Empire Ears Valkyrie MKII (2021)

TomKorn

100+ Head-Fier
Empire Ears VALKYRIE MKII (2021)
Pros: - Engaging, detailed, fun sound with massive bass and sub-bass
- Silky smooth treble
- Very good detail and stage
- Beautiful (subjective) and well made IEM and very good cable
- Excellent price-/performance ratio
Cons: - Massive bass and sub-bass could be overwhelming for some (can be mitigated
with source matching)
Title.jpg


Intro

Meet the latest entry in Empire Ears (EE) broad range of in-ear monitors (IEMs), the VALKYRIE MKII. At a retail price of $1599, it sits somewhere in the upper midrange of their offerings.

The VALKYRIE MKII belongs to EE’s X Series which is mainly targeted at consumers rather than professionals. Those are covered by EE’s EP, or Empire Professional Series.


Specifications

3 Driver, Tribrid IEM Design:
  • Universal in-ear monitor
  • 1 Next Generation W9+ Subwoofer - Sub-Bass/Bass
  • 1 Proprietary Balanced Armature Driver - Mid
  • 1 Premium Electrostatic Driver - High, Ultra High
  • 4-Way synX Crossover Network
  • EIVEC - Empire Intelligent Electrostatic Control Technology
  • A.R.C. Anti Resonance Compound Technology
  • Impedance: 3.0 Ohms @ 1kHz
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz - 100kHz
  • Sensitivity: 100dB @ 1kHz, 1mW
  • Handcrafted Alpha Hybrid-IV (AH4) 26AWG UPOCC Copper Litz, Silver Litz 4-Wire Cable
Disclaimer

My review consists solely of my own thoughts, opinions and impressions of the product. I paid for the tested product, it was not given for free. All pictures were taken by myself unless stated otherwise.


Review gear

- Burson Audio Conductor 3X Reference (main testing source)
- Cayin N8 DAP
- Cayin N6 II DAP with E02 module


Music selection/Testing playlist

Voices, midrange, acoustic guitars etc.

Tenacious D - Tenacious D - Wonderboy
Marily Manson - The Pale Emperor - Day3
Chris Jones - Moonstruck
Sara K. - Hell or High Water - I Can't Stand The Rain, Stars
Ana Tijoux - 1977 - Partir de Cero

Channel separation

Tenacious D - Tenacious D - Kielbasa
NIN - The Downward Spiral - Hurt
Johnny Cash - The Essential - Ring of Fire
Stephen Coleman - Westworld Season 2 Soundtrack - C.R.E.A.M.

Soundstage, treble, electric guitars etc.
Alice in Chains - MTV Unplugged - Rooster
Korn - MTV Unplugged - Freak on a Leash
Anneke van Giersbergen - Symphonized - Feel Alive
Howard Shore - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Blunt the Knives

Dynamics, bass, subbass
The Diary - The Gentle Storm - Endless Sea |Gentle Version|
Wardruna - Runaljod: Ragnarok - Tyr
Hans Zimmer - Man of Steel OST - Look to the Stars
Hans Zimmer - Pearl Harbor OST - Tennessee
Ice Cube - Raw Footage - Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It
Andreas Vollenweider - Vox - Enchanted Rocks


Packaging & Accessories

The packaging for all Empire Ears (EE) products is more or less the same which to me makes sense, because it shows consistency throughout their whole range. You get a very nicely designed white cardboard box with the Empire Ears Logo and the name or logo of your particular product. It’s not too big or small and radiates class and style. It consists of an outer “slider” cover and a sturdier inside box.

IMG_8699.jpg


IMG_8678.jpg

Once you open the magnetic flap of the box inside you find a compartment with a quick manual and a “thank you” card from EE congratulating you to your excellent purchase :wink: Underneath looms the IEM and cable ready for you to rip out and enjoy the music. A classy drawer underneath reveals an aluminum sheet containing various Final Audio silicon tips to choose from. The great thing here is that Empire Ears not only gives you the standard S, M and L sizes but XS, S, M, L and XL instead, which simply gives you a wider range of tips to match to your ears.

As my ear-canals are slightly different in size, it makes it easier for me to get a good fit. However, I would have wished for a selection of foam tips as I generally prefer foam over silicon. The included tips work well though.

Josh from EE told me that the tips were meticulously chosen for the best sound- and comfort experience through rigorous testing and since I had a lot of discussions with him, I can see that EE are very dedicated to delivering the best possible product to their customers. I could honestly feel the dedication which, at least for me, makes for a good brand experience.

IMG_8706.jpg

Last but not least you get EE’s phantastic Pandora case, a black aluminum capsule to safely transport your precious in-ears. It’s built like the proverbial tank and is engraved with Empire’s logo and the name of your product.


Build quality & Fit

IEMs

IMG_8592.jpg


The build quality of the VALKYRIE MKII is simply excellent. They look flawless with no visible seams between faceplate and in-ear. The VALKYRIE MKII’s look stunning with their so-called “Dragonhide” faceplate which I believe to be more or less the same as on their first iteration.

IMG_8596.jpg


Fit and comfort, at least for my ears, is good and I get a good seal as well with the included silicon eartips. People with small ears (mine are average) should test first as these are rather big IEMs.

Cable

IMG_8618.jpg


EE are including their copper/silver hybrid cable Alpha Hybrid-IV (AH4) with this one. You get to choose from 3.5mm single ended or 2.5mm balanced. I always go for balanced but that’s my personal preference. It’s a beautiful, classy and well made cable and I particularly like the sleek connectors and beautiful copper y-split.

