If you're looking for a flagship IEM that boast among the best resolution and clarity money can buy along with powerful well extended lows and exquisitely refined highs then the Anole VX deserves your consideration!
- Outstanding resolution and detail retrieval delivered in a smooth and natural manner
- Great coherent soundstage with top tier imaging
- Blazing fast transients
- Among the best in class bass response with superb control and textures
- Highly refined treble with top tier extension
- Signature coherence is maintained accross the switch settings
- Superb and flawless build quality
- Reversed polarity of the connector and protruding socket design means regular aftermarket upgrade cable won’t be usable without adapters or subpar comfort
- The QDC Anole VX can be fatiguing to listen to (except for the all switches off setting).
Price : 2440$ (universal), 2650$ (custom)
Fit, Build & Isolation
The QDC Anole VX universal feature a flawless build and look and feel sturdy, with a transparent with silver glittery finish. Each earpiece feature a 3 position (bass, mids, highs) switch with on and off position equating to 8 tuning options. The switches look sturdy and present a fair amount of resistance which means there is no chance of accidentally switching them. So much so that you’ll need the tool to do so, forget fingernails there.
The socket is a protruding 2pin 0.78, not my favorite option as it will only fit specific cables that were designed for it contrary to a recessed socket. To make matters worse, the polarity of the pins are reversed which means regular pre-formed cables or earhooks will be oriented the wrong way. This is pretty puzzling for a product aiming at the TOTL segment where most of us will want to be able to use aftermarket cables.
QDC audio is a chinese brand with a parent company (Shenzhen Qili Industrial) that has a somewhat unusual background in high tech police and military products. Since the Anole V6 and 8 BA Gemini, their products have gained some traction with artists and audiophiles but their top of the line Anole VX put them on the map as a flagship to be reckoned with. This is all the more remarkable that in the days of tribrids with brand new tech, the full BA flagships have become the exception although IEMs like Vision Ears VE8 or Custom Art FIBAE7 have shown masterfully tuned all BA flagship still have some fight left in them! As I often say, tuning is still the heart of the craft, tech comes second.
Given the praise I have heard about the Anole VX, I was very curious to discover my first QDC product and I must heartily thank Doug Campbell (Doug2507 on head-fi.org) for offering to loan the QDC Anole VX for a month so that I can review QDC’s flagship.
I am a curious guy so I wondered when the “Anole” term comes from and discovered it refers to a “family of lizards native to warmer parts of the Americas, ranging from southeastern United States to Paraguay.” (Wikipedia). A reference to the versatility of the switch system, no doubt.
I usually like to check a brand’s claim about a product based on what qualities or hint at their tuning intent the make on their product page. The QDC Anole VX product page doesn’t provide much on this front except for ” VX is a kind of nerve agent with more toxic than Sarin in military, one of the deadliest chemical weapons. So you should have more preparation before audition, as it is a “toxic” earplug.” The military analogy certainly shows where the brand comes from and it’s definitely some humor there but consider me warned 😉
Since I have no hint about the signature the brand aimed for except maybe that they aimed at making the VX addictive, let’s dig into the signature a little bit and check out for ourselves!
I started to listen to the QDC Anole VX with all the switches down to get a sense of the baseline signature. In this configuration the three things struck me right away : top notch resolution, blazing fast transients and fantastic bass. I am not too inclined on maximum retrieval signatures as it’s not my primary objective in an IEM and this usually comes with a rather analytical bend but the Anole VX is does so in an effortless and natural sounding way that avoids this pitfall.
The overall signature of the QDC Anole VX all switches off is rather reference with a touch of fun, a signature that I have mainly seen done right in the InEar Prophile 8. The Anole VX takes it a step further though, as its switches have a greater boost than the PP8, especially the bass switch that goes into full bass-head territory. Even all switches off, QDC Anole VX has more bass and treble presence, and goes a step beyond in terms of refinement especially in the treble section.
The Anole VX bass is one of its highlight, even with the switch off, you get a tight, impactful and speedy bass that will contribute to define a strong rythmic baseline and impart a definite sense of rythm and strong foundations. This is clearly a fantastic BA implementation with good sub extension and flawless technical qualities. It also allows the Anole VX good soundstage depth.
The control remains perfect even with the bass switch on, the mid bass is really audiophile bass done right with enough emphasis to provide a satisfying body to percussions but not too much as to not overpower the signature. This is true even with an excellent mid tier DAP like iBasso DX160. Cayin N6ii and N8 will bring yet other levels of control an authority bringing the Anole VX to heights very few balance armature IEM can reach.
