Empire Ears – Phantom (5BA; 1,799$)
Phantom and Valkyrie are two very different monitors in my opinion. Both cater to a contrasting audience. Phantom is much thicker and warmer. Valkyrie has a faster and more authoritative bass, while I would describe Phantom’s as richer, denser and more vibrant. Valkyrie has a tighter and snappier bass, compared to the slower and meatier lows of Phantom.
Mids on Phantom are noticeably tuned towards the lower registers to make it sound warm. Valkyrie is more neutral, although it also features slight warmth, it’s nowhere near the colouration of Phantom. Valkyrie sounds more open and airy in its midrange, where vocals are especially lighter. Phantom’s love for deep male vocals gives it the underhand when it comes to delivering accurately produced female singers. The upper midrange on Valkyrie is more pronounced than on Phantom, which results in higher timbral accuracy on the Valkyrie. Phantom always had an issue with sounding nasal in this frequency spectrum.
On a technical level, I think Valkyrie comes out on top. It has higher resolution, separates sharper and creates a wider sound stage. Valkyrie is more holographic to me as well. Where both monitors do a great job is imaging. Phantom also knows very well how to place instruments in the room, and how to give it proper spotlight. In terms of background, Valkyrie has a darker one, whereas Phantom seems a bit more fuzzy.
Valkyrie’s treble response is again pretty different to the one found in Phantom. Valkyrie puts treble more forward with stronger bite and higher clarity. Phantom can come across as veiled and even muted in some regions. Valkyrie on the other hand might become a bit too forward for people who enjoy Phantom’s tuning. EE’s latest triple hybrid has a more energetic, faster and sharper top end. Phantom sounds calmer, more laid back and darker if you will.
Overall Phantom is the more balanced of the two, although it certainly tilts towards lower mids and bass itself. Valkyrie is more energetic, more powerful and just more exciting.
AAW – Canary (2DD/4BA/2E-Stat; 2,199$)
One of only two more tri-brid designs using an electrostatic tweeter in my inventory is the Canary by Advanced AcousticWerkes. The Canary and Valkyrie are not much alike. Although both have a great bass performance, the EE just sounds faster and more up front. Canary is calmer, smoother and more coherent. Both monitors definitely know how to throw a punch when needed, but Valkyrie does have bigger impact. Valkyrie sounds rounder and reaches deeper into lows than Canary.
The transition from bass to mids is done more seamless on the AAW in my opinion. Mids are again smoother on the Canary, they sound a bit more foggy too though. Valkyrie’s midrange is cleaner, more precise and more neutral in colouration. Canary’s tones are softer and feature a bit more weight in them. Valkyrie is lighter and thinner in comparison.
On technical parameters I think the Valkyrie does come out on top in a few sections. It creates a wider stage, has higher resolution and separates instruments better. Valkyrie has a blacker background and portrays musicians more precisely. Canary has very good imaging and layering, which are on par with Valkyrie’s.
Valkyrie only sports a single e-stat tweeter, while Canary comes with a dual setup. They both produce very different highs again. Canary is more relaxed, laid back and even a bit shy, while Valkyrie sports more energy, sparkle and brightness. People with low treble tolerance might be better suited with the lower prominence of the Canary, as Valkyrie’s can be definitely forward. Cymbals crash harder and violins sound brighter on Valkyrie than on Canary.
Canary’s tuning is safer, it doesn’t risk much but at the same time it also doesn’t step a foot wrong for that matter. Valkyrie delivers a more thrilling signature. Something that pumps, jumps and trumps.
Jomo – Trinity (1DD/4BA/2E-Stat; ~2,749$)
It’s only been a few weeks since I received Jomo’s latest flagship. According to them, it is the world’s first tri-level hybrid using electrostatic tweeters. Jomo, just like AAW, uses a pair of the Sonion drivers though.
The Trinity and Valkyrie both place bass in a more forward manner in their signature. Although they both give their focus to different areas. The Jomo concentrates more on sub-bass while Valkyrie gives mid and upper bass more attention. The EE features more weight and authority in its bass, it has more body and a very different texture. The Jomo’s bass is tighter, has higher resolution and comes out as edgier, while Valkyrie’s is rounder and fuller.
Similar to the Canary, Trinity is smoother than Valkyrie in the midrange. It’s warmer and sounds somewhat more congested. Vocals don’t come across as emotional and airy than on Empire’s Valkyrie. The EE sounds more open, has higher resolution in the midrange and separates everything more precise. Jomo’s notes are thicker and denser, a touch richer as well. But Valkyrie is faster, more accurate and at the same time lighter.
Valkyrie puts more air in the spectrum and around the instruments, which enables it to give musicians more space to breath. It creates a wider and deeper sound stage. Images sharper and renders at a higher rate. The darkness of Valkyrie’s background is intenser and deeper as well. When it comes to details, I can hear more minute information on Empire’s model.
Trinity’s treble sounds a bit more cut-off and shy. Valkyrie is more agile, up front and sharper. Especially in the upper range it is Valkyrie that produces a more energy. Valkyrie sounds clearer, cleaner and brighter.
Jomo’s Trinity has a more pronounced balance with a warmer and slightly darkish overall tuning, while Empire gave Valkyrie a V-shaped signature.
Empire entered the tri-brid challenge with a bang. The Valkyrie offers many things of its bigger brother, the Legend X. Valkyrie is one of the most exciting and fist bumping monitors I have heard to date. It takes you on a journey of pumping through your music while your feet can’t stay put. People who want a warmer sound, won’t be satisfied as Valkyrie is not about warmth. Valkyrie is all about excitement.
The newly designed shell is a big plus in my opinion, as previous universals from EE have been quite big in size. It’s not just the size though, as the improved form also comes in for comfort. Valkyrie does a lot of things right, but there are also draw-backs. If you can’t handle energetic treble, you might find Valkyrie too much. Valkyrie also improves a lot with proper amplification, and it could well be, that your source is just not right for it.
With the right source Valkyrie absolutely delivers, and for me, it offers a lot bang for buck. Out of all of Empire’s models I know, Valkyrie is the one with the best price to performance ratio. For its high value it goes straight to our Best UIEM list.