Vision Ears Erlkönig - Reviews
Pros: Timbre
Bass
Overall Sound
Build Quality
Cons: Availability of the ERLKONIG
Price
Comparison: ERLKONIG, Thummim and Luna

This review will be a comparison among the Vision Ears LE ERLKONIG, the MMR Thummim and the Dunu Luna. I was able to spend some time with the Thummim on an audition from MusicTeck, and I own the LE ERLKONIG and the Luna. The Dunu Luna was included in this comparison because I was asked by Arijitroy2 to compare it along with the other two. That is what I did, and I decided to do it by using some select albums and tracks to show you what I preferred and to hopefully provide a feel for the 3, along with what I think is the best. I have used this format in the past on some of my posts, so hopefully you will like it. Please think of this as sort of a review in comparison among the 3 vs a detailed review explaining everything about primarily one IEM. As many have already reviewed each individual IEM in detail already, I did not feel that to be necessary. Please read any of the other posted reviews of these IEM’s for more specific details, especially in terms of build specifics and packaging. Please think of this as some additional comparative information, and as mentioned above, I do hope that you will have a greater feel for each after reading it.

The albums listed below were not predetermined. I had been auditioning the Thummim and decided to do this comparison and take some notes on what I was hearing in comparison to the ERLKONIG and Luna. These just happen to be the albums I took notes on. These are 3 top IEM’s, so do not expect any bashing, they are all too good for that. This is a matter of what do I feel is the best of 3 outstanding IEM’s.


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Dunu Luna and N8, LE ERLKONIG, MMR Thummim

All listening was done using my Cayin N8 BB using its 4.4mm SS output. I do feel that is the best output on this device (though the tube output is excellent as well, it was not used in this comparison), and highly recommend it as one of the best DAP’s based on sound quality alone. For EDM I was using my Hugo 2 (I also used it for some tracks that I did not use to take notes on). I added in a comparison to my home system on a few albums/tracks to judge which IEM was the most accurate. Obviously, “accuracy” here will mean closest in sound to my home system. My home stereo system consists of Rockport Altair 2 speakers connected to Viva electronics (Preamp, and mono-block amplifiers). I adore my home system, so that is why I use it from time to time as a comparison. As I am sure you are aware, the ERLK has a choice of 4 different sound signatures. For this comparison I left the ERLK in Position 2 which is my favorite position at this time. Position 2 increases the bass over one of its neutral settings while still possessing a fabulous midrange and treble.

When comparing IEM’s on the albums and tracks I both listened fully, and I also would use sections to immediately compare so that there were only seconds in between listening to each IEM. I did this to preserve Auditory memory, which as you all know, is extremely short. And yes, this all started to get “nuts” after many hours. Without further ado, here are my thoughts.


Soular Energy – The Ray Brown Trio

Listening to this and comparing how the IEM’s sound as compared to my home system (Rockport Altair 2’s) the ERLKONIG is hands down the more accurate and matching sound to my home system. I also like it the best personally. It’s tone, tight bass, detail of Ray Brown’s bass, etc. are the closest to my home system.

The Thummim provides more bass (even than my Rockports) but less tight. The overall timbre is darker than on my home system and darker than the ERLKONIG. Not in a bad way, but darker (warmer) and less accurate. It still sounds very good, and lots of detail comes through on Ray Brown’s bass.

The Luna is lighter sounding than the ERLKONIG and lighter in sound than my home system. Close. Again, very good detail in the bass. When listening to the Luna for a time and then the Thummim, the Thummim may at first seem too dark and into the bass. When listening to the Thummim for a while and then the Luna, the Luna sounds very light in comparison. They are two different renditions, one a little brighter and one a little darker than the ERLKONIG and my home system.

My favorite is the ERLKONIG and I would say it is not close. It just sounds better with tighter bass, great detail, and the best timbre of the group.
Second goes to the Thummim. I do feel its bass is a little too prominent, but still very good sound.
Third to the Luna, but close. Again, a different presentation than the Thummim.

I would certainly call the Thummim colored, but it does it in a good way. With lots of detail in a bass heavy presentation and soft mids (vocals will be softer than on the ERLKONIG, though there are no vocals on this album).


Don’t Smoke In Bed - Holly Cole

The Thummim does a nice job on the presentation and Holly Cole’s voice. It is still a darker presentation than the others, but it is good. Detailed bass, though at times more than should be present. On occasion it seems slow/muddy as compared to the ERLK. Still a nice presentation. But it does not create the same sense of presence provided by the Luna and ERLKONIG.

The Luna handles the bass well on this album. It also provides more air and quality of tone to Holly’s voice. On “Je Ne T’Aime Pas” it is a very intimate presentation. Holly is right there with you. An overall nicer timbre than on the Thummim.

The ERLKONIG presents this album beautifully. Holly’s voice comes across a little less bright than my home system, more romantic which gives her a gorgeous timbre. As I have said in the past on Headfi, the ERLK comes across as neutral leaning romantic in any deviation from neutral. The bass is tight, impactful and detailed. Holly Cole is right there with you on “Je Ne T’Aime Pas.” Even nicer and more intimate than on the Luna.

My favorite for this album is again the ERLKONIG and it is easily heard.
Second goes to the Luna.
Third to the Thummim, though I feel a bit of a gap between it and the Luna on this album.


Boston - by Boston

The Thummim does a great job on this rock album. As the album is a bit bright, the Thummim handles it well. The bass of the Thummim comes through, and the pace it displays on the rhythm is easily picked up. The guitars sound great. It is still darker in presentation than the other IEM’s, but it can be welcome at times on this album. Nice drum detail as well. It produces the sound with a nice clarity.

The Luna provides a bit brighter presentation again, but its bass and detail are there. It definitely sounds good here, and it keeps the vocals from getting sibilant. The Thummim provides more bass power, but the Luna is close, and probably the more accurate.

The ERLK again has the best overall timbre. It can handle the bass as well though the Thummim provides a bit more. However, the ERLK is tighter.

Here, I might pick the Thummim as best for this album. It’s dominate bass providing an overall richer sound, and it tones down the brightness of the album just a little.
I will go with the ERLK for second and Luna Third. You can make a case for the ERLK to be first here as well, but I am very happy listening to the Thummim, and I am not wishing for any of the other IEM’s.


STYX – Greatest Hits

Same story here. I started listening to the Thummim on this album and loved its sound. Bass, vocals, everything sounding great. Great bass details when present. The vocals were beautiful. Switching to the ERLKONIG, it is just better. Tighter bass, just as or even more impactful and the vocals were gorgeous. A little more open and yet more intimate at times than the Thummim.
The Luna would be a little lighter presentation with great vocals as well. Detailed bass that was not as powerful as the other two. Still a top tier production, but ERLK and Thummim had an edge in direct comparison.

By the way, I do feel all 3 will be enjoyed by anyone who owns them. I like all 3, but I am trying to provide an order.


The Greatest Showman

“Never Enough”


I love how Lauren Allred does this song. One of my favorite female vocal performances. The recording is not that great though, in comparison to Norah Jones or Holly Cole recordings for example. Her vocals can induce ringing in my ears on this recording. The Thummim prevents this and still sounds open and detailed. A great presentation.

It is on recordings like this that the Luna shines. Luna allows the vocals to have more presence and air than the Thummim, yet also prevents the ringing that can be easily produced by even great IEM’s.

Truth be told, the ERLKONIG actually has the better tone, however, its accuracy hinders it here for me. Although the best timbre to Lauren’s voice, they induce that ringing in my ear I was talking about. I can lower the volume to correct it, but the Luna and Thummim do not require any volume modification.

