KENNERTON VALI VS FOCAL ELEAR
VALI VS ELEAR by SONG
Teas and Rumba 24/192 flac
Xiomara Laugart – Reclamo Mistico
Vali – Bass guitar has excellent presence and texture. Wood blocks sound very much like real wood blocks. The hand percussion sounds a lot more snappy, rounded and rich. The Vali makes the recording sound warmer and richer. Her voice is less dynamic than on the Elear but the percussion is more dynamic on the Vali. Every hand slap resonates harder and clearer.
Elear – Bass less solid more forward and present. Her voice is more forward and less thick and rich and more dynamic. More airy. The soundstage is slightly larger. Wood blocks sound good here too. Details sound very very similar overall. She has a deeper voice that sound more serious on the Vali but more free on the Elear. More treble on the Elear and a little more fatiguing slightly.
Winner: tie; The percussion of the Vali is very addicting to me personally on the Vali but the more open sound of the Elear is equally appreciated.
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made 24/44 flac
MackleMore&Ryan Lewis – Buckshot (feat. KRS – One)
Vali – More forgiving of the recording quality, The bass sounds slightly less clear. It is more solid but sounds a little more distorted. The male rappers on this track sound better on the Vali. They are more present and forward. They sound a little more stuffy than the Elear’s on this song but it compliments the grungy mood of this song.
Elear- sounds great. The bass punches pretty decently just not as solid as on the Vali but cleaner. It is a little lighter and sounds more balanced and has a more open sound but it is not really necessary for this song. The high hats sound cleaner on the Elear but overall I prefer heavy and rich punchiness on the Vali for this song. Adlibs popped more from the background than with the Vali.
Winner: Vali very slightly. I actually played the song on repeat on the Vali and forgot about analyzing it. Fun times.
Mary J. Blige
The London Sessions 24/96 flac
Whole Damn Year
Vali – Kick drums start off more percussive. Bass is heavier and weightier. Mary J’s voice actually sounds more rounded and soulful on the Vali. I went into this songs expecting the Elear to win but as soon as she sings its pretty much an easy choice on this song. I started with the Elear on this song. It is almost like Kennerton used this song to tune these headphones. Here voice is not recessed at all and very much up close with good depth.
Elear – Slightly less rich, sounds great but makes the recording sound as if it is not as clear as it does with the Vali. It sounds more like a recording on the Elear whereas the Vali sounds more realistic. The bass is clean, the space is very natural. Perhaps Mary and Xiomara with there voices sitting heavily in the midrange proper and not having a lot of upper midrange extension plays better for the Vali.
Winner: Very easily the Vali
Good Advice – Tidal
‘La La Lie’ and ‘Fool’
Vali – I don’t think this is a high quality recording but it sounds stuffy on the Vali and her voice is not cutting through. The bass is more present but it sounds less open, less clear, less open. Not really liking the effect on the Vali and it feels congested. ‘Fool’ sounds better than ‘La La Lie’ but still not as good as the Elear on this song. When things pick up and get busy I feel like some instruments don’t cut through the mix as well as on the Elear but the Bass is more solid for sure. Her voice cuts through the mix on ‘Fool’ just not as well as the Elear.
Elear – The Elear reveals the recording quality and file fidelity to not be as good as the previous songs, however her voice does not sound tucked back and cuts through the recording very well. When she belts to make her voice cut out from the texture of rasp it sounds very nice and clear. On ‘Fool’ I turn it up get lost. Where as going back on the Vali I turn it up to get the same emotion
Winner: Very easily the Elear
Bring it Home 24/192 flac
Vali – Wow that stand up bass is very engaging on the Vali. This is from swapping already from the Elear. The Elear sounds more open but on the left channel that banjo is very much more present and just stuck there as real in presence as can be. I wish for a little more air like the Elear has. Her voice sounds cool too. Again I was really expecting the Elear to take the cake here since it is more open and has a consistent clarity to it, never sounding stuffy. But the Vali does pretty good.
Elear – More spacious. That banjo(sorry if I named the instrument wrong) resonates with less richness than on the Vali but there is more air around it and it sounds more a part of the recording. The bass is less punchy but actually sounds better balanced and true to the recording whereas the Vali is emphasizing it a little too much. I am hearing good texture from the bass on the Elear when the cords vibrate. Her voice is more delicate and sophisticated on the Elear.
I would have an inner debate for a while and go back and for with these headphones but I know the average person may find the Vali too rich on this song. The Elear’s would be the winner here too. While I personally like the Vali more on this song.
Elear VS Vali by Aspect
Attack: not sure they are both really good
Decay: Elear wins for having a little less decay
Dynamics: Very close but for vocals the Elear, Percussion the Vali if it is lower than 1000hz in the frequency response
Midrange balance: Elear
Upper mids qty: Elear (which has a bit of a dip itself)
Lower mids qty: Vali
Soundstage: Elear (don’t expect a super spacious headphone though). It casts a larger soundstage even though the Vali is better separated and produces larger images.
