Vision Ears Custom and Universal IEMs -- Offical Thread

Vision Ears are a boutique maker of custom and universal IEMs based out of Cologne, Germany. Once primarily a maker of CIEMs VE have branched into UIEMs, releasing in this past year universal versions of their renowned flagships, the VE8 and Elysium.

This is the place to discuss anything related to Vision Ears’ IEMs!



Anyone have any VE8s? I’m looking to swap a few of my High End IEMs out and would love to try these. I’m addicted to my Erlkonig’s.

You should consider the Elysium too :slight_smile: Where are you located? If you’re in the US there are loaner tours and Andrew at Musicteck (I think) has been known to send out demo gear to potentially interested buyers.

Really enjoying my time with the VE Elysium

So the Elysium has, in under a day, totally and completely won me over. The presentation was a bit weird at first, especially after days of rapid fire jumps from the MEST to the Andro to the Solaris…but once I upped the gain on my n6ii and just sat back and let the Ely do its thing it wasn’t long before I was swept up in its beautiful textures and gentle nuances.

I was fortunate to receive a Vision Ears Elysium/VE8 tour package yesterday afternoon. The Elysium is Vision Ears’ flagship hybrid and contains arbuably the most unique driver configuration I am aware of— Sonion electrostats for the highs, a DD for the midrange and, perhaps most interstingly, a single BA for the lows.

Up until somewhat recently I was too entrenched in the basshead tendencies of my audiophile youth to seriously consider an IEM with a single BA for the bass. Still, I have always been curious to hear it and am grateful that these IEM tour programs exist as it’s one of the few ways to try new gear without blind-buying in this depressing age of Covid.

I tried the VE8 first and it was basically exactly as I remembered from when I owned one earlier this year—something of a thicker, darker Andromeda. It sits in the upper echelons of my personal favourites alongside the Campfire Andromeda 2020, which I consider to be something of a spiritual sibling to the VE8 in that both IEMs specialize in what I have come to realize is the most important quality of an IEM to me-- emotional engagement ie., the ability of an IEM to draw me in, to stir my heart, to make me feel something when I listen to my music. It is this quality which to me elevates IEMs like the Andromeda and the VE8 above some of their flashier or more technical peers.

While I loved the VE8 the Elysium is decidedly another level to my ears. The bass (or comparative lack thereof) was a bit jarring at first but once I forgot about trying to break things into pieces and isolate and compare and instead focused on the signature as a unity I found myself immersed in a blissful and beautiful world of sound from the Elysium. At first I was quite thrown off by what appears to be an almost homeopathic amount of bass—and I know of at least one other person who did not get on that well with this IEM on account of this. However I found that, listening to the Elysium, the comparative lack of bass frees up my attention to fully engage with the midrange of the music, which is really its heart and soul. This is where the Elysium’s choice of a DD for the mids really comes into play as it helps create a really rich, naturally textured and alluring mid-range. Instruments and voices feel at times to almost break the 4th wall and convince you they are right there with you—and it is on account of this mid-range voodoo that after a short time I don’t even notice the lack of bass anymore and find myself totally captivated with what I’m hearing. I’ve thrown a wide variety of my music at the Elysium-- including a lot of EDM and drum and bass-- and while often a different or more nuanced presentation than what I am used to the Ely brings enough of its charm to the fore that I find myself more often than not feeling as though I’m hearing old favorites for the first time again, or in a way I’ve never heard before.

The greatest strength of the Elysium, to my ears, is that it lays bare the essence of what your are listening to…but not through raw detail and resolution, which can come off as sterile. Instead the Elysium forces you to forsake a some of the spectacle and theatrics of a more robust bass response and instead, through a deft focus on a wonderfully alluring and textured mid-range, facilitates an intimacy with whatever it is you are listening to. Here we have an IEM that sees its role, not to draw attention to itself but to get out of the way, and let you connect directly with your music and to my ears. This connection, above all, is what I am ultimately seeking from the listening experience. The Elysium is the first IEM I’ve heard that is a comprehensive upgrade to the Campfire Andromeda in terms of emotional engagement. It’s shot right to the top of my “want” list and the only reason I haven’t ordered one already is that I haven’t yet figured out which one of my vital organs I can do without.

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Very nice description of the Elysium.
I have eyed these for some time, but the price is just a big hurdle, so the Andro 2020 will probably be my choice. But after reading this and you thoughts about the two IEMs compared, then I see it as an ok solution for a top tier IEM.
:+1:t2: :smiley:

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Thanks man :). Yeah the Elysium totally caught me off guard…glad the impressions helped!

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Some lovelies:

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A nice American - German lineup :+1:

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My two favourite brands :slight_smile:

I’ve had opportunities to review several products this year from Vision Ears including the VE8, EVE20 and the Elysium. This time, I’ll be taking a look at their flagship Erlkonig, which is priced at over $5000 USD and sold in the USA by MusicTeck. I’d like to thank Vision Ears and Bill from AudioTiers.com for setting up this loaner tour and allowing me a chance to demo this exquisite unit.