On this song the Luna is my favorite with the Thummim second and the ERLK third.
On the rest of the album I do not have this issue and the ERLK sounds the best. The Thummim is also good, but again to the warmer side of things. The Luna also good and provides its signature lighter presentation. I would probably take the Luna second for the rest of the album and the Thummim third with its warmer presentation and driving bass. It makes it a different but fun presentation.


Senor Mouse – The Forever Album - Chick Corea, Clarke and White

Same signatures here. The ERLK is the most accurate and has the best timbre and sound. The Piano notes, the bass strings, the drums, all presented great.
The Thummim provides the warmer presentation as compared to the ERLK, and the Luna the brighter presentation as compared to the ERLK. These differences are all easily heard by the way. This is not hair splitting. These are significant.

May favorite is again the ERLK with its great tone, tight drums, and bass. The Thummim I also liked allot and place it second. The notes were coming out of a black background. Really good.
The Luna with its brighter presentation is third though also very good. Less bass and less warm than the other two.

A brief story. I was listening to this track and the “Forever” album on the Thummim and saying to myself how great it sounds. Then I decided to compare it to the ERLK on “Senior Mouse” as I just talked about. When I did that, I was wowed by the ERLK. It was just better in every way (tone, tightness and impact of the bass, the piano, etc.). I was shocked that I could be so happy with the Thummim on this track, and then listen to the ERLK, and easily hear it reproduced at yet another level.


Holst The Planets - Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic

I like to use “Mars” and “Jupiter” to assess how an IEM (or any speaker for that matter) can handle classical music, bass performance complexity, etc. There are also the trumpets, drums, sub bass, etc.

The Thummim provides a good presentation. It can produce the sub bass rumble, the drums and the trumpets, etc. all very well.
The ERLK also does it, and again, with less warmth providing to me, the better timbre while losing nothing in the bass or sub bass.
The Luna is also excellent with a less warm presentation than the Thummim that works well here.

The ERLK is again my favorite and with the LUNA my second favorite and the Thummim close. All 3 do a good job, but the added warmth of the Thummim hurts it here as it is not as open sounding.


Come Away With Me – Norah Jones (Hi Def)

I like all 3 allot on this album. The ERLK and LUNA might be a touch more intimate.
My favorite here in a close call would be the Luna. All 3 are excellent. The ERLK and Luna have a bit more open presentation, the Thummim slightly more laid back and warm, but excellent. All in a good way.


LA Woman – Doors

ERLK again number 1.
Luna or Thummim in 2nd depending on if you want a brighter tone (Luna) or warmer (Thummim). You cannot go wrong either way.


Aqualung – Jethro Tull (Hi Def)

Thummim again does a great job on this album. Nice clarity and when the bass is called, it delivers. Locomotive Breath is definitely in its wheelhouse. The driving bass is easy to hear and the right weight.
The ERLK and LUNA are actually even better. The Luna provides a tighter bass and has more presence to Ian Anderson’s voice. The ERLK is in another league altogether. Just awesome. The bass comes pouring through and is very tight. Ian’s voice is clear and just sounds terrific. This is the hidef recording, and wow is the ERLK perfect for it.


EDM
SYZYGY 02 by OPIUO


How about a little EDM just to round things out. All 3 will handle the bass. I like the ERLK, followed by the Luna and then the Thummim. The ERLK and Luna open it up a bit more. The Thummim still is a bit warmer and not as tight, but still great. The point here is all 3 have no issue.


Summary

Overall, I do feel the ERLK is the superior IEM of this battle. I would place the Thummim in second and the Luna third. There were also many times I preferred the Luna over the Thummim and a few times over the ERLK. All 3 are excellent IEM’s. The Luna is the obvious “buy” of the 3 (great packaging too by the way) based on its list price ( $1699 for the Luna, $4499 for the Thummim and the ERLK is sold out).

The sound signatures were easy to distinguish with the ERLK having the more accurate sound and the best timbre as I described. Using the ERLK as our point of reference, the Thummim is warmer while the Luna is Brighter in presentation. In summary:

- If you like thick and warm, the Thummim is your IEM.
- If you like a brighter signature with a bit less but tighter bass, the Luna is your IEM (it is also the most comfortable to me by the way if you have fit issues).
- If you want a bit of accuracy coupled with the best timbre, bass impact, and tightest bass of the bunch, then you will want the ERLKONIG.

Now, if you are asking “do I want a Thummim?” “Yes,” I do. Will I pay list price? “Probably not.” It provides an altogether different (Warm/dark) perspective which can be of interest on particular recordings, and especially “bright” sounding albums. It is different, and unlike a top home system with 500lb speakers, you can simply put a different IEM in your ear, and have a completely different presentation. This, to me, is what makes the Thummim a great compliment to most any IEM available. The Luna can do the same from the perspective of a lighter presentation that somehow manages to keep the vocals smooth, airy and detailed. That said, the LE ERLKONIG is King!
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toaster
toaster
Thx for the write up, man. Glad the erlky worked out for you (clearly.) I look forward to hearIng the thum, as I think it may be one of the few iems capable and unique enough to complement the erlky.
F
Frankie D
Yes, both have very different signatures as I mentioned making them good compliments. Unfortunately also expensive compliments.The Luna as well for that matter.
Thanks again for the recommendation on the ERLKY.
Damz87
Damz87
Excellent comparison @Frankie D very informative. Good choice on the EDM album too :wink:
Pros: Exceptional sound signature.
Magical bass tuning.
Tuning options.
It's made of silver!!!
Vocals are to die for...
Cons: It's heavy.
Cost.
Limited availability.
It's heavy.
Cost.
Not mine.
Vision Ears Erlkönig ($4500): What thee of a legend?

Erlkonig

Link to David Molliere’s excellent review. Use it for comparison, then you can see what an actual writer can do (him). https://iem.reviews/2019/11/17/vision-ears-erlkonig-the-fairy-king/



Intro: I was lucky enough to participate in another of @Barra tour. This time the excellent VE8 & Elysium tour. As an added bonus, the Erlkönig was offered as an aside. Through the course of the tour, there was a delay. My sincerest hope is that the delay before me is safe and at peace. Sometimes our hobby takes a very much warranted backseat, and this was a time for that. To hear the Erlkönig is a treat of a lifetime for many, and that alone can be cherished.

Back on track, the travel from Arizona to Missouri took the form of, “HEY! Let’s stop at every diner between AZ and MO and add four days!” While the delay here was neither mine nor Barra’s fault, it did also put into perspective how far we have yet to go for some semblance of normalcy. Delays happen, and I am just thankful the unit arrived unscathed. More later on the “unscathed” part.

The Erlkönig...denoting a Danish ballad legend in von Goethe’s poem (here) of a child losing their life to a “demon” or “Elf King” the death was of a supernatural being. Loosely told, the father and child ride through the forest on a dark and windy night (not unlike my night right here, right now), surrounded by the Erlkönig and his daughters. The father dissuades the son at every turn when asked if he could see the king or daughters. Brushing off the child’s remarks, the father rides faster, arriving at their farm only to find the child is dead.

The purity with which the child saw, and father denied cannot be mistaken. Protecting until the end, the father denied the child his seeing’s in order to protect. Unsuccessful, the child must still haunt the forest today one could easily imagine. This is the purity of sight that Vision Ears tried to instill into the Erlkönig. A purity of such nature that we mere mortals will be either taken in by that sound or rushed off through the forest avoiding the trap of becoming entwined in the wind. Stuck in the forest forever if we fail.




The wind here is steady (no, I’m not listening right now, I’m saving that for tomorrow...) and slowly growing. This comes on the heels of Tropical Depression Cristobal dumping several inches of rain across the area in which my abode lies. It has been a crazy year as is, but throw in the weather we have had of late including the aforementioned Cristobal and wind along with a very rare Mesoscale Convective System BACKING INTO ANOTHER MSC right over us (6.5” of rain, 60mph winds), and you can see why the emotion of the weather leads the way into my review.


