Originally standard AK240 and Sony WM1A  with the anodized coating removed and then polished to the underlying metal.

By (instagram tag) @a.nihilist

Photos by expatinjapan



Process if the Sony daps manufacturing process seen at the 

E-Earphone Headphone Show 12/2016 













Clear Tune Monitors VS-4 and Opus#3 Dap


Clear Tune Monitors VS-4 review
-expatinjapan


"VS-4's Sound Design
Our top of the line Vintage Series model is the VS-4, a quad-driver, 3-way in-ear monitor powered by Knowles® balanced armature drivers with a warm, powerful sound and very harmonious balance. This monitor’s high fidelity and superb presence present sound in its purest form, and it can be used in any situation for extended periods of time because all of the frequency levels are beautifully even.
Defined as an in-ear monitor for audiophiles, the VS-4 has the necessary technology and soul to allow the listener to fully appreciate the depth and beauty of their favorite musical masterpieces."

Clear Tune Monitors also have a range of Custom in ears:


Clear Tune Monitors and ALO Audio Reference 8 cable.


Unboxing, build and specs




A nice vintage jukebox style box to keep in tune with the 'Vintage series` theme.



The earphones, adapter plug and brush.



Full set of adapter plug, various foam, silicone and white double flange tips, brush and a hard case.


Nice foam inset to protect the earphones.


Tech Specs:


Input Sensitivity:119dB-SPL @ 1mW
Freq Response:20 Hz to 16.5 kHz
Speaker:Quad Balanced Armature
Impedance :18 ohm @ 1 kHz
Noise Isolation:-26dB
Input Connector:1/8 (3.5mm)


This Clear Tune Monitors website graphic is quite honest in illustrating the VS-4.






Four Knowles BA drivers set up in a 3 way configuration are at the heart of the VS-4.






Sound

Clear Tune Monitors VS-4, Double Helix Cables litz cable, Opus#2 and Symbio Mandarines tips.


As can be seen from the photos I tested the Clear Tune Monitors with a variety of sources to try to glean their true sound and overall general performance.

The Clear Tune Monitors 'Vintage Series` is a made for sale series of over the ear comfortable fitting earphones.

There is the VS-2, VS-3 and the VS-4, each number relating to the number of drivers in each unit. 

As I approached the end of my listening time I wish I had sampled the VS-2 and VS-3 properly at the audio shows in Japan in an attempt to reveal relative similarities and differences between the models.

At first coming from several other high end earphones to the VS-4 and trying to match it with a source/dap took me some time.

I used the standard FLAC tracks and merrily shuffled the days away.


My first impressions after the obligatory burn in to satisfy the burn in adherents and supplicants, never minding about the heretics as they don't care...(once again everyone is happy)...were mixed. 
I tried to place my finger on it, certainly it wasn't my usually choice of sound signature being a reference or semi neutral fan myself. 

The VS-4 seemed a bit heavier in the lower end, or was it the mids, or my choice of music even?.

I labored on, swapping the stock cable out for the ALO Reference 8 cable, this certainly added more clarity overall, tightened up the lows and amplified the mids and helped the sound to become more coherent.

I began to suspect perhaps the lack of dynamic detail and clarity could be in the supplied cable. Perhaps the general smoothness, lack of detail and heavy upper lows to mids could be a copper stock cable as the mixed silver/copper Reference 8 didn't display such sonic qualities. It did though have a certain musicality.

It seemed to have lower v shaped signature, but not exactly. More a W (VvV) shape with the mids hanging low in the middle. A v shape, but also with present and not fully recessed mids. This was confirmed later by visiting the CTM website and seeing their graphic (posted earlier).

I found my listening experience to be improved and I started to appreciated what the Clear Tune Monitor VS-4 potentially had to offer. Thankfully it was able to be cable swapped with another two pin cable (ALO Audio Reference 8).

The frequency range is narrower than some earphones at 20-16000 Hz. And that could account for the L or thick to thin wedge shaped sound, or on other tracks a v that I was hearing.

The VS-4 possesses a full bass, that at times rumbles and grumbles, the mids are fairly clean, although at times I feel the low end and lower mids are holding hands briefly.

The highs I expected to be rolled off more due to the frequency, maybe its my old ears but I found the highs to reach enough to be pleasing and effective. Combined with the right tracks the lows and highs worked in tandem for a slight v effect which gave the sense of more details being revealed.

