Five x Five is the newest release from Fir Audio. It uses a 1DD + 4BA driver configuration, and its design is like nothing else on the market. This little bunny costs $999.
Sound quality for the price
Build quality and design
Even though Fir Audio is one of the youngest companies in the High-End IEM market, they’ve already gained a lot of attention, thanks to their M series. Founded in 2018, these fellas have already released five different models, all of which have been quite successful among both audiophiles and professionals.
Today we’re looking at their newest release – the VxV, Five x Five, 5×5…well, you can probably call them however you want. It is a hybrid in-ear monitor with a very original approach to the design. Needless to say – these have a bunny on their faceplates. Yes, a bunny. Overall, this mascot and a couple of other things create one of the absolute best story-telling in IEM market.
It’s great to see a new company with such a different approach to marketing and previously mentioned story-telling. These two things are often undervalued by many manufacturers. I’ve been working in marketing though, also in the IEM industry and I truly believe, that this is where the interest in your brand starts – in creating a fun, attractive story around your product.
That bunny theme leads us directly to the unboxing experience, which is a very pleasant experience.
First of all, the original packaging comes in outer cardboard, and it is wrapped with bunny-themed tape. How pleased I was when I first saw it in the hands of the courier. I remember thinking – damn, these fellas really know their stuff, they even used a freaking custom tape to further emphasize the whole story about the IEM itself.
Just after I closed the door, I quickly rushed to get my butcher knife and I ripped this little guy apart. Inside, there’s an original box with…you guessed it, a bunny on top!
Other than that, it’s a pretty basic white cardboard box with a yellow seal. But don’t make it fool you, this seal has something very important in terms of this review. “EVERY DAY CARRY”, which is written on it is essentially the perfect way to describe the VxV, but more on that later on.
Inside, you’ll find a round leather case with that fantastic Fir Audio logo on top. Open it up, and you’ll find the IEMs themselves, the cable and a pretty generic set of eartips, so I won’t waste your time with those. Lastly, you’re getting a set of stickers, and I must admit – I’m a huge fan. They are quality, fun and company/product oriented and you could proudly stick them to your laptop or basically anything. Yet another fantastic aspect of story-telling.
The cable included is actually one of the absolutely best stock cables I’ve ever used, at least in terms of comfort and flexibility. It is a silver-plated copper mmcx cable terminated in 2.5mm, which is both the least popular choice on the current market, but at the same time there are the most adapters going from 2.5mm to 3.5mm and 4.4mm, so that’s fine.
Onto the most important thing about the cable – it is fantastically well-built, super flexible and comfortable. If you’re about an absolute sound perfection, you’re probably gonna replace it anyway. But if you simply want a good cable that is a joy to use with your new IEMs, I truly believe this is an absolute stunner. Also, thanks to its coaxial geometry and clear TPU jacket it simply looks like fine jewelry in good lighting conditions. Fantastic.
Build quality and design
I’ll start by saying that the VxV feels and looks much better than it does on the official photos (not to say, that they look bad, not at all), but when I touched them for the first time, I’m not gonna lie – it was a positive surprise.
The shells are made of Hybrid 6000 aluminum and DuPont ® engineering plastic. They feel very solid and lightweight in the hand. The shape is nearly identical to the M-series, which provides great comfort.
Design-wise it’s a great IEM as well. The faceplate of the left IEM has a Fir Audio logo on it, while the right one is a home for yet another bunny. They do reflect the light a little bit and look stunning in good lighting conditions. Overall, a well-build and fun looking IEM.
As stated previously, the VxV inherited the shape from its older brothers in M series. That resulted in a very ergonomic shape that is not too big and sits just about perfectly in the ear. Thanks to the MMCX connectors, the cable can spin and you can easily put it behind your ears, and the overall shape of the IEM makes them easy to insert.
On top of that, the nozzle has an elongated shape which is beneficial to use those in a deep-fit fashion. All of that makes the VxV one of the most comfortable universal IEM I’ve used.
In terms of the tech inside the VxV, there’s not too much to say. It uses a 6mm dynamic driver for the low-end, a 2BA driver for the midrange, 1BA for the high frequencies and 1BA for ultra-high.
Also, there are two Direct Aperture technologies from the M-series implemented: The Direct Bore and Tactile Bass, as well as a modified ATOM module, that provides a pressure-free listening experience.
All of that makes for a refined hybrid construction, which may not be too revolutionary, but the focus is being held on taking the well-known hybrid array and polishing it in a well-thought manner.
Let’s put one thing straight in the beginning – The days of calling $1000 IEMs “High-End” are long gone. With that change, more and more manufacturers are pushing this segment hard, releasing some screaming edge constructions, utilizing EST drivers, Planars and many others. Why am I even mentioning that? Because the VxV offers a different approach to this segment. Instead of pushing as many drivers and as many technologies inside, these are all about being refined and just fantastically tuned.
The bass was the thing that surprised me from the get-go. “Is that really a DD driver?” I thought. Then I focused a little bit and yea, it is. But it is tuned as a BA bass, which is quite impressive actually. Flat, clean, fast and precise, with just a hint of rumble. If you’re looking for a hard-hitting, elevated bass response – these are definitely not your IEMs.
Nonetheless, it has a lot of strengths. Just imagine a well-tuned, precise BA bass and add a bit of an attack and punch from a DD driver, and you’re basically getting the VxV’s bass response. I haven’t heard a single track when it was too weak, or too strong. It might not satisfy bass-heads, but everybody else should be pretty happy with it.
An album by Nils Lofgren called “Acoustic Live” showed how natural and revealing this bass is. I strongly recommend checking this one out.
