More for Less with VSonic VSD1 and VSD1S

VSonic VSD1 and VSD1S (~$50)
The audio press—us here at InnerFidelity being no exception—generally doesn't cover many entry-level products. The main reason is that most are designed with little regard for audio quality, and ultimately our readers don't care which is less mediocre—the BassJunkie XL5 or the FartCannon 3000.

Once in a while, however, a solid entry-level product makes me think of how precariously balanced the whole Hi-Fi segment is. No one really wants to talk about diminishing returns and the marginal performance gains in the upper price tiers, but in truth the sound quality gap between the best products in the moderately priced and high end segments is steadily decreasing, and entry-level products are sure to follow.

For a number of manufacturing and design reasons, in-ear earphones especially can have very high price/performance ratios. Sure, top-tier sets still carry high R&D expenditures and utilize relatively expensive and complex components, but it's amazing what a little know-how can help achieve with a cheap housing and conventional dynamic driver. Take the Sony MH1C and LG Quadbeat headsets, for example—these two earphones are packaged with certain smartphones but rival dozens of far more expensive aftermarket models when it comes to sound quality.

So when VSonic, an IEM manufacturer whose name is as familiar to Chinese audiophiles as Shure or Ultimate Ears are to us here in the US, states that their new VSD1 model delivers most of the performance of their flagship GR07 earphone at a fraction of the cost, it gets my attention.

Design
The VSonic VSD1 and its alternate tuning, the VSD1S, are priced just below $50 and are identical in design and construction except for the model numbers printed on the housings (in Comic Sans, no less).

As with the other VSonic products, there is no design for design's sake here. The earphones use oval-shaped plastic housings with swiveling metal nozzles, a feature adapted from VSonic's previous releases. The cables are smooth and average in thickness—a little thinner than those of the pricier GR07, but still sufficiently sturdy. The low-profile L-shaped plug works well with smartphone cases.

Though seemingly designed for cable-down wear, the VSD1 can be worn cable-up as well, thanks to the pivoting nozzles. The earphone is lightweight, same as the previous-gen VSonic sets, and ships with eight pairs of eartips, including foam ones.

The accessory pack also includes a pair of over-the-ear cable guides and a soft carrying pouch. Passive noise isolation is average and cable noise (microphonics) is comparatively low, improved further by wearing the earphone over-the-ear.

On the whole, the VSD1 does a good job of adapting the design and feature set of higher-end VSonic products to work for the average consumer. On the next page we'll see if they managed to do the same with the sound.

COMPANY INFO
VSonic
Shennan Garden A-27F
Shenzhen High and new technology Industry Park
maico@vsonic.com.cn
ARTICLE CONTENTS
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COMMENTS
kova4a's picture

Nice review, joker. Also, good to finally see measurements for both. It's interesting that the VSD1S is not out of absolute polarity given the lastest vsonic trend to do that.

I didn't expect that frequency response graph for the VSD1S though. To my ears it definitely sounds a bit tighter in the bass region with slightly more of a deep bass impact while the VSD1 slightly boosted mid-bass. Originally I thought that might be because of the slightly more laid back mids of the VSD1 but I test just some drumming sets with both and VSD1S definitely has a bit tighter impact. What's your opinion on that matter?

Oh, and what about the VSD1 LImited edition? LOL

ljokerl's picture

...for me. Two is enough for now.

 

As for the bass, I've always thought that the VSD1 appeared more impactful because it has less midrange presence than the 1S. Obviously this makes it a little more prone to sounding bloated, as greater bass quantity should, but I didn't feel there was a quality difference beyond that. 

kova4a's picture

Well, to me the VSD1 appears to be more impactful in the sense of bass size but is a touch softer (not bloated), which I actually liked with some songs and especially some drum sessions because it kinda gives a but of texture to them while the VSD1S' bass was thicker on the impact and that texture was lost a bit. 

I tested the two many times just with drum sessions and bass tracks to take out of the equation more laid back vocals or other instruments and the VSD1S' bass hits harder and is a bit tighter. It's not a huge difference but it's big enough for me to tell them apart every single time in a blind test even on just bass tracks without anything else.

As far as the VSD1LE I still haven't decided if I definitely like it more than the VSD1S. So far seems to be a bit better when amped - might be because of the 80ohm impedance. And I wonder if the VSD7 will sound like it as the vsonic's ceo said? 

ljokerl's picture

It's difficult to tell with VSonic - they definitely win the award for most confusing lineup with no clarification from their marketing, at least not from what reaches the english-speaking world. Luckily, when you wade through all the nonsensical product nomenclature, you're left with some amazingly good earphones. 

Azteca X's picture

Thanks for the review.  There are a lot of products out there to be sure.  The IEMs I have are MEElectronics A151s.  I've been pretty pleased with them and have recommended them to a few friends (though I had fit issues early on - turns out I am much more comfortable with a small tip; still, some seal issues persist after I use them for a certain amount of time).

