Pros: Great bass, not overwhelming
Top-notch Treble – not sparkly
Not too big
Cons: Stock cable
Amazing. There – a one-word review. Done. Nothing else to see here. Why are you still reading? Go home, hug your kids, kiss your wife, and empty your bank account to buy a pair of these. Then, be happy, be very happy, because your music will sound amazing and you won’t need money anymore. Give away your other headphones, stop going to work, and live on the street listening to music on your DAP with the VE8 happily playing away in your ears. WAIT! Don’t do that, you need to pay for electricity so you can charge your DAP and you need money to pay for Tidal. In fact, maybe don’t do any of the above except for the part where you buy some VE8s, they’re really, really good.
The Vision Ears VE8 (VE8) is the former flagship from Vision Ears, though quite frankly, it still sounds like it could be the flagship – and still is for their VE line. Now though, the much raved-about Phönix, EXT, Elysium, and EVE have stolen the thunder from the VE8, meaning that YOU can probably get these at a really good price, half the price of the Phönix even over at Bloom Audio. The 8 in VE8 indicated the 8 BA drivers on each side, which is becoming the exception, not the norm in the modern era of hybrids with ESTs, DDs, and Bone Conductors all shoved into a tiny shell. BUT, the VE8 accomplishes more with those 8 drivers than most hybrids.
Build Quality / Comfort:
The build quality on the VE8 is fantastic (more on the cable in a minute) and the shells look and feel like they will be around for many more years. The shiny metal (which I tried to capture in my photos) throughout the shells looks amazing in the light and I found myself surprised more than once as I walked by a mirror and the light from them caught my eye. The carrying case that comes with the VE8 is built like a literal tank and could probably be run over by a car without any damage to the headphones. The box the VE8 comes with is VERY high quality, with cleaning solution, silica gel, and all-foam ear tips. This is quality packaging and more companies should put this level of detail into their products.
The cable, however, needs a paragraph of its own. Not because it’s good, oh no, check out the photo of it below. It’s not good, not good at all. In fact, it is quite possibly one of the worst cables I’ve ever seen on an IEM. This is hard for me to say, but it reminds me of the non-removable cable on the Moondrop Chu – an $18 IEM. The $25 7Hz Salnotes Zero comes with a better cable – so does the $29 KZ x HBB DQ6S (embarrassing these are even mentioned in this review at 1/100th the price). I’m sorry, but these still retail for $2,420 – there is no reason a cable THIS BAD should come with IEMs THIS NICE. OK, got it, they spent all their money on the actual product, but maybe I don’t need ear tip cleaner, or a 6.35mm jack, or foam ear tips, or a tank box quite as much as a decent cable. Anyway, mine luckily came with the Queen of Audio RUM (RUM) – a fantastic modular cable that I will be using for this review – replace the stock cable ASAP – the RUM and the Kinnera Leyding are both awesome modular cables.
I didn’t feel like using the stock tips because used tips gross me out. So, I’m using the Small Spinfit W1 tips from my MMk2 (here if you want a set: https://amzn.to/3XSOXtN.) They fit my ears very well and get a good seal (important with the VE8…and any IEM really.) Over a long enough period of time, they can get a little uncomfortable because they fit snugly. But, I really appreciate their overall characteristics. The ear hooks on the RUM are very comfortable, and there’s not a bad weight to the cable either, though I’m sure it’s heavier than the stock
twist tie cable. The VE8 are what I would call medium size, they’re not tiny like the Chu, and they’re slightly smaller than the Monarch – though they do have a “shelf” on one side like the DQ6S. There can also be some ear pressure over time as they are not vented like the u12t.
Sound / Source / Comparisons:
I am going to start off with the squig.link frequency chart below because I think it is important to highlight the similarities and differences between the VE8 and the Thieaudio Monarch Mk2 (MMk2). These are both excellent headphones and the Monarch is the closest competitor I have heard to the VE8 (despite costing 40% as much). The monarch clearly has more sub-bass, but their mids-bass through mids are VERY similar (I kind of think that Thieaudio used the VE8 as a baseline for the MMk2 tuning, though it almost perfectly mates with HBB’s target, so we’ll likely never know.) Then, through the high-mids to the treble, both IEMs change drastically with the VE8 climbing to some pretty peaky highs in the 6-7k region before dropping below the MMk2 for the rest of the frequencies. The monarch meanwhile remains relatively neutral through the highs, with minor dips and rises.
I am powering these through my Shanling M3 Ultra (M3U), which is still one of the best price/performance DAPs on the market, using the 4.4mm balanced jack on the RUM cable and sourced from Tidal Hi-Fi. A quick note on power: these are the easiest-to-drive IEMs I’ve ever used with a balanced connection (19/100 on the M3U.) The MMk2s are around 35/100 on a balanced connection, so the 8 BA drivers on the VE8 are VERY efficient, which saves battery life on a portable DAP. Moving on to sound.
