When In Manila, being an audiophile is always an amazing journey. Paving your way through low-end gears and marking your journey to mid-tier in-ear earphones, amps, and high-fidelity music players. Eventually going to the flagship models once you crave them and save-up enough for them. Arguably, “end game” or in simpler terms, “final set-up”. Meaning, the set-up you will finally halt in this hobby, is very taboo. Tons of in-ear earphones, amplifiers, headphones, speakers, etc etc etc… All have different presentations of sound, all have different sound qualities. Some may be similar or in the same “taste”, but finding one to end your journey is as tough as finding a specific rice grain in a sack. Technology also proves that upgrading is faster than ever now. Some in-ear earphones and headphones that I loved around 2-3 years ago are now sunk to the mid-tier range from being flagships. Custom in-ear monitors are seen as the general flagships of in-ear earphones due to their sound isolation and advanced driver set-up capabilities. Months ago last year 2014, I was able to have my ears molded (for the nth time) to get a new set of custom in-ear monitors (for the nth time). One that got me extremely excited for my audiophile journey of 2014, since this is Vision-Ears and their flagship that I am getting my ear molds done for. Man, this is THE Vision-Ears VE6 Xcontrol!!! And finally, I got hold of them after months and weeks of self-contemplation! By the way, did I tell you that the Vision-Ears VE6 Xcontrol has a switch to change from X1 and X2 sound signatures? It’s as if you’re getting 2 premium custom in-ear monitors in one! You can actually purchase the X1 and X2 versions by themselves, but the Xcontrol puts them together in one and it is just amazing to have that switch to match your music or source perfectly. Let me tell you about them starting from here.
Custom in-ear monitors are advanced compared to the standard in-ear earphones as they have the housing size to squeeze-in as much drivers you would want to your in-ear. More drivers often equate to better sound quality, as there are more drivers handling sections of the sound spectrum independently from each other giving them capability to maximize a certain region of the sound more. This all of course depends on the drivers, crossovers, and specially the tuning. The custom in-ear monitor shell also does some changes with the sound through the nozzle and fit. This is where custom in-ear companies make their names, through these challenges and through the adequate skills needed to build a good custom in-ear monitor. Now, I’ve had and handle a couple of flagship custom in-ear monitors and gladly only had 1 bad experience. I too, am a professional sound engineer and I guess I can say that I am qualified enough and justifiable enough for my words to be taken well, I think haha! But honestly, there’s not much people in the audiophile scene who has encountered many custom in-ear brands and have owned and handle custom in-ears. Most audiophiles just aim for 1 custom in-ear due to many reasons. So I guess I can stand my ground in saying and titling this article with the phrase “The king of custom in-ears”. Yes Vision-Ears, I crown you king! Now, you ask me why? Simple; VE6 Xcontrol. Let me deliver why:
Process: I found it slightly strange that they preferred me to have my ear impressions be done with my mouth closed, opposed to the usual open mouth preference of most custom in-ear companies and even ear specialists. Combined with their 15 years of experience, Vision-Ears has informed me that they have worked with well known ear experts to be able to maximize building custom in-ear monitors, and I must say that it paid very well in creating a perfect fit with the shells. So yeah, best to keep your mouth closed this time around for your impressions. Turn-around of the Vision-Ears VE6 Xcontrol from sending your impression to you getting your hands on them is around 5-6 weeks and even during their high demand. This is surprisingly fast for such a premium item. Most other custom in-ear brands take about at least 7 weeks and even more!
Build Quality/Packaging: Comes with a customizable hard case. You can have them laser engrave any design you want and it is amazing and beautiful! Best case I have ever seen from a custom in-ear monitor. Inside the case comes more than the usual stuff, there’s a cleaning tool, cleaning spray, and anti moisture to keep your CIEM (custom in-ear monitor) clean and beautiful. The case is also multi-purpose and shows that it is aimed in total care and protection for your CIEM, this is why I say it is the best case from any CIEM company, the design and functionality is top notch. It’s not one of those cases that you feel was just included to make you be able to carry around the product for the sake of having a free case. Build quality of the custom in-ear monitor itself is hands-down fantastic, best I have ever encountered in any CIEM. The shells are buttery smooth and has no visible bubbles or any sort of deformation at all. The edges are smooth and buffed incredibly well, plus, the bore is something special. The CIEM bore are the holes coming from the driver towards your ear, this is where the sound passes through. Usually the bores are 2-3 holes at the tip of the CIEM, but with the Vision-Ears VE6 Xcontrol, the bore is one huge bore that contains the individual bores just a couple of centimeters deep in. The switch is position at the lower end of the face of the Vision-Ears VE6 Xcontrol and is quality tested to withstand sweat, heat, humidity and can handle 50,000 clicks. The fit is also the best I have ever had in any CIEM or even from a universal in-ear monitor. The fit is perfect and nothing I can complain at all, snug, comfortable, and no area at all that feel left with space. Even with moving my jaw around does not break the seal. Incredible! I have had my supple amount of share with custom in-ear monitors and I had always had issues on my right ear canal due to the irregularity of the shape and a former injury that I had. Amazingly, the Vision-Ears VE6 Xcontrol feels rightfully snug right away with my right ear canal, showing how top notch and how carefully made each acrylic shell is.
