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Vision Ears VE5 CIEM Earphones Review

By Smit Patel


  • Product Name: VE5 Custom In Ear Monitor
  • Manufacturer: Vision Ears
  • Review Date: October 30, 2015 20:00
  • MSRP: $1,399/€ (including 19% German VAT)
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool

  • Technology: Four-Way-System with 5 drivers
  • Sensitivity: 122 dB SPL at 1 mW
  • Frequency: 20 Hz - 18 kHz
  • Impedance: 21 Ohm (bei 1 kHz)
  • Shell: hard acrylic
  • Cable: replaceable due to miniature plugs (gold plated), length: 1.38 m

Vision Ears (VE) is a German CIEM company - a successor to the previously known COMPACT MONITORS. Popular in Germany, VE have also achieved international recognition in Asia and beyond with a brand that is world-class in their product designs and sound quality. Some may also recognize this company to have produced one of the most expensive custom in-ear model at one point – the VE6XC; a $2,113  2-switch 6-driver CIEM, only recently to be surpassed by Jerry Harvey Audio’s Layla as well as Noble Audio’s Prestige Series, both of which go for $3,337 and $2,782 respectively.

Hot on the heels of the Vision Ears VE6XC flagship release, the company has now released a different breed of custom in-ear, touted the Vision Ears VE5. Unlike its flagship brother, the VE5 offers one less driver and lacks the option to toggle between two sound signatures. What the VE5 offers over its VE6XC counterpart, however, is a more specific sound with greater emphasis on the mid to high frequency range.

Priced at $1,556, this model does not come cheap and thus represents a major investment to any potential owner. With that said, Vision Ears offers a premium customer service to go with the premium price and anyone who has been a customer will realize the length that they will go to create that perfect buying experience. 

The custom in-ear process

Unlike many other custom in-ear companies, Vision Ears recommends that customers take closed-mouth impressions when producing an ear mold. While unusual, the method has allowed me to obtain a tighter and more comfortable seal than many of my other open-mouth impressions.

What you Get: the Box & Accessories

Included is a Vision Ears customized aluminum case featuring laser-etched personalization and an ornate locking mechanism. Also included is a thoughtful cleaning spray which disinfects the acrylic earphone shell without any corrosion and a cleaning utensil for removing wax from the inner portions of the in-ears. Desiccant packets are provided to retain any potential moisture which could damage the drivers and a high quality gold-plated jack adapter given to convert the standard 3.5 mm jack to a 6.3mm one. Overall, I am incredibly impressed with the overall presentation of the case and accessories alike; VE’s attention to detail certainly pays dividends here as it not only highlights a premium service but also one of practicality.

VE56.jpg        VE55.jpg

Build Quality & Design

Vision Ears have made sure to deliver yet again - a premium device to match the premium price. There are no air bubbles seen within the acrylic shell and the larger bore design makes it much easier to clean compared to Ultimate Ear’s rather narrow-bored portion of their custom models.


Users are given a huge choice over the design of their custom in-ear monitors with VE even providing an artwork gallery of just some of the many designs they have created. Like Heir Audio, they provide an extensive array of wooden faceplates which in my opinion, denotes a very high caliber company as this is often harder to implement than standard plastic faceplates.

VE also provides a custom personalized case which can laser-etch any one-color artwork that you could possibly think of. I am very impressed at the level of customization here though one possible suggestion could be to provide a virtual customization process like Ultimate Ear’s, to allow people to better visualize what their customs will look like. Having been in contact with VE, though, it seems that they will be creating a new website in the future which will include this configuration tool. However, it is not yet clear how far the configuration tool will support every artwork because every in-ear model is handmade and so the position of the artwork is chosen there and then, rather than having a predetermined layout. Regardless, I think that this is a positive step in the right direction to really make sure that consumers know what they are getting.

Fit & Isolation

Unlike Ultimate Ear’s rather deep canal fit, VE have adopted for a more shallow larger bored fit which means that comfort levels are that much more refined than UE’s. As mentioned above, the closed mouth impression also seems to have paid off as comfort levels are outstanding and the in-ears are easy to dislodge but are still tight. Once again, these allow to you to become isolated from the outside world and immersed in a world of music.


Sound impressions


First off, it must be mentioned that the VE5 is a special breed with an unusual signature that Vision Ears have purposefully created to fill in the gap between their model U/V-shaped models such as the VE2/VE4/VE6x1 and the more balanced models such as the VE3/VE6x2. The tonality of the VE5, therefore, is very intriguing and can be more associated to have an n-shaped frequency response where mids are central to the mix. While some people claim that this model is bright owing to its “crystal-clear” mids and treble, I have found that this model leans more towards a neutral tone despite the rather mid-centric approach. Yes, there is great treble extension and the overall tilt is towards the mid-high frequency ranges, however nothing is ever strident, treble-exaggerated or any other term that would be synonymous with a bright-sounding headset. This IEM is clearly made for vocals in mid owing to its mid-centric interpretation of tracks and it does so astonishingly well.


To start off with, the bass is not a prominent strength of this model because as mentioned, the emphasis was placed higher up the ladder where the mids and the treble notes reside. With that said, though, the quality is definitely there with a fine-tuned responsive attitude and fast-paced decay. Impact, however, is on the softer side compared to other more able-bodied machines such as the Shure SE846 and Ultimate Ear’s Reference Monitor. For those who crave that low-end impact in combination with a mid-high presence, Vision Ears recommends the VE6X1, which satisfies these people particularly well.

