Vision Ears EXT - New Premium line flagship IEM


100+ Head-Fier
Bookended with greatness
Pros: Uniquely floaty yet strong bass region
Sparkly and goosebump inducing treble
Organic sounding
Cons: Mids are lacking
Somewhat oddly shaped
Lacking TOTL level detail



Many thanks to @Damz87, @Vision Ears and Minidisc for arranging the Australian tour of the EXT and the PHöNIX.

Ask anyone on the street about audio brands and the likelihood that they rattle off brands such as Apple, Beats and Bose is very high indeed. Ask people slightly more interested in the topic and you might get the likes of Sennheiser and Audio Technica. The chances of them stating “Vision Ears” are very low, and for good reason. The German company keeps a fairly low profile mostly sticking to CIEMs and some rather high-priced universal IEMs, keeping their target audience largely musicians and hardcore audiophiles. Today’s review concerns the EXT, a rather garishly coloured anomaly, even for audiophiles, in its approach to tuning and technology. But is the EXT something worth escalating to popular knowledge? Or within the confines of this audio community?

The Factual Stuff​

The EXT comes in a rather spartan-looking cardboard box containing within it, a garish purple case machined out of aluminium. Within the case contains the earpieces fashioned out of black acrylic and adorned with a wonderfully machined aluminium faceplate anodised in a handsome purple hue. Within these earpieces are a rather odd combination of dual dynamic drivers and four electrostatic drivers. The dynamic drivers are 9.2mm and 6mm responsible for the bass and the midrange respectively. The four electrostats are dedicated to the treble region.

The EXT comes with a cable terminated in 2.5mm and features 8 wires of 28AWG silver-plated copper.


The Opinion Stuff​



The low end of the EXT presents a rather robust performer in terms of sub-bass with a generous amount of boost applied to the lowest depths of the frequency response curve. The result is an impressively deep and textured bass response. However, the EXT is not simply a bass-boosted monster but rather it manages to balance it with some nuance and clarity in its reproduction of the low-end. It manages to articulate the finer details of bass drums and remains fairly speedy despite the generous boost. “Ghosts” by Tchami has a rather thick and rounded bass note throughout the song, which on a lesser IEM seemingly turns into a pillowy mess with a woollier reproduction of the drawn-out note whereas the EXT handles it with great gusto. “THE PLAN” from the TENET soundtrack has a booming bassline in the initial seconds of the song and the EXT reproduces it with great detail and texture without muddying up the entirety of the song. There is a unique presentation to the bass notes of the EXT as it provides a rather ‘floaty’ reproduction of the low-end when compared to the likes of the Elysian Diva or the FiR Audio XE6 with both providing a very forward and in-your-face bass presentation.

Overall, the 9.2mm dynamic driver seems to be doing excellent work in the low end with a great level of presence and detail in the low-end that feels rounded and smooth to the listener. It is boosted but doesn’t remain overbearing or out of place with the tonal balance of the EXT.


Moving onto the midrange of the EXT, there is not much else to say but it is rather good. The presentation of instruments, as well as vocals in this region, is done organically, with music presented in a very natural and analogue manner. Songs like “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac present an organic reproduction of the strumming of a guitar and the vocals of the female vocalist throughout. There is no metallic or plasticky timbre here, simply a relaxed presentation of music. In an attempt to draw out some sibilance and trip up the EXT, I threw on “4 walls” by f(x) which has a large amount of sss sounds from female vocalists singing in breathy head voice. The EXT does eke out some harshness out of these sounds and thus is not exactly the most relaxed presentation of mid-range notes but still manages to be quite enjoyable.

Otherwise, the EXT does feel ever so slightly lethargic in its reproduction of the mid-range with certain instruments seemingly lingering a fraction of a second too long and the leading edge of hard and fast notes coming from strings or a piano not presenting with the same edginess as one would hope.

Overall, the mid-range performance of the EXT is somewhat of a love-hate element of the IEM. I felt that whilst natural and organic in its presentation, it lacked the speed and edginess of what you wanted out of some notes.


Moving on to the upper regions of the EXT, treble performance is somewhat a given considering the technology mix in the IEM. The EXT does not fail to impress in this region. The speed and detail that the EXT manages to eke out of songs wherein treble is somewhat of an afterthought is something very enjoyable indeed. “Walk With Me” by Cosmos Midnight has a tambourine and a hi-hat permeating the pre-chorus and chorus and they remain distinctly present throughout listening with the EXT. Lesser IEMs simply have these elements lost in the sauce and if they are more treble forward, still do not reproduce them with the highly detailed presentation of the EXT.

“Reckoner” by Radiohead has oodles of percussion from the outset of the song, the EXT speedily reproduces the claps and metallic tonality of the percussion with gusto, creating a tremendous sense of dynamic range as it extends from the bass up to the tippy-top of the FR curve.

The EXT is somewhat fatiguing however, It remains distinctly within my acceptable level of ear tingle and fatigue-inducing painfulness. However, this may be an element to look out for if you are particularly treble-sensitive.

Overall, the treble of the EXT flexed the muscles of the ESTs that were implemented, providing a very present treble region that sparkled and shined amongst the generous bass boost and overly produced songs wherein treble seems to be a very small element of the song itself.


The EXT’s imaging chops are decent with songs such as “Fine” by Taeyeon being able to be dissected somewhat with its various layers of overlapping vocal tracks. However, for the price, I don’t think the EXT does a standout job of imaging and positioning certain sounds when compared to the likes of the Phoenix or the RN6.

The staging of the EXT is somewhat inflated by the heavy injection of air in the FR curve creating a sense of spaciousness and width that belies its in-ear nature. However, with that being said, it remains a fairly intimate sound stage with orchestral music not being fully reflective of its concert hall recording. The depth of the stage is something that is rather lacking on the EXT which I feel is partly due to the heavy emphasis on the bass and the treble but also simply due to a lack of layering and separation potential of the drivers themselves.

The resolving power of the EXT is a bit of a mixed bag, with the aforementioned props given to the low-end and high-end of the FR curve. However, the mids do not feel that they are providing all of the necessary microdetails one would come to expect from the TOTL price tag.

Overall, I feel that the EXT does a rather decent job in presenting detail and resolution in its strengths, that being the bass and treble but on the whole, it is rather lacking in terms of mid-range resolution. Otherwise, the staging is not a standout element of the EXT with the airiness of the IEM creating a “faux” sense of space but lacking a significant amount of depth and height that one would want in their TOTL.


With a heavy emphasis on bass and treble, the EXT takes a more U-shaped presentation and it plays to its strengths extremely well on a technical basis. However, the mid-range, despite being rather organic in its reproduction, remains a step too slow and a little undefined for my tastes. The result of this is a wonderful sound signature for a very specific portion of the audiophile community. Strong bass performance combined with sparkly treble within the context of a smoother and spacious presentation create very obvious “signposts” of a great IEM but as a result, it perhaps makes its deficiencies more readily apparent.


Vs RN6​

The RN6, like the EXT, injects a significant amount of airiness into the FR curve and as a result, provides a more spacious and ethereal-sounding IEM that maintains a powerful low-end. This approach means that the RN6 and the EXT share some broad tonal similarities but how do they compare? The EXT’s low-end, whilst impressive lacks the sheer force and physicality of the 10mm Kinetic Driver that the RN6 utilises to deliver its bass frequencies. The result is a much more present and powerful low-end on the RN6 but whilst intoxicating, it may be a little bit overbearing on the sound signature. The EXT feels a little more woolly and floaty with its bass compared to the RN6 and as such loses some of that physical rumble but ultimately remains more tonally balanced and more unique in its bass presentation.

The mid-range of the RN6 and the EXT are also different with the RN6 being slightly more recessed in its presentation yet remaining distinctly detailed and crisp whereas the EXT, as outlined above, is slightly more smoothed out leading to a more relaxed presentation. The upper regions of the EXT and the RN6 take different approaches with the RN6 being distinctly less sparkly and crisp compared to the EXT which lays on the treble pretty thick to heighten the crystalline nature of the upper regions.

Ultimately, the RN6 takes on a more coloured tonality and seems to push the tonal signature of the EXT to the extremes for better or for worse. I believe that the EXT is the more safe choice but the RN6’s bass performance is best-in-class whereas the EXT doesn’t have a valid claim to best of anything in my books.

Vs VE Phoenix​

The VE Phoenix was a wonderful IEM that I had spent time with and whilst not excelling in any respect, provided a sweet and enjoyable tonality combined with excellent technical performance. The Phoenix errs on the side of warm whereas the EXT, whilst still presenting a decent sense of mid-bass presence remains rather airy and ethereal in its presentation. Speed and detail are where the two most differ as I believe the Phoenix excels in providing micro and macro detail in any region in a natural and relaxed manner whereas the EXT trumps it in the treble region but at the cost of some harshness. The bass on the EXT is much more prominent and the quality of the bass is quite odd in that it feels rounded and “blobby” whereas the Phoenix provides a more fast and punchy bass presentation comparatively. The mid-range on the Phoenix is more present in the mix and resolves excellently with a natural timbre that feels fast and direct. The EXT feels more organic and relaxed in its delivery but at the cost of some detail. Both do not have the largest staging but the Phoenix does much better in creating separation, layering instruments and resolving them in a manner that creates a deeper and more dissectible stage.

Overall, the Phoenix presents what I feel is a much more enjoyable tonality that will likely be enjoyed by most people compared to the EXT where its U-shaped tonality seems to elevate the drama and engagement factor some but at the cost of long-term listening enjoyability in my books.


Shanling M6U​

The M6U is characterised by a slightly v-shaped tonality combined with a strong emphasis on note weight and smooth reproduction of music. The result of this with the EXT is an emphasis on the EXT’s strengths imbuing a strong sense of low-end presence and heightening the upper regions of the FR curve. Whether this approach overcooks the overall tonal balance of the IEM is a question for your tastes but for me personally, the recessing of the mids and the imbuing of strong low-end presence had the effect of muddying up the overall performance of the EXT. Whilst the emphasis on these two elements seemed to heighten the sense of dynamism and drama felt whilst listening to the EXT, I found the experience overbearing over time and ultimately something that I did not find enjoyment in after the novelty of booming bass and piercing highs wore off. Overall, this is not a combo that I would heartily recommend unless you want a more U or V-shaped tonality at all costs.

Mojo 2 + Poly​

Characterised as a slightly warm yet ultimately neutral source, the Mojo 2 provides the EXT with perhaps the most neutral representation that I can get out of my sources. The combo doesn’t seem to heighten the tonal characteristics of the EXT in any prominent manner but rather simply reproduces the music as what I believe Vision Ears would have imagined. The resolution and ability to pick out detail in any area of the response curve on the Mojo was better than the M6U and alleviated some of the concerns that I had regarding the lack of resolving power in the mids that I had highlighted in my review above. This is not to say that the Mojo cured it completely.

The crossfeed function of the Mojo expanded the stage somewhat coalescing with the already airy nature of the IEM to broaden and deepen the stage. The effect seemed slightly heightened on the EXT when compared to other IEMs when used with crossfeed.

Luxury & Precision W4​

The W4 on the stock settings (fast filter, Tune 02 and all other settings off) presents a thinner and drier reproduction of sound when compared to the previously mentioned source chains. The result of this is a more edgy reproduction of sound that is faster and more precise in its presentation. The combination of the W4 and the EXT leads to a rather mixed bag of results. The bass and the mids provide a needed sense of speed and precision that seems to correct some of the issues that I previously wrote about and imbue a greater sense of detail and resolution in these regions. However, the added thinness and sharpness to the treble sections of the EXT began to move the IEM into the distinctly sibilant territory as the edgier combination seemed to make female vocalists a bit jarring and cymbals noticeably splashier and harsher. Despite this increase in harshness, the treble was undoubtedly detailed and airy to the ear with songs that were not too treble-happy.

This is ultimately something that was alleviated with the shift to slower filters and the NOS mode of the W4 that seemed to smooth out and roll off the frequency response curve somewhat, creating a more balanced sound signature.

As a result of this, the W4 is a rather good pairing that seeks to correct some of the misgivings of the EXT but may lean too hard into its strengths. Ultimately, the W4 is a rather good choice if you don’t find that you are that treble-sensitive.

Hiby R6 Pro 2​

The R6P2 presents a highly dynamic sound signature that follows what I would term v-shaped tonality. The elevation of the sub-bass and slight heightening of the treble lends itself to a great sense of engagement and dynamism with several IEMs but given the EXT is already emphasising these elements, how would they fare together?

The bass frequencies become a bit too much for my ears with the sub-bass boost becoming slightly more undefined and muddy to the ear, perhaps owing to the already “floaty” nature of the EXT’s bass. The mids remain the same for the most part but with a very slight improvement to the resolution and rendering of micro detail of certain instrumentalization when compared to the likes of the M6U above.

The treble gets a very slight boost but not to the extent of the W4’s overly bright presentation at times. This is a more subtle addition to the already prominent treble regions but did not bother me that much in the grand scheme of things.

The R6P2 also provides a wealth of DSP to a greater extent than the W4 and is seemingly on par with the Mojo with the exception that the R6P2 isn’t necessarily “lossless DSP” as claimed by Chord. This provides you with the ability to alter the sound signature of the EXT and ultimately you can ensure synergy to a certain extent.

Overall, the R6P2 seeks to enhance the already emphasised v-shape nature of the EXT but the improvements in dynamic performance create a great sense of engagement and presence in the low-end. I would say that the R6P2 is a respectable pairing but with the caveat that some tweaking may be required.

Value and Quality of Life​

Priced at the hefty sum of 3000 USD, the EXT commands a princely price for its sound. But I cannot wholeheartedly say that the EXT is deserving of this price. The value proposition of the EXT is hard to justify with my experience with TOTL IEMs (albeit limited). The Phoenix seems to be the greater all-rounder with a safer tuning that is sure to appeal to more people and the RN6 provides a similar airy yet bassy sound signature that feels tighter and more resolving. The EXT excels in terms of treble performance and the uniqueness of its strong bass tuning but I do not feel that this avails my concerns with the price tag and the middling reproduction of the mids.

The shells are lightweight despite the hefty metal faceplate and thus feel rather comfortable to have in-ear for extended periods. The caveat of this statement is that they have to get into your ear in the first place. The EXTs, like the Phoenix, take a rather odd earpiece shape that intends to get deeply inserted and sit nicely in your ear canal. Whilst they did so with my ears, I would be reticent to say that this would work with a lot of people. As such, I feel that the earpieces would likely be a difficult fit for some folks and not as universally appealing as some other earpiece designs in the market.

The included cable is a rather flexible 8-wire cable which was fine from an ergonomic perspective but the hardware and connectors were somewhat disappointing for a product of this price class. The 2 pin connectors felt rather loose in the earpieces and it wasn’t an uncommon experience to open up the case to see that one of the earpieces was no longer connected to the cable. Pin security is not just for ATMs but is pretty much crucial when you have a TOTL priced IEM in your ear. The 2.5mm jack is a 2.5mm jack and I’ll leave it at that.


The EXT seeks to demonstrate its superiority through its fairly exaggerated U-shaped tuning approach and it does so rather well. The mids, whilst seemingly an afterthought maintain a level of organic presentation that is quite enjoyable and this is book-ended by a uniquely floaty bass that remains robust and a sparkly upper-end that incites some excitement and energy in the treble.

This tuning is rather exciting but diminishes its suitability for more acoustically focused music and the technical prowess of the EXT leaves one wanting for more in terms of detail retrieval and resolution in the mid-range in particular.

Ultimately, the EXT is a rather tough sell for me at its pricepoint, I do not believe it is the best at bass regions despite having a unique presentation, is quite far off in mid-range reproduction and the treble, whilst rather good is not good enough to warrant the price-tag in my books.

The EXT is a TOTL for those looking for a rather pronounced U-shaped tonality and if that is not your bag then I recommend spending your bag on a more well-rounded IEM like the Phoenix.

Bringing in that "X" Factor - Vision Ears EXT
Pros: +Deep, weighty & impactful bass. Definitely a contender in the stratos-fi level bass in terms of weight, texture and detail.
+ Full, weighty vocal notes
+ Smooth presentation (Dependant on sound preference)
+ Fits like a custom (On my ears personally, experiences may vary)
Cons: - May sound a little bit too dark or notes don't sound as clear or sparkly.
- Air instruments sounded a little muffled, lacking treble extension compared to other IEMs
- Bass may overwhelm the rest of the frequencies a little bit (Dependant on sound preference)
- Unusual shell shape may not fit everyone
Vision Ears EXT (Elysium Extended)

Hello and thank you again for taking the time to read this post. We’re off to my second written experience on IEMs and we’re kicking it off with not one, but 2 IEMs from Vision Ears. The Vision Ears EXT and Phonix.

Once again, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank @Damz87 for arranging this review tour in Australia and for allowing me to be a part of this journey. I am not paid in any way shape or form to write this review and Vision Ears or anyone involved in this review tour had any influence over my experience and all thoughts and opinions are my own. If you'd like to know more details about the Vision Ears EXT, you can check out them out at Vision Ear's website here - . With that all out of the way, let's talk about Vision Ears EXT

For this post I’ll be specifically talking about the Vision Ears EXT, if you’d like to check out my written experience on the Vision Ears Phonix, you can check it out here


The Vision Ears EXT, a.k.a Elysium Extended, hence the EXT abbreviation, is a $4500 (AUD) IEM which has a driver configuration of 2 dynamic drivers and 4 ESTs. This is by far the most expensive IEM, I’ve ever tried or put in my ears, only to be trumped by the other brother in the lineup, the VE Phonix but that’s another post entirely. I wish I never googled how much this thing cost because it gave me a little bit of anxiety whenever I tried these IEMs on to the point I was tossing the idea of hiring my son as a 24/7 bodyguard to make sure nothing or noone, not even dust will touch this IEM but since my son is only 2, these $4500(AUD) IEM might probably end up in his belly instead which in a way is security in itself but that idea went out as fast as it came into my head.

With this kind of price tag, it was indeed a very interesting experience for me personally as not only do I get to test and listen to what a $4500(AUD) in ear monitor sounds like, but I also get to compare with lesser priced IEMs to see if that few extra hundreds or thousands will let me discover aspects of a music that I never knew existed. With that curiosity in mind, let’s first talk about the accessories first.


Since this was part of the review tour, you might need to google how the retail unboxing experience would be like because for the tour, it comes with the box with a large emblem representing the IEMs, which I would make this into a magnet and stick it on my fridge if I owned this because, it looks really cool. It also comes with a lot of interchangeable eartips, the cable itself, a carry case, a leather pouch to put the IEMs in and the IEMs themselves.


For the case itself, if you’ve owned the EJ07M Kinda Lava it’s pretty much that case on steroids. It has a twisting mechanism, it’s heavy, it’s solid, aluminium made with a design matching the IEMs. If there’s any case I would want to protect my IEM’s in, it would be in this.The cable itself is pretty standard, you’ve got that weaving like design and it has a bit of thickness but not too heavy, overall a nice, light, solid feeling cable but I do have to note that the pins are quite short so while I may not have any issues with the IEMs falling out from my testing, I still wish it could’ve been a little bit longer.


For this tour, the cable that it comes with terminates in 2.5mm but there’s an adapter which you can plug in which terminates in 4.4mm but then it extends the entire plug so in terms of convenience, I honestly prefer the modern cable designs where we have interchangeable terminations instead of additional adapters such as these but to each their own.


If Magneto was part of the X-men and he wears IEMs when he’s crushing people with metal, I feel that this would be the IEM he’d be wearing if we’re solely talking about looks. I think this IEM looks really sexy. It’s got a little bit of that futuristic cyberpunk look with the strong lines forming the letter “X” which is a representation of its name and you have a sneak peek of the grills inside. The purple on the metal faceplate is striking but it doesn’t scream “hey, look at me I’m PURPLE!”. It just catches your attention and when it does, you can’t take your eyes off it, or at least I couldn’t.

The shell also has a smoky like see through design where you see a sneak peek of the drivers but not fully seeing it all. Overall, not much more I can say about this IEM, it just looks really good. Purple rain should be playing in the background every time you’re putting on this IEM.


Fit and Comfort
Not going to deny it, this IEM is fairly large but it has some grooves and contours which for my ears personally, fit really well, but it feels like it goes in really deep so you have to wear smaller eartips which I’ll talk about later, otherwise you’re going to feel a lot of pressure and it’s going to get uncomfortable after a few hours of listening. However once this IEM is in my ears, there’s no moving it, I feel i could go jogging with these and it wouldn’t fall off but I don’t think I’d want to sweat all over $4000 (AUD). Shame though, would’ve been a fun jogging session.



Due to how wide the nozzles are, I have to be on either the small or medium sized tips to get this to fit properly, without adding too much pressure in my ear. Moondrop springtips or stock tips seem to work best for me for these IEMs but I would suggest to tip roll to get the proper fit and seal because what I’m about to describe depends on this factor


If there’s one aspect of the sound that stands out the most, it’ll be in the bass. The EXT DOMINATES. When that bass beat hits from Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, it pounded my skull. It’s a very deep, weighty, punchy, full bass note. It’s a bassheads dream sound for pound. Unfortunately I do not have my Maestro SE’s with me at the moment to do an in depth comparison but from memory, the EXT sounds like it has a litte bit more meat to the mid bass, a little thicker, a little fuller. There’s a lot of texture to the bass as well, I’m not hearing just the slam, I’m getting all the bass details, there are some tracks where I didn’t even know there was a kick drum playing in the background and the EXT brought it into focus. Another enjoyable experience for bass. Nothing more needed to be said.

