DISCLAIMER: FiR Audio provided me with The Headphone VAC Jr., The Cable Tester and the Scorpion Cable in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank FiR Audio for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.
FiR Audio is an American company that specialize in IEMs and IEM-related accessories. Founded by former 64 Audio CEO Bogdan Belonozhko, they hit the ground running with their Headphone VAC monitor cleaner in 2018. Since then, they’ve debuted several other accessories, as well as their very own line of tubeless custom in-ear monitors. Although the latter are still relatively new to the market, it does paint a clear picture of where the FiR Audio team aim to go. Today though, I’ll be taking a look at FiR Audio’s main stable of accessories, and discussing why they ought to be audiophile must-have’s.
FiR Audio Headphone VAC Jr.
FiR Audio’s Headphone VAC was designed as a solution towards one of the in-ear monitoring industry’s most common – yet least talked about – issues: Earwax build-up. Cerumen is an essential substance our bodies produce daily, but it also has the potential of clogging your in-ear monitors’ tiny sound bores and causing channel imbalance. Although it’s near-mandatory to include a wax pick with your IEMs nowadays, it’s a rather finicky tool that more-often-than-not either isn’t precise enough for the job, or – worse – ends up pushing the debris deeper. This is where the Headphone VAC comes in.
FiR Audio’s Headphone VAC is self-explanatory. It’s a vacuum which removes all debris from your in-ear monitors’ tiny sound bores. And, it entirely removes the need for you to send your in-ears back to the manufacturer just for cleaning. The unit I have here is the VAC Jr., which is a more compact version of the Headphone VAC. Compared to its sibling, it doesn’t come with a heavy-duty carrying case and its air hose is permanently attached. But, at half the price, the VAC Jr. is the stronger value purchase, especially if you’re mainly using it at home with a modest number of monitors to clean.
Build and Accessories
The Headphone VAC Jr. comes with a slew of accessories for modularity, troubleshooting and maintenance. The vacuum itself feels immensely solid and robust. But, at the same time, its weight isn’t a hindrance, so it’s certainly something you can carry around without difficulty. The chassis is finished in a gloss blue, along with matte-black artwork on top. On the bottom of the device is a dense rubber, which should prevent vibrations from being passed through the VAC; keeping it stationary and ensuring operation is as quiet as possible. Finally, on the business-end of the vacuum is the suction hose, power switch and 12V port. All in all, I believe the device is built wonderfully with zero rattly bits, weak spots or plasticity.
Moving onto the accessories, it truly goes to show how much thought FiR Audio have put into their product. First is the syringe, which is the vacuuming medium. It locks onto the hose attachment by twisting it into place. A rubber gasket is attached to the syringe as well to avoid any sort of leakage. Inside the syringe is a filter which’ll trap the wax and debris coming through the tip – almost resembling cilia in the human nose. Once the filter’s top becomes clogged with wax, the top must be trimmed off so the filter can be reused. This process can be repeated until it reaches a third of its original size. Should that eventually happen, FiR Audio have included two additional filters with the VAC for you to replace it with.
The other accessories come in plastic tubes with screw-on caps. I greatly prefer this over plastic pouches, because you can carry them around without the possibility of the pouch splitting open or something. First, you have a brush to clean the syringe and filters with. You also have a replacement tool to push filters out of the syringe. Tip-wise, you have three options. The first is a stainless steel needle, designed for IEMs with metal or acrylic sound tubes. Then, there’s a bendy, plastic needle for more delicate tubes that the stainless steel one may risk puncturing. Tiny pins are also provided to unclog them if needed. The final needle has a larger diameter designed for 3-5mm bores with mesh wax guards, like 64 Audio’s tia bore. Over the needles, this greatly minimises the risk of pushing wax through the screen when cleaning.
Once the VAC is assembled, all it needs is power. FiR Audio have provided both two- and three-pronged outlets with its 12V adapter, so all regions are covered. Once powered on, it’s as easy as slowly inserting the tip of the needle into your IEM’s sound bores and sucking away all the debris. It took me no longer than 30 seconds to clean my EarSonics EM64, which has six bores total. The same was true for my 64 Audio A6t, which I cleaned with the larger needle in 20 seconds. Despite the slightly lower flow rate compared to the larger VAC, the VAC Jr. is beyond sufficient for any at-home needs.
During operation, I did notice the VAC slowly moving on my slightly textured floor. The same occurred on my smoother desk. I would perhaps prefer the VAC have rubber feet to keep the device more securely in place. But, it isn’t too big an issue unless you have a very, very tight workspace. In terms of noise, the VAC Jr. is never really an inconvenience, as long as you’re relatively quick about cleaning. And finally, disassembly is as easy as twisting off each component and storing them in their respective tubes. Noise and movement aside, the VAC is a pure breeze to use from start to finish.
vs. Jodi-Vac’s Jodi-Consumer
Prior to the launch of The Headphone VAC, Jodi-Vac’s Jodi-Consumer was the go-to choice for audiophiles. Between the two lie several differences. The Jodi-Consumer and the VAC Jr. have similar MSRPs on their respective websites, but the former is sold at $99.99 on 64 Audio’s website. The VAC Jr. is considerably more modular than the Jodi-Consumer. The latter only comes with one metal needle, while the VAC Jr. comes with three. You can purchase an extra flexible needle for the Jodi-Consumer, but at the moment, they don’t have an option like FiR Audio’s larger tip for single-bore monitors.
FiR Audio include three filters with the VAC Jr., while the Jodi-Consumer only comes with one. Replacing them is simpler to do on the former too. Finally, the VAC Jr. comes with a variety of outlets for its 12V adapter, while the Jodi-Consumer comes with two flat prongs permanently attached. Build-wise, the VAC Jr. feels more robust, durable and heavy. Its form factor is smaller as well. The Jodi-Consumer has a more plasticky chassis that’s lighter. However, it’s also quieter and less prone to movement. In use, I could easily live with both vacuums. The Jodi-Consumer’s lower noise and vibration makes it more convenient, while the VAC Jr.’s ease-of-use and wide range of tips make it more versatile and low-maintenance.