In this review we take a close-up look at Empire Ears’ first ever triple hybrid design – the Valkyrie. It features a dynamic driver, a balanced armature and an electrostatic tweeter.
Disclaimer: Empire Ears provided the Valkyrie free of charge for this review. I only had to pay for importing the product. Headfonia is not affiliated with Empire Ears and they are not a site advertiser. Many thanks for the generosity and opportunity. We have received a prototype for this review. The design of my unit does not represent the final production version.
About Empire Ears:
I’m sure most folks won’t need an introduction to Empire Ears anymore, but for those who do, I shamelessly copied this section from my previous EE reviews.
Empire Ears is an American IEM and custom IEM company, seated in Norcross, Georgia. They are no new face to the audiophile world. The main people behind Empire are Jack Vang, vice president and co-founder, and his father Dean Vang, the main man behind tuning and development of their products. Before the Empire brand was launched, Jack Vang was owner of a very successful company called EarWerkz. In late 2015 Jack joined forces with his father and merged with Dean’s company, who was working on hearing aids and OEM in ears, to form Empire Ears. This step took their business to the next level.
Currently Empire Ears has divided their products into two different lines: the EP (Empire Professional) and X line-up. The EP line is aiming for their professional clientèle of musicians, while the X series is purpose built for the audiophile world. That doesn’t mean that an audiophile can’t enjoy the products of the EP series though. Just see how many people have been raving about the Phantom, their five-driver IEM.
All their products are hand-made in their facilities. Returning customers don’t have to send in new impressions each time, as Empire stores them for future events.
Empire Ears is working with a lot of award winning and successful artists such as Flo Rida and Future or producers and engineers like Michael Graves and Jeremiah Atkins. Who both were very much involved in the tuning of Empire’s line-up.
Empire Ears is one of the companies that looks further than just their tuning. They also worked meticulously on finding the best materials to optimize their drivers. Therefore, they have introduced a special driver coating and a highly advanced new crossover network.
They have reached critical acclamation with their flagship monitor of their previous Olympus line, the Zeus. The Zeus is still regarded as one of the best monitors created, and I see many people still raving about their Zeus XIV, Zeus XR or Zeus R monitors. Personally, I own a Zeus XIV and wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.
Like many companies, Empire Ears has invested their R&D time in electrostatic hybrids. We’ve seen the new flagship Wraith and today we’re looking at their first tri-brid – the Valkyrie.
The Valkyrie is Empire’s very first monitor to use three different driver technologies in one shell. It uses their proprietary nine millimetre W9 dynamic low end driver, a Balanced Armature for mids and Sonion’s electrostatic tweeter. They’re all put into place by a four way synX crossover system. Empire’s engineers have developed a control system for the electrostatic tweeter called EIVEC. It manipulates the transformer with passive electronics to make the e-stat seamlessly integrate into the spectrum of the other drivers.
Valkyrie’s rated impedance is only three Ohms, measured at 1kHz. Even for an IEM this is ridiculously low. However, I have not encountered any impedance issues when using different sources. The tech-sheet tells me that Valkyrie has a sensitivity of 96dB/mW, which isn’t particularly high. From my experience with Valkyrie I feel it needs not only more juice to get to my preferred listening levels, but also the right power to be handled correctly. It isn’t all about the output power, but about the amp circuit to deliver great sound.
Like all their other monitors, Valkyrie’s drivers are coated with an Anti Resonance Compound (A.R.C.), which suppresses unwanted resonances from the surfaces of the drivers. This Ferrofluid coating is applied on all internals. Empire states that Valkyrie has a frequency response of 4Hz to 100kHz. Which is below and above what humans can hear.
Each pair of Valkyrie’s is hand-made by EE in their Norcross, Georgia facilities. Customers can chose between a custom and universal fit. Valkyrie can be acquired directly from Empire’s online-store or one of their many offline retailers around the globe. Prices start at 1,599 USD. Custom IEMs can be more expensive, depending on the design options.
Build Quality, Comfort and Isolation:
During the development of Valkyrie, Empire worked to create a new shell-design as well. They have invested their time not only in sound but also ergonomics of their new IEM. I have only handled one other universal monitor of EE, which is the Wraith. Valkyrie is a lot smaller and more compact than Wraith, which is given, as it uses lesser drivers.
Valkyrie fits my ears easily with its small form-factor. Although I hardly ever have fit-issues with universals. When you inspect the acrylic shells of Valkyrie, you’ll notice three holes. These are for pressure relief of the dynamic driver. Because of these holes, isolation isn’t exactly good. Valkyrie leaks more sound coming in than most other monitors I have put in my ears.
When inserting the Valkyrie you will notice a pop on both sides, this is called driver flex. The dynamic driver’s surface reacts to the built-up pressure during insertion. For people that don’t know that’s a normal process, it can be quite alarming. No reason to panic, the drivers aren’t harmed by that.
I mentioned it in the disclaimer, I received a prototype for this review. Thus my unit does not reflect the final production design. Valkyrie will come with a black shell and a dragonhide face plate. The developer of the design currently holds 2 patents in polymer science for high solids coating chemistry and the process itself was developed over the past 17 years. Dragonhide features a unique Dichoric optical core within each lamination, resulting in dramatic color shifts as the viewing angle changes.
Comfort-wise I don’t have any issues with the Valkyrie. It’s light and sits snug in my ears. With the supplied ear-tips I can get a good seal.
More about Valkyrie on the next page!