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Review of VSonic VSD3S / VSD3 in-ear headphones with removable cable w/lots of pics!

This is a review of VSonic VSD3S in-ear headphones. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LL4C48K

As my recent reviews of sub $100 headphones indicated, you don't have to spend a fortune to get a high quality sound. But one thing that's lacking with a number of these budget headphones is a design and a build quality. I don't think it's even a matter of cutting corners, but rather a matter of setting a priority where some companies put sound quality ahead of the design details. This becomes evident in designs with bland cylindrical or other exotic shapes that look good in photoshopped pictures but hurt your ears when you put these in. And when you think of the weakest point in a design, the wire attachment to headphones where it breaks first, removable cables is often an option found in more expensive models. That is why it's a rare combination to have a headphone in sub $60 price range with a great design ergonomics and removable cable. If you add a fine tuned sound on top of it, you are looking at the new VSonic VSD3S model I would like to share with you about in my review.

Arrived in a compact box, it wasn't too flashy but still had a nice top display presentation to reveal these VSD3S beauties. VSonic announced release of two VSD models, "3S" available now and "3" to follow soon (most likely already available at the moment of me writing this review). Everywhere on the box you will find a reference to VSD-3, and there is only a small sticker in the corner of plastic top display with "VSD3S" label. Another interesting detail, while most of the other vendors like to put specs on the back of the package, here VSonic presented a picture of professional recording studio with additional description to reinforce their philosophy of "tone quality" being the most important aspect of their design. I will talk more about the sound later in my review, but as a teaser - these don't disappoint!!!

Out of the box, you can't help but notice the shape of VSD3S earpieces. These are designed for over-the-ear wire fitment with a shape which resembles easy-fit ergonomics found in flagship models of Shure and Westone. To distinguish themselves, beside a tinted translucent finish, the outside of the housing surface has a unique diamond cut facets design. To take it to the next level, VSonic also included detachable cables using MMCX connector. Before you get too excited, unfortunately it doesn't have a common MMCX design but rather a modified version of it. Fortunately, you no longer have to worry about throwing your headphones away if you break the wire, and VSonic already working on replacement cables where I hope an option with in-line remote will be offered as well. If not, I'm sure we are going to see it from other after-market places, like lunashops.

The cable itself has quality OFC wires and a nice soft translucent jacket. Cables are easy to manage and wrap without being springy or having a memory effect which comes handy for behind the ear fitment where together with a chin slider adjustment I didn't need to use ear-hook guides. But those guides are still included as part of the accessories package. In addition to those, you also get a generous selection of eartips with S/M/L silicone tips, a pair of double-flange tips, and a pair of soft foam tips similar to Comply but softer. Also, they included a velvet draw-string storage pouch. Furthermore, the translucent theme is carried over to a chin slider piece, y-splitter, and even a clear strain relief of the straight slim 3.5mm jack.

As I mentioned before, VSonic was very clear about importance of sound quality in their headphones. The main sound signature is definitely a balanced bright full body sound with a nice separation/layering. Starting with a bass, I wouldn't call these a bass monsters, but they have a great low end extension and clear separation of rich sub-bass texture and rounded (not as aggressive) mid-bass punch. Bass is very articulate and well controlled without spilling into lower mids. Mids sound bright and detailed. Along with a crisp extended treble in some songs it could get closer to sibilance level, but never crossed that threshold and was always easy on my ears for extended listening period. I do have to mention this upper mids brightness adds a little artificial quality to vocals, but it's just a matter of personal taste. The soundstage of VSD3S is wider than average and has a nice depth to it with a decent imaging. VSD3S was very easy to drive from any source I tested, and I actually found it to be forgiving playing some of my lesser quality mp3s. No microphonics effect was detected either.

Overall, I think VSonic raised a bar to another level with their new VSD3S release where they paid as much attention to a sound quality as to a design details borrowing popular elements previously found in more expensive headphones. Everything from a comfortable earpiece fitment to removable cables (though, proprietary connector), and a great balanced sound with a rich detailed bass and clear bright mids/treble is an indication of a hard work put into this release. Of course, we all have our own sound preferences and some might want to tame down brightness or to boost mid-bass quantity, but if you are dealing with a poor fitment design and stuck with low quality attached cables - nothing could be adjusted to fix that. Here, you have a great in-ear fitment and flexibility of removable cables to extend longevity of these headphones. I'm sure VSD3 model will have a slightly different sound signature, and I'm looking forward to review it as well, but at the current moment VSD3S will hit a sweet spot with a lot of people who value a quality sound and want to have headphones that look as good as they sound!