One track I like to test bass with time and time again is James Blake’s “Limit To Your Love” and with the VE5s, the low frequencies are superbly controlled and cope extremely well with the demanding sub-bass. I am particularly impressed with the zero levels of distortion and how smoothly each note decays onto the next. In D’Angelo’s “Prayer”, bass extends well but does not have the same level of body as the UERMs or even the articulacy of the DUNU DN-2000J’s. Even though in absolute terms, the bass has great resolution and does not really do anything wrong, this area of the frequency spectrum does succumb to other similar priced and even cheaper models in sheer quantity alone. Vision Ears have intentionally subdued the power of the bass, however, for the intentions of what this custom was meant to be. Their reasoning behind so, is that any greater the quantity of bass, would distort details in the lower-mid frequency range and hence perturb the “crystal-clear” image that the VE5s are conveying. This makes sense and is a rather well-made decision on their behalf to execute their vision for this custom in-ear.


And here comes the portion of the frequency spectrum this specialist model was designed for; the midrange. Mids are stellar and are the true star of the show in this mid-centric earphone design. Spacious and revealing, forward yet smooth, the VE5 defiantly renders natural vocals which envelope you in a world of recordings. I cannot recall a presentation of the midrange that is similar to the VE5 with such an emphasis on vocals that are blissfully smooth and inviting. In Rebecca Ferguson’s “Summertime”, the jazzy vocals are breathy and all-encompassing such that you are put right up there in front of singer; spine-chillingly good. The signature is in stark contrast to the mids of the Shure SE846 which even though has a mid-forward sound, is somewhat harsher and leaner than the fatigue-free performance of the VE5s. Macro-dynamics are outstanding akin to the Heir Audio IEM 8.0, and while not an analogue sound, the VE5 is more resolving than the musically-tuned IEM 8.0.


With a mid-high frequency emphasis, the VE5 offers airy detailed highs that live up to the “crystal clear” promise on Vision Ears’ website. Though this is not to be confused with TWFK clarity because that it is not. Instead, the clarity resides in the VE5’s ability to highlight minor details in a very resolving manner. In contrast to the harsher UERM’s treble section, the VE5 are a pure delight for vocal-oriented tracks. Extension is excellent as is the sparkle in cymbal crashes. Tonally, the treble is neutral-bright which is just the sound signature I prefer for IEMs of this nature – in my opinion, VE5 have done a brilliant job of with this. Compared to my all-time favourite for treble – the Rock-it Sounds R50, the VE5 is decidedly smoother but at the same time falls short of the endless extension that the R50 offers. Next to the Shure SE846 though, the VE5 wins on extension and is tonally more satisfying.    

Soundstage & Imaging

The soundstage of the VE5s is expansive projecting sonic cues in all directions resulting in a 3-dimensional sound. There is a certain intimacy with vocals but nothing ever sounds congested as the signature is open and airy. Instrument separation and the like are nothing short of world class as this is a very clear sounding earphone set that is worthy of its similar-priced competitors.    

Aftermarket Cable: PlusSound Exo Series Silver + Gold (Type 6 Litz) Cable

The PlusSound Exo Series Cable at $399 is a very durable and a luxurious looking cable featuring a quadruple braid in a white design. The length of the cable termination can be adjusted with an extra foot of cable costing $20 more.


Design and build wise, this cable definitely trumps the stock one and even features a more durable straight 3.5mm jack. One area that could be improved upon however is the memory cable which is not as firm as the one experienced on the default cable.

With regards to the sonic side of things, I have found the sound to be slightly more detailed with more exaggeration on the treble. The midrange however, is not as intimate which some people prefer but in my person opinion, goes against the mid-centric feel of the Vision Ears VE5 CIEMs. The resulting sonic presentation is still very smooth with perhaps an added notch of brightness which really tilts the balance towards the high frequencies.  

Overall, I would say it is not much of a sonic improvement but the build quality is second to none and for those who have the funds and want to invest in a very long and durable product, I would highly recommend this product.


With the iBasso DX90, the VE5s picks up a bit more extension on the higher frequency front with notes sounding crisper and generally brighter. Soundstage also opens up resulting in a magnificently cohesive sonic image.

Note: This was tested with iBasso firmware version 2.3.0.

Compared to the Fiio X5 2nd Generation, the DX90 is more analytical with sharper notes compared to the more musically-defined smoother presence that the Fiio portrays. For the purposes of my listening, I preferred the Fiio X5 2nd Generation pairing due to the smoother and less edgy note presentation.

Although both are outstanding for the purposes of a DAP, there are subtle differences as mentioned above that one should choose based on their own preferences.


Overall, the VE5 excels in what it primarily set out to do. It is by no means a jack of all trades but it certainly is a master of mid-treble vocals. While pricey, I highly recommend this set for those whose music collection revolves around weighty, soul-stirring vocals. From this review itself, it may seem that bass is non-existent but rest assured it is actually excellent in its own right with good response, sub-bass extension and clarity. However, transient response in the lower frequencies does have room for improvement but then again, these customs weren’t really designed for a bass-proud sound. I must admit that the VE5s took me by surprise with its honesty, interpretation and stunning craftsmanship. While a special model in their collection, the VE5s are very much deserving of the “Vision Ears” brand-name because of their stunning sound. I thoroughly recommend this model and very much look forward to what future models they will be releasing. 

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.