The Anole VX is not a monitor that needs huge amounts of power to sound good. No, you won’t need an amplifier or high powered DAP to push it to its limits. I’m sure the VX will run just fine out of your smartphone too, but today we’re focussing on a few more audiophile-level solutions.
The VX did not pick up noticeable hissing from any of my sources, and that’s a plus in my books.
Lotoo – PAW Gold Touch
With the Lotoo you get a very detailed and precise sound with good body and emotions. It’s a good mix of technicalities and musical enjoyment. Instruments have nice realism with a natural timbre and weight. They are separated with sharpness and good amounts of air surrounding them. The background is very dark, musicians stand out clearly from that.
The PAW Gold Touch delivers excellent details and high transparency into the VX. Bass is tight and well formed, dynamic and fast. Midrange is organic, rich and has the right note size in my opinion. Vocals are emotional and sound superbly engaging. The sound stage is spread in great dimensions, it’s well organized and structured. Imaging and stereo separation are spot on.
Astell&Kern – SP1000
The SP1000 has just been replaced as AK’s flagship product by the SP2000, which should become available to buy soon. The SPK still is one of the very best sounding DAPs I know, and whenever I go back to it I am amazed by its quality.
With this pairing you get superb instrumental separation, a wide and deep sound stage and imaging with perfection. There is great body in every note and instrument, the sound is very precise and detailed with heaps of resolution. However, musical enjoyment does not come short here. Instruments have excellent resolution, texture and air around them. The sound is realistic and sports a high PrAT factor.
You get a spacious sound, where instruments stand solidly on a deep dark background. Musicians are portrayed in spotlight with excellent contouring. Bass is deep and tight, with good rumble and drive. It’s dynamic and has wonderful texture. Mids are airy and transparent, but with nice weight and an organic sound. Treble is soft, articulate and shimmers nicely but is never sharp or hard.
Chord Electronics – Hugo2
The Hugo2 is probably one of my favourite products of all. It is able to run any of my headphones or IEMs. With the British FPGA loaded DAC/Amp you get incredible resolution, layering and separation. The sound stage is nicely holographic and makes you feel like you’re in the middle of it all. Hugo2 is one of the highest performing products in terms of technical delivery. Imaging is one of those points that just doesn’t get any better than this. Every note and every beep is oh so easy to pin-point.
You get a tight and well controlled bass, that’s full and fast. A midrange that’s harmonic, organic and overall sports high emotions and perfect blood in its veins. Instruments sound realistic, have good body and the right weight. Vocals have good density and richness in them. Treble is somewhat conflicting. People with a lower tolerance for treble energy might not be best suited here. The Hugo2 does have a tendency to brightness and with the wrong pairing it can sound harsh up top. The VX does have harder edged cymbal crashes with the Chord. Mids are smooth and of high resolution. You get good body and very nice separation.
The market for flagship In Ear Monitors has gotten bigger and bigger over the last couple of months and years. Prices went up and new technologies have been released. Many companies have shifted their focus on hybrid and tri-hybrid products, while qdc refined their all BA setup. That’s not to say qdc has been sleeping though. The introduction of their latest Fusion IEM is the proof of the contrary and I hope we might even see more hybrids coming from them.
For this segment I’ll compare the Anole VX to other high end IEMs from all over the world. I cannot compare it to products I don’t have at hand, and I will also not make comparisons based on short-term listening sessions. Those are nowhere near accurate for me and don’t represent a valuable opinion. If a comparison you want to see is not in the list, you can always ask in the comments below. As long as I have that product in my possession I can add that.
Mentioned prices are for the custom build and in USD. Some companies offer their universal IEMs at a cheaper price. The Wraith only comes in universal flavour as of now. Comparisons were done using the respective stock cable. The Anole VX has been set to its standard tuning with all dip switches in the off position.
