scorsese’s 'The Departed' was adapted. Tsai Chin begins the song acapella, and both IEMs are great. It might just be me, but I sensed more vocal detail in the GR07, over the DBA-02.

 

Preference: GR07

 

'Gee' - SNSD Girls' Generation (FLAC)

I had to test a 'modern day' track. To me, this song is the perfect example of modern Asian pop --- highly produced with vocals from questionable singers. The instrumental to 'Gee' is actually quite complex, and the incredible clarity of the DBA-02 comes on full display when you play this track. However, despite the great transparency and added sparkle on the DBA-02, there were moments on this treble heavy track where I was wishing for a more laid back presentation, and the GR07 provided just that, without losing much clarity, if at all. Whereas I eventually became slightly fatigued from listening to the track with the DBA-02, ‘Gee’ was just another song for the GR07.

 

Preference: GR07

 

Hip-Hop

 

‘Hypnotize’ – Notorious BIG, Life After Death (256 CBR MP3)

I completely expected to prefer the GR07 in track, but the race was a bit closer than I expected, at least for the bass portion. The DBA-02 reproduced that synthesizer bass very tightly, but came off a bit too bright up top. The overall tonal balance for the track was better represented with the GR07.

 

Preference: GR07

 

‘Forgot About Dre’ - Dr. Dre (Feat. Eminem), 2001 (FLAC)

I also expected to have the GR07 come out on top, but the tightness of the bass and the clarity of the hihats made the song sound great on the DBA-02. Eminem’s voice especially sounded intense with the DBA-02. The GR07 had some problems with clarity on this track --- one of the few times I’ve ever heard it struggle. Dr. Dre’s vocals sounded a bit hot on the DBA-02 and this actually was a big problem, but this I blame on Interscope and its quest to make 2001 the ‘loudest album ever’. Ugh. When I listened to the instrumental only version of this song, at first the DBA-02 came out on top. The violins are a lot more prominent, and the bass was still presented well, just in lesser quantity. However, as I continued to listen, the DBA-02 just became too intense and aggressive for me and I began to prefer the GR07. The DBA-02, while sonically superior, was just too fatiguing.

 

Preference: GR07

 

R&B/Soul

 

‘Killing Me Softly’ - The Fugees, The Score (FLAC)

Very understated and muted, but beautiful bass line. Although the GR07 renders the music more realistically, the DBA-02 comes off better sounding for this track; it doesn’t quite convey the visceral feel of the deep bass in the track, but its brighter coloration brings more of the inherent anguish in Lauryn Hill’s voice into the mix and that was the critical difference between the DBA-02 and the GR07. The GR07 feels a bit drier here, though more relaxed. One thing the GR07 definitely does well is that subwoofer feel that seems bloom (not in a bad way) in the track. The DBA-02 on the other hand provides a more mechanical rendition of the deep bass. This was the one track that I thought

 

Preference: DBA-02

 

‘Here I Stand’ – Usher, Here I Stand (FLAC)

The cymbals are beautiful with the GR07. They’re not obvious like they are on the DBA-02, but they’re just so correctly represented. Usher’s voice is also very well textured with the GR07. The most obvious difference between the GR07 and DBA-02 on this track, however, is the enveloping feeling the GR07 gives. By comparison, the DBA-02 feels a lot more flat.

 

Preference: GR07

 

Vocal Jazz

 

'I've Grown Accustomed to His Face' - Diana Krall, Quiet Nights (HDTracks, 24/96 FLAC)

Krall's Quiet Nights CD has a reputation as one of the best recorded and mastered albums to come out in the last few years; both IEMs make this track sound phenomenal; I think the GR07 has the slight edge in that the track requires what it does so well --- a relaxing atmosphere. Both the GR07 and the DBA-02 do well with the low-level details; the GR07 is a little more subtle at presenting them, but it’s equally as moving.

 

Preference: GR07

 

'Les Eaux de Mars' - Stacey Kent, Raconte-Moi (FLAC)

This French re-imagination of Jobim’s ‘Waters of March’ is a lively, upbeat track and some might regard the DBA-02’s presentation of this track as slightly sterile, but I preferred it to the GR07’s rendition; Kent’s voice is naturally on the thin side and the DBA-02 gives the track a clean, crisp feel while still preserving the relaxed essence of the song.

