Copy paste job from my blogs: https://www.antdroid.net/2019/08/qdc-anole-vx-review.html
QDC ANOLE VX REVIEW
Chapter 1: The Story Begins…
The story begins with happy antdroid listening to an enjoyable set of Campfire Audio Solaris in-ears but struggling with getting a good fit in the right ear. This was discussed in heavy detail in a previous review of the Solaris, so I’ll leave the details aside. After additional frustrations as I had now purchased a set of these to own, and battled on a daily basis on whether my ears would let me use them or not – it could have been due to sinuses/allergies, the weather, the time of day, the coffee I was drinking, or the mood I was in. Sometimes they fit effortlessly, and other times, I had to take them out due to throbbing ear pain. I started to give up…
And then the story continues on as my online audio buddy McMadFace, who I share a vast commonality of audio gear (headphones, IEMs, amps, dacs and portable players), and common music preferences, decides to go to CanJam SoCal. I was hoping to meet him up at this event, but due to some house work at home that needed to be done, I had to stay behind. So he gave me some reports through Discord, an internet chat service – like a modern IRC. The first thing that came from him was a photo of a blue box and a message that was basically, I listened to these for 10 minutes and I had to buy them. Wow. That must have left quite an impression!
This little toy was the Anole VX, a 10-BA (per side) flagship in-ear from Chinese audio company qdc. This in-ear features 4 bass BAs, 2 mid Bas and 4 treble BAs along with a 3-way crossover and 3 tuning dipswitches that can control bass, mids and treble – effectively adding a boost to each region. You can do combinations of each one as you like as well.
Chapter 2: Conflicts & Resolutions
So back to the story, you see, McMadFace also owned the Campfire Solaris and Astell & Kern SR15 pairing that I was running as a daily driver setup, and we also share very similar over-ears and music as mentioned before. So, if this thing caught his eye, I knew there was a chance I would like it, and it could solve my Solaris problems.
Problem was, the qdc Anole VX is not cheap. NOT CHEAP at all. It’s a $2350 IEM for the universal fit, and $250 more for a custom version. Problem #2 was that it’s not easy to find. It’s only available through two stores in the USA, and only 1 at the time I was looking just a month and half ago – Musicteck and more recently added, Moon Audio. Getting a demo of it was challenging, as Musicteck didn’t respond to my emails about it. So, my only option was to blind buy, find someone locally and then convince them to let me demo it, or wait for a smoking good deal used and buy it on blind luck, or of course, just ignore it.
But the itch was needing to be scratched, and by chance, JeffreyRock and I exchanged some random reddit comments on a completely different thread about the VX and he put me in touch with ValarMorgouda on Reddit, who was local to me and owned the VX. The next day, I was meeting up this VX owner at a park in the area and demoing the Anole VX.
Within 1 minute of listening to the VX, I knew I had to buy it. It was exactly what I was looking for – both sonically, fit, and comfort. Details for days. Bass that was present, rumbling sub-bass, and layers upon layers of bass resolution and attack, warm mids and extended treble that provided clarity and air that did not ever sound harsh. Yea, this was 1 minute of listening. I knew it. I listened for another 15 minutes or so just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
At the same time, he tried some of my other IEMs I had with me, and we both confirmed that the VX was the best of the bunch, and I shook his hand, went home and immediately placed an order, and then texted him the good news!
Chapter 3: New Beginnings
As luck would have it, Musicteck ran out of the open-box version I ordered, and gave me a brand new one at the discounted pricing. And they came quickly. A couple days later the box arrived….
The VX comes in a very large but well-designed box. It screams premium, and it should, for the price tag. It’s not the same as Sony’s IER-Z1R box, but it’s on par with the Campfire Audio unboxing. The box comes with a variety of tips and a nice blue jewelry box case – the same one McMadface snapped a photo of back then to show off his new toy. The included cable is quite reminiscent of the one that came with the Moondrop Kanas Pro In-Ear that I also own, except with the qdc c-pin style connectors.
What surprised me was when I took them out and compared them to the Solaris, I found that they were actually very similar in size. Both are much bigger than most IEMs, and are also on-par with the Z1R in size. That said, they weigh very lightly compared to the other two, and the shell design is reminiscent of a CIEM in nature. With that in mind, I found the smallest tips I could find, and put them on and inserted these in as deep as I could and the fit is CIEM-like. The VX blocks out everything and fit is perfect, and I can wear them for hours at a time. Coming from the bulky, heavy, and oddly shaped Solaris, this is a pleasure to wear.
