For non-audio opinions, please refer to my unboxing post.
It feels almost bittersweet that a legend such the venerable GR07 hides in the shadows of the new generation of IEMs. Bitterness, in that such performance is overlooked in the face of shiny, new products promising the world and more with their enticing driver numbers. Yet sweetness, in that after all these years the GR07 still remains in the consciousness of the collective IEM community, a gem in plain sight that few remember fondly of despite the everchanging landscape of the industry.
I usually don’t do flowery prose and exposition of this level, but I feel like I have to make an exception in this case out of nostalgia. I remember the days when it was hyped up to the high heavens, along with the days when the counter-hype came in simply as a knee-jerk response. It was a time when I was green, an amateur who barely knew left from right and worshipped the Headphoneus Supremuses as if the title automatically bestowed respect. A simpler time, if you will.
My ultimate point is that in my eyes, the release of the VS7 represents the passing of the baton. Years of special editions and upgrades, all culminating into a successor that hopes to finally makes its own waves in the industry.
Expectations are high, and justifiably so. How does the VS7 fare against the modern competition, and more importantly: its own father?
Driver specifications: Single dynamic driver
This GR07 was kindly provided by the folks over at LendMeUrEars.
Frequency response analysis
This will be a new section for my reviews as I understand not everyone has learnt how to interpret the graphs that I create.
Basically flat, as you can see.
Unfortunately, this is flat as a raw IEC measurement, so we can already expect that it would not be so on subjective listening.
For the newbies, IEMs require a boost in the frequencies 2kHz and above as they bypass the head as well as the pinna (outer ear). The IEM measurements community refer to this necessary boost as the “pinna gain”, hence why raw graphs are usually compensated to a certain target curve. Usually Diffuse Field.
Author’s note: future analyses will be done with my neutral target curve as that is how I perceive neutrality. It is my review after all.
The VS7 unfortunately lacks this pinna gain, which is the region that gives the sound its bite and edge (actual terms used in the music production industry). This is further exacerbated by the additional dip in the 4kHz to 5kHz region, which could lead to a loss of dynamism and energy in the resulting sound.
You can see how the VS7 is the closely related to the GR07 Classic of old, just heavily damped in the higher frequencies most likely in response to the main criticism of the GR07: being too intense or borderline sibilant. Unfortunately it seems that VSonic has gone too far for the reasons highlighted above, prioritising a sibilance-free signature over one that sounded natural.
Resonance was targeted at 8kHz as per usual.
Comparisons courtesy of the Graph Comparison Tool
Downsloping response. I’d probably just describe it as “warm”. There is a mild midtreble emphasis to rein in the persasive midbass and lower midrange, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.
VSonic set out to do one thing and they certainly achieved it: they made the GR07 laidback and fatigue free. Gone are the errant treble spikes and brightness, now replaced with a much safer and much less offensive tuning.
That’s it for this section.
Look at how they massacred my boy.
This section is more gushing about the GR07 than it is about the VS7 so bear with me for a bit. Even till today, the GR07 remains highly competitive and is still my main recommendation for a neutral DD IEM at $100. In a price bracket where V-shaped signatures are a dime a dozen and people can’t seem to tune a flat-sounding headphone to save their life, the GR07 reigns supreme simply by existing. I think that reports of it being sibilant and harsh are either overexaggerated or made by less experienced ears, but perhaps that’s just the fanboy in me talking.
Note: I don’t actually own a GR07.
So here comes VSonic, listening to the pleas of the vocal minority about how they simply can’t stand the GR07’s treble. And to their credit, it’s always good to listen to your customers anyways. Perhaps this is less of a fault of the consumer’s demands than their own incompetencies on the tuning bench; rather than reducing the higher frequencies beyond 6kHz where the sizzles and zings sting the ears of some, what happened eventually was a wideband reduction of the midrange upward, killing its originally adequate tonality and replacing it with what sounds like a corpse of its former self.
The VS7 sounds boxy and deep, which is pretty fine for lower pitched instruments but almost an atrocity on anything higher than tenor. Its transients are certainly more than serviceable so this seems to be purely a tonal issue rather than a technical one. Other descriptions like “veiled” work too, though I think you get the point.
I have to stress here that the VS7 isn’t bad. Clearly it isn’t good, but maybe I’m just being extra critical due to the history behind it. A lot of things are middle-of-the-road and justifiably so, but the VS7’s placement as simply another average Joe stings me on a much deeper level, as much as I want it not to.
I keep alluding to the competitive IEM industry constantly in my reviews because it is absolutely a reason why it might seem that so many things get shoved into the dark realm of mediocrity. There are so much great stuff out there that your average consumer is absolutely spoilt for choice, and the difference between the average versus the ones just a slight cut above can be the difference between a successful product and one that quickly fades into obscurity.
Sorry, VSonic. You’ve been left in the dust.
The VSonic VS7 will be added to September’s IEM giveaway vote for my Patreon. Thanks to all who continue to support me.
And of course, my shoutouts to my very special big-money boys: