DISCLAIMER: Vision Ears provided me with the ELYSIUM in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank Vision Ears for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.
Vision Ears are about as close to a luxury brand as IEMs can get. The German manufacturers are renowned not only for their exquisitely built, styled and dressed monitors, but also for their posh, prestigious stature not unlike a TAG Heuer or a BMW, reflected everywhere from their craftsmanship, to their customer care, to their packaging, and – to some – their pricing as well. But, limiting them to a mere sense of opulence would be a criminal simplification. Vision Ears’ IEMs also happen to be some of the best-sounding ever made. And, that to me has never been truer than with their latest custom flagship. The ELYSIUM is a three-way hybrid with a one-of-a-kind sound: As rich, vibrant and clean as musical can ever be.
Vision Ears ELYSIUM
- Driver count: One balanced-armature driver, one dynamic driver and two electrostatic drivers
- Impedance: 16.4Ω @ 1kHz
- Sensitivity: 105dB @ 1mW
- Key feature(s) (if any): HALC (High-Precision Acoustic Levelling Chamber)
- Available form factor(s): Custom acrylic IEMs
- Price: €2900
- Website: www.vision-ears.de
Packaging and Accessories
‘See what I meant in the intro?
For their custom flagship, Vision Ears have spared zero expense; unequivocally delivering the most luxurious unboxing experience I’ve ever seen from a monitor maker. From the quality of the materials, to the theatrics of the rising platform, to the imposing silhouette of the box alone, this truly is something that’d fit right in at a boutique timepiece showroom; absolutely phenomenal. Lifting the covers open also raises the box’s inner compartment – almost as if on a pedestal – to greet you with its contents, which include the ELYSIUM’s fabulous leather case, a personalised name badge, the included accessories, and a signed message from Vision Ears’ Amin Karimpour and Marcel Schoenen flanking them on either side.
Delving deeper into the accessories set, you’ll get Vision Ears’ sprayable in-ear cleaner, a 1/4″ adapter and a wax cleaning tool. Besides that, you’ll also find a quick-start guide, a cheeky All You Need Is LoVE sticker and a Thank You note. As far as extras go, I think they could’ve gone a little bit further to match the extravagance of the rest of the packaging. Microfibre cloths are pretty much mandatory nowadays, and an extra soft case would’ve been nice to have too. The 1/4″ adapter is also odd, since the stock cable is terminated with a 2.5mm plug. A 2.5-to-3.5mm adapter would’ve made more sense, or at least one in addition to the 1/4″ adapter. But, otherwise, it’s a very serviceable display as far as extras are concerned.
Finally, a special shout must go out to the ELYSIUM’s stunning leather case. It’s near-identical to the one Effect Audio pair with their Leonidas II cables, which isn’t much of a surprise given those two’s close relationship. However, the ELYSIUM’s does sport a very different texture. There’s an almost skin-like tessellation pattern to it, which looks absolutely gorgeous in matte black. And, topping the look off (literally) is a textured, cerulean faceplate reminiscent of the monitor’s exclusive faceplate design. With the company logo subtly engraved on top, it’s a scheme I’m personally in love with. Inside are the IEMs, the stock cable, as well as a matching, black leather, VE-branded cable tie, cushioned all around in foam for safety.
As one should expect from a high-end flagship offering, Vision Ears have also paid great scrutiny towards the ELYSIUM’s stock cable. Eschewing the commonplace OEM offerings, they’ve collaborated with a highly-renowned aftermarket cable maker (whose identity shall remain anonymous) for a top-notch, 8-braid conductor; silvery in appearance. This conduit’s slightly thinner wire gauge allows it great ergonomics; light, despite its wire count, and supple as well. And, this is further helped by the cable’s precisely even braiding. To finish, you have chrome, VE-branded hardware; once again, ergonomic and light. And, for the 2.5mm balanced plug, they’ve used what seems like an Oyaide plug; a further indication of quality.
