Now what you get in return for nearly 2 big bundles of Euros is not only sonically jaw-dropping (get into that later) but professionally packaged with a ton of accessories and one eye on the health of your hearing which truth be told audiophiles could always use a little reminder on.
The actual unit itself is exquisitely crafted much like the AAW W300AR with excellent levels of polish, no noticeable bubbles, and a really nice cut of cocobolo wood for the insert that is tastefully conservative with very few knots or awkward grains.
The switch mechanism to allow you to move between the X1 and X2 signature is handily placed at the bottom of the ear shell when inserted in the ear and both are easy to locate via touch on either side. I
t is perhaps stating the blindingly obvious but both have to be up or down at the same time to change the signature or else things just get weird.
Comfort & Isolation
The fit is also the best fit done yet for me on a custom monitor. The seal is up there with the likes of my V8 from 1964EARS but it still feels comfortable and relaxed which is a hard thing to achieve. Much of that has to do with the second set of ear impressions I delivered to them.
A poor impression equals a poor seal but still, the VE6X I received is probably up there with my Merlins and AAW300AR for comfort and ahead of the V8 and on par with my Minerva Mi Performer Artist CIEM for seal and passive noise isolation.
Opening and closing my mouth left no discernible difference on either pressure or seal with no tiny traces of any gaps appearing when opening wide or moving outwards when closing my mouth right after.
They simply do not move yet at the same time there is no pressure on my ears anthelix or root of the helix that I have had from time to time with the 1964EARS V8 if not inserted absolutely accurately the first time.
The stock cable is more in keeping with the stock cables found on most customs I have tested to date with only AAW adding value (albeit wrong tonal match) with the W300AR’s Vitesse aftermarket cable.
Having said that the Vision Ears VE6X stock cable is soft, pliable, light, and easy to work with for over the ear placement using a small amount of memory retentive wrap at the termination point.
The cables (and the units) utilize a Westone type two-pin recessed socket and are, like most customs, over the ear by design. They are terminated with a fairly small form factor 3.5mm jack that I do welcome as quite a lot have a hard time fitting snugly to my DAP’s after I wrap them in a gel holder or a leather case.
Visions Ears have set the standard in my opinion for how to package a custom monitor and what it comes with. 1964EARS comes pretty close actually with the V8 package but the Vision Ears hard case is much bigger with more space for fitting everything inside and is packed with everything you need to manage your CIEM.
The case looks incredibly durable with some nice print decal on the top (name and logo of Headfonics). There is more than enough room in the case if you fancy carrying an extra cable or short interconnect without any fear of damage or the box not closing.
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.
Added to that Vision Ears have seen fit to give you a gold-plated quarter jack, a cleaning brush, some silicone gel, laminate marketing material, and a bottle of on ears cleaning fluid.
VE6 X Control Sound Impressions
To date, every custom I have had has a particular niche they wished to address or a particular flavor of coloring.
The 1964EARS V8 was geared to a bass orientated consumer but with a relatively neutral tonality, the W3000AR was a more natural performer with a warm tonality tuned for acoustical referencing and the Merlins for deep bass extension and incredible sound staging.
The VE6X, albeit with two significant sound profiles, the X1 and X2, tops the whole lot of them in terms of how I like my earphones to sound.
The first thing that is going to hit you with the VE6X in either X1 or X2 setting is that tremendous sense of space and a clean yet smooth delivery that takes advantage of practically every ounce of that soundstage to deliver a wonderfully dynamic and engaging presentation.
Positioning and imaging are wide, almost HD800 wide in a sense but still very coherent and believable. Nothing is congested, muddy, or shelved down. There is plenty of headroom at the top and, especially with the X2 position, decent but controlled extension at the bottom to keep a high level of musicality and adaptability to whatever it is you are listening to.
Now considering the fact I have always harped on about dynamic drivers being the king of soundstage and BA is all about lively, nimble but intimate detail I did honestly believe that this type of sound stage was the sole preserve of hybrids or dynamic driver IEMs so I have to rethink that whole stance now.
The 1964EARS V8 and the W50 from Westone displayed excellent prowess with bass slam, probably harder hitting than the VE6X using BA setups only but the VE6X rivals and in some ways bests the hybrid UM Merlin for a soundstage which to me is instantly more engaging given the superior top-end performance the VE6X is displaying over the more relaxed Merlin.
