Originally Posted by lieberstanley
Hi, fellows. I am a new comer here. I am posting my first sharing out of the love for Stage 4.
To begin with, my waiting time from mailing out the ear impressions to receiving my Stage 4 is approx. 3 weeks. From Vision Ears, if you're wondering. I think that pretty much proves VE's determination of shortening substantially the whole process. Nevertheless, I can't guarantee it's going to become a common practice from VE, for my situation is a little bit complicated since I am the first owner of VE's product in my country. So, maybe my order was treated with certain curtesy.
The build quality and fitting are excellent. No complaint at all. The cable is soft and does not tangle or pick up noise easily. Most importantly, the IEMs are tuned using the cable. I would rather not run the risk to lose the sound signature by experimenting new "upgrade" cables.
Before I made up my mind purchasing Stage 4, I auditioned four pairs of demos. They are Merlin and Miracle from Unique Melody, and Stage 3 and Stage 4 from the Compact Monitors (my dealer didn't have VE's demos by then).
Frankly speaking, Merlin and Stage 3 did not impress me to much. It's not saying they weren't good enough, it's just their higher models surpassed them with noticeable improvement (or difference if you put in this way).
Miracle and Stage 4 remind me very much of my own stereo system, which is consisted of Olive 4HD-->Berkeley Audio Design DAC-->Pathos Classic One MK2-->Acapella Fidelio MK2. They are both analytical, revealing, detailed, spacious, and most important of all, they demonstrate the ability to cover the full spectrum of sound. Of them two, the Stage 4 is more musical. Meaning I can listen with the Stage 4 without sensing the elapse of time. On the other hand, the Miracle would make me fatigue in a very short period of time.
I auditioned the four pairs with Astell and Kerns (iRiver) AK120. When paired with the AK120, the idea of v shape sound had never crossed my mind. Instead, I couldn't agree more on the manufacturer's description of the Stage 4--while maintaining a flat frequency response, or neutral, in other words, VE pushes its both ends, making it perform like a pair of very capable floor stand speakers. And the Stage 3 is, on the contrary, like a pair of well designed shelf speakers.
The Stage 4's bass simply extends. The sub-bass transits smoothly into lower region, making the foundation of music solid. I didn't found the bass to "bloat". When I was testing the bass performance using the song "Silver Rain" from Marcus Miller's album, featuring Eric Clapton on vocal, the controlled and quality funky bass "balls" simply made this song an enjoyment to listen. The best thing is that the Stage 4's bass did not mask the details. The separation of all instruments, including vocals, were kept to the best standard I've ever experienced with earphones, leading to a relatively spacious and huge soundstage. This feature also makes the Stage 4 capable of reproducing those big and sophisticated recordings like, the the Gladiators or the Cantate Domino.
The mids are never lean. It's true that the vocals are not presented up-close, yet it's neither distant. The vocals are kept in a proper scale to go along with other instruments. I tested it with Diane Reeve's "Good Night and Good Luck" and Harry Belafonte's famous recording at the Carnegie. The vocals were rendered silky while maintaing the strength.
The highs extends naturally, portraying effortlessly the textures and the harmonics of the instruments. The Stage 4's violins are rendered as good as those high end stereo systems that I've heard. Joshua Bell's "At Home with Friends" is a pain in the a*s to a lot of systems. However, the Stage 4 + AK120 combo surprised me with the lush and full-bodied violin. The high notes were rendered naturally and never intense. The texture of all the instruments in this recording were so realistically presented.
One last thing worth noticing is that the Stage 4 is very friendly to the amps. I've tried iPhone 4S or iPad 4 and the results are acceptable. However, if you want to get the best out of the Stage 4, please pair it with some higher quality device. AK120, to take for an example, goes really well with it. The ultra low noise floor makes the details emerge effortlessly. Although AK120's control over Stage 4's bass department is not flawless, yet as a minimal combo, these 2-piece set can really reach a new height.
I also added FiiO's E12 and RSA's Intruder (SE in and out) into this combo. And that is another story. I will share it another time.
To sum up. To me, Stage 4 is absolutely a wonderful piece to enjoy. IMO, it's very close to neutral. It pushes both ends and is capable of the full spectrum of sound. It suits almost all kinds of music genre. It is just musical!
ps. I will update some photos when the function is activated.