A little over two months ago, I reviewed the V-Moda Vibe IEMs and gave them a somewhat unfavorable evaluation due to somewhat muddy, uncontrolled bass, a recessed midrange and only decently clear highs. I did mention that the Vibes benefitted from a good dedicated amp but, after using them again recently with my CMoy for an extended period of time, I don’t think I gave these IEMs enough credit. When paired with my CMoy amp (no bass boost), the V-Moda Vibes really come into their own. It’s such a drastic change that I’m surprised that these are the same IEMs.
Like I said in my earlier review, the Vibes benefit considerably from a good amp but I failed to really elaborate on exactly what that entails, which I’ll do now. For review purposes, I had used them with my Fiio E5 which, while adequate in some scenarios is still a relatively weak amp, all things considered so the difference wasn’t very pronounced. When I used my more powerful CMoy amp, the Vibes became an entirely different beast.
The bass which, to me, was muddy and poorly controlled before, is tightened up quite a bit and the surprisingly good level of detail that was once overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of bass that the Vibes put out is now easy to perceive. With the increased tightness on the low end, the perceived quantity of bass drops a bit as well but that’s not at all a bad thing as there’s still quite enough of it to go around. These aren’t exactly what I’d call bass-head IEMs but the low end is plenty satisfying to me, a self-proclaimed bass-head myself.
The midrange, which was easily washed out on busier tracks because of the size of the low end is no longer threatened because of the newfound tightness of the bass and it actually sounds quite lively. The midrange comes forward slightly and no longer sounds as far recessed or veiled as it once was. While it does seem a tiny bit farther back compared to the bass and treble (more on that in a moment) it doesn’t feel like it lacks anywhere near as much in terms of detail and resolution as it does when unamped. Vocals are full bodied and natural sounding as well.
Treble is another area these IEMs shine in and improve on when amped. Clarity increases, which adds a good deal more sparkle to the presentation and the highs seem to resonate with more detail and warmth. They lack a bit in terms of crispness but they aren’t harsh either so the listening experience is non-fatiguing. Treble extension is still good and doesn’t seem to improve much (if at all) when amped.
The soundstage, which was already very wide and three dimensional sounding improves even more in width and dimensionality. I haven’t heard another IEM that can match it in terms of width and depth of its soundstage. Imaging and positioning are good as well, and instruments sound well separated and spaced appropriately within the virtual stage.
Allow me to clarify one thing. The V-Moda Vibes certainly don’t sound “bad” when used straight out of a digital audio player (DAP) but they didn’t “wow” me either, even considering how inexpensive they are. They always seemed like they had potential to be very good IEMs but that potential just wasn’t realized. One of the main reasons why I was so critical of them before is because I felt that they were outperformed by less expensive IEMs (considering the retail price) such as the MEElectronics M9. Now, after using them with an amp and considering the price I paid for them, I can’t help but think that they are of exceptional quality. I don’t really think about them when I’m listening to my music because I’m having too much fun to care. The sound signature is clear, detailed, well separated and, perhaps most importantly, fun.
Believe me when I tell you, these absolutely, positively need to be amped to unleash their true potential. These aren’t giant killers but their sound quality is actually quite good, especially considering that these can be found for as low as $10 from legitimate sellers on eBay. Heck, I’d even go as far as to say that these wouldn’t be a bad choice at the regular retail price of about $50 – $60 but since they can be found so cheaply online, there’s no reason to pay that much for them unless you’re particularly anal about your IEMs being brand new and/or having the retail packaging. If you have a good amp, these are an absolute steal at $15 and I will no longer hesitate to recommend them.