My primary music player is the Opus#2, famed for its natural, life-like rendering. Can you imagine how an IEM like the VE8 performs on such a DAP? It’s a singular experience, let me tell you. So smooth, so fluid, so effortlessly honest as to voice the falseness in all others. The Opus is where you go to unleash the full potential of your IEM, seeing just how big that soundstage really is. This DAP performs near the same level as my desktop DAC, the NFB-28. It resolves at insane levels, limited only by the transducer. It’s dynamic, but not in an aggressive manner. Again, it’s that effortless dynamism. Neutral-warm. Powerful. Capable, but never doing anything reckless to prove it. Utterly natural. The Opus#2 is clearly bred from the same genetics as the VE8, and they are a special pairing.
If you’re looking for a little more OOMPH behind these IEMs, the Cayin i5 is one hell of a player. It has crazy energy in the bass region, creating a plume of warmth over the whole presentation. The i5 has an organic quality, while never failing to capture those micro details. Its soundstage is large enough to give you a healthy sense of space, but it’s not the most expansive. In the price-range, though, the Cayin i5 is among the best choices for these IEMs, especially if you want to add a little color to the mix.
For a budget solution, the Shanling M2s makes for a swell pairing. It’s a lot like the i5, with its meaty bass and heavy overtones. Only it’s a little less robust. Note weight is not on the same level, and the soundstage is smaller. But it’s very musical, and delivers vivid clarity in the mids. All you sacrifice is a little refinement here and there.
So that’s the VE8. If you are looking for a single IEM to cover all your bases (that mythical “all-arounder”), the Vision Ears VE8 is a wonderful choice, and I heartily recommend it. However, it doesn’t really speak to me. When I lust for that warm, lush sound, the U12 is so much better. Or when I’m looking for clarity, detail, and transparency, Encore outshines this thing twice over. Vision Ears sits somewhere between the two. The middle of the road. And I know that appeals to many folk. But I rarely find myself in the mood for the middle. F**k! Look what we’re talking about. All three of these are variations on warm. It’s not like I’ve given you true extremes. What’s between gray and dark-gray? Medium-gray? I guess that’s the VE8: Medium-Gray, the truest and most natural of all grays.
Please don’t let that dissuade you. We aren’t all stalwart champions like Pinky, with more than one top of the line in-ear monitor to play with. Choosing just one is a difficult position. As I’ve said, the VE8 is a fantastic phone that does everything well. Yes, there are options which handle different elements better, but the VE8 is the best balanced. Medium-Gray is an achievement not to be underplayed. This is the strongest all-arounder I’ve found, and you simply must hear it to understand.