ceWhen it comes to product reviews on 316Press, we have always taken an attitude of a real-world approach to how things would be used. On one hand, it’s super easy to grab some specifications gather a few product shots and put out a review. A lot of the manufacturers like this because its quick exposure. We completely understand that need to get the word out and we will gladly produce releases here from press releases. But for product insights, we want to take our time. Our attitude has been that when we talk about a product and opinions formed, we want it to be a bit deeper than the surface. Why is this all being said? Honestly its a bit self-serving to talk about the delays we have here to releasing reviews. We want the baseline to be understood. Second it’s an attempt to explain why it can take us a few months at times to get things released.
To last point above, with this update we want to let you know about a product discovered at the incredible NAMM Show in Anaheim, California earlier this year; The Vintage Series universal fit in-ear monitor from Clear Tune Monitors. While at the show, this writer had the opportunity to spend some time with Marketing Director and Audio Engineer Castor Milano. Castor was instrumental in the design of the Vintage series IEM and his passion for the product was obvious when we spoke. These almost sounded like his babies, his kids. All important to him , but each one of the three uniquely different. I enjoyed the conversations we had, and we even had the opportunity to text back and forth a few times since the show.
A little bit about Clear Tune Monitors. This company has been around for about 7 years. With headquarters in Orlando, Florida CTM has had great success with their products in markets around the world. The USA production artists meet the needs through an extensive line of custom and universal fit models. Owner Cesar Milano and team have built a dedicated base of touring professionals, audio engineers and enthusiasts alike. Be sure to take a look at their website for more information and details about their endorsed artists.
The Vintage Series product is their first release of a universal fit IEM (In Ear Monitor). When I asked Castor about the design goals and inspiration, he highlighted things I found easily identifiable in the end result. “As with all of Clean Tune’s products, we have clear goals; professional sound utilizing state of the art materials, lightweight and extremely comfortable to use.” As for the design goal of the VS, Castor added “the beautiful lines and amazing detail of a classic 50’s car”. The results is a fantastic looking product in classic colors with a real (metal) chrome trim.
Here’s a quick video from Clear Tune Monitors talking about the Vintage Series
Let’s get into the details a bit. When it came time to talk about a model to test the mid-tier model VS3 was chosen. Turns out this model was Castors favorite child. In a classic sky blue with chrome trim, this is a good looking IEM. After spending some time with the VS3 in varied conditions, over 20,000 miles in the air and a wide ranging mix of music I’ve formed an overall very positive opinion about this product. I found the design itself a bit deceptive. When you first pick up monitors the first thing noticed is that for a triple-driver design they are very lightweight with an overall small body. There was a good deal of time spent on the outer shell design as well and this effort showed through extended usage. At no time have I ever felt discomfort from extended wear. This includes flight times in excess of 6 hours. From a comparative position, I found this much more comfortable for extended wear over another in the same price range that I’ve talked about before.
When I had asked Castor a bit more about the design goal and what comes first his answer was perfect. “Comfort first”. And with a big smile, then “sound first.” And I think Castor and team at Clear Tune have met that goal.
Let’s get into the details a little bit. This is not an attempt to direct every technical design specification and offer extensive analysis. There are plenty of resources typically available to do that. All that said, here are the basics;
With the specifications as provided, we see that overall this has a nice balance. A sensitivity of 124db let’s you know this IEM will get plenty loud. The frequency response is in line with other units at this price point, but slightly lacking in the highs at 16kHz. The published sound profile very closely matches my findings. Pretty flat overall with a slight emphasis on the lows, and increased detail which I think could go up a notch in this chart. In use I found the VS3 quite pleasing to the ear. My initial impression was the low-end was actually missing a bit, but the reality is that it came down to the source quality more than anything. The bass notes are not boomy at all, but rather clean and precise. A well recorded track results in a great sound overall. If there was any area of concern for me it would be the high end where it would produce a much brighter and sometimes uncomfortable highs. Again, well engineered recordings with controlled sound properties results in an overall positive experience.
One thing that hit me from the very first listen and never slipped is the incredible detail this unit produces. For lack of a better explanation, I can best refer to the sound as very ‘clean’. The nuances of a track and the clarity produced here are fantastic. For me this only adds to the great user experience of the VS3. Soundstage was pretty much as expected for in-ears…in your head. There are times when it seems to open up a bit but the reality is that these are in-ear monitors and the sound is clearly enveloped inside your head without a lot of extra presence.
The packing is not something that would usually be noteworthy, but I wanted to mention it here because it is a fun approach to the overall look and position for the VS lineup. Packaged to look like a vintage amplifier the design is sure to catch your attention. Calling back to those sweet tube amps of the past that produce a sound like no other is a clever approach. Inside the package you will find the VS units nice secured and well protected. There is an adapter to a 1/4 inch plug, a cleaning tool, plenty of different fit cushions to ensure you get the best experience and a soft carry case with a removable foam insert. As a side note, the packaging is very snug throughout. Not a bad thing most of the time but for me I found it a bit of a chore to get the ear cushions and some components out of the box itself. Personally, I’d prefer function and usability over design but that is just one persons opinion. As a frequent traveler I appreciate (and always want) a protective case to carry them with me. As that frequent traveler, I also try to me as much of a minimalist as possible. Every bit of bulk and weigh adds up and I’m already bogged down with too much. I’d like to see a much smaller protective carry case instead of the one included or maybe even in addition to that one. The one there is a great way to store them in a studio or at home so I do see the need.
In the end, if you are seeking an upper tier universal IEM, the Clear Tune Monitors VS series should be on your list. With USA retail pricing from $399 to $599 the series has some tough, but limited competition in the market. At this point you may start thinking about custom IEM solutions but those can quickly jump up the price scale and to get the quality of sound found here I suspect you’d spend significantly more. The fit of these universals, the great sound isolation and all-day comfort will often more than meet your needs.
A big shout out to the team at Clear Tune for the insight and ability to test the product. We wish you the best of success moving forward! And by the way Castor…thanks for turning me on to Snarky Puppy! I’m really loving what they do!