All comparisons were done with the Astell&Kern SP1000 as source and the regular SuperBax as cable.
The Jomo 6R needs top quality files to sound best and even though the 6R is going to be replaced by Tango, I still like it. The Jomo has a neutral tuning like the UE, but it isn’t as linear and misses a bid of body in the mid region. The 6R’s sound itself is a bit more spacious and airy overall, but that’s exactly what has been revised in the 18+PRO V3 version. The UE’s bass definition is better and the mids are richer but the 6R has the more open treble end.
I haven’t listened to the Cosmic Ears CE5 in a very long time but it really impressed me with the Effect Audio Horus cable in this comparison. I couldn’t use the SuperBax cable as the connectors don’t work with recessed sockets. The CE5 has a tuning between the neutrality of the UE 18+PRO and the musical tuning of the VE8. It has a nice sound stage, a spacious presentation, really good layering and it sounds rich from top to bottom. Cosmic Ears excels in tuning their monitors and you get a good amount of body to hit that perfect mix of musicality, linearity and precision. The 18+PRO’s biggest difference with the CE5 is how the bass connects to the mids, as this is a point to me where the CE5 could be even better. The mids and voices in the CE5 have warmer presentation compared to the more neutral 18+PRO, but they do sound very relaxing. The CE5 deserves more recognition from audiophiles, that’s a fact. IT’s actually being retuned at he moment and it isn’t available for purchase, but do keep an eye on HFN when it’s back.
The 8-driver VE8 from Vision Ears has a warmer, smoother and more musical approach. It’s bigger bodied from bass to treble but it’s also very rich and has excellent layering. The treble section in the VE8 is nice but it isn’t as energetic as that of the UE. The neutral musical approach of the 18+PRO is very different than the warmer musical approach from the VE8, but both monitors perfectly do what they were created to do. It are different flavours, but both perfectly executed.
The really new Jomo Tango – that’s the 6R replacement I mentioned above – has another tuning as well. The final tuning reduces a bit of the mid range to give it a cleaner and more linear sound. Bass was elevated for some more body and fun and it’s especially there that you notice the most difference when switching from the UE to the Tango. The bass impact is bigger and because of that fuller and more elevated presence, the whole presentation doesn’t sound as linear, nor as neutral, as the UE 18+PRO. The Jomo Tango also has a warmer and smoother presentation like the VE8, and it’s also a very music monitor with a lot of richness and a spacious sound presentation. Gosh there are so many good monitors on the market right now, I’m so lucky to get to listen to so many of them.
With the Astell&Kern SP1000 you get great clarity and precision from top to bottom. The volume has to go up a bit to get o a comfortable listening level. It’s still very easy to drive but not as easy as I’d expected it to be. The 18+PRO and SP1000 share the same characteristics and if that’s your kind of thing, than you love the synergy between these two. For me personally this was the best portable source with the 18+PRO.
The smoother and somewhat warmer Sony MW-WM1Z give the 18+PRO a bit more impact in the lower regions and makes the mids a little warmer sounding. The treble is also soft and easy going and the musicality level with the WM1Z is very high, where the precision and clarity is more present with the AK. The Sony and UE 18+PRO combo still is very rich sounding though, don’t worry about that.
For myself the Sony is making the 18+Pro a bit too warm and the bass is a little big, but the musicality is really nice. If you want to keep that extra bit of musicality then the Luxury&Precision L6 is the perfect DAP for you. It mixes the precision, dynamics and linearity of the 18+PRO with a bit of smoothness and warmth while keeping the precision and clarity of the SP1000. The treble section with the L6 – for me – is also a lot better than on the Sony. And so this again turns out to be the ideal DAP if you want a bit of both. For the more focused and analytic listening, I sill prefer the AK but when chilling in the couch with a whiskey, the L6 is my companion for the UE 18+PRO.
The Cayin N5ii is my favourite Mid Fi DAP when it comes to clarity and the combo with the UE 18+PRO is quite nice. No, you don’t get the same resolution, precision or dynamics as with the big 3 but you still get an energetic, linear and musical sound. The N5II’s bas and mids are a bit lifted and for me it’s especially the bass that could be a bit tighter and punchy but it isn’t fair to compare it to the reference DAPs. In its category it performs very well and it’ll bring a full bodied sound to the 18+PRO, one with a bit of extra bass and full mids. The top end is really nice as well actually and it’s a good sounding combo with an excellent mix of clarity, precision, fun and musicality.
The Fiio M7, some people like it and others don’t. The thing is that this is a consumer kind of DAP, back to basics with a limited amount of options and settings. Most consumers like a full bodied warm sound with plenty of bass and soft treble and that’s basically what the M7 brings to the table: Fun. Technically the M7 is far behind the above mentioned DAPs and it’s more fun than quality here, though the quality is still acceptable. I really like it a s a quick DAP for on the go when I don’t have time to really listen to my music, but that does also mean that it isn’t capable of bringing out he best of the UE 18+PRO. I can’t see anyone buying this combo immediately but in case you were planning on doing so anyway, please think again.
On the last page RIGHT HERE, you’ll find all about how it sounds with a selection of DAC/AMP combos and there’s the surprise conclusion as well.