Bass solidity: Vali
Bass control: tie
Bass texture: Vali slightly
Bass quantity: Vali
Bass cleanliness: Elear that has less distortion
Sub bass presence: Vali is stronger at 50hz
Sub bass extension: Elear goes deeper
Treble smoothness: Vali
Treble presence: Elear
Details and resolution: Tie… very much a Tie
Refinement, least distortion: Elear
Transparency or clarity: Elear Very much song dependent but the lighter, open sound of the Elear gives it the edge
Comfort: Elear.. Vali is not even close.
Build: Not sure because the Demo unit has a screw from the logo ring loose and my own pair was broken and I have had no problems with the Vali build.
Overall punchiness: tie; track dependent. I enjoy this aspect on the Vali more though but on the more objective side of things I don’t really know
Overall more engaging: you have rich and punchy vs balanced and punchy…again track dependent.
Most Visceral: Vali since it has the denser tones it is much more visceral. Meaning when it does punch it does it with a heavier hand. The Elear jabs the Vali throws hooks.
I will have to give the the super HD650 title to the Elear. The upper mids sound more in line with what someone wanting a super HD650 would go for. There has never been a headphone to come closer to that title than the Elear… it is a super HD650. In the meet one gentleman was very impressed with the Vali and really wanted one. The hype surrounding the Elear will obviously gain it more popularity as well as the looks and design but for reasons above some may prefer the Vali. I for one like both very much and find the Elear less seductive than the Vali but overall would recommend the Elear to the average listener as the less polarizing choice.
Miceblue on head-fi said the revision made nice improvements but was still a little rich for his blood. Me I say bring it on but totally understand his perspective. Over-development in the bass and midrange proper or lower mids does not cater well to the average audiophiles desire of hearing every little detail easily. Even though the details are there and very much so, you may subconsciously disregard the Vali’s inner detail because it is different than audiophile tuning. Some songs the Elear sounds much more clear and open while others the Vali literally takes the instruments at the core and pulls them in fullness for you to hear.
Him and another member whose ears I really appreciate mentioned the Vali to be recessed in midrange on some songs. He used the word withdrawn. I attribute that to the upper midrange. It is is easier to hear this on busy passages. The opposite is true on some songs where they are very forward because of the lower midrange warmth. Take for example the ‘Black Dog’ song above. The Vali plays that banjo stronger and it resonates with more presence than on the Elear. Yet on another song the Elear makes a females voice cut through the mix like a hot knife through butter in comparison.
One thing that is apparent about the Vali is that its separation is Great. The instruments are carved out in the flesh with very good presence. Details retrieval, not once gave anything up to the Elear, in fact some songs made me think it was more detailed. The Elear has a more open and clean sound so it sounds more transparent but like on a couple of songs above the Vali sounded more clear. So it is hard to definitively declare a winner for detail retrieval.
The win would go to the Vali if I was choosing for bass. The Elear bass is a definite step up from the 650 and unlike the Dharma, it is solid, clean and punchy just not as heavy and hard as the Vali.
The Elear has less flaws overall and I think it can handle all songs well and the Vali may struggle with a couple. I love Kennerton and have developed a bias for its bass and lush sound but the truth is the truth… More people will prefer the Elear and it showed in the meet we had when I roughly estimated a consensus. It is the more broadly appealing headphone.
The Vali is a specialist with a few offenses:
specialties – Tonal weight and focus, timbre richness, dynamics, percussion (probably the best I have heard), separation, smoothness, bass solidity
offenses – comfort, thickness, upper midrange withdraw, treble extension
The Elear is more like an all do it all but with no real offenses and is less specialized:
Specialties – flow, dynamics, balance, smoothness,
Offenses – mid treble spike, upper midrange dip
After some time I simply ended up preferring the Vali in the End.
The Elear while, I am sure will be the more universally appealing had the flaw of 10khz gnawing at my ears and became fatiguing. The dynamics coupled with a slightly more hollow tonality and less density made for a more shouty sound for me. I love dynamics but the Elear, opposed to my tastes, didn’t have the tonal weight behind the dynamics to make it realistic and became fatiguing after just a short time. Also the Vali’s ability to slam harder, have stronger tones, made it the winner for me personally and I know this is simply my preference. I did hear less distortion in the Elear though and a more open and clear sound that were admirable qualities I appreciated about it.
Switching back and forth made me pick the Vali most times because it performed better with percussion and the sound images were larger and meatier. Its not just about balance. Something like a well amped HE6 will have more solid and heavy tones despite being brighter and more scooped in the midrange than the Elear which goes to show its all about driver design.