Have you ever listened to any MEE stuff?  I hate to be "that guy," just curious if you feel this one-ups a lot of the popular brands at that price - you did mention Etymotic which is appreciated, but MEE seems like a similarly popular brand.

Salute!

ljokerl's picture

I reviewed the MEElectronics A161P last year. See here. I've also reviewed their other models on Head-Fi.

The A151 is a good earphone, very reasonably-priced for balanced armature. It's great for that sort of mid-centric sound with the bass and treble gently sloped down. These VSonics are totally different - pretty much opposite in tuning with their enhanced bass and prominent treble. The A151 is arguably more accurate, especially its flatter bass, but it will lack in both impact and clarity compared to these, not to mention treble energy and extension. I personally tend to favor the VSD1 and VSD1S over the A151. 

sanotehusntaoehuu's picture

The FR graphs for many earphones, including everything by Shure as well as the MEE A161s mentioned in this review, absolutely fall off a cliff far short of 20kHz. I always assumed it was measurement error, or somehow unimportant, because the reviews on this site never talk about it.

Then I bought a pair of Shure 535s and, in my immense disappointment, stumbled upon Rin Choi's blog. It turns out, as he explains, the measurements are correct. All these earphones actually have no high frequency extension whatsover. It's sort of embarassing.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

....in the measurements above 10kHz, but I do think that most headphones tend to lack extension up there. One of the reasons I like the CEntrance HiFiM8 is the treble boost is designed to up the level a bit in this highest octave.

tquickbrownfox's picture

Great review.

How does this compare to the Soundmagic E30/10? After the E30's airy soundstage and dynamics I haven't been able to replace them with iems that cost thrice as much.

And how does this compare to the Philips Fidelio S1? I'm guessing that because thats open, their sound will be distinctive. 

ljokerl's picture

The E30 does have a nice airy soundstage. Signature-wise the VSD1s (both of them) have more bass and treble compared to the E30. Treble especially, as the E30 tends to be a little soft there. The VSD1S has about as much bass as the E10, but is a bit tighter and quicker. Imaging is a little better with the VSonics as well even if they don't quite have that open sound of the E30. 

The S1 isn't much airier than the E30 but it is more balanced than the VSD1/VSD1S, tighter when it comes to bass, slightly clearer, and a little wider in terms of soundstage size. 

Bennyboy's picture

Hello Joker

What volume do you listen to music through earphones?

Also - what are your favourite 3 albums?
 

ljokerl's picture

I would say low to moderate. When I test I do so at my normal listening volume as well as what I consider my highest tolerable listening volume (probably no more than 95dB). When I do A:Bs I volume match across several test tones.

The other question is much tougher; it would take me hours to pick three favorite albums. Instead, here's the few albums from my mp3 player that were added when I got it in 2010 and never removed. Usually I cycle music out regularly, except for a select few records. I think these are a good sampling of my personal favorites. 

Iron Maiden (self titled)
The Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie..
King Crimson - In the Court..
Al Di Meola/John McLaughlin - Friday Night in San Francisco
Alice in Chains - Dirt
Captain Beyond (self titled)
Nirvana - Nevermind
Porcupine Tree - The Sky Moves Sideways
Faith No More - King for a Day... Fool for a Lifetime
Isis - Panopticon

Bennyboy's picture

Thanks. Very interesting....

jswansong's picture

Reading your review almost sold me, then seeing how close your music preference is so similar to mine sealed it.

You might enjoy putting the new How To Destroy Angels (Welcome Oblivion) through your cycle.  It's become my go-to for testing out sound systems.  Theres a lot of staccato blips that test the speed and resistance to sibilance, varying degrees of intentional veiling of the vocals that reveal the clarity, volume swells and stop/starts that test the dynamics, fantastic varied texture all over the spectrum, and sound sources that move through the soundstage in very strange and interesting ways (often multiple things moving in different directions at the same time).  The soundstage stuff is probably the best part.  On the first song, everything starts really up close and intimate (with only hints of something bigger), then suddenly floor drops out and you're hovering over a canyon about 100 feet from anything.  Oh, and it's also a pretty good album.

Thanks for sharing your expertise.

ljokerl's picture

... will check it out. I usually spend a third of my day with earphones in my ears so I go through new music fast.

I'm a fan of Reznor and earlier NIN, and even the latest album (Hesitation Marks) has left a positive impression. Plus, the production of his albums is typically good. 

  

thelostMIDrange's picture

if anyone wants to do a direct swap i've got a brand new shiny vsonic for your abused e30. pm me !

Joginder's picture

Hello, I wanted to ask your personal opinion on wether to get the Wooduo 2's that are currently on Massdrop for 65 dollars or get these, as I am inexperienced with either

ljokerl's picture

Unless you want really heavy bass, go for the VSD1S. 