*My first 30 minutes of listening earlier were superb. Detail and purity like never heard. Period.




Specs:

13 drivers, 5-way crossover
Sensitivity-105dB
Impedence-16ohms
Frequency Range-15-45kHz


In the package:

This will be short, since I believe you can customize the set up somewhat. The case is an aluminum hard foam-lined affair, complete with buckle. On the top side (inside) there is a flap to keep the IEM safe, and two mesh pouches for tips, or whatever. Also included was a nice Van Nuys IEM wrap made of Cordura. Insert the IEM into each “pocket” and place the ear guide under individual Velcro straps. Then carefully wind the cable around the whole set up. While this is a nifty idea, I’m not sure I would place my expensive IEM’s in such a thing. Especially since the cable must be wound every time.

Numerous tip choices are included, based upon color and size. One could easily achieve optimal fit, except that the muzzle is just about the widest I have ever seen. I had to move on to my Comply Comfort T-600 sized large to attain a good fit. And with that, I had to roll the tips every time to maintain a good seal. Not so with the silicon tips.




Gear used/compared:

Shanling M6 Pro
Cayin N6ii
MacBook Pro/ifi Pro iDSD
XDuoo x10t ii/ifi xDSD
XDuoo x10t ii/iFi Pro iDSD

Vision Ears Elysium (from review)
Vision Ears VE8 (from review)
Empire Ears Legend X
Empire Ears Wraith



Songs:

Dave Matthews-Come Tomorrow, Away From The World
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World, Midnight Radio
twenty one pilots-Blurryface, Trench, Regional at Best
Van Morrison-Three Chords & The Truth
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Ziggy Marley
Damien Marley
Bob Marley
Santana
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Whatever my fancy of the moment




Build/Fit/Finish:

When one spends as much as I spent on my 1979 Triumph Spitfire, one had better expect and get perfection. And with the shell made of silver, it is exceptional. And, it is heavy. This is the heaviest IEM I have used to date. And your ear can feel it, as the ear guides on the Effect Audio custom cable are less prominent than I would like. I was able to get good fit, which alleviated some of the mass but there is no denying its heft.

A word about the finish. If one spends this kind of money on pretty much anything, one would take care of it. Cherish it. Treat it like well...silver. Unfortunately, the unit came to me with several small dings and marring of the finish. I’m not sure if it is due to the multiple handling of the critter over a short period of time or that the unit is not our own. But this is now two tours in a row (another from separate vendor) where the unit has shown at my door with marks that would take me a lifetime to make. My point is, that it is an honor to have these tours, and one should treat the unit in hand like it is a borrowed unit and you want to return it in better shape than upon arrival. The tour guides take their time and effort to arrange these items, please treat them with much more respect.

The Erlkönig is built impeccably well. Sublime curves give a sensuous shape to the silver and there is enough sheen to give subtle hints to that curvaceous shape. I do not mean this to be an object of desire, unless you think in that manner of a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Then, the description is quite apt. Think of a finely hewn hand-crafted Ferrari of yore. Hand shaped fenders that were perfection in shape and match. It really took the eye of a craftsman to discern the slightest flaw, which was promptly and lovingly corrected. This is what I think about with the Erlkönig, sublime curves lead your eyes around the shape as you hold the unit. Caressing the curves in the same manner that the craftsman sported his fine ware of a fender. Just marvelous.




Continuing through the 2-pin cable, the same cannot be said of me with regard to the over-ear guide. While it is present and supple, it is too short and too thin. For something the girth of the VE, one needs better support. It does work but is too flimsy and shapeless for such a critter in hand. That “flimsiness” continues for me on to the cable. I myself have several Effect Audio cables, and one came standard on my Legend X. But this one is quite special. Made of OCC purse silver, the cable transmits sound effortlessly, but it too is too flimsy to me. It also tangles far too easily. Keeping its wound shape too much (especially when wrapped around the Van Nuys), it takes time to undo the winds. I would have preferred a more supple shape and lay of cable. The jack itself seems to be nice. Only nice, not stellar. I also had to screw the cap back on a few times before it would stay. Of course, many will listen, then move on to a fine balanced cable in concert with the OEM Effect Audio. More on that in sound impressions. As stated, the cable does sound marvelous and matches well with the Erlkönig as it should.

The nozzle as stated is one of the widest I have encountered and as such requires wide-bore tips. Luckily, I have a large selection of Comply tips as well as the included silicon’s (the included Comply did not fit, the bore was too small). I used my Comply as a result approximately 75-80% of the time but did try the included silicon tips for comparison.

Speaking of comparison, there are four nifty “sound signature” settings under the etched cover plate. The plate is smartly held on by a magnet and can be ordered customized as well. The included etched model replete with crown logo is worthy of being called a piece of art. Using the included small driver, the plate comes off easily without fear of marring the finish. Many current models of IEM’s utilize some sort of “adjustment” to change the sound signature, so this is not new, but on a model of this ilk having that ability certainly makes it more versatile while giving the user the ability to tailor from genre to genre very quickly. A nice touch.



The four “signatures” are:

4-Baseline
3- Baseline +2dB above 4kHz compared to 4
2- Baseline +3dB at 100Hz compared to 3 (+3dB at 100Hz and +2dB at 4kHz)
1- Baseline +3dB at 100Hz compared to 2 (so +6dB at 100Hz overall and +2dB at 4kHz)

Going from 4 to 1, you get increasingly more bass presence (quantity). This is the way the unit came to me, and so far, my preferred choice. All four will be analyzed using the same source and songs.

*Sound will be broken into source comparisons as well as the signature comparisons utilizing the same source(s) and song(s) as in Sig-1 will be compared across the Shanling and Cayin as well as to the other signatures using the same songs on the same source (Shanling to Shanling for example). This should give a good representation of sound across sources and differences of signatures in enough modes for the reader to make an informed decision. Of course, if one is looking at the Erlkönig for purchase, they most likely have already...



Sound across sources:

Signature 1:


Starting with the Shanling M6 Pro I found the sound to be simply put, amazing. I am still in the honeymoon phase using the M6P, but I can already note that the sound from it is amazing. I first checked to insure all was good, then put the M6P on continuous loop using the Shozy From 1.1, running continuously for approximately 75 hours. After that, I had time to update and install Google Play Store according to Shanling’s guidelines. It took two tries (mainly because I had already installed Tidal and played it a bit), but installation was successful. This had no effect whatsoever on the SD card music but is mentioned so that protocol is noted.

I would note that the sound coming from the pair was full, rich and the most detailed of anything I have heard to date, IEM-wise. I consider that the function of the Vision Ears unit. Detail of Dave Matthews voice on I’m Weary and Here On Out was sublime and coming from inside his lungs. Instead of a front row seat, I was the provocateur who enabled him to breathe and produce the tonality of song. I was pushing air out the lungs in concert with note in perfect harmony and unity of song. I was 15 minutes in and already realized that this was a case of complete immersion and a specialness afforded only certain times within one’s life. Like that quiet time with your loved one where all you do is immerse yourself into the other. Deeply gazing into her eyes, you realize how deeply you love her, and that overwhelming feeling cannot be taken away, no matter the moment. Or maybe it was the song.

With a slightly brighter signature, I was moving out of my comfort zone here, but I thoroughly enjoyed the pairing nonetheless, such was the treat. That brightness transpired into and exaltation of higher sound. Not at all sibilant, piercing or grating, no. Thoroughly tamed, but free the sound emanating from the duo defined what top tier treble should be. I do believe I came away from the experience with a new appreciation of incredible higher-note as a result.