64 Audio – A18t (18BA; $ 2,999)
The A18t and Anole VX do share some similarities in my opinion, but couldn’t be more different. While they both have a nicely dynamic and airy bass, the A18t does stretch a notch deeper into sub. The VX sounds meatier and puts more weight into the lows in comparison. The qdc gives more weight to its bass and puts out a warmer lower midrange, while the A18t is more neutral.
The 64 Audio eighteen driver is a technically more potent monitor, that separates instruments sharper, has a darker background and a surgical precision. It also creates a wider sound stage. The Anole does go head-to-head with the A18t in terms of depth. It sports a more emotionally engaging signature in contrast to the super-transparent mids of the A18t. The VX has more body throughout its frequency response and comes across as slightly richer in its mids.
The A18t extends further into highs, shimmers brighter and has a faster and more agile top end. The VX to me seems a bit more laid back. Higher pitched notes sound more forward and edgier on the 18t than on the VX.
Empire Ears – Wraith (7BA/4estat; $ 3,499)
The Wraith has just been released into the wild by Empire Ears and it does sport a pretty unique signature. It’s lighter than the Anole VX, but features cleaner notes with a brighter sound. The Anole has a meatier low end compared to the lighter bass of the EE flagship. The Wraith features a tighter bound bass that has a less prominent place in the signature in contrast to the VX’s.
Anole VX has thicker notes, more body and warmer sounding lower and mid-mids. The qdc sounds like it has more flesh on its bones. The Wraith however is more precise, faster and has higher resolution than the VX. Both have excellent emotions in their vocals, and I couldn’t pick one out here as to which I’d prefer. The Wraith is slightly lighter with more air in its spectrum. It has a pitch black background and renders a finer picture. Musicians stand out more in focus on the Wraith. In complex situations it is also the EE monitor that comes out on top.
Wraith extends further into highs, has a richer and faster top end. The VX features a dryer upper treble segment, but it balances out its highs better with a more prominent and weightier low end. Which isn’t the case with the Wraith. Although the Wraith has a rich and soft treble, it can become more of an issue because of the missing low-end weight.
JH Audio – Layla (12BA; $ 2,750)
Jerry Harvey’s flagship has been around for many years now, and it is still holding the torch as his flagship. I don’t know many companies that do that, and for that the man gets my respect. Layla has only been updated in its universal form. The sound has stayed the same, but the shell has been improved from a satellite to something people can actually wear.
When comparing Layla to the Anole VX one cannot deny the fact that they have a few things in common. Both have superb body and emotions. They both have an excellent midrange that sports high levels of realism. Both models go similarly deep into sub-bass and have one of the most DD-sounding lows out there. Layla as well as Anole VX have a warmed up lower midrange and vocals to die for.
There are also differences between the two. The Anole VX has higher resolution, stretches a wider sound stage, has just a tad more precise imaging and a more connecting midrange. The VX has a darker background in my opinion, separates instruments a bit better and has a treble that is not as muted as Layla’s. The VX has better texture, captures more details and comes out with superior rendering. It has an airier presentation, where notes aren’t as heavy as Layla’s.
Treble is the part where they both differ the most in my opinion. The Anole goes wider, is more forward sounding and has superior shimmer. It’s faster, richer and more alive. The Layla sounds veiled and a bit too dark in this segment for my taste.
qdc has created a flagship monitor that definitely plays in the big leagues and rivals some of the global players. The Anole VX to me stands head-to-head with some of the industry’s finest IEMs and deserves every spotlight it can get. qdc shows us, that in spite of the recent trend of multi-driver, multi-tech hybrid flagship monitors, an all BA design can still be very competitive.
The switch-system of the Anole VX makes it a very versatile monitor. I can see many people being taken care of with it. People that enjoy a good neutralish sound, others that want more bass, vocal lovers and treble heads. They all can find what they are looking for in qdc’s Anole VX. My personal favourite is the standard setting, as I just love the balanced sound with superb body and soul.
For a long time qdc has been a hidden gem to the Western world, but now they have entered our scene, and they are here to stay.
The Anole VX directly goes up to the list of Best Custom IEMs and takes a spot in my personal favourites. Chapeau qdc, very well done.