 

Preference: DBA-02

 

'I Wouldn't Need You' - Norah Jones, The Fall (FLAC)

Okay, I know that technically Norah's music doesn't fit in this category, but her reputation as a vocalist is in concert with the others. The DBA-02 does Norah justice beginning with the bass guitar; it is just so etched and precise and Norah’s voice is wispy and ethereal. Mind you, the GR07 also sounds excellent here, but the DBA-02 takes top billing.

 

Preference: DBA-02

 

‘Summertime’ - Melody Gardot, Bye Bye Blackbird EP (320 CBR MP3)

Gardot does Porgy and Bess proud on this track, as the vocals are incredibly detailed and filled with emotion. The DBA-02 gave a very etched feel to the vocals and the sliding strings, but the GR07 made Gardot’s breathy vocal inflections sound truly sublime. The more laid-back presentation of the GR07 on the instrumentals is also more suited for this jazzy interpretation of Gershwin’s operetta.

 

Preference: GR07

 

Instrumental Jazz

 

'Flamenco Sketches' - Miles Davis, Kind of Blue 50th Anniversary Collectors’ Edition (FLAC)

Maintaining the absolute purity of Davis’ trumpet notes was absolutely no trouble for the DBA-02, and the GR07 was equally as good. In the end, the tonal purity created by the DBA-02 let me choose the Fischer for the task of reproducing Miles Davis, although the GR07 had a better dynamic presentation.

 

Preference: DBA-02

 

‘Now or Never’ - Hiromi Uehara, Voice (320 CBR MP3)

I chose this track for its decently wide dynamic range (tracked and mixed by TELARC’s Michael Bishop) in a contemporary Jazz piece. The MP3 format wasn’t ideal, but it was free from TELARC so I was happy with it. The GR07 was able to show great depth with this track. Every texture was rich and the black noise floor was especially apparent. The DBA-02 also sounded great, but lacked a specific roundness of note that I was looking for. It also wasn’t nearly as enveloping as the GR07, leading to a less involving experience.

 

Preference: GR07

 

Classical

 

'Zigeunerweisen AKA Gypsy Airs' - Pablo Sarasate, Performed by: Gil Shaham (320 CBR MP3)

I've been a fan of Gil Shaham and his ability to phrase passages for quite a while now, and Zigeunerweisen is the best piece to assess a headphone’s ability to render the pure grit needed play this song. This is not a piece where one lets the bow sing; even on the light passages, this is a piece that requires precise bow control to distribute even pressure across the length of the bow but heavy pressure at the ends. Both IEMs did a great job, but the DBA-02 was even better with the fast part of the piece. It created excitement and oozed precision that the GR07 only hinted at.

 

Preference: DBA-02

 

This is a side note regarding how I listen to classical music -- I listen almost exclusively to violin music, as I trained for nearly 15 years as a classical violinist and am most familiar with the sonic nuances of that instrument. With orchestral pieces, I prefer the onstage feel. I'm not the biggest fan of listening to classical music from the audience's perspective. I spent ten years in various orchestras ranging from amateur to professional, and the most involving part of being a classical musician is the feel of immensity emanating from all sides as the cymbals crash and the tympani is rumbling behind you. I had the honor of being second chair violinist as well as concertmaster for quite a few years and thus had a listening perspective very similar to that of the conductor. Thus, my sonic preferences with regard to listening to classical music might differ from others’.

 

‘Tabla Dhwani’ - Ravi Shankar (FLAC)

Not exactly what one would normally think of as classical music, but Ravi Shankar plays classical music nonetheless --- Indian classical music. This track actually predominantly features the Tabla, which Shankar doesn’t play. The Tabla is one of those drum instruments that is unique in its voicing yet still has widespread appeal. It doesn’t have a heavy sound, and only headphones with high levels of transparency can realistically duplicate the instrument’s special character. The DBA-02 excelled on this track by showing off its crispness of attack and transparent presentation. However, the GR07 kept up in speed and displayed great smoothness along the way, if a tiny bit less precise. It was also more forgiving of recording flaws.

 

Preference: DBA-02

 

SUMMARY

 

In the world of IEMs, the DBA-02 is a bit of a showoff. It’s damn good at everything, and it knows it, so it spends a lot of its time showing you just about everything it can do. When you pick up the DBA-02, you will be instantly impressed by its capabilities and it will continue to shine day in and day out. Like a sparkling diamond in the sand, the DBA-02 will catch your eye every single time.

