Fir Audio VxV Impressions, Reviews and Discussion

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by shotgunshane, May 22, 2021.

  1. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    FiR Audio VxV
    MSRP: $999
    Hybrid 4ba, 1 Dynamic
    upload_2021-5-22_12-45-54.png

    FiR Audio, a relatively new in-ear manufacturer, was founded in 2018 and released their first in-ears in 2019. However, the man behind it, Bogdan Belonozhko, was previously part of 64 Audio (and previously 1964 Ears). I haven’t had opportunity to hear any other models from FiR, so the VxV will the first. Fir Audio graciously provided the unit for review.

    Specs:
    The VxV (or 5x5), coming in at a price tag of $999, is one of the cheaper models in the FiR lineup and was recently on Drop for $799. It looks like the VxV is the only one in the lineup that only comes as a universal. Apparently it is a limited run but I’m unsure of the number of units that will be made. The VxV consists of a 6.8mm dynamic driver and 4 balanced armatures: 2 for midrange, 1 for treble and 1 for super-high frequencies. The VxV is equipped with a pressure releasing vent system. Rather than being placed on the faceplate, its tucked away under the cable connector near the top of the housing. As far as I know, these aren’t user replaceable like the larger faceplate mounted options in 64 Audio in-ears. The 2 treble armatures are spoutless and I assume are positioned inside the housing bore, as described on FiR’s TECH page: https://www.firaudio.com/tech.

    The housing are reminiscent of 64 Audio housings in shape but I really dig the simplicity of the design on the VxV. As shown above, FiR has created a little character whose face is the VxV model name. The character is known as Firry but I affectionally refer to him as the drunk moon bunny! Firry is on the right faceplate and the FiR Audio logo on the left. The white-ish band around the faceplate made me think it might have glow-in-the-dark capability but alas it does not. The monochrome graphics really look superb.

    upload_2021-5-22_12-43-53.png

    Accessories:
    The cable is a very nice and soft, thin gauge wire consisting of 8 cores. It’s not bulky at all. I’m not a fan of the brown color (whiskey on the website; told you the bunny is drunk) but you can get it in silver/white and black. All in all, one of the best stock cables I’ve had come through my hands. The silver/white version would have looked great on the VxV. This is a cable I wouldn’t mind for a few of the in-ears in my own collection either. Ergonomics and aesthetics are all top notch. The connectors are an unusual raised version of MMCX (RCX).

    The case is a round, leather affair that is a bit on the large side. However props to the idea of having the foam holding the tips and cleaning brush being able to fit in the bottom of the case and still leave enough room for the IEM and cable. Unfortunately the case is not pocketable and the size allows for quite a bit of movement of the IEM housings inside.

    Sound:
    FiR uses the following terms to describe their VxV: welcoming and full-bodied. These are terms I can agree with. The VxV is mostly comfortable sounding: it’s warm, rich and full. Bass is dense and meaty with strong impact and rumble. The warmth isn’t suffocating or overbearing, rather it’s separated pretty well from vocals and doesn’t negatively impact vocal weight. Treble is mostly tame and easy going with one modest lower treble peak and some upper treble energy between 10 and 12k. The overall effect is a thinner, lighter weight treble. It’s not bright in the traditional sense but it can be pretty incisive. I would say the pressure vents do a very good job of keeping it fatigue free and giving it a slightly open sound. Don’t think open back vent open sound but it also doesn’t have the boxiness some fully sealed in-ears can give.


    Comparisons:
    via Mac Mini >> Pi2AES (via AES) >> RME ADI-2 PRO FS R

    Vs. Campfire Andromeda (OG)

    upload_2021-5-22_12-33-3.jpeg

    Most noticeable is the warmth and richness VxV has over Andromeda. Andromeda note weight almost seems light in direct comparison. And of course you have the bigger dynamic driver rumble down low that also lingers longer and provides better texture than Andromeda’s armature bass.

    Both male and female vocals are a little more forward on VxV, with noticeably better clarity and nuance. I do pick up a bit more enhanced sibilance with the VxV over Andromeda. However, rock guitars have more crunch and attack with the OG Andromeda. The VxV here sounds more rounded and slightly richer in comparison.

    Andromeda has more middle treble sparkle. Cymbals have more weight and more realistic timbre. VxV treble while lighter in weight, sounds more incisive and precise. While Andromeda comes across as airier in presentation with its middle treble peak, the VxV does sound more extended.

    Andromeda sounds wider left to right, however the VxV sounds perhaps a bit more evenly proportioned overall with more height and depth to match its width. While the VxV is warmer it does carry more midrange clarity over the OG Andromeda which can carry a slightly haze in comparison, so imaging is more precise on the VxV.