Mids were sublime as mentioned. One could easily draw yourself into the note, experiencing firsthand what that vocal note should sound like as well. Slightly elevated in the three-dimensional form, but just about perfect of sound, the mids sang as well as the treble and bass. I do believe it was here, in the upper mids, which gave me a bit of paucity with regard to a “slightly too bright” signature to my liking. Of the two, the Shanling came across “brighter” than the Cayin, quite possibly due to the dual-DAC usage.



The Cayin N6ii followed the Shanling, using the E01 motherboard as my preference. Switching between Class-A and Class-AB I found the Class-A to be my favored pairing. The AB, which provides a more forward sound was still quite excellent, but not like the incredibly detailed sound of pure Class-A. There is a reason that Class-A on the Cayin uses more battery power...all of the internal resources go towards providing the very best sound possible from the portable DAP. And it worked. The E01 motherboard is a marvel in itself and one quickly realizes that with proper IEM’s or headphones, you need not worry about balanced options. Hence the pairing with the Erlkönig fit the forte.

Of note to me is the warmer signature, which the E01 provides, which fits my tastes better. Paired with the Erlkönig, that warmer lush tonality came through without overshadowing the tone. Detail is still astounding in the pair, but the warmer tonality does hinder just a bit the clarity of said sound. This would be like that Grand Tour episode with the Holy Trinity of cars...each drag race ended differently depending upon the settings involved. Mind you all three of the McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari & Porsche 918 are at the absolute top of the chain car-wise. In other words, it does not really matter which won the race, all are incredible. So, take that “slightly” less-clear sound as a sign of the warmer tone added from the Cayin. Switching to Class-AB, the sound is bumped up approximately 6dB in sound and it shows. With better detail, the clarity came back in line. I preferred the richer tone of the Class-A setting. That is my preference. Using Drunken Soldiers again, there is a warmer sound, which fits the time in which I picture the song taking place, the high seas pirate days of the late 1700’s. Tough times, with tougher people. I would say I experienced the song a bit more on the Cayin, but both have and are simply wonderful on the song. Swashbuckling on the Shanling, emotive on the Cayin.

After a talk with Barra about the “positives” of the Erlkönig his words were, “wait until you get it on a good desktop amp.” So of course, I plied the trade with my ifi Pro iDSD next. Running at 9dB gain, which is my standard setting and switching between the Gibbs Transient Optimizing (GTO) and Apodizing, I went back and forth. BitPerfect and BitPerfect+ were good on the filtering but I prefer the formers to the latter’s. Starting with Isle Of Flightless Birds, I fell into my normal songs. This TOP album, their first, is underappreciated I do believe, and the sheer simplicity of song can be a possible reason. But, when you listen to the underlying lyrics and the accompanying sound you are drawn into the music, which gives one good reason to enjoy the song and album. The Erlkönig obliged.

The bass was strong and rich on said song. Cymbal hits came true and taut. Vocals while a bit lifted were nonetheless superb. On signature one the bass was definitely the highlight of the show and did tend to overshadow the treble and mids a bit. This did not diminish my sensory enjoyment, though.



Signature 2:

Going in the same order as above, the Shanling M6 Pro proved itself again to be the “brightest” of the three here. And that was all right. Running the dual-DAC’s and High Gain, sig-2 gives that airy note a bit more than sig-1. As it should, since the bass is not as dialed up as much. I found that I had to do one of two things: dial the dual-DAC back to single or drop the gain to low. Even running a scant 22 out of 100 on the volume wheel gave me too much. My favored setting here was the dual-DAC and low gain, with a volume of 25. Still a bit too bright, but the song has much to do with that as well. I did prefer sig-1 on the M6P.

Switching from the Shanling to the Cayin N6ii again, I appreciated the change. Even these tired old ears could fathom the added “quality” wrought from less of a bass-boost.

The ifi Pro iDSD immediately sound a bit withdrawn on signature 2. That said, it did allow the mids to move a bit forward. They were stellar in their presentation, adding the right amount of lift to the song, without drawing too much towards them. More of a connection instead. I enjoyed the combination in the TOP song, as it allowed the mids to come through in the crescendo period later in the song. A bit cleaner in presentation, I appreciated the added clarity.

Running Class-A, the sound was a bit thinner than the ifi listed below, until the bass hits. Then what could have been described as delicate here was actually an airier note. The E01 shows its mettle as a richer sound than the A01 I also have, but the ifi is warmer yet. This could have been the difference. The Cayin was simply splendid in signature 2. Switching to Class-AB, and that “delicacy” was gone. I wouldn’t call it robust, as that would call it warmer, but the faster attack of the AB definitely made sig-2 sing. The combination of N6ii/Erlkönig in this signature seemed destined for each other. Especially when one can switch between the slower decay of Class-A, adding that smidge of warmth (closer to sig-4 on the VE), or AB and have that fast, precise sound, without being analytical. Even though the M6 Pro is my new kid on the block, the N6ii still is an incredible unit to me, as it should be.



Signature 3:

With no bass boost, and a mild 4kHz boost, we are moving onto the lighter side of the signature. Those that favore clarity are now showing their heads and ears, so to speak. The Shanling M6 Pro is becoming a DAP on my brighter side of life, and this does nothing to dissuade that feeling. I will note that this isn’t as “light” or thin as I thought it might be. Of course, it may be that the sheer cost of the critter (VE) deters the tonality from that all together. Once the complicated part shows on Isle Of Flightless Birds, the signature comes across as crisp and clean. Almost too much so in the mids section. I sense a bit of strain from the additional keyboard notes in this section, but nothing that is too bothersome. Not my preferred signature, but still superb. To think that an IEM of this range can vary its tone so quickly to meet your needs and do so, without harming the sound is indeed a treat. Others that have promoted this “changeable tune” with filters and such have not been so lucky. Some have, but with some I do believe I have “lost” the filters of which I care nothing.

Starting with the more resolving Class-AB, the Cayin N6ii seemed a bit lifeless, and I had to move the volume up to counter that “sense.” It was an odd encounter, as I had the exact same volume setting each time on the same DAP. I definitely preferred the slower attack and response of Class-A here. That more laidback character fit the song signature better here, which seems to be the antithesis of the Shanling. This shows how using the same song on the same DAP can be adapted to your preference based upon one IEM signature. This is doubly useful with the tunability of the VE. Having the ability to change the signature of the DAP is nice. Having that done so well on the IEM simply adds to the versatility. This was not my favorite signature on the Cayin, though.

Starting with a warmer more mellow character such as the ifi Pro iDSD does here helps soften what I called that “lighter tone” above. The ifi is simply a wonderful unit, with much adjustability. Even though I have other amps, the ifi is the stalwart of my rotation due to its versatility. Using this signature, the sound came across as passionate and honest. Not the lift of the Shanling, but not that tameness of the Cayin, either. Call it the middleman that does the dirty work. I really enjoyed this signature together. I would even go so far as to state it was my preferred signature on the ifi. This coming from someone who relishes superb bass presentation and the warmer, rich side of signatures. An interesting twist, which shows how good both really are together. I let myself get carried away into Drunken Soldier as a result. I did miss that poignant rumble of bass at the opportune times from this song, but the clarity of note was such that it more than made up for it. Sublime.



Signature 4:

As the baseline signature a couple of reviews called it thin and their least favorite. I look at signature 4 as the baseline of unattached additions. Nothing added, so the true signature shows. And as a standalone the sound, which emanates from the Erlkönig is true to the music. If this is what they call their favored signature to the flagship of Vision Ears, then this alone could sell many examples. It’s kind of like when Mazda sold a stripped racing version of the Miata to the public. Under the guise of provide a starting point for racing, the stripped model in itself was an absolute hoot to drive. Untethered from many amenities, the Miata sang in the hands of an experience driver. Many still consider that the finest Miata ever made (well, besides the first-year production, which we have, haha).



