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qdc's new flagship 10 balanced armature driver IEM.

qdc Anole VX

Rating:
5/5,
  • qdc's new flagship 10 balanced armature driver IEM.

Recent Reviews

  1. Zelda
    qdc Anole VX - Universal
    Written by Zelda
    Published Jun 11, 2019 at 5:36 PM
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Top tier sound quality: Impressive detail, sound stage, imaging
    3 Switches tuning system
    Build quality; Nice design; Comfortable universal fit; Isolation
    Cable quality and 2-pin connectors
    Cons - It is a top tier IEM, and priced like one
    Very custom-like shape may not everyone
    Review - qdc Anole VX - Universal

    A Masterpiece Top Tier Flagship

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    Website – qdc

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    Specifications
    • Armature units: 10 micro balanced armature
    • Frequency response: 10Hz-20000Hz
    • Sensitivity: 110-113dB SPL/mW
    • Impedance: 15-19Ω
    • DCR: 15-19Ω
    • Noise isolation: 26dB

    Available in both Universal and Custom fit.


    Price: U$2436 for Universal; $2647 for Custom.

    Universal version can be found at MusicTeck store for $2299.

    The qdc Anole VX unit here was kindly arranged by qdc company together with MusicTeck, so credits to both for providing the product for the long review time.

    Links:

    Official qdc Anole VX page

    MusicTeck store and their Amazon store.

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    The qdc Anole VX arrives in a large box, with a silver gray outer cover and inner black cardboard box with its conveniently magnetic closure seal. It will then divide into two sides, one properly holding the earphones themselves and the other with the included paperwork and accessories; an elegant presentation that should be expected for an expensive flagship that holds a top tier product. The accessories are limited to four pairs of single silicone tips and three pairs of dual flange tips, a large leather (probably synthetic) square case, cleaning tool and two adapters. The included case is not only very sleek but also very practical with its magnetic clasping closure and a special section to hold the cable and avoid unwanted tangling. While the included cable here is terminated in the standard 3.5mm TRS type, it is also available in balanced 2.5mm and 4.4mm type.










    Design

    The review unit here is the standard universal version (VX-S), and while there are no customization options for the design, it already arrives in a very fancy, eye-catching color theme for the main shell body and even the faceplates. At this top-tier price, build quality and finish should aim to perfection. Certainly, on qdc they are using high quality materials on this current flagship. Like custom fit in-ear monitors, the universal fit uses acrylic material of medical grade, both on the main body and the faceplate. The quality is very solid; the earpieces are thick and feel very durable as far as what plastic materials go and the finish is completely smooth. The shells are translucent clear with added silver flakes randomly scattered around the main body and sparkly silver lines over the faceplates with ‘VX’ and ‘qdc’ writings. They have that luxurious premium look, though some basic color options could have been offered and not be limited to the custom fit alone.




    The nozzle quality is also top notch with the main part being made of nickel plated copper and then the extra grill at the top is stainless steel. The diameter is around the standard size for universal IEMs, so tip rolling should not be an issue. The whole nozzle is perfectly attached to the acrylic shells, and while may not look long the actual main shells already have a good length with their very unique ergonomic shape. On a very close look there can spotted the 3 bores beneath the metal grill at the base of the nozzle level.




    Despite being a universal fit design, the shape is the most custom-like I have seen on universal IEMs even among other earphones that try to offer a more ‘custom’ form factor. The qdc not just resembles looks like a true CIEM but also fits like one. It might be a hit of luck (or ‘destiny’ if you prefer) as the universal shape of the VX looks very similar to my previous real Custom IEMs. Indeed, the shells here are a bit on the large side and the so unique shape may not fit everyone. Personally, I found them very ergonomic and depending on the ear tips used they can be more or less tight. The seal is pretty much instant and with the sealed housings as an all BA IEM, they block a lot of outside noise that is only second to what acrylic custom in-ears can achieve with the long fit nozzle sealing the whole ear canal.


