VSONIC GR07 CLASSIC 2020 Review: Still the budget king of energic neutrality

VSONIC GR07 CLASSIC (2020 EDITION)

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SOUND: 8.5/10
CONSTRUCTION&DESIGN: 8/10
ACCESSORIES: 8.5/10
VALUE: 8.5/10

THE PLUS: High clarity, neutral sound, great imaging, fast attack, bass control, good transparency, clean mids, realist tonality
THE SO-SO: Average construction, loose moving nozzle, slightly thin timbre

10 years after it’s praised launch, the VSONIC GR07 is still highly respected among audiophiles. At the time, these were sold 180$ and fastly go down in price due to high demand.

In my beginning years on Headfi 7 years ago, I see the hysterical craze about those, which was similar to the BLON phenomenon. It sure calms down a little with all the new competitive IEM offering in sub-100$ price range, but never the GR07 lose it’s fan base.

The fact it offers true mature audiophile sound leaning towards neutral with impressive technicalities has a lot to do with the fact it passes the test of time with impressive consistency.

The Vsonic GR07 didn’t follow the V shape mass tuning that fulfill the IEM market, neither the Harman curve that could be too laid back (and again, bassy) for a critical listening session and this explain part of their success. Clarity, tonality, imaging and the fast transient response were and still is rarely found with budget earphones.
As I’m very skeptical about hype, I didn’t give GR07 a chance until….NOW. 10 years post-hype review begins today! 250 iem later, I will finally test these legendary Vsonic.

At the time I was into ultra-budget finds and buy the GR06 instead, and yes, regret it even if it wasn’t particularly bad IEM. It was a warm V shape one. I was an immature little boy 7 years ago, and my hearing is way more into reference, balanced and neutral sound now.

Hifiman RE400 and Final Audio E2000 are good examples of IEM that pass the test of time, but the GR07 still feel like the ‘’retro-giant-killer’’.
In this review, I will try to conclude if we are into ‘’oldies but goldies’’ territory by comparing this promising dynamic driver IEM to its follower, the VS7, as well as to other oldies like the Hifiman RE600 and Final Audio E2000 and an excellent DD IEM like the Moondrop STARFIELD.

Tough this is the 2020 edition, it’s supposed to have the exact same sound as CLASSIC edition, which is the most neutrally tuned of GR07 series.

You can buy the VSONIC GR07 2020 Edition directly from LEND ME UR EARS.

SPECS

  • Driver: 11mm High Dynamic CCAW Drive Units, Bio-cellulose diaphragms
  • Impedance: 50Ω +/- 10%
  • Sensitivity: >105dB (@ 500 Hz)
  • Frequency Response: 7Hz- 30kHz
  • Channel Balance: <1dB @ 500Hz <1.5dB (at 20Hz~12.5KHz)
  • Distortion:  <0.2% 105dB
  • Rated Power: 10mW
  • Maximum Input Power: 50mW
  • Plug: 3.5mm 24K gold plated stereo plug
  • Cable: 1.30m max 82 core silver wires

PACKAGING&ACCESORRIES

The product is nicely presented in a black box with a magnetic cover, you open it and see the beautiful IEM with a little box under it. In the box, you have a nice carrying case, the very useful ear guide, 3 pairs of silicone ear tips and 1 pair of memory foam. A carrying case is very welcome because even flagship Vsonic IEM like the 300$ VS9 do not include protective cases, so I feel spoiled here.

CONSTRUCTION&DESIGN

Sign of time is shown when it comes to GR07 construction, because the Chinese audio market offers excellent craftmanship nowadays, even if quality control still is an issue. The plastic housing of GR07 feels cheap and fragile, and the glossy metal paint does not hide this fact. This is the type of IEM that can surely break if hard hit. Housing has a metal part, which is a unique moving nozzle, but this nozzle is too loose and tends to annoying move when you try to place it in your ears. The fact 2020 edition is still with a non-detachable cable which comes with a mic too is a big bummer, the cable is so so quality, but worst of all, GR07 are design to be wear over-ear and the cable do not have ear hook neither is enough flexible to avoid it falling above your ears. I wonder why Vsonic does not make an all-metal GR07 version with a detachable cable, because this version feel like a 2010 reboot with some metallic painting.

