Disclaimers: Vision Ears graciously provided this sample for the purposes of this review. Associated costs to me were: import duties, ear impressions, and travel expenses.
Many things have conspired. And this review is overdue. Both you, the excellent Headfonia reader, and Vision Ears, have been patient. Me? I’ve been itching to get this review out there. Why? Because in the course of the now many-months I’ve had the Vision Ears VE6 Xcontrol, I’ve discovered what I will call a rival to FitEar. And, in Nathan-ese, that is a good thing.
Like FitEar, Vision Ears earphones are pricey. The VE6 Xcontrol goes for: 1899 EUR, or more money that you will find between the pillows of your couch. Your 1899 EUR (minus 19% German VAT if you are outside of Euroland) nets you 6 balanced armature drivers, a 4-way crossover, a switch that adjusts frequency response, and the highest quality accessory kit I’ve seen in a custom earphone, ever.
Vision Ears aren’t new to the scene. Their founders, an Amin, and a Marcel, got history, and expertise on their side. One thing they certain get is accessory sets. And cases. Cases are boring; when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. But you gotta check this thing out. It’s metal, and it’s got my name on it.
Vision Ears are selling their brand as much as they are selling their technology. Their work is impressive. Their attention to detail is (and dare I say it?) nonpareil. But, it’s the cohesion of those elements that blows my brains.
That said, Vision Ears don’t do rock star like Jerry Harvey does. But I reckon that’s not their aim.
The same basic floor plan seen in the LEAR BD4,2 cable makes a comeback: twisted double cables, slim straight jack, low profile split elements, patent branding, and silver colour. Unlike LEAR, the split itself is both branded and grommeted. It is even customised. Check out the Ω image logo. On the other side is the Vision Ears logo. It is also of higher quality. Its winding, its hang linearity, even the printing of its logos, are tip top.
And, like the LEAR cable, it is robust and silent. And, unfortunately, it, too, sticks it to your ears with memory wire. It’s now old hat for me to say it, but: glasses wearers, be forewarned.
And, if you value comfort, pick up a Linum cable.
It’s funny what a few hundred kilometres’s distance can mean. While I love the Earsonics EM32, by comparison to the VE6, it feels like a top-class slummer. Let’s put it like this:
Fingerprints on drivers: Earsonics
Obvious dust in the shell: Earsonics
Remarkable divots: Earsonics
Shell scoring: Earsonics
That said, the EM32 appeals to a higher quality sense than the LEAR BD4,2.
Which means the VE6 really sticks out. I would put it ahead of the Noble Audio K10 custom. Its closest competitor is FitEar. By and large, Vision Ears match FitEar’s attention to detail. Both earphones are filled with acrylic. Both earphones are free of bubbles.
There are a few minute differences (some which favour FitEar, some which favour Vision Ears): the VE6’s top shelf is hollow, it utilises a large single-bore sound tube, artwork is possible. From bottom up, the VE6 is hand-made. All FitEar customs (like the MH335DW and Private 435) use off-the shelf face plates while Vision Ears, like pretty much every other custom manufacturer out there, tool their face plates ad hoc. No two are exactly the same.
From a cleanliness standpoint, FitEar gets a few points. Off-the-shelf faceplates come from a factory. What can I say: machines are better than us. But, on a custom earphone, which is better? I left the design of the review unit up to the Vision Ears team.
If carbon fibre is your thing, there’s nothing to be bothered about. Gaudy it is, but it’s gaudy done right. And print elements are tip top. The difference between the printing on the VE6 and the Noble Audio K10 are the differences between ink jet and laser printers. Vision Ears’s printing handiwork handily beats Noble Audio’s.
The single, large sound bore is fed by three tributary channels. Finally, there is the frequency switch. It is the same sort used by the Noble Audio FK and PK earphones. I’m not sure which way: up or down, is on; but I can tell you: the difference is audible.
After falling in love with the sound and fit of the Earsonics SM32, getting back to larger footprint customs is bittersweet. And while I’m not one to tool around the countryside on my Marinoni Fango plugged into custom earphones, I can tell you right now: if I were so suicidal, I’d probably reach for the Earsonics. The VE6 wears big. Sure, it fits flatter in the ear than the FitEar MH335DW; but thanks to its a wide, flat top and semi-sharp edges it feels huge.
Which means that despite boasting smaller dimenions than the Noble Audio K10, it feels larger in the hand. To some extent, the same is true in the ear.
Also of note, the Vision Ears opt for shorter sound arms which reach less far into the ear. In and out is quick and comfortable. Surprisingly, sound isolation is just as high as it is with longer-armed customs like the Noble Audio K10, and the LEAR BD4,2.
One of the first things you will be asked by Vision Ears is: “how is the fit?” That is, by far, the most important thing. And Vision Ears want to make sure you are suited up. As well it should be. If you had trouble with your impressions, have no fear: Marcel and team will eagerly refit your earphones until they are perfect.
As well they should. The job of a custom earphone is to fit your ears like a glove. Only then does it sound right. Which is why I said that Comply’s Custom Wraps were a solution in search of a problem.
Sound impressions after the jump