    Like other of the qdc earphones, the Anole VX also features the special tuning system, and as the new flagship it has now 3 different switches. They are placed on the inner part of the body towards the back of the ear part. The switches are very short and recessed within the shell surface so won’t get in contact with the skin at all. They all arrive in ‘off’ mode, which is the default, more neutral sound tuning option. It is practically impossible to turn the switches without using any tool, and while there doesn’t seem to be one included in the box, the back of the cleaning brush apparently is what should be used, or at least it works just right for this matter. There is no need to apply much effort on when changing them and a short click sound can be hear when switching on or off.






    Last but not least, the cable is of very good quality too, made of a mix of eight single strands – or so called ‘hybrid’ type - of copper and silver wire (4 strands of each), very softly braided from the stereo plug to the 2-pin connectors. The lower half has ‘square’ type of braid, while the upper right and left sides are ‘flat’. The whole cable is very soft and shows no noise with the over-ear wearing. The standard 3.5mm plug and the y-split section are covered by a sturdy metal tube with a rough feel; not sure if it is the optimal option if it may scratch the acrylic shells when tightly stored. The 3.5mm plug has and additional rubber like tube that acts as strain relief, though it is missing on the y-split part.




    The 2-pin connection is the own qdc type which differs from the standard 0.78 2-pin sockets and plugs. The sockets on the earpieces raise over the main shell instead of being installed inside and there is a plastic cover that surrounds them. On the cable side, the plugs are angled and attach tightly to the earpieces’ side adding an extra covering layer to the whole 2-pin setup. The quality is certainly very good, but a more proprietary connection type that will limit trying other 2-pin cables on the qdc earphones.




    As usual, the ear tips play a very important role and even more with the so custom-like form factor of the Anole VX. The included selection of tips is very limited. The dual tips did not work for me at all as couldn’t get a proper seal with them. The single ones were fine enough, and if a bit stiff the seal is good and so the isolation. Spinfit did work too; specially the CP500, as they are softer and more flexible with a short steam that helps for a tighter fit with the qdc VX, and also for a more open sound with the wider bore.





    Sound Quality

    When it gets to sound quality, then the Anole VX truly stands out. This is something that should be expected from a flagship model at a top-tier level. For the new flagship qdc continues with the pure multi balanced armature setup, and now of 10 drivers per side. Numbers or types of drivers is not what makes or breaks an earphone; there is much more than extra drivers’ count or fancy tech names. There are plenty of examples where a lower amount of drivers outperformed higher (and more expensive) models, even among a same company. For qdc it is a good sign they are still focusing on BA setup and not getting carried away by new hybrid fashion.

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    Nonetheless, qdc have their own special touch for their models featuring a switch system that allows to customize the overall sound presentation within a same product and without resorting to psychical filters method or modules. Instead, the various switches are installed on the earpieces themselves, and in this case, the Anole VX as a 10 BA option introduces 3 switches per side, which logically go for lows, mids and highs frequencies. Each switch can be set either off or on, and while it may sound limited, this actually allows 8 different combinations. The switches act directly on the inner drivers’ setup, and as can be seen from the specs, they work as alternating the sensitivity and impedance of the corresponding armature units for each of the three frequencies. It may sound something simple but it is actually more complex than just regulating the amount of air flow as other tuning systems do. While I cannot comment how this feature worked on the previous qdc options (or with other companies), with the VX the results are excellent. Taking the default setup as a base when all switches ‘off’, then each of them acts as a boost on its specific frequency region.

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    Before getting to the different sound options, the default mode could be taken as reference to describe the sound performance of the VX. This is how the IEM arrives and the sound quality is already too impressive that there may be no need to even a slight change on its frequency response. The VX strikes right away with a perfect balance in a very neutral signature. Being called ‘neutral’ can be a bit of a misleading term, sometimes used to describe a too flat, linear or uncolored sound. The neutral description here does apply not as lacking in terms of amount or weight, but rather being completely even and with the right amount. Balance is best here between quality and quantity.

