I've been a fan of headphones and in ear monitors for the last 3 years and been searching for the best sound quality under a specific price range. 

Being just a budget-fi, I've had Bass Monster with Above Average Sound Quality ($20) VSONIC GR99 and last year’s budget king ($60) VSONIC GR06. I tried the mid-fi king ($150) VSONIC GR07; Dual Armature based ($180) GR01. I do believe that at that moment they have the best sound quality in that price point regardless of brand.

VSONIC is an OEM maker of IEM’s for popular audio brands across the globe. While they are relatively unknown to most people, they are extremely popular in the world of audiophiles especially in the last couple of years for providing the sound quality and good build unheard of before in their respective price point. Here are some of their popular products: VSONIC GR07, GR01, GR06, GR02 and GR99.

Last January 18, 2013, after a week of contemplating based from what I have been reading at head-fi.org, I bought the recently released VSONIC VC02; which seems to be amazingly good for the price point. I jumped into the hype train because they’ve been comparing it to other expensive gears which costs up to 10x of its price like Sennheiser IE80 (P18,000), Brainwavz B2 (P7,000.00), UE700 ($150), Sony EX600 ($199) and etc. Even if it’s only 80-90% as good as the said IEM’s, pricewise it’s really an amazing deal.

Best IEM under $60 with Tiny Body and Amazing Sound - Vsonic VC02
VSONIC VC02 Actual unit after almost 6 months

Review

I’m writing as a normal listener and here are my honest, personal, subjective experiences and opinions with VSONIC VC02 after more than 5 months of having the item.

Specifications

  • Impedance: 24 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB
  • Frequency Range: 10Hz to 20000Hz
  • Cable Length: 1.3m
  • Plug: 3.5mm
  • Cable: Detachable 2 Pin TPU Silver Coated Cable
  • Driver | Speaker: 3mm micro dynamic
  • Price: P 1,499 (Introductory Price) from psp_accessories26 of TPC | $60 Online

Specs wise, I’m very much impressed by the way VSONIC has packaged this item. It is rare to see a budget IEM with silver coated cables (silver cables alone could cost around $50 – a whopping $2000!!!). Another notable thing is that they use TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) for its cable coating. What is even more impressive with this unit is the “detachable 2-pin cable”, a feature relatively unknown at this price range.

It currently holds the world record of the smallest micro dynamic driver / speaker at 3mm which is an innovation in the world of IEM’s.

Accessories

  • Ear tips: Single-Flange Tips: 3 Sizes Colored-Sony Hybrid Style: 7 Sizes and Color Bi-Flange:  1 size (Medium)
  • Shirt Clip 
  • Velvet like Carrying Pouch

Excitement! That’s what I felt when I saw the VC02. I’m one of the first people in the Philippines to own VC02 and also the first to post it at headphiles (our local audiophile forum) to spread the good news. Straight from the box, it looked very classy compared to other consumer grade IEM’s.

Best IEM under $60 with Tiny Body and Amazing Sound - Vsonic VC02
Ear tips + Shirt Clip (Photo Credit to www.lendmeurears.com)
I lost some of my tips and haven’t documented it. :(((
With the variety of ear-tips included in that package, it will give us users the proper acoustic seal (for best sound quality) and isolation we desire. The colorful tips really made it an eye candy as well.

Actual box I have
VSONIC is always generous for giving us this type of accessory package compared to other manufacturers.

Build Quality

Build quality is a strong point of this IEM because it carries a well machined / engineered metal body which I believe is aluminum. At first, I doubted its cables due to its thinness (I’m used to thicker cables like VSONIC GR06’s and braided cables like Meelectronics A151’s). My confidence grew after I found out that the coating used is Thermoplastic Polyurethane which makes the cables durable, flexible, soft, vibration / friction proof and chemical resistant.

After almost 6 months of daily use, I’m pretty confident that the build is really solid! I’ve accidentally pulled the cables with force and dropped the unit several times (I even accidentally dropped it in a glass of coke and as a result of my stupidity, the sound of my right speaker weakened but when I blow dried it the sound was back to normal.). My unit has still no visible scratches and still looks new.

The CONS’ of its build is that the detachable driver can come off easily, it has no cable cinch and it is microphonic when worn straight down. (Solution to microphonics is wear it over-ear or use the shirt clip)

Best IEM under $60 with Tiny Body and Amazing Sound - Vsonic VC02
Actual unit I have (Detached)
Sound Quality

Based on my personal experiences, I can say that this unit is it lived up to its hype; the sound is very clear and non-fatiguing. With no doubt, this IEM has the best clarity and balance I’ve heard at this price range. Bass is just right and not overwhelming; it reaches deep when needed and gives the right amount of rumble. It doesn’t overdo bass like regular consumer headphones. Soundstage is average and has that “in front of you presentation”. It has some of the characteristics of BA (Balanced Armature IEM) because of its accuracy and speed; VC02’s sounded like a BA with bass. Highs are crisp and extended, Lows are decent enough, and Mids is its strongest point.

It excels in almost every genre especially with Live Music, Acoustic and Jazz. It also has the bass quality to keep up with EDM, Hip-hop and POP.