    Vs. Campfire Solaris (OG)

    upload_2021-5-22_12-35-14.jpeg

    The warmth and richness of the VxV is a bit less noticeable against Solaris. The dynamic in the VxV carries a bigger and broader elevation over the more linear sounding Solaris. When listening to electronic music, the VxV rumble is louder and more forward. However Solaris easily extends just as deep and it’s texture is a little more nuanced against the denser and harder hitting VxV.

    When listening to Rap, vocals are closer to the same level as the bass on VxV; on Solaris the vocals are brought forward on a layer in front of the bass. On acoustic music, the VxV is back to bringing vocals forward and upfront, however Solaris also takes it up another notch, where the vocalist is right there with you. The Solaris is more nuanced, bringing more attention to small details like throat inflections and pursing of lips, as well as having a slightly cupped hands in front of the vocals effect (similar to Etymotic at times). Both can be revealing of sibilance with some songs, with the VxV accentuating sibilance a bit more-so.

    OG Solaris has similar traits as Andromeda in how it presents treble, if a bit more subdued in comparison. Since Solaris is more subdued than Andromeda, the VxV can present treble sounds more upfront and just sound brighter overall. The VxV treble is lighter and thinner in weight, while Solaris treble has a more natural brassiness to it. Both sound very controlled, but VxV has a more incisive edge.

    While the VxV sounds relatively open and on the bigger side of average staging, the Solaris OG just sounds more three dimensional with better separation and layering, more space around performers and instruments. That being said, the Solaris OG is still the reigning champ for me when it comes to staging and not many come close. The VxV is more than competent in its own right but next to the Solaris OG, everything on the VxV is just must more upfront together and more on the same plane with less space in comparison.


    Wrap Up:
    While the housing shape fit my ear well enough, they are more flat than contoured, so they do move around a bit. I found myself reseating them quite often but never experienced any ear fatigue. Build quality seems very good, I do wonder how the venting system will fair long term; will it clog over time with sweat and debris, and how will this impact the sound? Aesthetics are great and the monochrome simplicity is very appealing to me. Sure wish white elements would glow in the dark after long exposure to light!

    The VxV is a fun and engaging in-ear, that’s really good at lower volume listening where dynamics can suffer in others. In many ways it reminds of the U18T we had on tour here, however, the VxV is much better tuned with better technical performance all the way around. Warmth and richness without midrange creep and suffocation and very good treble extension. While I would prefer more weight to the treble and a bit more brassy timbre, the clarity of the midrange, in conjunction with the bass elevation is very satisfying and enjoyable.

    Fir Audio has been gracious enough to supply this review unit for an SBAF tour, so @ChaChaRealSmooth will be posting the details in the loaner section soon. If you prefer a meatier, richer sounding in-ear, this is worth checking out.
     
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    Last edited: May 22, 2021
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    More or less bass (up to 150HZ) compared to Solaris OG? Speaking in terms of subjective volume, not slam. DD IEMs seem harder to quantify bass volume because of differences in distortion characteristics.

    And if slightly more bass, do the filled in upper mids of the VXV help with overall tonal balance. This looks pretty good and very interesting.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2021
  3. Rockwell

    Rockwell Friend

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    Thanks for sharing...the Solaris comparison is especially helpful. I've been curious about Fir for a while but haven't been able to secure a demo of any of their IEMs. 64 hasn't released any truly new IEMs or tech since Bogdan left so I'm wondering if whoever was left behind was the Art Garfunkel of the partnership.
     
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  4. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    More subjective bass volume. It feels fuller, richer down low but not overdone. Texture is very good but it's denser, whereas Solaris bass feels airier, more effortless if you will. Matter of taste which sounds better. Maybe size of driver comes into play a little here (6.8mm versus 10mm)? Metallica's notoriously bass-light And Justice For All album is a bit more satisfying down low with VxV.

    Tonally the VxV sounds more balanced through upper mid. What's a bit odd is the measured treble on both doesn't look all that different but they sure sound different. On most songs Solaris sounds more natural up top and on some, the difference isn't that significant. Of course after a while, the brain adjusts and all is good.
     
  5. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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  6. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Are vocals less recessed in the FIR than the og Solaris? (My only quibble with the og Solaris, slightly recessed vocals)

    Your description of the treble is off putting though. I hate tinny treble.
     
  7. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    The VxV is definitely filled in more at the upper mid to lower treble transition (I consider anything after 4K to be treble). I’ve not heard this depressed area in Solaris OG as recessed vocals. Vocals sound very forward in placement to me. However, the depression does negatively effect some instrument timbre. Female vocals do have more energy/harmonics on VxV though.
     