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Comfort isn’t bad, due to the very small size of housing, but as noted their 2 problem: the moving nozzle and the over-ear cable. Moving nozzle is too loose and this happens with my old GR06, so to live this again is not a good flashback….when you try to place it in your ears the housing move but not the nozzle, that’s just awkward. After this capricious nozzle, you have to deal with a capricious cable that falls off your ears when he wants to. Vsonic include ear guide so you can make your own ear hook, but a proper cable design would have been better. Hum, I can live with that I guess, but after 10 years of production, I think its no rocket science to make little improvement in design.

DRIVEABILITY

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At 50ohm of impedance and 105db of sensitivity, we would think that GR07 are very hard to drive but that isn’t the case. A good powerful DAP will be enough for opening the sound enough. By this, I mean something with at least 150mW @ 32ohm. Driving this with your phone or a Benjie S5 will affect soundstage and bass response.

ISOLATION

Isolation is slightly above average, if you insert it deep enough that the housing touch your ears hole, it will block noise a lot. Sound leakage does exist due to little back venting hole, but even at high volume, it’s negligible.

SOUND

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The GR07 offers a neutral but energic sound, with vivid mid-range and sharp treble. The tonal balance is excellent, more reference than natural sounding, with mostly bright tones. Clarity is very high, which permits extremely revealing imaging that we rarely or ever found in the sub-100$ price range, the instrument separation are on the analytical side, but not to the point of making music sound cold or lacking in cohesion. Another impressive aspect of the GR07 is its the fast transient response, the attack is snappy and sounds never get congested, it can deal as much with fast bass than fast highs.

SOUNDSTAGE is average wide with extra deepness, it’s out of your head but with good proximity like having 2 bookshelves speakers from each side.

IMAGING is excellent, very clear and precise, a mix of decent transparent layering with great spatial instrument placement. Pinpointing instruments from any range is possible.

Tonality is realist, slightly bright, very well balanced.

Timbre is slightly dry, with boosted texture and great transparency. It can sound rarely grainy if multiple layers of sound are mixed together, as it will saturate the bright treble.

BASS is lean, not light, it’s not boosted in any region but extends naturally to its lower end. It can offer great punch when needed too, as well as good sub body for a bass line that is forwards in the mix. When the bass is supposed to be in the back, it will stay there, it’s a docile bass, with hint of dryness but an excellent control and articulation. The texture is realist as we can hear with slap bass line, for acoustic bass it will lack a little body, while digital bass or sub-synth will sound juicier. In a track like ”Together” from KAYTRANADA, the bass performance is well shown, the kick is very weighty with a fast thumping attack, clearly separate from the sub-bass line which is thick, well-textured and perfectly articulated within an ultra-clear imaging.  While it’s neither a bassy or bass-head type of bass, I don’t think that bass is less present than the GR07BASS Edition which looks like to be thicker in timbre and weightier in slam, but just about 2db more boosted in sub bass section. Honestly, I was expecting the GR07 to be more bass light and both quality and quantity of low end impress me, especially due to the fact it keep whole sound clean of any warmth. I consider bass performance very versatile, it can do as good with pop music than jazz, rock, classical and IDM, only heavy sub music like trap rap or Drum&Bass would lack sub bass boost.