This is yet another IEM with an “overall” sound presentation whereby the background is on the same plane as the vocals. How the low end is tuned gives the vocals a little bit of weight, warmth and thickness. However I’d say there’s a little bit of bleed from the bass into the midrange, which I feel contributes to that heavier note weight, which depending on how you like your vocals, can be a good thing or it can backfire. For me personally, I feel when it comes to studio recorded tracks, that warmth in the tuning just makes for a lush and smooth music listening session, however with how the treble is presented, it’s probably not the best for live recordings or tracks.

Treble is smooooth on the EXT which is great if you’re sensitive to treble, however I feel for me personally, it needed more treble and treble extension to cut through all that bass because as of what they did for the Vision Ears EXT, all the air instruments and their micro details took a hit from this presentation. Trumpets sounded like it was on mute or muffled, and they’re somehow sounding a little further away.

Not the widest soundstage due to how the sound is presented. I would say they’re forward but never reaches the realm of shoutiness. The details in bass create an illusion of depth so while the soundstage is not necessarily wide, it is quite deep with how the sound is presented, most of it contributed by the bass

From my experience thus far, the bass-treble ratio has quite an impact on the resolution. For this case and from my personal experience of the EXT, while you can hear most of the macro details, the micro details is not as clear or as sharp as compared to other lower priced IEMs I’ve tried. For example, hi hats, snares, even hand claps, I can hear them, but they sounded soft and a little far away, often being enveloped by the bass details. However they are separated well enough that it doesn’t become one big mash potato of sound, but for an IEM at this price point, I definitely expected a little bit more. There just this blanket over all these details and if you’re one to take notice of every little detail in a track especially tracks you’re familiar with, I think the EXT might disappoint you.

Imaging is just about average for me. The left and right sounds are distinguishable, but the positioning within the space is not as well defined or distinct.

On my Hifiman EF400 I get to about 8 o clock on the dial on the 4.4mm termination


VS Maestro SE

I think the best contender to the Vision Ears EXT would be the Maestro SE as I can’t think of a set that I own personally that presents this much bass without having too much impact on the rest of the frequencies. Unfortunately I do not have my Maestro SE with me at the time of testing the EXT which is a huge shame because in terms of bass I would love to do a head to head comparison because they both present bass at the highest level but I’m going off based on recent memory and familiarity of the Maestro SE since it was my daily driver.

The EXT hits harder than the Maestro SE but the SE reaches deeper in the sub bass. They both have a lot of bass detail and structure and bass is definitely the highlight of the two IEMs. It comes down to what you prefer, if overall bass quality and quantity is all you care about then the EXT edges out because of that slightly fuller mid bass punch, but do not be mistaken, they both hit really, REALLY hard.

For the midrange, the EXT is a lot warmer and the bass extends to the midrange a little bit in a sense where vocal notes sound a lot fuller and thicker but the Maestro SE presents a much cleaner and leaner note weight which presents the illusion of a “cleaner” midrange. The SE is a lot more forward in its vocal positioning as well compared to the EXT so while they both have the “overall sound plane presentation”, the vocals are bit more focused on the SE.

For treble while they both present a dark presentation for me personally, the SE has more elevated highs especially when it comes to pronunciation of words but when it comes to treble extension or some would perceive that as “air”, both the EXT and SE suffers a little bit in this category. If we had just a little bit more treble extension it would open up the sound a little bit more but based on how it’s tuned currently, the air instruments sounded a little bit muffled and it’s note attack is a little softened.


So to sum it all up, I’m really glad I got to listen to these IEMs first because it proves a small point that just because something carries an exhorbant price tag does not necessarily means it’ll suit your sound preference. If bass is what you want in an IEM then the EXT brings that in spades but at the same time, the fact I’m comparing this with another IEM that is almost 1/2 the price is saying something so it is always, ALWAYS important to audition these IEMs at your nearest available store if able, prior to purchasing this, or ANYTHING for that matter especially when it’ll cost you a second hand car’s worth because you’ll never know what they’re going to bring until you’ve heard them for yourselves. The Vision Ears EXT carries a sound presentation that is smooth, warm and extremely engaging. You will not help but tap your toes or bop your head when listening with the Vision Ears EXT because when the first beat drops, the Vision Ears EXT will get you hooked, BUT, as I’ve cautioned many times earlier, it comes at a cost. Is summit-fi level of bass worth a few weeks of meals? Only you have the answer to that. Once again I’d like to thank Vision Ears and Damz87 once again for allowing me to be a part of this experience. I look forward to sharing my next experience which is this IEMs bigger brother and when i say bigger, i do mean in price and possibly in sound? Let’s find out here. Otherwise, happy listening and hope all of you will have an amazing week.



No DD, no DICE
Vision Ears EXT : Purple Reign
Pros: Remarkable clarity across the FR
Excellent build quality and attention to detail
Powerful, extended bass and treble
Vivid, detailed midrange and excellent instrument timbre
Cons: Non-traditional fit can be a deal-breaker (it is for me)
Vocals can occasionally sound etched (and dry)
Lacks sub-bass weight and decay
I received a review unit of the VE Elysium EXTended (EXT) as part of the official VE South African Tour, which also included the new all-BA Phönix flagship. The tour was made possible by Marcel and Jonas at @Vision Ears, and I’d like to once again EXTend my thanks to the VE team for their generosity of spirit and enthusiastic support of our far-flung community.



While I haven’t been fortunate enough to hear the original Elysium for myself, that IEM’s reputation preceded it. Famed for its ‘peerless’ midrange, I was less enthused with the idea of Elysium’s bass playing only a small part in the sound signature, with a single, sad and lonely BA driver left to do bass duty while the mids and treble got all the good stuff.

So, when VE announced a ‘new’ Elysium, that ‘course corrected’ with a full-blown 9.2mm dynamic bass woofer to go with an improved 6mm midrange dynamic driver and second-generation Sonion treble electrostatic drivers (four instead of Elysium’s original two), excitement levels hit fever pitch. In fact, it was only because of my interest in EXT that I got to hear its maternal twin Phönix, and if you read my Phönix review, you know how glad I am that I did.

But I digress. EXT, from what I understand, is about as far removed from the original Elysium as chalk and cheese. Yes, the hearty midrange was retained, but everything from bass to treble to tuning to form factor (more on that zany form factor later) was changed. You’ll find numerous reviews comparing the two, so if that’s what you’re looking for from me, you may want to look elsewhere.

What I will be doing in this review, however, is pitting EXT against my current all-time favourite IEM, the Sony IER-Z1R, mainly because on paper the two IEMs compete for a similar audience – someone like me who demands the very best in DD bass with a healthy dollop of midrange goodness thrown in for good measure.

But before I do all that, let’s take a closer look at EXT, what it comes with, how it’s made, and how well (or not) it fits the ear.


Presentation, fit and finish

As I mentioned in the Phönix review, the tour samples of both EXT and Phönix didn’t ship with retail packaging, though from what I’m told, EXT’s unboxing experience is spectacular. I can believe it too; seeing and holding EXT for the first time, it’s clear that a lot of attention has gone into its design and construction.

The shells themselves are quite small, though not quite as small as something like Sennheiser’s single dynamic driver IE 900. Each earpiece features an aluminium faceplate anodised in a custom ‘Vision Ears’ deep purple colour. The faceplates are grooved with a striking ‘X’ design that reveals a silver-finished acoustic aluminium mesh, which does double-duty as a protective cover and dynamic driver vent.

On the flipside of the faceplate is where things get funky. The nozzle and driver housing are made of a seamless opaque black acrylic, with a flat base and an odd-looking bulb just below the thick, oval-shaped nozzle. The reason for the bulb is the four Sonion estats that VE decided to place close to the nozzle opening, most likely because two sealed dynamic drivers and a three-way crossover take up the bulk of available space, and expanding the shell cavity would have made the EXT unyieldingly large.


There’s also a small ‘clear’ section in each nozzle that reveals some of the wiring and VE’s proprietary second-generation HALC (High Precision Acoustic Leveling Chamber) that helps tune the dynamic drivers to spec. Unfortunately, while the final design and aesthetic is one of form as well as function, it’s not ideal – at least not for me.

I have fairly small, narrow ear canals, and generally use small or medium-small tips with ‘traditional’ IEM nozzles of regular length and thickness. EXT’s are neither traditional nor regular, shaped more like a semi-custom IEM that requires some acrobatic counter-clockwise twisting to slide and ‘lock’ the bulbous, angled nozzles inside your ears.

With a little practice, they slide and lock very neatly, and if my ear canals were a millimeter or two wider, there would be plenty of room for both the bulbous acrylic shaft and its accompanying eartips. However, even with the most comfortable eartips I have (JVC Spiral Dots), I can feel the pressure of the nozzles and eartips inside my ear canals almost immediately, and while it’s not uncomfortable per sé , I’m constantly aware that I’m wearing silicone plugs in my ears (and yes, before you ask, I tried different sizes, with one size down being too small and not sealing properly).

It's all good and well if I insert them once and leave them be. If, on the other hand, I remove the earpieces regularly, as I had to do during testing, the constant chafing of the silicone from the in-out twisting motion hurts my ears, to the point where they become red and painful after an hour or two, and I have to stop listening for the day. So, while I can live with the pressure of the fit for shorter listens, I’m yet to find eartips that would allow me to wear them for longer sessions.

To be clear, I can really only talk about the fit from my own perspective and have read plenty of impressions from those for whom EXT fits like a glove, so don’t let my experience dissuade you from trying EXT for yourself. It took me almost four years to finally muster up the courage to buy Z1R despite all the negative reviews of its ‘atrocious fit’, which turned out to be anything but, and I ended up missing out on its spectacular sound quality for way too long.


There’s a lot to like about EXT too, as you’ll soon find out, but before I get to that, a quick comment on accessories. The stock cable is an 8-wire silver-plated copper design, which, like the Phönix cable, is terminated with 0.78mm 2-pin connectors on the earpiece side and a 2.5mm balanced connector on the source side. The retail box comes with a 2.5mm to 4.4mm balanced adapter, though I used a DD Hi-Fi connector for the review as the VE connector didn’t ship with the tour kit.

Two different types of silicone tips are also included in the box: Azla Crystal and Spinfit CP-155. I preferred the SpinFits to the Crystal, which were almost impossible to fit onto the thick nozzle (eventually, with some practice, I managed). Neither were particularly comfortable though, which is why, after cycling through about a dozen different tips, I settled on the Spirals for both sound quality and, more importantly, comfort. This brings us to the part most of you probably skipped to anyway…

Sound impressions

I’ve been listening to EXT on and off for about three weeks now, mainly using HiBy’s R2R-based RS6 DAP, which I found to have excellent synergy as a pairing. I also used iFi’s xDSD Gryphon, though most of the review impressions – including the Z1R shootout – were made with the HiBy. EXT needs about the same amount of power to get to the same volume level as Z1R, and with almost 700mW into 32 ohms, the RS6 has plenty of power on tap for both IEMs without breaking a sweat, delivering a clean black background with zero hiss and ample headroom.

The following section will be slightly different to my usual sound impressions in that I’m not going to reference specific tracks but will instead talk more generically about the sound, and leave the music mentions to the shootout section that follows.



I hear EXT to have a warmer-than-neutral tonality but with extreme clarity as its defining attribute. Even though it has a powerful bass driver EXT can have a bright and forward sound, but again not in the way you’d typically think of a bright-leaning monitor. Its brightness comes from an elevated and very extended midrange-to-treble plateau, especially upper treble, which gives the sound plenty of shimmer and lightness. This lightness feeds back into the midrange and balances out any bass ‘heaviness’ that would have been there, were it not for that treble infusion.

If I had to describe the tonality as a shape, it would be closest to a W, but without the typical ‘peakiness’ that some W-shaped monitors suffer from. EXT is generally smooth across the board, with almost zero harshness, but depending on the recording, there can be some residual sibilants or glassiness in some vocals (mainly female vocals) because of the sheer amount of air and clarity in the signature. As such, I find EXT to be less forgiving of poor recordings than its more refined sibling.

Overall, I’d say EXT’s presentation is one of power, dynamism and energy, but with the ability to resolve even the finest feathery nuances in each of the main frequency ranges. It’s a ‘bright daylight’ type of tuning that exposes your ears to all the details and textures in the music, but for all its liveliness I find it sometimes leans more cerebral than musical, especially because the overall tone is drier and lighter rather than organic or earthy. On the whole, it still sounds very natural, but if you’re looking for rose-tinted romanticism in your music, this is probably not the monitor for you.


Bass is the biggest change from the original Elysium, both in tuning and the hardware used to deliver it. The large 9.2mm driver is put to very good use to dig deep into the lows, though the balance is tilted slightly more towards midbass than sub-bass. There’s no midbass ‘hump’ to thicken the music, but the elevated midbass does subdue the sub-bass energy on some tracks, and so while there’s plenty of rumble where there should be in the music, it’s not a warbly, subwoofer-like rumble but rather a tighter, more measured physicality.

Where EXT really shines is bass texture, delivering subtle shades of bass that are usually the domain of nimbler BA drivers, only this time with the air movement that makes dynamic driver bass so much more visceral and natural sounding. While it doesn’t quite have the full range of tactility because of its slightly muted sub-bass response, the details that are felt rather than heard are all still there, but maybe not as obvious as they would be with a monitor that puts more focus on sub-bass weight.

This is not the world’s fastest bass by any measure, but I don’t find it slow either. Decay is actually very fast for a large dynamic, and on some tracks, I hear it to have more BA-like characteristics, in terms of decay at least, and attack is even faster. EXT has a real talent for keeping pace with even the fastest basslines, but is not as adept at sustaining the decay – something many would no doubt see as an advantage because it prevents the bass from bleeding and helps expose more detail in the midrange.

Overall, I find EXT’s bass exceptional, among the best I’ve heard from a dynamic driver IEM in terms of detail and texture. That said, it’s a fairly reserved bass, even though it’s elevated above neutral, and doesn’t punch quite as hard or rumble quite as low as class leaders like EVO and Z1R. It can also go missing altogether on bass-light tracks, and therefore may not satisfy the die-hard bassheads among us.


Midrange is what made the original Elysium famous, and while I’ve already confessed to having never heard the original, listening to EXT I get a sense of how that reputation was forged. Lower mids, in particular, are awash with texture, male vocals presented with their full chesty tone, but they do lack the lushness of some other monitors (even with a lush vocal-oriented source like RS6).

Upper mids aren’t quite as forward, and female vocals that sit closer to the upper midrange definitely reflect the treble elevation up top. Like male vocals, they tend to be on the drier and lighter side, with notes not quite as full or weighty as I’d like, but not fluffy or brittle either. Some female vocals can suffer from a hint of hollowness, which I personally feel is the result of the overabundant air up top, and the higher-pitched the vocals, the wispier and more ethereal they sound as a result.

Instrument tone and timbre is spot on; strings ooze with texture and piano strikes shimmer with detail and realistic weight. EXT has this way of creating three-dimensional images of instruments that give them a realism I’ve rarely heard before. It also helps separate instruments on the stage and sets them apart from vocals, and although these are more technical than tonal attributes, I find it relevant to mention them here because of how big a part the tuning plays in the overall midrange presentation.


Treble is where EXT might split opinion. I’m still undecided on whether or not I like the elevated treble tuning, but there’s no question its airiness and speed are what contribute to EXT’s overall clarity and tonal spaciousness. The upper treble elevation helps create pitch-black spaces between instruments and vocals, but also contributes to their lightness of tone.

As far as estats go, this is one of the best implementations I’ve heard, right up there with standard-bearers like Traillii. There’s so much shimmer to the music you’ll want to reach for your sunglasses, but this isn’t a glaring treble, nor is it peaky or harsh. It’s silky, but not in the sense of sounding organic and relaxed like Phönix or Z1R.

There’s a smoothness to the treble I really like, even though it lacks some bite in the lower treble region, but that can be a good thing too, depending on your preferences. This also makes it more consistent with the overall smoothness of the tuning elsewhere, and makes for a cohesive and coherent sound despite the different driver types.

Overall, while some consider EXT’s a bass-dominant signature, I somewhat disagree, finding that treble plays a bigger role, at least with the music I listen to. Thankfully treble quality is outstanding, so this isn’t an issue, and despite the prominent treble, bass is very well balanced and in the signature as a whole.



There’s a sense in the community that EXT isn’t the most technically proficient monitor around, and while that’s true, it has to be taken in context. I find EXT performs at a very high technical level, with excellent resolution and detail retrieval across the board. It may not have the microscope-like resolving power of Traillii or Fourte, but it also doesn’t have the BA driver tech designed specifically to extract that insane level of detail in a monitor, especially in the midrange.

Stage is wide and natural, with a decent sense of depth but not much height. On the right tracks, sounds can stretch beyond my ears, but the stage generally lacks the sense of holographic staging I get with other monitors like Traillii or Z1R. As I mentioned earlier, EXT has an uncanny ability to render 3D instruments but lacks the tonal weight to make them sound life-size.

Imaging is very precise, and I always get a good sense of where individual instruments and vocals are placed on the stage. Separation is also excellent, as is layering, although again we’re not talking class-leading but still in touch with top-shelf monitors. I certainly don’t feel shortchanged by EXT’s technical ability, and any more would push the overall presentation too far towards clinical for my liking.


Select comparisons

I originally intended this review to be a shootout between EXT and my current favourite IEM, the Sony IER-Z1R, but felt that would be too narrow a focus and do both IEMs a disservice. I’d already written more than 5,000 words’ worth of track notes, however (yes, that’s more words than this entire review) so, instead of throwing all that bedtime reading material away, I’m going to use this section to summarise my findings between the two IEMs and let you decide if you want to sift through the track-by-track, blow-by-blow details.

If you do, you’ll find them all in the Track Notes – EXT vs Z1R spoiler below, complete with YouTube and Tidal links, so you can listen along and come to your own conclusions:

The following notes were taken during live listening sessions with EXT and Z1R. It’s not meant as a constructive or structured analysis, but more as a stream-of-consciousness. Tracks were sometimes played several times over to get to the nuance of the differences between the two IEMs, and were chosen to maximise genre variety from my personal music library. I’ve also included a Tidal Link and YouTube clip for each track so you can listen along if you like. Warning: flowery language ahead.

Seven Lions – Island (feat. Nevve)
EDM, female vocal
Tidal Link

This track is a meme for extreme, which makes it an ideal litmus test for treble quality and upper midrange aggression. Nevve’s vocals are compressed and brightly recorded, and with EXT sound thinner and more prone to sibilance, especially in the intro section. With Z1R she sounds sweeter and not quite as forward or peaky. There’s more echo/reverb detail with EXT, with doesn’t help the already elevated levels of brightness, whereas Z1R’s smoother/more relaxed upper treble lends a pleasant warmth to this part of the track. The ‘drop’ from 1:49 – 2:23 can be quite grating at higher volumes, but both IEMs keep it mostly controlled. EXT again opens up the space for the bright effects to multiply and reverberate more than Z1R, but Z1R is slightly sharper in the lower treble region, so your tolerance will vary based on how sensitive you are to the treble at different frequencies. The rumble around the 3:00 mark is more pronounced on Z1R, lending much-needed weight to the track, while the background ticks are more clearly defined on EXT, in case you’re into deep diving for the subtle cues amid the mayhem. Overall, EXT’s is a more energetic, frenetic presentation of this track, with a brighter overall tint, while Z1R, while still energetic, dampens certain frequencies for an easier listen with a more solid bass foundation and wider stage.

Preference: Z1R

The Shins – New Slang
Indie pop, male vocal
Tidal Link

One of my favourite male vocal tracks, ever since it was made famous by Natalie Portman’s character in the film Garden State. Lots of instrumental effects and cues in both channels that keep drawing me in, with vocals and background vocals layered throughout. Right off the bat, the tambourine in the left channel and increasingly louder guitar strums in the right channel are better separated and more textured with EXT, the added resolving power and air of the estat treble clearly coming into play here. The ‘centre space’ is also darker, with sounds from both channels ‘bleeding in’ more with Z1R than EXT. The second guitar at 0:34 is also easier to pick out on EXT, but is still well defined on Z1R. When Jeremy Mercer’s vocals come in at 0:39, he’s set further apart from the instruments with EXT, and blends in more with Z1R, likely due to the longer decay on the guitar strums with Z1R, and much faster decay/treble on EXT. His voice is also warmer and more relaxed on Z1R, clearer and crisper on EXT, with slight inflections easier to pick out. There’s a scraping effect, used to good effect, at 1:17 and again at 2:02, that’s more prominent with EXT, and set slightly further back with Z1R, and the blues guitar at 2:09 sounds twangier with EXT, which actually works better for this track. The song ends with what sounds like a marble dropped on the stage, panning left before veering right, and both IEMs image this perfectly, but EXT a touch more incisively.

Preference: EXT

Two Steps From Hell – Breathe (feat. Merethe Solvedt)
Epic/Trailer, female vocal
Tidal Link

Easily one of the most powerful and emotional tracks in my library, disappointing only with its short runtime of 2:55 (as tracks made for movie trailers tend to be). Still, you’d be surprised how much you can learn about an IEM from a short snippet of a song like this one. The track starts off very softly (so don’t adjust the volume too high), the ebbing synths and angelic vocals slowly rising from the deep to take centre stage. This is a good test for dynamics, by the way, and I can immediately tell the two IEMs apart by the sharper focus on the strings and midbass drum impact with EXT and the larger size of the stage and sub-bass rumble with Z1R. There’s more of an edge to EXT that gives the impression of sitting in a smaller hall or studio, whereas the outer boundaries are less defined by the slower decay with Z1R, and the sound travels further and higher, almost cathedral-like, which works much better for this type of music. When Merethe starts to sing, her vocal (breath) trails sound sharper with Z1R, airier, and slightly hollower on EXT. At 1:33, where she starts to raise the volume and the instruments rise up in unison, there’s more impact and heft with Z1R, more air and sharpness with EXT. The subtle sub-bass rumble in this part is far more pronounced on Z1R. As she starts the crescendo at 2:11, her voice is sweeter and more organic with Z1R, but set slightly back and not as distinct with EXT, possibly due to the brighter sound of the horns and other instruments compared to the warmer and vaster soundscape with Z1R separated from the better-imaged vocals. Ultimately the Z1R brings out the emotion and majesty of this track more than EXT, which for me is the defining difference with this type of music. Anecdotally I’ve never found this track satisfying with anything other than a dynamic bass driver.