The Erlkonig features a rhodium-plated silver metal shell and each shell weighs approximately 20 grams, which is quite a bit more heavy than any other IEM I’ve tried, including the Campfire Solaris. It is weighty in hand, but actually is quite comfortable to wear and I didn’t have the same issues with fit, despite the weight, that I’ve had with other heavier in-ears like the Solaris, Sony IER-Z1R, MMR IEMs, and Unique Melody ME1.

Part of the weight of the shell design is the addition of a magnetically attached faceplate. Below this removable faceplate is a tuning dial that can be turned to any of four different tuning variations that Vision Ears has provided as options. While I do like the stealthy look of the tuning switches, I do think there’s a likelihood of scratching the fancy metal shells with this type of implementation.

The cable that comes with this unit is a very nicely wound braided cable in black featuring silver wires. The connectors are of the 2-pin variety, and the middle splitter is a gold-colored round piece of metal with the Erlkonig logo on it.

In addition to this, the unit came with a variety of tips including SpinFit premium tips and a very nice steel protective box with a latch lock. I really dig this box and want something like this for carrying gear in the future!

The Erlkonig comes in with a whopping 13 balanced armature drivers per channel with the following configuration: 4 Low + 4 Mid + 4 High + 1 Super Tweeter. The set is rated at 16 ohm impedance and 105 db/SPL sensitivity. I did find these to require quite a bit more power than the other Vision Ears sets I’ve tried in the past, but still not something that is especially power hungry and should be able to be powered off of most devices without a problem.

Sound Impressions

Like other Vision Ears in-ears that I’ve listened to in the past, this Erlkonig is a warmer, intimate and more engaging product than what I would consider neutral or reference. There’s quite a bit of low-end body to each song I’ve listened to in my short time with this IEM and the one clear thing that stood out at first is the resolution, separation, and distinct micro-details that seemed to pop out immediately, even after listening to my other top tier IEMs in my arsenal.

The second thing I noticed quickly about the Erlkonig is the smoothness and coherency that makes Vision Ear’s VE8 so special is also apparent here. Complex passages, like when I listen to bluegrass music by Nickel Creek, seem to go across effortlessly and gracefully here, and I don’t feel like it’s smoothed out any details along the way. In fact, like I mentioned already, the resolution is top tier in my opinion.

That’s a tricky balance to achieve, because in some cases, clear, distinct clarity and resolution can come across as being sharp, bright or edgy. On the other hand, being smooth and coherent, can also mean that it’s soft and a clear reduction in transients to me. In this case, none of these trade-offs seem to be a major issue here, and that’s quite impressive, and something I’d hope for in a product with the price tag it’s asking for.

In regards to the tuning, there are four settings which can be set by turning the dial on the inside of the faceplate. The default setting from Vision Ears is Setting 2, which happens to be my favorite of the 4. All four settings share very similar measured frequency response above 1KHz, meaning they are share similar tuning in the upper mid-range and treble region. It’s the amount of lower mid-range and bass that really changes with each switch.

The #1 setting on the dial has the most bass response of all of them, and it’s significantly more. I find it too overwhelming and really reflects negatively to the overall experience. The gain seems high enough that I feel it lowers the overall resolution and clarity of the sound as a whole, and I find it taints the unit as a whole.

The #2 setting has a bass bump which creates a very warm sound signature and a level of punch and fun to it. While it’s probably beyond my normal preferences, I find this balances well with the accentuated upper mid-range of the Erlkonig.

#3 and #4 tuning settings are quite similar with #4 being a touch tamer in the treble region. These two have the least amount of bass and is just above what I would consider a neutral reference sound. I do thing this is a nice sound signature, which adds the most clarity and separation of the bunch, however I do find it almost too boring to use. It lacks some of the real magic I mentioned earlier in this review where you get a sweet blend of lushness and resolution detail. This one is more about the resolution and detail, and less about the lush soundscape, and in this case, I’d almost prefer a different IEM instead.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Erlkonig had no trouble playing through “The Lighthouse’s Tale” from Nickel Creek. Each intricate mandolin and guitar pluck was handled effortless. The resonant sounds of the strings came through without fatigue but with plenty of detail. The quick transitions in the song were smooth and didn’t feel rushed or wrong. This song just felt beautiful. Hard to describe, but man, it comes across so nicely with the right amount of low end strums of the guitar, with the intertwined fiddle and mandolin instruments in harmony.

Another challenging track is “Contact” by Daft Punk. In this song, I do find that despite the low end being perhaps too strong at times, the Erlkonig didn’t run into any issues in the busiest of passages. And despite the fact that I felt this IEM sounded intimate in the majority of the listening time with it, “Contact” sounded uncluttered, and not broken apart in the craziest of sections with instruments sounding far enough away from the center of the soundscape to make everything sound full separated and imaged correctly.

