Heck, I’ll throw my hat in the ring.
For the last couple months I’ve demoed the Elear with Clear pads, so basically an Elex. My preferred sonic signature would be more to the relaxing, smooth, and warm side of neutral without being too “sleep-encouraging” My default setup is the HE4XX’s without grills with ZMF Ori pads, coming out of the Vali 2 with a EH6922 tube. I find the HD650s a good deal too veiled and warm. The vali was used testing the Focals.
Anyways, I couldn’t have been happier when the Elear’s first arrived. I wouldn’t say I DISlike them, but–they’re not the jump up in quality I was expecting. I think a lot of it doesn’t have to do with even the 'phones themselves as it does my preferences, but I’ll get to that later.
First of all, the build is great. Not much needs to be said that hasn’t, they’re well-built and stylish.
As far as sound–they are very well-balanced overall. Good midbass impact, solid sub-bass, dry forward mids, inoffensive well-extended treble. GREAT imaging with a very well-defined if not smallish soundstage. Great detail retrieval, like you don’t feel like you’re “missing something” with these phones. It’s all there. Overall, on a purely technical basis, I wouldn’t even disagree if someone argued they soundly best the HE4XX’s in most areas.
So what’s the deal than, why not keep them?
One, the price. The Elex is $699 right? For that much, I could get 4 $169 HE4XX’s and still have $23 left over! At that metric, I just couldn’t justify keeping them.
Two, tonal preference. I fully think I can say everything positive I said above and still confidently say for the most part I prefer the Hifiman’s. The Focals helped me realize that I listen more to wind down and relax. I appreciate a sound that you can “listen to in the background but also reward you when you pay attention”, and auditioning the rather energetic and forward Elear’s, their in your face sound DEMAND you pay attention especially as compared to more laid-back phones, and I guess that’s not what I’m looking for. I used to think in my naivete that the sheer awsomeness of this or that mega-headphone would trump my sonic tastes into loving them, but I don’t think I believe that anymore. Diminishing returns probably have something to do with it as well.
Having said all that, I would recommend them for someone looking for a no holds barred aggressive sound signature with great technicalities and a tone that truthfully conforms to the rough geography of the soundscape without being artificially smooth, as compared to say the standard planar sound (man I can’t help but feel pretentious writing that! oh well).