At first I found the bass switch on to be too much bass quantity but with the right tracks it can really bring more body to the overall leaner nature of the Anole VX. That’s the real versatility of the switch system. In the end I found myself using bass off setting only when mids and highs are off and the bass on setting either on mids on, treble on or mids on, treble off.
The Anole VX midrange, whichever setting is used is very accurate and articulate. Note attack has snap and decay is quite fast, it’s a clear and clean midrange with an accurate tone. In that sense if the Anole VX didn’t have a clear touch of fun in the lows and highs, the mids would have come across as a “reference” tuning.
The Anole VX features a slight vocal emphasis that is more apparent on female than male vocals due to a leaner lower midrange but the VX mids are not thin by any standards either. In fact I’d say it’s very balanced in that respect with enough lower mids to grant the midrange sufficient body, you just might find yourself wanting for more power to male vocals. This is a very different story though for female vocals which really shine on the Anole VX. There is this delicious ability to go to the edge and never cross over to sibilance or harshness.
Instrument’s timbre are spot on and with the mids switch on there is satisfying upper mids bite while remaining smooth at all times : sign of a mature, refined and masterful tuning. When switching over to a SummitFi DAP like Cayin N8 – especially in Tube mode – this all takes another dimension and all those qualities are even more apparent. The Anole VX do scale and in a big way, their potential is very high.
My favorite setting is with the mids switch on when bass is on. I’d leave the switch off only on the all off setting. When the mids switch is off, the mids are less forward, which means a bass on, mids off and highs on setup will result in a more V shaped signature. On the flipside bass off, mids on and highs off will make the mids the most forward with less perceived overall body.
The Anole VX treble along with its bass attract quite a bit of attention and play a key role in its signature providing the Anole VX an outstanding clarity, separation and definition. This is a superb treble, that is more refined than energetic, with an upper treble emphasis rather than exicting lower treble.
This remains true wether the treble switch is off or on, the only difference I am hearing is more treble presence when the switch is on. I actually set the treble switch to on when the mids switch was on, otherwise transition between mids and treble seemed off to me.
QDC really has found a superb balance in the treble section, and the upper treble presentation brings out exquisite details in an effortless and smooth manner. Transients are simply beautiful and the Anole VX overall speed is impressive but not too fast either : note decay is very natural and that’s the beauty of the balance QDC has struck here. Lower treble is not as exciting and clear sounding as say the Andromeda but it’s just the right amount to provide a delicate and nuanced excitement so to speak. Guitar picks on upper notes are a treat as well as hi hats, there is definite energy just not too much to steal the attention from the overall scene.
Again, this refinement is even more delightful on the Cayin N8 using the 3.5 out on Tube mode. The Anole VX is only the second IEM I have heard after Vision Ear’s VE8 to provide this level of treble refinement in a natural way. The VE8 features a tad warmer tone and slower decay with notes lingering a bit more but both are absolutely SummitFi in that respect.
When Doug contacted me on head-fi to offer me to loan his Anole VX for almost a month I felt really lucky to be able to finally audition one of the most praised TOTL IEM in 2019 but also discover the QDC brand and what a treat it was. I can’t thank Doug enough for his trust and kindness, as I am sure parting with his Anole VX for such a long while wasn’t that easy. I am glad he did though, and this is a testimony to the great community at head-fi.org.
The QDC Anole VX is a stunning flagship. If you’re looking for a flagship that boast among the best resolution and clarity money can buy along with powerful well extended lows and exquisitely refined highs then the Anole VX deserves your consideration!
The switch system makes the Anole VX all the more flexible although I honestly found only a few combination that bring the best out of it : all switches off for a more laid back experience, all switches on might be the most fatiguing but it’s also the most stunning but there is bass and mids on or mids and high on for a less fatiguing variant to play with.
All is not that clear cut though, at this price point you’ll have some thinking to do as the competition is fierce and the quabbles like reversed polarity and protruding sockets might just be blockers especially if you intend to use your favorite upgrade cables. A shame really as I somewhat wondered what the custom fit can add to the table an reach even greater heights.
I spent approximately 60 hours with the QDC Anole VX, listening on Cayin N8 and N6ii with the E01 and T01 motherboard. I also tested the Anole VX on iBasso DX160.
Thanks to Doug Campbell (Doug2507) for providing me with his personal QDC Anole VX unit for over 3 weeks. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.
- Driver configuration : 10 BA
- Sensitivity : 110-113dB
- Frequency response : 10Hz-20000Hz
- Noise isolation: 26dBMonitor plug: 3.5mm(1/8″)
- Technical feature: 3 sound channels, 3 crossover