Fir Audio VxV Review – The Perfect Complement

Sound –

Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. 7-9KHz peaks may be artefacts/emphasised due to my measurement setup, less so with deep fit. Measurements besides channel balance are volume matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalised to my best abilities to reduce coupler resonance. Still, due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphone or measurements taken by others. I gave the VxV 100hrs burn-in to ensure maximum performance prior to subjective breakdown.

Tonality –

The FxF has an intriguing tuning that isn’t easy to summarise by traditional descriptors. It rides a fine line between being W-shaped and slightly N-shaped but can be considered well-balanced overall. There’s a small bump in the mid-bass instigating a slightly warm, full but never forward bass and a clean midrange with a 2.5kHz bump aiding a clear, forward vocal image. Subsequent fall off redeems density and smoothness before a small lower-treble bump for a focused detail presentation. Strong extension into the upper-treble alongside modest emphasis retains an enhanced sense of atmosphere and sparkle. The VxV is definitely one of the more unique earphones I’ve heard as of late. And, as always, that does not mean it sounds in any ways bad. In fact, this is one of the most enjoyable tonalities I’ve experienced, and it is especially well-considered for portable listening as the company intended.  

Bass –

At a glance, the VxV provides a warm and smooth bass that plays a delightful complement to its clear yet non-fatiguing overall sound profile. The combination of a vented housing designed to minimise pressure and micro-driver woofer mean the VxV doesn’t have the biggest or hardest-hitting sub-bass, being moderately laid-back. Still, it remains clearly more extended than a BA design and impresses with very tight impact and well-defined rumble when called for, if minimal pressure that bass lovers may crave. The mid-bass has more presence instigating a light warmth which continues into the upper-bass. Notes are slightly fuller than neutral though the timbre is accurate overall with only small amounts of colouration.

Technically, the VxV’s lack of sub-bass pressure means it doesn’t provide the highest dynamics nor its medium decay speed the best timing. However, its combination of quick attack, high control and warmer tuning create a note presentation that is lush yet highly textured; ideal for genres such as jazz. In addition, note definition operates on a high level. As bass isn’t too forward and showcases both good control and linearity, separation is a strength which maximises detail retrieval despite not having the most aggressive attack or agile decay. The VxV scores high marks for its musical tonality and its note presentation makes it an excellent choice for easy listening while maintaining strong organisation that keeps pace with upbeat genres too.

Mids –

No doubt, the highlight of this earphone, the midrange is well-separated from the bass to uphold a cleaner tonality and sits slightly forward in the presentation. Vocals especially sit at the forefront of the presentation yet aren’t overly prominent or strained in so doing. They retain good size due to the VxV’s more unconventional 2.5kHz hump followed by a more laid-back upper-midrange. Such a tuning permits both excellent clarity and definition in addition to satisfying smoothness and coherence, if not an overt focus on it. Still, the increased density and smoothness in the upper-midrange enable a presentation that isn’t raspy or peaky despite having high clarity and separation.

There are some concessions, chiefly, note body is on the thin side. Though even then, this is counterbalanced by hints of warmth from the bass that retains a euphonic and pleasant listening experience. Overall, the VxV achieves a sense of refinement and density hasn’t been increased to the extent that extension is hampered. It strikes as a very well-rounded performer, with a natural voicing and articulate vocal image yet also a lack of sibilance or peakiness. The VxV manages to be highly resolving and completely devoid of sharp or fatiguing properties, which is no small feat and basically ideal for day to day listening.  

Highs –

With focus lying predominately in the upper-octaves and small blips in the lower-treble defining its foreground, the VxV offers an open and atmospheric top-end that prevents its laid-back sound from becoming flat or uninspiring. The treble presentation is characterised by a small 6kHz bump that sits just behind the midrange and greater emphasis in the upper-treble that works alongside strong extension. In turn, the VxV isn’t especially aggressive or detail-forward, but does draw focus to the minutiae with its enhanced sparkle and openness. Its foreground is crisp with a very clean transient response. Instrument body is somewhat thin though fine detail retrieval and separation are both excellent, making each element easy to discern.

The background is clean and relatively linear. It isn’t dark so you don’t receive the hyper-separated layering some other earphones provide, but rather, an open and airy presentation with excellent headroom. As the foreground isn’t too aggressive, details don’t compete for attention, achieving balance with smaller details in the background without too much brightness or emphasis in either area. Micro detail retrieval also operates at a good level, more than one might even expect at this price range. Overall, the VxV provides an energetic and highly resolving top-end without any forwardness or sharpness.

Soundstage –

Surely a strong point of this earphone, albeit many in this price range, the VxV offers an expansive presentation. Width is especially strong, stretching clearly outside the head on many tracks, while depth impresses but is generally more intimate due to the vocal presentation. Imaging is also sharp, almost holographic due to the sparkly and well-separated signature. Directional cues are sharp and clean, instruments are easy to locate and vocals hold a strong centre image. Layers aren’t hyper-defined but the presentation showcases good coherence and great organisation overall, even on complex tracks. Separation is a high point as well, with the clean tone and slightly thinner note body. Impressively this is also never to the detriment of coherence with its smooth and dense note structure.

Driveability –

Though the specifications of this earphone aren’t stated on Fir’s website, I found the VxV to be a sensitive earphone with relatively modest power requirements. Similarly, its impedance does not appear to be too low and it isn’t especially hiss prone either. As per its design, this makes it suitable for everyday listening from portable sources, a great plus for those with this kind of use case who may not always have access to a dedicated audiophile source.

Output Impedance Sensitivity

Switching between the Hiby R6 (10-ohm) and Shanling M2X (1-ohm) revealed that the VxV is reasonably source agnostic in this regard. Balance and bass fullness were similar on both sources, similarly, the high-end didn’t overwhelm on the Hiby. The sound became a bit thinner on the R6, but the difference was minimal and very listenable. This is a great result for smartphone listeners that may have an output impedance in the handful as this is unlikely to sway the frequency response far from that intended by its designers.

Driving Power

The VxV is efficient and not too hiss sensitive either, suitable for low-volume listeners. However, this is not to say that it doesn’t scale as, comparing between the Shanling M2X and my desktop stack with THX789 and SMSL SU9 revealed a nice technical jump. Bass especially, was notably tighter and more articulate on the desktop stack. Similarly, treble was more textured and detailed and the soundstage was markedly expanded. While the base signature is not wildly sensitive to change, the VxV does scale nicely with higher end sources.

Suggested Pair Ups

The VxV is one of the easiest high-end IEMs to drive as, despite having a complex hybrid driver setup, it offers a fairly flat impedance curve and good hiss resistance too. Similarly, it doesn’t require much power to reach high volumes. In turn, the VxV sounds nice even out of any decent smartphone and scales nicely from a technical POV from a dedicated source. From a tonality perspective, the VxV actually pairs best with more neutral sources despite being fairly neutral in tone already. I preferred the more concise note presentation of my THX amp over my smoother ones given the VxV already carries a more laid-back and smoother presentation. Warmer sources could make the bass a little woolly while brighter sources could sound a bit sterile.

Next Page: Comparisons & Verdict

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Ryan Soo

Ryan Soo

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

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