The Shanling M6 Pro comes across at the lightest level with this combination. But I think it lays bare any qualms that some might have with as purchase of the M6P. At its barest essentials, the combination is thoroughly wonderful. For some reason, the baseline sounds stellar here. And yes, I know it does not have that 4kHz push, which adds to the lifted mids. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed this setting here. Some might call it boring, or uninspiring, but I call it an honest representation without the frills. For that, I truly appreciated both models. Not my favored, but this was what to me sounded possibly the best using this duo. An interesting conundrum.

Starting with Class-A this time, the Cayin N6ii comes across as a very competent participant, but with an asterisk. That is, the upper mids and lower treble shown through as a bit piercing. Where on the brighter Shanling, the compliment was togetherness. Here, the combination seems not to work and play well together. Not my favored signature here, but still quite good. If you prefer brighter signatures, this along with the Shanling in signature 2 might be your best option.

The ifi Pro iDSD on the other hand was wonderful paired this way. Lighter in tone, but with the darker nature of the ifi, the pair definitely played well together. This is a good pairing (GTO filter on the ifi) and one in which I could raise the volume without bothering my treble-dislike. Enough down low (from the ifi I assume), and the splendid natural sound of the VE, the pair was the Yin and Yang of togetherness. Working in harmony, I felt again inside, this time in Tyler’s voice, experiencing the song from within. This is a treasure to be relished. I played the song three times to make sure what I was hearing was really what I wrote. It is, and it was. My goodness.


Separate sources, ones in which I really like:

Running the Dethronray DTR1/HA-2 in concert and the DTR1 solo gave me a good impression of what the Erlkönig could do with a solid source only, that may or may not be heard by many. I really enjoy the Dethonray pair, and singularly the DTR1. Using signature 3 (sig-4 gave even me too much bass and the sound was somewhat of a poorly tossed salad), the bass came through rich and perceptive in detail. Vocals were strong and present in fortitude up front. Not only the Erlkönig but the DTR1 showed how versatile they could be. Finding the right signature quickly is just a brilliant manner for the VE to do. As noted here, changing sources leads to different signatures. And the ability of the VE to be able to modify and adapt to that source pays dividends.

While I have accepted that there are matchings, which simply do not work well together, I have tolerated some because I enjoy that sound so much. Here with the Erlkönig though, you can easily adapt to those differences. Of course, it comes at a price. A large price.

Another favorite is the XDuoo x10t ii/ifi xDSD, which I often use as my go to portable set up when not reviewing. I like the added personalities of the ifi in conjunction with the no nonsense sound from the XDuoo. A combination of which I hole in high regard. Warmer, warmer, warmer. Those “three” words can describe the iDSD and we could leave it there. But, just like the Erlkönig, the ifi is multi-dimensional. The most adaptive desktop amp I own. Changing filters to meet your source or song is as easy as changing the filter knob (little one on the near-left). As such, you could almost think of yourself as a sound engineer what with the multi-sigs from both the ifi and VE. Suffice to say that no matter the song, I could find an excellent combination quickly and without fuss. Simplicity is one thing I love, but the ability to bring out the absolute best of your source, song, IEM and amp is worth all those extra knobs sometimes.



Comparable IEM’s:

Vision Ears Erlkönig ($4500) vs Vision Ears Elysium ($3140, from review):

From my conclusion: My time is up, and I am glad. Why? Because the next lucky person will get to listen, while I remember. I will remember pecking out these words as music streams through my cranial and be glad. Glad that I had the opportunity to listen to an excellent pair such as the VE8 and Elysium. I had heard one iteration of a Vision Ears and it was good. These are truly excellent and deserving of top spot TOTL status. They cost a decent percentage of a good college education’s year. But that is the nature of this TOTL hunted beast. One in which we strive for the best. One in which some will get there, while others such as myself will only give a brief listen. And this makes me glad that I was given that brief window with which to compare to my other wares. There truly is not a winner here, but only differing purveyors of company visions. And that makes me glad.


The Elysium was a fabulous representation of sound, the Germanic way. It was clean, clear, crisp and detailed. A bit bass-shy (compared to the VE8, and Erlkönig), but nonetheless worthy of the perfect score given. One can debate “how can more than one be given a perfect score?” They would be partially correct but think of it this way: The Porsche 918 is an incredible driving machine, and well worthy of a perfect score. Very, very few cars on the planet can come close to its overall performance. Does that mean the lowly Mazda Miata is not worthy of the same perfect score? It is not as fast but can handle quite closely to the Porsche. The 918 will indeed run circles around the Miata at the Nurnenburgring, as it should. But to me that does not diminish the Miata’s performance at all. Every time I get in ours, I get that same $hit-eating grin on my face because it is so much damn fun. Would I take a 918? You bet, but the 1990 Miata we own is perfect to me.

In that same regard, both the Elysium and VE8 can be considered “perfect” even in comparison to the Erlkönig. They are superb examples of the VE sound, and the new flagship can take nothing from them whatsoever. But, the Erlkönig does indeed “raise that bar” of performance, enhancing all that the previous iterations set forth, doing so with reverence to the past accomplishments of VE. I think I respected VE after listening to the VE8. I added reverence after listening to the Elysium and Erlkönig.


Vision Ears Erlkönig ($4500) vs Vision Ears VE8 ($2600, from soon to be published review):

So, based upon that last comparison you might think that you should run right out and purchase a Da Vinci X. You would appreciate it, but this is about the VE8. And the VE8 will be a very fine choice for those who appreciate a mid-forward signature with enough air between the notes to allow you to drive a Kenworth through (look it up if you don’t know). Add in the clarity of that first clear blue 70-degree cloudless, windless day and you have the makings of a wonderful sounding critter. You would be right. The details wrought from it are as good as any I have heard. But I just cannot get by that mid-forward sound unless I was always angry and wanted to turn the volume up to ear-damaging levels. I would and do not fault anyone who thinks this is an excellent IEM, for it is. It simply does not match my sound character. Now go try one and prove me wrong. It will not be the first time.


Based upon what I wrote about the Elysium, the previous paragraph summary may come across as harsh towards the VE8. It is not. It is just that the mid-forward signature emitting from it was not my favored signature. As noted, the clarity could be all one needs to choose the VE8. Let’s put it this way: if someone were to “permanently loan” a VE8 to me, I would gladly accept it, and be glad. For it provides an alternative to some I have in my collection now. And that alone would prove its worth, giving an alternative sound when needed.

As for comparing against the Erlkönig? You definitely hear the connection. Air between notes. Efficient use of the drivers. Rich full sound stage. Bass that is fast, respectable and full when needed. But we have approached something costing 2x the amount within the same line of product. You might think that, “well...you compared the Miata to the 918??!!” you would be correct. The two here might more appropriately be the Miata vs the Mazda6 or Mazda6 vs the Mazdaspeed6. One is really quite brilliant. The other is off the charts brilliant.


Vision Ears Erlkönig ($4500) vs Empire Ears Legend X ($2200):

Another tour listen initially, I ended up purchasing one after the tour on discount. If I could only have one IEM, it would be the Legend X. I was completely embraced at the bosom of bass wrought from the LX. Taking me in, coddling me closely and deeply, the LX had me. Smitten would be too weak a word. Obsessed would be closer to the truth. I love that sound signature and thought, “I am done.” Then...the Erlkönig came along almost rewriting the record book. What an incredible sound emanates from the VE. Better control of the sound, and this isn’t really a fair competition. This does not in any way diminish my love for the LX. It only adds another flavor I have had the honor of enjoying.