The Erlkonig’s tuning plays most well with my collection of rock music, whether that be alternative rock from 90s or classic rock from years past, or modern songs. But it also plays well with other genres too, and I enjoyed listening to it with my collection of piano-jazz music and various folksy and bluegrass songs.

Wrap-Up

When I first heard of the Erlkonig, the first thing I saw was the price tag. It was a bit absurd. It probably still is. And most IEMs that I’ve tried at these price-tags are usually nothing more than a show piece. This one is flashy in it’s subtle ways, but also has the technical knack to go along with a easy to enjoy tuning. I can be pretty critical of a lot of gear, but this is one that I am not going to say fails in a lot of things, if any at all. If I was going to be nitpicky, I’d say the #1 tuning is bloated and really not worth using in my opinion, but the other 3 tunings are nice in their own ways.

And if I was going to say the other knock on this would be its price tag. I mean, it’s over $5000. It’s hard to really say I can recommend this to everyone, but I am inclined to say that if you are looking for something that is in this tier of price, this is definitely one to look at. Even so, the VE8 is priced at half the cost, and is a fantastic IEM in its own right, and the premium in this set comes primarily on the phenomenal build quality and material selections.

Yes, it’s a showpiece, and surprisingly, its got the musical resume to go along with it.

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Vision Ears is an In-Ear Monitors (IEM) company out of Germany that mostly specialize in high end custom models, however do have a few universal sets as well. This review will cover two of their popular models, the VE8 and the newer Elysium.

The VE8 is a multi-BA set with 8 balanced armature drivers and has been one of their most popular models. The VE8 is priced at about $2185 USD (excludes VAT).

The Elysium is a tri-brid IEM, meaning it has 3 unique driver types in it. The low end is produced by a BA, while the midrange is via a dynamic driver. The upper range is provided by the newer Sonion Electrostatic Tweeter (EST). This model is priced at around $2385 USD (excludes VAT).

Both of these units were provided to me through the Head-Fi Loaner Tour coordinated by Barra, and loaned out by Vision Ears. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to demo both of these units, which I’ve been very patiently awaiting a chance to demo for a very long time.

Accessories/Build/Design

Both of these tour units came with just their carrying case and the IEMs and cable, so I do not have a representation of what the full packaging is, however this can be found on other sites on the internet.

The VE8 comes with a heavy-duty metal case with an embossed “VE” logo on it, that twists on and is quite sturdy and heavy. The included cable is a thin, nicely wound braided silver cable that is quite similar to the cable included with my Hidition Viento.

On the other hand, the Elysium comes in an all-leather dark blue carrying case with textured stripes and the VE logo on the top side. On the inner side of the top half of the round case is the name “Elysium” branded on it. It’s cable is a little thicker than the one included with the VE8 and also silver colored.

The design of both of these units are definitely made to stand out. The VE8 has a glowing shiny pink look that really sparkles and immediately makes you stare at it. The Elysium is much more muted in eycatching glimmer, but it has a nice clear and blue/green look to it that is unique and stylish on its own.

Both of these units look very much like custom demo units. They have long narrow nozzles that extend and look like they are added on to an existing shape more so than looking like they belong there in a continuous mold. The depth they insert in is important though, and that is why the size and length can be intimidating at first. They are meant to insert as far in as possible since these IEMs were originally designed with customs in mind.

Luckily, with SpinFit tips, I was able to insert them both comfortably and very deep without any problems. Seal was great and isolation on both were excellent.

Source Gear

For this review, I did most of my demoing on digital audio players, which include the Sony NW-ZX507, the Astell & Kern Kann Cube, and the Astell & Kern SR25. I also used the iFi Zen DAC and the Schiit Jotunheim in both single ended and balanced.

Sound Impressions

Listening to both of these IEMs made me realize how similar and how different they were. They both share very similar tuning in that both are warm-bodied, with a slightly dark and laid-back sound to them, except the Elysium has improved treble extension and a little more energy in the upper mid-range treble overall, and generally sounds more tonally correct to me.

Now, that said, despite the low end and mid-range sounding similar tonally, these two differ significantly in how things are presented and it surprised me given the price tags on which performs better overall.

The VE8 is a much more coherent IEM, and surprisingly so, given it’s large bass and lower mid-range emphasis. I never found it too bloated or muddy, once I got used to the sound. Coming directly from the much more lean sounding Hidition Viento, this was a bit of change, somewhat how I feel listening to the Hifiman Arya and then putting on my ZMF Verite immediately afterward. The resolution is great and on-par, but the warmer body and more darker treble tonality is a bit jarring upon first listen.

