Vision Ears VE5
Headfonics 2015

Vision Ears VE5 Review

Sound Impressions

Summary

Tonally, the VE5 was not quite what I imagined it would sound like. I was sort of expecting shimmer, sparkly, hot cymbals, big vocals, and everything to just fall in behind that like some sort of evolved Fidue A83.

Instead, I found a CIEM that managed to put out an articulate and very present treble performance without resorting to any cheap peaks to get the message across.

Just check out that configuration if you are in any doubt where the emphasis is – only one driver for the bass and 4 for the mids and treble. That’s is conviction for you and it shows in the level of control the VE5 possess.

What you get with that configuration is a rather neutral to slightly bright tonality that is speedy, tight, and stays just on the right side of musical rather than sounding sterile and thinned out in any way.

Matching may play a role in this, which I will get into later, but running out of the AK120 mk1 with the Glove A1 DAC/Amp or the FiiO X5ii I just didn’t feel the VE5 was capable of presenting a fatiguing kind of sound, even with long listening periods. It just didn’t feel too in your face.

Bass

Bass on the VE5 is not the most present or extended bass you can find on a CIEM. It pales in comparison to the Merlins depth and the ADEL A12’s richness or even the V8 rowdy midbass extravaganza but that’s not what the VE5 is all about.

What it is though is accurate, speedy, and tight, and when pushed it can indeed rock. Surprisingly when called upon on tracks such as “My Pet Coelacanth” from Deadmau5 is really didn’t sound anemic at all.

It can hit and hit hard with great detail but just not as full sounding or as extended as some of the more noted bass-driven CIEMS. The single driver BA for the lows on the VE5 just keeps everything tidy with a good kick without overdoing it.

Mids

It’s all about the vocal presence and that means a much more pronounced upper midrange. That’s the calling card of the VE5. It is forward, full of character, lacking in any sibilance, and just perfect for vocal lovers, well for me anyhow.

Those looking for a bit more crunch and body to the lower midrange though might be less than satisfied as the dominance of the upper midrange means there is a slight thinness in this part of the range. Given the bass is more supportive than dominant it can mean at times instruments can feel a little unnatural and giving way quite some bit to the vocals.

Asia’s “Russian Dolls” off Gravitas is a good case in point. Everything is there, the clarity is top-notch but once those Wetton vocals kick in everything else takes a slight back seat.

It’s a welcome change from a lot of vocals being stuck right in the mix being neither here nor there but if you are looking for balance and accuracy then the VE5 is not quite for you. If you love Whetton’s vocals, much as I do, then the VE5 really lets them soar with superb texture and detail and zero harshness.

Vocal harmonies can be positively euphoric on the VE5, benefitting from a very spacious and tall soundstage. I have always been after a CIEM that does justice to AOR vocalists like Wetton, Winwood, and Catley and the VE5 covers that and then some.

Treble

The VE5 is a very good introduction to those wondering what a good treble sounds like. This is a treble that is very clean and clear with excellent extension and oodles of headroom. It has none of the traits I find bothersome in poorly executed treble such as peakiness, strident, or being overly forward.

It simply doesn’t distract in a negative way. Articulation is very nimble indeed and what I love most is the decay is just short enough to stop everything from falling in on top of itself or lingering too long.

Staging

The VE5’s soundstage is not the biggest, that accolade goes to the vastness of the VE6XC and in some respects, the Merlin and A12 are much deeper.

However, the VE5 treble is the way it just extends so effortlessly. I remember saying that the Rhines Stage 5 had one of the smoothest ascendant v curves into the treble, free of any harshness or peaks. It’s really rather the same result here with the VE5 but, unlike the Stage 5, the Ve5 has none of the recessed mid-section that held the Stage 5 back a bit.

There seems to be no real temptation to roll the VE5 off or sugar coat it just to be on the safe side. A good driver tuning shouldn’t need to hide any deficiencies and the VE5 has 2 very good drivers indeed.

Matchability

DAPs

Power

At 21 ohms and 122db SPL, this is one heck of an easy CIEM to drive on pretty much anything I connected it to. The stock setting on my CEntrance Glove A1/AK120 had to be knocked down a good 4-5 steps, it was the case of 40 to 45 max on the FiiO X5ii digital attenuator and roughly the same levels on the high-end Paw Gold DAP from Lotoo.

Even my humble BB Passport, ever the low-end benchmark in driveability coped admirably well with the VE5 with one of the lowest media volume settings yet at around 6 to 7/10 and still sounding relatively good.

Noise

None of these hardware platforms displayed any unwanted hiss either which is a blessing given the sensitivity rating of the VE5. It remained hiss-free also on the DX90, FiiO X3ii, and the Cayin N6 also right up to the AK240 and AK380 – marvelous.

