With the IEM battle between Chi-Fi manufacturers moving towards hybrid configuration approach, TRN released the new VX with hybrid configuration and jaw-dropping 7 drivers to stand in the arena.
Similar to a lot of Chi-Fi manufacturers like KZ, TRN does not have an official website to introduce their company background to fellow users. Based on my understanding, after reading from forums like Head-Fi, TRN is a Chinese IEM manufacturer, who has been very active in releasing budget IEMs, catering to the needs of audiophiles with stricter budgets.
In recent years, Chinese manufacturers have been constantly increasing the driver count in their IEMs to overcome the limitation of drivers, while preserving the price. It is no longer a surprise to see IEMs with 8 or 10 BA drivers per side with a price tag that is less than USD$100. Following the crowd, TRN is heading towards IEMs with hybrid configuration and high driver count. VX is one of them.
Does the sound signature improve proportionally to the increase of driver count? We will reveal the truth in this article, by taking a closer look on 7-drivers-per-side VX!
- Lightweight magnesium alloy shell
- Affordable price
- Accurate bass
- Can be easily driven
- Brittle mids
- Narrow soundstage
- Stiff highs
- Sub-par stock cable
- Bright and technical sound signature
This could be the simplest unboxing experience on Headphonesty, since my first review of E1000 from Final Audio. To minimize the cost imposed on consumers, TRN decided to go with a simple packaging. The packaging is in a white box, no additional protection for the content inside. The model name and brand logo are printed on the box to inform consumers that yes, this is TRN VX.
Opening the box, here are the accessories that you can get from the box:
- Stock cable (3.5mm TRS unbalanced terminated)
- 3 pairs of silicone ear tips (S,M and L)
- User manual
- Warranty card
- Inspection certificate
That’s all for the unboxing. Yes, no pouch or storage case. I am using my Pelican case 1010 which cost around half of the IEMs’ price to protect it.
- Driver: 1x10mm dual-neodymium magnet DD, 3×30095 BAs, 3×50060 BAs
- Impedance: 22Ω
- Sensitivity: 107dB/mW
- Frequency response: 7-40000Hz
- Cable termination: 3.5mm TRS unbalanced Straight Plug
- Cable length: 1.25m
- Connector: protruded 2-pin 0.75mm
Design and build
I still remember when the VX was just launched, a lot of netizens called it “Meze Rai Penta inspired IEMs”.
Yes, they do have similar physical appearance, in terms of the shell shape and ergonomics design. Meze Rai Penta with a four digit price tag definitely has a better finish compared to VX (which is designed to be a savior for audiophiles with stricter budgets). The VX is made of 2 pieces of computer numerical control (CNC) machined magnesium alloys, for inner and outer shells respectively.
If you read my previous review on Sony’s IER series, you will realise that VX is using the same shell as the Sony’s IER series. Amazing, right?
With the help of magnesium alloy, the shell is light and does not exert pressure on my ears when I am wearing it. The nozzle is made of aluminium. There is a lip to provide a better catch to ear tips. The nozzle has a shower-head design, small holes are evenly distributed across the nozzle.
On top of the shell, users can find the 2 pin connector, protruded slightly from the shell and protected with a layer of plastic. This is similar to the connector used by Simgot in their EM2 and EK3. Is it tough to find a replacement cable for this? Yes, if you want a perfect cable that covers the protruded part. Otherwise, you can simply use a typical 2-pin cable on VX, with the protrusion exposed.
For someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) like me, I need the protruded part to be covered. This increases the difficulty exponentially. Luckily, I found the Tripowin C8 that fit perfectly while covering the protrusion. I’m finally comfortable.
The stock cable provided by TRN is sub-par, just like most of the Chi-Fi IEMs such as BLON BL05. Fortunately, HiFiGo is kind enough to provide me with an upgrade cable, from TRN too. However, this cable triggered my OCD. Just as mentioned, this cable does not cover the protrusion.
Well, the build quality is better compared to the stock cable but still a no from me. I need a perfect cable!