That said, the VE8 is smooth, and has a nice intimate sound signature that really does wonders with rock music and I can dig it for vocals when I just want to relax. Despite being a bit darker than what I am accustomed to, I don’t find it lacks any detail resolve or clarity. There is a little missing upper treble extension, but not enough to make drums, cymbals and violins sound dull. Just enough is there to make it sound realistic enough without too feeling too blunted.

The mid-range is what really carries the VE8 though. It’s thick sound is engaging and juicy, but still a pleasure to listen to despite my thinner sound preferences.

On the other hand, the Elysium is a bit more of a mixed-bag. Let’s start with where it beats the VE8.

The EST drivers really show their potential in this IEM. Treble is well extended and very clean and resolving. Its the saving grace in this IEM to be honest. While it is extended, and boosted up from the VE8, I don’t find it overly emphasized and never found any sibilance, fatigue, or too sharp and distracting. It’s a very nice amount with the technical chops to keep it interesting.

Where I find the Elysium really falters is it’s mid-range. It’s just very mediocre sounding for something that is considered a flagship, or near flagship in Vision Ear’s case. For the top-tier price, I want my mid-range to be excellent, as that’s a very central part of all music and listening. Instead, the mid-range sounds rather bloated and lacking strong definition.

No matter what music I threw at it, besides perhaps hip hop and EDM music, where mid-range is less important for me, I was left quite disappointed in the Elysium. I don’t know if this has to do with the choice to use a dynamic driver for the mid-range instead of the low-end or not, but it just doesn’t sound very clean.

Another flaw I found with the Elysium is the lack of any coherency. The VE8 sounds smooth throughout the entire frequency range, while the Elysium has clear disjointedness from the low end, the mid-range and the treble, which is each controlled by a different driver type. While I do find this problem occurring on many multi-driver hybrid/tribrid setups in the past, I think it’s less acceptable when you are paying this much for a product.

Output Impedance/Source Matching

I do want to mention that the VE8 was very sensitive to output impedance and that means source matching is critical. I measured and also listened to this IEM on my Jotunheim in the single ended output and then listened to it using balanced and the sound differences was devastatingly different. The midrange just bottomed out completely and it sounded like a bloated mess. Measurements, as well as the VE8 impedance graph back this statement up.

The Elysium also suffered from a change of output impedance. With more OI, the bass level increased, while the treble decreased.

Because of this, I do want to reiterate that source matching and amp pairing is highly important for the sound signature in both of these IEMs.

Wrap-Up

This one was definitely a tale of two story arcs.

The VE8 is the tried and true multi-BA setup that comes together in a coherent package that is overly warm and missing a bit of sparkle, but can quickly become a guilty pleasure for it’s smooth, rich sound that’s easy to listen to. While I do think it’s a bit pricey, it does do a lot things really well.

The Elysium is the attractive technical wonder with three separate driver types and the new EST technology that doesn’t come together in the end, however this is the first EST IEM that I found that makes full use of the treble technology and that I do applaud VE for.

While, I don’t think I will replace my Hidition Viento-B with either of these, I do think the VE8 would compliment it well given their different sound signatures. The Viento is a thinner, more neutral and reference tuning, while the VE8 adds the richer, warmer, and more laid-back approach, while both are strong in coherency and have solid resolution.

updated pricing to reflect German VAT removal from conversion

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The EVE20 is a limited edition IEM from german manufacturer Vision Ears. The EVE20 is planned to be only available to purchase in 2020 and comes in a universal form factor for $1300 USD through MusicTeck or 1300 euro (including VAT) directly from Vision Ears.

This review demo unit was provided by Vision Ears through Barra’s Audio Tiers/Head-Fi Loaner tour.

Package & Fit

The loaner unit sent out did not include the box, and only included the metal round case, a black braided cable and the IEMs themselves. The case is similar to the one that came with the Vision Ears VE8, which is a hefty and very well-built aluminum case that has a screw-on top.

The EVE20 shell is surprisingly very flat with a rounded triangular shape and is one of the lightest premium IEMs I have ever held. The nozzles are long and narrow and come in at an angle that isn’t the most ideal for my ear shape but I was able to get them to fit and seal off very well. I wouldn’t say these are the most comfortable monitors around, and some may find them troubling to wear.

For my short time with the EVE 20, I used Azla Xelastec SS tips as I found these were comfortable and provided a fantastic seal.

Sound Impressions

The majority of my listening sessions with the EVE 20 came with the Sony NW-ZX507 player and a variety of music choices. I also did use it on the Topping A90 amp hooked up by way of the Schiit Bifrost 2 DAC to my PC.

The EVE 20 is a no thrills sound signature with a very warm and engaging sound that doesn’t really have anything that truly stands out. In a sense, I find it a bit boring. It does measure as a very gentle V-Shape sound, but in actual listening, I found it does not sound this way, and sounds a bit like the VE8 but with technical ability, and perhaps an occasional treble jolt.