    The low-end starts with good authority in impact, control and excellent extension. The quantity is spot on, above than just neutral, very faithful to the source and track, hitting with power when needed and stays away if not called forth; never missing or lacking. The bass has good body and great texture with the finest layering and separation between notes. It impresses with top notch balanced armature characteristics of accuracy and control. Speed is very, very high matching fast genres effortlessly with quick attack but also very natural decay. The multiple drivers used for the whole low frequencies show impressive dynamics that do not feel second to any good large dynamic drivers; in fact, it sounds very natural and coherent. The extension reaches the very lower region with no effort and no roll-off that can be perceived, and also shows a very rich sub-bass rumble.

    The midrange is very neutral in position and if anything can go very slightly forward. It is completely clear with is no mid-bass that bleeds or overshadows the lower mids. Very clean and totally balanced between lower and upper midrange with a so slightly touch of warmth for a fuller and richer texture but never sounding too thick; recessed it is not, and also cannot be accused of being lean or thin either. Instruments are beautifully textured and well weighted with a very clean separation from each other without risking the coherence and correct imaging. The VX is incredible transparent, open and highly articulated in the best armature fashion, with just a very subtle touch of musicality here where the switch is off, though it is more about having the best accuracy and detail than emotion or fun factor. Vocals are highly detailed, without a particular sense of sweetness but definitely not cold at all; not over-layered by instruments but also not more highlighted in order to keep the best neutrality in balance. The midrange has an elegant dynamic flow and super coherent positioning for each element providing a great image: instruments are placed with right precision in the stage, and similarly vocals and background voices get their own priority.

    Treble is full and while not particularly prominent in the mix, it will be always present and well balanced with the lows and mids. Extension is very far and effortless reaching a highest, audible, treble region. Without the boost it sounds neutral and mostly linear with a very natural texture. It is crystal clear and airy, and there is plenty of energy and sparkle when needed and still remains controlled and smooth from any peak, unless it arrives from the track itself, but won’t sound fatiguing even with reference sources (i.e., Hiby R6 Pro).

    The presentation is one of the best and most impressive aspects of the Anole VX, differentiating it from the usual in-ear monitors’ performance and clearly placing it among the top-tier category breaking through the limits of the IEM realm. It sounds just so vast with plenty of headroom. It is also so well rounded with an extreme sense of space that feels ‘out of the head’; soundstage is clearly large, very, very wide but also shows equal level of depth and height, and would dare to describe as simply huge resembling large headphones drivers. Saying there is plenty of detail would not be enough; not only there is all the micro detail, but simply there is so much information and realism that sounds so immersive. The VX is capable of giving a well centered image with a very wide field and well defined right and left channel separation keeping a best coherence. Needless to say it can handle the most complex and busy tracks with no effort with all the minuscule nuances.

    If so far the sound quality is already so impressive with only the default off switches’ setup, it gets even more interesting and fun with the addition of the extra tuning possibilities. Technically, each of the three switches provides the same boost in sensitivity and impedance to its corresponding frequency region, and while not huge in pure numbers, it definitely reflects on the overall presentation and sound signature.

    If starting with switch ‘1’, there is a strong lift on the whole bass region. It starts from the sub-bass area and spreads even to the beginning of lower midrange giving a thicker and fuller tone. It is not just more bass quantity, but also about having more depth and texture on lower instruments with deeper decay, and yet still keeps the high quality of speed and resolution. Expectedly, the midrange and highs will sound less prominent if a bit more laid-back but not to be considered as recessed.

    Switch ‘2’ for the mid frequencies drivers is very interesting. While the boost focus is mainly into the whole midrange, it also gives a nice lift on up/mid bass and lower treble for fuller texture and richer tonality; sub-bass and upper treble is less pronounced but not light. Here the sounds is actually more immersive and engaging with an added touch of musicality which is more fun in its own way. The resolution remains unchanged and no limitations to the soundstage dimensions. Vocals are more forward, weightier on male singers and female voices are sweeter and brighter too; sibilance is still kept in check. There is more bite on string and brass instruments on this region too sounding more euphonic.