Chapter 4: Audio Escapades
I mentioned it before, but I’ll reiterate it again – The VX has a balanced tuning with a slightly warmer low end than neutral, and a gentle elevated treble region that I don’t find bright or harsh. It follows closely to my target preference curve, and falls in-line somewhere in-between the popular Harman target curve and the Diffuse Field reference curves in the lower end of the response curve, and has a tamer upper-midrange and treble than the two targets.
The VX features an all-BA setup, which seems to be going out of style for flagship IEMs in favor of hybrid setup combinations dynamics and balanced armatures, and in some cases, electret drivers. BAs are well known for the detail, resolution, and speed. Some people don’t like how they respond to sub-bass, bass and feel they are missing natural decay, slam, impact, and rumble. The qdc VX is tuned to actually bring out a lot of these qualities and I’m happy to report that there is good subbass performance on these, with impact and slam when needed. Rumbling subbass is present on the songs that call for it, and the speed and attack of the bass is right up my alley.
The qdc Anole VX has 3 dip switches which can change the sound profile giving it 8 total combinations of sound preferences. For my review, I am only using the stock sound signature. For the most part, I found only the mid-switch on to sound well, and sometimes I’d like it if I was planning on listening to female-only vocals, since that boost helps that upper-midrange portion a little bit.
I prefer headphones such as planar magnetics over-ears, Focal’s house sound, and more recently the ZMF Verite. All of these exhibit highly detailed and layered bass with fast attack and transient speeds. The VX exhibits all of this with ease. I never sensed any bass bleed, and found bass attacks to be taut, quick, yet present. I don’t think someone who wants mega basshead slam will be totally disappointed, but it’s not quite up there in that category. The Sony IER-Z1R and Campfire Solaris are a little more bass slam and natural decay than the VX does, for instance.
One artist who I bring up from time to time is the Cocteau Twins. Usually, I am using Liz Fraser’s voice as a test for harshness and sibilance, but in this case, their great song, “Cherry-Coloured Funk” off of Heaven or Las Vegas, has some deep bass that really excels on the VX. The bass guitar really carries the song and is full of power, energy and you can hear it set the tone of the song through and through.
Now that Tool is back in business, I can’t go past the low-end section of this review without bringing up a band that is totally driven by their drums and bass and other low end noises. The new “Fear Inoculum” track from Tool has plenty of this, and the VX handles all the noises with ease. Depth and layering and the wideness all come into play here. The speed of the BA bass drivers also help make Danny Carey’s drumming on every track I listen to come in with full force and clarity, which doesn’t ever feel congested as a busy band like Tool can easily become.
“The Pot” is one of my favorite tracks from Tool, and the introduction of the song has voices coming in different directions and depth, while the bass guitar is forward and laying down the track. Drum hits in circles around you at varying distance and this is all captured well by the VX – much better than any IEM I’ve heard. Solaris is also good at this type of holographic representation of music, but I found it to be a bit too warm and can become congested in it’s elevated bass.
The mid-range is well balanced through the lower portions with a nice rich sound that is smooth and clean. Like I said previously, the bass doesn’t bleed at all, and so vocals are clean and with energy and feel thick and full-bodied. There is a slight drop in the upper mid-range, similar to how the Solaris behaves, and this trades some female hollowness with increase in depth and soundstage. Like Solaris, I didn’t feel this impacted the sound at all for me, although some may not like it as much.
The treble region is extended and a little boosted, however for me, never harsh. These BAs blast out detail and resolution like no other, and so there is a lot of information coming at you at once. Luckily, unlike the Tin P1 for example, the wider, deeper, and taller soundstage helps move information around you and that keeps things from being too overwhelming and congested. In fact, I found the VX to handle pretty much every song with ease – songs like Daft Punk’s Contact, where the busy passages are full of kick drums, snares, hi hats, bass guitars, and heavily distorted guitars buzzing along in crazy, controlled harmony.
I’ve been using a variety of test tracks for sibilance lately – mostly in the dance music genres. Yes, the music is compressed a bit, and it’s boosted bass and treble pop music, but it is a good test of how headphones handle that type of music. For the VX, I threw it against one of my favorite fun artist, Chromeo, and they didn’t have the edgy treble artifacts that I would hear on IEMs that are overly bright. When throwing on a few sibilance tests like Alvvays “Dreams Tonite” and Norah Jones’ “Seven Years”, the VX powered through Molly Rankin and Norah Jones’s vocals with ease and did not exhibit any sibilance or harsh treble peaks.