While I don’t often discuss the sonic performance of an in-ear’s stock cable, I must highlight this one in particular, simply for how well it meshes with this monitor’s inherent signature. Among the plethora of upgrade cables I’ve auditioned the ELYSIUM with – and, trust me, that’s a ton – I find the pairing with the stock cable delivers one of the most well-balanced, even-handed tonalities. And, in technique, I had to turn to the heavyweights in my arsenal to hear any genuine leaps. So, kudos to Vision Ears for sourcing a stock cable that not only looks the part, but sounds it as well; true attention-to-detail.
The reason why I go after other companies for less-than-stellar packaging is because of gems like these. Vision Ears treat the unboxing experience with as much care as – if not more than – everything else, proving it is just as rife for artistry as the in-ears are themselves. Though the accessories are admittedly not the most bounteous I’ve seen, Vision Ears remain the one uncontested king of presentation. At the highest level, this is the attention-to-detail everyone should strive for.
Build and Wearing Comfort
Moving onto the in-ears themselves, my ELYSIUM continues Vision Ears’ streak of near-perfectly built monitors. The clear design does absolutely no favours when it comes to hiding imperfections, and even under that scrutiny, Vision Ears have performed admirably. The faceplates and shells join seamlessly, the lacquer lustres, and those horn bores are machined precisely too. I absolutely love the marine-like design they’ve chosen as the ELYSIUM’s theme, especially when topped by those crisp, metallic logos. The only aspect just short of flawless for me would be internal cleanliness. They aren’t as neat as – say – a QDC or an AME Custom. However, given the sheer complexity of the in-ear’s circuitry, it’s certainly forgivable.
Similarly, Vision Ears’ fit is often hailed as some of the best in the industry, and my experience can’t help but agree. Like my VE6XC’s before, my ELYSIUM fits like a snug glove, disappearing in the ear completely once dialled in. This is partially because – unlike a 64 Audio or a JH Audio – Vision Ears do not add much girth to the concha or canals. While this means they won’t isolate as effectively as those two brands will, it does make them markedly comfier in the long-term. And, this comfort is guaranteed for recurring customers too, thanks to Vision Ears’ partially digital, 3D-printing-integrated process.
HALC (High-Precision Acoustic Levelling Chamber)
The High-Precision Acoustic Levelling Chamber (or HALC) is the ELYSIUM’s no. 1 killer app. Named partially as an homage to the Marvel Comics character – given the device’s emerald hue – the HALC is solely responsible for shaping the ELYSIUM’s custom-tuned dynamic driver. In order to delve deeper into the technology, I reached out to ELYSIUM co-designers Amin Karimpour, Marcel Shoenen and Oliver Marino. While they obviously couldn’t divulge too much on a technical level, they were generous in talking about the HALC’s development with me, including all the trouble and pain it took to get there:
The HALC has a specially-tuned internal structure to function as an acoustic filter for the dynamic driver. The dynamic driver on its own was also fine-tuned to our spec, so that – together with HALC – we’d have a great-sounding midrange from 500Hz to 7kHz.
This acoustic tuning process took more than a year-and-half to get right, because it required really strict tolerances; a mere difference of 35 microns and the tuning was entirely lost. Then, after all the time we spent optimising the whole set-up, when we are at the final stages, we found that our dynamic driver supplier was absolutely unreliable; all the drivers were different from each other!
So, we had to find a new manufacturer, explain the modifications we needed, and go through the hassle of fine-tuning the driver again. Finally, after trying out a few different samples and slightly retuning the HALC, we achieved what we wanted. Then, it was all about finding a manufacturing process for the HALC that guaranteed a tolerance of within 35 microns. Again, everything had such a small margin-of-error.
I’d like to express my utmost gratitude to Amin, Marcel and Oliver for sharing those stories with me. I’m sure that, by the end – as many who’ve heard the ELYSIUM can agree – all that work was beyond worth it. And, stay tuned, because more inside looks at the HALC and Vision Ears may be coming to a little series I’m doing called An Inner View. Again, stay tuned.
Thanks to you too, Mario! ‘Hope you’re still enjoying yours. 😉
… what a read 🙂 And so true!
Thanks for this Daniel!