    Lastly, the switch ‘3’ brings forth the most treble quantity with more energy and sparkle. It sounds bright and more aggressive but nothing particularly harsh. Sibilance might still be perceived, though I only found with very certain tracks. The treble detail is more prominent with slightly more polite bass and midrange.

    The combination of switches will give even more sound options. A more lively sound when bass and treble switches are on putting the midrange less obvious. Bass and midrange switches provide a darker, warmer response with the strongest bass power that arrives from both boosts, with smoother and more laid-back highs. The treble plus midrange boosts will have an opposite effect – softer bass and leaner lower mids with strong upper midrange and fuller treble putting female vocals at a higher priority along with upper instruments.

    Finally, with when all switches are on the VX will step aside from its neutrality towards the very energetic and powerful sound. Here is where soundstage may be affected the most with a less airy and clear imaging. It less natural and simply more fun.

    It is worth noting that the effects of the switches are not limited only to a matter of music genres tastes but also can be used to find the best match with different audio sources. The changes in amount of added bass, midrange or treble will also depend on the source output levels. For instance, with the R6 Pro the bass switch can be closer to a heavy-bass level over the already strong impact of the default setup, or the get a more euphonic and engaging sound with the midrange switch on.

    The qdc flagship also proves to be very revealing. As a pure multi-BA set it is very effective and can be driven from any kind of audio source; sensitivity and impedance are of the standard, drivable, rates. No hiss that could be heard and doesn’t show some known issues of hybrid IEMs in terms of drivers’ incoherence or low impedance problems. While it may not totally trash low quality files, it won’t do justice to even the 320kps Mp3 files. Having lossless Flac of at least the basic resolution is a must to really appreciate the sound quality of the VX as of top-tier. Moreover, using a budget or even entry-fi DAP will still not reveal the true capabilities; sure, it will stand out over gears on the sub $1K stuff, but at least a mid-fi DAP should be recommended to find out the real top tier sound level of the qdc VX, and after all, it is something to consider when getting such an expensive piece of audio gear.


    Value

    Is the qdc Anole VX worth its top-tier flagship price? That is a very difficult question and actually I don’t think there’s an absolute answer. The ~$2000 price tag is now occupied by some of well regarded flagship in-ear monitors, and it seems that is what the current TOTL level goes for nowadays. There is no doubt this a high price to pay for a single audio gear and many people wouldn’t even consider going this far. However, those looking for a top-of-the-line sound quality should definitely consider checking this top offer from qdc. The Anole VX has an impeccable build quality and great finish, and even the standard universal version has a very sleek design. Moreover, the universal shape is among the closest to a true custom fit, providing high sound isolation and comfort too; sure, it may not suit to everyone’s ears, but if lucky enough it may result as a safer alternative to custom in-ears.

    Where the VX truly shines is in the sound quality and what makes it a worth holder of the top-tier tag. The sound is definitely what should be expected for this high price, offering top-notch level of detail, realistic imaging, coherence and impressive soundstage. The pure balanced armature setup with 10 units inside is also capable of showing excellent dynamics, natural timbre and a very full and immersive sound. Fortunately, the VX does not stop there. The tuning system works very well. The sound quality already impresses even with the default signature and the different switches can add the right amount of bass, midrange or treble quantities without affecting the strong technical characteristics of the drivers inside. If anything, the tunings won’t go too extreme making the sound too heavy-bass or overly bright, but even so, the changes are solid and better than any typical equalization, and overall raises its own value against the tough competition at this category. All in all, the qdc Anole VX is a true masterpiece that is definitely worth a try.