Only the tonally sweet Shozy Alien displayed any background noise but it’s a known snake in the pit for most sensitive CIEMS and truth be told it was not the worst I have heard from the Alien when paired with IEMs.

Tonality

Tonally the best match for me was the sweet and slightly wet tones of the Lotoo Paw Gold combined with the brilliance of the VE5’s vocal presence and very agile treble performance.

The FiiO X5ii and the AK120/Glove A1 combos both had very nice setups in their own way but that glow of the Paw Gold just provided an added richness in the VE5’s that felt more fluid than the other two which either lacked a little impact such as the AK120 or felt a bit too flat such as the X5ii.

If jazz vocals, lounge, or cabaret are your thing you have to try the Paw Gold and VE5 combo. The Paw Gold sets the rhythm and flow but it’s the VE5 that provides that edge in detail and vocal clarity. A quality that I sometimes found lacking when paired with the likes of supposed vocal orientated but darker and smoother CIEMs such as the AAW W300AR.

Amps

Not that you really need one but if you simply must then be advised the sensitivity rating of the VE5 is such that very amps rarely hit the mark that would make me rush out and start stacking.

Bakoon HPA-01M

Bakoon HPA-01M

The Bakoon HPA-01M is probably overkilling and you are almost at 20% volume with the pot at zero. By the time you get past the default channel imbalance in current mode or voltage mode, the volume is already a touch high so it’s not the easiest amp to work with for a CIEM such as the VE5.

But get past that channel imbalance on low-gain current mode and the sound is absolutely delightful with most DAP’s I tried. Interestingly I did not get any background hiss with the Bakoon when in the sweet spot on low gain. I was sort of expecting a ton of hiss but nothing of the sort was present.

The Paw Gold and the X5ii yield the most enjoyable results with the Paw Gold’s smooth and rich performance and the X5ii’s cleaner but flatter tones proving useful for acoustics and sparse arrangements.

I was less fussed on the sharper and thinner Bakoon/AK240 on current mode output with rock. Clean yes but altogether a harsher tone that didn’t quite convince. Metallica sounded positively anemic and sharp. Vocals were clear as anything though and when things slowed down a little with a touch of slow-paced lounge such as Alexis Cole then the AK240/Bakoon/VE5 started to really shine.

Mass Kobo 395

This is a handmade amp from respected Japanese designer Masanori Neko-san Masuda so it’s incredibly well put together but not blessed with an abundance of power.

It also hisses with sensitive gear and the VE5 is no exception even on low-gain which is such a shame. It’s an analog pot so pot imbalance is present even on zero volume. Volume taps out at around 10am with the Kobo/VE5 using the line out on the FiiO X5ii and slightly lower at around 8-9am on the pot for the line out for the Paw Gold.

Sensitivity wise this is a bit of a mismatch at low listening levels but on higher volumes, the Mass Kobo 395 sounded incredibly sweet especially in the midrange where all the action is on the VE5.

Vocal reproduction is not as lush as the Paw Gold but not as thin as the AK240, they still sound very present and forward but also incredibly natural. The Kobo combined with the X5ii and CC Coletti was an absolute musical pleasure without a hint of fatigue with the VE5.

ALO Audio RX

The VE5 is one of the few CIEMs or any headgear that I have tried to date that has exposed the very slight channel imbalance of the RX IEM amp at zero noise floors to low volume levels.

This was especially so with the Paw Gold line out. Not even the ADEL A12 showed it up. The jump from the imbalance to controllable volume was also quite sudden and uneven. It was just simply too strong and quite an awkward match to control from source to amplification using the VE5.

A better match with less discernible levels of imbalance was the FiiO X5ii. Volume control was a lot smoother also. The one thing to watch out for was the rapid rise in volume with the VE5 tapping out on the RX at around 9-10am or less on the FiiO line out. As nimble an IEM amp the RX is, the VE5 just doesn’t need it.

Vision Ears VE5

Select Comparisons

Vision Ears VE6XC

This is probably the first comparison I thought of given that both the VE6XC and VE5 have been released within the last 12 months and to be honest both have their place but as an all-rounder, the VE6XC is probably the safer bet. It is also considerably more expensive by 500 euros over the VE5 so there is that to consider also.

Yes, you have to spend a bit more and there are some aspects such as the midrange that the VE5 does with more aplomb. However, if you want something to cross a wider range of genres and get a better sense of balance in any musical presentation be it rock, classical, or jazz the VE6XC is a more rounded and complete choice.

Imaging and timbre are more accurate, the soundstage is wider, HD800 wide almost. Again if you want good vocals grab the VE5, it’s far more focused and engaging in that respect whereas the vocals on the VE6 XControl are great but they just do not stand out as much. That’s not a negative by the way, it’s just not built for that purpose.

