Review: Empire Ears Valkyrie

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Package:

Empire Ears has also been working on a renewed packaging. You get a two layered, flip open box that holds the Valkyrie and the Effect Audio Eros II cable on top, together with a nice “Thank You” message from EE. Underneath that you have a drawer in which you’ll find your accessories.

Supplied with Valkyrie comes a round metal case, a selection of five different Final Type E silicone ear-tips, which are stored on a metal card-holder. A short manual, a cleaning cloth, a cleaning tool, and an Empire Ears sticker.

EE bundles the Valkyrie with Effect Audio’s all silver/copper hybrid Eros II cable. The termination of it can be chosen at check-out. Customers can pick between 3.5 mm stereo, 2.5 mm and 4.4 mm balanced.

All in all it’s a very nice package. The fact that Empire supplies their monitor standard with an Eros II cable is a big plus. I’ve been talking to them during the decision process, and I was told that Valkyrie just performs better with the Eros II instead of the Ares II their other IEMs come with.

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Sound:

Valkyrie was created to become some sort of mini Legend X. A monitor that performs at very high levels, but is still more affordable than most flagships. When I first listened to the Valkyrie, I felt that the bass is too separated. Knowing that the W9 driver needs a lot of time to settle, I gave Valkyrie a good week of uninterrupted play time. After that, the bass was more in line with the rest. However, I still feel it’s a bit disconnected.

Two things are extremely important for the best performance of Valkyrie. First, you need to get the ear-tips to really seal. If you don’t have a proper seal it can sound thin, weak and hard. Second, it asks for good amplification, I don’t mean just raw power, but a well implemented amplifier circuit. You want the right power, not just a lot of it.

Empire’s dynamic drivers are touted as sub-woofers, and I feel that describes their sonic performance pretty well. If you have heard subs from brands like JL Audio or REL you know what quality sub-woofers can achieve. The Weapon IX drivers push immense amounts of air, and can give you a very physical and thunderous bass. It is fast, authoritative and presents high levels of excitement, where you want to throw your set in the air, like you just don’t care.

Valkyrie has a big and rounded bass, that’s full of energy and body. It’s not the tightest or snappiest, but for me it’s one of the most exciting bass reproductions out there. While undeniably put more forward, it isn’t overshadowing midrange clarity too much. It does ask for your attention, but at the same time I can easily concentrate on other frequencies. One thing the bass of Valkyrie is missing is richness. While it’s big and bold, it needs some flesh to become meaty.

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Bass has good texture, resolution and dynamics. It reaches low into the sub-bass areas with nice rumble. When needed, Valkyrie knows how to throw a decent punch. This comes in very handy when you listen to bass prominent music. Valkyrie has an elevated mid and upper bass segment, that slightly pushes the lower midrange and gives it more weight and body.

Mids are pushed back behind bass and treble, but don’t feel distant to me. Lower key instruments have great body and texture. Mids overall are close to neutral in tone, with a very light shift towards the lower midrange. The entire midrange has good note size, it isn’t particularly heavy or thin, but comes with good balance. Vocals are rich and well formed. They transport good emotions, but I have heard better in that department. Upper midrange has decent levels of richness, where bells for example have a nice glow.

Instruments are separated very nicely with good amounts of air around them. The background is dark, but not pitch black, so musicians feel a bit more connected. Valkyrie has a very nice sound stage. It stretches wide and deep around your head. It’s not overly holographic as it keeps things more in focus closer in front of you, but it does go deep with wonderful layering.

When it comes to imaging Valkyrie is a great performer. It manages to put each note and beep in place and portrays them with good precision. It resolves very well and renders a fine picture, where nothing gets smudged or smeared.

Highs are bright and on the lighter/thinner side. This makes some of the upper register notes come across as a bit hard at times. Especially if you’re pairing Valkyrie with a brighter source, you might run into issues with cymbal crashes and hi-hat hits. Treble is fast, agile and crisp. People who have a lower tolerance for this segment should definitely audition the Valkyrie before making any purchase decisions.

Overall the Valkyrie has a definite V-shaped signature, with active and involving bass and an energetic and forward treble presence.

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Sources:

I find hybrids to be a bit picky when it comes to finding the right source. Some DAPs, even uber-expensive ones, aren’t always the best choice to pair them with. With the wrong pairing, you can run into some coherence issues in my opinion. Mostly it’s the dynamic driver that becomes more boomy. With the new series of tri-brid products I find this to be an even bigger problem. You need the right kind of power to handle three different driver technologies.

Valkyrie’s low sensitivity asks for high power, and I’ve been cranking that volume up more than with most other In Ear Monitors. For example, the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch is set to high gain and volume level 35-40, while other IEMs run on low gain and around the same dial on the volume. Valkyrie does not pick up any hissing from my sources, even noisy ones, which is very welcome.

Lotoo – PAW Gold Touch

The Lotoo is one of my two go-to sources on my commute. The other is the Astell&Kern SP1000M. With the Lotoo you get a nicely expanded sound, with heaps of resolution and excellent transparency. The Touch is one of the few sources that I feel handle hybrids really well.

