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Kotori Audio Vampire – Into the Twilight

Disclaimer: I thank Ray Tan from Kotori Audio for generously providing me with the Kotori Vampire in exchange for an honest reviewOn behalf of the team at the Headphone List, we thank him for his generosity and trust in THL.


The Kotori Vampire’s existence subverts rather than conforms to the standards and norms prevalent in the audio world. Designed solely to be a daily driver in day-to-day commuting, the Vampire’s lower-mid focused sound is romantic and delicate, with surprisingly engaging dynamics.

While the Vampire isn’t tuned with treble-heads in mind, nor is it a technical marvel, the Vampire is a wonderful complement to life peering outside the windows of a bus.


+ Gorgeous and well-considered unboxing experience, with premium accessories

+ Immaculate finishing and sublime build quality for a sub-$100 IEM

+ Arguably one of the best-designed stock cables (thus far)

+ Romantic, lush character with a forgiving treble – especially addictive with baritone male vocals

+ Timbre-accurate lower-treble

+ Good sub-bass flourish


– Nozzle-length a few mm away from Etymotic’s infamous ‘deep-insertion’ nozzles (subjective criticism)

– Technical performance is average

– Heavy treble-energy suckout, sabotaging top-end clarity

– Dynamics, while commendable for a single balanced armature, still suffers from a lack of note-weight.


Kotori Audio is a Singapore-based audio brand that first sunk its teeth in the thriving local audio scene as a cable atelier, merging ‘haute audio’ with unmistakably affordable prices. When I was serving in the military in 2019, I was fortunate to have demoed some of their earlier iterations of their ‘Tungsten’ and ‘Carbon’ cables. Unbeknownst to me, I was witnessing the dawn of a new brand.

Like all fledgling brands, Koroti Audio germinated from an idea shared by spirited friends devoted to high-quality gear in the audiophile hobby. Participating in the hobby from the consumer end vastly differs from kickstarting a business. ‘Perfection’ is held in the ears of the beholder. This ambitious idea was their catalyst to venture into IEM design – a daunting new can of worms.

Dauntless was their daring venture into the bloated market of in-ear monitors, featuring a 10mm PU+PEEK dynamic driver that was proudly manufactured in Japan, and assembled in the Lion City. What struck me as interesting was the polarization that soon followed. From undulating praises to scathing ripostes, it was difficult to ascertain the ‘consensus tangibly’.

As a certified outlier, brands with audacious views leave a lasting impression, even before I’ve demoed their products. Their latest release, the Vampire, appears to be a sister release to the Dauntless. Instead of a dynamic driver, the solitary driver contained in each channel is a high-impedance ‘balanced armature’.

Prototyping started as early as 2019, culminating in the IEM that we see today. Priced at 104 USD (at the time of pre-order), the Vampire is pitting itself against a hyper-competitive price bracket. I have a nagging suspicion that the Vampire is going to traverse off the sonic path. The Vampire can be purchased/pre-ordered on Kotori Audio’s website.


Credit: Kotori Audio

Knowles Full-range Balanced Armature Driver

The beating heart of the Vampire is a single, full-sized Knowles-balanced armature. Crossoverless, there is no room for transient smearing, phase issues or incoherence.

3D Printed in Studio

Each unit is 3D-printed, assembled and quality-tested in their Singapore studio. The optimised acoustic geometry (or chamber design) maximises and finesse the final sonic output.


Credit: Kotori Audio

The Vampire comes shipped in a small, rectangular cardboard box with an outersleeve. The outersleeve proudly features the anime-inspired image from the Vampire’s launch page, complete with blood-red imagery and theming.

Despite the sub-$100 price, it’s apparent that the Kotori team obsesses over every touch-point of the customer journey – from acquisition to unboxing. Upon removing the sleeve and lifting the top lid, you’ll be greeted by a printed placard accompanied by Latin text in cursive. The Transylvanian theming is cool, if not excessive.

Under the hood, you’ll find the following accessories:

  • Kotori Audio Vampire
  • ‘Hockey-puck’ style aluminium carry case with pebble-stone finish
  • Kotori Audio ‘Carbon 3’ 2-pin, with 3.5mm unbalanced cable L-shaped termination (Found in carry case)
  • S, M, L silicone ear tips with plastic carrying case
  • Printed ‘how to’ instruction cards.

The included accessories speak to a brand that wants to earn the immediate trust of its purchasers. Overall, the package has a ‘wow factor’.


The Vampire is fully 3D-printed with a custom resin mix: the standard go-to material for IEM design.

The Vampire’s eye-catching blood-red theming is alluring as it is attractive. An intriguing design, the inlaid silver ‘V’ logo on the left channel gives the illusion of floating against a blood-red sea. The garnet-red relief on each faceplate is incredibly beautiful.

The overall shell is finished in a hypo-allergenic lacquer, and its application is perfectly even. Both shells have a uniform appearance with no visible blemishes or imperfections. The seam between each faceplate is perfectly hidden by the lacquer’s finishing coat.

While red isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it would be remiss to deny the gorgeous aesthetics the Vampire brings to the table.

Comfort and Ergonomics

The Vampire’s shells have a small footprint, attributed to its single balanced-armature design. Pair that with its lightweight resin makeup, and you have a diminutive IEM that doesn’t press against the anti-helix of the ear, nor does it add unwanted stress to the outer earlobes when worn.

Seal-wise, the Vampire’s nozzle depth is fairly elongated, erring closer into Etymotic territory. I do not find this problematic for my ears, but your mileage may vary. Each nozzle has a prominent notch that aids in the placement of your ear tip of choice, preventing it from sliding off accidentally.

The Vampire embraces a ventless design because balanced armatures don’t generate as much pressure in the chamber as a dynamic driver. This is especially beneficial for day-to-day use in outdoor environments, where ambient noise threatens to disrupt one’s private listening sessions. Isolation on the Vampire is fantastic; its ventless design prevents wind-noise ingress.

Cable Quality

Let’s cut to the chase. The Carbon 3 is Kotori’s Audio’s latest iteration of their entry-level cable, the Carbon. It’s the best stock cable I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing to date.

The Carbon third iteration consists of a no-frills two-braid structure that splits into single strands on each channel. What’s remarkable is the material composition of the cable’s shielding/jacket. It strikes a harmonious balance between suppleness and malleability. It’s soft to the touch and conforms to the listener’s movements with zero resistance.

The Y-split is custom-made by Kotori Audio, boasting a slate-grey colourway with a sanitised surface finish (with Kotori Audio’s logo proudly emblazoned on the side). The ‘cog-like’ chin-slider is easy to operate, staying in place at the designated position of your choice.

The Carbon V3 is a cable I would not hesitate to purchase as an aftermarket replacement. The fact that the V3 is the default option with the Vampire is remarkable.

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Picture of Kevin Goh

Kevin Goh

Raised in Southeast Asia’s largest portable-audio market, Kevin’s interest in high-end audio has grown alongside it as the industry flourishes. His pursuit of “perfect sound” began in the heydays of Jaben in Singapore at the age of just 10 years old. Kevin believes that we live in a golden age of readily accessible, quality audio.


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