The Vega is a 17.5 ohm, 102dB DD IEM. It should not have too much of a hard time running out of decent amps with a fairly low current demand but at 102dB efficiency it can perform better, and it does scale well for that matter, on more powerful amps.
Put it this way, on a smartphone it is enjoyable and you will get a fair slice of what the Vega can offer, but throw it on say an AK380 or an efficient portable amp and you will get an increase in audible quality.
Those coming from the CA Jupiter or Andromeda might get a little surprised though at the audible difference in volume settings for each to sing comfortably. Both BA IEMs set around 25% lower than the Vega on the AK240, and AK380 as well as mid-fi systems such as the X7 and Cayin’s i5.
Dynamic drivers, on average, do have less sensitivity than BA so it’s not terribly surprising, do note RHA’s dual coil dynamic T20 and T10 are well under 100dB so it is by no means a slouch.
On the flip side, the Vega is much less prone to background hiss and general noise than the Andromeda and Jupiter, two IEMs I have noted in referencing to be among the most sensitive IEMs I have reviewed to date.
This opens up a few DAPs and amps for pairings that would have been off the table with the BA siblings such as the Shanling M5, FiiO X7/AM3 combo, Theroem720, Bakoon HPA-01M, and Cayin’s N5 balanced output.
I mentioned audible quirks in my review of the Andromeda, much less so with the Vega so I would not be as cautious this time round in terms of matching for noise. Think scale and adequate driving in terms of correct pairing as well of course tonal preference.
With the Vega, I really liked to keep things crystal clear and not push the bass too hard since it is already quite physical as well as give plenty of space to the mids and treble to perform as they can.
DAPs like the AK240 and the FiiO X7, with their linear slightly more analytical signatures, got more use than those sporting already musical and warmer signatures such as the Cayin i5, Axon 7, and AK380.
All three of the latter DAPs sport the AK4490 chipsets with the AK380 being the most resolving pairing with the Vega out of the 3 and the Axon 7 being perhaps the politest. The AK4490 tends to be a touch warmer, slightly less spacious, and more low-end heavy in most of the implementations I have tried to date with the Vega.
On the flip side, it is the most forgiving and natural sounding of the sources I paired the Vega with, and if you are seeking to nullify any of the potential sibilances in your tracks then an AK380 is the way to go. If you really enjoy a super smooth performance with a kick in the low end then these sources will deliver with the Vega.
More Neutral Sources
In contrast, the slightly leaner signatures of the former DAPs tended to be more hands-off on the Vega’s powerful low end keeping it tight, and speedy but still allowing plenty of texture to come through. The AK240, in particular, got a nice grip on the Vega top end on well-recorded tracks with some excellent clarity and articulation that I really appreciated.
Of the mid-fi DAPs tested, the i5 actually produced a slightly more natural and superior vocal presentation than the FiiO X7 using the AM3 module (the smoothest of the modules).
Otherwise, the X7 didn’t push the Vega bass response as hard as the i5 offering a slightly more balanced response with the Vega. If you want to go all out on the bass performance for modern EDM and get a visceral and deep-sounding tonal pairing then the i5/Vega is perhaps the hardest-hitting of those two.
I can’t recommend running the Vega on budget setups like the FiiO X1 2nd Gen, you really lose a lot of resolution and spaciousness when paired with units like this.
Normally I would say the Gen 2 is an excellent budget option but it’s audibly poorer than the likes of the i5 which starts at $499. Do not waste your money trying to run the Vega on a cheap DAP. It really does scale with better sources and amps.
Whilst noise levels were a touch too high on high-powered desktop units such as the NuPrime DAC-10 amp output and the Studio 6 from ALO, stealthier slightly lower-powered tube amps such as the Cypher Labs Sustain84 were dead silent and sounded wonderful with the Vega.
If anything, the Vega bass body still hit hard but with better definition and a more holographic soundstage using the Sustain84. Highly impressive when paired with the AK240 line out.
Even the FiiO K5 amp stage, though slightly drier and less resolving than the Sustain84, gave a very satisfying level of control and clarity with the Vega and zero noise on low gain using the dock option.
Bass was a little softer and less defined than the beautifully textured Sustain84 pairing but staging again was more 3 dimensional than the mid-fi DAPs reviewed.
ALO Audio V5
Portable amp stacks brought some nice tonal swings and the best pairing really depends on what you want out of the Vega. If you want to dial back a touch on the bass physicality and bring out the excellent rich and flowing midrange of the Vega, and in particular the vocal performance, then I highly recommend the new V5 portable tube amp from ALO Audio.
If you want to keep that natural-sounding tonality but inject a bit more muscle into the low end without going overboard then iBasso’s P5 is a perfect choice. Beautifully black background, top-notch clarity, and zero sibilance. No need to hit the bass boost option on the P5 though, it starts sounding a bit boomy with artificial boosting.