I have seen some users say that there is a little fatiguing with the VX, however myself personally, I have not found this to be the case. Perhaps I’m just used to it at this point, but I can happily listen to the VX for hours at a time without any pain, both mentally, and physically. I find that a big plus in my books.
While I have mentioned mostly rock and pop music so far in my writings, I do want to make it a point that I do listen to quite a variety of music – from country to classical, jazz to post-rock, hip hop and EDM, and a variety of other stuff. The only genre where I think some may find a little lacking are the ones where you want extreme bass levels and a longer decay of bass notes. I found the VX to fit a nice balance of bass speed and attack with impact, but some may long for a little bit more – some thing a traditional dynamic driver can present.
Chapter 5: VX Battles
The Campfire Solaris and the Anole VX share similar sound profiles, however they do differ in how it’s presented. The Solaris is a hybrid with a single DD and 3 BAs, while the VX is solely relying on 10 BA drivers. The Solaris bass isn’t necessarily more impactful or anything, but it is definitely more elevated and warmer. This gives the low end a thicker and rich sound, however it does occasionally get muddy when compared side-by-side with VX. The Solaris also has a little bit more natural decay and speed, where the VX is fast and quick.
The midrange and treble are quite similar between the two, and both feature a small drop off in the upper-midrange which give both the holographic soundstage. I found the Solaris just a tad more shouty and fatiguing though.
And finally, in terms of comfort and fit, the Solaris is a bit heavier and more comfortable due to this, despite being similar in general size. The shell design and build of the Solaris is quite stunning though!
Meze Rai Penta
The Rai Penta is the flagship from Meze and is quite a looker. It’s also got a metal shell that looks more premium than the VX. The Rai Penta has a warm Diffuse Field signature which means that it has slightly elevated bass, and forward mid-range. It has a smaller soundstage than the VX and doesn’t sound quite as balanced and noticeably less extended in subbass and treble. The Rai Penta actually does drop off in the upper treble region a bit early. I tend to call the Rai Penta a safer tuning.
CustomArt Fibae 7
The Fibae 7 and Rai Penta have similar tuning, though Fibae 7 may even be more forward sounding. It’s much more intimate than the VX but has really wonderful mids that accentuate the female vocals and guitar strings. Like the Rai Penta, it doesn’t have as filled-in of a mid-range tuning, nor does it come close to the resolution and detail of the VX. While I do like the Fibae 7 a lot, I prefer the balance of all-around sound of the VX more.
The Campfire Andromeda is the famous green IEM that is quite popular. Playing it with different sources can vastly change it’s sound signature so comparing it is going to vary. Using a low impedance output amp, the Andromeda is bassier than the VX and does not share the same type of close-to-natural response that the VX does in this region. The Andromeda also has wider sound stage, in-part due to the lack of a forward sounding mid-range. It has a treble spike that makes it sparkle, and what it is most famous for, whereas the VX doesn’t really exhibit this type of behavior.
Chapter 6: Aftermath
The VX quickly entered my life and I find it is here to stay for a long, long time. I’ve said this before and changed my mind, but I feel a little different this time. I think I found an IEM that really suits my preferences, musical interests, comfort, fit and build and that’s been something I’ve struggled with for a very long time.
The VX’s strongest suit is that it is incredibly resolving and is a detail monster. It pairs with a balanced sound signature that has enough bass presence to satisfy many genres, and a upper mid-range and treble that isn’t over-bearing and harsh, while still retaining a good sense of air and a wide and deep soundstage.
I feel like the only thing that could top this would be the same sound signature in a hybrid form. Yea, there is something out there that kind of fits this description – the Sony IER-Z1R – a dual dynamic and single BA flagship. I’ve only tried it out for about 15-20 minutes, and I was mostly concerned with how it would fit long-term, as it is also very large, heavy and has a somewhat unique design. While they had similar measurements, the sound was quite different due to the differences in driver usage as well. The Z1R’s bass was bigger but I also felt the treble was a bit sharper and bordered on being a little too hot – sort of a Sony trademark signature it seems.
I’d like to try it again with more playing time, and more tips at my disposal to test comfort and sonic changes, but in the meantime, I am quite happy with the VX overall. It’s my daily driver and makes me smile every day.