The midrange is natural, with a slight focus on the lower and upper parts. That means that male vocals have this slight warmth and body to them, which is the best thing that could have happened. Also, thanks to the latter, female vocals are well-pronounced, and they step forward a bit, resulting in a captivating and energetic sound. Melody Gardot really shines thanks to that, with her voice pleasantly vibrating and being full of air. Actually, the VxV has a tendency to create a sense of spaciousness around the mid frequencies. This reminds me of one IEM on the market, which does a similar thing – Vision Ears Elysium.
In terms of detail retrieval and timbre, these are basically as good as it gets in a $1000 price bracket.
The treble is also natural, extended and pleasant sounding. It may lack a bit of an edge if you’re into more Asia-oriented tuning, but hey, there’s plenty of options on the market if you like that kind of presentation. Nonetheless, it’s a very neutral kind of treble that is neither dark nor bright sounding. A good amount of details, yet it’s smooth and refined. It complements the rest of the frequency range perfectly, giving you that signature that is both very universal yet engaging.
While metal could use a bit more energy, it’s still a pleasure to listen to with VxV. Overall, this IEM is well suited to every music genre thanks to its neutral presentation.
Let’s get back to Nils Lofgren “Acoustic Live” album for a while. This is a great showcase of acoustic guitar’s sound with a lot of strings action. The Five x Five handles this music perfectly if you’re looking for an overall natural and pleasant listening experience. Of course, you’re getting more energy and an overall more spectacular sound with IEMs like Campfire Audio Ara or Unique Melody Mest, but those 2 might be tiring after some time actually. You won’t be having this problem with the VxV.
Based on the previous impressions you might actually get a hint of what staging characteristics the VxV has, and you’d be totally right. It sounds natural, simple as that. It’s wide and deep, but it’s not exaggerated in any way. Its biggest strength is imaging, provided by the great separation between instruments and fantastic layering. Thanks to that, the IEM creates a musical sphere around your head, with each instrument placed in its place. While it’s not as impressive as MEST or Solaris 2020 by Campfire Audio, it has its own way of creating an immersive and lifelike soundstage.
I’ve got a couple of thoughts about the Fir Audio VxV. I believe this is an IEM that is easy to overlook as a reviewer. I usually find myself looking for something exciting, different, even crazy about the product, that might differentiate it from the rest of the market. That’s totally true with the Mest, Solaris 2020 or Elysium for example. And then we’ve got the VxV, which stands out by…not having anything that stands out.
And that’s its biggest strength. Remember the “Every day carry” sentence written on the packaging? That’s totally it. This is a remarkable IEM for your everyday listening sessions. Pairs with just about everything, sounds great with every music genre and could meet everybody’s expectations.
VS Campfire Audio Dorado 2020
These two are as different as they could be. The Dorado is a spectacular sounding IEM with heavily boosted bass frequencies and an edgy treble response, resulting in a fun and super engaging sound. VxV on the other hand is much more neutral, calm and universal sounding, and they will suit more people – no doubt about it.
VS Campfire Audio ARA
These two are also different. While both are neutral sounding, the Ara has more edge to the upper midrange and lower treble, resulting in a more brave sounding IEM, which might be more fun sounding in acoustic music. The VxV has a better bass response thanks to the dynamic driver and thicker notes in the midrange.
VS Vision Ears EVE20
I somehow see the EVE20 and VxV as the IEMs competing for the same type of customer. While the EVE is a good every day IEM, I find the newest release from Fir Audio to check more boxes. It is definitely better made, has a more intriguing design and on top of that, the sound is more detailed and neutral.
VS Campfire Audio Solaris 2020
The Solaris 2020 is a thicker and more analog sounding of the two, no doubt about it. It also has a bigger soundstage and more refined, moist vocals. The VxV on the other hand is more neutral and has a more flat bass response. While the CFA is all about charming the listener, the Fir Audio aims more for an easy and forgiving listening experience.
The Fir Audio VxV pairs well with just about everything. It sounds good with Shanling UA1, but tended to sound a bit too dry with that combination.
The JDSLabs Atom stack provided a great energetic boost, which gave them a bit more excitement.
Cayin N3Pro has been a great companion for the Five x Five, both in ultralinear and in balanced mode. While the ultralinear warmed up the midrange and turned them into a quite warm and lush sounding IEM, the balanced output gave me similar results as the Atom stack.
Lastly, a brief listening session with the Lotoo Paw Gold Touch resulted in a stunning amount of details and the staging being absolutely great for a $1000 pair of in-ear monitors. This pair-up could be a bit too neutral and uhm…unexciting for some, but to say it sounded great in terms of technical performance, would be an understatement.
Fir Audio VxV is a phenomenal IEM tuned nearly to perfection. Fantastic, one of a kind story-telling and unboxing experience make for a different, fresh approach to handling a rather expensive audio product. Great stock cable and build quality, in addition to a very mature and pleasant tuning, makes it one of the absolute best IEM that 1000 dollars could get you in the present market. Add an absolutely mind-blowing and super friendly customer service, and you’ll end up with the product that you’re gonna like immediately.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Campfire Audio Dorado 2020, Vega 2020, Lime Ears Aether R, Vision Ears EVE20, Elysium, Meze Rai Penta, Audeze LCD3, Campfire Audio Ara, Noble Audio Khan, Final A8000, Unique Melody MEST, Campfire Audio Solaris 2020, Solaris LE
- Sources– Cayin N3Pro, Lotoo Paw Gold Touch, Cayin N5ii, Fiio M15, Cayin N6ii, Cayin N8, JDSLabs Atom stack, SMSL SU-9 + SH-9