Empire Ears – Valkyrie (1DD/1BA/1e-stat; 1,799$)
The Valkyrie is one of my tri-hybrid CIEMs. It uses Empire Ears’ proprietary Weapon IX dynamic driver for lows, a single BA for mids and one e-stat tweeter for highs. Valkyrie could be described as a massively V-shaped IEM. Both monitors couldn’t be more different to be honest.
The Halcyon has a more finely balanced low end, while the Valkyrie goes hard on them all the way. With the EE you get a more energetic, much more forward sounding bass response than with the Halcyon. Empire Ears calls their dynamic drivers subwoofers, and that’s pretty much what they are. If you like your bass big, bold and heavy, the Valkyrie is a monitor to watch. But if you on the other hand enjoy a certain balance in the sound, it probably won’t even be on your radar. The Halcyon however should be. Halcyon has a tighter and better controlled low-end, that simply is more in tune with the rest.
Mids are more recessed on the Valkyrie, however, they have more body and weight than the Halcyon too. The Halcyon has a smoother sound in its midrange, while the Valkyrie goes for more resolution. Halcyon sounds more laid-back, while the Valkyrie screams energy and ecstasy. With Valkyrie you get a more exciting sound, that will give you a hard time to sit still. Halcyon on the other hand, will make you enjoy your music at a higher factor.
The Valkyrie has a more energetic and brighter top end than the Halcyon. The AAW though has a cleaner treble response with higher levels of richness. It is safer from harshness and sibilance than then Valkyrie. The EE gives more presence to the highest of highs, which makes them sound a bit thinner and sharper to me.
In terms of technical performance it’s the Valkyrie that stretches a wider and deeper stage. It has a darker background and separates instruments cleaner with a sharper cut. Both monitors have equally good resolution, but the Valkyrie gives more attention to the texture, while the Halcyon goes for a smoother touch. It smudges over some blemishes and makes for a more forgiving sound. The Valkyrie on the other hand can sound brutally punchy. If that’s not what you like, then the Valkyrie won’t be for you.
I have spent a few months with the Halcyon now, and after that time it has grown on me as a solid monitor. Sure, there is room for improvement in some aspects. Personally, I wish there was more weight and body in the midrange, as it just seems a bit too thin for my taste.
AAW has given the Halcyon a safer tuning, something that is more of a genre-master than an IEM that takes risks. Halcyon’s sound is best described as smooth and slightly laid-back. It punches hard when needed, has a smooth midrange and a nicely clean top-end. It doesn’t overcome any borders of technical performance, and that’s probably the biggest flaw of it. If you’re looking for the utmost details, a massive stage or just to be wowed you won’t be too happy with Halcyon. Halcyon is more about the pure enjoyment of your music, rather than analyzing it. If that’s what you’re after, then you are in safe hands with the Halcyon.