64Audio A6t ($1299)
Despite similar driver sets, the A6t contrasts the VE6XC’s laid-back, ultra-refined presentation. The 64Audio in-ear boasts solidity and impact all throughout – rooting its musicality in dynamic range, contrast and clarity. The VE6XC sounds cool, composed and collected by comparison. There’s a fine elegance to its delivery that may sound distant to some. But by the same token, the A6t may come across too in-your-face as well. What the two share, then, is a neutrality in tone. This is complemented on the VE6XC with organic body, while the A6t flaunts bolder notes with harder edges. The former forgoes sparkle in the uppermost regions, resulting in feathered, refined transients; less clear-cut, but less fatiguing too.
The A6t possesses a sub-bass emphasis for a more visceral low-end than the VE6XC’s. The latter’s comes across less coloured and more naturally-balanced overall. Regardless, the A6t trumps in contests of impact, texture and musicality. The two monitors possess similar tonalities in the midrange; dense and unforced in the upper-mids. So, vibrance is ultimately decided by the top-end. The A6t’s tia-powered treble beams with energy; crisp and airy. Vocalists take on a more fibrous texture, and percussion pops with great crackle. Conversely, the VE6XC’s laid-back treble results in light, feathery projection. Again, it offers an outside-in perspective, further aided by the holographic stage. The A6t, although airier, is comparatively more closed-in and packed. In the end, it loses out in headroom to Vision Ears’ former flagship.
Empire Ears Phantom ($1799)
The Phantom and VE6XC share striking similarities in tonal balance and articulation. Both monitors render instruments with a delicate touch and a truthful timbre. Though ultimately, the two share their fair share of deviations. The Phantom has a warmer mid-bass, resulting in fatter notes and a greater emphasis on harmonics. The VE6XC’s instruments are cleaner then, but remain organic through refinement. Although the VE6XC carries a more prominent treble, the control and finesse it possesses allows it to sound natural all the same; a smoother touch. The Phantom’s bolder notes result in a more involving, intimate performance. But, the two are neck-and-neck in terms of stage expansion. The VE6XC is able to separate more clinically than the Phantom (i.e. show more faces in the room). But, the latter better balances its instruments’ transients and overtones (i.e. equal amounts of face and body). Which is better is entirely up to preference.
Vision Ears’ VE6XC is neutral in its most sophisticated flavour yet: Refined, smooth and lavishly nuanced. With surgical precision, it positions every sonic element on equal footing, sprawled across a vast, operatic soundscape as stable as it is grand. Although it isn’t the most immersive of palates – constantly preferring to look from the outside-in – those faraway instruments never ever feel distant. This is where the VE6XC is most special – a symbiotic relationship where resolution, cleanliness and control meet organic body to form effortlessly natural-sounding instruments. Once you throw in the dual signatures and the company’s signature German flair, the price tag does become a tad easier to swallow. The VE6XC may have been usurped as Vision Ears’ top-of-the-line offering, but as they all say, “Class is permanent.”