REVIEW of the HIDITION VIENTO-R Reference Universal In-Ear Monitor
Hidition is a custom in-ear monitor company based in Seoul, Korea and they have a small line-up of monitors that come in varying driver counts and prices. The Viento Reference model is one of their more popular models due to some very high praise within the audio community for a company, that for the most part, is completely unheralded and unheard of by most people outside of Korea. And that’s because this product isn’t available anywhere outside of Korea except a few select small retailers across Asia.
Because of this, hearing about it or getting your hands on this is more word of mouth and finding someone to demo it from. In my case, living in Seattle, there’s no where to try it, and the number of people who actually own this is quite small, so getting an opportunity to listen to this before blind buying it is almost nil. I took a stab at just buying blindly and getting the full Reference model, which comes with 2 switches that creates 4 separate tuning profiles. You can also choose to pick a specific tuning for a large discount. At the time of buying it, the universal reference model was $1450 for universal, and $1490 for custom, while the single-tuning models were $930 and $990 respectively. Additional charges apply for customized faceplates and designs.
Each IEM, no matter if it is custom or universal, are built-to-order and the process took about 3-4 weeks for the fabrication process. Once it was shipped, it came very fast, as Hidition uses FedEx International services and it came within 2-3 days to my house.
Design and Accessories
The Viento came in a gift bag, and within the gift bag was another gift bag. Inside that gift bag, was a custom Hidition case made by another Korean company, Dignis. This Dignis case is pretty large, so you can pack with accessories, or even a small DAP. The universal set came with a selection of tips, cleaning brush, and a silver-colored cable. The cable itself isn’t very great. It’s not very soft, nor easy to work with. It’s springy, stiff, and really just feels bad. I opted to use my own 2-pin connectors. This is another option you can choose from at the time of order: 2-pin or mmcx connector types.
The design I chose for this universal set was a simple translucent design with one side being a purple color and the other a dark gray color. With the translucent look, you can see all the bundles of wiring and the four drivers inside as well as the tubes and cross-over switches. The stem on these is extra long. They extend pretty far in and end just before the first bend of my ear canal. With that, I ended up picking Spinfit tips to go with these as they have good flexibility and can make the turn around the bend.
The sound signature varies depending on which switch settings are used. There 4 settings total, the default “A” setting, which is quite similar to Etymotic’s take on Diffuse Field with a slight bass boost that makes it just a smidgen higher than flat. The “B” setting is very similar to an earlier version of the Harman Target curve, with a 4 dB bass shelf added to the “A” setting. The “C” setting bumps the mid-range up and gives it’s a warmer tuning, and the “D” setting bumps both the low-end and mid-range giving it a more V-shaped signature, albeit not as bassy as typical V-shaped signatures would sound like.
While I have not heard the custom in-ear version, I’ve been told that the universal one has a little more treble gain due to the fit, and so these impressions will be primarily based on what I hear using the universal fit. The custom version seems to graph quite similarly, albeit with a slightly more extended treble response, to the ER4 series of IEMs, for reference.
The measurements below are using silicone tips which exacerbate the 7-8KHz peak. With foam tips, the measurement is toned down a bit. This is shown below in my Viento-B measurement.
Bass on a whole isn’t the strongest suit for the Viento, and those that are looking for bass-focused IEM really need to look elsewhere. The Viento’s bass response is clean, articulate, and rather subdued, even on it’s B and D settings. For me, I find it very ideal, especially somewhere between the A and B modes. As these are presented using balanced armatures, bass response is quick and nimble, and only carry weight when used with the bass switch on. The “A” setting, still, can have a perfect amount of bass, especially if you’re coming from the Etymotics ER4/ER3 series where there is roll-off in sub-bass.
The mid-range is fantastic on this set. This is noticeably the most coherent IEM I’ve heard to date. Everything is presented from low to top, in a beautiful smooth and elegant display of music. Tonality across the mid-range is really perfect for acoustic music in my eyes, with its reproduction making me feel more and more motivated to listen to classical, bluegrass, and jazz music endlessly. When it comes to rock music, the mid-range presents everything equally weighted, however, some may find male voices a tad lean and with the brighter treble, and sharper upper mid-range, female vocals can come off a little shrill. This isn’t much of a problem for me as I really enjoy how vocals are presented on this in-ear, with most of the problems I’ve experienced having a lot to do with poor pop recordings.