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  8. daniellistens

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    How demanding is it? How sensitive is it?

    Could I use it with a Sony NW-ZX507? Would it retain control of the IEM? What source are you using?
     
  9. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    My chain in is mentioned in the comparison section. I now do all my review comparisons via: Mac Mini >> Pi2AES (via AES) >> RME ADI-2 PRO FS R

    That being said, I think it sounds fine from something like the Apple dongle and even better (bass wise) from the Hidizs S8 dongle.
     
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  10. daniellistens

    daniellistens Acquaintance

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    Thank you @shotgunshane

    You compared it to the Andromeda. I have tested the 2020 version. Would you say that these IEMs require similar power? Would you say the Andromeda is more efficient?
     
  11. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Andromeda OG is much more efficient but it’s one of the most efficient iems ever made. I don’t have a 2020 to compare but CA’s specs show the OG/Classic to be more efficient than the 2020. In general CA iems need very little power.
     
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  12. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    Source: PI2AES Output Coax > Bifrost 2 > IEMagni & Shanling M3X

    I saw the FiR Audio VxV on loaner...so yeah….


    Build and Design:


    IEM Shells are simple but doesn’t feel cheap. Reminds me like @shotgunshane said of the 64 Audio IEMs. As usual the DD driver handles the bass while the BA drivers handle the rest of the range. The stock cable is nice and is not memory based. It is soft, not hard and easy to bend. Color is fine to me. The carrying case is circular, where you just pull the top to see the tips and the storage for the IEMs. This fits in a bag and not in your pocket. The logos on the IEMs are super sharp and doesn’t have the low-quality print job on them.

    This is where I finished talking about the good stuff. I have two serious issues with the IEMs on its Build and Design:
    • The VxV rabbit logo thingy sucks
      • My girlfriend and I both thought this rabbit wasn’t a drunk moon rabbit, we thought it was a dead rabbit. My girlfriend got turned off from the logo saying this is not a chick magnet, but a guy who lives alone with his mom or basement magnet like the “Forever Alone” meme. I do too, because it took me a while to figure out how to say the name of this IEM. Why rabbits have to do anything with IEMs? Seems that I am not the target audience, woooooo.
    • Ewwww raised MMCX (RCX)
      • Really hate when IEMs aren’t using the standard MMCX or two-pin standard. Honestly this is a super turn-off for anyone who wanna think about swapping cables.
    Honestly the logo part will vary with the user. But RCX will ruffle some feathers for those who are in the IEM game IMO.


    Sound
    :

    To get it out of the way, I have two major issues with the sound:
    • Bass region to me becomes more elevated in higher volumes, but goes to its place in low volume.
      • This is a problem on my better recording stuff, including Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On MFSL SACD where the bass line becomes more dominate (it is to help the groove, not to be closer to be the front).
    • Treble? Where are thou?
      • Treble is too laid back, and this is saying a lot from a guy who is treble sensitive.
    With that out of the way, the bass quality is very solid with great texture details. I think for those who want a warmer sounding IEM will find a home with the VxV. The bass tuning really welcomes you in and gives it good impact on recordings when needed. There is a reason why people use DD drivers for bass when possible, you just get more impact over a BA driver. As stated above, the bass tuning is just too welcoming for its own good depending on volume.

    For me and my two setups, the mids aren’t that forwarded. I think the only thing I really like about the VxV is the mids. The mids are more rounded and nicely spaced out with solid soundstaging. It doesn’t get on the same level as the CA Solaris OG, but it will do. With that being said, I did detect sibilance on the VxV. If you are sensitive to sibilance then I wouldn’t recommend hearing the VxV. While I say the VxV mids are solid, honestly I don’t think it is anything special. Or maybe I’m overlooking something….

    Treble I have issues as referenced above. I felt there isn’t enough treble on certain recordings that really make it pop (Ice-T OG Original Gangster). I honestly thought most of the time the treble was just well….weak. I guess this is what @shotgunshane referenced as a lighter treble. At this point I do agree here. With that being said I’ll have to admit if you are ultra sensitive to treble then this is something you might want to consider. On my end if you raise the volume higher than usual, the bass could overpower the treble on some recordings. I cal this an ewww.


    Conclusion
    :

    I’m not going to have an other thoughts section here. Long story short I’m not a fan. With that being said I don’t think the VxV is horrible. I just didn’t “click” with it I guess. I may not be a fan of it, but you might be a fan if you hear it. As usual, give it a shot.
     
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  13. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Fir Audio Vxv IEM
    Frequency Response
    upload_2021-6-18_22-27-41.png

    These actually remind me of the Andromeda 2020 somewhat, but with more sparkle in the mid-treble. I'm with @shotgunshane on the impressions.