I don’t like breaking down headphones solely by frequency range since every song has bass, mids, and highs (and I can’t tell the difference between vocals at 1900 Hz and 2100 Hz.) So, I will start with bass-heavy songs, and break down each song by how all the pieces are presented. You can find my Tidal test tracks playlist in my signature if you want to compare them to your headphones. The first song I will be listening to is a bass-heavy song by Basshunter called “All I ever Wanted.” I chose this song because the VE8 has great mids, and this song not only has excellent bass but good mids as well. The intro vocals and piano come in cleanly and to the front of the soundstage. The bass drums that come in at 0:19 hit hard with good impact and clarity – they don’t overwhelm the mids here like they can on some very bass-heavy headphones. The transition at 0:53 shows off how well the bass can perform on the VE8, once again without overwhelming the synths.
Up next in bass-heavy songs is David Guetta’s “I’m Good (Blue).” This song is great for testing the whole range of frequencies. The intro bass drums come VERY hard, almost a little too hard. The synths at 0:38 though are super clean and do justice to the original Eiffel 65 song. The sub-bass at 0:38 has that breath/heart-stopping quality that I look for in this song. The vocals are extremely clean and are not overwhelmed by any other parts of the music. If I had any complaints about this song, it’s that the mids are just slightly recessed compared to the lows. The highs also come in cleanly throughout the song without any of the harshness that some IEMs can exhibit (MEST Mk2.)
Moving on to mids-heavy songs: Skillet’s “Stars” sounds fantastic with excellent, mids-forward, vocals and a good bass-synth in the background. The bass and snare drums come in cleanly and nothing overwhelms the vocals, which are the true star (get it?) of this song. The highs on this song can come in very sharp on some headphones and IEMS, but that’s not the case at all with the VE8, it sounds exactly as it should – that’s pretty high praise.
Next is Thousand Foot Krutch’s “I See Red.” The intro vocals come in very forward and sound excellent – a defining characteristic of the VE8. The guitars and bass guitar in the background are clean and clear without overwhelming the vocals. The transition at 1:42 comes in cleanly with low distortion and good balance. I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but the mids on the VE8 are just so good. Another song that highlights this point is Staind’s “Something to Remind You.” I absolutely love this song, but it can sound pretty terrible on a bad source. The VE8 does a good job representing the guitars in the background while letting Aaron Lewis’s voice shine through. The bass guitar in the background 1/3rd of the way through comes in cleanly and doesn’t get overshadowed by any other parts of the song. Mids are one place where these shine – just like the MMk2.
Highs. The downfall of a great many headphones and IEMs. My current Sibilance test song is “High Hopes” by Panic! At The Disco. The horns in the intro come in cleanly with massive breadth and presence. The vocals also appear accurate and clean with no sibilance of note (on some headphones, this song is filled with painful “S” sounds that can sound like nails on a chalkboard.) The snares come in cleanly with the bass drums in the background. The horns in this song sound fantastic in the background (sometimes you can hardly hear them at all on other headphones.) Overall, one of the best representations I’ve heard of this song.
Michelle McLaughlin’s “Across the Burren” is another song where highs can be sharp or grating. The subdued low-treble on these really helps them on this song. Every note comes across cleanly with no harsh reverberation. I couldn’t even get through this whole song with the UM MEST Mk2, so the clean representation here is very welcome. Some people will complain that there’s no “sparkle,” to me that just sounds terrible, so I’m glad there’s no sparkle.
So, how do these compare to the MMk2? The VE8 has better highs, the Monarch has more reverberation in “Across the Burren” to point of almost being painful, but not quite. The VE8 may have the best treble I have heard on an IEM (my preference, you may love sharp treble.) The MMk2 has a bigger soundstage, this is especially apparent in “High Hopes” where it feels like an open room vs the VE8s recording studio. Both IEMs avoid the sibilant “S” sounds here. The bass on both headphones has a ton of impact. The sub-bass on the Monarch is definitely stronger in “I’m Good (Blue)” where it almost overwhelms the rest of the song – I prefer the VE8 bass here, but maybe you love bass, in which case the MMk2 or MEST Mk2 would work better for you. On both “I See Red” and “Something to Remind You” the bigger soundstage on the MMk2 is apparent. Otherwise, the vocals, guitars, and bass drums sound very similar on both IEMs (which, realistically, they should after looking at their freq chart.) I would say that the vocals are more forward on the Monarch though, but only just slightly. Guitars are also slightly cleaner on the MMk2 in “I See Red” – likely due to the driver difference. Both IEMs are great, but for s cheaper IEM with more sub-bass, slightly better guitars, and stronger highs, get the Monarch. For easier-to-drive with less sub-bass and better highs with no sibilance, get the VE8.
Great bass, great mids, and top-notch highs. The VE8 is a triumph for Vision Ears. It’s astounding that they have new IEMs that are supposedly EVEN BETTER than the VE8. Hopefully, someday I’ll get to try them someday. Until then, the VE8 and Monarch will continue to battle it out for 1st place on my desk.
You can buy them from Audio46 using my affiliate link if you want: https://audio46.com/?ref=wolfhawkaudioreview.com
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