I’ll admit, the first time I put the EVE 20 on, I was very unimpressed. It sounded a bit dark, and little hazy and very boring. While I still find it ‘boring’ after more hours of listening, I have come to truly appreciate the Vision Ears mid-range sound. It’s just succulent and has a magical mix of high coherency and a rich, intimate and mellow melody.

This came to light when I stopped trying to listen to it with every type of music out there, as I found it lacked some of the treble extension and deep sub-bass sounds I want for dance tracks or even my onslaught of jazz and post-rock music, but for vocal tracks from Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman, and James Taylor – these really shine – pushing the gentle guitar and piano-based tracks in a small window with their singer-songwriter style music that shifts a lot of the focus to a relaxing and enjoyable listen.

I think this is really helped by how coherent the transitions between the various areas of the frequency response are. It keeps everything in balanced without sounded disjointed.

Like I mentioned, I didn’t enjoy the VE8 on Tingvall Trio music. The overly warm and laid-back sound signature didn’t provide the sizzle and spark I like with jazz music that has an emphasis on percussion and acoustic bass play. I also did not enjoy it as much with London Grammar’s two records. I felt like Hannah Reid’s electric voice lacked some of that excitement and strain, and the deeper electronic notes just lacked definition and rumble.

The EVE 20 is plenty punchy though. While it doesn’t have a dynamic driver, it does punch and decay pretty naturally for using a series of balance armature drivers.

The biggest issue I did have with the EVE 20 came with the lack of soundstage width, depth and generally just average imaging and resolution. I felt some of the technical performances were under-performing a bit for it’s price tag and exclusivity, but I do have to remind myself that the coherency is fantastic. The level of expectation across the board is the VE8, and may be that’s a bit too high of a benchmark for something $1000 less in cost.

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Added some reviews for you @jrockwell

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Awesome @antdroid :smiley:

Find out what @Precogvision thinks of these TOTL IEMS this weeks as the Precogvision writes!

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Nice job on the review @Precogvision!

And hey, if you enjoy the Erlkonig, why should you let me - or anyone else, for that matter - detract from your enjoyment?

I particularly love this line - I wish I kept this in my mind more when I was starting out in the hobby a few years ago!

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I got mail!

Unboxing later this afternoon…can’t wait.

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Moved to unboxing thread.

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Vision Ears Elysium => Effortless, Bold, Utterly Captivating…This is the Way.

Following is my personal review of the Vision Ears Elysium, a flagship monitor made by the (Cologne) Germany based company Vision Ears. The Elysium was originally released as a custom monitor in mid-late 2019 and roughly a year later in 2020 a universal version was released. Thanks to some what-appear-now-to-be-prophetic early reviews and impressions I have long nursed a curiosity about this IEM. I was fortunate to be able to demo the universal Elysium via Barra’s Canadian Vision Ears tour. I was sufficiently captivated that, 3 days after receiving the loaner unit, I purchased a set of the universals for myself. This review, therefore, is not motivated by anything other than convey my impressions of and enthusiasm for this unique and profoundly engaging piece of audio gear.

A few opening points and caveats:

  1. This is my personal review and as such it will be expressed in such a way as is meaningful and authentic to me. Some will find my approach too subjective/wishy-washy/starry-eyed to be useful—to them I say that there are plenty of other sources of information out there that will better suit your needs. This is fundamentally a hobby for me and one of the ways I derive joy out of it is to share my personal experiences in writing. If this is at all useful/helpful/informative/entertaining to anyone, then great! If not, oh well.

  2. My impressions and viewpoints are unfailingly and intimately connected to my own values, preferences, motives and inclinations. It’s taken a while for me to fully come to grips with what this entails—in fact it is the Elysium, more than any other single IEM, that has helped solidify it for me. In the ultimate sense what I am seeking through the listening experience is a degree of intimacy with my music— listener, that being listened to, and the act of listening all serenely dissolving into a unity, or at least as much as is possible. Everything else that can be said—tonality, technicality, bass, mids, treble, and on and on, is wholly subservient to the aforementioned goal. If an IEM can deliver this sort of connection I am seeking while also having great tone, technicalities, bass, mids, etc…then that is great, but ultimately a generous redundancy.

  3. Above all the most important lesson in this hobby is—trust your own ears above all. As a corollary to this I would add: always be ready to try something new and give it a chance to express itself on its own terms, with little to no pre-conceptions or biases imposed upon you by other groups or individuals. Sometimes we don’t know what we really want until we hear it. Sometimes we are so used to a certain conception of what is preferred or thought possible that we have a hard time imagining anything beyond that. To wit: the driver configuration of the Elysium is so unorthodox that in my head I didn’t see how it could possibly work and though I’ve been curious about it for a while, I never came close to buying. Turns out it was an act of genius.

  4. Synergy is a commonly underappreciated aspect of this hobby—sometimes an ounce of synergy can add a kilo-buck or two to the perceived value of your gear. On that note it is important to try everything you have at your disposal—different tips, sources, etc.—to see if you can find something that works for you. The reward for doing this can be very very great.

