I blame the definitely not fake German icon, Hans Beinholtz. I had it between my ears that the VE6, a product out of bleak Germany, would be droll, dull, and dark. With John Denver’s first strum on his fine fiddle, I expected winter to descend on my soul like death.
In fact, whilst getting fitted up at e-Earphone’s new custom earphone shop, I had a chat with a young lad who was fitting up for the VE6. I asked him why he chose the VE6.
“They’re so lively and wide,” he answered.
Having not yet received them, he could not have known about their large earphone feel. However, he, along with everyone else, would know how they sound. Vision Ears’s earphones are prominently displayed across around the shop. And demos of every custom model exist. Not to mention Vision Ears’s sexy storage cases.
The kid was right: the VE6 sounds both lively and wide. Wide, as in wide soundstage (or whatever the right term is). Extremely wide. Larger than life.
That soundstage isn’t composed of the same amount of micro detail that comprises the Noble Audio K10. Rather, the separation of musical elements along an X, Y, and Z linear path, is wider. If the VE6 wasn’t plugged into your ears, you might imagine the sound coming from a large headphone- you know, something like the Beyerdynamic DT880. Suffice it to say: the sound stage is incredibly wide.
But that is only one of many first impressions. The biggest, and most lasting impression is one of dynamic contrast. Not dynamic as in constant change, but dynamic in terms of the lively rendering of both lows and highs, and the degree to which each offsets the other. The two dance back and forth on the edge of a knife. Attack and decay on both ends are fast and powerful. Balance between them is perfect, and so, too, is the distribution of weight.
This is great news for trance, IDM, industrial, and heavy metal fans. Equally, it is good news for musicians and sound engineers that need contrasty tools through which to monitor the music they produce.
Bass is quick, slightly warm, and full. Not crazy full like the Earsonics EM32, nor as round. It is full and quick, sure. It hits hard, and disappears again, leaving room around which mids and highs dance with speed and space. It hits with good body, but with no extra weight.
The two types of basshead I get on with are:
1. The unapologetic basshead: all about the duff duff and the feel of the bass, not its fidelity.
2. The basshead that wants the details without the mumpish heaviness.
The latter is probably a dyed-in-the-wool trance or EDM fan. They dug electronic before the recent rash of Swedish pop trance. They are into electronic music for the contrast, for the feel. They may or may not do drugs. They don’t need drugs. They have trance. And, they always have. Any earphone or headphone that can match up to the raison d’être of their music is an earphone destined to be loved. Bass has to be quick, has to be detailed, and has to stay the hell away from taint of the rest of the audible spectrum. This group isn’t your typical basshead.
And it is to this group that I wholly recommend the VE6.
By the way, highs are excellent analogues to bass. They are just as fast and contrasty. The good news is that they manage this contrast without attendant harshness. Space between high range elements is good, and not overly sharpened. They shimmer rather than scratch.
Primarily, this is where the VE6 smacks the FitEar Private 333 in its privates. Where the 333 could, at times, be brash, the VE6 is mildly German. It keeps a very close reign on upper end splash and bloom.
Which is probably why VE6 manages to put up a great, if a somewhat comparatively muted midrange. Foremost of importance to the VE6 is the impeccable balance and contrast between bass and treble. Mids come through with a verve all their own and manage great detail. Apparent sound pressure is somewhat lessened, but not to a degree that the VE6 could be called ‘U’ or ‘V’ shaped.
Vocals and strings are on an even plane; no instrument vies for top. Whatever is in the middle sounds clean and ordered. Of particular brilliance are electronic vocals. Pianos, clear and full, come next. Female vocals have a slight edge over male vocals.
Which brings me back to bass.
As long as you gel with basshead #2: You. Will. Never. Recover.
The VE6’s wide bass berth and quick response have transformed my listening habits. After getting the Noble Audio K10, I had sort of cut back on electronic and classical music. I had picked back up small ensemble jazz and singer-songwriter stuff.
I had gone back to a land I had not visited in years. And good as it has been, I’ve missed that clean, graceful edge that induces trance in electronic music. The K10 is all about wide, detailed mids and gloriously smooth transitions. The VE6 is all about contrast, width, and foot-tapping, head-nodding. Oh yeah, and addiction.
And its Xcontrol version is also two-earphones in one. With the switch in the up position, it is the above. With it in the down position, the contrast between bass and treble lowers and mids bubble up. It is remarkable. Most hardware filters I have used are either too heavy handed, or only usable in one setting. Xcontrol works equally well in both settings. But I prefer the up to the down- at least for non-organic music.
Part of it being awesome is that the difference between positions isn’t night and day crazy. It is night and early morning. Mids come up, bass rounds out a bit, and warmth ratchets up several degrees.
Fans of lean contrast and width will dig the sound of the VE6 Xcontrol from any angle. If you dig an obviously warm sound, VE6 is probably not for you.
That aside, VE6 has two issues:
It is too sensitive.
it can be hard to drive for certain amps and players.
Sadly this is the case with many many-driver balanced armature earphones. Exceptions to this rule come from Earsonics, and LEAR. I wish they would come from Vision Ears. The VE6 picks out hiss quite clearly from almost any source. And, some sources are too loud from the very lowest volume levels.
Considering that a large percentage of Vision Ears’s customer base is musicians, their earphones should be easier to drive. Certain battery packs and wireless systems lack good headphone amplifiers. It behooves a professional-leaning company to tune earphones for the lowest common denominator.
In the end, I’m smitten. The first impression is strong with Vision Ears. Well made shells. Thorough branding. Excellent customisation. Impeccable print quality. These are Vision Ears hallmarks. I’ve not experienced a different Vision Ears product. But by God, I want to. Until the VE6, the FitEar Private 333 had been my benchmark for trance, IDM, and the like. But I didn’t love it for other, softer genres. After the VE6, the 333 is relegated to the second ranks, still loved, but less so. The VE6 trumps it for all other genres, and retains similar levels of edge and contrast. There is no substitute for this level of addictiveness.
And then there’s Xcontrol. It rounds out the right places, tightens others. There is no middle setting. It’s X1 or X2. And both are equally likeable, and complementary for various music. Decisiveness as shown by Vision Ears, to stand by one sound or the another, and not brave the every-sound is further evidence that the right brains have been churning over the best targets.