(All images can be clicked to enlarge)
I am fairly new to this hobby, and the GR01s are the first dual-BA (TWFK) IEM I have heard (so I can’t make comparisons against its other obvious competitors). I also don’t have a lot of experience with other IEMs and most of the listening was done through my 4th-gen iPod Touch, because right now, I can’t justify buying an amp/DAC. I’m not bothered in getting a cheaper amp/DAC either as I believe that the improvements in overall SQ are negligible, and only causes me want to hurt my wallet more, causing me to continue climbing this incredibly tall ladder. Being a newbie some adjectives I use may be interpreted differently by you, than I interpret it; and this is also my first attempt at a “good” review. Therefore a decent amount of salt should be sprinkled over my review.
My GR01s were purchased from LendMeURears, and was lucky to pick them up at the lower price of $190SGD while they were on sale (approx. $151USD at time of writing).
Packaging & Accessories
The GR01s came in a plastic box with a window showcasing the IEMs themselves and part of the large array of tips they come with. My pair came with twelve tips: three different sizes of silicon tips and a pair of bi-flanges, another six varying sizes of Sony Hybrid lookalikes, plus three more of the Hybrid lookalikes that have foam stuffed in them. It also came with a soft carrying pouch which appears to be made of pleather. It may be quite hard to open at first, as the metal which keeps it shut is very stiff, but it does loosen up after a while due to use. The case, although great, is not as great as the hard clam-shell case that came with the previous packaging-style Vsonic used. Unfortunately it also doesn’t come with a shirt clip, which would help a lot in eliminating most of the microphonics.
When I first saw the GR01s nestled in their packaging, I was surprised at how small they are (smaller than HF5s). Although I am aware that some of you won’t be as you are already familiar with other dual-BAs such as Logitech’s UE700, which (judging by images) look tiny.
The Vsonics have a metal housing with a plastic/rubber rear, which also becomes the strain relief. The nozzle also has a metal filter which can be removed by unscrewing, although it is possible for it to come off quite easily. I say that because with my experience on the left earpiece, the filter is quite prone to being twisted loose as I insert it into my ear. I feel that the housings used are very durable, and should last for quite some time.
I am underwhelmed by the GR01’s cable, because it simply appears to be quite cheap, and looks akin to some cliché cheap IEMs when compared directly to the GR07’s more confidence-inspiring cable. The cable is actually quite good. Saying that they're akin to some cheap IEMs was a huge overstatement. They might look thin and maybe even "weak" to some extent, but they're actually fairly strong (sheathed in TPU — a very strong polymer). Although I still have more confidence in the GR07 cable, I have more confidence in the GR01 cable compared to the one used on the HF5, despite being coated in kevlar.
The cable doesn’t have a chin slider, which would have been a nice addition, but instead the cable was still stuck together after the Y-split and had to pull them apart to the desired length. The cable is thin and is terminated by an L-jack. There is no strain relief at the Y-split, but the strain relief at the L-plug is actually soft and actually works contrary to the GR07’s cable.
Wearing these, to me, is similar to wearing the Etymotic IEMs where it is inserted deeply in the ear canal. I had originally found inserting it quite deep to be uncomfortable, but fortunately I have grown accustomed to this depth in insertion. With that said: if the idea of inserting something deeply into your ears scares you, I guess you should skip over to another IEM. But, I just want to add that although it may be uncomfortable initially, you will get used to it over time. As it fits quite deep, it isolates very well, although not quite on par with the Etymotics. Microphonics is also quite an issue when it comes to wearing these cable down, but diminishes when worn over-the-ear. Having become accustomed to the deep fit, these IEMs are comfortable; however I’m not going to say that they are very comfortable. Compared to the GR07 (taking only stock tips into account), the GR07s to me are much more comfortable.
* With MEElec Triple-flanges, the fit and isolation goes on-par to my HF5 (i.e, very, very comfortable)
Now comes the part where most people scroll down to when looking at a review. The other IEMs I used for listening while doing this review are the GR07s and the Etymotic HF5. Coming from the GR07, and seeing as these are Vsonics’ new and current flagship IEM, I was intrigued at how well these can perform knowing how good the GR07s already are. When I first unboxed these I was already quite excited to plug them in and listen. Already having read reviews of other TWFKs, I expected them to be quite bright, and to perhaps be unsatisfied with the bass.
