The Vision Ears VE5 is a new 5 balanced armature driver custom monitor that now comes in a universal option as of 2020 It is priced at €1413.15
Disclaimer: The Vision Ears VE5 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review We thank the team at Vision Ears for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Vision Ears products we have featured on Headfonics click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
The last time I checked out Vision Ears’ product range I went right for the big kahuna, the VE6XC in late 2014. This was and still is their flagship with the x1 and X2 versions combined into a switch-operated CIEM that I awarded the best score yet for a custom monitor.
That high score still stands tall today with only the 64Audio ADEL A12 matching it last month. You would assume then that a review of the VE5, which is not a flagship but released after the VE6XC, would be something of a step down on paper.
Yes, it is cheaper at €1413.15, by quite some distance, and yes it is 5 drivers in a BA design and not 6 as in the VE6XC. No, it does not have any switches. What it does have is something rather unique that have yet to acquire in my stable of CIEMs.
If you have a few CIEMs already you may well understand what I mean when I say that the concept of a vocal orientated CIEM is often overlooked in today’s market. It is either the BA numbers game, the design, the soundstage or the bass, and in some cases the treble extension but nothing as yet that specifically caters to vocal lovers. I am a vocal lover, this is another exciting week I can tell you.
The Product Range
It stands to reason that a product line that contains a numbering sequence that went one, two, three, four, six in 2014 would possibly look to release one more product with five in the name before thinking of perhaps a seven (Lord knows maybe they are right now).
That number five is practically begging to be filled in with a CIEM worthy of the VE moniker. Naturally, five means a five driver and that is exactly what the VE5 is, a five BA driver CIEM.
Now we have the full Monty from one to six and as such it is priced that bit lower, €500 Euros lower to be precise from the VE6XC and just €100 from the VE6X1 and X2 so the gap is present between second place and the front runner.
It also means the VE5 is competing with a lot of what I would call mid-tier CIEMS especially those with some sort of five driver setup or even more. Never a cheap game this CIEM malarkey but at roughly $1500 this means you have to really get that pitch just right to stand out from the crowd.
In fact, if you go back to what Marcel mentioned to me in December 2014, you can sense the VE5 would never be another run of the mill five driver CIEM:
Our vision was and still is to build high class custom In-Ears in terms of fitting, sound and visual design. Some companies are trying to build good quality for a certain price range, but for us quality is the highest duty.
We are heading out to be the brand with one of the highest quality In-Ears in the world and being the most innovative. The custom In-Ears we have now, are very well developed and now that we released our new flagship VE6 XControl, we gave a hint of how much innovative power we have.
So what makes the VE5 stand out from the crowd on paper? Well from the technical specifications there is nothing wholly unusual about the VE5 compared to the rest of the competitors. Five driver designs are all over the place.
The sensitivity rating is good though 21ohms and 122db so in theory just about any DAP or even a smartphone should be able to run the VE5 with relative ease gain wise.
The secret sauce according to VE though is in the tuning of the VE5. It is one of the relatively few CIEMs that has a particular tuning to emphasize and present vocal presence as the predominant characteristic within its sonic signature.
It got me thinking a little because when I think about the ten or eleven CIEMs I have reviewed recently I cannot think of a single one that targets vocals outside of maybe the AAW W300R but even then tonally it’s miles away from the pitch of the VE5.
The vast majority that I have reviewed have been excelling on the virtues of soundstage such as the VE6XC, a solid midrange such as the Harmony 8, or even an excellent vocal range but pushing downwards to the bass and not up into the treble performance.
This is an upper mid to high end tuned CIEM and as such you could argue that this is a custom monitor not just for vocal lovers but for those who want a predominant top end.
We have been here before with Vision Ears when we ordered the VE6XC and truth be told not a whole lot has changed in how orders are processed and delivered to their customers including me.
Vision Ears website could do with a very slight overhaul (note *) for me right now, it looks a bit dated though the product line is easy to navigate through. As always I shoot straight to Vision Ears customer gallery.
* Edit as of 10/18/2015 Marcel would like everyone to know that VE will launch a new webpage end of 2015. It will also have an IEM designer (configurator) and with this, we will also improve the ordering process. That’s awesome news and something I want to try out next time around.
Bereft of a single design bone in my body I do like a little inspiration, but after looking around I fed back to the team at Vision Ears and said hey guys what is new? What do you want to show to your customers that is funky and cool in your eyes?
Co-Founder Amin Karimpour fed back to me and told me they had some new color mixes going on right now and wanted me to try one in “red and green”. Now even I felt red and green is a very odd mix and some of the pictures going back and forth suggested this is going to be an odd couple.
However, Amin assured me it looks better in real life so I took his word for it and we shook hands on that. Lately, I have been trying to break the mold in terms of design choices, I do seem to gravitate a lot to wood or orange and amber type colors so letting the manufacturer choose is a good way to break out of a habit of a lifetime.
For those jumping in the first time though you have all the options you could really wish for in the gallery from carbon fiber to wood inserts (cocobolo comes highly recommended) and if you do not see something there to request you can always jump over to their Facebook Page which is always updated with creative customer designs.
Aside from that, you can also pick some rather neat laser work designs for your shells from your own collection of images as well as engravings on the rather excellent hard case that the unit comes packed in.
Personalization all the way. Just a small note at the time of writing Vision Ears are going to offer a smaller pill type screw lid steel container for their CIEMS as an optional accessory. Something not to dissimilar to the Roxanne and Lear round cases.