Treble and Mids
All of that incredible staging would be rather wasted if the tonality was either to sharp or too dark and thankfully the VE6 Xcontrol has sensibly avoided coloring the tonality to make it too bright, too cold or too dark. It not a pure reference type sound or flat with a neutral tonality, there is definitely some coloring but it is done exceedingly well.
The treble is articulate, clear, detailed, and sparkles without ever veering into excessive sibilance or spewing out overemphasized cymbal work. Even though I would class the treble on the VE6X as slightly forward there is no chance of any listening fatigue even on the most demanding EDM tracks that demand a really zippy top end. This is just the right side of smoothness for me.
The mids section does benefit from that big soundstage, they remain clear and uncongested despite the excellence of the treble performance and the depth and snap of the bass response.
This is not an acoustical reference tuning or a preference for that type of character such as the W300AR from AWW but vocals are lively, expressive, and engaging without ever coming over as sibilant or showing signs of unnerving peakiness.
On the flip side the bass, though not quite as planted or weighty as the UM Merlin or as hard-hitting as the 1964EARS V8, has a wonderful extension, control, and definition. The response is tight, fast, and snappy like all great BA setups but it also carries a bit of menace and bites. Combined with that wonderful soundstage it projects “big”, almost arena big if you picture that scenario.
This would put some perfectly respectable dynamic setups to shame, to be frank. If you want a pure bass head experience though the VE6X is not that kind of monitor. I am always preaching coherence and that is how to best describe the bass experience of the VE6X. It doesn’t do midbass slam or overwhelm the rest of the spectrum in that manner.
X1 or X2?
Let’s not forget the switch, after all, that is what the extra outlay of cash was for right? Well, I asked Marcel about the aim behind the switch and how this affected the tonality when we alternated between X1 and X2 during usage.
The idea of the VE 6 was developing a IEM that has better soundstage and more details than our former models. We were well aware that a model with emphasis on the bass frequencies would again split the people into those who like it and those who prefer it more neutral / linear.
So the idea came up to develop two versions. But this would have meant building two demo models for comparing these two versions. So we thought the most comfortable method to compare the two versions would be to just put a switch on the faceplate and switch between the two versions. But people may also like to have this switchable version too so we said: “o.k. lets offer this also.”
With this we had three different versions of our new model: VE6 x1 with more emphasis on the bass, VE6 x2 with more neutral / linear sound and the Xcontrol for switching between both versions.
We never expected that this model could cause such a huge impact into the market. Of cause, we love the sound, because it´s our ‘baby’. But we´re overwhelmed and thankful that so many other people also love the sound and the idea of our VE 6 Xcontrol.
That summation pretty summed up my experience of the two switch positions and the general change in emphasis on presentation.
Using the X1 there was a very slight but noticeable bass bias in the tuning that worked very well indeed with EDM, hip-hop and some heavier rock genres whereas switching to the X2 pulled back the bass a little giving a more balanced sound that most audiophiles would probably identify with a bit more.
It is not night and day tuning, it is not a switch between say a Fidue A83 top-heavy presentation to a mid-bass crunching V8 or a Westone W50 style dark bass dominant signature – the difference is noticeable but tastefully done without messing with the core tonality too much.
The VE6X is a tremendously flexible custom monitor when it comes to matching with sources. Rated at 20hms it has no issues being driven straight out of a source jack and sounded incredibly full and smooth on the X5 with the volume pegged at around 60.
Comparing its performance with the Heir Audio 8.0 on the X5, for instance, the VE6X had an edge in clarity and sounded slightly more forward than the lusher more laid back 8.0. The 8.0 is an excellent IEM in its own right but the VE6X sounded snappier and more engaging with a more convincing vocal presentation combined with the X5.
I did prefer the X2 position over the X1 using the X5 by a small margin, especially with female vocals such as Diana Krall. Sometimes that weightier X5 bass signature can get in the way with the X1 profile for anything outside of EDM.