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  2. DrummerLeo
    New Standard of Reference Tuning IEMs—qdc Anole VX
    Written by DrummerLeo
    Published Feb 24, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Very Well Balanced Tonality, Highly Musical as a Reference IEMs, High Resolution and Great Details, Nice Build Quality and Fit
    Cons - Soundstage might be average at this level
    New Standard of Reference Tuning Flagship IEMs—QDC Anole VX(s) Review

    Intro

    In recent years, more and more hi-end IEMs came out to the market. With the technology improvement, nowadays hi-end IEMs are able to deliver a sound as good as full-size headphones. Meanwhile, since JH audio engaged “the game of switches” more and more brands like 64 Audio, Jomo, UM as well as today’s star QDC started their own way of developing sound adjustment systems which give customers to adjust their IEMs closer to their preferences.

    With more and more experiences in hi-end IEMs game, I found most of hi-end IEMs are tuned in 3 major approaches:

    1. Mainstream HiFi Tuning: With a little artificial flavors and significant bass, treble, soundstage extension while keep the tonality as neutral as possible. Representatives are CA Andromeda, UM Mentor V3, 64 U12t, Hifiman RE2000.

    2. Entertaining Tuning: Usually has lots of deep and punchy bass, slightly U shape, very deep soundstage with lots of good layers, smooth treble and overall slightly warm tonality. Representatives are EE Legend X, Rhapsodio Zombie, VE8.

    3. Reference Tuning: Focus more on clarity and transparency, very balanced and realistic sound. Lots of details, great imaging and positioning. Usually has a neutral or analytical tonality. Representatives are: InEar PP8, U18t, QDC VX.

    Each of them has certain focus and shortcomings, it is hard to find one IEMs to fit everybody’s taste. However, we could always find a IEMs that can be relatively balanced or has the potential with proper cable and player combo.

    Today, I’m going to introduce one masterpiece that in my opinion is one of the most “balanced” IEMs at least in its own tuning group—QDC Anole VX.

    ( IEMs loaned from Musicteck, QDC Anole VX will soon be available at Musicteck. My impressions will be completely honest and won’t be affected by any outward reasons.)


    Build and Fit

    The build quality of VX is outstanding. The plastic shell is very durable, the printing and default artwork is rather attractive. The switches are very tight and perfectly hidden in the shell that won’t bother the overall appearance and fit.
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    The size of VX is about the medium, they are slightly larger than U series and about one size down from LX, about the same size as PP8s. They can perfect seal my ears with most tips. I had no issue of wearing them, and I can easily use them for hours with no issues.

    Tuning Switches:

    VX has 3 tuning switches. From my experiences, s1 is for bass adjustment, s2 is for vocal and mid, s3 is for treble. There are total of 8 modes for everyone to try. In my opinion, these switches can significantly change sound signatures, they are very fun to play with. I will list several modes that I think are useful for most.
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    1. 3 switches off: This is the out of box default setting. This is also the most balanced tuning and my personal favorite; my later review will be based on this setting.

    2. S1 on, S2&3 off: Bass boost mode. I mainly use this mode for some metal and EDM tracks occasionally. I think the default bass is right enough for me. When the bass switch is on, you will get more bass quantity(mainly mid-bass), the overall quality is not affected by much. The bass is slightly punchier but not as tight as the default, the overall tonality become slightly warmer.

    3. S2 on S1& off: Vocal master mode. I have to admit with this mode the vocal sounds amazing! With the default setting, I’ve already got a very clear vocal image. However, when I turned on the vocal switch, I can hear and feel every breath of the singer, it is that close. But for some tracks, the singer is a bit too close, or feel too much “in your face” pressure, and that’s why I still prefer the default setting.

    4. All switches on: Engaging mode. This is my second favorite mode. I usually use this mode when I was listening to some fast instrumental funk or progressive metal. It is very fun to listen, also this is the most open and transparent mode.

    Sound Impressions

    1. Transparency and Details

    As I mentioned above, I classify VX as a reference tuning IEMs, so without doubt, their transparency and details are at top tiers. Although VX are extremely transparent, smooth and with lots of details, the details from VX are not as present as U18t. I can pick up the same amount of details that U18t give me, but the details from VX is politer and hidden behind the major instruments or vocal. Overall, U18t is even more clean and analytical, VX is more neutral.