Surprisingly the Bakoon HPA-01M’s current mode option when paired with the Vega was one of the better behaving IEM tonal presentations.
Yup, it did have a touch of background noise and hiss but entirely within acceptable limits for regular pop and metal. It also sounded wonderfully natural and clean with slightly less emphasis on physicality and more on that natural flowing sound I had with the Sustain84 and the V5.
Again, sibilance is not a factor at all, in fact, the comparison between the Vega paired with a mid-fi DAP and a top-of-the-line portable amp such as the Bakoon for control and resolution is quite breathtaking.
If you want to inject a bit more muscle into the low end with the Bakoon pairing simply switch to the voltage mode output which is a touch warmer and heavier than the current mode output.
This is a tough call and technically I do not think one is better than the other, simply put, they are different sounds for different genres and moods. They also have very different efficiency levels with the Andromeda more suited to efficient amps and even smartphones whereas the Vega truly shines with slightly higher quality amps and sources.
For a BA design, the Andromeda has one of the best sound profiles for a universal IEM bar none. A spacious sounding BA with a spectacular treble extension and control, smooth mids, and a quality beefy bass response that really puts some other BA designs to shame. Its technical yet musical profile will suit a lot of people who want something airy, and expansive with excellent depth.
The Vega Profile
By way of contrast, the Vega is the more musical of the two with the more aggressive and physical presentation. It is an attention grabber. It is also slightly more intimate than the Andromeda, giving up some width and height in return for greater depth and a more natural low-end response.
Mids are richer, and smoother with better vocal texture than the Andromeda, however, the Andromeda resonating chamber technology produces amazing treble extension and control. The Vega doesn’t quite offer the same airy top end as the Andromeda but the detail and articulation are still excellent.
Both are single dynamic driver IEMs with the IE800 being the flagship IEM of Sennheiser for quite a while now. It’s a classy IEM priced around $799 now which looks increasingly competitive these days.
Physically the IE800 can’t hold a candle to the Vega in terms of fit, comfort, and seal. The cable is also too short and incredibly awkward to work with. The use of proprietary tips doesn’t help also.
The Vega, on the other hand, is rock solid, comfortable with a detachable cable that’s fit for purpose and then some as well as having the ability to take on most universal silicone and foam tips.
Tonally the IE800 does have an excellent but slower bass response than the Vega as well as a very good treble extension. However, it is brittle and thin sounding compared to the thicker more textured note of the Vega and not as visceral with its low end. For me, Vega’s mids just sound a bit more coherent and engaging.
The IE800 does though have a bigger soundstage than the Vega and some may prefer it for delicate tracks, orchestral works, and acoustical where that tonal quality is more suitable.
Throw in the Vega’s richly textured sub-bass rumble and free-flowing midrange and it is my preferred choice of IEM over the IE800 for rock, pop, and EDM.
The Fidue A91 is an $899 hybrid single DD/Quad BA IEM and one of my personal favorites of 2016. Rated at 20 ohms and 113dB it is a bit more efficient than the Vega but not as efficient as the Jupiter or Andromeda and sits roughly 10 digital volume steps lower than the Vega on the AK240.
Tonally the A91 is a bit more neutral than the Vega. Though it has absolutely excellent bass extension and sub-bass performance with that single DD it doesn’t have the sheer physicality and texture that the Vega can deliver.
Pace wise the Vega low end is also a bit snappier with better definition, the Fidue just sounds a bit polite and softer in comparison.
The A91 doesn’t really push the mid-bass that hard in comparison to the Vega so you get a more linear mid to upper bass performance that transitions into a neutral midrange that is thinner sounding than the Vega’s rich mids performance.
Treble on the A91 is a little bit more relaxed sounding than the Vega. Staging wise the A91 cast a slightly wider more holographic field than the more intimate and forward-sounding Vega.
Clearly, the Vega is a labor of love for the team at Campfire Audio. It is pretty hard to top the Andromeda and I honestly do not think that was the intention with the Vega.
In fact, I actually think this feels more like a personal journey for the team to produce something with deeper character, a specific tonal reference that couldn’t be mistaken for any other IEM, and putting something out there that simply is technically better than the rest of the DD competition.
In short, I believe the Vega was about quality of choice rather than a new flagship. Personally, I think they succeeded. The diamond driver in the Vega is pacey, detailed, and very resolving. The musicality is immense yet it never loses control which a lot of DD tend to do at times.
And boy oh boy the Vega scales wonderfully. It will sound pretty good from most sources and most importantly hiss free from almost everything portable.
Yet old-school portable amps and some desktop setups will really unlock the potential of the Vega and I heartily recommend you explore as many system setups as you can just to hear what it can do.