And that’s where the issues really do start to show itself. For me, I never found the treble region to be a problem until I listened to modern pop music. The lifted upper range really makes sounds come off with great airy soundstage and a little bit of zing to add flavor to songs putting them just a bit brighter than neutral. I’m told with the CIEM version, the treble isn’t so elevated, since the IEM is placed deeper in your ear canal.
Back to the previous thought – I’ve been using this one song lately to test pop recordings and how tame the IEM is in handling sibilance and just general overly-extended treble gain – when the recording studio goes a little excessive on the knobs.
Tegan & Sara’s “Boyfriend” has a lot of sibilance right around the 47 second and 1:47 mark of the song, when they sing out “I don’t want to be your secret anymore.” The “s” sound can be rather sibilant on some IEMs where treble is exaggerated. The song immediately follows up with, “I’m trying to honest cause I can’t relax. When I get around you, I can’t hide the fact. I let you take advantage cause it felt so good. I blame myself for thinking we both understood.” As you can see, there’s a lot of sibilant consonants in this verse, which can be rather painful on some IEMs.
My other main IEM that I use in the qdc Anole VX, and it too also has a treble rise between 7 and 9 KHz, and can also accentuate some sibilance on really exaggerated recordings. It also struggles with the specific song, and becomes worst with volume increase. The same is said with the Viento-R universal.
Despite also having wide-ranged vibrato vocals, First Aid Kit’s “Emmylou” sounds really pleasant and never harsh with the Viento in all modes, while really standing out on either A or B settings, which quickly became my preferred choices. With either of these, each acoustic guitar pluck felt intricate and masterful, and the steel pedal was full of texture and detail.
When I listen to a song like GoGo Penguin’s “Hopopono,” which is a fusion of jazz, classical, and post-rock, I find the imaging and soundstage of the Viento really shine here. There’s an abundance of little details that pop out and they come from different locations. Cymbals crashing to my left, sliding off the strings on the double bass on my right, piano coming right down the center but slight higher in the scene. Even when I mentioned that the low end does lack a little bit of weight, the bass guitar and kick drum and snares have good impact and you feel every pluck and every hit, though tamer than an IEM or headphone with more elevated bass.
For this type of music, I prefer the levels to be where the “B” setting resides, because any more and I feel like the drums and bass would dominate the piano portions of this band’s music. Subbass is very good for this IEM despite it’s lower gain. I feel the housing rumbling or at least having the impression of it rumbling in my ear when bass notes hit low. It’s quite a feeling that I can’t really say I’ve heard elsewhere in such a clean, clear and highly textured way.
Nickel Creek and Allison Krauss & Union Station are two really wonderful bluegrass bands that cross-over to indie rock and add bits and pieces of pop, jazz and other genres to their music, and I find this music really exemplifies the Viento’s tuning and capabilities. It handles fast, busy sections well, and bluegrass music tends to have very technical mandolin, guitar, and fiddle sections.
My comparisons of the Viento the 64 Audio U12t and the qdc Anole VX can be found here: https://www.antdroid.net/2020/03/64-audio-u12t-review.html or here: https://www.headphones.com/blogs/news/64-audio-u12t-universal-iem-review-1
Despite buying the universal version, which has some elevated treble response (some may like it and some may not), I find that the Viento is easily one of the most coherent and natural sounding in-ear monitors I have tried out. It’s got variable switches to change tuning, which I found each to sound pleasant, and it’s got great resolution and imaging, hanging with the big boys. I think anyone who enjoys acoustic instruments and music with orchestral sections, or jazz, or just simple bluegrass music will really enjoy this sound, as it really hits home with me for those genres.
For more pop and rock genres, it’ll still play them with great detail and coherency, but I find it does lack a little bit of low end grit and a little too boosted in the upper mid-range and lower treble (pinna compensation zone) that it may make some pop music sound a bit over-extended.
If you enjoy the Etymotic line-up of IEMs, but want something that adds more stage, more layering, and more openness, while also adding touch better resolution, this is the one you’ll want to take a look at. The Universal version adds an increase in the treble range, while the custom (from what I’ve seen and have heard) is more in-line with the Etymotic ER4XR.