The GR01s has a tough time competing with the GR07 in the bass, as the GR07 sets the standard for me in this area. Stating before that my expectation was to be underwhelmed by the bass, I was wrong. The GR01s surprised me with its bass presence. It isn’t lean like the HF5s, and is able to provide decent quantity when a track calls for it. The bass is quick, and has the edge over the already quick GR07. In terms of weight, the GR01 lags slightly behind. The weight of the drums in metal and hard rock feels much more satisfying with the GR07s. Obviously, I can’t discern a mid-bass bump, and overall the bass is very well controlled with good punch.
I found the mids of the GR01 to be somewhat similar to the GR07, although that touch of warmth present in the GR07 is not present in the GR01. The mids are very clear and detailed, edging out the GR07. As easy as I found it already to pick up on tiny nuances in a recording with the GR07, the GR01s were able to pick these up easier. In terms of vocals, to my ears, the GR01 loses out slightly to the GR07. The vocals are forward in the GR01, but to me, it doesn’t have enough emotion and that ‘delicateness’ in comparison to the GR07. Switching to the HF5s after listening to some classical pieces on the GR01, the GR01s somehow made the HF5s to sound tonally ‘off’, in the sense that the instruments just didn’t sound ‘right’.
Moving on to the treble, the GR01s are relatively smooth, yet being quite forward. Cymbals on the GR01 sound very clear and refined and violins have that added brilliance to them. I also feel that the GR01s is more resolving, and is better at presenting microdetail to the listener compared to the GR07. In a certain track (“Make Fun” – Perfect Future) I could actually hear the cymbal in the opening seconds of the song to ‘splash’ (sorry but I don’t know how else to explain). Prior to hearing this track with the GR07, that particular cymbal hit sounded like it was smoothed over, taking away the crispness I encountered with the GR01. The GR01s are also prone to sibilance, although not as much as the GR07s when the GR01s are inserted properly. If the GR01s are inserted too shallow, the sibilance is quite overwhelming to me, in that it accentuates sibilance already present in a recording, enough so that it makes me take them out of my ears. Overall the treble is very competent, and I’m pleased with the amount of sparkle and detail they present.
The presentation of the GR01 is similar to the GR07, although not as wide, and doesn't feel as 'closed-in' as the HF5s. Instead the headstage to me feels round and presents the music as if its front of me. I also find instruments to be well placed. For example, the placement of the drums' components are 'just right' to my ears, instead of being too close when using the HF5s. When it comes to instrument separation, I feel that the GR01s just manages to pass the GR07s in this aspect, even though the GR07s are already very good at separating the individual instruments in a recording.
Imagine the GR07 with a better refined and slightly more prominent treble, with the bass quantity, weight, and rumble toned down slightly. With that said, I suggest bassheads to look away (why would you be looking at a TWFK in the first place?). The bass is well controlled and will show up when called for, though obviously not enough to satisfy a basshead, but is adequate for me personally. In terms of what genres the GR01s can handle, they are like the GR07s, in that they can handle basically any genre you throw at them; but I’d still prefer to avoid any bass-heavy genres as the quantity won’t suffice, although the bass does extend deep and has good punch.
I wouldn’t consider the GR01 as an upgrade from the GR07 although it is better in its technical ability. I regard it to be as a complement in the sense that if I want to listen to bass-heavier music, I can rely on the GR07, and switch to the GR01 if the treblehead (no that doesn’t mean I’m a treblehead) within me craves sparkle.
To sum up its sound signature, the GR01s are quite natural with forward vocals, and with slight bias towards the higher frequencies.
Tips removed, and metal filter unscrewed. Filter paper
that goes behind the metal mesh is also shown.
Thanks for reading my review!
EDIT #1: Tried these with tri-flanges and it feels much more comfortable now compared to using the single flanges they came with.
EDIT #2: Changed my impression on the cable.
EDIT #3: Updated my thoughts about the comfort.
Edited by Reomero - 10/30/12 at 9:49pm