If you haven’t read my First Impressions overview of the Xe6, I invite you to do so now. I’m going to take some liberties in this full review that assumes familiarity with my first impressions, so get up to speed then come back here for the deep dive.
Aside from a few notable exceptions, it’s rare for a new IEM to come along and completely change the game. FiR Audio’s Xenon 6 (Xe6), flag bearer of the Washington-based company’s Frontier Series that debuted in late 2021/early 2022, is one such IEM.
The entire Frontier series can be said to be pushing the boundaries with FiR’s Kinetic Bass technology in particular, but Xe6 is radically different over and above all the new technology crammed inside its small, shiny shells. From the very first listen, it’s obvious that this is an IEM doing stuff on its own terms, unapologetically breaking conventions and defying what most people who pay the sort of highbrow money it commands generally look for.
All of this should, in theory, make Xe6 an outlier, a marginal success at best. But instead, Xe6 has smashed its way to the top of the popularity charts, beating off competition from other fancied high-end IEMs that cost more, are tuned more conventionally, or would normally be considered a ‘safe bet’, as much as that’s possible in this fiercely subjective hobby anyway.
Despite its success, Xe6 is still divisive. Those that love it absolutely love it, and those that don’t can’t get it out of their ears fast enough. Rarely have I met someone who’s had a casual listen and wasn’t moved one way or another. This, I think, is Xe6’s true strength – it’s an emotionally evocative IEM in the best, and sometimes worst, ways. One thing’s for sure, it’s not going to bore you, or simply be iterative over what you already own.
In this review I’m going to do things a little differently too. I’ll cover all the basics, but won’t repeat most of what I’ve already written. Instead, I want to get to the heart of why this IEM is different, and try to understand what that means for anyone who dares to go against the grain to experience music in fascinating new ways.
Continue to Frontier Series…