Preference: Z1R

Whitehorse – Dear Irony
Americana, female/male vocal
Tidal Link

This track is just my speed: slow, deliberate, and sweet vocals with deep yet subtle sub-bass rumble and mellow channel-separated strings/guitars that help define the shape and size of the stage. From the very first second, the opening guitar riff in the left channel gives me an idea of how wide the IEM is staging, and both Z1R and EXT show ample width here. The tone of the guitar is different, with Z1R warmer with more decay, and EXT cleaner with more edge definition. Neither is better or worse; both sound realistic, so it comes down to preference. Then, as the vocals start at 0:11, Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland’s voices are imaged very closely together, with Melissa upfront in the lead and Luke close behind off her right shoulder (left of centre as heard through IEMs). There aren’t too many IEMs that I’ve heard that can separate and image the vocals so that you can hear Luke distinctly (much easier to do with headphones or speakers), but both Z1R and EXT do an admirable job here. EXT’s slightly more forward/elevated lower mids do help here, as does the thinner vocal weight in general, which makes Luke more distinct and Melissa more crystalline. In contrast, both singers sound more romantic with Z1R, their vocals enmeshed in the harmony with less clinical separation. A third obvious distinction in this track is sub-bass weight, and the resulting stage size. Whereas EXT does better at separating the various instruments and elements with plenty of air between them, Z1R uses rumble and reverb to define the stage, which is vaster by comparison. The sheer weight of Z1R’s sub-bass as it decays into infinity, especially since the bass itself is not really elevated here but rather the resulting reverbs, gives the track a warmer, earthier feel with Z1R. It’s something I always listen out for on this track, and is quite similar to another track I use to test subtle sub-bass rumble/depth/weight (Kristin Hersh’s Your Ghost), and to my ears, Z1R is peerless in this regard.

Preference: Z1R

Jean-Michel Blais – Murmures
Modern classical, instrumental
Tidal Link

This is a new artist in my library and the first track off his new album. Still, I’ve been listening to this track on repeat for a while, finding it delightfully melodic and surprisingly intricate. It’s also the first track where I feel EXT’s midrange muscle and tuning wins over the Z1R in a notable way, with its ability to render the intricate details of how the piano keys and string instruments are recorded here. The texture and timbre of the piano keys sound perfectly on point with EXT from the very first strike, whereas Z1R tends to soften and ‘romanticise’ the sound a bit too much here. Then, when the upright bass (or cello?) enters in the right channel at 0:23, the delicate texture is better defined with EXT, as are the piano mechanisms that can be heard above the key strikes. The flittering strings at 1:12 are also more vividly textured with EXT, and overall, the instruments stand apart from each other more. Where Z1R’s more liquid sound benefits this track is in the definition and layering of the track, which sounds more holistic and three-dimensional, with real depth to the stage. EXT by contrast renders very lifelike, 3D instruments, but the stage is flatter, not as high or wide. Still, for this type of track, I can help but be mesmerized by the intricate details EXT presents in great abundance, and it rightly gets the nod.

Preference: EXT

Max Richter – Elena & Lila
Modern classical/soundtrack, instrumental
Tidal Link

The opening track of one of the most remarkable soundtracks (and TV series) in recent times, Max Richter’s haunting theme for My Brilliant Friend captures the poignancy, wonder, tragedy, hope, and delicate emotion interweaved in this timeless story of love, friendship, loss, and passion, so incredibly well. The song is a slow, rhythmic progression rendered with little more than piano, soft strings, and, only at the end, some soaring upright bass/cello (possibly synthesized). Once again, EXT’s remarkable midrange timbre, texture, and detail come to the fore, revealing the intricacies of the keys and the sounds of the piano itself, as if micced both inside and outside the instrument. The strings are delicate yet vivid, and there’s a sense of depth and reverb that gives the instruments a holographic feel, even if the stage is not quite as multidimensional. Z1R is smoother, warmer, and (by comparison) softer, almost ‘veiled’ if you’re listening for pure detail and edge definition. Where it excels is creating a large, liquid space for the performance, so the notes flow in and out of each other, and are also fuller in their delivery. This is particularly notable in the crescendo at 3:34, when the gentle, rhythmic music suddenly becomes more energised, with a deep bass that rumbles and resonates around the stage, giving the music an intimidating size compared to its earlier ‘smallness’. At least, that’s what happens with Z1R; EXT is more polite, with a tighter bass that puts more focus on texture than weight and rumble, and therefore comes off lighter and less imposing by comparison. In effect, it’s almost a song of thirds; so captivating and technical in the first two thirds with EXT, so powerful and explosive in the third with Z1R. Even though I’m left more emotionally moved with Z1R in the end, I’m equally technically awed by EXT in large parts.

Preference: TIE

Allen Toussaint – St. James Infirmary
Jazz, instrumental
Tidal Link

Like classical music (modern or otherwise), this is not a genre I regularly listen to. But it’s easy enough to make heads or tails of what I’m hearing, and when it comes to accurate instrument timbre and three-dimensional texture in the midrange, EXT takes the cake with its precise, almost clinical rendering of piano strikes and strings. Every tiny scrape, echo and pluck are easily heard, with only enough decay to give each instrument a vivid shape. With this track in particular, piano, claps, strings, drums, triangles and tambourines all form part of the performance, and each is expertly rendered here. Unlike some of the earlier instrumental tracks, however, Z1R keeps pace nicely, and in fact, its fluidity and fuller, warmer notes add a different flavor without making me feel like I’m missing out on detail or clarity. There may not be as much black space between instruments with Z1R, but that just makes the music less cerebral and more emotionally accessible, for me anyway. There’s also more weight and a slower decay to the Z1R’s bass strings, and some of the subtle drum kicks (notably at 1:32 and 1:37) land with such a satisfying solidity, I can almost feel them in my chest. I was also quite surprised that the high-pitched ping (a triangle I assume) at 3:28 and 3:37 is more vivid and crystalline with Z1R, as this is where EXT’s estats usually shine. My head tells me EXT’s is the more ‘correct’ performance, but my heart tells me Z1R’s is the more enjoyable.

Preference: TIE

Alphaville – Forever Young
80s synth-pop, male vocal
Tidal Link

This song is the soundtrack of my early childhood. I’ve been listening to it with great nostalgia for almost 40 years ever since I first heard it playing on the radio while on a fourth-grade school field trip, and it defines the 80s sound for me: cheesy but catchy male vocals with delicious string synths (and synth drums) that make me want to air drum every time I hear them. So, when I tell you the bass synth drops on this very track, at 0:43 and 1:28 respectively, are the same two that made me fall in love with deep, chesty bass (and bass that only dynamic drivers can properly render, in my opinion), I’m not joking. And on these two drops alone, the Z1R wins over the EXT for me. The EXT isn’t bad, I mean the bass is tight and textured, but it doesn’t land like it does with Z1R, it doesn’t decay into the roof of the auditorium it’s playing in, and there’s no chest impact, imagined or otherwise. Everything else, from Marian Gold’s trademark vocals, to the tiny flecks of detail, to the smoother, less intense snares in the latter third of the track, make EXT a more ‘correct’ and easier listen, but emotionally and nostalgically, Z1R takes me back to when I was still listening to the song on my first Walkman, with those silly over-ear Sony headphones, wondering why the bass didn’t sound quite like it does on my dad’s bookshelf speakers (try explaining that to a 10-year-old).

Preference: Z1R

Fragma – You Are Alive
EDM/Trance – female vocal
Tidal Link

One of my all-time favourite female vocal trance tracks, and for good reason (note to Seven Lions: THIS is how you record female vocals). Damae’s lead vocals are so sweet yet so sexy, as a warm-blooded young man (which is what I was when I first heard this track) I couldn’t help but be utterly seduced. Sadly, this is not how she sounds to me with EXT. Yes, the synths, from the very first note, are sharper and more detailed than they are on Z1R, which is smoother and warmer by comparison. Yes, the tiny flecks and effects are more notable on EXT. But the minute Damae opens her mouth to sing ‘You’re doing fine, most of the time…’ at 0:32, that’s exactly what I’m thinking with EXT in my ears. Conversely, I may be missing some of the minutae details with Z1R, but the impact of the bassline (admittedly underplayed on this track), and then, more obviously, the sultriness of the lead vocal, makes me forget about the electronic lightshow and connecting with the rhythm of the music. I can go on and analyse this or that about the track, but when the one thing I lust for (literally) in this song is swallowed up by the fancy (and admittedly impressive) electronica, there’s only one IEM I’m grabbing.

Preference: Z1R

Jim Croce – Time In A Bottle
Folk/Acoustic, male vocal
Tidal Link

One of the saddest songs I know, and especially poignant given Jim Croce’s fate shortly after he sang it at a live performance. The recording is an interesting one, two different guitars panned hard left and right, with Jim’s voice dead centre (sorry!), mixed in with occasional synth highlights. There’s no question the bite and crunch of guitars are sharper with EXT, and Jim’s voice is forward and clear, if a touch dry. Z1R, by comparison, diffuses the guitar strings with a hint of warm reverb, and Jim is set slightly farther back, his voice softer and more ethereal. There’s less raspiness in the vocal with Z1R, but whether or not that’s how it’s meant to sound is anyone’s guess. At lower volume, I’ll give EXT the edge, but turn it up slightly and the brighter delivery starts to border on shouty when Jim hits the high notes. It can get peaky on Z1R too (it’s in the recording, I guess), but not as much, and overall the presentation is more mellow and melodic too. That said, I’m picking this one on timbre and midrange texture, but it's a coin toss, and could go either way on another day.

Preference: EXT (just)

St. South – Not Angry Yet
Indie pop, female vocal
Tidal Link

This little-known track from a little-known West Australian artist is exactly the type of indie pop gem that I love discovering on my musical travels. St. South is the moniker of Olivia Gavranich, whose sweet, enchanting voice is what instantly captivated me on first listen. There’s a subtle warmth to her vocals that’s just so inviting, and that warmth is sadly missing from EXT’s drier, wispier delivery compared to Z1R. The Sony is also fuller and more organic sounding, which seems to be consistent with how I’m hearing most female vocals with these two IEMs. The track also opens to some ‘door creaking’ effects that sound weightier with Z1R, and the bass drums throughout the track land with more impact with Z1R in general. Easy pick this one.

Preference: Z1R

Selena Gomez – Hands To Myself
Modern pop, female vocal
Tidal Link

This popular track sums up some of the fundamental differences in presentation between EXT and Z1R in the opening 30 seconds. The track opens with a few delicious bass drops that (should) reach deep into the sub-bass, which they do with Z1R and its elongated decay that echoes around the stage. EXT’s take is a much tighter, taughter bass, with a softer ‘slap’ and much less weight or decay. Instead, EXT presents a brighter picture, with Selena’s voice projected more forward, slightly drier, and more breathy than it is with Z1R, and the clap effects that keep rhythm in both channels are also louder and clearer with EXT. To me this exemplifies EXT’s brighter, crisper sound signature in general, compared to Z1R’s warmer, more liquid sound with its weightier, punchier bass that reaches further down the FR, and female vocals that are consistently sweeter and more organic, if not quite as forward as EXT.

Preference: Z1R

Radical Face – Welcome Home
Indie folk, male vocal
Tidal Link

With songwriting that’s both poetically insightful and catchy at the same time, Ben Cooper a.k.a Radical Face creates soundscapes with his words and clever electronic and acoustic effects that are simultaneously toe-tappingly fun and quite profound. Nowhere is this more apparent than the brilliant collection of songs based on the same theme in his masterful album Ghost. Ben’s vocals are not very deep, so his lighter tone is sweeter with Z1R than the drier EXT. Similarly, the instruments (mostly acoustic guitar and claps) are better defined and stand apart from each other more, the estat treble picking out some of the finer higher-pitched plucks and bringing them forward in the mix. Z1R melds them together more, still distinct but more musically entwined. The ghostly windchimes (a recurring theme in the album) are also more forward and obvious with EXT, but that’s not necessarily a plus here, as they draw attention to themselves more than they should, in my opinion. Overall, I can see the merit of both presentations, but yet again Z1R’s musical approach wins me over.

Preference: Z1R

Queen – The Miracle
Classic rock, male vocal
Tidal Link

Classic Queen. Not one of their more common tracks, but one of my (many) favourites nonetheless. This track has it all: Freddie’s trademark vocals, Brian’s brilliant guitar work, and perfect harmonising and instrumentation throughout, not to mention top-shelf recording and mastering. And this is also a track where EXT’s ability to create three-dimensional pockets of sound from every vocal and instrument shines through. Every guitar riff, every delicate panning effect, all the different vocal layers, each are distinct and united at the same time. I also find Freddie’s vocal perfectly articulated here. Z1R does an excellent job, but it’s a more diffuse presentation, whereas I really like following the different strands of sound with EXT in this track in particular. The instrumental melee at 3:49, complete with guitar riffs, taps, drums, snares – it all comes together so well, and as the vocals get faded back in 4:16, the different elements just click. Since bass isn’t the focus, EXT’s midrange and treble chops really come to the fore.

Preference: EXT

Quiet Riot – Cum On Feel the Noize
Rock, male vocal
Tidal Link

This is a band that’s a one-hit-wonder with this track (for me). It’s also a genre I don’t listen to very often, but when I do, it’s tracks like these that I love – fun, pacy, but more importantly, melodic, with clean vocals and not too heavy on the guitars. Once again, as with most rock, big drums aren’t the focus, with guitar-driven riffs and vocals driving the track. And this is really where EXT shines for me. Ironically the band didn’t even want to release this song, a cover of Slade’s 1973 original, but it was the track that got them on the Billboard charts for the first time and consequently took them to a much wider audience. Kevin DuBrow’s vocals are so clear and emotive with EXT that it’s a pleasure re-listening to it again, having heard it on repeat since my high school days. The guitars are clean and biting without being too edgy or overpowering, and the textures and details everywhere are quite phenomenal. Most importantly it’s a track that gets my feet tapping, which is not always the case with Ext to be honest, at least not relative to Z1R. With Z1R, the vocals are set back just a touch, with the drums and bass guitar more prominent, edging out some of the vocal details I enjoyed with EXT. The snare hits are also sharper, and overall it’s a heavier, more ‘hardcore’ performance with Z1R, so if that’s your thing, you may well like it more with the Sony.

Preference: EXT

Polo & Pan – Canopée
Electronic, female vocal
Tidal Link

Great track this, a virtual menagerie of electronic sound effects with a rhythmic drumbeat and seductive female vocals (in French, nonetheless). Your preference here will very much be based on how much you value bass impact and organic female vocals over microdetails and separation. Z1R excels at the former, EXT at the latter. Nothing more to it than that, really.

Preference: Z1R

Pink Floyd – Hey You
Progressive/art rock, male vocal
Tidal Link

An absolute classic from one of the most classic masterpieces of all time. I first experienced Pink Floyd’s The Wall as a schoolkid in an arthouse cinema (watching the film version), not knowing anything about the band, their music, or prog rock in general. I distinctly remember the scene with this track, and it stuck in my mind like the proverbial brain worm in the song. There are a few key chapters to the track: the eerie string guitar play in the intro, Roger Waters’ distinctive voice from 0:35, then (my favourite) the big kick drums and triple hits at 1:20 and 1:27/1:38, David Gilmour’s brilliant guitar solo from 2:00, the ‘worms’ creeping into your ‘brain’ from 3:30, and the quad drum hits at 3:53. Both EXT and Z1R absolutely smash this track out of the park, but each with its own strengths. Whereas Z1R lands the drum kicks with incredible impact and deep decay, EXT adds a vivid texture to the guitar riffs, and displays excellent imaging and resolution in the worm segment. Both handle vocals equally well I thought, EXT perhaps a hair more forward, but on the whole, it’s impossible to pick a winner here.

Preference – TIE

Enya – May It Be
New age, female vocal
Tidal Link

Vocal purity set to a gentle instrumental backdrop. This track is all about Enya’s enchanting voice – rich, silky, sweet as morning dew. And with Z1R, it’s simply sweeter and no less detailed than EXT. There’s also more subtle rumble to the lows, echoing softly into the distance and creating a vaster space for the vocals to rise up than they do with EXT. That said, nothing wrong with how EXT plays it, maybe a touch drier, but nowhere near as dry as I’ve heard it. There’s some hourglass hiss to Enya’s trailing breath with EXT that someone more generous than me would call texture. I call it hiss.

Preference – Z1R

Lana Del Rey – Cherry
Americana/indie pop, female vocal
Tidal Link

I consider Lana Del Rey to be one of the greatest female vocalists of our generation. She can flip through personas and vocal inflections like a chameleon, but her sultry, sexy, downright naughty-noir persona is on full display on this track. Nowhere is this more evident than the chest-sucking bass drop at 0:24. It hits like a ball on a giant drum, the slow decay and sub-bass rumble reaching deep and setting the stage for Sultry Lana to slide down the dance pole in my mind’s eye. It doesn’t hit quite as hard with EXT, and the reverb is tighter and I daresay better controlled too, creating more space for the tiny flecks and effects to cut through the mix. Lana isn’t quite as sultry with EXT though, a touch drier in her delivery, but still very believable. I think many will prefer EXT’s tighter bass and cleaner vocals, but since I’d happily listen to Lana reading the phone directory in mono, I don’t mind either way.

Preference - TIE

Evanescence – My Immortal (Band Version)
Indie rock, female vocal
Tidal Link

This is one of Evanescence’s slower songs, but the band version, my personal favourite, takes it up a notch or three as it reaches a crescendo later in the track. Amy Lee’s vocals aren’t always the best recorded, sounding harsh with the wrong IEM, but thankfully we’re not in ‘wrong IEM’ territory here. There’s still some clipping in the louder parts of the track, but that’s no fault of the IEMs, and all’s forgotten at 3:50 where the guitars and drums hit like a wave of energy (at which point, headbanging to every drum hit is inevitable). EXT rides the wave like a pro surfer, every hit and riff perfectly articulated, none of it swallowed in the melee. And throughout, Amy’s voice soars with both subtlety and emotion. EXT does a bit better with the intro piano solo, and Amy’s voice is also a touch softer, but also reaches deeper into the emotion well. Z1R is definitely warmer overall, so if you prefer your rock clean and crunchy, EXT will definitely be your preference. And for this track, oddly enough, it’s mine too.

Preference – EXT (just)

Diana Krall – Narrow Daylight
Jazz, female vocal
Tidal Link

Another genre I don’t listen to nearly enough, and mostly only when I’m reviewing! Thankfully Ms. Krall can always be trusted to deliver an impeccably recorded performance, and both IEMs oblige. Diana sounds both sweet and husky here, captured perfectly by Z1R’s organic delivery. Her voice is centred, slightly forward, and richly detailed. The piano keys strike with authority, which goes to show how important recording quality is for evaluating any audio gear, not just IEMs (piano keys not always sounding as clean as this with Z1R on other tracks). In fact, I prefer Z1R’s fuller piano notes on this track, even though EXT is technically ‘cleaner’. Diana also sounds drier by comparison but has ever so slightly more detail in her breathiness with EXT. The string guitars that come in at 1:40 are more precise with EXT, but the decay in the upright bass is more satisfying with Z1R, even though it has more texture with EXT. Another stellar photo finish.

Preference – TIE

Becca Mancari – Annie
Alternative/Indie, female vocal
Tidal Link

This luscious track by the Staten Island-based indie-folk artist is in part alternative dream pop and vocal jazz, with a mix of indie and modern classical mixed in-between, very Angel Olsen-like. Soaring string sections accompany most of the vocals, with a gently ebbing drum rhythm in the background. To me the piece de resistance of the track comes right in the intro, when at 0:12 through 0:22, five deep sub-bass drops hit you right in the chest, fading away as Rebecca’s sweet vocal comes in at 0:26. That opening 30-second sequence is enough to remind me of the two things Z1R does ‘better’, to my ears, than any other IEM I’ve heard: sub-bass drops and sweet female vocals. EXT is good, some rumble, some sweetness, but to my ears it’s not on the same playing field as far as these two factors are concerned.

Preference – Z1R

Mazzy Star – Fade Into You
Shoegaze/dream pop – female vocal
Tidal Link

For me, the full shoegaze experience is all about sliding guitar riffs echoing off the walls, intermixed with soft, shy vocals and the occasional tambourine riff. That’s exactly what I hear with Z1R and this, Mazzy Star’s breakout hit. Warm, dreamy, rhythmic. The vast sense of space Z1R creates is perfectly on point here. In contrast, EXT gives you more focus, pulling in smaller details from the instruments, setting Hope Sandoval’s pure voice aside, and ‘clearing up’ of some of its haze. If you’re into picking your musical elements apart, EXT will give you more of that clinical feeling, with a drier tone overall. Z1R, to me, presents the music in its natural form, at least when Mazzy Star’s on stage.

