Vision Ears Phonix: Bold Colours.
When I received the Phonix, I didn't really know what to expect. My experience with Vision Ears has mainly been owning the VE8 (which I loved) and auditioning the Erlkonig quickly in a noisy coffee shop.
When I first heard the Phonix, I was both blown away and confused. The sound was clearly bold. Bass sounded impactful but different from my other iems with a healthy dose of bass boost. The stage seemed quite big but vocals and some instruments were clearly forward. Something was different to other stuff I heard before.
I was intrigued and decided to look a bit more into it.
Some people say graphs don't matter but in this case they actually tell the story. This is how Phonix graph compares to the ThieAudio V16 and the Hidition Violet:
Looking at the graphs, I finally identified what was going on: the bass is very mid bass focused and the lower mids are clearly emphasised. Phonix clearly carries the Vision Ears house signature. Call this an extended VE8 if you want.
The issue here is that there is a clear price to pay for that mid bass: stage depth and micro detail perception. The human ear (mine anyway) probably can't really deal with that much low end and have a cohesive spatial representation. Or that’s my speculation anyway.
Comparing Phonix to the V16 and Violet, I realised the stage was wide but not very deep with the default tuning.
So I did what I love doing the most: EQ! In fact, I EQ'd Phonix to be closer to the V16 graph. And boom, the stage became deeper, the sound airier in and the sub bass reached a bit deeper. This said, the sub bass doesn't go as deep as V16 and certainly not as deep as Violet, the bass monster. I don't believe in using EQ to take good sets too far from their original signature. While the signature became closer to the V16 or Violet, the mid bass dominance is still somewhat there.
Phonix is a supremely technical iem and belongs in the highest iem tiers in terms of technicalities. Bass control is wonderful, separation and background details are as good as it gets. Dynamics are fantastic, the sound is clearly big and bold. Separation and micro details are top notch. This is one special iem in that regard.
Tonal balance won't be for everyone though.
In conclusion, it boils down to preferences. If the VE8 signature was your thing, Phonix takes it to the next level with more impactful bass and better treble extension while keeping the lush mids (though not as lush the VE8). If you prefer a more reference sounding iem with a healthy sub bass boost, this ain’t the one.