The ELYSIUM ranks among the most vibrant, engaging and soulful IEMs I’ve ever heard. While most flagships are bound to partake in the pursuit of superlative technical performance, only a select few can maintain the musicality, immersion and expressiveness the ELYSIUM does as well. You come for the vast, effortless stage, the pin-point precise imaging and the immense resolution. But, you stay for the rich, exuberant tonality, as well as those vivid, dynamic instruments. With band-driven tracks like Snarky Puppy’s Jefe or Incognito’s Rapture, the ELYSIUM gives you the option to analyse the music through its impeccable technique. But, truly, its forte is its ability to convince you each and every time to enjoy it instead.
As previously implied, the ELYSIUM boasts phenomenal headroom. Its stage is remarkably stable, precisely defined and constantly rife with air. Like any piece of gear with a whisper-silent noise floor, this guarantees the ELYSIUM both superb resolution and dynamic range. Instruments attack as if out of nowhere with instant impact, which brightens percussion like the snare drum incredibly well. And, they vanish realistically too. Cymbals – for example – dissolve naturally into thin air, rather than crash and fizzle out. You can find these qualities on the solos from Dirty Loops’ Work Sh*t Out. Finally, the ELYSIUM’s notes – while vibrant – are never too far forward, nor too warm, nor too large, so space is always maintained.
With the HALC-fuelled midrange and e-stat-driven highs front-and-centre, it’d be easy to shrug off the ELYSIUM’s lows at the bottom of the totem pole. But, really, such a simplification would be a mistake. The ELYSIUM’s bass response – while not the most prominent – possesses an impressively dense, rounded and radiant tonality. Kick drums have a fullness to them, as well as a light warmth; loosened just a tad, so it imparts a pleasing, musical glow. But, maintaining the monitor’s theme of balance between soul and technique, there’s great clarity to the bass as well. Snarky Puppy’s Semente shows off the wetness I discussed earlier. Yet, you can still easily discern between the kick drum and the bass guitar with precision.
Technically, it’s a bass that boasts strong extension as well, making up for its modest presence through sheer physicality. For example, Prep’s Cheapest Flight is a track that really benefits from a thick, thump-y bass. There isn’t really a too much with that track. So, while the ELYSIUM is at a disadvantage in quantity, the solidity it does have serves the track perfectly; filling out the bottom and driving the rhythm forward, without overstepping the rest of the piece. Truly, that is this bass’s ace: Serving the music without flash. As easy as it is to heap superlatives on more emphasised, wild low-ends, I think one that blends perfectly with the band deserves just as much praise. The ELYSIUM has technique, charisma and team spirit.
This is the ELYSIUM’s lifeblood: A breathtakingly-vivid, phenomenally-textured and naturally-contoured midrange. HALC has imbued instruments with a resonance and depth that comes across vibrant and powerful. While the ELYSIUM isn’t a vocal-forward signature by any means – more neutrally-positioned, really – the midrange is still capable of leaping out at you through sheer drive alone. For example, take Dennis Chambers’ snare drum on Liz & Opie from Tryptonix. Although, in reality, it’s no bigger in presence than the kick or hi-hat, the power and texture those snare hits give off is arena-sized; absolutely huge. The same goes for the side snare precisely at the two-minute mark. You can genuinely feel it move air.
However, dynamic range can only take you so far, which is where the ELYSIUM’s exquisite tonal balance comes in. From 1-4kHz spans an extremely linear rise, giving the in-ear vibrant, well-structured and lightly-rich instruments. A tiny lower-mid dip does give higher-pitched notes a hair more presence than deeper ones, but – impressively – the ELYSIUM is able to avoid the slightest trace of honks, hiccups or suck-outs. Instruments simply have a realistic hue to them, which – with the HALC’s texture, resolution and punch – makes the perfect blend for just utter holography, tactility and realism. Airy, powerful and vivid, the ELYSIUM’s midrange is a collection of many little things done right; an instrument all on its own.
