Vision Ears EVE20: Thunderbolt and Lightning – An In-Ear Monitor Review

Presentation

Vision Ears’ EVE20 is a dynamic, boom-bap-sounding in-ear that thrives off of bite, contrast and punch. A lot of its impact comes from a heavy, gutsy mid-bass and a crisp, energetic low-treble; playing off of each other like a kick and snare on a drum kit would. But, to me, what lifts the EVE20 is how all of its rowdy, eager, zealous transients always remain rooted in that robust, full-bodied midrange. This EVE20 possesses a distinct 1-2kHz lift, which gives instruments structure, integrity and density. So, when a snare cracks through that centre image, its body and thump come in just behind. The same goes for, say, David Benoit’s piano on Drive Time. Behind the bright ring of the keys is the bellow and heft of this instrument as well. So, despite what’s – on the surface – a loud, rockstar-like sig, this EVE20 is worlds away from your average, v-shaped IEM. It’s supported by an excellent fundamental in its midrange, which gifts all that energy a sense of tactility and weight.

Technically, this EVE20 isn’t an IEM that I’d consider immensely open or relaxed. There’s always this giddy-ness to it, even on slower material. On David Benoit’s easy, breezy Every Step of the Way, for example, the hi-hats and kick still maintain a push and drive to them. So, it’s perhaps not the in-ear to get to sit back and relax with. Dynamic range is also somewhere the EVE20 isn’t necessarily best-in-class. Though its impact is thunderous for sure, there’s an element of effort or “strain” audible there too. When singers like Andrea Bocelli or Jennifer Hudson belt and roar, the IEM doesn’t quite open up with them as much as it could. Music that’s too crowded can tend to sound a hair overwhelming on it as well. On the flip side, though, the EVE20 excels in separation and precision. Notes are superbly separated, and they surround with realism. Its stage, though not ultra-expansive, is always organised and tidy, which hands its punchy transients lots of authority when they attack, so it’s never an aimless cacophony. Instead, it’s instruments cleanly popping in all around you; one at a time.

Bass

The EVE20 has an elevated lower-end tuned with a slightly-slower, slightly-heavier, thwacking, thumping sound. It’s a bass that seems to fall a touch late on the beat, but it doesn’t linger either. All it is is its character, smokiness and depth. More importantly, though, it sports great authority as well. Vision Ears have achieved both by giving the IEM’s woofers a clever, clever curve. The rise is just broad enough to lift the kick drum and bass guitar equally. But, it isn’t so wide, that its fatter, dirtier frequencies get accentuated as well. It tapers off perfectly towards its upper-bass. The result, to me, is the perfect bottom-end for electronica, pop and rock of all kinds. From Anomalie, to FKJ, to Jess Glynne, to Animals as Leaders, you’ll get that ideal balance between the weight of the hit and how cleanly it cuts through, which is a fantastic achievement on VE’s part. It may not be the ideal tone for genres like jazz or latin, where a lighter, smokier timbre is required. But, for the ones I mentioned above, this EVE20’s will truly, truly deliver; a DD’s size and thump with a BA’s nimbleness and precision.

Technically, I feel the bass showcases lots of texture and resolution too. From one track to another, kick drums and bass guitars all come off singular and distinct. Beaters really dig and slaps do the same, which all adds to the fun factor the in-ear preaches. Though I mentioned it having DD-like weight, I must make it clear that it hasn’t quite cleared that bar when it comes to extension. There’s still a bit of the effort or strain I mentioned in Presentation when it comes to bringing those super-deep, subterranean rumbles to life. For example, when resolving those feather-light touches Dave Weckl makes on his kick drum on Sternoids, there’s a bit of fuzziness there compared to some of the DD-equipped hybrids I’ve heard. But, relative to other balanced-armature lower-ends, especially within the price tier, it puts up one heck of a show. Again, the only reservations would be towards its applications in jazz or latin. It hasn’t got the most melodic upper-bass for acoustic basses. Otherwise, it’s the ideal low-end for modern music, and it’s arguably the highlight of this in-ear’s entire signature.

Midrange

The midrange, again, is the bedrock of the EVE20’s signature, which is rare for a dynamic, contrast-driven IEM. Following a subtle dip in its lower-midrange to separate its lows and mids, you get that healthy 1-2kHz rise. What it provides is this even robustness across all instruments, so their transients – their bites, punches and kicks – will have a solid foundation to stand on. That prevents the EVE20 from sounding like those v-shaped IEMs, where all there is is low-frequency booms and high-frequency tizzes with no meat in the middle. Instead, instruments here are constantly solid and substantial. An example I gave earlier was the snare drum, which has crack and thump in equal measure. And, it’s especially crucial on a song like Mark Lettieri’s Magnetar, whose intro comprises of interchanging accents between the kick (lows), guitar (mids), snare (mids and highs) and hi-hats (highs). The midrange rise lends the guitars and the snare the gruffness they need to compete against the other elements. So, the EVE20’s impact, while boisterous, is evenly spread-out and easy on the ear.

Following that is the monitor’s higher-midrange; just as clear, exuberant and vivid. Horns and guitars come through with a glow and clarity to them, which, again, helps them shine against this EVE20’s other avenues of energy. Though, it’s also probably where this IEM comes off least dynamic to me. That sense of strain or compression I mentioned in Presentation is most evident here, which is why I cited power ballads as the example. Whether it’s Celine Dion on The Power of Love or Mariah Carey on One Sweet Day, you’ll get the sense that this monitor won’t quite reach that huge, open crescendo those sorts of songs tend to demand. But, again, this is a singular case that won’t apply to all genres, so your mileage will vary. It also really helps to have a recording that’s inherently dynamic. Chris Turner’s lead vocal on Snarky Puppy’s Liquid Love, for example, sound open and expressive. And, regardless of this minor quirk, one thing I must praise again on the in-ear here is its control. Instruments don’t bleed or intermingle with each other, despite their larger sizes and punchier tones. Okay dynamics aside, the high-mids are, again, a case for this EVE20’s precision, cleanliness and balance, despite its zeal.