OliverBB's picture

Hi I was wondering how the VSD1 compares to the UE500 (I own a set) which seems to have decent bass impact, a slight v curve, and good treble. Are they quite similiar? I just don't want to purchase something that is similar to what I have. Review has me intrigued. 

Thanks!  

ljokerl's picture

They are indeed similar but the VSD1S is going to have tighter bass and not as much of a v-shape overall due to better midrange presence (especially in the upper midrange). It's a more accurate earphone. 

OliverBB's picture

Seriously considering the VSD1S now. It's almost a no brainer considering the price. Oh and nice list of albums above (good call on Capt Beyond!) 

ljokerl's picture

It's an incredibly diverse album, I think that's how it stays fresh on every listen.

Enjoy the VSD1S!

OliverBB's picture

The two-fer of Frozen Over with transition into Thousand Days of Yesterdays is worth admission alone!

enjr's picture

wow that's alot of vs :D sorry about that.

firstly about urban ears, i have read your reviews and a couple of others. but one thing is not clear: do they sound dark? what is their overall sound signature like? and some say bass is not tight but warm. what does that mean? does it mean full bodied? are they full bodied if you consider all regions (bass mid treble)?

about gr02, some say they are very fun to listen to, a great bang for buck. are they for you?

you said vc02 and re-400 is pretty much the same considering only the sound quality if you don't care about the fact that vc02 is more sibilant prone and thin sounding. but it is not right to compare them since their overall sound signature differs.

and what about gr04 and gr06?

long story short, i am looking for a giant killer. which one is it?

and thank you alot btw, i learned alot from you. i really appreciate your work.

ljokerl's picture

but I think you mean Ultimate Ears, as in UE600, not urban ears. It's a neutral, slightly mid-centric sound. I wouldn't call it dark or warm. It's also not as thin as many other BA sets, which might lead to people calling it "not tight".

The UE600 doesn't sound like anything I've heard from the VSonic. I've never tried the GR04 but as for the rest of the VSonics, it goes like this-

GR02 Bass Edition: Most bass of the VSonic sets, overall v-shaped profile with more recessed mids comapred to the others. Has typical VSonic sibilance. Good if you like heavier bass and/or a more v-shaped sound; otherwise just go for one of the newer ones.

VC02: Least bass of the VSonic sets, flattest but also brightest overall. Has a little less of the typical VSonic sibilance. Good if you prioritize clarity and don't want any bass enhancement but I wouldn't recommend it over the VSD1S for the average listener.

GR06: Has a little less bass than VSD1/VSD1S but more than VC02. Has the most forward mids. Not a model I recommend with the cheaper VSD1S around.

VSD1S: in my opinion the best compromise between all of the above and the highest performer overall. A little more forgiving of sibilance than the others and has a healthy amount of bass.

Long story short (not really) - get the VSD1/VSD1S unless one of the other sets strongly fits your specific preference. 

enjr's picture

when you compared them all like that. thank you alot for that :)

the headphone i want is open, crisp, analytical (but not too much), detailed, colorless, with relatively strong harmonics but not owerpowered except for lower-mid and upper-bass region, with a good transient response, and with an average soundstage with good presence but despite all that it achieves to sound overall neutral.

from what i have read so far, vsonic vc02 seems like a sensible choice but i think my superlux hd668b can do what vc02 does (has very similar sound signature if i read it correctly) so i think i should just follow your advice and buy vsd1s.

by the way, which headphones/iems comes to your mind when you read what i want from a headphone?

ljokerl's picture

the JHAudio JH13 Pro...

enjr's picture

yeah, i know i described the perfect sounding headphone. and you gave me one. but there are alot of terms that are used in reviews on internet and forums. it is inevitable that some of them are used wrong. that makes it more complicated that i can't even comprehend the reviews. that's why i tried to use the right terms. though i am not sure i did.

thank you for your time.

bladerunner6's picture

Thanks for the great work on the review and the thorough analysis.

My niece (13) listens to a lot of 80's and 90's pop and some newer stuff like Lady Gaga.

She has expressed an interest in comfort and isolation.

I was leaning towards getting her the VC02 but would one of these be a better selection for her?

Thanks.

ljokerl's picture

...bass might be the first and last thing they look at from an in-ear. These new VSonics deliver more of it than the VC02 without sacrificing much on the clarity front, which to me is a definite win. 

There is a bigger reason to stay away from the VC02, though - the detachable cable system on those can be quirky. Once or twice I erronerously pulled them out of my ears by the cable and ended up with cable in hand and driver in ear. It's defintely something an enthuasist can live with but for the general public it's less than ideal. 

If you're worried about the odd shape of the VSD1/VSD1S, check out also the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear (not the Pro model, but the regular one). I reviewed these on Head-Fi and they left me very impressed on all fronts. They have more bass than the VC02 and sound warmer but the clarity is still very impressive and they're nicely balanced overall. For $50 they're another solid buy. 

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