Here are the pictures.

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#1 twister6, Jul 14, 2014
With introduction of VSD3/3S replacement cable, I figured to take a closer look at their official silver-plated cable and give you my thoughts about it.

Available as standalone purchase, you can get it for about $32 plus change: VSONIC Upgraded Cable

Also available as an add-on upgrade for only $15 when you purchase either VSD3 (VSONIC VSD3) or VSD3S (VSONIC VSD3S) for $45 each (black version; with color versions costing a bit more). This way, when you buy either of these VSD3 or VSD3S IEMs from Penonaudio for $45 (black) + $15 you will get the original cable and replacement silver-plated cable.

Per link references above, my cable arrived from Penonaudio and just like every other product from them it was packaged very well. Despite this being just a cable, they still took their time to put it in separate ziplok bag and a sturdy box. Out of the box, the cable looks identical to the original VSonic cable except for a shield color which is clear/silver to signify the difference in wire material. It has the same straight slim headphone connector, a translucent small y-splitter with a cable cinch, and a small molded connector housing (where it's next to impossible to see L/R marking). The cable itself is softer in comparison to the first and even the second batches of VSD3/3S cables, and feels a bit more rubbery. Also, the cable arrived in VSonic velour draw string storage bag, the same used in VSD3/3S packaging. Overall, build quality of the cable was exactly the same as the original cable.

So what kind of improvement in sound quality should you expect? I have tested a number of replacement OFC/OCC and silver-plated cables in the past, so have a pretty good idea of what level of improvement you can expect with a quality cable. I don't want to start an argument about enhanced purity of wires and how they affect the sound, but do want to mention - headphone cable is a wire, and wire does NOT enhance the sound. Depending on the purity of the wire material you will be able to hear more or less details from your audio source. Cheap copper wire will have more impurities, thus you will have higher level of signal degradation. OFC or OCC wires will have higher level of purity depending on their manufacturing process, and you will have less degradation. Degradation itself could be VERY subtle and not even noticeable in some cases. So, let's just leave it at that :) and agree that everybody will hear improvement on a different level and sometime extra money spent doesn't justify a sound improvement.

With that out of the way, let me tell you what I'm hearing using VSD3 and VSD3S when switching original cable and this silver plated replacement cable. First of all, the change it very consistent between VSD3 and VSD3S using original cable and replacement cable while testing with a same source (I used AP100 with a few 320kbps mp3s). Overall the change/improvement was rather subtle. Without a doubt, the sound does get a little bit brighter, but not on the same level as I tested before with other silver-plated OFC cables (other headphones/connectors). The biggest audible change was in sub-/mid-bass where low end felt more detailed and a bit tighter - just my perception.

In my honest opinion, I don't think VSonic used a high quality 5N purity (99.999%) silver plated OFC wires because improvement would have been more significant. Don't get me wrong, there is AN IMPROVEMENT but not on a level of other 5N silver-plated OFC cables I have tested in the past. So what does this mean? For $15 as an add-on replacement cable it's a MUST HAVE purchase because you will have a second set of the cable which you can use with VSD3 or VSD3S and perhaps upcoming VSD5 or VSD7 (assuming they will use the same modified non-standard mmcx connector). Plus, you get a subtle improvement in sound quality! Also, if you purchased your VSD3/3S from the first original batch, those cables were of inferior quality with not so great connector coating. For some people, this could be a worth while investment of $32 to fix their cable, though for $15 as an add-on this is a no brainer!!!

Here are the close up pictures with VSD3 (black) and VSD3S (blue/red) (click to enlarge):

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Furthermore, I also got another cable from Penonaudio, 3.5MM to 3.5MM Audio Extension Cable - the extension 3.5mm cable. I thought some might be interested in my quick impression.

