You can’t catch me, copper!
Repost from reddit:
I bought these a month ago and have listened to these quite a bit but haven’t had time to write down my full thoughts into any review format, but since folks have been bugging me about putting something out, here’s some quick thoughts on these great in-ears:
- They are not cheap
- They are much larger than I would have thought. Comparable in size to Solaris and Z1R, however the fit is really good for my bad fitting ears. I use the smallest possible tip I could find, and then deeply insert these. They look and feel like custom IEMs now
- The box it comes in is pretty nice and comes with a blue jewelry box travel case which is nice to use
- It’s a 10 Balanced Armature set-up - no hybrid no dynamics, etc.
- It has 3 dip switches that can alter sound settings (Bass, Mids, Treble)
- The sound stock is fantastic. Warm balanced sound that’s just a bit warmer than neutral. Has a small dip in upper-mids that helps improve depth and staging. Has a 3D-ish sound like Solaris, but even wider.
- The bass is fast and well controlled, but has better “bass” decay and power than most BAs. It’s not Z1R bass, but its cleaner and yet more layered and just as powerful as Solaris bass.
- Solaris is less coherent than these are. Muddier in comparison.
- Treble on these is perfect for me. It has good extension, and never sibilant. I found the Z1R to be a little hot at times in my very limited listening, and Solaris to be a little shouty and fatiguing, but these do not have that issue.
- The mids are nice. Can be a tad hollow at times with female vocals but still great in all regards.
- The dip switches make things worse, even combos. The only switch I like is to turn on mids, which helps with female vocals and enhancing strings.
- These are detail monsters. Resolution is excellent. I tried these with bluetooth adapter like the TRN BT20 and it sounded bad though because I just loss the best part of this IEM and that’s the outstanding resolution and depth.
- These are just really nice IEMs for me. They cost a ton, so I can’t recommend these for everyone.
- I partner these with my Samsung Galaxy Buds and they are a great 1-2 combo for in-ears.
@Torq I saw you edited it to “QDC” – the company is actually “qdc” all lower-case, but the forum auto-corrects it to capitalizing the first letter. QDC is their parent company which makes military gear, whereas “qdc” is their consumer audio division.
not that it really matters in the end…
I put it back as “Qdc” …
I HATE when forum/web-site software makes assumptions (and forces them on you) about capitalization, phrase/word/title length.
I blame “web devs”.
(Though I blame them for pretty much anything anyway …)
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.
Very good review Anthony. So much detail and great comparisons too. You make the reviews you write very easy to read and despite having all the technical information required in a review it never gets overbearing or stale. Thanks I really enjoyed reading this.
End game reached ! Congratulations my friend
I am happy that you’ve finally settled on one that you like. Do you think this is a keeper. I am a bit of a serial upgrade always looking for something extra. But this last six months I have been happy iem wise. Problem is I love iems and the technology so I want to try all of them. I would love to try the VX and some of the other TOTL iems you’ve had experience with. Namely the Sony Z1R and Solaris and VX. Of course there are others too. I could never afford to own any more TOTL iems without selling my others. That isn’t about to happen.
You use the 64 U18t? I’ve never heard that so I can’t comment on how the VX compares to it. As for myself yes the VX is a keeper, and I anticipate for a while, both because I’m tired of jumping from one IEM to the next and also because the VX ticks all my boxes and is so very satisfying. The Solaris would be a close second, but the VX just edges it out in a few key ways…and this despite the fact that it has no DD bass. The Z1R has some great qualities but terrible fit, recessed mids and a perceived incoherence relative to Solaris made it untenable for a long term commitment for me.
Yes I am very happy with my U18t and will keep it. I ticks all my boxes too. I am just curious and would love to be able to hear lots of iems. It’s just wishful thinking really.
Curiosity is the driving force of this hobby. One might even say that “curiosity killed the audio enthusiasts wallet”.
It’s most definitely given mine a beating.
I ordered the newest qdc hybrid, the Uranus. Should come in hopefully in a week. It’s a budget dual driver hybrid for $219. “Budget” is relative to their other offerings.
Soooo…your going to put Uranus in your ears…
QDC URANUS REVIEW
The Uranus is the newest universal IEM from Chinese-makers, qdc. This hybrid earphone retails at $219 and features a dynamic driver and a balanced armature driver. At the time of writing this, this model was only available at HifiGo.com and that’s where I purchased this unit for myself.
The qdc Uranus features a purple and dark blue translucent shell design with a space galaxy themed opaque faceplate in matching colors. The qdc logo and model are branded on each shell in a chrome-finish, and I find the look really stunning and elegant at the same time. The shell uses a custom-like housing design that fits extremely comfortably in my ears. It’s just a smidgen smaller than the qdc Anole VX that I currently also own, which I found also comfortable.
The package also contains a set of cables, various tips, and a really nice leather qdc carrying box (similar to a jewelry box) that can store everything within it. I find that this is a really nice bundle, and that the case is actually more attractive and usable than the one that came with the qdc Anole VX which is ten times the cost.
For this review, I swapped out the default cable and am using a light purple-colored Kinboofi 4.4mm balanced cable and used it primarily with the iBasso DX160 digital audio player, and the Topping DX3 Pro dac/amp. The purple cable goes quite well as a matching outfit with the purple and blue shells of the IEM.
When I first put the qdc Uranus on, I was a little lukewarm on it. It has a warm, laid-back, heavy U/gentle-V shaped sound signature that, when I first listened to it, sounded very low resolution and a little bloated. Whether it was some mechanical burn-in, brain-burn-in, or just music selection, I find the Uranus to soften up a little bit and it sounds a bit better than my first couple hours using it.