MID RANGE is very clear, slightly bright and above average in terms of transparency. Tonality is realist and superbly balanced with rest of the audio spectrum, free of any bass warmth or serious upper mids harshness. Sure, we can have slight sibilance with poor recording, but it happens to me one or 2 times. If I have an issue with mids, it’s in the lower region where it can feel a little thin and dry, making instrument like piano lacking in body and weight even if the note is very textured, here tonal balance isn’t perfect. For other instrument like saxophone, guitar, violin, it sounds excellent and have great definition which permit clear separation. Vocals is upfront, extremely clear and well separated from the rest of the instrument, never veiling anything. In pop song like ”Matando” from TEI SHI, the voice is centered, free of any sibilance of harshness, natural in tonality and neither too bright or too warm, the bass is impressively thigh, kick and sub-bass being separated with great space, and most of all, this track show how much the GR07 is ultra-clean in the background, which permit sharp definition of any instruments or sound. Still, upper mids can be harsh with some poorly recorded sound, it’s not the type that tame recorded sibilance. Another impressive aspect of mid-range is how fast and snappy is the attack, instruments having great debut and end to their attack expension.

TREBLE is perhaps my favorite part of the GR07 sound, even if quite sharp on top, it’s just so well articulated and crisp and airy. As say it’s not perfect, it lacks a bit of decay and sparkle, but it’s so well controlled and balanced, you do not have an artificial tonality neither an aggressive sound. This type of treble tends to put nuance in instrument texture and avoid any metallic brilliance. You have plenty of micro-details presented in a realist way, not artificially pushed in front of the rest of the instrument, this makes whole sound rich and immersive. In upper highs, extra brilliance can occur, which gives more visibility and energy to higher notes of an instrument like acoustic guitar, which sounds sublime with the GR07. Even in energic jazz music like ”Kamakola” from GO GO PENGUIN, the treble keeps its thigh control in fast percussions, showing great speed in attack as well as snappy highs, and even though piano play in higher range it do not interfere with the percussions that keep their crisp definition in the back. Treble is very energic and thigh in the attack, the cymbals, and hit hat splash is fast, never over-saturated.

COMPARISONS

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VS VSONIC VS7 (130$)

So, this is the big battle everybody is waiting for, did the new VS7 is better than GR07? Vsonic says so, but it’s more complicate than that, the VS7 is particularly improved in SOUNDSTAGE size, which is quite gigantic but in wideness and tallness with a comparable deepness to GR07, but this makes the whole sound more distant too and tonal balance isn’t on par with more balanced GR07. BASS is more rolled off in sub-region with the VS7, making it sound a little boxy and lacking the good definition and control of GR07, which is by no means heavy on the bass, but it’s faster and more detailed. MIDS are flatter and thinner with the VS7, the definition is warmer too, lacking the attack edge of GR07, but it feels less compressed and intimate too, with quite intense space between mids and highs, perhaps too much. TREBLE is more upper highs centric, extracting percussions with great clarity but not offering lot of texture which makes the cymbals quite splashy compared to tighter GR07 highs.
All in all, GR07 offers a more balanced sound, with fuller tonality and cleaner mids, while everything about VS7 is about oversized soundstage.

VS MOONDROP STARFIELD (110$)

Another IEM that will stand test of time, the STARFIELD have a well-balanced sound, near-neutral like the GR07 but warmer, thicker and more mid centric too. SOUNDSTAGE is notably wider and more out of your head, but less deep and airy than the GR07. IMAGING is more about layering within a wider sound tapestry while the GR07 is more precise and sharp in instrument placement, making it easier to pinpoint instrument placement. BASS is were an important difference occur, the STARFIELD extend more naturally, have fuller sub-bass and rumble, but a softer mid-bass impact, making the GR07 sound very dry and thin as well as bright in mid-bass punch, still, I feel the bass is faster with the GR07 too and keep lower mids cleaner. MIDS have more presence with the STARFIELD, they are warmer, have more natural tonality and less intimate presentation, the GR07 is notably brighter and upper-mid-centric, vocal is thinner and instrument aren’t very natural with rougher timbre. TREBLE is now more boosted with the GR07, notably more forwards and crunchier than smoother STARFIELD, percussions stay in the back with the STARFIELD while it’s artificially put in front with the GR07, upper treble gives more brilliance to GR07 highs but affects tone fullness.
All in all, I conclude that the Starfield has better tonal balance, bass and mids, while for clarity, imaging, and technicalities, I give it to the GR07.

