disclaimer: I was sent the Trn VX for review and honestly cannot find the information on which company forwarded them. I apologize for this and if you were the sender, please notify me and I will update this with your information. I have no financial interest in TRN nor have they had any input in this review. If you are interested in the TRN Vx, visit their facebook for more details or their webstore to purchase.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The VX arrived in the standard TRN packaging of white box with line drawing on the front and specs on the reverse. Inside the earpieces sit in a foam tray with all other items tucked neatly beneath it out of view. The total kit consists of earpieces, cable, three sets of silicone tips in small, medium and large, and the instructions. For an $80 retail item, this needed to include some form of case at the very least and probably a better tip selection and some foam tips as well. The lack of a cable tie, shirt clip, foam tips, and case for an item at this price point is going to draw fire from many. If TRN put every dime of that money into the drivers, electronics, and shells, then this may still be a good investment, but initial impressions are somewhat flat for the expenditure involved.
Build partially redeems the VX as the shells are high quality machined aluminum with a nice even green anodized finish and a pleasant scalloped pattern to the exterior. Shells are a 3 part design with the faceplate and inner shell anodized green and the nozzles a satin black. The inner shell has 2 vents one positioned behind the nozzle and the other near the bi-pin connector. I found I could obstruct the top vent depending on the position in my ear and it does impact sound quality so some adjustment may be required to get the right fit. Nozzles have a lip for tip retention and a slight upward rake so the bulk of the earpiece sits behind the nozzles in the ear. Connectors exit the top of the front and are the raised bi-pin style that has become the norm in recent years. Earpieces are clearly marked L/R on the inner shells for ease of indexing. Shells are fairly thin so sit in the ear rather than on it and comfort for me was quite good. The build feels more premium than the packaging, but the cable detracts as it is the same TRN cable packaged with all their budget models so again there seems to be some identity crisis for the VX is it a budget model or is it a flagship?
Inside the VX, you’ll find a 10mm Dynamic driver, and 6 balanced armature drivers (Three each of 30095 and 50060) per ear. All of the 50060 mid-range drivers are housed in the body while 2 of the 30095 high frequency drivers are housed in the nozzle. Nominal impedance is listed as 22Ω with a sensitivity of 107 dB/mW which one would expect to be easy to drive. The VX is easily driven with a phone or tablet and does not gain a lot with higher powered sources. I found some high power sources produced higher distortion in low-end so the dynamic driver seems to prefer the lower powered source devices. Also as power is increased some hiss can be detected at normal listening levels. I found the Cayin N3 to be a good pairing with its lower than standard output as it kept the noise floor black and had adequate power to get more than enough volume from the VX when called for.
This is one place the budget nature of the VX is on full display. The lightweight cable is a 4 strand double twist from the straight jack to the splitter. Both jack and splitter are polished metal barrel shaped housings in a satin black finish and both have a very short strain relief. Above the splitter, twisted pairs head toward the earpieces. No chin-slider is provided even though my cable did not have the mic/remote that normally results in deletion of the slider. The northern end has pre-formed hooks followed by QDC style .75mm bi-pin connectors in clear housings. There are R/L designators on the housings, but they can be very difficult to see. No cable tie or box is provided with the VX making storage a bit awkward so plan on picking up some cable management or a small case should you decide to purchase the VX.
Sub-bass is elevated with a focus on the 50-75Hz range before dropping back slightly in the mid-bass. Extension is good with roll-off not becoming evident until the low 20s. The VX is capable of producing some rumble when called upon but lacks the potency of some other current offerings (Ca-16) in this department. The dynamic driver is faster than average on attack, but not on decay so transients have a good leading edge then kind of trail off a bit more slowly. This can make the mid-bass sound a bit thick at times as a result. Mid-bass does have good detail and texture despite the slightly slower decay. If anything, the mid-bass could use a bit more speed and a bit more emphasis to help balance the top end a bit more.
There is a dip as we move into the mids but not so much as to seem particularly recessed and honestly to my ear the mids are probably the best feature of the VX. Lower mids have good details with very little bass-bleed to obscure them and a natural tonality to lower vocals. True mids follow the same pattern, clean, detailed, and very present in the mix with a push forward that brings vocals out in front and gives electric guitar good growl. Gone is the lazy decay of the dynamic and instead if anything mids are a touch aggressive. Strings have good energy and are well voiced as well. Upper-mids are definitely forward and give the Vx is bright signature when combined with the lower treble as they are the most dominant element of the sound. Here I think they do push a bit further forward than I prefer and can be a bit fatiguing as a result. I did find some tendency to get strident if track leans that way as well.
As previously mentioned, the upper-mids/lower-treble are the focal point of the signature. Luckily, the lower-treble is well-defined with good clarity and detail, un-luckily, it can be a bit too much at times. The true treble drops back and is considerably more polite which keeps the Vx from being piercing. Snare rattle is very good with sharp edges and well defined middle. Cymbals are a touch metallic but still quite believable and crisp. There is a bit of a push around 11kHz that adds back some air at the top end before final roll off somewhere above the limits of my hearing (14 or so). The issue here comes back to that lower treble that gives the VX a shouty nature to vocals that just can’t be ignored. I was able to tune it out with a bit of parametric EQ in the 3-4kHz range but know that this will be needed to keep the VX from reading as extremely bright.
