Up until now I think it is a fair statement to say I have been mighty impressed by this quad-driver, and it was very interesting to see how it scales up against its competition. You will notice that all monitors I have compared it to are of higher price, that though does not necessarely mean it won’t be a fair fight. The contrary is the truth. Two models I always like comparing new monitors to are Campfire Audio’s Vega and Andromeda. Though they are not really partnering top models, the community likes to see them both as co-flagships, probably because they to complement each other very well. The other monitor X will have to step in the ring against is Jerry Harvey’s latest hybrid lady Lola. We will move the ladder up in price, starting with Andromeda.
Campfire Audio – Andromeda (5BA, 1099$)
Campfire’s Andromeda sports one balanced armature driver more per side and also costs a little more than Model X. Both models share some similarities in sound, especially when the bass boost is not enabled on X. Andromeda’s lower end goes down a little softer, while X’s has more punch and sits a notch tighter. Both have wonderful treble response and sparkle up top. I find X’s treble a touch airier and Andromeda’s a hint brighter. Where they might differ the most is probably the mid-section, where Andromeda can come across as emotion-less and cold-blooded X will appear more natural and fuller with a more organic presentation and more life-like instruments and vocals.
Andromeda’s sound stage might be in front when it comes to width and maybe height as well, but X’s Z-axis stretches far deeper with a blacker background. Layering and instrumental separation are also better accomplished on the Lime Ears.
When giving X a low-end boost, bass becomes more powerful and energetic, while also giving lower mids more body and meat.
Campfire Audio – Vega (1DD, 1299$)
CA’s flagship model has been raved about on many sites, mainly for its powerful, hard hitting bass and thick life-like mids, but what most reviews did not say is that Vega also has a unpleasent downside, namely its highs. Vega tends to become sibiliant at certain tones and has a sharper edged treble, that very often makes it uncomfortable to listen to. At least for me. It is a fun monitor, I do give them that, but it misses out on resolution (I do not mean detail retrieval, but rendering) and comes across as foggy at times. Bass is very powerful and does reach nicely deep, but overshadows lower mids too much and stays out of focus and control. I know many people won’t like to read this, because it still is an IEM to fall in love with, but it is like it is.
Overall I think Model X is pretty much superior in any way. Whith the bass boost turned on, X also reveals a mighty low end with great body and texture. It’s ahead on layering, resolution and imaging as well as sound stage size. Mids again share the biggest similarities between both models. Both are very natural and life-like, but Vega’s bass can make them unenjoyable with its extreme presence.
It is kinda weird to say it, but Lola is the next cheapest custom IEM I have currently, it features the most interesting driver configuration of all in this list. With proprietary dual low BA’s, dual dynamic mid-drivers and quad high frequency BA drivers Lola counts down to an eight-driver earphone. The first thing both models have in common is the possibility to tune bass. Where Lola does sport a more elastic tuning of the low frequencies with its bass attenuator implemented in the cable, you can enhance its response (<200Hz) by up to +/-15dB. Let’s look at the contrary of these two first.
Model X’s sound stage is wider and especially deeper, layering and resolution are also better, with clearer highs that shimmer more. Lola’s treble extension goes further and high tones are a tad warmer and softer, they are also richer in tone than on Model X. Lime wins on separation and air.
Both units have a very distinctive mid-section, with great harmonics and realism. I have to give the nod to Lola for weightier presentation and even more emotions though. Those concentric placed dynamic drivers really do their work very well!
When it comes to bass, Lola has more sub bass rumble, but X’s is faster, making it more suitable for electronic genres. Both low ends are very well controlled and have splendid texture.
Funnily enough I would call Lola the more tube-inspired IEM where X is the valve-transistor hybrid to me. Lola has a more analogue feeling with its smooth and relaxing tone, where X is more dynamic and strikes with higher amount of details.
In my opinion Lime Ears is one of the most overlooked brands in this field. They don’t launch many products every year like others, but when they get one out in the wild, it is a killer product. Aether was one like that two years back and Model X is one right now. It definitely is the monitor to beat in the sub 1000$ category and does also rival some higher tiers. For me it has become my reference below 1500$ and one model I certainly don’t want to part with – ever!
It is refreshing to see so much quality audio at a still affordable price, even though 900€ still is a tough pill to swallow for many, this price bracket has weirdly become mid-fi now. Lime Ears proves the contrary can be the truth and provides a CIEM with exceptional price performance ratio!
X has become one of my easy-recommendations for everyone looking for a custom monitor in the sub 1000$ region or that does it all and that can adapt to your preferences.