Its pure bliss when listening to NINA Live Album, Zia Quizon, Nirvana, Bruno Mars, Dio, South Border Live, Freestyle Live, Norah Jones Live, Dream Theater Live and even Justin Beiber Live Acoustic (Yes folks I know Justin Bieber sucks but this IEM made wonders to his supposedly “horrible music” Hahahahahaha) @ FLAC & MP3 320kbps.

Though VC02 is still not as a capable like its pricier siblings in GR07 and GR01, it is not that left behind in terms of sound quality considering its very low price.

According to Rinchoi’s blog, its frequency looks very balanced. He even sighted that the frequency is very similar to ($150) UE700 which is really more expensive than VC02.

Best IEM under $60 with Tiny Body and Amazing Sound - Vsonic VC02
VC02’s fresh from the box
Compared to other IEMS...

Soundmagic ES18 ($15) - If the category is the best IEM under $20, ES18 is one of the best performers because its 80-90% of an E10M, but when compared to VC02, it’s like night and day.

Superlux HD 386 ($15) - Another no brainer which is better here; Sound Quality and Build Wise, again if the category is the best IEM under $20 they’re a contender.

VSONIC GR99 ($20) - To my ears, this is the best IEM under $20 but when compared to VC02, the lack of presentation and instrumental separation would be noticed, as well as clarity.

Brainwavz Beta ($25) - Another solid IEM for the price and good overall performer but won’t match the level of VC02 in SQ, Build and Isolation. It is only better in soundstage because it’s wider due to its semi-open design.

Soundmagic E10M ($40) - Soundmagic E10M is a very solid and award winning IEM for the price but when compared to VC02 it sounded muddy and defeated in details, accuracy and balance. Soundstage of E10M is slightly bigger and it’s bass heavier.

Soundmagic E30 ($40) - It’s the clarity and balanced version of E10M but its clarity is still nothing compared to VC02, its texture, balance, detail and accuracy is also ahead from E30 by a mile.

VSONIC GR06 ($65) - Now we have a match. It’s all about preferences at this point. If you prefer a warmer and smoother signature, deeper bass and a bit wider staging, plus thicker cables and over-ear design, then GR06 will work for you.  If you’re all about accuracy, detail, separation, balance, clarity and value) then VC02 is a better choice. VC02’s are $25 cheaper than GR06 with better or equal SQ (depends on preference).

Hisound Popo ($65) - I don’t have this unit but my friend has it. I used to borrow it before because I really like its bass and soundstage. From what I remember, VC02 is better everywhere else except bass, lows and soundstage. Popo is bass head’s dream come true IEM and very good for EDM and Hip-hop.

Meelectronics A151 ($75) - A151 is a BA IEM which is accurate and clear. VC02 is on par with that but is better in other details like bass, instrumental separation and vocals. It is unusual for a dynamic IEM (VC02) to be better than a BA in that department.

Beats by Dre Tour ($150) - LOL

Burn-in

It is said to have at least 100 hours to reach its full potential (I know some would call burn in a myth even it’s been a practice by most audiophiles now). I've noticed some differences based on personal experience; soundstage is a bit wider now, hiss is almost non-existent and instrumental separation is better. Some say VC02’s needed 300 hours because of its silver coated cables. My unit had over 1000 hours and to my ears it’s better now like a fine wine.

Best IEM under $60 with Tiny Body and Amazing Sound - Vsonic VC02
VC02’s Burn – In Note
(Sorry the crappy photo and to those who can’t read 
Chinese, don’t worry guys I also can’t LOL)
Tuning

According to Rinchoi’s blog, VC02’s polarity is inverted.

Some say, they could hardly hear a difference with polarities inverted. Some say, they’re hardly noticeable. In my case, based on my personal debatable experience, when VC02’s logo are placed upside down they sounded better treble wise, clearer and slightly larger soundstage; when the logo is placed in its normal mode the sound became a bit darker and a little bassier with less soundstage.
Isolation and Comfort

VC02’s isolates very well; they could isolate 25-35 dB that I could hardly hear anything from outside with the small single flange hybrid tip and especially with the proprietary tri-flange. Just choose your right tips that will give you the best seal and comfort. It is very comfortable to the point that I even forget that I’m wearing it.

Amplification

It doesn't really need amping, but if you want to increase its volume, improve its sound further and equalize it, you can amp it.

Mod - Update

Best IEM under $60 with Tiny Body and Amazing Sound - Vsonic VC02
I used the smallest eartips as the body holder of vc02
Best IEM under $60 with Tiny Body and Amazing Sound - Vsonic VC02
it's actually a good lock
VC02 can come off too easily, fortunately there is a good solution to it. Just use the smallest eartips as a lock.

Verdict

VC02’s is a steal at this price! It’s a must have for budding audiophiles and to those who wanted to hear music just right for a very minimal wallet bleed. Clarity is amazing and everything is just right. It’s an amazing step-up to those coming from stock white ear buds and IEM’s and an upgrade to those who have IEMS below $60. Okay I maybe a VSONIC fan boy, but I’m confident to say it is really that good considering the price.

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