    2. Soundstage, Separation and Position

    The soundstage of VX is about average in width, but it is very deep. VX do not have a holographic image as U18t, the soundstage is wide enough to separate instruments and give them a right position, however, it is not very impressive especially when listen to classics. On the contrary, VX have a very deep soundstage, I got lots of out of head effect from VX more than most of the IEMs I heard.

    3. Bass

    VX has a very tight and textured bass, it is very linear from bass to mid. The quantity is just right, not a basshead IEMs but definitely enough for most. The bass speed is also very fast. It has slightly boost in mid bass, but the sub bass could be a little more and deeper.

    The bass switch makes VX more versatile in this situation. When the bass switch turned on, the bass quantity is increased by a significant amount, the bass also become more impactful and punchier, it can be satisfying for bassheads I think.

    4. Mid

    Mid is the most attractive part of VX, and I’m very confident to say, it is the best mid-range I’ve ever heard.

    The mid from VX is lively, detailed, smooth, and every elegant. It is very fluid and juicy when listen to acoustic guitar and violins. I can get a very clean vocal, and almost have a vision of singers’ figures and movements. The lower-mid is natural and refined, the upper treble is smooth and crystal clear.

    Personally, I can’t really find anything that I don’t like from VX’s mid, but I heard someone says they feel VX’s mid is too analytical, but I don’t get it at all. It might be not as colorful or beefy as some other IEMs for example VE8, but certainly not analytical. VX’s mid is just beautiful in a very elegant way IMO.

    5. Treble

    The treble from VX is neutral in both quantity and quality. It is smooth and clean. VX is not as bright as U18t, TF or RE2000, but more realistic and natural. It is also a little dry and less airy as than those. When listen to guitar distortion in upper mid and treble, I feel the VX is extremely realistic without overly bright or sibilant, I always feel excited when listen to this part. However, I do find VX is lacking a sense of relaxing, in a certain level, due to the lack of air.

    Overall the sound signature of VX is realistic, balanced and highly detailed. Well, I do understand that they might be “straightforward” for some, but I don’t think they should be classified as an analytical IEMs by any means.

    Comparisons

    1. VX v.s. U18t

    U18t has a brighter presentation, wider sound stage, while VX is more natural and has a deeper soundstage. U18t’s bass is deeper and faster, VX has more mid-bass and more impactful. The mid from U18t is more objective and less colored, VX is smoother and juicier. U18t has a brighter treble, with more quantity and crispier; VX is much smoother and fluid.

    2. VX v.s. PP8

    VX and PP8 shares lots of similarity in tonality. However, VX is more musical and slightly warmer than PP8s. In comparison, VX has deeper soundstage, and the width is about the same. Bass are almost identical from both when switches are off, while when both switches are on, VX’s bass is more impactful and has more quantity and slightly warmer, PP8 is faster. Mid is where the most different part, where VX is smoother and more musical, pp8s is calmer and more textured. I found VX is overall more enjoyable than pp8 in mid. The treble is also similar, where VX is a touch smoother, pp8s has more sparkle.

    3. VX v.s. UM Mentor V3

    ME3 has wider sound stage, while VX is slightly deeper. VX is more linear and more transparent than ME3, ME3 is slightly warmer and more emotional. The bass from ME3 and VX has similar bass quantity, while VX hit harder and faster, ME3 goes deeper. Both of them have a enjoyable mid, while VX is slightly more forward. VX’s treble is leaner and drier, I got a touch more details from VX than ME3, however, ME3 is airier and relaxing.


