Kotori Audio Vampire – Into the Twilight

Sound Summary

First impressions reveal a review’s direction of travel. My immediate impressions of the Vampire paints an esoteric story. The Vampire has a mesmerising signature that’s tailored to a niche.

Warm, playful and cloyingly sweet, the Vampire is the antithesis of the Harman response curve. There is a saccharine and hyper-romantic presentation of baritone and bass male vocalists. Timbre-rich and bloated, everything sounds like it’s being reproduced in a public acoustic space.

For a single balanced-armature IEM, dynamics on the low-end are north of neutral, with the standard ‘ba’ sub-bass that decays too soon. Mid-bass slam is engaging and lively, albeit a step behind a moving coil diaphragm.

Upper-treble roll-off is significant here, eliminating odd-harmonic coarseness and zinginess at all corners of the frequency response. Microdetails are sacrificed in exchange for a forgiving signature that’s compatible with both Hi-Res and Low-Res recordings. Oddly enough, lower-treble is fairly pronounced, with energetic snares having that pre-requisite ‘thud’.


Balanced-armature bass tends to be somewhat ruler-flat: fast, and speedy but hollow. The Vampire’s default tuning is a course correction for some of its intrinsic flaws. Firstly, sub-bass roll-off is mitigated: sub-bass appears thicker, stubbier and deeper. Sub-bass sustain is a hair longer for a cinematic and analog presentation.

Mid-bass punch is harder and deeper, albeit a few steps behind a dynamic driver. The inability to displace air sabotages its ability to showcase sound naturally. At the end of the day, a balanced armature is limited by its architecture.

The macrodynamic presentation of the bass is soft and inviting – ambient music and field recordings thrive on the Vampire (or genres with slower PRAT). However, the Vampire’s micro detailing in the bass department is average, with faster tracks causing bass and baritone instruments to overlap and converge: a consequence of a slower decay.


The Vampire’s midrange is arguably the most prominent point of discussion. As illustrated in the summary section, the Vampire has a bold emphasis on the lower-mid floor. What follows is an indulgently inviting midrange that accentuates the smoother voicings, and blankets them in warmth.

Country/Americana singers who’ve drunk whiskey and smoked all their lives sound great here. Their southern drawls, paired with the characteristic decay of an acoustic guitar, are romanticised and immortalised by the Vampire. It’s an addictive listen.

However, this creates a separate problem. Soprano vocals and female voicings don’t scale that high into the upper-mids. Details are deliberately softened and masked to make way for the lower-mids. Again, micro-detailing and raw clarity aren’t the Vampire’s strong suits. ‘S’s don’t have the correct timbre, nor do wind instruments.

Technical performance in detail retrieval, clarity and separation in the midrange is decent, but not great. From a holistic point of view, the Vampire moves two steps forward, and two steps back concurrently. ‘Niche’ is a recurring theme here.


The Vampire’s treble region is going to be the biggest point of deep polarisation. The lower-treble region itself retains nice sparkle and clarity, injecting much-needed snap and energy into instruments (snare drums etc.). Strangely, the lower treble is extra pronounced across the mix with excellent distinction and clarity. This is one of the standout points of the Vampire.

However, the rest of the presence region in the upper registers experience a significant taper. This was deliberately done to completely smoothen out possible peaks and coarse artefacts that may emerge. Admittedly, the recession in the upper treble is heavy-handed. The resulting signature is dark, with a ‘lo-fi’ like filter.

Interestingly, I found myself enjoying this unique signature on older Americana tracks. Your mileage may vary. However, it is important to acknowledge the negative impacts this has on the Vampire’s technical performance. The overall image is ‘hazy’, with average micro-detail retrieval.


The Vampire’s soundstage, like Etymotic’s cult-favourite ER4, has a coherent and in-your-head soundstage. Everything is naturally presented but with limited headroom. Because of the Vampire’s solo driver configuration, L-R staging is natural and decently expansive without the pitfalls of multiple-driver topologies.

Imaging and layering between instruments/voicings exhibit good proficiency, with a noticeable distance between instruments and voicings. Congestion is noticed on poorly mastered recordings. This is also somewhat sabotaged by the Vampire’s inherently dark disposition. Thankfully, the elevation in the lower treble helps to compensate for this effect.

The Vampire is good at the fundamentals but doesn’t necessarily punch above its price class.

Turn to the next page for Synergy/Impedance, A Brief Comparison and Conclusive Remarks



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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