Pros: Clean sound, punchy lower mids and mid-bass gives drums real impact, shallow insertion makes for an easier insertion process, instrument separation is above average for the price.
Cons: Cable coils when left by itself which makes it annoying to wear over ear, slight v-shape sound (may be a pro to some people), sound stage is rather narrow, lack of double-flanged tips, popping and static noises when moving about though only heard when no music is playing.
Preferred Music: Despite the slight v-shape I’ve preferred a lot of indie rock and rock due to the punchy drums, acoustic drums have been my favorite thing to listen to with these.
Home: Musicbee (Wasapi) -> ODAC -> O2
Portable: iPod Classic
There’s not much to say about the packaging, especially assuming you already own a pair of Brainwavz IEMs or almost any of the other sub-$100 IEMs. Despite that, there may be some people who are just entering the IEM market so here’s a quick run down. The VS-K1 come packaged in a thin cardboard box with a blue and black color scheme. The front of the box has two plastic windows, one showing the IEMs, the other showing the carrying case. The back of the box shows some technical information, though surprisingly there are some bits of information not found on other IEMs I’ve seen, such as channel balance and distortion. The box opens from the top, though unlike most IEMs that sit in a clear plastic mold, the VS-K1 are in a blue cardboard box with the top exposed sitting nestled in a grey foam mold.
The VS-K1 are packaged with three pairs of silicon mushroom tips and a pair of hard foam tips that are slick on the outside reminding me more of silicon than the Comply tips that offer a softer foam feel. The tips remind me of the foam ones that Monster sells actually. Also included is a shirt clip and a semi-hard clamshell carrying case that has says Visang in a silver circle.
Build Quality and Design
From the moment I saw the VS-K1 through the plastic window I thought they looked very nice, reminiscent of Monster’s Turbine IEMs actually, and I mean that in a good way. Each housing is made from thick aluminum which gives the IEMs some weight to them, but not enough to cause them to feel heavy in the ears, but at the same time it makes them feel sturdy. Each housing has a color band that indicates the side, blue being left and red being right.The port of the VS-K1 is wide nozzled with a metal mesh filter that’s unremovable. Visang is printed on the top back of the chrome housing in light grey lettering and below that on the back of the IEM there’s a small port. The stress relief is made of hard rubber that’s gives just a little. The cable is made of a plastic feeling rubber that is perforated. At the y-split there is unfortunately no cinch and the cable terminates in a 115 degree angle.
The build is sturdy enough, but as soon as I saw the cable let out a sigh. In my experiences cables like this tend to curl up no matter how used they are and this is no different, when left on it’s own device the cable will eventually curl up to a circle, this also happens while wearing which causes annoyances with wearing these over ear, in-fact I decided to simply wear these down because of that. Despite having to wear these down I found the fit good, these are shallow insertion so the positioning isn’t very important so the better seal provided by wearing IEMs over ear isn’t necessary. These are simply the “push into your ears and go” type of IEM. Comfort and fit vary depending on using either the silicon or foam tips. The silicon tips aren’t as comfortable as the foam tips, but the silicon tips are much more thoughtless when inserting and I’ve never thought them as uncomfortable. The foam tips also provide very little in the way of added isolation. Overall I preferred the silicon mushroom tips as I feel that the slight benefits gained with the foam were outweighed by the ease of putting the silicon tips in and out.
I gave the VS-K1 at least 50 hours of burn-in before judging the sound, I noticed no major changes throughout the process. I have been using these for at least 100 hours for light exercise and some home use. I feel these are good to go out of the box.
The lows of the VS-K1 overall are best described as punchy, clean, and rather detailed with decent speed about them. I have greatly enjoyed listening to bands that have talented drummers as the VS-K1 do drums much justice. Kick drums hit with great authority and toms sound equally as punchy which helps carry a lot of energy in rock songs where I find many sub-$100 IEMs lack. Along with the impressive drum impact in the lower regions bass guitars are equally impressive with basslines being discernable in any decently mastered album I’ve heard, with good definition. The mid-bass is simply very impressive, carrying a lot of energy and punch that brings rock music to life.
The VS-K1 extends rather well down into the lower bass regions as well with the clarity and definition of the mid-bass being a shared characteristic. The sub-bass has good presence about it as well hitting those extreme lows in The xx song Fantasy and showing good speed in James Blake’s Limit to Your Love which has a rapidly fluctuating sub-bass line. I can not find a song that the VS-K1 can not reproduce that leaves me wanting more. The VS-K1 won’t give the sub-bass rumble that a sub-woofer is capable of, but it is very capable of reproducing any bass frequency I threw at it with good authority.
The mids are a mixed bag here, on one hand the mids are clean, leaning slightly warm, and have a full sound to them. On the other hand at times the mids are slightly pushed aside in favor of the higher and lower frequencies for singers on the lower end of the spectrum. The slight recession seems to be mostly in the lower mids as some of the higher toned singers I listen to actually sound a bit forward, such as Reign of Kindo notably in the song Let it Go where his voice is powerful and slightly forward and certainly the most forward thing in the mix, whereas Beirut who sings a bit lower in the range has a tendency to feel a bit drowned out despite his powerful voice. Female vocals are carried on with the same warmth and power that male vocals are, in-fact Fiona Apple sounds just as forward and powerful as Reign of Kindo’s, most notably when listening to her song Not About Love. At the same time the piano, playing mostly lower-mid notes, is recessed to an extent. The same seems to carry over to Sara Bareilles, where her voice is forward, warm, and powerful, while the lower guitar parts are recessed instead of balanced throughout.
Some of you are probably wondering whether this recession carries over into rock music, it depends. The recession is in the lower end of the mids, while distorted electric guitars ranging to the upper mids sound balanced decently with the rest of the sound. The guitars in Bloc Party’s Helicopter, for instance, carry the energy well and seem balanced decently along with the rest. This is the same with piano as well, the higher frequencies will be balanced well with the rest, while lower mids will feel recessed.
To put things simply if I may have confused anyone, the lower end of the mids are a bit recessed, while higher toned vocalists and electric guitar can seem a tad pushy, and the upper mids seem balanced decently with the rest of the spectrum.
The highs are clean with decent presence, but the pushy vocals and bass can drown them out a tad. On songs like Rubblebucket’s Came Out of a Lady the horns are pushed behind the bass line in the mix and the hi-hat and cymbal hits are hard to hear during the more textured parts of the song. My overall impression of the highs from listening to Miles Davis, various rock music with lots of cymbal and hi-hat use, is that the highs tend to get lost behind the punchy mid-bass and pushy mids. The highs aren’t the focus here but they are clean and extend well enough to be considered slightly above average for the price range.
The VS-K1 are currently found on eBay for $40-$50 and at the price range I think that these are good value. The lack of tips hasn’t been a hinderance for me as I was fortunate enough to get a good fit and seal with stock tips and the foam tips should help those who can’t. The build quality is solid, though the cable will be an annoyance due to it’s tendency to curl up. The thing that impressed me the most though is the clarity of these IEMs and the quality of the sound, most notably in the punchy bass accentuating drums giving rock music a great energy. The mids are spotty and certainly need to be worked out, though this could be easily solved with a few minutes of EQ from a patient user. I think that these would be an excellent buy for $30 or if Visang were to work out the issues with the mids and bring the highs up just a bit.
With all that said, if you’re looking for an IEM in this price range for indie rock music I think that you should highly consider these.
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