Bass is well controlled, tighter and fast. You get wonderful texture and layering. Bass goes deep into lows with good rumble. Mids are neutral in signature and body. The PAW Gold Touch puts in high levels of transparency here. Vocals are airy and emotional, however, they are not thick or dense. Treble is fast and bright. Sometimes it has been on the edge of brightness for my taste with the PGT.

You get a wide and open sound stage, great imaging capabilities and superb control. The PGT is a phenomenal source also if you want to play around with the signature of the Valkyrie. You can easily adjust the five band PEQ and boost or tame specific frequencies. I used the Parametric EQ to cut down the 12kHz frequency.

It continues on the next page.

4.6/5 - (179 votes)

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

11 Comments

  • Reply August 27, 2019

    Logan

    Great writeup. Do you think the A&K SR15 will have enough power to drive these adequately with the balanced output? A&K doesn’t provide power output specs in mW, just Vrms. Looks like the SR15 output (4.0 Vrms balanced) is in line with SP1000M (4.2 Vrms). Thank you!

    • Reply August 27, 2019

      Linus

      Hi Logan,
      many thanks for your comment. Much appreciated.

      Well, AK gives their numbers in condition no load, so they’re not really saying much in the end how much output power they’re supplying.

      I find AK DAPs to not be the best when working with hybrids. Not even the SP1000 does a great job at that. The SP1000M so far is the best in that regard from A&K to me.

      It’s been too long since I had the SR15 (lovely device!). If the Valkyrie is underpowered, you won’t get as much top end. This is a common thing amongst estat hybrids, but Valkyrie is easier going than Wraith for example. I suspect this is due to EE using only a single estat driver. The transformer can give more load to one driver, than to two. That’s purely speculations on my side, but to me that sounds reasonable… So I guess chances are good for the SR15 delivering enough power for the Valkyrie.

  • Reply September 17, 2019

    Steven Zore

    I just auditioned the Valkyrie this past weekend on my WM-1a and Ares II cable. I instantly loved it. It has a big, bold, lush, wonderful sound.

    • Reply September 17, 2019

      Linus

      Hi Steven,

      thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
      Yeah, the Valkyrie is very nice. I heard with the WM-1A/Z it’s a bit thicker and lusher as you say. I’m getting a custom Valkyrie soon and can’t wait to play with it. 🙂

      • Reply December 2, 2019

        Steven Zore

        Hey Linus so I picked up a new Valkyrie for Black Friday. Using it with my A&K SE100 and it sounds fantastic!

        • Reply December 2, 2019

          Linus

          Hi Steven,
          thanks so much for letting me know!
          The Valkyrie really is something. Glad you like it with the SE100. 🙂
          Hope you’ll have a blast with them.
          Enjoy!

        • Reply April 2, 2020

          Luis André Ferreira

          How does the Valkyrie tuning blends with the se100 tuning? I heard se100 can be a bit cold and analytical but, with iems who can throw a decent bass punch it can sound amazing!
          Thanks!

  • Reply October 21, 2019

    Tim

    I am struggling for choosing between aaw x shozy pola and empire valkyrie. Looking for earphone to listen various genre of music. Do u have any comment for that?

    • Reply October 21, 2019

      Linus

      Hi Tim,

      I haven’t heard the original Pola or the Pola39 myself (yet), but I hear very positive things about them. I’ll probably get to listen to the Pola39 this weekend when a friend visits.
      For versatility: Valkyrie has a lot of bass. Which might not be best suited for some genres. Still, it’s a very good performer, so if you can audition it, that would be best.

      Cheers!

    • Reply July 10, 2021

      Steve

      Sorry I just saw your message…The SE 100 is a great mid-tier dap, even if it is a little passe’ in the summer of 21…It has a detailed neutral tuning with great clarity and a proper soundstage. Nowadays I am using a M8, which is slightly warm and wonderful, and I find that my custom Valkyries sound their best with anything close to neutral as possible. I find that the Valkyrie is doing a balancing act between the bass (W9), and the electrtostaic tweeter. If DAP and cable is too bright, the treble becomes fatiguing and the bass thin. If to far warm, the bass gets thumpy and the treble is unremarkable in some way. My current favorite cable for Valklyrie is my Forzaworks silver/copper hybrid. Balanced; the copper captures and preserves the bass, in a clean, detailed, layered way, and the treble is allowed to shine because of the silver. When I use my other cable, a PWAudio 1% gold alloy, which really shines the spotlight on the bass, suddenly becomes thumpy and boomy. So to answer you question, yes the SE100 is perfect.

  • Reply August 10, 2020

    gemme sebastien

    Hey, I’m very curious about pairing the Legend X with the Woo Wa11. I will use a Lotoo Paw Gold Touch as source with the balanced cable. I’ve try with the Burson Fun and it was a very good pairing. Thank you

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