Visions Ears for me have very high standards for ear impressions. That is a good thing so long as the audiologist you visit has similar standards.
My VE6XC impressions were the first time a set of mine ever got rejected and after viewing the pictures I can well understand why. It caused me to entirely rethink how I was sending impressions to CIEM manufacturers. Below in green is how they should look, and in pink is how it should not look before they start work on your designs.
My normal advice is never pack in cotton wool. Instead, seal the impressions in a hard container padded with a zip lock bag with a little air and some lightly scrunched tissue only. They should have room for a little bit of wiggle during transit but not too much.
Too much pressure in the packing can deform the impressions. Nothing worse than getting a CIEM that is too loose or too tight or being rejected due to poor packing. The costs of returning and refitting outside of the EU are rather high.
Now I have wheeled out this public broadcasting service on quite a few CIEM reviews to date but if it’s worth saying it is worth saying numerous times. Pack those things diligently.
For Vision Ears, they do require a closed-ear impression up to the second bend in your ear canal, and it’s always advisable to request a “full impression” from your audiologist to avoid incomplete molds being sent that could cause a delay.
Turnaround time is still a very solid 4-6 weeks from the point of sending the impressions to receiving the final finished unit. At a time when some company’s turnaround times are starting to be a focus of negativity, Vision Ears are still staying competitive.
Meet the VE5
The Shell & Design
Ok so I agree with Amin it does look a lot better in real life and does lend itself rather well to the camera. It is not a combination I would have thought up myself but it stands out from my usual wood and amber taste so kudos to VE for dreaming up a mix that works.
Taste being what it is I cannot see it being for everyone but it is eye-catching. The plates themselves are more of a wine red than a pure red and have a slightly thicker tonality than the more translucent green shell.
Both the plates and shell are bubble-free acrylic but feel solid and sturdy to the touch (a little acryl fill there helps). The single large bore in the nozzle of the VE5 is uniform and smoothly finished with no excess acrylic residue to be found anywhere.
The lacquer finish is excellent without being overcooked. If there is one slight area that is noticeable is the join between the plate and the green shell which has a very delicate but present thin white line all the way around.
This creates an impression of two parts rather than a single whole unit. It’s relatively minor for me and I understand it helps in the build process but it may not be for others looking for something singular or uniform and it is not something I saw on the VE6XC in 2014.
The Fit & Seal
Much like the VE6XC the VE5 is an incredibly comfortable fit with an outstanding seal even by CIEM standards. There is no uneven pressure within my ear canal, even with my weird crooked left ear canal.
It inserts smooth and stays comfortable throughout. Externally it sits as flush to your ear as you can get for a multi-driver CIEM with very little protrusion or getting in the way of your general day to day activities.
Opening and closing my jaw never once broke the seal either, which by the way is once again excellent. I would rate the seal on both the VE5 and VE6XC as relaxed but very well balanced and sitting firmly in your ear.
The bore itself does not go as deep as the SA-43 from M-Fidelity or the V8 and A12 of 64Audio but I do not think it needs to. This CIEM will not fall out of your ear accidentally even with vigorous movement.
Background noise isolation was really top-notch also with the VE5. Gone was the air con, the fan, and then the general din of everyday life. It won’t isolate against everything, that’s not possible, but it will provide way above average noise-free listening conditions. Essentially you are getting flagship levels of comfort and fit with the VE5.
Cable & Accessories
Whilst you have a choice of cable colors the green and red mix of the shells made black the only realistic color match for my VE5. The cable that came down with the VE5 is the same soft, pliable, and light quad cable that I had received with the VE6XC.
This time I got a nice HF logo with my name on the y-split tube which I did not get on the VE6XC. The print was clean and clear so thanks guys for going one step further on the cable personalization.
Vision Ears are still using 2-pin Westone style cable sockets for the VE5 and thankfully not too tight either for cable swapping which was an issue I had of late on the Rhines Stage 5 and the Cypher Labs C6IEM.
They won’t fall out but they do not need a set of pliers to detach from the recessed socket either. A 2-pin socket also brings aftermarket cable swapping joy as the majority of my cables are 2-pin such as the SXC range from ALO, the Vitesse from Null Audio, and the Twag V2 from Whiplash.
The stock cables are finished with an over the ear memory retentive wrap that is pretty easy to work around your ear and significantly cuts down on any potential microphonics traveling up the cable.
The other end is terminated with a small 3.5mm straight 3.5mm gold plated plug with relatively decent strain relief. The package does come with a quarter jack adaptor should you need to use one with your setup.
All of this came packed in their rather excellent large hard carry case which I still rate as the best in the business bar none with tons of room for a soft pouch, additional cleaning tool, the quarter jack adapter, some stickers, and the VE5 itself. The case looks incredibly durable with some nice print decal on the top which you can custom order in advance.
On the inside, you have a split layer (soft cushioning) for protecting your customs from any internal downward pressure that could damage the shells, a soft pouch if you just want to travel around, a small netted holding area on the inside of the lid and excellent quality cushioning all around the insides. There is enough room, in this case, to carry more than one cable also.
At the time of writing VE will shortly be launching an alternative pill case type screw box similar to the Roxannes only in shiny silver. It is not expected to replace my fav large pandora’s box above but it is an option.
This VE metal case will be available as additional accessory and will definitely not replace our bigger hard cases.
If you place an order, you can add this metal case to your order but you cannot choose between those two cases. This would not be very professional because all the accessories we give as a standard would not find any storage place in the round metal case
Click on page 2 below for sound impressions and comparisons