Vision Ears EXT Review
Vision ears is an audio company out of Cologne, Germany that has produced numerous series of high quality IEMs over the years. What we have today is the Vision Ears EXT, a new and improved version of their popular Elysium IEM. At $2,960, this is quite an introduction for me to have with a company whose products I’ve never before had the privilege of trying. With a price like that, can it really be that good?
What’s In The Box?
-2 pin to 2.5mm nalanced cable
-Spinfit CP500 Eartips
-Azla Crystal Eartips
Look and Feel
As you likely already noticed, the EXT is a genuinely cool and flashy IEM that gives off cyber-punk vibes. The metallic purple on the back of the housing has steely, symmetrical grooves that give the EXT a distinct computer chip aesthetic. The carrying case mimics this fashionable look, and ensures some top quality protection with its solid aluminum build. I also appreciate just how durable the included cable is, which is braided and very heavily insulated with a plastic runner on the split end for quick untangling.
I had to fidget a bit to get the EXT resting in my ear properly, but once it was in it was quite a firm and even tight fit for an IEM. A minor gripe that is nonetheless worth the mention is that it took me about ten minutes just to secure the eartips to the EXT due to the weird, ovular shape on the part of the headphone that receives the ear tip. Though this makes for a strong eartip grip once you finally get it on, I can’t help but feel like this was an oversight in the design that makes the very first part of the interaction with the unit a nuisance.
Arguably the most premium feature of the EXT lies in its driver design. In each monitor lies a 9.2 mm and 6 mm dynamic driver to give extra control over the low and mid range, while four electrostatic drivers serve as tweeters. The chamber design exclusively features the second generation of Vision Ears HALC (High Precision Leveling Chamber) technology.
Impedance: 10 ohms
Sensitivity: 108 dB SPL @ 1kHz (100 mV)
The most stand-out quality of the EXT’s sound is it’s unbelievably wide sound stage and fluid imaging. Directionality was very 3D, and mixes were placed in a space that felt like my head was in a fish bowl of sound. Parts of mixes expressed themselves at distinct angles; while listening to “Heartbeats” by The Knife, percussion parts that were heavily panned to the left ear still gave me the distinct impression of coming from my front-left rather than directly from my left side, which really put the vast depth of the stage in perspective. This characteristic enhanced the accuracy of the layering as well, as each part of the mix was in it’s own highly distinct place.
Though the overall timbre of the EXT was moderately balanced and natural, there was a distinct but not overly-dramatic mid scoop. I didn’t mind this at all in this case; when headphones and IEMs actually successfully pull off this EQ character, it may detract from accuracy, but it adds energy and polish, and makes for an enjoyable listen.
The bass boost present in the EXT has quite a bit of influence over its general sound character. IEMs that lean far into the subs generally make me a little nervous, as I find they can lose precision in their pursuit of power. With its own dedicated bass driver, however, the subs and lows came through thick and heavy while perfectly maintaining their mix-specific character. I had the sensation of feeling the air pressure coming off of kick drums, which played well with the EXTs stellar imaging to give the impression that their mono sound was located right in the center of my head. Even on tracks with competing bass parts, the EXT had no problem retaining a precise representation of them that avoided masking and obfuscation.
The EXT mellows out in the mids, but maintains their energy fairly even-handedly. The boost in the lows continues a bit into the lower mids, giving it a touch of warmth while avoiding muddiness. I used the album Loveless by My Bloody Valentine as a mids test, an album famous for going light on low end in favor of throwing a noisy pool of mids right in a listeners face. In the near absence of significant bass, I heard the EXT pulling at the low fundamentals of the guitar parts while ever-so-slightly attenuating some of the crunchy distortion in the center mids. My only minor criticism with this choice in mids balance was that male vocals and snare drums lost some forcefulness, and were perhaps the only small casualty in the EXT’s balance.
Some listeners might find the EXT harsh, but as some one who likes headphones that lean into their highs, I was very appreciative of how bright it was willing to get. The most interesting part of the balance is the complimentary relationship the highs have with the lows. Hi hats and hand claps landed with a refreshingly punctuated clicky smack against the heavy lifting that occurs in the lows. The high end boost didn’t quite go high enough in the frequency spectrum to give an added airy quality to ride cymbals or reverbs, but it did bring forward sibilants and added perceptibility to subtle, squeaky cracks in high pitched women’s vocals.
The Vision Ears EXT gave me a thoroughly three-dimensional listening experience that I seldom come across, even with other premium IEMs. This makes for a very fun and wondrous listen. The balance was pretty accurate with it’s own tasteful characteristics that influenced mixes favorably, with highs and lows that were exceptionally complimentary to one another. If you’re in the market for an extra premium IEM that will turn heads for its style, tech, and overall sound. the EXT is certainly worthy of your attention.