Fitting and Isolation
The VX shell can be considered small, especially with 7 drivers cramped inside. I don’t face difficulties with letting the VX sit in my ears for long. However, the nozzle is slightly short, causing the insertion to be shallow. The isolation is below average with the provided stock ear tips.
To me, this is a common issue and, normally, it can be mitigated through ear tips rolling. With slightly longer ear tips, such as Azla SednaEarfit, the isolation can be well-improved.
There are two small vents positioned on the inner side of the shell, for driver flex mitigation, particularly for the DD. The two vents are doing a great job; I feel minimum driver flex while wearing the VX. With the correct positioning of vents, it minimizes the influx of external noise through the vents too.
To analyze the sound performance of VX, I paired it with my reference DAP, Lotoo PAW 6000 as well as my dongle, Lotoo PAW S1 while commuting. Rated at 22 ohms for impedance and 107dB/mW for sensitivity, TRN VX can be easily driven by any DAP and majority of the smartphones.
To have a better fit and more accurate analysis, the isolation is one of the key factors. I used Azla SednaEarfit for reviewing. It gives me better isolation as compared to stock ear tips. This will yield a more precise bass analysis.
The VX has a bright V-shaped sound signature. There is more emphasis on the highs compared to the mids and lows. Because of the brighter profile, the detail retrieval capability of VX is above average compared to the typical warm V-shaped sound signature IEMs. However, the excitement level might be lower because of its slightly analytical profile.
The soundstage of VX is below average. The depth is acceptable for me but for those who are after a deeper or more three-dimensional headroom, the depth will be insufficient. The width to me is a little narrow, due to its overly forward profile. Everything from the VX is brought more forward and closer to the audience. It caused some shoutiness in the vocals and stiffness in the highs.
Powered by a DD, the lows have a significant amount of high quality punch. How do you define a high quality punch in the bass? To me, it needs to be clean and precise, not bleeding towards mids and having a full body. Lows in VX ticked the box. The sub-bass extension is average. It does extend deeply but it becomes shyer as it goes deeper.
This is definitely not a bass-head level IEMs. The rumbles in the bass are weak compared to a lot of hybrid or DD powered IEMs.
I would appreciate it more if some warmth can be injected to the lows, to tame the overall bright sound profile. This might turn overall performance to be more neutral and natural. I do not notice significant bleeding or muddiness in the presentation. The layering has been done well by TRN VX. The fidelity is well preserved.
Moving to the mids, as mentioned in the earlier part of this article, the mids is shy compared to the bass. It has a thin and lean profile or, in a more positive description, is airy and spacious. I think it is a little too airy to the extent that it sounds thin to me. The notes disappeared immediately as it reached the audiences – with no extension or penetration. They quickly decay.
Because of its bright profile and in addition to the thin body, the mids are technical and analytical. In other words, they sound dry to me. Normally, good mids should have a full body, preferably with some amount of warmth to inject some naturalism and emotion to the mids, especially vocal. The dryness in the mids stops me from enjoying my pop tracks.
The highs have the same profile as the mids – bright. However, they aren’t thin at all. I find the highs to be full of details and information, to the extent that notes are crumpled together, forming stiff and unnatural piercing highs. I would call these highs hot. It is sharp and crisp while there is insufficient space for the notes to flex their muscles.
This definitely is a deal breaker for a lot of junior audiophiles who might not have a high treble tolerance.
Despite saying so, the VX could be a good choice for those who are treble-head audiophiles. Although the highs are stiff, it still manages to extend and decay well. There is a negligible amount of distortion at the extended highs portion. If you have great treble tolerance, you might be able to enjoy the treble brought to you by the VX.
We see flaws like unnatural highs, brittle mids, and a narrow soundstage. TRN will have to solve these problems in order for it to be worthy. They need to understand that the driver count is definitely not the most critical factor in manufacturing good quality IEMs.
”The more the merrier” does not apply in designing IEMs. This can be applicable on some simple daily tasks, but not in art. IEMs deliver music, which is an art.
TRN VX is retailing at USD$73. You can purchase it from HiFiGo.