IMG_8599.jpg


IMG_8612.jpg


IMG_8608.jpg


I think it suits the VALKYRIE MKII very well. Unlike their Alpha-IV copper cable, this one is actually quite flexible hence wearing comfort and usability are good. Cable noise is reasonably low as well.


Sound

How does VALKYRIE MKII stack up in the sound department?

Overall tonality

This one is a very engaging and emotional in-ear monitor (IEM) rather than an analytical one. It delivers massive impact and very nice detail. The VALKYRIE MKII was clearly developed with pure fun in mind hence it is not for lovers of total neutrality.

Treble

Acoustic- and electric guitars as well as other string instruments sound nice and clear with good, silky smooth detail. I read about a certain harshness and sibilance of the first Valkyrie. That is absolutely not the case here. Like I said, the whole upper frequency range is very smooth throughout, making for a fatigue free listening experience.

There seems to be a slight treble emphasis making certain instruments like strings and guitars stand out. I found it a pleasure to listen to rock, acoustic rock and metal in particular but the VALKYRIE MKII seems to play nice with other genres as well.

Midrange

Male and female Voices are slightly pronounced but less so than the instruments mentioned in the treble paragraph. This can lead to the band/orchestra stepping into the foreground a bit. Good thing is, vocals are never subdued and remain nicely separated. I consider the midrange as rather balanced and unspectacular in a good way.

Bass/Sub-bass

Empire Ears implementation of their next-gen “Weapon-9+” subwoofer does it’s duty in the VALKYRIE MKII and boy, it does so with full force. My first thought was: “This is direct competition to EE’s excellent Legend X!”

Depending on your source, the VALKYRIE MKII’s pump a staggering amount of sub-bass into your ear canals. I noticed this in particular with Cayin N8 and N6II. I actually had to turn down the volume once or twice while listening to sub-bass heavy music. Using a more neutral source like my Burson Conductor 3XR review unit, that bass impact is mitigated quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong: This is PURE FUN indeed. Call it “guilty pleasure” if you will, but I personally don’t use that term, because there’s no guilt involved in enjoying your music, right?

Soundstage

The soundstage is really good for an IEM. In fact, you get a nice sense of space around you and you get an idea about what/who is where in a live recording situation. It’s not overdone though, so more intimate recordings will give you just this intimacy necessary to enjoy them.

Channel separation

Channel separation is very good but not overdone. To my taste just the right amount. Nothing more to say.

Neutrality

The VALKYRIE MKII is not a neutral IEM by any stretch. The massive bass and enhanced treble are designed for pure fun. This is not a dissection instrument but something that wants to move you, lift you to your feet and just enjoy your music.

Amplification/Matchability/Scalability

The VALKYRIE MKII will take the source it’s attached to and use it to full potential. Also, this is one of the few IEMs where different sources do have a big impact on its overall sound signature, so you should certainly test it with your existing equipment. While Cayin DAPs like the N6II or N8 will give you the full blast and glory of VALKYRIE’s Weapon 9+ subwoofers, more neutral DAP’s like the Astell & Kern ones will tame that bass quite a bit, resulting in a more relaxed sound signature.
While testing, the Burson desktop DAC/Amps provided a very good synergy with lots of detail, well controlled bass and nice stage.


Comparisons

Empire Ears Legend X (2199,-US$)

When I first listened to the VALKYRIE MKIIs, I thought “Hey, they sound a lot like the Legend X (LX) for less money. Did Empire Ears incidentally build an inhouse competitor preying on LX customers? Well, yes and no. In fact this is a good example on how memory can betray you and the only way to know for sure is to do a quick memory refresh. Fortunately I had my LX at hand to do so.

Switching to the Legend X, there are some similarities within the family, but the difference is apparent. The LX still delivers the most bass impact regardless of using the “old” Weapon 9 subwoofers, because it actually has two of them per side!

The soundstage on LX is larger and seems almost 3-dimensional. I said it before: The LX is the most intense listening experience with any in-ear monitor I ever had. This can be good and bad depending on what you like.

Let me put it this way: The LX is pure adrenaline pumping through your veins like you’re some extreme sports junky jumping out of a plane holding your breath. The VALKYRIE MKII will give you a nice adrenaline boost too like downhill skiing at high speed always knowing you’re in control. Does that make any sense?

So this is not simply pitting a $1599 IEM against one that’s $600 more expensive and the latter wins. It’s purely about preference.

(One last thing worth mentioning is that the LX is much smaller than the VALKYRIE MKII making it potentially the better option for people with small ears.)

Verdict

IMG_8570.jpg


The VALKYRIE MKII are actually very very good IEMs for the asking price, in fact I consider them excellent value for the money! 1599,-US$ is by no means cheap, but you get wonderful sound quality across all frequencies with an emphasis on sub-bass performance AND very good detail. You’re in the market for a fun IEM without sacrificing audiophile qualities? Grab ‘em and enjoy the “guilty pleasure”, but pleasure it is.

Other reviews

Empire Ears ESR MKII

Empire Ears Bravado MKII

Empire Ears Odin
Last edited:
TomKorn
TomKorn
Oh they are. 😊👍
OhmsClaw
OhmsClaw
I got the Nemesis back in October, but I shall not let FOMO get the best of me xD. Glad they tuned the treble right on the MK2's!
TomKorn
TomKorn
I never heard the nemesis. Looking at the tech inside, the MK2s are way ahead of their predecessors.
Top