Preference – Z1R

Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms
Classic rock, male vocal
Tidal Link

I’ve never been a big Dire Straits fan, but I’ll admit this is one of my all-time favourite tracks. From the atmospheric rumble of thunder in the intro, to Mark Knopfler’s gravelly voice; the gentle cry of electric guitar, and the splendidly vivid stick hits that keep the rhythm ticking over. While the rumble is more subdued and distant with EXT compared to Z1R (which is, quite literally, thunderous), the guitar, gentle accordion in the right channel, and as expected, the stick hits, are all more vivid and consequently more impressive with EXT. Mark’s vocals are also a touch more forward, but no more gravelly, detailed or ‘real’ than they are with Z1R (so much for Z1R’s so-called ‘scooped’ male vocals). It’s another toss-up as to which version I prefer.

Preference - TIE

Yosi Horikawa – Bubbles
Electronic/ambient, instrumental
Tidal Link

This is a great test track for technicalities. Everything from stage width, depth, imaging, separation, and layering can be evaluated. The gentle deep bassline creates the sense of space and stage, and given everything I already knew about how Z1R creates the space, it’s no surprise that I’m hearing a deep, wide space for the ‘bubbles’ to drop into. It’s literally cavernous. Every small detail and nuance is there, though not in my face or etched to the point of distraction. I also get a good sense of where each bubble is dropping, how many times it bounces, and even how big it is relative to the others. The swooshing and electronic effects are neatly separated and rendered in their own layer, which shifts from front to back. The main difference I hear with EXT is a more intricate definition of each bubble. There’s more space between bubbles, more texture to how they drop and react in the space, and overall resolution is higher too. What’s missing is the deep sense of space, but instead the added space between bubbles creates a large spherical volume that’s wider even than Z1R’s. I think EXT really pulls ahead with its speedy treble and brilliantly textured mids here, and the bass, though important, doesn’t matter quite as much.

Preference - EXT

EXT: 7
Z1R: 12
TIE: 6

If it’s now three days later and you’ve managed to wade through all my track notes, congratulations and thank you! For the rest of you lazy buggers, here’s the executive summary.

While I consider EXT to be competitive with Z1R, it’s only in the sense that it competes for the one spot I have in my IEM ‘collection’ for a TOTL multi-driver IEM. This is the IEM I personally use for focused listening sessions, when I want the absolute best quality that aligns closest to my sound preferences. Z1R took that spot last December, and since then no other IEM I’ve heard has come close to replacing it. To give some more context, prior to Z1R, the mantle was held by Empire Ears’ EVO, Legend X before that, and 64 Audio’s Tia Fourté before that.


I hear Z1R to have a slightly warmer, fuller tonality than EXT. This stems from Z1R’s peerless sub-bass weight and extension, which, as those who have heard it will attest, creates a cavernous sense of space that makes instruments and vocals sound almost life-size, or as close as they can be to life-size from miniature drivers.

EXT’s sub-bass is more subdued and lighter in feel by comparison. I don’t get the same abyss-like sense of height and depth with EXT that Z1R creates with its slow, sumptuous sub-bass decay. EXT’s midbass amplitude is higher than Z1R’s by comparison, and neither EXT or Z1R’s midbass is thick enough to veil the midrange. EXT’s midbass decays faster relative to Z1R, while the Sony has a slower, more natural decay to my ears, and consequently warms up the signature more than EXT, at the expense of EXT’s greater sense of clarity.

The midrange presentation of the two IEMs is also quite different, EXT being fuller and more textured in the lower midrange, Z1R being slightly more forward and wholesome in the upper mids. Unlike many, I don’t find Z1R’s lower mids problematic, nor do I find male vocals scooped or distant, but vocals, in general, are set a row or two further back with Z1R than they sound with EXT. EXT also brings out more contrast, clarity and texture to the midrange, with a drier and lighter note weight, while Z1R has fuller notes and a more earthy, organic sound to midrange instruments and vocals.

This plays out in how the two IEMs present stringed instruments, for example, EXT with more definition in attack, Z1R with a slightly softer attack and a longer decay. Male vocals are slightly chestier with EXT, while female vocals are wispier and lighter. Z1R doesn’t have EXT’s male vocal weight, but still sounds natural to my ears, and female vocals sound fuller and more organic with Z1R. I personally don’t hear the vocals or midrange of either IEM as recessed, but objectively speaking they do sit slightly behind – or at least closer in line – with the bass.

Subjectively I don’t see this as better or worse, and in fact, it’s my preferred presentation in many ways. Too forward and vocals become shouty, especially female vocals at higher volumes, and EXT is more prone to this than Z1R in my experience.


Treble is where EXT and Z1R diverge even further. With four estats to Z1R’s one custom BA (which is only partly responsible for treble) and a 4mm dynamic ‘super tweeter’ driver for ultra-high frequencies, the two IEMs approach treble from vastly different perspectives. I’d actually go as far as saying EXT’s is fractionally more of a treble-focused signature, while Z1R with its powerful but narrowly-focused woofer is more bass dominant overall.

EXT’s mid-and-upper treble elevation also balances out its bass response, more so than Z1R’s relaxed (but very well extended) upper bass. Z1R has more energy in its lower treble, by comparison, with a 6kHz peak that adds some spice to electric guitars and female vocal overtones – minus the sibilants – while EXT’s has far more upper treble energy that infuses its entire signature with plentiful air and crystalline clarity. EXT, to my ears, is, therefore, brighter, mainly on account of its treble, and although Z1R is not a dark-sounding IEM by any means, it’s warmer and comparatively darker, with a more liquid sound overall.

Technically I find each IEM to have its own strengths. EXT is the more resolving of the two, with the clarity of its midrange and treble in particular making fine details easier to hear. Z1R doesn’t skimp on those details, but they’re not as apparent, and sometimes partially hidden behind the longer decay of a bass guitar or kick drum.

Both EXT and Z1R have wide stages, Z1R maybe a fraction wider, but Z1R pulls away when it comes to stage height and depth. In tracks where the sub-bass lends weight to the music, Z1R’s sense of spaciousness can be jaw-dropping, while EXT doesn’t do anything to excite in this department. Imaging and separation are neck-and-neck, with neither IEM lacking nor class-leading.

On the whole, technicalities are still very much TOTL, in my opinion.

If you’ve read my track notes, you’ll know which IEM I ultimately prefer overall, but I want to make it clear that this preference is very much based on what I consider to be important, specifically with the music I listen to.


If you love your sub-bass, and get a deep (excuse the pun) satisfaction from feeling the weight of a bass drop or drum rumble against your ear canals and down to your chest, few IEMs come close to Z1R, which captures that sensation almost perfectly. If you predominantly listen to female vocal-driven music, and prioritise vocal purity and feminine sweetness above huskiness or the chestiness of male vocals, Z1R is tuned to deliver.

On the other hand, if your checklist starts with midrange clarity, detail and texture, especially for male-driven vocals or instrument fundamentals, EXT is close to the top of the pile, to my ears. It literally has a dedicated dynamic driver expertly tuned to deliver that and only that. If you like your midrange partnered with a solid dose of midbass and a fair amount of sub-bass extension, but don’t want it to dominate midrange clarity and treble, that’s exactly how EXT is tuned.

Genre-wise, EXT is ideal if your library is mainly made up of instrumental music such as big and small band jazz, classical, acoustic and ambient, or if you’re into classic rock, pop and folk – especially with male vocal leads. It’s also superb for electronic music, and EDM if you like your EDM to sound relatively faster and tighter.

Z1R would be my pick for female singer-songwriter, especially if the music has bass drum or string bass elements to it. It’s also my pick for modern female vocal pop, indie pop, dream pop, shoegaze, new age and folk, along with bass-driven EDM, electronic and ambient music. Movie soundtracks and epic/trailer music are also given more gravitas and emotional impact with Z1R in my opinion.

Both IEMs are great all-rounders though, despite their individual strengths, and both play every type of music I listen to exceptionally well – especially when I wasn’t focused on comparing them. They will serve you equally well in a single or small IEM collection, and complement each other nicely in a larger collection too. Ultimately, if you have to choose, pick the one that speaks to you more with your music.

Oh, and that’s that for comparisons, sorry. I compared EXT to Phönix in my Phönix review, so if that’s of interest, click on the link. You’ll find more in @Damz87's, @Barra's, @SLC1966's and @davidmolliere's excellent reviews below too, along with notes on numerous different source and cable pairings.


Closing thoughts

Living where I do, it’s not often I get to hear not one but two top-tier, luxury IEMs while they’re still new on the market, but thanks to the guys at Vision Ears, I’ve now had that privilege. EXT follows hot on the heels of Phönix as a high-performance monitor designed to be as flashy and boisterous as its sibling isn’t.

Where Phönix aims for understated elegance, EXT goes for fun, with a clear, clean sound that’s balanced with solid bass at one end and silky treble at the other. At heart, this is a midrange lover’s dream IEM, with detail and texture in both male and female vocals and outstanding timbre when reproducing live instruments.

Extremely well made using premium materials, EXT follows a very different, edgy design motif based on VE’s distinctive colour, both visually and sonically. It’s a monitor that’s been expertly tuned by masters of the craft, and while it doesn’t always match my preferences, I respect how cohesively it presents the signature it’s going for.

Unfortunately, EXT’s unconventional shape is also its Achille’s Heel as far as comfort goes, and I’m not the first and won’t be the last person to find the fit more than a little testing. I’m generally fine when it comes to conventional nozzle shapes, and even some unconventional fits, like Z1R, seem to somehow settle neatly in my ears. But having to twist and fit EXT’s nozzle deeper inside my rather narrow ear canals – especially since my left ear won’t allow any but the smallest tips to pass – is a challenge, and one that despite my best efforts, I haven’t fully overcome.

It's a testament to how much I enjoy EXT’s sound that I persevered, despite the fit-related struggles. Its midrange mastery is something you have to hear for yourself, and combined with powerful bass that partners rather than merely supports the delivery is a masterstroke. Personally, toning down the treble would have thickened up the midrange and elevated the bass weight just enough for me to like it even more, but I appreciate how the treble tuning boosts the cleanliness the designers were clearly going for.

Given time, I would have liked to try EXT with different sources, and I don’t doubt there’s a set of tips out there that would not only make the experience more comfortable, but because the sound is so tip-sensitive, also get it sounding closer to my preferred tonality. I’ve read that EXT scales with desktop power, for example, giving it a more forceful bass response, and that’s one place where I feel it can use a tweak. A cable swap could possibly also add a touch of weight and warmth to the midrange, especially when listening to female vocals, which is another area where the warmer, fuller Z1R one-ups EXT for me.

All that said, I have no hesitation in giving EXT my highest recommendation, with the proviso that I strongly suggest you try before you buy. Minor sonic characteristics can be fixed with hardware and software, but a poor fit is generally a deal-breaker. That said, if you can get a comfortable fit with EXT, you’re in for a very special treat indeed.

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Excellent review. In the end, these were too "U" shaped for me. They did have very high resolve tho.
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Reactions: gLer
Wow, fit issues with EXT but love the Sony? Don't hear that often. haha Well, the love the sony fit part anyway.
Superb review 🤗


New Head-Fier
Vision Ears EXT
Pros: - Detail and Micro Retreival
- Powerful Bass
- Nice Accessories
- Fit
Cons: - Sub bass could go deeper
- Soundstage depth
- Excessive packaging.

Vision Ears EXT (Elysium Extended)
1 qty 9.2mm DD lows, 1 qty 6.0mm DD mids,
4 qty EST highs.
10 ohms impedance, 108.5 dB/1kHz sensitivity.
Frequency response N/A.

** note: I try to be objective, but obviously I am biased somewhat by my personal preference for sound signature. I lean toward a more balanced sound, good bass, good mids, good treble.
I am somewhat treble sensitive.
I am NOT a professional/career reviewer.

My Thoughts.

I generally pass over commenting on packaging. But will touch on it briefly.
The EXT comes well packaged to protect the contents. They come in an overly large and extravagant box, packaged inside a plain white cardboard box. (See pics)
Inside is the EXT IEM and cable, the usual documentation, a cleaning cloth, a metal carry case that is impressive but impractical for pocketing, three pair Sedna Crystal tips, three pair Spinfit tips, a 2.5 to 4.4 adapter, and what I believe is a key chain.
As much as the packaging is very impressive looking, I personally am an advocate of more minimalist and smaller packaging, so the wow factor was more or less wasted on me.




Fitment for me is excellent I have larger ears so shell size is seldom an issue for me, and in this instance the EXT shells are not overly large by todays multi driver IEM standards. The EE Legend EVO is notably larger in diameter and thickness by comparison.
Nozzle angle and depth are near perfect for me. I have large ear openings that narrow significantly further in. The EXT land midpoint in my canal just where they start to narrow, so I get a well anchored, fully seated seal, in the larger portion of my ear. This allows for comfortable, extended listening sessions.
Obviously suitability of fit will be individual for every user.

The cable is described as a Premium 8 wire SPC 28awg cable. 2.5 balanced termination is standard, and the included 2.5 to 4.4 adapter allows change over to 4.4 termination.
The cable is nice enough, reasonably supple, ear hooks support the IEM well, and synergy is good with the IEM. The black sheathing matches well with the look of the IEM.
Microphonics are minimal, and I found them more or less unnoticeable with normal movement while listening. The chin toggle is a rubber grommet style, it works well and stays in place, but it is a two handed operation to position it.
I have not cable rolled with the EXT to date. I did note the pins on the connectors are a bit shorter than the pins on other cables I own, so I will be conscious of possible issues with insertion depth if/when I do cable roll.

Vision Ears EXT, just shy of 150 hrs aged.
Stock 2.5 cable
Sedna Earfit Standard tips
Astell & Kern Kann Alpha on low gain.

Track Selection:
1. Very Early - Bill Evan’s Trio. Jazz. 2.8 DSF.
With only three instruments, bass, piano, and drums this selection is easy to evaluate individual timbre of the instruments and left right placement. Bass presents stage right, Piano center stage, and Drums stage left.
2. Close to the Soul - Keith Greeninger.
5.6 DSF
Acoustic Guitar/Male Vocal.
3. Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14 - Lyon National Orchestra. 24/352 FLAC.
Full symphonic selection to evaluate soundstage, multiple instrument placement.
4. Tin Pan Alley - Stevie Ray Vaughan. Blues.
24/176 FLAC.
A familiar long time personal favorite.
5. Fever - Ray Charles and Natalie Cole. Old school R&B. 24/192 FLAC.
Male/Female vocals.

- Bass:
Sub bass extension is good, it decays early and typically doesn’t carry far.
Bass transients are quick, tight, and controlled on the EXT. It has the ability to be powerful with good impact when called upon, but I find I need to feed it extra power to wake up the 9.2mm DD and let it shine. The bass has very good texture and definition, with a “snappy” presentation.
- Mids:
The lower mids have some carry over from the bass, there is some added warmth but not excessive, they are clear and detailed. Upper mids are bright and clear with excellent detail retrieval.
- Vocals:
Male vocals tend to present higher up on soundstage and not overly forward. Female vocals present a bit lower and somewhat more forward. Both male and female vocals are clear and detailed, accurate and natural.
- Highs:
Are clear, bright, and airy, with exceptional detail and micro detail retrieval. Even with my being somewhat treble sensitive, the highs are so well presented I don’t find them harsh, sibilant or invasive to any degree.
- Soundstage:
Width is standard slightly outside the ears. Height is very good up top, somewhat limited going low with the quick decay on sub bass. Depth is good, if I could find “fault” with EXT it would be with forward extension of the sound stage. When listening to headstage filling music, like orchestral selections, the stage sounds full, but I don’t perceive it as projecting forward into the audience. Also vocalists tend to sound more “back with band” rather than front and center stage, engaged with the room.
Separation, imaging, and layering are very good (with the exception of some limitation front to rear) detail retrieval is so good that individual instruments stand out clean and clear and placement on the stage is accurate and easy to place.

Despite the low impedance (10 ohm)and higher sensitivity 108 dB/mW) rating, I find the EXT craves power. The Kann Alpha is 0-150 increments on volume control, and I find 70 is usually about minimum and I’m often 80-90 on the dial, sometimes pushing up to as much as 110. This is of course track dependant.
EXT is capable of a powerful bass presence but I find it needs that extra power to really bring it forward and shine.
I’ll be upfront and honest, reference tune ear gear is not my usual preference, I tend more toward a slightly warmer, organic tune. The EXT experience has been a pure pleasure for me. The outstanding detail retrieval has me listening to old favourites with a new appreciation.
Will they unseat my current favourites??
Unlikely, but, when I’m in the mood they are going to provide me many hours of musical enjoyment.

Available at MusicTeck
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Just to add a little context, what are your current favourite IEM's? And did you only use low gain on the KANN Alpha?
Yes stayed on low gain, I didn’t find any need to boost these further, even though the do like a little extra power.
I don’t have one favorite IEM. If I had to pick, I would say EE Odin as overall favorite, but I’m enjoying the EE EVO a lot as well, and to be honest, the EXT are growing on me as I listen more. I find I often pair the EXT with Cayin N6ii R01, the warmer tone of the R2R DAC suits my preference nicely.
Something to fit whatever mood I’m in.


Headphoneus Supremus
Engaging Bravissimo
Pros: Engaging SS
3D Imaging
Wide Soundstage
Deep Defined Bass
Textured Mid Range
Ethereal Treble
Natural Timbre
Drum and Cymbal strikes
Cons: Stage height, Average Depth
Detail Retrieval
Dry Treble
Soft Vocals
Mid range pushed back
Piano harmonics blunted


This is my first time hearing a Vision Ears monitor along with the Phonix. I am sure most of us in the hobby are familiar with V.E. as a brand as they have released some of the most loved monitors in the hobby, I feel no introduction is needed.

During my listening to the EXT I was immediately engaged. The way the timbre and definition of the bass literally hit me in the head with such bravado was intense in the best possible way. The range of the bass from the lowest sub bass into the mid bass is tuned impeccably, never bleeding into the mid’s. The musicality of the EXT is quite impressive for having such bombastic bass. The 9.2mm DD churning out the sub bass and mid bass. A 6mm DD is taking care of the mid range and 4 est’s (Electrostatic Tweeter) the upper regions of the FR with a 3-way crossover. I know the EXT stands for Extended, which is supposedly an extension of the Elysium preceding it. I have not heard the Elysium so I cannot speak to this. Although, I have read about it in length and from my reading it does seem the EXT stands on its own with its own terms. Let’s find out more.

Graph: courtesy of Crinnacle.


The EXT is the culmination of what a monitor can produce timbre wise. The fullness of instruments such as drums, cello, violin, guitar, etc, as well as vocals are all beautifully rendered with life like qualities. The scale of the bass from sub to mid’s and back again is quite intoxicating with almost all genres but especially with electronic, modern R&B and pop. I wouldn’t go as far to say that EXT is an all rounder because the boosted bass and ethereal est’s are a bit more boosted meaning the mid’s get a bit pushed back especially noticeable with female vocals. This is not to say vocals are bad. The mid range is still quite impressive with vocals sounding natural and real just a bit further back. Not as emotional as some DD driven mid’s I have heard but nonetheless implemented well with these drivers. I think V.E. has done a wonderful job with this tuning. EXT can sound holographic with a good sense of imaging, soundstage is wider than deep or tall. I would call EXT a U shape nearing a V. Really a very fun monitor to listen to. I wanted to keep listening to it and would often keep me up late at night. The fit can be tricky due to the bump near the nozzle that is housing those 4 est’s. However with some tip rolling I found a comfortable fit. The EXT inserts more like a custom than a Universal and I really enjoyed the fit, as they never budged or wiggled out. I can tell how much thought and care went into the way these were designed. Bravo V.E. I also want to note that with some more power the EXT really scales in all of its qualities.



The Bass is the main event. As I have mentioned the definition and scale is balanced so well with great texture and separation from the lowest of the low sub bass to the mid bass never smearing into the mid range. I am not a bass head by any means but this bass is so big and articulate that it just draws me in especially with certain genres like electronic and modern R&B. The sub bass can be a bit dizzying in tracks were there is already a lot of sub bass mixed into the track like the classic James Blake track Limit to Your Love. The only area I struggled with the bass is with some rock music. The sub bass domineered and the natural bass lines being somewhat smoothed over with the rumble and the punch taking precedence. The decay of the sub bass to mid bass strikes a good balance, neither being too fast or slow. Just right to keep the FR in check and not muddied or overly warm. Mid bass has a good amount of punch and Sub bass is drawn out just enough. It can keep up with the fastest tracks and mellow out even with Jazz trio. Other than Empire Ears Odin, this is some of the best bass I have heard in a transducer.



The mid range for me is not the showcase with the EXT. While it is tuned well with the kind of bass presence this monitor possesses. The mid’s are pushed back, sometimes making vocals and guitars sound far off, although natural I had to concentrate at times to hear the guitar lines in certain tracks and vocals in others. It was a mixed bag and really depended on how the track was mixed. The timbre is spot on. Organic and natural. However, I would not call it emotional. This is all very subjective of course. With that being said, Vocals do have a good center image with a good amount of texture. Even though EXT extends great imaging with a sense of holography it does lack some clarity and at time especially with female vocals some grain existed especially when pushed into the upper mid range. This could be do to the lower treble being linear to the upper midrange. Other than that, I hear female vocals to be smooth and dry however not as dynamic as Male vocals. With Male vocals sounding a bit more close. I heard a good amount of air around both creating that sense of reverb of a natural live setting. The overall note weight is my preferred balance of not to dark but not being thin or wimpy, a natural elegance. One of my favorite aspects of this tuning is Drums. The hits of the stick against the skins is so real and I could literally hear the skin vibrating with each strike. A really wonderful tuning for drums in general.