  5. My musical tastes run a pretty wide spectrum, from classic rock, blues and jazz to various shades of Romanian minimal and dub techno, funk, rap, EDM, classical, vocal, and so on. The sources used for this review, and and pretty much all of my listening is the Cayin n6ii + E02 and Lotoo PAW S1.

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All of that said, on with the review…

The Elysium is Vision Ears’ flagship hybrid and contains arguably the most unique driver configuration I am aware of— Sonion electrostats for the highs, a DD for the midrange and, perhaps most interestingly, a single BA for the lows.

'Twas the night before Christmas in the dying days of 2020 and I was just finishing a 3-week loaner stint with the MEST, an IEM I liked about as much as I could like an IEM without it making me want to sell off my gear to purchase one. The VE tour kit arrived that same day but honestly I wasn’t feeling that excited about it at the time-- I’d already bought and sold a VE8 earlier in the year and while I was curious about Elysium I’d pretty much resigned myself to the thought that it likely wouldn’t wow me. What I really wanted was to just sink in and spend some QT with my newly acquired Andromeda MW10 and I vainly imagined that after going through the motions the VE kit would languish in a corner as I focused on the Andromeda. Suffice to say that’s not how it went down.

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Preliminary Comments

Up until somewhat recently I was too entrenched in the basshead tendencies of my audiophile youth to seriously consider an IEM with a single BA for the bass. The Elysium was released in the spring of 2019 and at the time I remember being struck by its unorthodox driver configuration but unwilling to even consider taking a chance on what I thought would be an inadequate bass response.

After I unpacked the kit I popped in the VE8 before the Elysium to see if it was at all like I remembered from when I owned one early in 2020. In brief: it was basically exactly as I remembered—something of a thicker, darker, more intimate Andromeda. It sits in the upper echelons of my personal favourites alongside the Campfire Andromeda 2020, which I consider to be something of a spiritual sibling to the VE8 in that both IEMs specialize in the aforementioned important quality—emotional connection and engagement, ie., the ability of an IEM to draw me in, to stir my heart, to make me feel something when I listen to my music. It is this quality which to me elevates IEMs like the Andromeda and the VE8 above some of their flashier or more technical peers.

In a nutshell while I loved the VE8 the Elysium is decidedly another level to my ears…

Sound and FR Breakdown

General

The Elysium presents a balanced and holographic sound with a clear emphasis on an open, but not really forward mid-range. I would place it on the slightly bright with a musical leaning part of the spectrum. Vocals are emphasized slightly above instruments, but both are clearly discernible with their own air and space in the mix. Though there is a mid-range emphasis I don’t feel that any one area of the FR is over or under-represented (though some people may make this claim about the bass-- it’s a YMMV thing)-- my attention naturally inclines toward perceiving the signature as a unity. I find the bass sits below the mids and highs in a way that allows you to clearly discern all the nuance of the bass response without being distracted by it.

Highs

The highs on the Elysium come from dual Sonion electrostat tweeters. In an info card that comes in the the box VE explains that these drivers love power and will perform in different ways with different daps and cables. I find the highs on the Elysium to be crisp and lively, but never sharp; they are pronounced, detailed, nuanced and they blend harmoniously and seamlessly with the rest of the signature. The level of detail they convey is unlike anything I have heard. The closest would probably be the MEST and Z1R but the Elysium handily tops both of those, if for no other reason than refinement and (imho) more mature tuning. I found the synergy with my n6ii + E02 wonderful as that board delivers a nice wollop of power. The sabre chip in the E02 does provide nice dynamics but to my ears it adds a slight glare to the sound, which tends to exaggerate sibilance in some recordings. To mitigate this I dropped 8 and 16k each by 1.5 DB on my EQ and it eliminated the problem entirely. The Elysium seems to respond nicely to EQ though admittedly this is the only EQ I have tried.

Bass

Here we have easily the most controversial aspect of the Elysium’s presentation—the bass. This is also the element most likely to trip up someone’s subjective preferences and needs. Bass is like spiciness in foods—we all have different preferences and tolerances. What is overwhelming for some will be barely register as worthwhile to someone else. As such everything I say about the bass response on the Elysium could be the exact opposite to the experience of the next person who hears it, that’s just how it goes. In addition to spiciness in food bass response also a bit like sugar in food-- sometimes we can get too used to too much of it, to the detriment of everything around it.

So how is the bass on the Elysium? To my ears it is ultimately very satisfying. It is impactful, well extended, sufficiently dense and nuanced—coming from a bass titan like the MEST I definitely notice a decrease in quantity of bass, but all the info is there and the quality is wonderful. It stands alongside the best BA bass I’ve heard. Think Andromeda in quantity but with better timbre, texture, nuance and a vastly superior surrounding cast. Anyone who is fine with the bass on the Andromeda plus, I would wager, at least half of those who aren’t, should be fine with the bass on the Elysium.

