Vision Ears EXT: Purple Reign – An In-Ear Monitor Review

Select Comparisons

Vision Ears ELYSIUM (EUR 2250)

NOTE: My ELYSIUM unit is the custom version. The universal version retails at €2050 on Vision Ears’ website.

As I said to begin this review’s second page, the EXT is more its own thing than an ELYSIUM 2.0. Much of that has to do with how they’ve deviated in presentation. The original ELYSIUM is an in-ear that bolsters an instrument’s projection. Its lighter lows, upper-leaning midrange and light, open treble all contributed to making sing – shine – as much as possible; heard more than felt. The EXT, meanwhile, takes the opposite approach. Horns aren’t the brightest or brassiest, neither will female vocals gleam and radiate. It’s the boom (or oomph) of the former that’s emphasised, then the chestiness (or diaphragm) of the latter. String sections will likely hit you in the chest first before you even begin to appreciate the hues of the violins and violas on the EXT. So, before even getting into the minutia of their FRs, the approach is truly where the two ELYSIUM’s will decide their fans, for me; the light-footed, Disney-Princess-esque ELYSIUM vs. the gruff, hearty EXT.

Technically, the EXT improves on the original ELYSIUM’s imaging. It doesn’t expand much further outwards, but it does have more precise imaging, which is down to – again – more textured, clearer-cut instruments. When peripheral sounds like shakers and chimes are better resolved, you can get the perception of a larger stage. But, that more involving, more in it sort-of stage is one of the areas where the two are most alike. The EXT is also an IEM that’s snappier dynamically. There’s an explosiveness to it that lends it lots of sharpness and contrast. Whereas, the ELYSIUM has a more graceful, elegant flow to it. It’ll definitely lose out to the EXT in percussion and dance, for example. But, again, it’s certainly there if you desire that light, breezy, easy-on-the-ear sound. Finally, the key differentiator between the two is bass. The EXT’s hits across a bigger area and is miles more physical, while the ELYSIUM’s is a supporting actor at best, for better or for worse.

Vision Ears PHöNIX (EUR 3500)

Going from the EXT to the PHoNIX, you’ll again notice several differences in presentation. The latter’s notes span much wider, so individual images take up more real estate. But, at the same time, its headspace is bigger and more spherical too, so it isn’t as crowded or as much of a concert, perhaps, as the EXT is. The PHoNIX’s instruments more so surround the listener as well, so you’re sitting in this bubble with notes lining the periphery. Whereas, instruments on the EXT will leap and jab towards you, which’ll result in a more active, more intense experience. The images on the EXT, again, have a more apparent texture or edge, like an image with the Clarity and Contrast dials turned up in Adobe Lightroom. On the PHoNIX, they’re more rounded with a lighter, airier attack, but still supported thanks to its meaty low-end. The PHoNIX’s left-right spread is more extreme too, which lends to that holography, while the EXT, though precise, has less width to it.

Tonally, you’ll get a clearer, more melodic, more sing-song-y tonality out of the PHoNIX. It isn’t necessarily brighter, nor is it thinner, thanks to its present mid-bass. Instead, that profile comes from the midrange tuning, which is more higher-mid biased than the EXT. Instruments like the snare drum, the conga and the electric guitar have this lighter, more open sound to them, which shows off more of their colour or tonality. Whereas, again, the EXT’s main focus is texture, weight and impact, so that vibrance – that shine – won’t be as prevalent. So, sounds like the violin or the female voice will have more beauty on the PHoNIX, and they’ll exude more power, oomph and drive on the EXT. I find the treble on the PHoNIX smoother and more feathered top, whilst being just as clear and resolving as the EXT’s. The latter, again, has this gritty, powdery edge to it from that mid-treble elevation, while the PHoNIX’s low- and high-treble peaks allow it to ease into its attacks. It’ll edge the EXT in extension too. But, ultimately, which of the two is more natural to you comes down to taste.

JH Audio Jolene (USD 1799)

Both the EXT and JH Audio’s Jolene strive for engagement via huge, dynamic and richly-textured instruments. Though, it’s approached in different ways; note tactility on the EXT and venue size on the Jolene. Among them are tons of tonal discrepancies too. So, if you want to learn more, check out the full comparison on my review of JH’s Jolene linked here.


Verdict

Though marketed – and likely conceptualised initially – as a successor to their ELYSIUM, the EXT sees Vision Ears tread fresh and incredibly-exciting waters. Their foray into DD woofers laid the foundation for a signature packed with weight, texture and impact, and that is exactly what they’ve delivered. In lieu of the ELYSIUM’s light, dainty, ethereal serenades, the EXT drives instruments toward you with palpable tactility; solid bodies moving back and forth across the stage. This translates all the way through its hefty, subdued mids and its refined, yet edgy treble, resulting in a sound that’ll engage more than it’ll lull. It’s not one for those who crave daintiness, brassy-ness, or rounded edges. But, to the listener up for thrills and sounds that genuinely move you, the Vision Ears EXT and its deluge of textures are waiting on the other side.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

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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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