I enjoy the treble of Est’s although I cannot say I prefer them over Ba’s for treble. The est’s are implemented right at the nozzle and gives the treble an ethereal and shimmering effect. To me this really gives a sense of realness to cymbal hits, the strike to the decay is so eloquent and natural and sounds completely life like. Now because the lower treble is almost perfectly in line with the mid range some instruments can come off a bit dull such as the piano losing some of its harmonics. I would not call the treble airy but more dry and crisp. The ethereal, smooth presence here creates a good sense of space and keeps things coherent with the mid range. Transients here are natural but lacking some bite. Personally I would prefer a bit more air and sparkle. Although this may not work with the warmer tuning as a whole.



EXT is very engaging with a great sense of space considering the warmth and bass presence. Transients come across natural and full giving a good grip on the dynamic whole. Dynamics are really good and never boring or flat sounding. This is more of an experience with imaging being more 3D than linear. Center imaging is accurate portraying vocals out in front of the head and instruments in their respective places on the stage. The stage being more wide and just a bit out of the head with depth being more average and height a bit lacking. Detail retrieval is average given the single DD in the mid’s and warmer tuning overall. EXT in my opinion is more about timbre, engagement and musicality over shoving details down your ear. The details are enough to keep me engaged.


Final Thoughts:

This is a tough review to write because I never felt I wanted to analyze the sound coming from EXT. I just wanted to enjoy what I was listening to at any given time. I definitely had to force myself to sit and take notes. This speaks volumes to what this monitor’s tuning and tech is all about. Again, I know this is subjective and detail retrieval is what gets some engaged, or a mixture of detail and musicality. Although this debate will go on forever, it is all subjective. EXT resides for me squarely in the fun engaging musical camp, not relying on details and precision. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with EXT and I know this monitor will bring so much enjoyment to those that connect with it. Again, Bravo V.E.

Thank you to and V.E. for this opportunity and experience.

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Epic & excellent. I really enjoyed reading that-- it was (like a great IEM) a nice mix of emotional and technical. Thanks for sharing!
Great review. I'm only one day in with the EXT and I'm finding myself nodding at many of your observations. I don't necessarily find the vocals pushed back, but they are less emotive or 'romantic' than I expected them to be. I also find detail retrieval to be excellent, especially in the treble, but also across the board, though maybe not quite at Traillii or Fourte level (but what is, right?). Look forward to sharing my full impressions soon, and thanks so much for yours!
I would agree with @gLer The details are great but the vocals are definitely soft.


Headphoneus Supremus
Vision Ears EXT: Extending Elysium to new depths
Pros: Summit level bass
Rich, lush and textured tone across the whole frequency spectrum
Highly coherent
Impeccable build quality, design aesthetics, packaging and accessories
Cons: Price
Oddly shaped stem which may be troublesome for smaller ears, and no custom option
Unique tuning that may not appeal to original Elysium lovers.
Average technicalities for its price


Elysium Extended (nicknamed EXT for short) is the follow up to Vision Ears’ highly successful flagship IEM from 2019, Elysium, the company’s first tribrid IEM that garnered plenty of hype for its world class midrange performance and unconventional driver configuration. EXT is a 6-driver hybrid IEM sporting an all-new 9.2mm Dynamic Driver for the lows, a 6mm Dynamic Driver for the mids using VE’s exclusive new generation HALC (High Precision Leveling Chamber; a technology first introduced in the original Elysium used to finely tune vocals) and four of the latest generation Sonion EST drivers for the high frequencies. The MSRP is $2,960.

As a big fan of the original Elysium’s hypnotic vocal presentation, crystal clear treble and impeccable coherence, its greatest weakness (to my ears at least) was its bass. Don’t get me wrong, Elysium’s bass quality isn’t bad. In fact, for a single BA, it has surprisingly decent slam and could even extend down into the sub bass regions when called upon. But it’s bass quantity simply wasn’t enough to make me want to reach for Elysium if I were in the mood for impactful and textured bass. And, as a heavy listener of electronic music, this is a regular mood and caused me to neglect my Elysium over other IEMs in my inventory.

So, when I got word of VE’s announcement in August 2021 that they’re releasing a follow up with DD bass, that certainly got my hype juices flowing with anticipation. Unfortunately, Vision Ears, like most manufacturers, were hit with supply issues due to the pandemic so EXT’s launch faced a few hiccups and as a result, I didn’t get my ears on them until the latter part of 2021. However, as painful as the wait was, it was totally worth it because VE have created a truly special IEM, delivering some of the most textured and visceral bass I have ever heard, along with an addictive vocal performance supported by an exciting and extended treble response. VE have also managed to improve the technical performance in EXT from the original Elysium, with a wider soundstage and improved detail retrieval.

  • 3-way crossover
  • 1 x 9.2mm Dynamic Driver
  • 1 x 6 mm Dynamic Driver
  • 4 x Est, Electrostatic Tweeter
  • Impedance: 10Ω @ 1KHz
  • Sensitivity 1mW: 108.5 dB SPL @ 1KHz (100mV)
Build, design and accessories

What's in the box:

  • EXT IEMs
  • Premium 8-wire Silver-plated Copper detachable balanced cable terminated in 2.5mm
  • 2.5mm to 4.4mm adaptor
  • Metal case
  • Azla Sedna Crystal ear tips
  • SpinFit CP500 ear tips
  • Leather protective pouch
  • Leather keyring
  • Leather cable clip
  • Warranty card
If you’ve ever owned a VE IEM before, you will know that their build quality, packaging, accessories and overall aesthetics are up there with the best in the industry. EXT is no exception. A couple of things to note, however. The stem has a unique shape, with a slight “bulb” below the nozzle to house the 4 EST drivers. This may or may not work for some ears. For me personally, EXT fits like a glove. But I rarely have fit issues with universal IEM’s so YMMV and it’s something to keep in mind if you have smaller ears. The shells are lightweight yet feel sturdy and well made. The cable is an 8-wire silver-plated copper with a black sheath and terminated in 2.5mm. The cable hardware feels premium-grade and looks sleek. I haven’t noticed any microphonics or comfort issues with the cable, so no complaints from me.

Overall, I think EXT looks and feels like a very premium product and the build, accessories and design lines up with other offerings in its price bracket.


To my ears, EXT has a U-shaped sound signature, with bass and treble being above neutral coupled with a (relatively) dipped upper midrange/lower treble region. This creates a fun, energetic and truly unique blend of liveliness and warmth. The enhanced bass combined with the laidback lower treble leans EXT’s vocal tone to the warmer side of the spectrum, giving vocals and instruments an incredible sense of richness, with some of the best midrange note density and texture that I’ve heard. Whilst EXT’s mids may not have the highest clarity compared to VE’s all-BA flagship Phonix, or even its predecessor Elysium, I still find them clear enough to avoid overly masking details or muddying the transients. Although I do admit, it is teetering on the edge, and I think this region of the FR will be the most divisive, especially for those looking for a similar sound to the original Elysium, as this is quite a departure from the Ely’s sound signature. However, in my humble opinion, VE have done an excellent job tuning EXT to deliver a warm yet detailed sound that sounds coherent and balanced.


It’s quite incredible this is only Vision Ears’ second ever IEM with dynamic driver bass, because to my ears EXT has some of the best bass I’ve ever heard in an IEM, rivalling and even surpassing some ‘kings of bass’ IEMs that I’ve owned like Empire Ears’ Legend EVO, Odin and Legend X, Sony’s IER-Z1R and Sennheiser’s IE900. Mid bass has loads of punch, with well-defined leading edge bass transients that have impactful slam and a thick note density. Decay is drawn out like a proper DD, adding to the feeling of “bounce” to each bass hit, and for a Dynamic Driver, keeps up well with fast bass lines in my music library. For example, in Opiuo’s ‘Aztec Rhino’ the bass line has a distinct and very fast breaks that my DD IEM’s generally struggle to keep up with, but EXT can render each break perfectly. Sub bass extends all the way down to 20hz with ease, providing plenty of rumble which adds a grandness to the overall sound. If you’re a lover of bass, then EXT will certainly deliver.


The mids are where things get interesting, and as I mentioned in my introduction, potentially most divisive factor of EXT’s FR. Unlike the original Elysium which had a relatively distinct upper mid elevation that that created an airier and clearer midrange, EXT goes for a warmer and richer midrange timbre with a greater emphasis in the lower mid region comparatively. As a result, note density is a lot weightier, thicker, and clarity does take a bit of a hit. Vocal upper harmonics aren’t as distinct or detailed, and notes tend to sound softer and a little blunted at times. Something I personally appreciate about this style of tuning is that its more forgiving of poorly mastered music, unlike other more conventional big bass and treble IEMs with recessed lower mids that end up sounding more V-shaped and brighter. However, if you were a lover of Elysium for its balance of clarity and texture, EXT may be a little too far on the “texture” side of the spectrum for your taste. With that said, I still find EXT’s vocal and midrange instruments to sound sufficiently clear and detailed for the music I listen to, but I would recommend demoing EXT first if you’re looking for an ultra-detailed and thinner midrange performance to make sure EXT has sufficient clarity for your music library.


EXT has a lower treble response that sounds more linear with the upper midrange, and what sounds like a rise around the 7khz mid treble region, and another in the upper treble region to my ears. This creates an airy and shimmery sounding treble that avoids harshness but leans more on the smooth side of the spectrum for transients, rather than going for a more defined sound like the Original Elysium’s treble. I think this treble tuning with softer notes and more rounded attack works well with the broader signature of EXT, keeping a coherent treble texture with the mids and bass. I generally do prefer a more pronounced lower treble region with a bit more bite, but I suspect a tuning like that probably would sound rather jarring next to such a warm midrange. Extension is great, with plenty of air around notes.


EXT has a wide soundstage (for an IEM) with good depth which is a significant step up from Elysium’s rather narrow and in-your-head presentation. Stage height sounds average. I certainly wouldn’t consider EXT’s stage height the absolute best I’ve heard in this price bracket, but it’s acceptable. Imaging sounds quite precise, with good centre positioning and surrounding instruments distinctly placed within the stage to the left and right. Detail retrieval is good, but not great, especially within the midrange, which is to be expected from a single midrange driver compounded with a warmer tuning.

My overall feeling of EXT’s technicalities is that they’re average for a TOTL IEM, but definitely an upgrade on the original Elysium. I don’t I feel that they’re lacking per se, but I’m not exactly wowed by its performance either. EXT has what I would consider an “acceptable” level of technical performance, however if you’re looking for an IEM with the absolute cutting-edge of technical ability, I would say look elsewhere. With that said, I am yet to find an IEM that has this level of musicality, texture and coherence that performs better than EXT in the technical department.

Source pairing

I’ve tested EXT with my full collection of sources and daps all the way from my trusty Apple dongle, to my highest powered DAPs like iBasso DX300 Max, FiiO M17 and Sony DMP-Z1. Whilst there is an element of “scaling” (improved dynamics, separation, background noise etc.) these improvements are only incremental, and EXT still sounds excellent with lower powered sources.

As EXT has a warmer tonality, I prefer to pair it with more neutral and analytical sources to balance out some of that richness. The iBasso DX300 Max Ti and Astell & Kern SP2000 are my two favourites, followed closely by the Shanling M9 which offers a warmer tone but has enough treble emphasis and natural dynamics to keep EXT from sounding muddy. Sources that I haven’t particularly enjoyed with EXT are the FiiO M17 and Lotoo Paw S1, which I felt were a little too soft and smooth for my tastes. I want to reiterate though, differences between these sources isn’t night and day and more of an incremental improvement. EXT overall sounds fairly similar with most players.

Ear tips

I’ve settled with the included SpinFit CP500 that I found the most comfortable and the best sounding to my ears. YMMV here, but I found wider bore tips like Azla’s and Spiral Dots made EXT’s imaging sound a little too open/diffused, and narrow bores like Final E’s went a little far the other way, closing in the sound. I found the SpinFits to provide the best balance of openness and definition.



EXT vs Phonix:

Vision Ears co-flagship IEM Phonix is equipped with a 13 balanced armature driver configuration and costs an extra $1k. The good news (or bad, depending on how deep you want to burn a hole in your wallet) is that they’re two very different presentations, so Phonix isn’t necessarily an “upgrade” to EXT, and could be considered complementary. Phonix has what I consider a neutral, or balanced tuning, compared to EXT’s U-shaped sound. Phonix has a more prominent midrange to my ears with a leaner, less coloured tonality, especially noticeable in the upper mids. EXT has a much richer, fuller tone with significantly more bass. The pros and cons of the different driver technologies are on full display when comparing these two flagships from VE. Phonix, being full-BA, has better separation, detail retrieval and speed. Whereas EXT has better texturing and more realistic decay. Timbre, whilst excellent on Phonix as well, still sounds more BA than EXT which has a distinct DD flavour to it.

Its hard to say which one is subjectively “better” because they’re so different and it will depend on your taste. But I think Phonix is objectively the better technical performer.

EXT vs Elysium:

Elysium is tuned with mids as the star, with treble and (to a lesser extent) bass as the supporting act. EXT flips this, with bass and lower mids taking the starring role. I would be cautious to recommend EXT as an “upgrade” to Elysium because they’re just too different tonally. Technicalities, however, are a step up from the OG Ely, particularly the soundstage width.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot I love about EXT. VE has produced what I would consider one of the best bass responses on the market, rivalling TOTL IEMs that are considered the kings of bass like Legend EVO and IER-Z1R. Not bad for just their 2nd time using a DD for bass. I’m not sure if that says more about VE or the competition. The famous DD midrange DNA from the original Elysium can still be heard in EXT with its unique texturing and musical flavour, albeit supported differently from both ends of the spectrum, which may not produce a result die-hard OG Elysium fans might’ve hoped for, but is more than enjoyable to my ears. Also, technicalities are only what I would consider good, not great, for its price. But, in my humble opinion, the sacrifice in technical performance is worth it for such an organic, musical and engaging tonality.
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@Damz87 though both IEM's aren't for my library the similarity is astounding. I really liked reading your review
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@josh0001 thanks! I’d definitely like to try the Monarch Mk2 at some point, especially considering Crinacle’s ranking of it.
Excellent review! IEMs have sure come along way from the days of the cheap throw away ear buds I got with
my Sony Walkman. 😀
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1000+ Head-Fier
Vision Ears Elysium Extended: Purple Haze!
Pros: Quality of build
Price compared to other TOTL IEMs
Smooth impactful sound
DD bass
DD mid
Estat Treble
Excellent stock cable
Cons: Unique shape that may take a bit to get the fit right
2.5 cable termination. But comes with a 2.5 to 4.4 adapter
Price is still high compared to non TOTL IEMs
Purple haze all in my brain
Lately, things just don't seem the same
Acting funny, but I don't know why
Excuse me while I kiss the sky

Jimi Hendrix

The EXT!


I have the pleasure to drop a Vision Ears Elysium Extended and Vision Ears PHöNIX (HERE) review on the same day.

For these reviews I brought back my untrusted friend Bob. Bob is the Sexy but fictitious interviewer that will only work with Vision Ears. He thinks he is the kumpel of all kumpels with Oliver and Marcel from Vision Ears. In reality, he is buds with the style of beer called Kölsch that originated in Cologne, Germany where the Vision Ears headquarters is located.

Let’s get you started on this purple haze Journey. When I say haze, I mean haze as in an emotional state of self-induced bliss!


Bob: I am not trying to objectify the EXT but SLC I need to start first with what I visually see and then get to know the personality of the EXT. This is a curvy one and exotic. Let me close my eyes as you tell me about her shape!

SLC: You can keep your eyes open for this Bob. The shape of the EXT curves in a pleasurable way. Exotic for sure. The EXT has more curves than Sophia Loren. The curves remind me of a 50’s race car. So marvelous to view in person and I must get to fit which is spectacular for me. It is like VE knew the shape of my ears. The shape of the EXT has nothing to do with the Spree Candy oval shape of the Elysium. On a side note, I do love the vacuum seal of the Elysium. With Elysium the oval shape and having no ports really gives you the feeling of complete isolation. The EXT, due to the venting built into the faceplate, does not have as much of a vacuum seal. The feeling I have with these in my ears are like the 64 Audio IEMs with the Apex system that allows for an open non fatiguing feeling. The comfort for me is spectacular. The isolation with EXT is totally fine. They are like Evo and Odin to me. The EE Evo and Odin have a few ports and the isolation is totally fine. Having a port/vents does reduce the vacuum seal feeling of some non-ported IEMs which is preferred by a lot of people.

Bob: I am all about the package SLC. Show me the packaging.

SLC: Yes you are Bob. Here is the exquisite packaging in pictures:


Bob: I would like to cut to the chase, so I need you to give me your take on Elysium Extended (EXT) versus the Elysium OG. From what I can tell by your copious notes in your Blackberry, there may be more differences than similarities?

SLC: Glad you have access to our cell phone notes. The EXT and OG share the genetics of their mid range. I hear a very similar timbre in the mid range. It is a wonderful natural tone. A difference is that the mid-range on the OG is presented more forward than the EXT. The reason is due to the bass and treble of the EXT. The 4 Estat treble of the EXT has a similar sparkle to the 2 Estat OG but presents itself more forward than with OG with more air. It also extends further than the OG.

The biggest difference is with the bass. The mid and sub bass of the EXT. The movement of air on the EXT is tremendous. The bass is layered and well textured. It has an “analogue” sound to it i.e. excellent classic dynamic driver sound versus the BA sound of the OG bass. The bass really is the first star of the EXT. That is what first jumps out to you. For the OG it is the mids that stand out first. The timbre and intimacy of them. The. Bass and treble of the OG are perfect compliments the mids.

Staging is a little wider on EXT. The vocals are a little more back on the EXT versus the Elysium due to increased staging with the EXT and due to even more the DD textured bass of the EXT and the more present and airy treble of the EXT. It stands out and becomes a star if not the star of the EXT.

With Elysium OG the notes are right there for you to enjoy in a very intimate way. With the Extended the notes are coming from all over the place i.e. a very dynamic/holographic sound. An ethereal haze. The EXT is less intimate compared to the OG. The OG has a more “true timbre but the EXT timbre is still extremely correct. EXT notes are thicker and warmer. With the vented faceplate and the thicker and warmer notes of the EXT, I can listen to it for hours with no fatigue ever settling in.

With jazz the instruments are around me with EXT. There is more of that holographic sound. With OG the instruments are right there in front of me as I stated above and more intimate. Both IEMs to me are super engaging.

Just like I said when comparing Erlkonig and Phonix, the Extended and Elysium OG share genes but they co-exist well. Neither is a replacement for the other. They are different enough that it cannot be said that one is better than the other. It comes down to preferences. What a wonderful thing to have excellent choices out there.


Bob: Choices are nice SLC, and I will move past the beautiful shape of the EXT. SLC, it is time to stop dilly dallying and compare directly Phonix and Extended. Please do this first with its individual parts, then my next question will be about how they compare as a whole.

SLC: Yes, I can do that Bob but for me tearing apart each section of an IEM does not really reflect what the whole of the IEM really is. I shall attempt to break them apart and then post next about the big picture differences.

The mids of the Phonix are more forward than the EXT. I will start with that. The mids of the EXT are further back than the other parts of its signature. To me saying “V shaped” feels negative to me. So I will say the EXT mids are further back compared to the Phonix mids. The Phonix mids are placed in a mild W shape in the same place as the treble and bass i.e. it is a really cohesive monitor. Not to be cliché but the Phonix mids have an amazing timbre for BA. Supernatural. Not as natural to me as a DD mid but wow did they nail the timbre on the Phonix for an all BA IEM. The mids of the EXT come across like the mids of a Planar HP. Warm and true to an “analogue” sound. EXT to me is true to a warm HP like the LCD 3 but with a bigger bass bump and appropriately crisp treble.

The bass of Phonix and EXT share some things in that they share equal billing between the mid and sub bass. They both fit in well with the overall signature of the IEM. The EXT bass is such classic DD bass. That is what VE was going for and they nailed it. The air movement is there. The thump of a DD bass is there. Depending on the cable the bass can stand out more than the rest of the EXT signature. The stock cable of both works well with their signature. The Phonix stock cable adds more warmth and clarity, and the EXT stock cable also adds more warmth with a signature slant toward the bass.

Treble treble treble. My weak point. I have not met a treble I would not spend the evening with. To me the Phonix treble has the crispness that goes along with the rest of the signature. Mildly forward. The EXT treble comes across warmer to me. Not as crisp. This fits perfectly with the rest of the signature. I find the EXT to have a warmer sound to it overall. Hence a crisp forward treble would kill the signature. The notes overall with the EXT are thicker and with less detail than the Phonix (sorry Bob, that was a big picture comment).


Bob: OK big picture boy, can you talk about the Phonix and Extended as a whole rather than the parts. I hear you think you are groovy now thinking that your two newer VE partners do different and special things for you? I am referring to Phonix and EXT, not Marcel and Oliver.

SLC: Bob oh Bob. Yes they do different things for me. Right down to the shape of their body and the width of their nozzle tip. EXT and Phonix that is. Analogy time: The Phonix is like the perfect partner. So refined and always is elegant and extremely appropriate in public and in private. EXT on the other hand is a social being with a mild lack of social filtering. Can be appropriate in public and in private but oofta, it can she be inappropriate at times. EXT leaves you a little on edge. You may get elegant, or you may get someone feeling rather playful. You may get super fun and experimental or you may get poetry night!

Phonix is the Roger Federer of monitors. He is about Gestalt also. He is one fluid machine that always performs and one asks when watching him how he does it. He is so smooth and enjoyable. You have to make a concerted effort to analyze each stroke on its own. When you do that you realize each stroke is so flawless that none brings attention to itself.

