Guideray GR-i 18 Review - Budget IEM

Guideray GR-i18 review

The third earphone in the latest round of earphones we are reviewing at around the $50 mark is the Guideray GR-i, and this is yet another good one. I think most people would have hoped the KZ ZSX to be the kings at this price, but there is something about how these earphones sound as well as the total package that seems outstanding value to me.

Specification

Model: GR-i Series GR-i18/GR-i58/GR-i68

Color: Purple/ Blue/Black

Impedance: 19 Ohm

Sensitivity: 100dB

Frequency Response: 20- 20K Hz

Cable Metarial: Single Crystal SPC Wire

Cable Length: 1.25m

Termination: 3.5mm Gold-Plated

Plug: 0.78mm 2Pin

Packaging and Accessories

Guideray GR-i18 review
Guideray GR-i18 review
Guideray GR-i18 review

The packaging is nothing to write home about but its simplicity is something that keeps the costs down. It’s not meant to be a premium offering and every penny that a company can save on a box and put back into the performance of the earphones is ok with me. Its a simple affair with some Guideray branding and it gets the job done in ensuring they arrive safely at your door.

The accessories are equally sparse with bo carry case or anything extra in the case. It’s just the earphones, the cable, and some tips. The tips are fine and get the job done, but I would switch them out for some Final E Series or Spinfits to get the most out of them. It makes them easier to seal and keeps that bass full and present.

Being another cheap set of earphones, I had expected that the Guideray would suffer from having the terrible generic KZ cable that seems to be doing the rounds. Actually, the one that comes included with the GRi is not half bad. It is a nice tight braid pattern that is reasonably supple and resistant to tangles — quite a surprise at this price point and a welcome one at that.

Build Quality and Styling

Guideray GR-i18 review

The printed resin shell earphones are a staple of the Chinese HiFi movement in 2019 and for a good reason. The housings are good quality, inexpensive to make and can be adjusted to take a wide variety of driver configurations. The other good thing is that with this method, manufacturers can play about with their designs and offer a range of body colors and faceplates. Guideway offers the GR-i in 3 different combinations with a pink, blue, and black colorway available to suit your preference.

The shells themselves are well made and free of any defects. They don’t feel as dense or premium as something like the Fearless Audio Roland. They won’t have the strength of metal body IEM’s such as the TRN V90 and Blon BL 03. As such, you should handle them with a little extra care and store them correctly to prevent them from getting crushed. Other than that, through experience, I know that these sort of IEM’s hold up well.

Of course, the longevity of the IEM’s gets further extended by the removable cables. Cables are usually one of the first points of failure on any earphone. Here it’s nice to know if something does go wrong you can switch them out with an aftermarket model.

If there were one change I would make to the design it would be to switch the two-pin ports for an MMCX. Barring that I would have at least liked to have seen the two-pin being recessed into the IEM body.

Comfort and isolation

The GR-i has a medium depth insertion, and that means that they are both comfortable and decent at isolating you from external noise. They won’t offer Etymotic levels of isolation, but they work well in separating you from your environment and giving you some much-deserved peace.

Changing the ear tips out to the E Series makes it much easier for me to get a good seal with these earphones. When inserted, they were so small and light they seemed to disappear into the ears. They were by all accounts a very comfortable earphone and streaks ahead of anything that KZ has on the market right now.

In case you were wondering the casing sits either inside or flush to my ears and as such, I found these Guideray earphones reasonably easy to sleep with for short periods.

Sound Quality

Guideray GR-i18 review

This is where the Guideray GR-i come into their own and where they start to outperform their price tag. These are a super fun earphone to listen to. One you can sit back and enjoy your music with and one that might not be perfect, but it does so much right it’s easy to forget they clock in at under $100.

Its a V-shaped sound signature with elevated highs and lows but unlike many other V’s the midrange does not feel like its overtly lacking. It has just enough clarity in the highs and mids to play of against the enhanced low end. When you combine that with the warm and almost lush tones, it is just a pleasant listen.

No this is not going to be an earphone for purists who are looking to pick apart the technicalities of a track. It is more for people who want to listen for enjoyment and to relax. It does well enough technically to impress, and while it may still be a master of none, it doesn’t have any glaring faults. I like this a lot, and I think it represents excellent value when it comes purely down to listening pleasure.

Guideray GR-i18 review

The Highs - the highs have an energy to them but not a sibilant one. They are eleveated in their presentation but are also rolled off at the very top. So even though this is one of the more prominent points of the sound of the GR-i, they remain smooth and pleasant. Full of energy and there is also quite a bit of detail to be puled out of them. The lack the spacing that you get in higher-end IEM’s and thus the soundstage suffers a little bit as a whole its an excellent performance from the treble.

The Midrange - Despite as I mentioned being V-shaped in nature, the midrange is really good, and that’s because of the V kind of puts the upper and lower mids in a nice place. Its only slap bang in the middle of the frequency bar that we see a recession. The BA is doing a nice job here for a single unit, and it puts out details well and doesn’t get swamped by the low end of the dynamic driver. It is tuned to the warm side and sounds energetic and musical. Vocals and guitars come across nicely and are have enough weight to them to engage the listener in the experience.

The Lows - The bass is elevated and entirely controlled by the dynamic driver. Its get sufficiently deep as well with some ability to extend to sub-bass without too much distortion. Surprisingly despite that, it also has good speed to it as well as texture. It’s not refined enough to accurately portray jazz or classical but for bass-centric music like pop, hip-hop and EDM it performs admirable and never seems to overwhelm the midrange or treble. Instead, it plays off that treble to provide excellent energy while still adding a lot of presence to the earphones signature.

The soundstage is decent. It’s not an out the head experience and delivers some more with than depth. It never felt closed in or stuffy but some more sharpness in the top end may open that up a little.

Imaging and detail were also above average for the price point, and despite having just one balanced armature, I never found it to be lacking relative to the similarly priced competition.

Conclusion

The Guideray GR-i is a simple earphone. They don’t go overboard on the driver number and yet they still manage to produce a very good sounding earphone. I’m glad that they went the musical route with the tuning because ultimately I want to listen and enjoy my music. Of the three earphones that came to me in this price range, this was the one I was least excited about, but it ended up being the winner. Not based on technical performance but on the sheer level of enjoyment, I got out of them when listening. A good sounding versatile earphone that I can recommend for the price.

The Guideray GR-i are available to buy now at Amazon and Linsoul.com