Vision Ears Erlkönig ($4500) vs Empire Ears Wraith ($3500, B-stock $2600, from review):

From my conclusion: The duo is headed east to NYC at the moment, and I lament their loss. They are marvelous from two differing directions. The Valkyrie is certainly not a baby-Legend X, but a wonderfully affordable unit, which espouses terrific bass and the electrostat pulls the rest together. The Wraith on the other hand is meant for purity of sound, with a solid thump as well. Not like the Valk/Legend, but cleaner and respected for the overall slightly warm tone, which presents itself rightly as a TOTL. This is not kids play. This is serious business when you reach this point. To flippantly flail out $3500 on an IEM would be foolish no matter what us hobby-gentlemen state. I would state the same with the 64Audio pair mentioned often here as well. When one reaches this point, you had better listen, lest you find out the tuning is not for you. That said, the Wraith is forgiving enough that you would quickly adjust. And I do think that is one of its greatest strengths…the ability to win you over, once you listen. I still like the Valkyrie more, but the Wraith won me over in the end with its solid build, fabulous electrostats, and a sound, which the industry should take notice of…or be jealous on the sidelines as EE passes them by. Splendid, indeed.


From the above you should note that I preferred the Valk. I still do, as it more closely mimics my LX. But the Wraith raises the collective EE-brand bar and brought notice to other high-end IEM makers that they had better still pay attention to them. And in that, the Wraith is not only aptly named, but worthy of the comparison. I have yet to hear a better controlled bass than the Wraith (although the 64Audio U18 Tzar comes to mind as well...). Signature-3 on the Erlkönig comes as close as I have heard. And yes, that includes my beloved LX. The LX is bass quantity and quality with that old-west untamed, dirtiness that I love. The Wraith is that surgically sharp sickle quality of bass that is strong, and tight. In the end a bit too tight for my tastes, but that did not diminish my overall respect for it, no. The other aspects worked so well in concert, that it is worthy to be named in connection when talking about summit-fi. Each company wrought their own signature at that level, and the Wraith would be a worthy competitor to the Erlkönig.

Where the Erlkönig wins out over the Wraith is its ability to change sound in a moment’s notice. You want near-Legend quantity bass? Signature-1. You want crystalline sound for your classical music? Signature-4. And the Wraith simply cannot do that.



Finale (finally, they say):

I finish the review part (but thankfully not the listening part...) while raising the volume of the TR-Amp/MBP/Tidal trio laying loudly to twenty one pilots. This is a character that did not come out until I could sit back and enjoy the Ride, so to speak. Just sitting back and enjoying the marvelous sound wrought from the 13-driver critter. Hearkening back to a song played our son’s freshman year of college soccer often, A Sky Full Of Stars seals my impressions. This is an incredible unit, which has the ability to change tone and personality at a moment’s whim. The song is very special to us, as it was generally played at halftime and we began to think of that long drive home. The separation started at that moment, and we relished the second half of was most often a win (perennial powers in college soccer they are). But it brought emotive responses of appreciation that also allowed us to be fully immersed in the moment.

As such, I stop writing and just enjoy the moment. Watching the Bundesliga has brought some normality to our times, and rather than listen to fake crowd noise, I turn the Erlkönig up a notch. Probably more than I should, but it is so stellar a unit that it deserves the added benefits wrought from the music. Song For America from Kansas and days of yore affords me the pleasure.

ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Ah, thank you both. And no, my writing pales to Mr. Molliere.
PeteSTRADAMUS
PeteSTRADAMUS
Great review as always.
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Thank you! Very much appreciated! The Erlkonig was quite extraordinary.
Pros: Strong technical foundations, top tier bass, mids and highs... while highly engaging : clearly a statement product!
Top notch resolution and fantastic detail retrieval
Fantastic soundstage
Background as black as it can be, makes for amazing note contrast
Build quality is outstanding, as well as great fit and isolation for a universal shell
Distinctive and coherent signatures, catering to wide preferences (not a gadget)
Smart magnetic faceplate allowing easy access to robust and well thought out signature switch
Cons: Price, this fall into « price no object » items… but you do get what you pay for!
Listening notes
I spent an intense 60hours with the Erlkönig, listening to Cayin N6ii (A01 and T01 motherboard) and with both the stock cable and the Elysium cable (my personal favorite combination in fact). I spent more than half that time with signature 4, probably a close to a quarter with signature 3 and the rest with signature 2 and 1 and some time A/B the signatures.

This review is a bit more complex than usual as the Erlkönig features no less than 4 signatures with the switch system and it wouldn’t make sense to just review one of them as it’s clearly part of the product design and a major features as well. For the rest of the review in the spirit of simplifying, I’ll refer to the Erlkönig for a specific signature as “Erlkönig4”, “Erlkönig2” and so on...


Special thanks
Thanks to Johannes at Vision Ears for allowing me to demo the Erlkönig and to Simon (@lafeuill) for helping me set this up. The unit must be returned at the end of the 2 weeks demo. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

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Packaging and accessories
I can’t really comment on the packaging since I only got the carry case, IEM and cable but I have no doubt this is top notch packaging.

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Specifications
  • 13 drivers, 5 way crossover
  • Sensitivity: 105dB
  • Impedance : 16ohm
  • Frequency range : 15-45kHz
Signatures
4- Baseline, to me a more mid centric signature with bass like 3 and less highs
3- Baseline +2db above 4kHz compared to 4, I would say reference
2- Baseline +3db at 100Hz compared to 3, playful bass
1- Baseline +3db at 100Hz compared to 2, full on basshead

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Fit, Build & Isolation
The Erlkönig is a statement product from VE and as such is everything that you can expect : the finish is spotless and a feat of engineering. I am not equipped to provide pictures to do them justice. The silver shell is heavy but fairly compact for a 13 driver... in no way does it compromise the superb fit and comfort and it definitely is a factor for the superb isolation. The isolation certainly contribute to the sense of phasing out of the world when listening to the Erlkönig.

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Introduction
Vision Ears is a company that has a very special place in my heart, as it’s also the company that built my very first custom IEM - the legendary VE8. The VE house sound is known for both its very strong technical foundations and their highly engaging nature, and the VE8 certainly delivers. It’s one of the few IEMs that simply are uncontested, entering a very closed number of IEMs that earn the respect of people with various preferences in terms of signatures. This is a testament both to VE flawless engineering but also the craft and knowledge of music that went into its tuning.

The big question in my mind was : how do you top yourself after this? Where do you go, as a company, after building what many consider as a endgame IEM altogether? This is a good problem to have but nevertheless one that is not so easy to solve and many in different industries have failed at repeating such a success.

I can’t say for sure how the guys decided to build the Erlkönig but it sure does make sense to move to a different plane field and go for a universal form factor, a first for a brand known for building custom only. To make matters a tad more interesting they chose Silver as the material for the shell which I am pretty sure is quite a challenging concept from sourcing, to engineering and manufacturing. A statement for a price no object product.

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The name itself is pretty interesting. ERLKöNIG. I did a little research and found references to Goethe’s somewhat grim poem, set to music by several composers, most notably by Franz Schubert. Wikipedia’s page suggest « Goethe's poem took on a life of its own, inspiring the Romantic concept of the Erlking . Erlking is a name used in German Romanticism for the figure of a spirit or king of the fairies.»

Vision Ears boldly asserts that « the ERLKöNIG has been developed so that you can experience music like never before». We’ve all read this or a variant of it before and usually this comes with a disappointment at the end... is that another fairy tale or is the Erlkönig really the King of the Fairies?

Let’s see!