EXT on the other hand is the Rafael Nadal of monitors. Whan watching Nadal each stroke jumps out at you. The quirky motion of his serve, the volleys that are not refined, the forehand that takes away too much of his energy, the backhand that lacks extension. But Nadal puts it all together to defeat almost all his opponents. You walk away from his game shaking your head in bewonderment.

Each part of the EXT is right in front of you and is easy to pick out. With some songs the timbre of the mids shine. With other songs the movement, texture and the layering of the bass shine. With other songs I hear the cymbals shining through in a new and enjoyable way.

The EXT is the partner that you will have more fun with in general, but you never know which EXT you will get that day. You are drawn to living on the edge with her.

Each part of the EXT can be seen as greater than each part of the Phonix. The whole of the Phonix can be seen as greater than the EXT. The EXT treble can be more textured. The EXT mids have a timbre that is even more realistic than the very realistic timbre of the Phonix. The EXT treble can sparkle more. As a whole the Phonix bass, mids and treble come across as more realistic than the EXT until you start analyzing each one. I analyze instruments and musical space more with EXT. I enjoy the big picture with Phonix i.e. the Gestalt!


Bob: I see you posting on your My Space accounts about brain burn and the EXT. Can you elaborate a bit on that?

SLC: I am glad you have access to my My Space account also. Some IEMs when you put them in they automatically create an image of “wow” this is good. Phonix and Erlkonig are two of those for me. Sultan is one of those also. Then there are other IEMs that take a few minutes for the mind to adjust before the true pleasure of the IEM starts. This is especially true for some IEMs when going from one to another during a listening session. The Odin is one of those. The EVO was one of those also for me. I also put EXT into that category. When I first put them in, especially after listening to another IEM, I am thinking “ok, come at me, I am waiting” and then after a few minutes I am thinking “this is a joy.” Then I can analyze the joy!

This happens to me usually with IEMs that are tribrids or a unique driver combinations like EXT. Maybe it is my mind synchronizing the different types of drivers.

Bob: You are into power they say, so what is this Voodoo lounge stuff in your head about power source and IEMs?

SLC: I have talked about the overall sound of the EXT. But to give the topic true justice, I have to talk about power. The implementation of the source does play a role with the EXT. I cannot emphasize enough how the EXT gets better and better with more power that is provided by a good source. The EXT is good with any source. But the overall sound scales up so well. The bass is more alive. The treble becomes more distinct and the mids become more holographic. It really is something to experience. I feel the EXT is very good with any source but seems more tired with a basic powered source. But wow oh wow it is alive and happy with added amplification. The exact same can be said about Elysium, Odin, Sultan and EVO to name a recent few.

Any IEM I have or have had that has a DD and/or Estats has scaled up well based on power provided to it by a quality source. I feel and hear it as I scale up from the Hiby R5s, to DX300 to DX300Max and then to Jotunheim 1 and Jotunheim 2. They are all sources I like a lot. They just treat IEMs with DD and Estats differently based on the power they are providing.


Bob: Tell me about tips on Extended. I heard you had fun getting tips on the EXT. Do you keep your tips in a red plastic tackle box?

SLC: I do enjoy a place to have all my tips and have them separated and organizes. Tip rolling is my first ritual after unboxing. With Extended I started with the four versions of the Azla SednaEarFit tips. The “short” versions would not fit onto the tip. The regular versions would eventually go on them, but it was a painful process. There is a lip at the end of the wide nozzle that makes it difficult. Once I got those on the fit was just ok and the seal was just ok.

I then tried numerous Spinfit tips. Those have a softer rubber base so they would slip on fine. But the feeling of the seal was not perfect based on my ear canal shape.

I then had a Eureka moment and remembered my go to tips of the past. The OG and ++ versions of the Spiral Dots tips. Both go on and off easily and both provide the feeling of a seal and comfort is excellent. The Spiral Dots OG have a softer base than ++ and are a little wider at the base. I ended up sticking with the OG version. They work perfectly with Ext for me. Hours of enjoyment both fit and feel wise and sound wise.

I have had to sell numerous IEMs because of not being able to find a tip (hence the collection) that gives me the feeling of a seal and keeps the IEM in the ear securely and comfortably.

Now I just need my red Schwinn bicycle with banana seat and chrome backrest. I will then take my rod and reel to go with my red tackle box and find a place to fish!


Bob: Hey Markie Mark I hear you have a chameleon on your hands with the EXT and how it responds to cables, please elaborate. Remember SLC as I say every time when cable rolling, shallow insertion preserves the 2 pin housing.

SLC: SLC is my name on Head-Fi Bob! Only my fourth cousin and about 12 others call be that.

I got the EXT and put a 1960 4 wire cable on it. I did that because that is one of my favorite pairings with Elysium.

I am in contact with two people that already had EXT. I kept saying that I am really enjoying the EXT and how smooth it is and how Phonix has a stronger hitting bass. They kept saying that that is really odd because for them the EXT bass is very strong and a big part of the EXT sound.

So, a light went off in my head. Even though I do not like using adapters, I needed to try the stock cable. Stock cable comes as 2.5 and the packaging includes a 2.5 to 4.4 adapter. Only a couple newer models of DAPs if any have 2.5 so the adapter will be used by most.

I put the stock cable and the surprise was with the EXT stock cable. WOW! The EXT came alive. The bass all of the sudden was as present as the Phonix. Just classic TOTL DD bass vs. the Phonix TOTL BA bass.

So, I had a couple hours with no disturbances (a rarity except in the middle of the night when I listen to music) which became a perfect time to cable roll for the first and only time. I like to find a cable that has good synergy and then stick with it. And yes Bob, shallow insertion to preserve the 2-pin housing.

I wanted to compare the EXT with a clear sounding cable (1960 4-wire), a neutral to clear cable (Monile 2 wire), a neutral cable (1950 cable), and a warm cable (1960 2-wire).

On a side note, the VE IEMs 2 pin is a miniscule narrower than PWA and Plussound 2 pin connections. PWA and Plussound are the standard .78 to me. Old EE 2 pins were larger and Rhapsodio 2 pins are very large. The newer EE 2 pin connections are just a tiny bit larger than PWA and Plussound. Not too large like before. So be careful the first few times cable rolling. I would not do a full insert until you are using the cable you want to use.

Also, I love the 2-pin housing on the VE cables. They go flush with the IEM. Just like I love how Traillii allows the standard 2 pin CIEM housing to be inserted fully in the IEM so it is also flush.

My cable rolling with EXT:

Preamble: Brain burn is huge with EXT every time you listen to it right after another IEM. After a minute or two the brain adjusts. Before that there is a “this is different” feeling as I mentioned earlier. Not good or bad but different. Then the timbre is as good as it gets.

Stock Cable: Serious Mid and sub bass. Serious. Excellent smooth exact treble. Nothing is wrong with the stock cable. How often can that be said!! With Trailii, Mason V3+ and Odin I used stock cable and was very happy. With EVO I think the stock cable provided the intended sound but the quality of the cable I did question. Very plasticky with a life of its own.

1960 4 wire: My preferred cable for Elysium. With EXT everything is tamed. Bass is lowered. Less bass than Phonix. Super smooth sound. A ton less bass than with stock cable. Extremely surprising. The music does not come at you with 1960 4 wire and EXT. Smooth as silk, leaning toward clarity. Treble is most alive with 1960 4 wire.

Monile 2 wire: My preferred cable with Sultan before the Sultan met Horus X. Extremely close to stock cable. Just a little more clarity which reduces warmth and bass. Tighter bass with Monile.

1950: My preferred cable with Erlkonig (along with Loki +). Does nothing wrong with EXT. Takes a little bit of warmth away. Bass is still prominent. Vocal timbre is not the best with 1950 and EXT.

1960 2 wire: Preferred cable with Odin. Nice nice nice with EXT. Vocals timbre is spot on. Bass and warmth stay the same as with stock cable. Dynamics are excellent as with stock cable.

Bob: Can you please stop just talking about Vison Ears IEMs and how they compare to each other! Can you please compare the new VE IEMs with other IEMs.

SLC: As Westley says in the Princess Bride: “As you wish”!

VE Extended as compared to EE Odin: DD/DD/4 Estat versus 2 DD/5 BA/ 4 Estat

There is a massive difference in warmth between the two monitors. EXT comes off as very warm with thicker notes versus the detail master that the Odin is. The analogy that comes to mind for me is how the keys on a piano sound. The keys on the Odin make quick precise notes. The keys on the EXT create a slower, warmer note.

The next thing that hits me is the bass. The same thing applies with the bass. The Odin bass is tight and quick with a big slant toward the sub bass. The EXT has a little more overall bass with an equal amount of sub and mid bass.

The next area that I hear is the treble. The treble on the Odin is more impactful. Too much for some most likely. The EXT treble goes along better with the rest of the signature. Warm and not overwhelming at all.

That leads to a big difference and that would be with the upper mids. There is an upper mid bump with the Odin that really stands out. Very easy to discern the difference with female vocals. They are more forward with Odin.

My ears hear a “darker” IEM with the EXT and a brighter IEM with Odin. When A/Bing the two, each of those areas of focus really gets accentuated. When listening to each on their own the differences are not so extreme. The Odin has massive detail with a sub bass bump and an upper mids bump. The EXT has warmer notes without any bumps. The only slant of the EXT could be toward the lower mids.

Extended versus Noble Sultan: DD/DD/4 Estat versus DD/4 BA/2 Estat

The Extended and Sultan share a lot more than Extended and Odin. The Sultan is a warmer Odin, and the Sultan is a brighter Extended. From detailed to warm it goes Odin, Sultan, to EXT. The Extended and Sultan share a mid and sub bass focus. Both monitors have an “analogue” sounding thicker bass. Very classic thick DD bass.

The treble and upper mids are so much more present with the Sultan compared to the Extended. The Sultan could get taxing for some. This upper mids and treble bump of both the Odin and Sultan are what make them for me high on the fun scale. I would not want to be married to them but for a weekend getaway they are great.

Female vocals have a higher pitch with Sultan. The EXT even focus, or slight lower mid focus give female voices a richer tone and give male vocals a darker tone.

The Extended is more of a cuddle bug fun sound compared to the Sultan. The Sultan comes at you relentlessly. The Extended is there for you but not in a boring way. Longer sessions can be had with the Extended with toes tapping. Not foot banging party time like Sultan.

On a side note, the Sultan and Odin IMHO require a warm cable to really show their strengths. Brighter, clarity focused cables can create an overwhelming sound. EXT changes a ton with cables. All cables work for EXT. The warmer cables bring out the thickness and darkness of the IEM. The cables that focus on clarity tame it and reduce the darkness and increase the clarity. They all sound great with Extended. They just create a different sound.



Bob: I like all the curves on the EXT. Was that for fit purposes and/or as the best way to fit all the technology inside?

VE: When creating a new shell it is the biggest challenge to combine a good shape that fits most of our customers, to fit all the components inside and to make it easy to assemble. The EXT shell is a completely new design and was created by a very talented product designer in close cooperation with us. We built up a great expertise in doing extraordinary good fitting custom shells in the meantime, so we can profit with this knowledge when doing a universal shell.

Bob: Is the DD for the mids an updated version of the DD for Elysium? Could you tell me more about the technology used in the updated HALC?

VE: The driver is an improved version of the Ely, with a double magnet to increase the SPL and reduce the THD, a Al-Mg Alloy diaphragm and some more features. We needed to tune a new mid driver in order to better match with the DD low and the 4 Estats. Then we also developed the 2nd Gen HALC, that includes a side tuning chamber that allow for a more precise tuning.

Bob: What is the short version of what you went through to get a bass to sound great and integrate well with a DD mid right next to it?

VE: Tuning for a DD is a bit different from tuning a BA. Also, the biggest difficulty when using dynamic drivers is to find manufacturers who are able to tune their drivers preciselyaccordingly to our specifics and keep this tuning in mass production with low tolerances. This is more challenging than with BA drivers.

Bob: My understanding is that the 2 Estats for the Elysium are gen 1 Sonion EST’s and the 4 Extended. EST’s they are gen 2. Why did you decide to go with 4 Estats on EXT versus 2 on Elysium?

VE: When we designed the Elysium only the 1st Gen Estats were available, so we had to deal with that. When we started to design the EXT the 2nd gen Estats were available, so we decided to use 4 of them in order to get a more precise and smooth tuning and more SPL

Bob: The EXT seems to require a lot of power compared to the average IEM. Could you tell me more about the power requirements?

VE: Well, this is not quite correct. EXT is stated at 108 dB SPL so is not very low. The point is, as stated from some HFiers, with a very capable amp section you have more headroom and lot of current available to feed the speakers so all the transients are better handled and better reproduced, the dynamic range is much more extensive and the micro and macro details much more evident, and with the extreme precision of EXT, its great tuning, this is very obvious.

All the DAPs we have for testing can drive the EXT very well without any problem.



Purple haze all in my eyes
Don't know if it's day or night
You got me blowing, blowing my mind
Is it tomorrow or just the end of time?

Jimi Hendrix

Vision Ears has done it again. They have created an IEM that is unique and special. Usually the word “haze” in audio is not a good thing. But the haze that the EXT induces is ethereal in nature: “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world.”

The EXT is for those that want to feel the music. It is for that that want to experience the music. I hope you get the chance to experience the EXT journey.

I would like to thank the sexy but fictitious Bob for his time. Also thank you Marcel and Oliver from Vision Ears for putting up with Bob during the interview. He enjoys your Kölsch beer very much.

Here again is the link for the PHöNIX review (HERE). Finally, I would like to thank you for going on this journey with me.


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Great read, and very insightful interview too!


Headphoneus Supremus
Elysium Extraordinaire!
Pros: Class leading bass performance with tremendous power and speed
Class leading treble performance with refinement, speed and nuance
Clean, articulate midrange with excellent timbre
Holographic stage with superb height and depth
Superb build quality and design
Excellent stock cable
Flawless unboxing experience
Complimentary signature to Elysium rather than more of the same (both have their strength)
Cons: Needs a powerful source to shine (scales big time)
Fit might be challenging for some & highly sensitive to tip rolling
Product page : (Price : 2650€)


Fit, Build & Isolation​

There are some advantages to a universal build and one is that you can use different materials, the purple with complex CNC machined faceplates. The EXT also features a special aluminium acoustic mesh “giving the dynamic drivers the air to breathe and unfold their rumbling power” as stated on Vision Ears website.


The shell is made of “solid black acrylic in a semi-custom shape”, but “a black transparent area is allowing you to have a discreet peek on the green HALC and the four electrostatic drivers”.


Let’s just say the pics do don’t them justice, those shells are beautiful, but will also attract quite a bit of attention if you’re in public transportation so be mindful. As you can see the EXT shell have a low footprint relatively to their driver count and the fit is obviously shallower than the custom Elysium. The build is as usual with Vision Ears absolutely perfect.

Strangely for me - I fit everything – I had some trouble finding the right tips to get a perfect seal (yes given my large canals shallow fit require very big tips) and best performance but once I did the fit was good. Isolation though is not the EXT forte so if you’re listening at lower levels like me you’ll hear some external sound.



Vision Ears is a “small and owner driven company in the heart of Cologne/ Germany” as they define themselves but every other audiophile knows that they’re a big name in the hobby. It didn’t take long for Amin and Marcel who founded the company in 2013 to rise to fame with the most demanding audiophiles. From the get go, the focus on craftsmanship certainly paid off and Vision Ears IEMs stand out with among the best craftsmanship money can buy. Their flagship VE8 might be the IEM that placed Vision Ears on the map and also nothing less than my very first custom IEMs as well.

In January 2021 I got myself a set of custom Elysium and when I did, Amin hinted that an “extended” Elysium would be release in a few months. I ordered the Elysium nonetheless and I am happy I did, as when the EXT was released I learned there wouldn’t sadly be a custom version. As we’ll see, the EXT features a quad EST driver that is located so close to the bore exit that it would have been challenging to build this as a custom at least for most ear canals. Anyway, I told myself the EXT wasn’t for me, after all every flagship I have purchased these past 3 years with the exception of Dunu Luna was custom fit. Once you’ve gone there, it’s hard to go back…

Still, wondering how a dynamic would change the overall Elysium signature, with a quad EST setup on top while retaining those mesmerizing Elysium mids kept me awake some nights… Trusted people posting impressions in the VE thread didn’t help either, I must say and I finally ordered a pair!

But back to the matter at hand, I like to begin with the original intent and check out if it holds true… from the Vision Ears website each IEM tuning goal and intent is precisely written.

The EXT mission statement is to keep the Elysium vibrant DNA with “More lows that make you feel the rumble. More mids that vividly embrace you. And more highs to bring an airy and elated experience. An easy lightness surrounds this creation, airy, silk-like notes gather around your head, musical areas you never recognized will unfold before your closed eyes, a truly electrifying experience”. As we see, the EXT is defined vs its older brother and I'll include some comparison with EXT along the review.

Is EXT true to its tuning goal?
The name Elysium in Greek mythology is the paradise to which heroes on whom the gods conferred immortality were sent.
Bold statement for an IEM but great to strive for!

Does the EXT take us to paradise?
Let’s check this out!



Like the Elyisum, the EXT might spec will low impedance at 10ohm and 108.5dB sentitivity but they are deceptively hard to drive to their full abilities, which means they will scale greatly with more power. When properly powered the EXT follows the footstep of its bigger brother being exciting and vibrant but also bigger and bolder! Yes the EXT are more grounded with the stronger bass foundation : bass is felt as well as heard and the feeling of power that the Elysium was lacking is obvious. The EXT are a toe tapping IEM with its fast, powerful and tight bass. The stage clearly has more height and depth as well. On to the midrange, if you focus the bass out or listen to bass light tracks then it’s clear the EXT is still an Elysium with its rich, vibrant midrange. Last but not least, the top end clearly benefits from the quad EST setup and VE managed to build an even more refined IEM although the overall picture is not that clear cut.


VE has done some fantastic work on the EXT DD, it’s clearly done right and up there with the best DD implementation I have heard to date. The EXT bass has tremendous power, it’s a commanding bass that will rejoice everyone’s inner bass head with its physicality and power but also everyone’s audiophile aspirations as well. Properly powered the EXT has impeccable control and surprising speed : this was the big surprise to me as it sounds faster to me than the original BA bass of the Elysium. This provides for a fabulous sense of rhythm and sometimes makes up for a whack whack whack speedy Bruce Lee like punches. Wow. You like faster genres that requires speed, get the EXT! The EXT has snappy bass attack and shorter decay than the Elysium bass note simply start and stop on a whim when called for especially when properly powered.

EXT vs Ely bass shootout

Nils Petter Molvaer “Khmer”


I like this track mixing jazz and electronica, the low pitch acoustic drums of Rune Arnesen combined with Nils synthetic drum’n’bass sub bass samples is a good test. It’s a deep rhythmic almost hypnotic track.

The EXT ability clearly shows here with superb extension down low and a physical sensation on each burst of subs that can clearly be felt, I found myself entranced and actually almost surprised when the next track started. The contrast between the low rhythmic tones and the stroke and the dulcimer chords shined with the EXT.

Comparatively the Elysium lacked physicality on that track, but still reached low with excellent extension and inducing the same hypnotic like state. Interestingly the track had quite a different vibe with more emphasis and energy on the midrange, we’ll expand on this later on but the Elysium had quite a bit more bite there. The Trumpets that kind of felt more subdued on the EXT while the dulcimer was more highlighted.

My pick : Purely from a bass performance standpoint, the EXT is the clear winner on bass presence and physicality but for that specific track, I preferred the portrayal of the Elysium as a whole.

Marian Hill “Differently”


This track is a co-production with hip hop artist Boi-1da. This song features heavy electric bass, claps, and catchy synths, a blend of sounds that I find interesting to test several aspects of bass.

The physicality from the EXT is obvious from the very first notes, the quick synth bass notes start and stop quickly and the EXT effortlessly draws you into the track, the occasional drum and clap are clear and you can hear details of everything going on at once in a very articulate manner. Vocals are a bit farther away in the mix but clear nonetheless.

The Elysium is no slouch but can’t compete, bass has less impact and presence but also feels slower with a more rounded presentation with softer attack and longer decay. The occasional drum and claps are more blended into the mix making it a less articulate experience, I had to focus to hear them. Vocals on the flipside are closer in the mix and Samantha Gongol vocals are more engaging and take more space. Last but not least, the Elysium has more lower treble presence which I found more engaging. The EXT was on the other hand more resolving with better extension up top.

My pick : This time around definitely picking the EXT, for this track is more engaging bass wise than the Elysium and the overall experience is more articulate and effortless. Yet, the Elysium offers and interesting alternate take on the track with its own strength on vocal emphasis and higher percussive sounds.

Lucy Dixon “Stormy Weather”


Lucy Dixon is one of my favorite artists, the backstory is interesting she started in musicals, was a member of the band Stomp for over a decade and it shows in her rhythmic jazz songs that make you want to dance. Stormy weather is in my bass test tracks as it’s a well recorded track that provides a lot of details in percussions with fast hits of the drums and also many percussive elements.

The realism of the percussion from the EXT is really breathtaking on this track, the speed and control is obvious and combined with rich textures and very accurate tone I was really struck with a feeling of being right there with the drummer. The contrast in this track is fantastic with the hi hats and the snappy and punchy EXT really does wonder there.

The Elysium does an excellent job but just lacks the punch and power that the EXT gives to the drums, in favor of a more fluid and smooth portrayal that has its appeal as well but it’s a less spectacular sense of engagement. Vocals on the flipside are again more engaging and forward, as well as a touch sweeter with a welcome wetness. There is less snap to the hi hats with a softer attack but a bit more energy so this one is really a different presentation. The vibe of the track is less spectacular but more nuanced.