Just a small side note but I found the VE6XC ever so slightly harder to drive (and as such it scaled that bit better than the VE5 overall. The difference is marginal with regard to the specs on paper but with a few sources (AK120/Paw Gold/FiiO X5ii) and amps, I found the VE6 to register its sweet spot for listening slightly with a slightly higher gain setting than the VE5.

Rhines Stage 5

Both “5’s” are easy to drive with the VE5 perhaps having a slight edge but it’s not by much with just two steps separating them on the FiiO X5ii (45 for the VE5 and 47 for the Stage 5).

Tonally these two are chalk and cheese though and you should have no problems picking which one suits your listening tastes and sources better. The VE5 excels exactly in the area the Stage 5 is weakest and that’s the midrange.

The Stage 5 bass performance has substantially more body and impact and whilst the u-shape treble curve of the Stage 5 is incredibly smooth and well-executed the VE5’s treble performance is just that bit more articulate and cleaner.

Those who look for a u-shaped or mildly v-shaped slightly darker performance the Stage 5 will satisfy but once again, like a stuck record, the vocal and treble performance of the VE5 is more convincing.

Both are colored CIEM’s though and neither has what you could describe as a natural-sounding or accurate timbre so if you have to get one CIEM and one only then neither would be the top choice but for those looking for a certain sound I highly doubt you will spend a long time picking out the differences between these two very different CIEMs.

64Audio ADEL A12

No question the ADEL A12 pumps out more sound at lower volumes coming in 5 steps lower than the VE6XC and 3 steps lower than the VE5 on the FiiO X5ii. It also has far better bass definition and body than the VE5 and VE6XC. The A12 really kicks hard on modern musical genres compared to both Vision Ear units.

So the A12 has them licked in depth and impact but it’s a slightly slower CIEM than the VE5 and whereas the A12 tapers off a little in the upper midrange and treble to aim for a more comfortable listening experience the VE5 keeps on ticking up and onwards.

Vocals once again on the VE5 are more forward and present compared to the A12 which sounds a bit recessed in comparison. Treble between the A12 and the VE5 is all about your tastes.

Resolution and detail are there, headroom and spaciousness are there but it doesn’t quite sparkle as much as the VE5’s. With the right match the VE5’s treble is more complete and better able to articulate fine detail but for some this might be too much and the A12 really does adept much better to those who want to feel the beat more. Non-vocal EDM and rock arena is the A12 forte.

UM Merlin

Another sound-off that is rather easy to distinguish between. Efficiency-wise the VE5 is a bit louder at lower volumes than the UM Merlins (up to 5 steps on the FiiO X5ii).

Tonally the Um Merlins hybrid sound is warmer and more laid back with a deeper bass extension than the brighter, tighter, and faster VE5. The UM Merlins calling card is that big dynamic driver rooted in the lows so the bass body is superior to the VE5’s leaner bass response.

The VE5 takes over though once you hit the upper mids and treble though if you are treble adverse the Merlin resolves excellently despite its age and delivers a really smooth treble experience.

It’s more than 4 years old now but it still holds its own and one of the best hybrids out there. No surprise but vocal on the VE5 is far more engaging than the laid-back vocal experience of the Merlins.

Our Verdict

The VE5 is totally unique and for now one of a kind. It is not for everyone though and if you have to have one CIEM only and you are not bothered with vocal performance then this is not the CIEM for you.

If you enjoy rock, pop, and modern EDM where the vocal is not a priority I would give the edge to units such as the ADEL A12 and the Rhines Stage 5 depending on how you like your tonal sound as warm or dark.

However, if you do love vocal performances above all else or just simply class yourself as a lover of highs and mids then the VE5 is tuned for you.

I have tried a few CIEMs that emphasize the midrange as being their calling card but nothing specific for the vocals, maybe a better reproduction but taken as a whole it’s more to do with a shelved down treble response than anything else. The VE5 doesn’t suffer from that but nor does it suffer from bright treble executed badly with uneven peaks. It’s done rather well indeed.

Vision Ears VE5 Technical Specifications

  • Technology: Four-Way-System with 5 drivers
  • Sensitivity: 122 dB SPL at 1 mW
  • Frequency: 20 Hz – 18 kHz
  • Impedance: 21 Ohm (bei 1 kHz)
  • Shell: hard acrylic
  • Cabel: replaceable due to miniature plugs (gold plated), length: 1,38 m

Accessories

  • Deluxe Aluminium Case with microfiber pouch. Outer measurements: 15,5cm x 10cm x 5,5cm
  • Dry Caps The life span of the caps is approx. 2-6 months depending on use. A color indicator indicates whether the cap is still active or needs to be replaced
  • Cleaning Spray This special cleaning spray disinfects and cleans without corroding the earphones’ surface
  • Cleaning Pen for cleaning the sound channels of your In-Ears
  • Jack Adaptor high-quality adaptor (gold plated) for converting a 3.5 mm jack to a 6.3 mm jack
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •