Vision Ears Phonix and EXT Reviews

German in-ear monitors brand Vision Ears is back with two new models, the purple-loving EXT and the luxious PHöNIX. These are both high-end IEMs with high-end prices, at $3000 and $4000 USD values respectively. This article will go over my short impressions of the two IEMs as I've only got a short time period to play with them as part of the Audio Tiers Vision Ears tour.

The EXT comes in an amazing royal purple color and if you know me, I love me some purple. The IEM has both a metal purple lidded carrying can, and matching metal purple shell faceplates on the IEM itself. The EXT is a unique hybrid driver configuration consisting of two dynamic drivers and four electrostatic-tweeters. The 2 DDs are used for bass and mids, while the 4 ESTs are used for treble.

On the other hand, the PHöNIX is a 13-BA driver IEM with a gold and red faceplate with a phoenix bird logo on each shell. The driver configuration has 4 BAs handling each of the bass, mids, and high section with a special additional BA for the extended treble, and is marketed as the spiritual successor to VE's most expensive set, the ERLKöNIG. 

Sound Impressions

First off, a safety tip: Phonix, like many VE iems, is ultra-sensitive, so be careful listening to this. It'll get loud quick. The EXT isn't nearly as sensitive and is more aligned with other IEMs on the market in terms of how sensitive it is to volume differences.

I listened to both of these IEMs primarily off my Chord Mojo/Poly portable DAC/Amp setup streaming Roon music. I also played these with a small amount of time on the Hiby R5 Saber Digital Audio Player. I didn't try these with my desktop DAC/Amp setup due to the high sensitivity of these IEMs unfortunately, and due to not being able to go to my work office during this short demo period, I was unable to try these on more volume-matched desktop gear from Topping.


I'm going to start my impressions with the more expensive PHoNIX. A while back, maybe a year and half ago, I spent some time with the Vision Ears ERLKoNIG, and was pretty impressed with the warm, soothing, and high technical sound that it provided. It had classic buttery-smoothness of Vision Ears IEMs, while providing a great intimate and enjoyable listen for rock music and singer-songwriter tunes.

The PHoNIX takes my favorite tuning of the ERLKoNIG's 4 options (#2 being my favorite), and improves its mid-range performance and extends and smooths out its treble range. With these small little tweaks, Vision Ears has created a very impressive warm-tuned IEM that takes my enjoyment factor up a notch. I don't have the ERLKoNIG with me so I can't compare side-by-side, but I will say that I have spent a good amount of time with the PHoNIX in my ears and have continued to like listening to music on it.

The initial listen was a little different, coming from listening a lot of IEMs tuned with more sub-bass focus and drier midrange, but after a quick adjustment period, I was able to recapture my not-typical enjoyment of a warm, laid-back tuning. The PHoNIX played well with Norah Jones, and with Iron & Wine.

With the latter, I listened to Iron & Wine's collaboration effort with Calexico from back in the mid 2000's called "He Lay in Reins" and found this blissful combination to be splendid. Vocals were soft and gentle, and the varied instrumentation of acoustic guitars, bass, drums, steel pedals and a mix of other percussions came out with exacting detail, but also non-fatiging and open. It was a taking a song that in many headphones and IEMs, can sound a little claustrophobic and closed-in, and being able to separate the instruments and bring out the smallest and lightest strokes, hits, and echos to light, and without a crowded feeling.

I would not say that the PHoNIX has a grand and large soundstage. In fact, I think its more on the average side, but it has a good to great ability to pinpoint instruments to where they need to lie in space, and that imaging and separation can make everything sound highly detailed, and enjoyable.

As with many VE IEMs I've tried in the past, they have done a great job here with coherence. It's not always a term I use often, but typically when I do, it is because the IEM stands out in this area where others are just normal. Vision Ears have always shown excelled in this area, and I think the PHoNIX is no different. Smooth transitions from bass to mids to treble are norm here, and I enjoy the extended treble without a sense of harshness or disjointedness either. Things come together well.


The EXT is what I would consider Neutral-tuned with a big bass boost that is quite tasteful, enjoyable, and should be a very popular tuning choice. In popular IEM-world terms, the EXT has a sound quality that someone who enjoys the Moondrop IEMs but with more clean bass and more emotive soul and resolution. It's FR is generally trending towards the basic Moondrop Aria, or Kanas Pro/KXXS series, but of course, I do find that the driver is quite limited in those budget-tier IEMs. 

Instead, the Vision Ears EXT has very good resolution, and is a more coherent sounding IEM, despite being a mixed-driver package of dynamic drivers and EST drivers. It does have a couple small flaws, however.

I do find the EXT to be a little more in your face at times, especially compared to the PHoNIX, which is smoother, more gentle and elegant in its approach. The EXT is a bit more of a fun IEM and with that, the bass can slam, though it's not necessarily the most impact IEM out there.

Outside of the Moondrops, of course, I compared the EXT a little bit to my Empire Ears Odin, which has generally similar tonal balance, with the Odin being a little more forward in its upper mids presentation. The EXT is priced at $3K while the Odin is $3.4K. I found the Odin to have more punch, more slam, more bass texture and tactility, and a more open soundstage with equal smoothness in its treble range. While the EXT has little to really complain about, it is a step below the Odin overall, but also comes in at a smaller price tag.

Now comparisons aside, the EXT is a solid-all arounder. Its tuning is likely to be a favorite amongst many, and it has many of the technical chops that VE typically brings.

Final Thoughts

Both of these IEMs are well-designed and have solid tuning. They are also quite pricey in the grand scheme of things, but come from a well-respected, small IEM company. I love the appearance of both the EXT and PHoNIX, and the technical ability of both is rock-solid as expected. While the EXT is only perhaps average in this aspect compared to tough competition, it has a likeable tonal balance that will appeal to many. The PHoNIX is a bit warmer and laid-back and will work great for the right music and for long listening sessions, and its technical ability still shines through even with the thicker wall of music that many lesser IEMs would just sound muddy and lacking.