Sound Quality: Personally, I have always loved a great soundstage. A good spacious sound paired with great thick and smooth vocals plus clear crystal clear treble. My taste have developed as I dived deeper into this audiophile hobby and grew much mature coming from being a basshead when I began. As my taste grew, the lust for better sound quality also grew harder and faster. Gears started coming and going as fast as monthly gym memberships, headphones began taking up a huge chunk of my room, and portable amps started becoming big parts of expenses. Portability is a big need for me, more so than desktop set-ups as I spend more time portable than on any desktop set-up. Not to say that I prefer a better portable set-up than a dekstop headphone set-up, I actually built my headphone set-up for a really long time. But a great portable set-up, I am very peculiar with, very. I’ve owned and experienced a handful of custom in-ear monitors and simply to say, the Vision-Ears VE6 Xcontrol is the best I have ever heard! Probably even the best in-ear in general I have ever encountered. Driving it straight out of the Ibasso DX90, stoundstage shines right away with a 3D imaging and very spacious headroom that resembles the Sennheiser HD800‘s soundstage which I adore. Even with that expansive headroom, it remains very realistic and keeps a great engaging presentation and great dynamics. Instruments are positioned accurately according to the recording. There were instances that I looked left and right as if the instruments are really there. Treble is forward but does not show any shrill, peaks, or tendency to create fatigue. It is forward with great articulation and a great top-end sparkle, never fatiguing even with great extensions and sparkle. Listening to Incubus’ “Are You In” intro, shows how very realistic and crystal clear the treble hits with the high-hats and crashes, almost spine tingling great when you focus on it! The mids are nowhere near congested or veiled, a reflection of that great soundstage giving the vocals more than ample space to maximize that body and smoothness that create great emotions and expressions from tracks. The bass is not anywhere near basshead weighty. Not very hard hitting, but does extend low with great precision and space. Control is very great and fast! It does not hit very hard, but it still hits.
So, X1 or X2? I personally prefer the switch down (X1) as it gives more musicality and better impact on the bass section. The mids are also slightly more intimate. For neutral and more linear sound, go for the X2. Personally, I use the X2 with certain players like the FiiO X5 and also the Shanling M3. For the Ibasso DX90, I prefer the X1. Most of the time though, I use X1 (around 90%). The change in sound is not drastic when switching from X1 or X2, it’s more of a subtle but very effective change that keeps the core sound signature of the VE6. On playing Incubus’ “Wish You Were Here”, you can feel right away the huge headroom and that magnificent spacious presentation. Guitars are on teh sides while the drums is further back in-front while Brandon Boyd’s vocals are front and center. Reverbers of the guitars echo through the huge headroom, while the bass guitar creeps low. The ruggedness of the guitar distortions are also so raw! Magnificently raw that it reminds me of my electirc guitar set-up through my 65watt guitar amp! With Sara Bareilles’ “Hold My Heart”, vocals are flaunted. Sara Barailles’ voice is presented thick and extended, yet the reverb of her voice is kept in control even through that thickness. The guitars on this track sits nicely at the back of her voice with the strings having great thickness as well but not extruding her vocals and the short piano keys. On Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” from the Album “Legend”, the soundstage recreates the live arena presentation. perfectly 3D, incredibly instrument separation that perceives the percussions towards the back. Best custom in-ear monitor for me! Edges out the Noble K10 with the smoothness and expressiveness of the mids and the soundstage, while placing over the 1964EARS V8 through the proper tonality which is not total neutral or flat, but with a slight coloration that properly makes it musical and very enjoyable, yet accurate and very detailed. Plus, the addition of the X1 and X2 switch that simply kills the competition.
Overall: The Vision-Ears VE6 Xcontrol is no joke, at the price around EUR 1899.00 including German VAT (around PHP 96,000.00), is mighty expensive! Price of a 2nd hand car locally! But for this price tag, it is easy to say that it is definitely worth it. Practical? Of course no, are you even kidding?! Premium? Hell yes! Not just in quality and looks, but most premium in performance! A spine tingling excitement and satisfaction! If you want the best in portable sound quality without regard for a budget, this will be my greatest recommendation. Great audio has always been expensive, this one takes the cake in portable audiophile sound and don’t think any other brand or product can trump this for years to come. Unless of course, Vision-Ears themselves produce a greater product. Hands-down amazing work, Vision-Ears! Order yours now from the Vision-Ears website below.
Vision-Ears VE6 Xcontrol Custom In-ear Monitors: The king of custom in-ears