The burning question on regarding the bass on the Elysium is surely this: will it satisfy someone who historically requires a DD and lots of slam? It might, and it might not—the key, I think, is how one responds to the topic of the next section.

The Midrange

The defining quality and ultimate the highlight of the Elysium’s sound is its midrange. When I first read about the driver configuration—namely a DD for the mids and the bass getting a paltry single BA I heard the news coldly and sadly…but now having had days and hours so far to fully sink my head and heart into the magic of the Elysium I’m prepared to classify its choice of driver configure a bold act of brilliance. It’s the execution of the mid-range on the Elysium that makes everything come together and justifies every concession and tuning decision to this point. Why is this so? To understand the liberating shock I felt upon coming to grips with the sound of the Elysium it’s important to understand my prior preconceptions around bass response.

Elysium aside all the hybrids I have heard to this date have opted to use the dynamic driver for the low end. This is because it has (presumably) been generally assumed that the best application of a DD in a hybrid is in providing a thick, resonant, natural timbre in the lows—which it certainly does. Mids, typically, are provided by generally-more-artificial-sounding BA drivers. The problem with this approach is that—in even the most skillfully put together hybrids—it always results in something of a timbral disconnect between the mids and lows. This problem stands out more in some hybrids than others, but it is always there to a certain extent. It wasn’t until I experienced Elysium that I understood that this approach is flawed and, in a sense, puts the cart before the horse.

A realization I have gradually been awakening to through my experience with IEMs is that the mid-range represents the emotional centre of the music. Voices, strings, instruments of all kinds…any form of expression most intimately connected with a human heart flows through the mid-range of the music. Since a dynamic driver, by nature, excels at providing a rich, deep, natural and organic timbre they are thus more suited to convey the nuance and texture of deep and subtle soul-felt emotions-- all of which, in music, have their fountainhead in the mid-range. Dynamic bass is indeed satisfying but just as it is rumoured that we only use like 10% of our brains it now seems to me, in light of the Elysium, is that we only derive a limited amount of what a DD is capable of bringing to the table by confining it to the lower registers alone. Bass can be exciting and hypnotic, but it doesn’t grip us by the core of our being the way a properly executed midrange can. What’s more is that with a dynamic midrange we get an astoundingly rich, naturally textured and alluring soundscape. Instruments and voices feel at times so natural, so alluring that they almost break the 4th wall and convince you they are right there with you—and it is on account of this mid-range voodoo that after a short time I don’t even notice the lack of bass anymore and find myself totally captivated with what I’m hearing. Ultimately the issue is that organic bass timbre cannot extend up and enliven the mids to make them feel more organic and natural, however the opposite is true – namely organic, lush, natural mids can grip us so much that the perception of “naturalness” extends up to the treble and down to the bass, leaving nothing feeling disjointed in texture. It is for this reason that the Elysium avoids the timbral disconnect pitfalls of all other hybrids I have come across.

In most IEMs I’ve tried the mid-range takes second stage to the highs and lows. With the Elysium every tuning decision seems directed towards the aim of bringing focus, body and realism to the midrange. After a couple hours of listening, by the time my brain actually wrapped itself around what it was hearing that very first time I heard the Ely, the effect it had on me was little short of cathartic and the net result was that my idea of what is possible with IEMs-- the degree of intimacy and connection they could achieve-- was so broadened and came as such a liberating shock that it feels like something of a re-birth of enthusiasm for this hobby. It seems so obvious in retrospect. The midrange is the emotional centre of music. Why not give the DD–the driver known its natural, realistic and organic timbre-- to the midrange instead of to the bass which just thumps and never really has the capacity to convey anything truly emotively deep. The mid-range presentation of the Vision Ears Elysium has been a game changer for me and quite frankly I will have a hard time going back to anything less.

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Staging and Technicalities

TLDR: Top tier in all respects. Stage could be a little wider. That’s about it.

In a nutshell picture an Andromeda with a more open mid-range, slightly narrower stage but improved everything else. The most remarkable and enduring thing about the Elysium is the openness and seductiveness of the midrange. Listening to song Get Lucky by Daft Punk and I was pulled into the song like never before. All the different layers lay effortlessly open, enticing and enveloping-- and with texture for days. Fever by Peggy Lee made me swoon. This may sound cheesy and contrite but through the Elysium it feels like I’m experiencing much of my music again, for the first time, and accordingly falling in love anew. Here is an IEM that doesn’t take any “ground breaking” chances with its staging, or novel midrange diffusion a la something like the Solaris or MEST— in the Elysium everything is precisely where it should be.

Comparisons

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The only IEMs I’ve heard sufficiently recently to provide meaningful comparisons to are the Campfire Audio Solaris SE, Campfire Andromeda MW10/2020, Unique Melody MEST, so I’ll do my best to elucidate where I feel these respective IEMs sit with respect to each other and to the Elysium.