Treble

Moving upwards, this EVE20 sports a crisp, glitzy low-treble courtesy of a healthy 5kHz peak. It adds that bright attack to hi-hats and cymbals, and it lends vocalists their sibilants too. It’s a peak that sits perfectly level with – if not a hair above – the IEM’s upper-midrange. As a result, vocals will tend to have a cleaner, sharper, more bite-led profile; a more neutral character, rather than a darker, more organic one. It’ll make lead instruments feel cleaner, as if you were listening to the raw stem. And, it’s a tad punchier than the upper-mids as well, so you may find hi-hats sounding fairly zealous relative to the snare on, say, Daft Punk’s Give Life Back to Music. Whereas, those who prefer a more live-feeling, more PA-system-like tone will probably want more evenness here. You can mend it by tip-rolling, but only to a certain degree, obviously. That said, though, the rise does have great smoothness to it. As long as you can achieve a deep insert, it’ll sound refined at all times. So, it’s a treble you ought to consider your tastes against, but one that’s mostly agreeable and well-integrated too.

Beyond that, though, the EVE20 levels out its treble nicely, so it doesn’t distract from the mids or lows. There’s not a mid-treble rise that induces brittleness or glare, neither is there a massive upper-treble lift that over-aerates or over-crisps. It simply shelves down across around 5-10kHz, then gradually trails off afterwards. The high-end doesn’t extend to flagship levels necessarily, but it certainly extends enough to, again, give you a clean, tidy, precise overview of the image’s layout, as well as a a clear look at the crisp, black background where the in-ear’s transients pop out from. You won’t get any roll-off on this EVE20. Cymbals and sibilants end to a T, and their tails are resolved cleanly – sharply – as well. They’ll possess great texture and character too, courtesy of the top-end’s slightly longer decay. Ride cymbals will cut through mixes with a clearer ring, for example. So, if wanna get more attitude from your crashes in rock, or you want more sheen from your jazz rides, the EVE20 will deliver. But, keep this in mind if you prefer quicker, silkier, less-prominent highs instead. To me, the EVE2’s treble epitomises its energetic profile. And, it caps it off nicely too; flashy, yet unobtrusive and pretty versatile.

General Recommendations

The EVE20 occupies a niche in the mid-fi market. It’s coloured for punch and power, but with a solid, meaty foundation in its midrange too. Here are three of its standout traits; reasons why the EVE20 could be your pick in a very saturated tier:

A dynamic, thunderous sound with a robust midrange: The EVE20’s calling card is vividness, energy and bite. But, what sets it apart is the dense, hefty, substantial mids that gift its transients a weighty core to build off. It’s ideal if you want heavy, chugging guitars to pair with your thumping kick and sizzling highs. Then, it’ll do a genre like rock a heap of good as well.

A w-shaped response with good body and warmth: The EVE20’s punchy, coloured response is also unique in that it does not rely on massive valleys or peaks in its frequency response for contrast. Despite its rowdy-ness, there’s always order to its imaging and coherence to its sig; both necessary for those who want their thrashing metal and rock to sound lifelike too.

Lows with both the qualities of a DD and a BA: Vision Ears have tuned this EVE20’s woofers to simulate the lows of a hybrid IEM. Sub-bass extension and an accompanying mid-bass lift lend it the stomp and weight of a diaphragm, but it fades as cleanly as an armature. So, if you want a healthy compromise between both in your next IEM, this EVE20 is a strong pick.

With colour, obviously comes conflict. There’ll be those who won’t want certain aspects of the EVE20’s signature, or those who’ll want something else entirely. The EVE20 may not be for you if the traits below are ones you need in your next IEM:

A relaxed, mellow-sounding signature: The EVE20 is the antithesis of buttery and soft. Even with slower jazz or latin tracks, it’s an IEM that’ll always have a push and a drive. If you’re looking for a relaxing in-ear to coast with, this one isn’t for you.

Open, enveloping, alluring higher-mids: The EVE20’s main weakness to me is its midrange’s ability to scale and breathe. It won’t rise with a track’s climax as capably as a more vocal-focused in-ear will, which limits its ability in rendering power ballads or symphonies. If you want an IEM that’ll ebb and flow with your track, Vision Ears’ ELYSIUM is the stronger pick.

Feathered, silky-smooth highs: The one speed bump I do hear in the EVE20’s frequency response is its upper-mid-to-treble transition. The low-treble has a bit more sizzle and bite than its upper-midrange, which can cause fatigue over long, long stretches if you’re particularly sensitive there. If you want a mellower top-end, the VE6XC is likely the more fitting option.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Deezel

Deezel

Church-boy by day and audio-obsessee by night, Daniel Lesmana’s world revolves around the rhythms and melodies we lovingly call: Music. When he’s not behind a console mixing live for a congregation of thousands, engineering records in a studio environment, or making noise behind a drum set, you’ll find him on his laptop analysing audio gear with fervor and glee. Now a specialist in custom IEMs, cables and full-sized headphones, he’s looking to bring his unique sensibilities - as both an enthusiast and a professional - into the reviewer’s space; a place where no man has gone before.

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