    (comparison based on DX200 AMP1 and 8)

    Scoring

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    Conclusion

    QDC Anole VX is a very well balanced and highly coherent flagship level IEMs. In compression with other TOTL IEMs, VX is able to stand out by its own features. The sound adjust switches may not be a unique approach anymore, but it is very efficient in doing its job, and actually it is one of the best sound adjustment system that I’ve played with. Furthermore, VX is able to deliver a sound with great density that makes it to be a good all-rounder. You can really hear the quality of each note the VX send to you. As a reference tuning hi-end IEMs, VX is extraordinarily musical which makes it to be the new standard of reference IEMs.
      Aink, fiascogarcia, WHO23 and 7 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. MrLocoLuciano
      Nice review. How would you compare them to Jomo Flamenco or Trinity SS (if you listened to it) ?
      MrLocoLuciano, Feb 28, 2019
    3. Aink
      Thanks for the review. It tells a lot since I have PP8 now.
      Aink, May 12, 2019
    4. Kundi
      I'm sorry, how much lol?
      Kundi, Jun 12, 2019 at 3:06 PM
  3. third_eye
    Summit-Fi Reference IEM
    Written by third_eye
    Published Jan 28, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Neutral reference sound signature, natural and effortless frequency response, fantastic ergonomics and comfort
    Cons - None
    Introduction

    In November 2018, Head-Fi held its first CanJam event in Shanghai, China, and it turned out to be a resounding success. One of the reasons to enter the Chinese market was to enable the exposure of Chinese brands to the international headphone audio market as the last few years have seen a rapid proliferation of high quality audio products coming from China. And while many of the products are firmly in the entry and mid-level tier, a number of companies are also honing their technological skills and producing true summit-fi products.

    The last few years have also seen a rapid growth of new in-ear monitor (IEM) products as personal/portable audio continues its incredible growth trend within the global audio industry. Increasingly, headphone enthusiasts and mobile technology consumers are looking at IEM’s as their primary headphone of choice. Thankfully, the performance level of IEMs has improved across the board with great products at all price ranges.

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    During our visit to CanJam Shanghai 2018, Jude and I had an opportunity to spend a few days in Shenzhen, where several of the emerging headphone audio companies are located. One of the companies we visited was qdc, a local company specializing in communications hardware for military and police, IEMs for professional musicians, as well as a recently expanded product line to cater to the enthusiast audiophile market. We were struck by the extremely high level of innovation at the facility, which included a full anechoic chamber along with some of the finest audio testing equipment currently available. And during our visit, we were able to test out most of qdc’s earphone offerings.

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    The 10 driver Anole VX is qdc’s current summit-fi earphone and is currently qdc’s most expensive offering at approximately $2500. I’ve now had a few months of using the Anole VX as my daily driver IEM and remain very impressed with the sound quality and overall ergonomics of this piece. The Anole VX-S (Standard) is the universal fit version and there is also a custom version, the VX-C, which sells for a surcharge of approximately $200.

    Tuning Switches

    The Anole VX is a balanced armature design with 10 micro balanced armature drivers. In handling and using the earphones for the first time, the most immediate design feature that stands out are 3 tuning switches on each earphone shell for low, medium, and high frequencies labeled 1, 2, and 3, respectively. There are 2 positions for each switch, which essentially act as a slight frequency boost. And although my preferred sound signature is with all switches down (off), I can certainly see the benefit of being able to individually tune according to tase, mood, and/or specific recording.

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    Packaging, Build Quality, and Ergonomics

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    The packaging of the Anole VX is of very high quality, and unboxing this earphone gives the feeling of handling a luxury product. The silver outer slipcase reveals a black box which fully opens and lies fully flat to reveal the contents inside. The accessories include a light blue carrying case, silicone eartips, airline adapter, and 3.5 to ¼” adapter.

    The supplied cable is an extremely well built and solid braided cable containing 2 wires, each of silver and copper. The cable folds nicely, and does not get tangled, making for an ergonomic user experience.

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    The earpieces have a great visual effect of crushed pieces of aluminum and are a striking design. They are also a lot smaller than similar 10 driver earphones which result in fantastic user comfort. With zero pressure or discomfort after extended periods of use, the Anole VX is, in fact, among the most comfortable earphones I’ve ever used. I’ve also tried several types of eartips and settled on the qdc supplied white silicone tips as these provided the best ergonomic fit for me.