VE8

I don’t have a lot to say here really as apart from a cursory demo to verify it was the same IEM I remember from January I haven’t had any urge at all to touch the VE8 since connecting with the Elysium. That said much of what I am going to say about the Andromeda more-or-less applies to the VE8 as well. In brief: to my ears the Elysium is a wholesale upgrade to both.

Andromeda

I’m not going to start waxing poetic about Andro here—chances are if you’re reading this then you know all about the Campfire Andromeda. The Andro kind of came out of nowhere to become the de-facto reference IEM for much of the audio community—a status it maintains to this day in the eyes of many. Of the Andromeda people often say “nobody, not even CFA realize why the Andro is so beloved”. Now that I’ve spent some time with the Elysium I think I understand the appeal a bit more. What both Campfire IEMs do to some extent is push the bass into the background to facilitate a more balanced presentation. Further, they both put a lot of stock in a natural and organic timbre. The Elysium, with its dynamic midrange focus, is really the next and most natural evolute of this line of thinking and it is for this reason that I maintain that the Elysium is the first IEM I have heard that constitutes a wholesale upgrade to the Andromeda…at least in terms of what I most love about it the Andromeda, namely its balanced sound, staging and capacity to sweep me off my feet and facilitate an emotional connection with my music.

Solaris

Like the Elysium, the Solaris is an evolution of the Andromeda-type sound only taken in a different direction—with the DD being used to emphasize the bass. I still love the Solaris and will probably throw it on every now and again when I feel like some more visceral bass…but the approach of the Elysium has clearly won the day for me. Again, it is the first IEM I’ve heard that is a comprehensive upgrade to the Campfire flagships in terms of balance, staging and emotional engagement. One of the things I’ve always loved about Solaris is how it pushes the bass to the background a bit so as to not clog out the rest of the sig…Elysium, again, takes this line of thought and pushes it to its logical conclusion.

MEST

The Unique Melody MEST is a technical powerhouse of an IEM, and a very enthralling listen. It goes for a similar level of engagement but via a different means. Where the Elysium grips you with it’s alluring and captivating mid-range and detailed sparkly highs—the MEST opts instead to grab your attention with the awesome display of deep textured lows, technical pyrotechnics and a chamber-of-secrets like head stage. The MEST’s midrange was to me its weak link—serviceable most of the time, but not the most forward, natural or, really, engaging. In this respect it is more traditional. If big bass and sparkly highs, and addictive staging tick your boxes more than an emotive mid-range then the MEST might be for you. I love the MEST and enjoyed my time with it but the Elysium is more to my preferences.

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Wrap-up

The Vision Ears Elysium has, in a very short time, totally and completely won me over. The mid-centric presentation with its subdued bass was a bit weird at first, especially after days of rapid fire jumps from the MEST to the Andromeda to the Solaris, But once I upped the gain on my n6ii and just sat back and let the Elysium do its thing on its own term it wasn’t long before I was swept up in its beautiful textures and gentle nuances-- and the effect is still holding all these days later. Again, I was initially quite thrown off by what appears to be an almost homeopathic amount of bass—and I know of at a few people who did not get on that well with the Elysium on account of this. However the response of my own ears is that the comparative lack of bass frees my mind from being side-tracked by spectacle and pyrotechnics and allows my attention to fully engage with the midrange of the music, which is really its heart and soul. The greatest strength of the Elysium is that it lays bare the essence of what your are listening to…but not artificially as through raw detail and resolution, which can come off as sterile. Instead the Elysium forces you to forsake a little of the visceral spectacle and theatrics of a more robust bass response and instead, through a deft focus on a wonderfully alluring and textured mid-range, facilitates an intimacy with whatever it is you are listening to. Here we have an IEM that sees its role, not to draw attention to itself but to get out of the way, and let you connect directly with your music and to my ears. This connection, as mentioned earlier, is what I am ultimately seeking from the listening experience. At first Elysium’s driver configuration struck me as crazy. Now I regard it as a brilliant act of vision and daring that was brilliantly executed.

The Elysium has totally changed the game for me and is the first IEM I’ve heard that sounds a tier above everything else I’ve heard. It is, in my humble opinion, the IEM to top right now. Other than those whom I feel wouldn’t jive with its bass response I could recommend it to just about anyone. No IEM is “for everyone” but anyone who glosses over the Elysium and doesn’t get to know it on its own terms before judging it is imho potentially denying themselves one of the, if not the , preeminent IEM experiences currently possible. I know that sounds like a strong statement-- but as my days with Elysium wear on my heart just cries out “this is the way”.

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It obvious you put some thought into this. Well done!

I enjoy these types of reviews. Sometimes you just have a story to tell. I havent come across much regarding these IEMs but you definitely put them on the radar.

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