My pick : This time it’s really a tie, yes the EXT wins the bass match but the overall tracks is just as enjoyable with the Elysium and honestly I think it’s the more natural presentation.

Darkside “Paper Trails”


I really love this slow and dark mood in the track from Nicolas Jaar that kicks off with a slow-stepping beat, rhythmic hand claps, and features reverb-soaked guitar plucks from Dave Harrington.

The EXT handles the low beats with superb presence and the reverbs sound perfectly controlled, the mood is set and it’s simply as good as I have heard this track, period. Nicolas Jaar altered vocals sounds deep and hypnotic and the dark mood of the track is superbly conveyed. The hand claps are snappy and contrast beautifully with the overall low pitch of the track.

The Elysium portrayal is less contrasted, the bass is a tad less present although the rhythm is properly conveyed I didn’t feel the same level of engagement as the EXT. The overall mood is less gloomy and vocals don’t carry the same gravitas and nuances. Hand claps are seamlessly integrated in the flow of the track and provide less of a contrast as well but electric guitar have more emphasis.

My pick : Another one for the EXT, the mood of this track is clearly better set, the vocals are more engaging with more gravitas. The Elysium is more fluid in a way, less contrasted but for this track the EXT just works better.

Bass verdict : The EXT is the clear winner in absolute terms for sheer bass power, speed and physicality. The Elysium features a less impressive bass but, there is a but as we've seen depending on the track I feel Elysium has a more seamless integration of the bass in the signature so it's not that clear cut in the final appreciation of the tracks. Let's now see who wins the battle of the mids!



When VE announced the Elysium and I saw a dynamic driver for the midrange I was quite excited as I always felt good DD were just superior in timbre for instruments and vocals alike especially when acoustic treatment is well implemented and the backstory of how HALC was tested and designed shows VE has put tremendous R&D effort to make sure that the Elysium dynamic provides the best experience possible. The Elysium midrange has become one of the benchmarks of the industry : it’s a vibrant midrange with highly accurate timbre and plenty of bite. One of the biggest question mark for me was : would changing the recipe with a DD bass driver and a quad EST up top break the magic of the Elysium?

I trust Oliver at VE to handle this as I have yet to experience anything but superb coherence on tuning. Yet, when you find that magic mix, it can also break it’s a bit like cooking when you change a little something that makes all the difference to your plate. Let me cut the suspense short, VE did keep the magic but with a different recipe and it was wise anyway since the overall balance of the EXT is a bit different from the Elysium.

How does that translate? Well for starter, the EXT has less lower mids presence to my ears… maybe it’s apple to oranges since I am comparing a custom Ely to a universal EXT (doomed to be dependent on tips… sigh) but still it’s how I hear it. It also makes sense since the EXT has significantly more bass presence to lighten the lower mids presence a bit to avoid the EXT sounding too warm and possibly congested. The resulting effect is that you don’t perceive too much the lesser lower mids presence because upper bass infuses some warmth on the mids anyway. Then, the EXT also has a tad less upper mids bite to its mids as we’ll see in my usual Whiplash test and that’s probably to prevent getting a brighter hue and shadow the different treble presentation on the EXT. This doesn’t mean the EXT has no bite, it does, just not the kind that will cross the threshold for some which I think the Elysium is bound to do. It’s a safer upper mids.

All in all I love what VE chose to do with the EXT midrange as it both maintains the overall coherence and balance but also makes it a very strong complimentary IEM to the Elysium which is still very much relevant and will address different preferences.

Let's see how it translates in terms of listening experience...

EXT vs Ely mids shootout

Joe Lovano “I’m all for you”

This is one of my most favorite Jazz track of all times and one that moved me so much with the Elysium… It’s one of the most soulful piece I have ever heard period, with the rich nuance and tones of Joe’s tenor saxophone but Hank Jones on piano, George Mraz on bass and Paul Motian on drums are just as breathtaking. Pardon my overly emotional tone here but it’s what music is about to me, when time is suspended and magic happens where all earthly matters disappear.

Back to earth if I can manage it… the Elysium is just purely magical out of FiiO M17 in desktop mode but any excellent desktop setup will do justice to the Ely and this track. Yes, you need headroom on this perfectly mastered track and sorry a regular DAP won’t cut it for the almost religious experience you can get. This is where engineering meets art to make the gear disappear and let the music shine. Hats off to the VE team as it is exactly why we are in this hobby.

Now on to the EXT : I was dubious the magic would remain but well let me say it, it’s there and then some. The EXT bigger soundstage especially height and depth and more precise imaging make this an even more immersive experience. Just wow. How do I keep writing after this? I am speechless! I have to hand it over to the EXT, the quad EST is providing an extra level of refinement that reaches even higher elite levels

My pick : I think you got it, Elysium is magical on that track but so is the EXT with extra height and depth and refinement it goes even further. EXT wins that one.

Hank Levy “Whiplash”


“Whiplash” is the title of a composition in odd meters in 7/4 written by Baltimore jazz artist and educator Hank Levy. Levy was a saxophonist and composer known for his love of unusual time signatures. Incidentally this is my go to track to test upper mids harshness, it’s absolutely ruthless and will discriminate IEMs quickly. It’s highly energetic and aptly named and in a way a total opposite to the previous Joe Lovano track.

The EXT goes through that test OK for me but I am willing to bet some people will wince as the EXT features good bite and portrays this track uncompromisingly and in a ridiculously effortless way given how busy, fast and complex this tracks is.

The Elysium again has more forward mids and both lower treble and upper mids have more energy which requires a higher threshold in those regions although I have to nuance this the sharper attack and faster decay of the EXT versus the softer attack and longer decay of the Elysium treble makes this a close call in the end.

My pick : It’s a close call to me both IEMs pass the test but it depends on your sensitivities (on such extreme tracks) you might find yourself wincing. The EXT takes the win on this one for its ability to better handle the complexity in a more articulate way and also faster pace ability.

Blue Mitchell “Na Ta Ka”

Bantu Village.jpg

Another jazz track but this one is more funky and from “Bantu Village”. It’s an album by trumpeter Blue Mitchell which features arrangements by Monk Higgins released on the Blue Note label in 1969. It has a very rhythmic quality with a fast paced arrangement and I like the groove on that track.

The EXT bass really brings excellent rhythm to that track with its powerful bass presence and the bass line is really portrayed with weight and authority that this track requires. There is superb bite on the trumpet and the track complexity is perfectly articulate on the EXT which again sounds so effortless. This is not an easy track as it both require a deep strong bass line and the right energy in the midrange, as well as excellent instrument separation to keep things organized. The EXT is not even breaking a sweat there.

The Elysium doesn’t feature the same authority in the bass but the bass line is well portrayed and overall this is a more fluid take on the track. Effortless as well and somewhat smoother although there is more energy in the upper mids it’s delivered in a more rounded way with softer attack and longer decay. It’s not as articulate as the EXT but I find it more mid centric and musical for my preferences.

My pick : It’s really not easy both EXT and Elysium are doing great, EXT is more immersive and articulate, Elysium is more fluid and the midrange shines more to my ears. I have a slight preference for the Ely but it will really come down to preferences at this stage.

Mids Verdict : It's really a tough one but the original Elysium still takes the cake for me with its fuller and more forward midrange and its smoother attack and bit longer decay. It's also a bit more exciting with its upper mids bite. It really will be down to personal preferences though and the EXT midrange can be just as magical with a less intimate but more immersive experience (with its taller and deeper stage) which provides just as much engagement just a different kind. The image is more precise and the mids are more articulate. It also shows that dissecting the frequency range is really a simplification, how the mids integrate into the whole signature is of the essence as well and it clearly shows there.


Compared to the Elysium, the EXT ups the ante so to speak with a modern quad EST setup, which sits right near the exit bore probably for maximum yield. It’s very apparent upon first listen that the EXT is seriously impressive and in fact just as much as its highly praised bass. The original Elysium just can’t match it and the EXT is significantly more refined and nuanced as well as more extended. The EXT is among the big boys and in fact I think the best quad EST treble implementation I have heard to date. This makes the EXT more revealing as well for better or for worst.

How does this translates?

EXT vs Ely treble shootout

Laurie Anderson “Born, Never Asked”


This is a complex track is somewhat of an experimental music kind of track with complex nuances that reflects on the ability to keep up with the treble produced by Laurie keening violin (an instrument of her own design, featuring magnetic tape on the bow rather than the more usual horsehair and a magnetic tape head in the bridge), the marimba strikes and hand claps rhythmic baseline.

The EXT impresses by its overall clarity, treble speed and control, the hand claps sound snappy and the marimba strike pop and fade beautifully…. all of this contrasting with a pitch black background. There is an eerie atmosphere setting in with the EXT. The Violin sounds on the flipside a bit distant and in the background.

The Elysium from the get go puts more emphasis and sweetness to Laura’s voice, marimba strikes have more energy and the violin has quite a bit more emphasis it’s like you’re more in the track than the EXT. I find the Elysium more engaging and smooth with its softer attack and more natural decay.

My pick : I have to go with the Elysium on that particular track, it’s a special kind of track but still I found the Elysium and EXT to paint a very different picture. Again more a personal prefence on my part, the EXT does provide a special atmosphere to that track.

Jack Johnson “Staple it together”


One of my favorite artists and albums, this track is probably the funkiest and grooviest track he wrote, which was an improvisation when Johnson and the band were just messing around at sound checks. It’s a speedy track where there is a lot going on with Adam Topol drums and percussions with superb hi hats, triangle and higher pitched percussions.

The EXT does a fantastic job on that track, the chimes on the intro sound magnificent…. then the bass line starts, so powerful and contrasting so well with the hi hats and guitar and overall I heard details there that I had never heard before and I know the song by heart. Jack’s vocals are perfectly clear and integrated into the mix. The EXT doesn’t even break a sweat with the song fast tempo and just sounds absolutely effortless.

The Elysium again sounds so very different from the EXT… I hear more energy to the chimes in the intro and the bass line is more of a supporting cast than a star here but the hi hats have less energy and presence. Vocal is more forward and I was surprised to hear much more detail in the vocal portrayal. Some wooden percussions that were in the back of the song with the EXT were also quite more present in the mix.

My pick : Overall I found the Elysium was much less articulate with less detail making it harder to articulate the track as a whole. The EXT does such a better job of handling the complexity of that track, but also is more engaging with a better balance in its treble.

Radiohead “No Surprises”

Radiohead - No Surprises (CD1).jpg

A classic, no doubt with the glockenspiel melody from Jonny Greenwood which I find interesting to check out lower treble especially how it decays but other than that it’s also a great track that leaves you in a dreamy state when well portrayed…

The EXT really made me rediscover that track, first of all well I had never heard this track bass properly and it came as somewhat of a surprise (no pun intended). The centerpiece always has been the glockenspiel melody to me as well as Thom Yorke’s vocals. The EXT adds a real immersive quality to the track with Colin Greenwood deep powerful bass line but also a darker mood and looming presence. But back to the treble, the glockenspiel notes are breathtakingly nuanced and you can clearly hear the intensity picking up and subsiding which each minute variation reflected in Jonny Greenwood interpretation. The EXT sheer extension also provides fantastic articulation and everything is resolved with exquisite yet natural detail. Breathtaking…

On to the Elysium, the glockenspiel captivated me right away with more presence than the EXT and a mellower presentation with notes lingering quite a bit more, the bass line is there but doesn’t provide that sense of gloom the EXT conveys. Thom Yorke’s vocals are closer to me with a better portrayal of Thom tessitura there is more nuance and emotion than the EXT. But the Elysium fails to portray all the facets and complexity of this track, the track is more perceived as whole and the EXT is better at picking the richness of all aspect in this track.

My pick : This one goes to the EXT although it’s true for that particular track and the Elysium is a different portrayal that is highly engaging as well.

Treble verdict : There is no going around it, the quad EST setup of the EXT makes this an unfair battle... yes the Elysium performs quite well with its own strength but the EXT just takes everything one notch up and then some in terms of performance. This gives the EXT the edge on extension, resolution and imaging.



It's always a challenge to build upon an IEM that has become a classic like the Elysium has, chance is you'll disappoint with a marginal 2.0 version or that you'll break what made the recipe work so well. I think it was really a smart choice for Vision Ears to just build a complimentary IEM that is not just an Ely with a DD and quad EST upgraded setup. In that sense, for those who don't have the original Elysium the choice is a little less clear cut than "just get the EXT it’s the original Elysium with a DD and a quad EST." Vision Ears team has luckily made this much more complicated and the original Elysium still has its own strength and uniqueness. Keeping both IEMs in a collection makes total sense, as Ely and EXT provides different portrayal of music and in no way their signature is marginally different. Last but not least the original Elysium is available as a custom and honestly it’s a much better experience in terms of isolation and confort although the EXT is pretty good as a universal.

If you’re looking for an IEM with powerful and fast bass, with articulate engaging resolving mids and the best treble money can buy all in a superb build then look no further the EXT certainly punches up there with the best of them! The EXT is one of the few IEMs that can boast being able to satisfy the inner basshead as well as the most demanding audiophile which kind of means VE has squared the circle. Hats off!

Listening notes
I spent approximately 80hours with the EXT and several hundreds with the Elysium, listening on FiiO M17 and Hiby RS6 as well as RS6 + Zen Can balanced with the stock cable.
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WOW !!!! what a job you have done, amazing.
I waited till yesterday this specific review, as it was not published yet and based on some of your former comments, reviews of the EXT and some other reviews here or other websites => I ordered yesterday and already received this morning my sample of the EXT...
Your review will help me to catch the main properties you have described and probably I will be able to have much faster my own opinion as I will better understand what the EXT is.
Thank you.
Edit : As I can find more or less all tracks on Amazon Music HD, it takes a huge time to follow your review.. but, again, wait a detailed and remarkable job you've done ! I discover the EXT in the best way I ever discovered an IEM.
@newworld666 Thanks for the feedback! You helped me get Stealth so glad I could help you make a decision and enjoy the first steps :)
Hello David, did you try other câble on this ext, do you know witch one can be better than the stock ?


Headphoneus Supremus
Vision Ears EXT: Taking the Elysium to the Next Level
Pros: Exotic performance, unique VE etheric rendering, best-in-class bass performance, best-in-class clarity, full-sized performance
Cons: Only available in universal fit, requires significantly more volume from your DAPs to match output vs. other CIEMs

To be clear, the VE EXT is not just an upgraded Elysium, it is at a whole new level with a different overall signature. It is now supporting two dynamic drivers which should be of interest to anyone that enjoys full-sized audiophile bass. The best-in-call mids that the Elysium offers are still there, but it is not the focus of the EXT. Those mids/vocals are still forward and intimate but are now accompanied by the dual lead guitars over the vocalist’s shoulders, gobs of venue ambiance, and full-sized bass that you can feel all around while maintaining the Elysium’s texturing all the way down and up in the frequency range. Therefore, the EXT is competing more with the ERL and now the new Phonix.

Tour: Vision Ears PHöNIX and EXT Flagships

For those that do not know me, I am active on AudioTiers and HEADFI under the username “Barra” and have been hosting product tours for almost a decade now. During this time, I have been able to hear all the greats and experienced the evolution of CIEMs/IEMs and all the associated equipment. From that experience, I can say without a doubt that Vision Ears has always been on top of all the lists in terms of performance and unique tuning capabilities. I have managed a number of tours for Vision Ears and am very excited to now offer another 2021 flagship tour for the Phonix and the EXT. To sign up and to hear the EXT and the Phonix for yourself, please go to the tour thread and follow the instructions:

As always, my goal is not to just offer my opinion, but to offer tours so you can hear this equipment for yourself. If you are not already an AudioTiers tour member, please go to and follow the instructions in the “Getting Started” box on the Tours page:

Vision Ears Tour Kickoff Video

The Vision Ears Family

Vision Ears is a premium CIEM manufacturer out of Germany that has a full lineup of premium IEMs and custom IEMs and are longtime favorites on HEADFI and AUDIOTIERS. Their lineup has always made the top of the charts in performance including the VE8, Elysium, the now-retired king – ERLKöNIG, plus the new EXT and Phonix. To learn more about Vision Ears, their lineup, or to purchase the EXT from this review, please visit their website at:


The Vision Ears EXT

The EXT is a new dual flagship from Vison Ears sharing the top spot with the new Phonix. The EXT is being seen as an upgrade from the Elysium while the more expensive Phonix appears to be a replacement for the now-retired ERLKöNIG. While this review is on the EXT specifically, many readers are comparing these two to decide on a purchase as they are very close in overall performance with sonic preference being the key determining factor. Therefore, I will offer a number of comparisons within this EXT review. As the EXT is also seen as an upgrade to the Elysium, I will be offering a number of Elysium comparisons within this review as well. However, as I pointed out in the introduction, I don’t feel that this is simply an Elysium upgrade, that it is at a higher level of performance and has a different signature.

Universal Format Only
Both are only available in universal format only. While this was always the case with the ERLKöNIG, so it is not surprising in its replacement, the Elysium had a custom option so not having that option in the EXT was a disappointment for me. Having a custom option is very important to me as I have fit issues that are eliminated by having a custom IEM. My perfect fit allows me to wear them in an active environment without losing my seal forcing me to continually readjust and ensuring that I always have perfect performance so I can hear to the extreme ends of the frequency spectrum and that I can experience the full impact of the bass response.

My Elysium is a custom fit and this should be noted in the comparisons. This is because the custom Elysium has superior performance to the universal version as experienced in my online conversations with universal version owners as well as my direct experience comparing the universal tour Elysium to my own custom version. The difference in performance was a significant boost in the bass which the universal version owners felt was missing. A perfect seal is the only way to get a perfect bass response, and the Elysium was susceptible to imperfect seals issues as the mids were so prevelent that most never realized there was an issue. Most people will notice a marked improvement when cupping their hands over their ears when wearing a universal IEM – due to an imperfect seal.

While I would love for both/either of these models to gain a custom option, this is not likely. It was explained to me by Vision Ears that: “Both new models are just available as universals and it is not planned to make them custom - would be difficult anyway because the shell and faceplate material is an essential part of the design and not so easy to transfer to a custom version.”

Configuration – Yes, it has Two Dynamic Drivers
The EXT is a tribrid IEM with four electrostatic drivers – same as the Elysium – to create a wide-open landscape of lush details, an additional new 9.2mm dynamic driver with loads of power in the very low end replacing the Elysiums single BA bass module, and the same 6mm driver for the mids that was found in the Elysium. Yes, you hear correctly, there are two dynamic drivers, one for the mids and a larger one for sub-bass. This configuration similarity is why the EXT is looked at as an upgraded Elysium, it is the same configuration with the addition of a new 9.2mm dynamic driver for the lows. However, the tuning and crossing is very different which will be detailed in the comparison section.

The Phonix on the other hand is a traditional 12 BA configuration – 4 low, 4 mid, 4 high – same as the ERLKöNIG with the addition of a new super-tweeter offering a new 13th driver. From memory – I don’t have the ERLKöNIG on hand currently to compare directly - the sonic results are similar to the ERLKöNIG on its popular second switch. The Phonix in contrast has no switch. As the ERLKöNIG is rated at GOD-TIER status, just matching performance is quite a feat. I am hoping to get the tour ERLKöNIG sometime soon to be able to compare directly.

The EXT feels noticeable smaller and lighter than the Phonix. While side-by-side pictures don’t echo this feel, the EXT disappears and sucks into the ears while the Phonix just feels more substantial overall. They are both comfortable, but the EXT does a better job of disappearing while listening to music. I can actually lay with my ear on the pillow with the EXT while listening to music at night where I wouldn’t do this with the Phonix. The Elysium is not comparable as it is a custom build with a custom faceplate. However, the Elysium is one of the most recognizable faceplates in the world of IEMs and is extremely beautiful.



The EXT feels solid and uses a nice aluminum while the Phonix feels heavier and more solid in a good way. They both are beautiful and well built, but the Phonix was obviously the one designed to win the beauty contest and is priced higher to match its looks. The carbon fibre in the picture below is very beautiful but is dark and not immediately noticeable unless in the direct Arizona sunlight. The Phonix faceplate does pop and appears fiery in the sunlight which is extremely beautiful. Apparently, the Phonix likes it here in Phoenix. 😊





The fit and seal for both the EXT and the Phonix is superb, but the seal on the EXT is better for me. The EXT somehow is sucked into my ear offering a custom-like fit and seal while the Phonix feels more external while still offering a great seal. Both have a good enough seal that they work well in an active environment. My Elysium is a custom fit so there is no comparison – it is perfect. As a traditionally custom-only company, Vision Ears has only recently begun offering universal versions of its extended lineup. Previously, only the ERLKöNIG was offered in universal. As a traditionally custom-only company, Vision Ears is one of the best in the business at getting a perfect custom fit. In fact, my Elysium is the best custom fit that I own.

For me, I only go silicone due to the inner workings of my ears. With a significant bend in my ear channel, the silicone offers a wedge to seal the IEM and get full performance. Therefore, I have not tried any other tips to offer other suggestions.


Vision Ears packaging is worth discussing as they have gone above and beyond. There is not much to say as the following picture say it all, but they do accessorize well.