    Fir Audio Vxv IEM (BLU/RED) vs Andromeda 2020 (GRY)
    Frequency Response
    upload_2021-6-18_22-33-19.png

    The VxV is warm, full-bodied, a bit-laid back, with some sparkle up-top. No earache from treble peaks. I find the integration between the DD and BA drivers to be excellent, not only in the glue, but also in timbre. Well, at least much better than would expected given the differences in drivers. For example, the 2 Blessing Dusk has good cohesiveness around the transition region, but the BA really stood up like a sore thumb in the highs. With the VxV, this doesn't happen, although the dark sloped tuning likely helps.
     
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  14. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Fir Audio VxV
    Distortions vs Frequency at Various SPL
    upload_2021-6-18_22-58-17.png

    The third-harmonic (H3) is a bit on the high side from the upper bass on up to the mids. Even at lower levels, H3 is high around the mids. For BA type drivers, we usually see H3 grouped closer together with respect to SPL where by the time we reach the higher SPLs, the second-harmonic dominates (H2). Below 60Hz, the behavior looks like a DD.
     
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  15. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    Fir Audio VxV
    Impedance and Electrical Phase
    upload_2021-6-18_23-5-43.png

    With higher Zout, we will end up with a darker sound. The effect will be notable.
     

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  16. Biodegraded

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    Predicted linear distortions for Fir Audio VxV with amps of various Zout relative to a notional 0 Ohm amp (horizontal red line at 90 dB):

    Orange: 2.5 Ohms; Sony DAPs, Ifi iEMatch dongle 'High-Sensitivity' setting (top curve)
    Green: 4 Ohms; Ifi Nano/Micro BL iEMatch jack, approx. Valhalla 2 low gain
    Blue: 10 Ohms; HiBy R6 OG
    Purple: 26 Ohms; SW51 low Z output, Loxjie P20 balanced (bottom curve)

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    FiR VxV

    [​IMG]


    In Brief:
    I have pretty differing impressions compared to @shotgunshane and @purr1n
    The VxV is pretty nice sounding iem. It’s natural with a bit of midrange recession and treble emphasis, and slightly bass lite actually. Great, tight bass though some of the nicest quality bass in any iem ive heard. It’s got great timbre across the spectrum and impressive soundstage. I absolutely agree with @purr1n about cohesiveness. They do a great job here.

    Aesthetics:
    I absolutely hate the stupid faceplate. Branding has no place on expensive headphones or iems. Fuck off with your logo and shove it up your ass.

    Comfort:
    Excellent, no complaints at all. They fit perfectly and stay in my ears, and the nozzle is the right length to fit tips, unlike many iems which have nozzles that are too long.

    Sound:

    With my reference Penon tips:

    Treble is tipped up a bit though has good timbre, no plastic-y ness found here

    Midrange is a bit recessed, putting vocals back in the mix

    Bass is definitively on the lite side of neutral, but is maybe the best quality iem bass I’ve heard. Extremely tight, controlled and detailed. Sounds very natural, there just isn’t enough of it. It beats the og Solaris for quality, but looses in the end due to FR balance.

    Soundstage is really impressive, maybe the 3rd best iem ive heard for soundstage. Soranik Bastille -> og Solaris -> FiR VxV

    Timbre is excellent throughout the spectrum. FiR really did a great job here. Very little BA timbre. The best iem for timbre outside of the CA og Solaris and Solaris SE.. Yes, I prefer the timbre of this iem to the Ara which I find too dry sounding.

    Final Thoughts:
    It’s too bad they didn’t get the FR a little more balanced because these iem’s do a lot right. I’m not sure who these would appeal to given the very unique tuning of bass lite, slightly recessed midrange and slightly tipped up treble. If clarity, soundstage and timbre of utmost importance to you and you can live with the FR signature, these would be a great choice. But get a used og Solaris save yourself a bunch of money and you’ll have a more technically capable iem with better FR. If the og Solaris doesn’t fit due to it’s size, and the FR isn’t a deal breaker these are a good option.

    Tip Rolling:
    I was able to lower the treble peak and bring up bass to about neutral levels with some shallow wide bore tips (I unfortunately can’t remember what brand). Vocal recession improved as well. However, in bringing down the treble the treble timbre suffers a bit. It’s just a bit on the dull side. So with the right tips, these are very capable iems, but the og Solaris is still the better iem and can be had for much less used. But for 1000$ and the right tips, I highly recommend these iems. Very natural, huge soundstage, great bass, excellent timbre. I would rank these in my top 5 favorite iems overall with the right tips.
     
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