Sound
It doesn’t take long to hear that the Erlkönig does not usurp his royal status, for it very well might be King of all universal IEM indeed or at least one of its kings. I often say first impressions are quite interesting and while spending more time with an IEM sure helps getting an in depth understanding, first impressions are usually painting the big picture. In the case of the Erlkönig I sure had very high expectations so it’s much harder to impress, but I was!

The first thing that struck me was the sense of realism deriving from the combination of a pitch black background and a stunning resolution, immediately drawing me into the music and only the music. The second thing that came to mind upon the very first minutes was the overall coherence and seamless presentation like the 13 drivers were all in unison. Then how big the soundstage was : a grand presentation for sure and I went on to check some orchestral music to check and oh my... it was amazing. Despite the resolution and detail retrieval ability I didn’t want to analyze what I was hearing but quickly was drawn into the flow of the tracks and albums, loosing track of time. A sign of an engaging IEM. As I started taking notes for the review - this took me a week to get there - I began to analyze a bit more (because yes, I have to give it back!)

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Interestingly the breathtaking resolution isn’t forced on you with any sense of artificial boost in the upper section. The Erlkönig is very natural sounding and no part of the frequency range is getting more attention (although you can tweak this especially with the signature 1 and 2). This is remarkable, and a testament to Vision Ears tuning craftsmanship. The Erlkönig clearly belongs to the VE family, you can certainly here a kinship to the VE8 there, but the Erlkönig is more balanced in my opinion. Both are highly engaging and this was a question mark for me about the Erlkönig which is clearly lifted : VE managed to build another very addictive IEM there.

Now, let’s dive a bit deeper!


Bass

Signature 4
This signature is the baseline, which overall has the less bass of all signature along with signature 3. This being said I didn’t find the Erlkönig4 bass light at all. The bass extends low and quantity is above what many reference IEM feature. It’s already a playful but clean and agile bass, providing good rythm. I enjoyed Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals “Steal my Kisses” like never before and M.A.N “Slow it down” was a great sub bass experience along with a superb portraying of the vocals of Marina Anne Nolles. A very engaging and mature bass presentation.

Signature 3
This signature features +2db above 4kHz compare to 4, but the exact same bass level. I didn’t notice any changes to the bass compared to 4 but the more forward upper mids and treble does change the overall perception and with Erlkönig3 I felt the bass was snappier but somewhat less present.

Signature 2
This signatures features +3db at 100Hz compared to 3 and 4 and it’s instantly apparent. The bass takes a more prominent space in the signature, the bass line was much more present than 3 and 4. This is a much more playful bass with more slam and sub presence. The bass guitar is one star of the show as well as percussions. Soundstage looses some air but gets a bit taller.

For comparison purposes the Erlkönig manages to reach Solaris or IER-Z1R sub bass presence and is the first IEM since the Solaris to provide this tremendous subwoofer like sense of power. A great option to have the 2 switch. I am almost wondering how signature 1 can sound at this point since bassheads wouldn’t be too sad with 2!

Signature 1
This signature takes things one notch up and features a whopping +3db at 100Hz compared to 2. It’s very obvious that this setting is meant for bassheads, so if you fall into that category rejoice! The bass is no overpowering the signature with massive presence, and I get flashback of my two years with Campfire Vega... only the Erlkönig has softer attack so the Erlkönig1 is less tiring than the Vega but do expect some ear fatigue on this setting.


Mids

Signature 4
The Erlkönig4 could be seen as the most mid centric signature having no high boost and the flatter bass response. It’s certainly the way I hear it and I confess, it’s my favorite setting of all 4. On this setting the mids feature an exquisite balance in the signature : the transition from bass to mids is seamless as well as mids to highs.

The Erlkönig4 mids feature full and articulate mids, and I do feel timbre is the most accurate of all 4 settings. Vocals are just a tad forward but not so much that it would compromise the depth which is excellent. The Erlkönig resolution and black background provides great nuances in the artist vocal performance and from this standpoint it can be a very emotional IEM contributing to its engaging nature.

Lower mids have enough presence to grant male vocals sufficient power but not too much either to make the Erlkönig too warm. Instruments are portrayed beautifully with exquisite detail delivered in a very smooth manner. Upper mids share the same fine balance, the Erlkönig4 is very articulate but never harsh. The mids overall are smooth and detailed. You can clearly pick up nuances in interpretation but at the same time I don’t see the Erlkönig as an unforgiving IEM revealing the flaws in a way that make records unlistenable.

Signature 3
This signature features +2db above 4kHz compared to signature 4 and the upper frequencies focus certainly shows but is not overdone. The mids remain smooth and full but the upper mids and treble focus adds further excitement to the Erlkönig mids compared to 3 and it’s particularly interesting when listening to Jazz.

Things almost go to the edge of what I consider my personal limit in upper mids but never cross the limit. Think Trumpets going to the upper edge : this adds a satisfying excitement but can test your personal limit.

If I had to sum it up, Erlkönig3 is the utmost of what the Erlkönig can provide if you want maximum excitement up top. It will certainly appeal to most of those who like reference signature.

Signature 2
This signatures features +3db at 100Hz compared to 4, with the same mids and highs so most of what I wrote for signature 4 does apply here. Depending on the genres though, the changes will be more or less apparent. On less bass heavy genres, the bass line will have more presence, for example on Jazz the double bass will be more forward and fill more space but the signature is quite close to Erlkönig3. This is an interesting more relaxed setting. On more bass heavy genre, the attention will be taken away from the mids to the bass, highlighting percussions over lead instruments even if those are clearly still very articulate. There is a tad less air and the bass boost does infuse warmth to the signature.

Signature 1
This signatures features +3db at 100Hz compared to 2, as described in the bass section this shifts the signature to full on basshead territory. This does affect the signature radically especially bass rich genres where the mids are set back into the mix : the bass simply takes most of the attention. I think it’s the more polarizing switch position, and also the one that is a bit too far away from the baseline.

Treble

Signature 4
This signature does feature less highs than signature 3, but I found this is very relative as the Erlkönig4 has very good treble extension and presence already. Vision Ears certainly has retained the great tuning qualities of the VE8 in the upper treble section and it’s simply the best BA treble I have ever heard. The Erlkönig builds upon this with more lower treble energy which makes it a more vibrant IEM than the VE8. Piano notes are spot on with clear edges to the notes and sublime highs. You don’t loose much compared to Erlkönig3, despite less presence it is sufficient to give you the full refinement of the upper treble and a smoother lower treble experience that is both exciting and delicate. A very rich and nuanced presentation enhanced again by the blackest of background. Something to behold!

Signature 3
This signature features +2db above 4kHz compared to signature 4 and it’s immediately apparent (but not overdone). This build upon Erlkönig4 refinement and adds welcome excitement and bite to instruments, it’s not as smooth as Erlkönig4 but remains safe no hints of sibilance or harshness. It certainly does provide extra air yet and definitely more bite, but signature 4 could provide enough of that with less fatigue. Great to have both in one IEM.

Signature 2
This signatures features +3db at 100Hz compared to 4, with the same mids and highs so most of what I wrote for signature 4 does apply here. The bass boost does affect the mids more than the treble in fact, the highs are just as good as signature 4 to me.

Signature 1
This signatures features +3db at 100Hz compared to 2, and the overall +6db compared to signatures 3 and 4 means the bass are now overpowering the signature in my opinion it takes the attention away from the mids but treble as well, especially on bass heavy genres. There are some scenarios though where records are bass light due to poor mixing / mastering where I see signature 1 being handy.