 

The sound of the GR07 is probably more accessible to more people. Like a luxurious massage chair, it’s more inviting and wraps you in a gentle embrace. It can lull you to sleep, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s boring. On the contrary, when you need a good realigning of the bones, you will still feel the GR07’s massage rollers rubbing into you. The best part about it is that when you get off, you’ll want to get back in because it made you feel so damn good. These days, I find myself reaching for the GR07 because it’s so non-fatiguing. It also scales better through my desktop amplifier, and I spend a lot of time sitting at my desk studying for hours on end, so the GR07 is a logical choice. By contrast, the DBA-02 is a little easier to drive unamped, and its aggressive presentation of details makes listening on the go a pleasant experience.

 

If I had to make a pick, I’d say the DBA-02 has the edge in sound quality because it truly makes the most out of its balanced armatures and somehow still makes room to try to rectify their inherent deficiencies. However, in general usability, the GR07 definitely gets the nod. For those looking for their ‘first good pair’ of IEMs, the GR07 is the way to go. It isn’t picky about genre, and is a great performer --- a true jack of all trades. The flip side is true, however, and the GR07 isn’t exactly a true master at anything. This is where the DBA-02 comes in. It has just about mastered treble and clarity, providing aggressive yet smooth detailing up top, and performs extremely well everywhere else as well. A not-so-politically-correct analogy would be that the GR07 would be my gentle wife that I will live with day in and day out, while the DBA-02 would be my spicy mistress that is ever so slightly better and more exciting in bed.

(Not advocating cheating at all; please limit your philandering ways to audio equipment!) smily_headphones1.gif

 

I know this whole review has been a head-to-head comparison of two IEMs, but the reality is that they are two very different beasts altogether. The categorical comparisons are just there for reference. The two IEMs were built for different purposes, and their overall differences in presentation reflect that fact very obviously. The GR07 was engineered for a professional, non-fatiguing setting, and designed to be the best it can be in that environment, while the DBA-02 carries a bit of a Gestalt effect with it in that it has a kind of sizzle and magic that can’t really be duplicated in any other earphone. In the end, it’s up to individual preference to decide which IEM is more suitable.

 

 

DBA-02

GR07

Winner

USABILITY

 

 

 

Design

Not exactly eye-catching, but it works…

Low Profile, Stealthy

GR07

Fit & Ergonomics

Comfortable, Good Fit

Disappears in Your Ear

GR07

Nozzle

Long and Thin

Articulating Nozzles!!

Tie

Tips

Can use a variety of tips from most manufacturers, but can change the sound significantly depending on type, insertion depth, and angle

Stock tips aren’t flawless, but quite good.

Isolation

Great, with the Right Tips

Very Good as Vented IEMs Come

DBA-02

 

 

 

 

BUILD QUALITY

 

 

 

Housing

Not Bad, Could Be Better

Solid

GR07

Cables

Braided cable is strong, but not confidence inspiring

Smooth, Slightly Hard, Looks Very Durable

GR07

Microphonics

Only when not worn over the ear

Tips are more microphonic

Tie

 

 

 

 

SOUND

 

 

 

Sub-Bass

It’s there, but doesn’t have that visceral feel

Shines in this Area

GR07

Bass

Very Fast and Tight, Not at all lacking

Extremely Fast and Articulate for a Dynamic Driver IEM

GR07

Lower Midrange

Least articulate portion, but still quite good

Sounds very slightly recessed here

Tie

Upper Midrange

Detailed and articulate, hints at emotional intensity

Detailed and Texture, Not Forward and with a very slight hint of warmth

DBA-02, by a hair

Lower Treble

Whoever tuned the treble driver was a genius

Can be slightly uneven at times.

DBA-02

Upper Treble

Very Extended

DBA-02

Timbre

Very Good for an IEM with a Thinner Note Presentation

Very Realistic, Perhaps Loses out to the FX700 and EX1000

GR07

Detailing

Easy to Hear Every Last Detail

It’s All There, Waiting for You to Discover

Tie

Dynamics

A Little Compressed

Very Good, But Have Seen Better

GR07

Transparency

Truly Top-Tier

Extremely Good

DBA-02

Vocals

More Forward

Better Textured

Tie

Sibilance

Surprisingly NOT There

Could Be Better, Certainly Not the Worst, Gets Better Over Time

DBA-02

 

 

 

 

Wow Factor

Designed to WOW

Wows you on an overall level

DBA-02

Peace of Mind

There’s a magical effect these IEMs have on sound.

It’s in my ears? Really? Too relaxing to notice.

GR07

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOTTOM LINE

Guaranteed to impress you from the moment you put it on to the moment you put it down.

Well thought out, well implemented, non-fatiguing, and damn good sounding.

YOU Decide!