Soundstage / Imaging:
If treble was the weak point, Soundstage is one of the strong points. I has good dimensions with a bit more width than depth and a good sense of height. On tracks that really stress it (Trinity Sessions), the stage sounds very 3D and well shaped. Seating the orchestra is fairly straight forward as well as instrument separation is quite good and leaves adequate space between parts to prevent overlap or slurring between parts. Imaging is very good as well with positioned being tightly defined in space and movements easily tracked and pinpoint precise. The dynamic driver does show some compression as tracks get overly busy, so that is weakest point as far as instrument separation and it does get a bit thick when fed really fast, complex lows.
So how does the VX compare to other current offerings in the same range? I chose to compare the TRN V90 (as the VX predecessor), the CCA Ca16 (direct competitor), the BGVP Zero (price competitive) and Moondrop Starfield (best in class at <$100)
o my mind, the v90 was the predecessor of the VX although I,m not sure how 90 to 10(X) is considered an upgrade. The v90 is a 4+1 arrangement and is roughly 50% of the price tag of the Vx as well. Shell wise the Vx is more refined and more comfortable while the v90 feels a bit chunky by comparison. Sound wise the Vx has less sub-bass, more refined mid-bass and a bit less of it, more definition and detail in the mids. Highs are close on both with the Vx and the v90 sharing a bright overall signature and abundant energy in the lower treble. Stage and imaging are both improved on the Vx so I’d say moves in the right direction but still some work to be done.
These two duke it out in the same price space and in the great driver race 6+1 (VX) vs 7+1 (Ca16). The construction definitely favors the Vx as the plastic shell of the Ca16 looks cheap by comparison. Cables are a wash on both as neither provides something fitting of the quality of the earpieces. Sound wise, the Vx is bright and somewhat aggressive while the Ca16 comes across as a bit more relaxed and cooler. Detail may be slightly better on the Vx, but it is fairly close and not a knockout blow for either. Signatures are enough different that most will have a clear preference with the Vx being a bit more V shaped and lively and the Ca16 a bit closer to neutral and a touch more subdued.
The Zero is also a hybrid, but eschews the “How many drivers can you fit in the shell” model used by TRN in favor of a single dynamic driver and an electret (electrostatic) tweeter. Shells are similar as both are anodized CNC milled aluminum. The Zero is thinner and slightly larger in circumference while the VX is almost twice as thick, but somewhat smaller around. Weight is roughly equal with the Zero feeling a bit lighter in hand. Accessories definitely favor the Zero as it feels like premium kit vs the Vx feeling considerably more budget in this regard. Sound wise, both have great detail, but the Zero sounds cleaner and has a more polite treble while the Vx has a bit more sub-bass energy and more treble energy in its bag of tricks. Again, what separates these two is signature and those preferring a bright energetic signature will gravitate to the Vx while those looking for something a bit closer to neutral will prefer the Zero.
The Starfield is my current standard’s bearer for the sub-$100 class and shares little with the Vx other than a metal shell and a near $100 price. The Starfield uses a painted shell instead of the anodizing on the Vx. One could argue the Vx should hold up better, but with reasonable care, this is likely a tie. The Starfield uses a single dynamic driver instead of the Hybrid model of the VX which gives the Starfield an advantage in coherency but a disadvantage in extension comparability. The Starfield sounds considerably closer to neutral when compared to the VX, but the Vx may have an edge in detail retrieval, but the starfield has better imaging. Stage is roughly equal between the two. Again, signature will decide the winner here with both offering a lot of detail, good build, and good stage. How bright do you like it?
Thoughts / Conclusion:
Well the driver race certainly continues with budget models packing more drivers into a shell than many would have thought economically feasible if physically possible a few years ago. The downside of this arms race has been that in many cases tuning is almost an after-thought. Luckily, TRN does seem to have paid a bit more attention to the tuning than the ill-fated X6 and the Vx is a much stronger offering as a result. The Vx has a lot going for it, it is easy to drive well, has good bass both in quantity and control, and great mids. The place it falls short for me is the upper-mid / lower-treble tuning that is overly energetic and makes the vx brighter than need be. Some will like that tuning, so treble-heads should definitely try this one out. Others will find that with a bit of experimentation they can mod these to their satisfaction, and yet another group will find that with a bit of EQ placed in the right spots, they can be a very good listen. A couple years back these would have been a game changer but with the recent releases upping the bar, these unfortunately for TRN are middle of the pack for the asking price.
- Bass - 6.5/106.5/10
- Mids - 7.5/107.5/10
- Treble - 6/106/10
- Soundstage - 7.5/107.5/10
- Imaging - 7/107/10
Pros: Good build, easy fit, well detailed, good mids
Cons: cable is not fitting of premium model, kit lacking, very bright