Review: Empire Ears Valkyrie

Empire Ears Valkyrie
Astell&Kern – SP1000M

The SP1000M is my secondary daily-driver. It complements the Touch very nicely by giving a more bodied presentation.

With this pairing you get a fuller and even bigger bass, great resolution throughout and a slightly more laid back and calmer treble. Bass is looser in comparison to when used with the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, but it still has good control. That’s what I meant by hybrids need the right kind of power… There is great layering and really nice separation. Valkyrie goes deep, although not with as much rumble.

Mids are a bit denser and vocals thicker. Instruments sound fuller, richer and more organic in the midrange. There’s a bit more focus on the lower pitched instruments than with other pairings. The sound stage is going deep and wide, with particularly impressive depth in my opinion. The AK breathes in nice amounts of resolution, where the sound is filled with information. You get nice imaging and rendering.

With the SP1000M I’m not getting any of the treble issues from the Lotoo though. No problems with harshness at 12kHz for me. Highs are still energetic and bright, but richer in tone now. Which makes them more pleasing to my ear.

Woo Audio – WA11

The WA11 is my portable amp to rule them all. It handles all my over-ears and In Ears. Although not all IEMs are suitable for the Woo. It produces easily noticeable hissing with sensitive gear. The Valkyrie isn’t one of them though.

Bass is superbly controlled with the WA11. There is very good body and weight in the lows. This is a meaty sound just as I like it. The Woo’s typical Class A sound puts in a nicely rich low end and lower midrange segment, that mates beautifully with the Valkyrie. Bass goes down low with shattering physicality.

You get a full midrange, with a natural sound. Instruments sound harmonic and realistic. Vocals are heavier and denser, but still transport excellent emotions. Musicians are very well separated and placed with care in the constructed stage. Imaging and separation are both top. The sound stage is more of a holographic kind, that puts the scene in front of you. It stretches wide and deep, with incredible layering and resolution.

Treble is rich and fast. From all the above sources, this is definitely the one that has the least treble harshness. I don’t get any sibilance or treble-hotness.

The WA11 pairing with the Valkyrie is one of the best examples of power delivered right in my opinion. The Woo amp controls the Valkyrie just perfectly.

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Chord Electronics – Hugo2

The Hugo2 would be another example of amplification well delivered. The British DAC/Amp usually comes in with a brighter sound. To my surprise it was one of the sources that managed the treble region of Valkyrie the best. Yes, it’s still more forward, but highs sounded softer and silkier with the Hugo2 than with any other pairing.

Bass has big body and shows very good dynamics. It reaches deep with good rumble, yet not to levels of the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, which seems to have better control over the W9 driver. You get a very wide and deep sound stage with a holographic sound. With the Hugo2 you’re transported right into the scene, where you can almost see the musicians in front of you.

Mids are organic and neutral, maybe a little light on body, but with high precision. Instruments sound realistic, but a touch thin. There is great richness in the notes, and every musician is precisely separated from each other. The background is very dark, which enables the musicians to stand out clearly.

Comparisons:

We have seen a good number of new monitors using the electrostatic tweeters from Sonion recently. It seems that there is some sort of e-stat race between manufacturers. Everyone jumps in on them. Most of the new releases have been flagships though. It’s nice to see EE put that new technology also in one of their mid-tier products.

We will look at different comparisons in this segment. Two of which will focus on Empire’s line-up and two more will be about other IEMs using a triple technology setup with e-stat tweeters.

I can only compare the Valkyrie to monitors I have in my arsenal, I won’t do comparisons based on listening impressions that I don’t consider solid. Short term impressions outside of my own home are not good enough to be included here. A monitor I would have loved to compare Valkyrie to is Empire’s entry-level Bravado. Unfortunately I don’t have it here.

All mentioned prices are in USD for the universal versions of these products. Some prices go higher in custom format. The products were compared using their stock cables, as this is what customers will get in the end.

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Empire Ears – Legend X (2DD/5BA; 2,299$)

I mentioned it earlier, the Valkyrie is supposed to be a mini Legend X. As such, it comes as no surprise that the Valkyrie features many of the Legend’s traits. Both have a classic V-shaped signature with forward bass and treble.

The Legend X features a more powerful low end section, due to the dual W9 dynamics it comes with. Valkyrie’s bass seems more controlled and tighter to me, which plays along well with my preference. Legend’s bass has more body and drive, it’s a touch bigger and bolder to me. Valkyrie has a faster response with a bit shorter decay in the low ends. Both monitors go remarkably deep, but it’s the Legend X that puts more focus on the sub-bass areas.

Valkyrie’s midrange is thinner and lighter in direct comparison to the Legend, which has a richer tone in the mids as well. Instruments sound a bit more natural on the Legend X than on Valkyrie. Mids on the Valkyrie are a tad faster to me. Due to the extra air Valkyrie has, vocals sound more emotional and less warmed up. Overall the mids come out a bit more forward and more in line on Valkyrie than on Legend X.

Legend X has higher resolution, renders a finer picture and creates a bigger sound stage. Although I feel that Valkyrie does come very close in dimensions to the Legend X. Legend has a darker background and images sharper.

Treble is richer and less sharp on Legend X, it has a softer tone but intenser glow in its highs. Valkyrie has a faster and more energetic top end, that puts speed and clarity above all.

More comparisons and the conclusion on the last 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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