VS HIFIMAN RE600 (65$? or 200$)

So, the RE-600 is 7 years old and was selling 200$ until some months ago. The 200$ price was absurdly too much, especially for this type of construction, but the sound limitation too in the bass region. Anyway, they aren’t bad and offer a similar sound profile leaning towards neutrality and clarity.  The SOUNDSTAGE is more intimate, smaller in wideness and slightly less deep due to background noise artifact. Overall resolution is warmer in definition than GR07, lacking edge. Tonality is less balanced too. BASS is the weakest part of RE600 and notably rolled off and lacking the accuracy and control of GR07, which makes this strange warmish tonality by bleeding on mids even if the treble is on the bright side. MIDS are more forwards and less clear in upper mids, little honky and oversaturated, making the vocal more forwards which affect overall clarity that GR07 offers. TREBLE is less snappy, less balanced, less crisp and detailed with RE600.
All in all, the GR07 have a clearer and more natural tonality, fuller timbre and proper bass response which make the RE600 sound tame in attack and abstract in the definition.

VS FINAL AUDIO E2000 (45$)

These 2 budget IEM champs are surprisingly similar in tuning curve, the E2000 being a warmer and bassier version due to more sub-bass presence, if it wasn’t for this bass warmth and the upper treble peak of GR07, these will be twins in term of tonal balance. SOUNDSTAGE is about the same wideness but the GR07 have again more deepness, IMAGING is clearer and more accurate with the GR07. BASS is weightier, have more slam but the less flat extension and less texture than the GR07, which is faster in attack and does not warm the sound with its bass. MIDS are brighter, clearer with GR07, but has less smooth and natural timbre, still, it has better transparency and vocal are more upfront, making overall mids of E2000 feel veiled and recessed. TREBLE is crisper and sparklier with the GR07, it digs more micro details too, and instruments like acoustic guitar or violin have more realist tonality and better edge to the definition.
All in all, the GR07 is technically superior and offers a higher level of clarity and accuracy with a more balanced and controlled bass response and sharper treble.

CONCLUSION

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The VSONIC GR07 CLASSIC is still very capable earphones that offer high sound quality for its budget price. Even by higher today standard, this type of neutral, revealing and energic sound is very rare to find. The fact it’s a single dynamic driver make it even more impressive in term of transient response speed and highly accurate imaging.

Well tuned IEM is an exception, and when you nail perfect sound balance, you create something that will stand the test of time and the GR07 is proof of that.

 

4 Comments

  1. Everybody knows the new gr07-s sounds different than the old, original and famous gr07-s. Different, on a bad way. Sounds worse. Better to buy an old one. Dont buy the new gr07 (2018–>).. Chifi manufacturers often changes their drivers..

    Am interested about the starfield, but i dont like the too warm sounding inears, so i fear to buying. And this thing is really ugly colored..

    Thank you for the review.

    Like

    1. oh…you have tested both? what the difference? Lend Me Ur Ears tell me its very same tuning…i,ve been mislead I guess. I still find them better sounding than VS7 apart from soundstage size.

      Starfield are warm but clean sounding too, the bass is well controlled so it do not veil mids. Resolution is excellent, instrument placement is decent but layering is greater. It’s a polite iem that grow on you, not a WOW effect beast. If you already own Final Audio E4000, it’s not a must-buy as it sound very similar, otherwise, it is if you search a very refined, balanced and natural-sounding IEM,

      Like

  2. No, im not tested it. I read it on few different sites. The new ones are flatter ,less clear with smallers soundstage. Btw not recommended..

    Like

    1. Less clear…well, they are very sharp and soundstage is quite deeeep…from me the new GR07 are recommended, but the price is less competitive than before. 80$ would be a better price.

      Like

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