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    Sound Impressions

    I use the Anole VX primarily with an Astell+Kern SP1000 copper and have also used it with a Chord Hugo 2, as well as a Benchmark HPA4 desktop headphone amplifier. In each case, the Anole VX scales higher and sounds “bigger.” I would describe the Anole VX sound signature (with all tuning switches off) as a neutral and natural reference sound with a slight touch of warmth. This is probably my ideal reference type of sound signature, and I continue to be mightily impressed with this earphone, and the seemingly effortless way it goes about its business of presenting a remarkable coherent sound signature that sounds very close to the full size flagship headphone category. If it sounds like I’m gushing, I am. It’s just simply that good.

    The Anole VX is engaging without being fatiguing, transparent without any harshness or sibilance, and has an “out of your head” soundstage which is rarified air for an earphone. It also has the bass slam and visceral impact when called upon and sounds completely natural in the process without taking away from any other frequency.

    When listening to many other top tier IEM’s, I can usually pinpoint some area of weakness or room for improvement. This is proving to be really difficult with the Anole VX as it simply ticks all of my boxes in terms of sound signature, ergonomics of ear pieces and cable, and overall comfort.

    Sounds Impression Comparisons with other IEM/CIEM’s

    Here is a brief comparison of the sonic differences between the Anole VX and a few other IEM’s on hand. All of the comparisons are with stock cables and using the Astell&Kern SP1000 copper.

    Campfire Audio Solaris (Universals)
    The Campfire Audio Solaris is a quad hybrid earphone with 3 balanced armature drivers and 1 dynamic driver. The Solaris is Campfire Audio’s current flagship IEM and retails for $1499. Of the earphones in this comparison list, the Solaris sounds the closest to the Anole VX in terms of sound signature. I feel that the Anole VX is a touch smoother, more transparent, has more space between instruments and is a more comfortable fit due to its much smaller physical size. Nonetheless, coming in at $1499, the Solaris represents good value for money and is one of the best IEM releases of 2018.

    64 Audio Tia Fourte (Universals)
    The 64 Audio Tia Fourte is considered among the highest performing flagship IEMs with an equally impressive price to match at $3499. The Tia driver technology is excellent, and while the Tio Fourte does cast a slightly wider soundstage, the Anole VX digs a little deeper with more depth and an overall more balanced and coherent frequency response.

    Ultimate Ears LIVE (Customs)
    The Ultimate Ears UE LIVE was released as a monitor for live musicians, and the sound signature does deviate a little from a traditional audiophile type of sound. The emphasis of the UE LIVE is a more organic tonality with less treble emphasis. This results in a smooth and dark sound signature, albeit with a wide and deep soundstage. In a direct comparison with the Anole VX, the UE LIVE sounds dark, veiled, and lacking in transparency and overall coherency. It is however, a fun sounding IEM and has its appeal if this type of sound signature is preferred.

    Conclusion

    The qdc Anole VX is a remarkable earphone and one of the best flagships currently available. It has an ideal blend of transparency and musicality, with a natural tonality and smoothness to the sound signature that just sounds right. It is also equally comfortable, and the ergonomics are second to none enabling long and fatigue free listening sessions.

    It’s great to see Chinese manufacturers continuing to push the envelope in headphone and earphone technology. Hifiman has done this with their full size headphones, and qdc seems to be doing this with their earphones. The Anole VX is a must audition if you are in the market for a neutral reference flagship IEM, and for those able to attend CanJam NYC 2019, be sure to stop by the qdc booth to check these out. Very enthusiastically recommended!

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    1. View previous replies...
    2. gunwale
      Canjam singapore is end of march. I tested them at music sanctuary so I guess they will be one of the representative. Singapore is very small. Even if they don't sell it at canjam you can always take a 20min train ride to their shop.
      gunwale, Feb 4, 2019
    3. Tweety 99
      Great review. It made me ordering one for me!
      Tweety 99, Feb 16, 2019
    4. F208Frank
      I tried these at CanJam NYC 2019 and they were pretty good. The price is a bit high but I guess that would be subjective to the individual purchasing.
      F208Frank, Feb 22, 2019

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