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Verdict
It’s not easy to review a price no object IEM like the Erlkönig, as price definitely can skew our expectations and obviously most of us (me included) can’t justify spending this much money on a single item. I had huge expectations for the Erlkönig and in fact I expected to be somewhat disappointed. I own and have owned quite a few TOTLs over the year, and the only IEM I spent 3k on (the LCD-i4) was disappointing for the price. So much so that the past few purchase I have done are fantastic value for money TOTLs.

The law of diminishing returns certainly does apply, but not as much as I expected in the case of the Erlkönig. The King of the VE range certainly delivers, and compared to other TOTLs it might be marginal in several areas but all combined together makes up for a unique package that many people will wish - for the sake of their wallet - to unhear!

If I could have only one IEM and put all my eggs in one basket, I‘d be hard pressed to find a more stunning flagship than the Erlkönig and would probably save up to get what could very well be considered a real endgame universal IEM. Build quality is nothing short of perfect and fit and isolation are as good as it gets for a universal. The Erlkönig is technically flawless with fantastic resolution, a pitch black background which provides fantastic note contrast and class leading soundstage but more importantly every of its technical abilities is at the service of a very musical and smooth tuning that you can tweak to your preference. What more could you wish for?


Hats off to Vision Ears!

Attachments

toaster
toaster
The fir is a bit more v-shaped in its presentation, however, with the erlky being more of a warm and balanced sound, at least on the setting i most enjoy the erlky set to (1 - the bassiest option)
toaster
toaster
i can't speak to whether or not the erlky is "overpriced." i'll just say that i want one, and i never thought i'd consider a universal iem again. the erlky is a special product, no doubt.
Erfan Elahi
Erfan Elahi
@toaster22 alright, thanks for your opinion. elysium is within my budget but sad it's CIEM. It's difficult for me because of my location.
Pros: Refinement and intensity
Incedible technical abilities
Neutral signature, exquisite and not boring
Smooth overall sound
Cons: Strange fit for my ears
Some might say safe tunning
Price


Introduction

The Erlkönig is a demonstration unit graciously lent by Vision Ears, whom I thank for their confidence.

Vision Ears is a German company based in Cologne that has been in the business since 2013 and whose reputation has been built on their old High-End flagships, the VE6 and VE8. Essentially focused on customs, Erlkönig is the only universal unit of the line up. They belong to the premium line and are THE overall flagship. They are available at 4200€ and are composed of 13 balanced armatures (BA) housed in silver shells. They have a small switch allowing you to choose between 4 signatures.
The stock 2.5mm (balanced) jack cable was developed with Effect Audio and is made of OCC silver. It is very flexible and allows you to really enjoy the quality of these inear.

https://vision-ears.de/erlkoenig_en

Sound

Erlkönig signature in position 2, my favorite and the one on which this feedback is based, is rather neutral with a bass boost.
Here are the Crinacle measurements (uncompensated) to compare with the InEar PP8BB (with bass boost).



The bass response is well controlled and very pleasant. Attack and sustain are a little slower than those of Elysium or PP8BB allowing sounds to flourish a little more. But the release seems to be shorter, which avoids the pitfall of soft bass by giving dynamism to the notes. Subs (20 to 60Hz) are there in greater quantities than those found on PP8 or Elysium. Bass (60 to 250Hz) are thick but very well defined, and they provide a real grounding for the delivery of the music. We don't have here the impact and texture of the Trinity SS or even Fusion bass but we find some material and some nice subs.

Low mids (250 to 500Hz) is warmer and denser than that of the Elysium or PP8BB, and reminds a little of that of the Fusion, except that it is much more precise and technical. Mids (500 to 2000Hz) are airy and larger than on Elysium or PP8BB. High Mids (2000 to 4000Hz) has a peak at 2500Hz, as well as that of Fusion. It then slowly drops to 4kHz where the Elysium's continues to rise. As a result, High mids is comparatively softer but still retains sufficient openness and space. In the end, we are quite close to what the Elysium offers, but because of the differences mentioned, mids have a real thickness and intensity that is not unlike that of the VE8. They are simply more embodied than those of the Elysium.



Highs are quite neutral with a gentle slope from 4 to 8000Hz. No risk of fatigue or brilliance, as it may be the case for sensitive people on Elysium. There is a reasonable amount of air and there is no zoom effect that can sometimes be artificial. The treble sounds natural, just like Trinity SS or Fusion can offer. We are somewhere between these 2 references in terms of restitution, with always a feeling of intensity in the sound, very pleasant and uncommon for BA.

The soundstage width is good, and seems a little wider than that of the Trinity, similar to that of the Elysium but less than that of the PP8BB and Fusion. The depth is equivalent to that of the Elysium, greater than that of the PP8BB, but less than that of the Trinity or Fusion. The height, on the other hand, is excellent. All this contributes to creating a real and intimate atmosphere that is not lacking in air.

Once again, and as with the Elysium, the magic square resolution - separation - definition - transparency is at the top level. The definition seems to me to be the best ever heard, even above that of the Elysium. The resolution and separation are at the level of what the Trinity SS has to offer. Transparency seems a little less than on Elysium or Trinity SS.

Switch

For Vision Ears, position 4 is the reference position. I have done very few listening in this configuration because I find that it lacks life at the top or bottom, and it turns out to be rather bland to my ears.

Position 3 increases treble above 4kHz by 2dB, compared to position 4. It is the setting that reveals the greatest refinement. Mids (250 to 4000Hz) are very similar to those of the Elysium but with more intensity in the lower midrange. Unfortunately, there is no sufficient foundation at the bottom for me with a 100Hz peak and subs that are equivalent to those of PP8 without the bass boost.

Position 2 increases the area below 500Hz with a +3dB at 100Hz compared to position 3. We lose a little bit of the magic related to the balance of position 3, but we gain in foundation. The scene seems a little narrower, but the voices are a little thicker and centered. And above all, we finally get a real slam down there.

Finally, position 1 increases the area below 500Hz with a new +3dB at 100Hz compared to position 2. Bass becomes really massive and gets a little dirty on the midrange, less precise and more distant. The rendition can be qualified as a V rendition.



Pairing and tips

Despite trying all my tips, I could only obtain a decent fit with double or triple flanges (ideal in my case) with a rather very deep insertion and large internal diameter.
For the cables, compared to the stock cable, which is of excellent quality, the PW1950 does a little better on almost all criteria, and above all brings a very nice texture to the mids. The PW1960 2w offers, thanks to its technique and analytical power, more refined and slightly more withdrawn mids. As a result, the scene becomes a little more rounded. The basses are also slightly swollen.
Concerning the association with DAPs, the LPG, compared to the WM1Z K mod premium which is the reference for this feedback, smoothes a little the technical habilities of Erlkönig. It offers a little more subdued bass and a more linear and softer midrange. Soundstage is also a tad more intimate.

Final Thoughts

What strikes you from the outset with Erlkönig is the refinement and intensity of the restitution. It tilts slightly to the warm side of the force and relies on an incredible ability to analyze music tracks. However, their exceptional musicality will soon make you forget it and you will be able to enjoy their liquor served in a silver case without any restraint.


"Resolution is the ability to individualize a voice or instrument"
"Separation is the ability to feel space between the various sound sources"
"Definition is the ability to perceive as much information as possible"
"Transparency is the ability to transcribe the nuances and subtleties of music"


My topic on Tellement Nomade here : http://www.tellementnomade.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=671123#p671123
toaster
toaster
very, very impressed with these. they have a seamless musicality and energy not found very often. and i believe detail rivals even the a18. VE are clearly master tuners of multi-driver iems. I love the A18, but would not mind owning these as well. agree with your "double feeling of refinement and intensity," loco. great stuff.
toaster
toaster
my above comment is for the erlkonig.
mjoleksy
mjoleksy
Folks, contact me please. WTB but can't get new.
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