 


Edited by tomscy2000 - 6/1/11 at 9:53pm
post #2 of 74

Nice writeup, many on the fence will find this useful since these are 2 popular choices. My personal favorite in this price range is the FX500s, you should give it a shot since it renders violins much better than anything in this price range. It's surprising how spot-on you are on that table to me, but I don't really agree on the GR07's timbre. To me, it actually sounds "mechnanical" and bland . 


Edited by Inks - 6/1/11 at 1:07pm
post #3 of 74

wonderful review! 

post #4 of 74

Good stuff. Thanks. I'm not certain but aren't they both made in China?wink_face.gif Sounds like they're close enough where associated kit could sway you one way or another. Is the dba too revealing or too enthusiastic kind of thing.


Edited by goodvibes - 6/1/11 at 4:53pm
post #5 of 74

isnt everything made in china? regardless china russia or the us, thxs for the good review. u've certainly wet my appetite for a set of GR-07s. now if only i can find a set for sub $100, i'd be an owner. heh

post #6 of 74


Not exactly, though the OEM housing used by Fischer does look to be made in China as it's generic and also used by Brainwavz. Many high-end IEMs from Japan are made in their own country though and the quality shows (EQ7/FX700/EX1000). 

Originally Posted by scottiebabie View Post

isnt everything made in china? regardless china russia or the us, thxs for the good review. u've certainly wet my appetite for a set of GR-07s. now if only i can find a set for sub $100, i'd be an owner. heh



 

post #7 of 74

Great comparison between the 2. I have yet to hear both but I am setting my expectations low when I finally get to hear them. I want to be pleasantly surprised :)

post #8 of 74

very nice review! :)

post #9 of 74

Good job on the comparison. Very tempted. 

post #10 of 74
Thread Starter 

Yeah, I got the idea to compare the two because so many people kept asking about both. I haven't been in contact with the FX500, but if it's anything like the FX700, it should be very nice. I just wish the FX700 were less V-shaped, otherwise I'd be much more into it. As for the timbre, I only think it feels mechanical in the low end and gets a lot better by the midrange and treble, but I guess everyone hears things differently.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inks View Post

Nice writeup, many on the fence will find this useful since these are 2 popular choices. My personal favorite in this price range is the FX500s, you should give it a shot since it renders violins much better than anything in this price range. It's surprising how spot-on you are on that table to me, but I don't really agree on the GR07's timbre. To me, it actually sounds "mechnanical" and bland . 


Yes, as others have mentioned, the DBA-02 is made in China, and I'm fairly certain it's made in Guangzhou somewhere. I only used the Russian Bear moniker because of the company; I guess it's a Russian bear born in China? haha... I wouldn't say the DBA is too revealing, but it can get too enthusiastic depending on the listener. As you most likely know, it's fairly easy for the brain to adapt to different sound signatures, and I don't think the DBA is something that is difficult to adapt to, but at the onset people might get turned off by it.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by goodvibes View Post

Good stuff. Thanks. I'm not certain but aren't they both made in China?wink_face.gif Sounds like they're close enough where associated kit could sway you one way or another. Is the dba too revealing or too enthusiastic kind of thing.

post #11 of 74

Nice, enjoyed reading this.  Agree with most of what was said about the DBA-02, it's pretty good.

post #12 of 74

Well timbre is the overall tonality, it's frequency response is overall great though the weakest link is the treble. The timbre is off in that it tends to give a tonality that doesn't coincide well with the instruments that are played and displays some resonants. To me, for example, the GR07 make the acoustic piano sound more like a keyboard than a natural piano (though it still does it better than the DBA02). It's not bad per say actually just slightly below average ime and also relative to what I use to compare it to. 

Originally Posted by tomscy2000 View Post
As for the timbre, I only think it feels mechanical in the low end and gets a lot better by the midrange and treble, but I guess everyone hears things differently.

 

 


Edited by Inks - 6/2/11 at 12:27am
post #13 of 74

I would call this thread CHINA to CHINA 1' Showdown'"  as DBA02 is just another chinese made OEM model used by Fishersa and Brainwatz among other few..

 

Who knows is GR07 also an OEM type IEMs?

 

 

 

post #14 of 74

I don't think the GR07s are OEMs. To note, they easily the highest build of any Chinese in-ear I've encountered and are actually hand made. 

post #15 of 74

Nice review, great read.

 

How about some use of bold and color in body text? Damn that typography I class last semester... tongue_smile.gif

 

GR07 black and gunmetal grey look so dang sexy tongue_smile.gif

 

 

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