The bass section of the IEM is controlled primarily by the dynamic driver. I have not heard the previous qdc Fusion but there were complaints of the dynamic driver sounding weak, and missing decay and slam. I, myself, judge bass by resolution, texture, and speed. I like bass to be a little faster, and heavier notes and decay isn’t something I tend to care as much about – it’s probably why I really like planar magnetics, ribbon drivers, etc. or even the Campfire Solaris.
With the Uranus, I find the bass to be a little scattered. In some songs, primarily electronic dance music that is heavier in this region, I find the bass driver to be somewhat bloated. Decay isn’t necessarily the issue, as I think it decays rather naturally, and more so than a traditional BA driver does. It’s just that one some songs, like for example, Daft Punk’s “Lose Yourself to Dance”, the heavy weighted kick drum bass hits sound a little blunted, while also being a little overwhelming, especially in the busier parts of the song.
In an even busier song, like “Contact”, the dynamics sound just a little flatter than what I’d like, however, it does handle this song alright in general – there is not a sense of congested play, and the dynamic driver actually sounds alright.
The mid-range has a lot of body, thanks to the elevated lower mid-range. The dynamic driver does shine in this area in my opinion. A couple good examples is the electronic-ballad, “Sunday Night 1987” and also “Atlantique Sud” by M83. In both of these tracks, the electronic soundscape backdrop is warm, rich, and inviting. Notes decay with natural tendencies and feels lush to my ears.
In Canadian country singer Orville Peck’s “Winds Change”, the qdc Uranus’ elevated lower mid-range adds a lot of grit and heft to his deeper voice. The bass notes have good impact as do drums and the like. The steel pedal sounds a little forward in this track, almost at the same distance as his voice which can be a little distracting, however as a fan of the steel pedal, I kind of enjoy this. If it were any other instrument, this could be a bit annoying.
In sticking with Canadians, I’ll use Sarah McLachlan as an example of how the qdc Uranus’ upper midrange has an early and sharp rise starting at 800Hz, similar to how they’ve tuned many of their IEMs including the VX that I own. Sarah McLachlan’s voice is front and center in her hit song, “Adia”. Her voice comes across with gentle beauty and is forward, while the piano notes follow just behind her. In “Angel” where she extends her vocal range up a notch, I don’t hear any signs of harshness in this region nor in the treble areas.
As stated before, I find the Uranus a little laid back in the sense that it’s treble does roll-off early and lacks a lot of air and extension. This, along with a more elevated, thicker low end, makes the overall sound signature very laid back and well-designed for non-fatiguing listen.
To test this further, I tried to put on some of my harsh high treble vocal tracks to see if I had any problems with sibilance. These include various songs from Alvvays, Chvrches, Rihanna, and Cocteau Twins, and they all pass these tests without any sibilance issues. There’s still a rise in the sibilance and brilliance region that can be audibly heard. Guitar strings and cymbals can be a little forward, as there’s a rise between 6-8KHz that give the general sound here a little bit of brightness, but I never found it to be harsh or over my limits either. Some IEMs I’ve reviewed or had a chance to listen recently, mainly chi-fi, but also western brand’s v-shaped IEMs, can be a bit too much in this area for my ears on many pop tracks.
In terms of just general soundstage and imaging, I think the qdc Uranus is average, at-best. It’s got a more forward presentation and can be intimate and not wide-open sounding, especially without any treble extension to provide upper end air. Imaging is generally good for this price point in tracks that are not super busy. When I throw on some Tool, I get some mixed results. In a super busy track like “Jambi”, it’s a little hard to distinguish instruments at times, but on the opening parts of “The Pot”, I have can hear the various instruments flowing around me in a narrow 3D space but with appropriate height – It’s not as holographic as say the Campfire Solaris or the qdc VX, but it provides a sense of height better than other IEMs in this price range that I have used.
For a fair assessment of the qdc Uranus, I wanted to compare it to at least another one of my IEMs. Currently at my fingertips is the Moondrop KXXS, which I’ve kept around as a good baseline IEM for this type of price range. When listening to both KXXS and Uranus side-by-side, there are some pretty obvious differences.
The KXXS has a much wider soundstage with more clarity and upper end air. The Uranus sounds more forward, thick, warm, and in some ways, with a more low-end “low-resolution”. I wouldn’t say the entire sound signature is lower resolution – the upper mid-range and treble sound pretty clean and resolving, but I just don’t think the tuning of the dynamic driver and the low end is very good, and it becomes even more evident when you take them off and hear them against something like the KXXS or the VX even. It’s just a little too warm with a weird drop off in the midrange at around 800Hz that makes some items a little too far forward and closed in and some instruments just a bit missing. Switching between the KXXS and the Uranus repeatedly and this becomes clear.
Which brings me to how I want to conclude this review: The qdc Uranus is an IEM that I originally disliked – not hated, but was underwhelmed. I thought it was too bassy and a little muddy. Over time, I started to enjoy it’s very warm, intoxicating laid-back signature that made it really easy to listen to for hours at work at a time, and when you’re not critically listening to it, you forget about its weaknesses – it still has some issues on the lower end that doesn’t please me with a kind of interesting bass and lower mid-range response that can be a problem for those who really want to use these as a critical listening tool.
But, if you just want something to put in your ear and tune out for a bit, these do work out really well for me. I don’t know if I fully recommend them at it’s asking price, but I do really enjoy the aesthetics, the wonderful fit, and the overall accessories package – it’s just missing the top notch sound that even seems a little underwhelming at it’s asking price compared to other recent favorites.
Another great review Andrew. I also agree that it’s a beautiful looking iem. Though its tuning doesn’t sound at all up my street.