The EXT Sound

The name AudioTiers comes from my attempt to offer performance tiers to provide perspective to these various in-ear offerings and the surrounding gear. While we have definitely hosted mid-tier and some entry-tier IEMs, we have mostly focused on the top-tier offerings with some mid-tier. The best of the best are termed exotics for their ability to be unique and stand above the crowd. The top 5 of the exotics are awarded GOD-Tier status. The ERLKöNIG is among those 5 GOD-Tier IEMs, but will lose its position soon as it is no longer available since being retired by Vision Ears. The Phonix has a good chance of replacing the ERLKöNIG, it is that good. The EXT is neck to neck with the Phonix as it is that good also. However, we never award exotic or God-Tier status to new entries until we get consensus from our membership which is likely to happen. My expectation is that they will fall into the exotic category at the minimum.

To describe the EXT signature, in a nutshell, is that it offers extreme clarity, euphoric and powerful texturing from end to end of the frequency spectrum, all supported by exotic bass performance for a full-sized soundstage. The bass is quick and large, but is only there when it is called for – the 9.2mm sub-bass otherwise disappears allowing the dynamic mids to take over. The sub-bass never steps on the mid-bass which is significant given that they are both dynamic drivers. For those audiophile bass lovers out there, the EXT delivers on the bass, but it is certainly not a fart cannon. This bass has impact and soul, but it is not always on. It offers warm characteristics even though the EXT has extreme clarity.

What is unique about this IEM is its reach both up and down while retaining power throughout the frequency range to drive textures, but allowing space between the instruments to offer clarity and positioning with gobs of detail. I could say the same thing about the Phonix, but it is warmer vs. the EXT clarity. The best way to describe the sound is to compare it to other familiar IEMs as at this level they are all superb and we are splitting hairs on performance. So it all comes down to your preferred signature which can best be described through contrasting and comparing with other great IEMs. But first, let's discuss optimizing and pairing to set the stage.

Optimizing and Pairing



As I did not find either the EXT or the Phonix lacking in any area, I did not feel that rolling cables at this point would be a benefit. The stock cables are wonderful and the resulting sound is satisfactory. So this optimization section is mainly about pairing given that we have all already made investments in gear that we would like to use with our purchases. My preferred DAPs are the Sony WM1a and the Calyx M as I have sold my AK and other DAPs that were not being used. The Hugo 2 rounds out my setup offering top-tier performance using my Sony or iPhone as a source. My desktop DAC/AMP is the Burson C3R offering 7.5 watts of pure performance to test the limits of scalability. Based on experience, the C3R wattage scales my dynamic drivers to the extreme but is not necessary for BA-only setups. Here is what I found.
  • iPhone 11: Amazon HD Music is a new app on my iPhone that has improved my sound quality considerably. From the standard Apple Music app, the EXT sounds great, but better on my better DAPs. The new Amazon app takes this up several notches and gets the iPhone closer to my dedicated DAPs mentioned below. In fact, the music discovery on the iPhone has made it my preferred method to listen to the EXT on the go. Either way, the music sounds full-sized from the iPhone, just more filled out with the Amazon app. But the dedicated DAPs are clearly better overall. I just wish that I had access to the Amazon music app with these DAPs. As mentioned above, the only weakness of the iPhone is that in crowded or dynamic passages there can be some clipping at first. However, for whatever reason, the clipping seems to disappear, and the fullness of the note returns after the iPhone warms up with 15 minutes or so constant playing. Of note is the need to turn my iPhone about 80 to 90 percent volume with the EXT vs. around 50 percent volume or less with my other IEMs such as the Phonix. While this sounds like it may be a disadvantage, it feels like to more power to drive the output also grips the drivers better for more texture. The iPhone doesn’t feel colored in the signature offering a very revealing look at the EXT but may not extend to the extremes like my better sources.
  • Calyx M: The Calyx M is famous for its sound quality implying that the 9018 is responsible. While the stats don’t speak to this, the amp is likely to be the bigger influencer burning up a giant battery in less than four hours to meet that quality output. The clarity and transparency offered in the colder Calyx M signature offer more detail than the Sony below. In comparison, I used to like the Calyx M better than the Sony until I got a custom firmware upgrade on the Sony. The Calyx takes the audiophile performance up a notch with more and tighter detail, while Sony can actually be more fun. An advantage the Calyx has over Sony is that volume slider that allows me to perfect the volume for each song instantly and to play the EXT louder than normal for short bursts. The clarity of the EXT shines on the M and the powerful amp boosts the texturing. The M is a great pairing with the EXT offering a slightly different signature than the Sony which comes across as warmer and punchier. The Phonix loses some of the tube-like euphonics on the M offering more clarity bringing it closer to the EXT signature.
  • Sony WM1a: The Sony was almost sold last year as it didn’t pair well with my CIEMs until I got the new custom firmware. The new firmware now plays nice with all my CIEMs. The EXT is a wonderful pairing offering a warmer tint to its performance with a nice girth to the note and more resonance and textures. The Sony with its superior battery life and UX is my go-to DAP for the EXT. While the Sony moves the EXT a little in the direction of the Phonix signature, the Phonix signature stays the same on Sony. Both the EXT and the Phonix sound fantastic on Sony.
  • Hugo 2: The H2 takes the experience up a notch with a better DAC and AMP. The pairing is more in line with the Calyx M but on steroids. The bass comes out more, the detail is at another level, and the sound gets fuller. However, as with the M, the H2 brings out the clarity/transparency of the EXT for more of an audiophile sound rather than the more fun Sony. The problem with the H2 is that it is a stack that is not always convenient, so this is not as normal of a pairing as the Burson C3R which takes it up another notch given the additional driving power if I have to deal with the inconvenience. The Phonix performance also goes up a notch with the H2 with an additional gob of detail.
  • Burson C3 Reference: Going desktop, the Burson C3R is my favorite pairing supersizing the overall SQ significantly and in a fun musical way that crushes the Sony. It should also be mentioned that I am employing the Amazon HD Music application as a source and running it through my Sonarworks True-Fi application tuned to my HD800 headphones that work well with the EXT signature. Playing through iTunes with True-Fi turned off brings down the sound quality noticeably, so some may consider this a cheat. Regardless, the C3R drives 7.5 watts into the EXT and offers a significant boost to the low end with more punch and more clarity. While the C3R is slightly warmer than the H2, not by much. The soundstage also grows with the C3R. Applied to the EXT it reaches the peak of performance and closes the gap on the Phonix, perhaps matching it. The traditional BA configuration of the Phoenix doesn’t handle the power boost as well having to keep the volume down to 1 out of 100 or it can sound overdone. However, the Phonix does grab another boost in detail and soundstage offering peek performance with the C3R as well. With the C3R, we are splitting hairs and the performance is around the same with two slightly different signatures – EXT offers more punch and dynamic bass with clarity throughout whereas the Phonix reminds me of a wonderful tube amp performance rendering the musical romance that can be missing from modern music.
Overall, I find that the BA offerings like Phonix or the ERLKöNIG do best with DAPs being overpowered by the desktop. While they sound great scaled down to the iPhone, this is not what they were built for and is a waste at this price point. The EXT and the Elysium require more volume than most to drive them at satisfactory output levels. However, they do play nice with the iPhone even though the volume is most of the way up. The desktop does offer a good amount of scaling as the Elysium and the EXT like the additional power, but they do not need it to reach most of their potential.



To compare to the other IEMs, we used the sources described in the previous section. My music ranges from EDM to classical to rock to metal to pop to new age and easy listening. My preference in listening is to play all genres randomly to jolt my senses while getting a wide sampling of music. While I have already offered some comparisons for the Phonix and the Elysium, I am also in possession of the new Lime Ears flagship, the Pnenma for comparison. Here is what I found.

These two IEMs are both exotic and offer stellar sound quality. They both offer full-sized sound and an extreme frequency range with power to drive textures and detail from end to end. The difference is mainly in the clarity focus of the EXT vs. the euphoric richness of the Phoenix. They both excel at bass, but the EXT bass is definitely more present and dynamic. I am splitting hairs, but I would also say that the Phoenix sound stage feels more full-sized headphone with the EXT being slightly smaller. In the end, the key difference is the EXT clarity focus vs. the warmer, more euphoric Phonix. When I listen to one, I am not missing the other as either are fully satisfying. However, it is always nice to switch as they both are slightly different.


The Elysium is very different than the EXT. Yes, it has mostly the same configuration, but the dual dynamic drivers and the new tuning make it a very different IEM. The focus is no longer on the mids, the EXT is a full spectrum performer that adds to the Elysium mids in a very dynamic way it is just at a whole new level of performance. The vocalist portrayed by the Elysium, is now accompanied by the full band with the EXT with two lead guitarists over their shoulders and it is easy to tell there are two leads. The EXT bass is now so spectacular that nobody would dare complain. There is also an extremely large soundstage with the EXT with the same intimate presentation so there is more ambiance and spatial cues. That being said, comparing these two very different IEMs reignited my love for the Elysium as well which will always be my go-to driver for intimate vocals. At risk for overusing the exotic term, the Elysium has exotic mids that are unbeatable.


Lime Ears Pnenma
The Pnenma is Lime Ears brand new flagship and is phenomenal. Where the EXT is a tribrid, the Pnenma is a hybrid with a dynamic driver for bass and four BA drivers. What is different about the Pnenma is the smaller 7mm (vs. 9.2mm) titanium dynamic bass driver which is extremely fast and punchy. The results are a very resolute bass note with a fast decay that etches out the details that other bass drivers may miss. The smaller driver sacrifices some of the extremely low rumbles but gets clarity in exchange while still offering an enormous and satisfying punch. In contrast to the EXT, the Pnenma bass driver is responsible for a broader range where the bass duties on the EXT is divided between the sub-bass and the mid-bass. However, the effect is similar as the EXT uses a smaller 6mm dynamic driver for the mids as well so the EXT has that rumble separated and in addition for those that find that 20-40 hertz bass to be critical and desire power in this range. Of note, there is a switch on the Pnenma that allows you to switch the bass from forward to neutral. In real-world use, you probably would not buy the Pnenma if you didn’t like its significant bass response so there is no practical reason for turning it down. I left it in bass enhanced for this comparison and found no advantage for switching.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Pnenma BA treble offers much more shimmer than I have been finding lately in the new offerings. Treble junkies may find this shimmer to be to their liking as it is very compelling and adds a lot to the overall signature. This is a very smooth audiophile shimmer and never approaches sibilance. The Pnenma is a fantastic IEM and is very good value at its significantly lower price range and will appeal to those that miss the more traditional shimmer that a BA offers. These two IEMs are more complementary than competitors as the endearing characteristics of each is different. One last comment about the Pnenma, it is quite beautiful as you can see in the picture. However, the picture doesn’t do it justice as it looks even better in person.


Concluding Thoughts

The EXT and the Phonix are both easy recommendations for those that can afford them. They offer peak performance checking all the boxes of modern technology. The only downside is the lack of a custom option, but I find these both to offer a solid seal even in the universal format where this is not as much of a concern. Regardless, if you live in the US, then you are free to join our EXT/Phonix tour and hear them for yourself so you can decide for yourself – the way it should be. 😊


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@magicguy - No mistake, the new EXT has four electrostatic drivers per their website. There is also two dynamic drivers, one 10mm for sub and a 6mm for mids. As for the WM1a, I am only aware of the one custom firmware option created by someone that is here on HEADFI and fairly widely know about here on HEADFI. He contacted me directly to try it having read my reviews of issues I was having with the stock firmware that he said that he had fixed. If you are interested in trying the firmware, just PM me and I will introduce you to this member. Just have to find the PM where we had talked. :)

BTW, there are no options on the firmware to configure, just a different sound to the original that made the WM1a work well with all my CIEMs where it was not pairing well with many before. Now I have the best of both worlds, a great sounding player in a format that has 30 hours of battery and a great premium interface. - Bill
I brought a pair in to evaluate for R&D. 7hz Timeless are just as good, far more cohesive and crush them on value.. Good luck to anyone who tries to explain away why these are better for +$3k. Cheers.
Does Phönix do well in Rock?


100+ Head-Fier
Vision Ears EXT: Totally Amazing Experience!
Pros: + Lush looks
+ Excellent build & comfort
+ Excellent cable
+ Great Case & Accessories
+ Excellent pairing with different types of sources
+ Excellent Bass & Midrange
+ Superb Treble
+ Out of this world Staging, Imaging & timbre performances
Cons: - Likely the price (?)
Vision Ears EXT: Totally Amazing Experience!



The @Vision Ears EXT is had been launched as an upgrade to their already great performing Elysium. I have found it to be a totally amazing performing IEM – likely amongst the very best that I’ve tried till date, and I have tried a good number of IEMs at $1000+ category but not really in the $3000 bracket where the EXT comes in. It has excellent pairing with all of the sources that I was able to test it with – be it dongles, DAC/AMPs or DAPs.

From the details of the sub bass region to the excellent texture, percussions & transients in the midrange not to forget excellent reproduction of the vocals and airy & elated superb treble performances that is likely unmatched. Staging, imaging and Timbre is also just superb. Not to forget the exquisite build quality of this IEM by the manufacturers. Overall, I have found it to be worth every penny of the high price tag that it comes with.



Vison Ears is a boutique German IEM & CIEM manufacturer. They have been considered to be very high-quality manufacturers and likely amongst the best ones globally. The Elysium had been their hybrid custom IEM which had been very successful in 2019 and won many awards since launch. In 2021, Vision Ears decided to launch upgrade and successor to their already very successful flagship Elysium. Thus, the EXT came into the picture.

Listening to the EXT will bring you closer to a very realistic sound experience. The 4 electrostatic drivers create a wide-open landscape of lush details that never feel exaggerated. In combination with a 9.2mm dynamic driver, with loads of power in the very low end and a 6mm driver for the mids, the EXT is just an uncompromising performer for any music with high levels of accuracy.
The Vision Ears EXT is priced at $2960.



Design & Tech Details:

The most captivating element of the Vision Ears EXT is its purple machined faceplate with the prominent and magnificent X design. The elegant deep purple color just looks lush & premium. A vacuum metalized mesh is elegantly sparkling underneath the open structure of the X design makes the IEM very lightweight while allowing the Dynamic Drivers to breathe. Apart from the aluminum faceplate, the shell is made of solid black acrylic in a semi-custom shape. A black transparent area is allowing a discreet peek on the green HALC and the four electrostatic drivers while being very lightweight and comfortable to wear. You can easily use this IEM for longer listening sessions and I found them very comfortable during a 3hrs+ listing spree I went through during the review.

The EXT is based on the idea of the ELYSIUM but more. More lows that make you feel the rumble. More mids that vividly embrace you. And more highs to bring an airy and elated experience. The 2 Dynamic drivers and 4 EST drivers make sure that the experience is superb but doesn’t come at the cost of power hungriness. An easy lightness surrounds the IEM, airy, silk-like notes gather around your head, musical areas you never recognized will unfold before your closed eyes, a truly amazing experience.



The Vision Ears EXT comes at $2960 price tag and the specifications are as below:
  • 3-way crossover
  • 1 x 9.2mm Dynamic Driver
  • 1 x 6 mm Dynamic Driver
  • 4 x Est, Electrostatic Tweeter
  • Impedance: 10Ω @ 1KHz
  • Sensitivity 1mW: 108.5 dB SPL @ 1KHz (100mV)

The Cable, Case & Accessories:

The Case:

The EXT design is prominently covering the finely machined aluminum case. A striking and unmistakable look, showing the remarkable design of the EXT. The inside walls are all covered with a rubber inlay, so that the earphone is always protected when you are on the go. A premium leather pocket holds the earphones in place, preventing them to collide during transport.


The Cable:

The EXT comes with a premium 8 wire spc 28AWG cable with a balanced 2.5mm connector as a standard. With the all new VE Adapter you can simply change the termination from 2.5mm to 4.4mm. This premium adapter comes with a gold-plated phosphor bronze conductor and an audio grade POM insulation. I have tried the EXT with a number of 3rd party upgrade cables but found the default cable to be much higher quality than any 3rd party ones.



The Accessories:

The EXT comes with 2 brands of ear-tips: Azla Sedna Crystal & @SpinFit Eartip CP500 with 4 pairs of each of different sizes. Apart from these there’s a leather pouch holding the EXT warranty card and a leather key ring. There’s also a leather pouch for holding the shells in the case.




Items Used for this Review:

DAC/AMP & Dongles:
@iFi audio Micro iDSD Signature, Luxury & Precision W2 Dongle DAC/AMP, @iFi audio Go Blu

DAP/Source : Cayin N6 Mk2 with R2R motherboard, Cayin N3 PRO with both tube & digital outputs
Streaming Source: QOBUZ

Ear Tips:

I've tried tip-rolling with a variety of tips such as: Final E series red & black ones, JVC Spiral dots, Spiral Dots+, Spinfit CP100+, CP145 and the ones that came with the EXT – Azla Sedna Crystal & @SpinFit Eartip CP500. Out of all of these I have found the CP500 to be the best fit for my ears in terms of overall fit, isolation & comfort.


Tracks Used:

The tracks I have used can be found from the below playlist that I have used and generally use for most reviews...

Pairing Performance with different sources:

The EXT pairs really well with each of the sources mentioned above starting from the cheapest dongle @iFi audio Go Blu to the Micro iDSD Signature and Cayin N6ii R2R.

Though the W2 dongle & the Micro iDSD Signature seemed more resolving in the beginning, after pairing with the Cayin N6ii R2R motherboard – the pairing just seemed excellent and there was no turning back from there really. Like they say – once you have heard the difference, it’s hard to go back.


Vision Ears EXT Sound Impressions in Short:


The Bass of the Vision Ears EXT is just superb starting from the small micro details coming from the sub-bass region to the meatier mid-bass but in no way is it overwhelming by any means. In tracks like: "Dreams (2001 Remastered) – Fleetwood Mac" and "Chocolate Chip Trip - Tool" you can hear each instrument percussion separately; you can really feel the drums and their attack - with ample transients and details. I think the Bass is amongst the stronger traits of the Vision Ears EXT and comes with good depth in the thump & slams.


The Dynamic driver-based midrange of the EXT comes with ample texture, muscle and transients. It is smooth & musical and the vocals are very immersive and both male and female vocals come with ample amount of details and feel very real. Instruments felt very natural and real with high accuracy. In tracks like: "Anchor - Trace Bundy", "A dog named Freedom – Kinky Friedman" and "Ruby Tuesday – Franco Battiato" it’s really easy to get lost into the music as it comes with ample detailed transients, texture, excellent vocals and details.


The treble feels airy and elated. The EST based treble is just superb and Cymbals sound very life-like and real in tracks like “Chocolate Chip Trip – Tool”.
Treble in tracks like: "Paradise Circus – Massive Attack", "Mambo for Roy – Roy Hargrove” and "Saints and Angels – Sharon Shannon" feel smooth & creamy with the right amount of air and texture and just feels very buttery smooth.


The Staging capabilities of the Vision Ears EXT is the best I’ve come across till date. It comes with the right amount of width, height, depth and is well defined and just as much as the track requires. Tracks like: “The Secret Drawer – Bela Fleck and the Flecktones” or “She Don’t know – Melody Gardot” or “Bohemian Rhapsody (live aid) – Queen” sound amazing & enjoyable. This is amongst the strongest trait of this IEM.

Imaging & Timbre:

The Imaging on the EXT is superb with very accurate sense of direction and life-like natural Timbre performance. Tracks like: “Rotterdam (Or Anywhere) - The Beautiful South “or “Hello Again - Howard Carpendale & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra” just shine through due to the great separation & sense of positioning and timbre.



No review is complete without comparisons. So here we are - with the @UniqueMelody MEST MKII and Campfire Audio Dorado 2020.


Vision Ears EXT vs UM MEST MKII vs CA Dorado 2020:

I don’t have a comparable IEM that comes close to the Vision Ears EXT in terms of price. I have compared the EXT with the Unique Melody MEST MKII which comes at $1499 and the Campfire Audio Dorado 2020 which comes at $1100. While the Vision Ears EXT is a hybrid with 2 DD & 4 EST, the MEST MKII is a Quadbrid with DD+BA+EST+BC drivers and the Campfire Dorado 2020 is also a hybrid with 1DD + 1BA architecture.

Bass: While the Dorado 2020 definitely has more punch & slam than the other 2 – the MEST MKII has more details in the sub bass but the mid bass is slightly dimmer. The EXT seems to have the right amount of details with excellent texture and slam and hence is far ahead of both of the other IEMs

Mids: Though tuning of the MEST MKII might suggest that it will likely be better of the 3 as the Dorado 2020 has slightly recessed midrange. However, the Dynamic driver-based midrange on the EXT seems to be superior compared to the MEST MKII - let alone the Dorado 2020. There is much better texture, muscle, instrument separation, vocals, transients, etc. on the EXT.

Treble: though both MEST MKII and the EXT has EST based treble which is buttery smooth – the treble on the EXT seems like a notch upwards compared to the MEST MKII with a more airy & elated presentation. It’s hard to explain the differences but you will definitely notice it without fail.

Soundstage & Timbre: Though the Dorado 2020 and the MEST MKII both have great staging capabilities – but when compared to the EXT they somehow seem to fall short or otherwise the EXT just seems better & more accurate representation of the real-world.

Imaging: This is where the EXT just blows the other 2 out of water. The instrument separation and the sense of positioning is significantly better than the other 2 IEMs.



The @Vision Ears EXT is a stellar performer and in my opinion amongst the very best of the Vision Ears line-up. It is very easy to drive and performs well with just any combination. It is quite comfortable to wear through long listening sessions and that's what makes it an ideal daily driver for people who just want to hear superb sound performances all day, every day.

Last edited:
Excellent review mate
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Excellent review! I have the Elys and EXT. ended up selling the Elys as I personally prefer the Ext bass. Elys did have magical mids.

The stock silicone tips and other included with the Ext aren’t working well for me. What other eartips would you recommend?
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@ucrags84 Try Azla Sednafit ones... they also seem to have a good fit