Vision Ears VE6XC (€1930)
Compared to the VE6XC, what I’m getting from the VE7 is a sharper, more detailed and much more focused tone overall. It isn’t just from the latter’s crisper, cleaner low-treble, which it does have. The VE7 simply has the more stable backdrop, snappier attacks-and-decays and better-resolved textures. Images have greater definition to them, especially the centre-image. And, they’re positioned a lot more precisely too. To me, this is a testament to how much VE has grown technically since their 2013 or 2014 top-of-the-line. And, at the same time, it makes the VE7’s more affordable MSRP – relative to the VE6XC – a much nicer proposition too. This is a great sign of VE’s view on the market, and I’d love to see more follow suit.
As the first paragraph implies, the most noticeable differences between the two are more technical or spatial than tonal to me. Both straddle that neutral-natural zone, but this VE7 does come off more vibrant and open, because of its sparkly low-treble. The VE6XC sounds more diffuse there, resulting in more relaxed-sounding instruments. Then, when it comes to body, I feel the two share similar amounts. But, this VE6XC’s lower-mid focus lends it a smokier, looser kind. Whereas, the VE7’s 1-2kHz focus gives it heft and density, while remaining tight and clinical because of its relaxed low-mids. This is so in its bass too. The VE7’s far more extended highs lend its lows lots of definition, and that extends further for a more visceral sub-bass as well. So, again, I find this VE7 a clear step-up from the VE6, and it’s amazing to see VE’s growth there.
JH Audio Jolene ($1799)
To me, the main difference between the Jolene and the VE7 is control. The Jolene exercises a bit more of it, which results in instruments that feel a bit tighter, a bit smaller and less loose. This VE7 certainly comes off more expressive or vibrant by comparison, along with a slight bias towards the centre-image. Whereas, with the Jolene, you get the sense that focus is spread evenly across its space, so its hard-left and the hard-right sides will sound a tad more resolved, whether it’s the panning vocoder on Lose Yourself To Dance or raw overhead mics. The Jolene’s vocals are also denser or heftier than they are forward or animated. You’ll hear more oomph and body than projection or clarity, which is somewhat of a contrast to the VE7’s presentation. So, the Jolene has the more relaxed, restrained profile, relative to this VE7’s vibrant, intimate one.
Technically, to me, I feel the Jolene has an overall edge in detail retrieval and texture. Again, it images and separates with more precision and less effort, so you’ll be able to better catch those tiny nuances. Specifically in the high-mids and mid-bass, though, I feel the VE7’s lightly warmer and lightly more expressive renditions, respectively, give a bit more character and intimacy there. So, again, it’ll be up to taste. The bass is probably where these two are least alike in timbre. This VE7 has the lighter, more compact, more jab-y bottom-end. Whereas, the Jolene’s twin woofers give it a larger surface area, a more visceral impact, and a more prevalent, muscly texture too. So, for me, the Jolene is great if you want sheer expanse and air with dense, hefty instruments. Whereas, this VE7 has swift, snappy neutrality with undertones of warm intimacy.
MMR Balmung ($2699)
When it comes to their aggregate colour or timbre, the VE7 and Balmung are certainly on a similar wavelength. Both float around neutral, with specific colourations to elevate engagement and musicality. Those very colourations are where they being to diverge for me. Relative to the VE7’s quick, snappy transients, the Balmung’s are a tad more diffuse, relaxed and organic. Instruments like hi-hats have a bit more spread to them, which is unlike that PRaT-oriented, touch-and-go sound that the VE7’s got. There’s more smokiness to the Balmung as well, because of its elevated mid-bass. The VE7’s will come across drier and tighter by comparison; not as bulbous, and with less decay too. And, the last notable discrepancy lies in the mid-treble. The VE7 has more energy around 6-8kHz, which is what creates that difference in their transients. On the other hand, the Balmung is, again, softer or more diffuse here, undercutting the sharpness that certain sounds can have.
Technically-speaking, the Balmung definitely has the bigger sound of the two. Notes span larger and take up more room, but it has a tad more room to play with too. Its elevated mid-bass also lends it that smack down low that this VE7’s opted against. By comparison, the VE7’s got that more clinical, more reserved, more studio-style presentation; looser and more soulful than most studio-tuned in-ears I’ve heard in the past, but definitely not to the degree of the Balmung. In terms of image tidiness, stage cleanliness and separation, though, this VE7 is the tidier of the two. You get an exact idea of where instruments are supposed to be, which isn’t the easiest to do with the Balmung’s beefier, wider-spanning notes. Then, in terms of resolution and detail retrieval, I’d say they split the difference. Textures and transients are better-etched on the VE7, because of its sharper, cleaner lines. But, the Balmung has more lower-end information. So, I’d certainly call it even.
Vision Ears’ VE7 is yet another winning addition to their vast, varied repertoire; another entry that sounds nothing like its siblings, but bears the same torch of easy, listenable, musical soul. It achieves the brief of reference-grade neutrality with its neat, tidy imaging, its snappy, light-footed delivery and its articulate top-end. But, it all comes off even-keeled through a natural, well-tempered timbre, wide-spanning, ever-so-slightly-loose-sounding notes and just enough decay to wet the tongue. It probably isn’t the VE monitor to go to for warm, gooey mids or huge, out-of-head imaging. But, engineers after a monitor with oomph, or enthusiasts after a denser, richer take on neutral, will find no better fit in VE’s stable. The Vision Ears VE7 delivers reference in one of its easiest, most listenable forms yet; with body, with soul and a bit of swing to boot.