The signature is a little leaner and cleaner using the DX90 with the VE6X than the X5 with greater emphasis on detail. The volume sits at a very manageable 185-190 for most tracks and much like the X5 the VE6X excels with vocal performance over, for example, the 1964EARS V8 or the Heir Audio 8.0.
In some ways, it reminds me a little of the K3003’s precision and clarity with an added width in soundstage using the DX90. If you want your VE6X smooth and slightly weighted then the X5 is the choice, but if you want detail, clarity, and articulation to the fore the VE6X combined with the DX90 is the way to go.
Sitting somewhere in-between the DX90’s and the X5 is the matching between the AK120 and the VE6X. The AK120 is not as dynamic as the DX90 or the same weighty bass responses of the X5 but what I enjoyed most with this pairing was the more natural timbre of the AK120/VE6X pairing over the other two sources.
The texture and detail combined with the energy and dynamics of the VE6X’s own signature made this combination feel like a far more mature pairing especially with some classic AOR like Asia’s new Gravitas album where synths and vocal harmonization’s sounded very slick without any loss of detail.
The Shozy Alien is the $199 underdog and by golly, it does a really wonderful job competing against all the other previously tested sources above in terms of tonality.
Whereas the AK120 sounds the more natural than the X5/DX90 pairing the Alien really took it to the AK120 with the added satisfaction of having a slightly more linear upper mid/lower treble transition that smoothed out the slightly emphasized cymbal splash I was hearing from time to time on the AK120.
One thing I did notice is the Alien does actually have the highest level of hiss or background noise of the 4 DAP’s tested with the VE6X and in silent periods or in-between music, this might be distracting for some. Pairing the Alien with a well-behaved amp such as the Cayin C5 does help clean up the signal and reduce the noise levels significantly.
To date, the Heir Audio 8.0 has been my most flexible IEM or CIEM (somewhere in-between) in terms of matching with its smooth and lush presentation meshing really well with most sources. The VE6X carries that same level of flexibility but with a different tonality that is cleaner, tighter, and more dynamic.
There is room in the purse for both but I give the edge to the VE6X just for that great balance between weight, speed, and soundstage that the other CIEM’s I have tested have yet to offer as a whole.
The VE6X was up until recently one of the most expensive custom monitors you could buy in the market (Noble’s new Prestige series piped it by a few cents just recently). That money may well be beyond the capability and logical reasoning of some, but if you can and want to have just one custom monitor to “rule them all” then the VE6 Xcontrol is it.
The sweet combination of massive staging, detailed vocal presence, and switchability between a slight bass bias (X1) and a relatively linear audiophile presentation (X2) is the icing on the cake. The shell artistry and first-rate and the finish are very smooth and comfortable with a fantastic seal.
My one word of warning from experience is to take a very good closed-ear impression because the pay off is an excellent fitting monitor. Get that right and the VE6 Xcontrol will be worth the money. The team at VE are very exacting in that sense on what is a good impression and personally, I am thankful for that. Also, note VE will go to great lengths to ensure your fit is just right:
We guarantee the fitting. If there is a problem with the fitting we will give the customer immediate service. So no long waiting time and we feel it as our duty to make the customer satisfied with the product he bought from us, so sometimes we also do 2 or 3 refit processes.
In some very few cases we also do a rebuilt without any additional costs. We have a very low rate of complaints and because of this, we feel responsible to catch up these few cases with quick and profesional service.
I would also take the time and look at both their main website and Facebook page for a feel for what artistry and shell work they can do to meet your own preferences. There is a wide range of previous customer examples and the wood inserts are exemplary to get an accurate idea of what matches what.
Best in class soundstage
Excellent vocal presence
Very flexible in source matching
2 for 1 sound signature with the X1 and X2 switching technology
Comfortable fit and excellent seal
Outstanding accessory lineup and Hardcase box
Stock cable much like other CIEM cable makers
Price is quite high placing it out of reach for many
The website could do with a slight overhaul in terms of understanding your customization options
VE6 XControl Technical Specifications
Technology: Four-Way-System with six drivers
Sensitivity: 122 dB SPL at 1 mW
Frequency: 10 Hz – 18 kHz
Impedance: 20 Ohm (bei 1 kHz)
Shell: hard acrylic
Cable: replaceable due to miniature plugs (gold plated), length: 1,38 m