The ELYSIUM’s treble response brims with clarity, openness and detail; responsible for the monitor’s vast, pristine stage, pin-point precise imaging, and incredibly outstanding headroom. This a top-end that doesn’t shy away from sparkle. And yet, harshness, sibilance or glare are never issues, because of how open, effortless and free those highs are. And, there’s an element of control to that shimmer as well. In addition to being addictively crisp, the ELYSIUM’s highs are refined and resolving too; capable of rendering a cymbal crash down to the tail. So, with artists like Animals As Leaders, or tracks like Dirty Loops’ Work Sh*t Out, you get every bit of air, crackle and pop that top-end has to offer without any bit of the guilt.
Now, there has been some concern raised over the tweeters’ drivability. Vision Ears themselves encourage a strong drive to get the most out of them. There’s certainly truth to this. While I’d find virtually all the traits above with my Sony WM1A and Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, there is a whole new tier to the IEM with – say – SMSL’s M500. Higher background blackness and stability provide even cleaner dynamics. The space is more open than ever, yet focused all the same. To me, though, this is more a case of tappable potential, rather than bottlenecking. Because, no matter the source, you’ll always get that immense headroom, as well as a timbre that deftly straddles between body and cut; bright and crisp, yet silkily wet too.
The ELYSIUM maintains an immense sense of balance throughout its sonic profile, making it a wonderfully clean, neutral and versatile in-ear monitor. Below, I’ve highlighted three of its qualities, which I consider to be its most prevalent. If any or all of them are what you’re after in your ideal flagship in-ear monitor, the ELYSIUM should definitely be on your radar:
A near-perfect balance of clarity, vastness and musicality: The ELYSIUM’s main appeal is its effortless mix of space, richness and detail. Not often do monitors sound both clinical and soulful at the very same time. Its world-class technique is met only by its vivid tonality, and it’s what makes the ELYSIUM a shoo-in for anyone who wants crisp, clean and fun all at once.
Class-leading midrange texture and impact: Vision Ears’ HALC has gifted the ELYSIUM a midrange with incredible presence and power. While it’s not the most forwardly-placed, full-bodied or saturated vocal range in the world, its dynamic range alone is capable of commanding a track in an instant. If you want a midrange that is airy, open and spacious at all times, yet never fails to light the room with its presence, the ELYSIUM is most probably the ideal top-of-the-line in-ear for you.
An airy and precise, yet silky-sounding treble: The ELYSIUM’s top-end possesses a wonderful balance between smoothness and cut. Clarity, detail and air are present in spades, but it’s all delivered with elegance, refinement and ease. If you want crispness, air and detail, but you want a silky, spacious, inoffensive tone to go with it, the ELYSIUM will absolutely deliver.
But, the ELYSIUM’s evenness makes it less-than-ideal for someone whose tastes are more colourful; if you tend to prefer more of an emphasis on the extremes, for example. Here are three attributes the ELYSIUM hasn’t been tuned to deliver:
A skull-rattlingly visceral bass: Down low, the ELYSIUM is solid, substantial and full-bodied. But, it won’t deliver a response like a dynamic driver can, for example. If a guttural sub-bass is a major priority for you, the ELYSIUM would not be ideal.
Thick, saturated and forwardly-positioned vocals: Despite the HALC being a key component of the ELYSIUM, it’s not as mid-forward as some may assume. Instruments sit more neutrally on the stage with an airier, more open tonality. While they certainly have a rich, wet and resonant quality to them, euphony definitely isn’t its dominant aspect. If you prefer a more intimate presentation with fatter, more buttery-sounding instruments, the ELYSIUM may not be the flagship IEM for you.
A warm, rolled-off top-end: While the ELYSIUM’s treble response is generally silky-smooth, it does have a crispness to it in order to encourage clarity and detail. Never are they ever harsh or artificial-sounding. But, if you like your highs tapered-off and pillowy, they still may come off a tad too articulate. Vision Ears’ own VE8 would probably be more fitting for you.