I thought the soundstage could have been larger, and the instrument separation is just about average.

I found the VS-4 to be a great match for female vocals, with the lows plus double mids combination and a decent but not overly touch of highs to put the song in the vocals and bring them forward a tad.


Clear Tune Monitors VS-4 with stock cable and tips. iBasso DX200.

I did think that the Reference 8 cable whilst giving the VS-4 that something extra might add a bit too much to the middle section.

I then changed to the Double Helix Cable pure OCC litz silver V3 with type 4 litz cable into the mix. It might be just the medicine to help this earphone shine, and as I suspected earlier and confirmed it was more a matter of finding the right cable and not the earphones in themselves.

The litz cable cleaned everything up in just the right places for me.
The bass became more tighter and faster, the mids had more detail and the lower mids werent't elevated too much and the treble had more room to move and became clearer and cleaner. It retained the intended signature but added clarity and definition,

I finally added one more tweak which was to use the Symbio Mandarines tips, a silicone tip with an inner of hard foam. This again tightened every thing up more and added more control to the experience.

Its a good IEM in a price range that has a lot of decent and high performing competition.

Perhaps in this review I took a slightly warmish (with a touch of tube coloring) musical earphone and proceeded to not just review it but to alter its properties via cable swapping and tip rolling to better suit my own preferences as a listener: which veers towards the reference or neutral sound.
But then ended up going full circle and back to the original signature, albeit enhanced.

The benefits of this journey being that with the VS-4 one can certainly enjoy the sound for which it was designed to produce and its general performance, and also with a bit of selective cable swapping (two pin) and tip rolling one can also tailor it towards ones personal sonic preferences or improve upon the original intended signature.






Colors





Price

US$599

Clear Tune Monitors VS-4, stock cable and tips. Audirect Whistle dac/amp in the background.

Overview

The Clear Tune Monitors VS-4 is part of their Vintage Series of earphones, CTM also provide a custom service with a wide array of possibilities and options to choose from.

I had tried several of their custom models and liked what I heard and also enjoyed talking with the owners of the family owned and run company.

The VS-4 seems a niche build with a specific aim summarized in the title of 'Vintage Series' and illustrated by the packaging and shell design.
Its like a piece of old Americana squeezed into an earphone shell.

I`m not sure whether its American Graffiti or Paris Texas.

They certainly have sense of the ol jukebox about them.

It took me while to pigeonhole or find an average opinion amongst the various descriptions that were floating and bouncing around in my head.

A few cable swaps and a bit of tip rolling revealed more of what I had with the VS-4 as can be read in the sound section.

I dont think the stock cable is a slouch by any means, but there is room for improvement. 

Another 4 driver is the Jupiter by Campfire Audio, whilst they went for Two low, and two high drivers, Clear Tune Monitors decided on one low, two mids and a high driver.
The Jupiter is more V shaped which can be softened with say the Reference 8 cable by ALO Audio,
The VS-4 has been described as V shaped in some quarters but I would put it more as an elongated L  or soft v, or even a W shape with the center depressed, depending on the track listened to.

At times it has echoes of my ATH-ESW9 headphones and also the ATH-CK10. with a sweet emphasis on the mids especially with female artists.

I found the VS-4 easy to drive with my ipod touch 6G.

The fit was quite comfortable, being neither too shallow nor too deep. The nozzle length seems just about right, for my ears anyway. Also the nozzle has ridges to hold the tips on firmly, a few recently releases by other companies seem to have forgone this feature.

I thought the VS-4 paired well with the iBasso DX200 (Amp1) and Opus#2 the best from the upper end daps I have with the Opus#3 and FiiO X7ii coming in a decent second. The first place winners aren't particular warm daps and complement the VS-4.

The VS-4 isnt a bland IEM but has a certain colored musicality, even tube like quality to its sound thus realizing the companies vision of a Vintage series

Clear Tune Monitors VS-4, stock cable and tips with Opus#2 dap.


Thank you to Clear Tune Monitors for sending the VS-4 to head pie for review










2.5mm line out and 2.5mm balanced
















Opus#2, Double Helix Cable, Clear Tune Monitors VS-4 with Symbio Mandarines tips


Reviews soon for the Opus#2 and Clear Tune Monitors VS-4!