Often when listening to my headphones from laptop I wish the cable would be a little bit longer for a more comfort. Especially when I use my external usb DAC (E10k) placed out of the way where I have to reach out with headphones. There are plenty of extension 3.5mm cables you can find on the web for under $5, but most of the ones I got from ebay doesn't last too long and use poor quality wires. What makes this cable stand out from a crowd is very high quality build, with 24k gold plated durable connectors, and 4N OFC (99.99% purity) cables. The cable is not too thick or too thin, has a high density shielding and still remains relatively flexible. What is most important, I run a test with VSD3 and AP100 with and without this extension cable, and it sounds the SAME!!! There is no degradation in sound quality as you would find with other cheap 3.5mm audio extension cables. So, I would definitely recommend this one if you are looking for audio extension cable, which is also not a bad deal for under $10.

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge).

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#2 twister6, Oct 17, 2014
This is very informative. Thank you. I take it it's not just exclusive for android phones right?
 
#3 Justin01, Oct 21, 2014
Of course, it's a universal headphone with a standard 3.5mm jack.
 
#4 twister6, Oct 22, 2014
Per my original VSonic VSD3S review above, I would like to post an update since VSonic released a new blue + red version of their VSD3S headphones. It's an identical pair in design and sound signature as the original black version I reviewed above, but has two different translucent colors where cleverly a Red is used to distinguish Right side earpiece.

It's available for purchase: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L4EZ7OA

Here are the pictures:

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#5 twister6, Oct 31, 2014
This is a review and comparison of VSonic VSD3 and VSD3S in-ear headphones. VSonic VSD3 is available: Amazon.com: VSONIC VSD3 Black High Fidelity Professional Quality Stereo Inner-Ear Earphones: Electronics

VSonic's VSD3S set a high bar with its performance, design, removable cable, and a very reasonable pricing. I was very impressed with these and also mentioned in my review that another VSD3 version is about to be released. Similar to VSD1/VSD1S as well as variations of their other models, VSonic is well known for changing a sound signature of headphones by re-tuning their drivers while keeping the same or similar housing. I'm not talking about a subtle difference, but a very noticeable change which you can't achieve by tip rolling (switching to different eartips) or playing around with filter removal or closing ports in the shell. Here is what I found when I received my review unit of VSD3 model.

For starters, the packaging was a carbon copy between VSD3S and VSD3. As a matter of fact, the original label under the top plastic cover says "VSD3" in both packages. What distinguishes one from the other before taking it out of the box is a small sticker on each side holding the cover down where it will have a red print of either "VSD3S" or "VSD3". Out of the box, you get the same velour drawstring storage bag, the same earhooks for over-ear wire fitment, and the same amount of eartips with single flange silicone set (S/M/L), a double flange pair, and my favorite - foam pair (more user friendly than Comply). VSD3S came with a pair of gray foam tips, while these were black, and I also seen other VSD3S packages that came with either gray or black pair of foamies.

The look of the earpiece housing was identical, with a very unique diamond facelet cut surface and ergonomic shape optimized for over the ear wire fitment. Though earhooks were included, I find them unnecessary since wire is soft and goes easily over your ear where included chin slider (wire cinch) assists even further by keeping wires together. Now, speaking for wires, those are removable and have the same MMCX connector which is proprietary to VSonic (not the same used with Shure, Westone, and UE IEMs). Both headphones have the same wires with a matching translucent y-splitter and straight slim 3.5mm headphone connector. Also, VSD3S model has "S" mark on its right earpiece.

When it comes to a sound, I found VSD3 to have a different sound signature. A lot of the times people ask me "which one sounds better" in reference to different headphones. There are some headphones that doesn't sound good, and I try to skip those reviews. Other headphones, that I enjoy, sound different relative to each other. We all have different sound preferences, and what one finds as great someone else might not agree with. I liked the sound of VSD3S, but I LOVE the sound of VSD3!!! It doesn't make VSD3S worse, but rather my preference is more toward a sound signature of VSD3 because I like aggressive sound! VSD3 has a balanced sound signature with a hard hitting punch which is definitely my cup of tea!

Starting with a bass, you get a deep sub-bass extension with a nice rumbling texture, very similar to VSD3S. But when you move on to mid-bass, it's faster and more aggressive in comparison to laid back mid-bass found in VSD3S. Low frequencies are under control and confined within its space without spilling into lower mids. Upper mids is where you find another big difference, and in my opinion it's a step up from VSD3S where I previously found mids to be brighter and thinner and a bit recessed. In VSD3, mids are more balanced, not as v-shaped, sounds warmer and with a fuller body, and still have a lot of clarity and details. Treble is well extended and crisp, very similar between VSD3S and VSD3 models. I also found soundstage to have similar width and depth, in my opinion above the average, though brighter upper mids/lower treble of VSD3S gives it a slightly wider perception. Similarly to each other, both models were quite forgiving with poorly encoded audio and were easily driven from a smartphone or DAP without a need for any extra amplification.

