qdc Anole VX

Review - qdc Anole VX - Universal



Website – qdc




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

Available in both Universal and Custom fit.

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

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

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

Links:



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



Design

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Sound Quality

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

If starting with switch ‘1’, there is a strong lift on the whole bass region. It starts from the sub-bass area and spreads even to the beginning of lower midrange giving a thicker and fuller tone. It is not just more bass quantity, but also about having more depth and texture on lower instruments with deeper decay, and yet still keeps the high quality of speed and resolution. Expectedly, the midrange and highs will sound less prominent if a bit more laid-back but not to be considered as recessed.
Switch ‘2’ for the mid frequencies drivers is very interesting. While the boost focus is mainly into the whole midrange, it also gives a nice lift on up/mid bass and lower treble for fuller texture and richer tonality; sub-bass and upper treble is less pronounced but not light. Here the sounds is actually more immersive and engaging with an added touch of musicality which is more fun in its own way. The resolution remains unchanged and no limitations to the soundstage dimensions. Vocals are more forward, weightier on male singers and female voices are sweeter and brighter too; sibilance is still kept in check. There is more bite on string and brass instruments on this region too sounding more euphonic.
Lastly, the switch ‘3’ brings forth the most treble quantity with more energy and sparkle. It sounds bright and more aggressive but nothing particularly harsh. Sibilance might still be perceived, though I only found with very certain tracks. The treble detail is more prominent with slightly more polite bass and midrange.

The combination of switches will give even more sound options. A more lively sound when bass and treble switches are on putting the midrange less obvious. Bass and midrange switches provide a darker, warmer response with the strongest bass power that arrives from both boosts, with smoother and more laid-back highs. The treble plus midrange boosts will have an opposite effect – softer bass and leaner lower mids with strong upper midrange and fuller treble putting female vocals at a higher priority along with upper instruments.
Finally, with when all switches are on the VX will step aside from its neutrality towards the very energetic and powerful sound. Here is where soundstage may be affected the most with a less airy and clear imaging. It less natural and simply more fun.

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

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

Value

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



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

No comments:

Post a Comment