Looking at VSD3S vs VSD3 made me actually think of a similar comparison I did with KC06 vs KC06A where improvement between those models were alike to VSD3x. With that in mind, I thought to put VSD3 next to KC06A and found they have a very similar sub-bass and mid-bass, both with aggressive punch and fast attack. But VSD3 upper mids had a fuller body with a smoother and warmer sound which I found to be more natural. Also, VSD3 had a much better soundstage, especially in depth. By the same token, looking at VSD3 versus T1E, I found T1E to have more sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass impact, and again I found VSD3 upper mids to be warmer, smoother, more detailed, and not as recessed as T1E, though soundstage was wider in T1E. Throwing B3 Pro I into the mix revealed that VDS3 has more sub-bass, more mid-bass, but Havi's soundstage was wider and upper mids a little bit brighter with more clarity.

Overall, I was very impressed by a sound signature of VSD3, and these headphones quickly went up to the top of my favorite IEM list. Of course, as I mentioned before, this is all matter of a personal taste where you might prefer another pair with a bigger bass or more analytical brighter sound, etc. But after switching between all my sub $100 "budget" IEMs, I was keep coming back to VDS3 because of its bass with just a perfect quantity and balance between sub-bass texture and mid-bass punch, and lush full bodied upper mids with a smooth delivery of vocals. These definitely get my VERY high recommendation!

Here are the pictures.

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#6 twister6, Oct 31, 2014
Hi, greetings from Argentina! Hope you can help me to save my doubts.

I am looking for some in ear headphones that last for a long time. I emphatize the duration because I have already had a pair of Monster Ncredible Nergy (in ear) and Beyerdynamic Dt 60 pro, and them both broke down. The problem, (I think) was the cable, it started to fail in both of the headphones, and finally stopped working.

Due to my previous problems, I am looking for some headphones with detachable cables, so if they break, I can replace them. Also I want great sound, volume and track control, and comfort. All that under 100 dollars. I will use them in the street, to travel, at home, and to play the drums, all with my cellphone.

I didn´t find much in my country internet market, but the ones that suit the most to my conditions were the Vsonic Vsd3 and Beyerdynamic Idx 160 IE.

About the Vsonic Vsd3, the main advantage I see in them is the detachable/replaceable cable. However, the only thing that makes them not be perfect is that they don´t have a volume/track control in the cable. Is there any option of a cable to buy appart that has volume/track control? So I can buy it and use it with these headphones.

On the other hand, the Beyerdynamic Idx 160 IE. I took them into account, although they don´t have detachable cable, because they have a short cable, connected to a longer one, so I thought "if it breaks, it must be on the long part, not the short one" (I hope so haha). And these ones, they have volume/track control, so they suit to another requirement that I want.

Can you give me your opinion on these headphones so I can finally take a decision? I don´t know which one to choose, as they both have their pros and cons.

Please help me, thank you so much.
 
#7 Federico Williner, Feb 2, 2016
Oh I forgot, is the Vsonic Vsd3 cable, the same one that suits the Shure SE215? Thank you.
 
#8 Federico Williner, Feb 2, 2016
no VSD3 cable is different from a standard mmcx cable used in Shure/Westone and other IEMs. As a matter of fact, VSonic had so much problem with this detachable cable, they discontinued this version and released a new one with NON-detachable cable.

If you have to choose between these two, if you want a brighter, crispier, more detailed sound go with VSD3. If you want warmer, smoother, and bassier sound - go with 160 IE.
 
#9 twister6, Feb 2, 2016
Thank you so much for your anwser, now I´ve found the Mee Audio M6 Pro, that have detachable cables too, and have remote and volume control! What can you say about them? And about the Shure SE215? Thank you so much for reading about my problems, and your answers, I´m totally in debt with you.
 
#10 Federico Williner, Feb 3, 2016
Don't have experience with either of them, but SE215 is dark and not as detailed from what I heard from others, and M6 Pro might be a lot of better and cheaper solution.
 
#11 twister6, Feb 3, 2016