Disclaimer: Vision Ears loaned me a universal version of Elysium for the purposes of this review.
Vision Ears’ Elysium is truly unique among IEMs, a fellow reviewer told me “Nothing sounds like the Elysium”, I agree with his statement. Elysium features a single balanced armature driver for the lows, a single dynamic driver for the highs and two electrostatic drivers for the highs configured in a 3-way crossover. Vision Ears spent over a year developing their dynamic driver chamber, they call this new technology HALC (High precision acoustic leveling chamber), it’s a specially tuned chamber that acts as an acoustic filter for the dynamic driver. Due to HALC Elysium’s mid-range features a new level of realism/transparency due to it’s perfect timbre, tonal accuracy and a rich wetness that only the HALC chamber can create.
I will be reviewing the Elysium with it’s stock cable and the Chord Hugo 2 for an accurate and balanced take on what the Elysium can do. The Hugo2 has a neutral tone and extremely high resolution, allowing me to hear all the technical capabilities of Elysium without coloring the sound unnaturally. The cable is 8 wire SPC 28AWG terminated in 2.5mm so you will need purchase an adapter if you intend to use 3.5mm as one is not included.
Open the magnetically sealed box and the Elysium will slowly rise up to greet you, by far the most impressive packaging I’ve ever seen.
Tuning/Signature: Elysium has a dead silent noise floor combined with massive dynamic range. Rich notes and industry leading timbre create a stunning sonic attack in which notes burst onto the scene with crystalline clarity and true to life tone. Images command authority on a tall, deep spacious and airy stage. Elysium is neutral-warm with a slight sub bass lift, the lower mid-range is full-bodied but high mids are more centric to the signature. Bass heads who want slam and rumble should look elsewhere while audiophiles who appreciate a sub bass that reaches deep in tone with moderate impact will be happy with Elysium. Highs are fatigue free, airy, velvety smooth and exceptionally clear. The mid-range is the best I’ve ever heard and is the overall masterstroke of Elysium. The timbre of Elysium combined with its tonal accuracy and technical capabilities make it a truly special listen. Nothing I’ve heard has been able to replicate the wet, vibrant life like sound of Elysium. With Elysium you’re in for a fatigue free, easy listening, technical yet emotive sound. Keywords: Holographic, transparent: perfect timbre and tone, crystalline clarity, warm-neutral, balanced, airy, dynamic, musical/effortless, vibrant, seamless coherency.
High Frequencies(6k and above): Elysium’s treble presentation is top shelf, with sparkle and lots of headroom. The electrostatic driver provides crystalline clarity, illumination, spaciousness and it increases stage clarity/separation with its’ pin point precision. High frequency induced fatigue should never be an issue with Elysium, it’s incredibly easy to listen to for hours or even the whole day. I can’t imagine a treble head not getting enough with Elysium but I suppose it’s possible. This is a silky smooth yet high resolution treble presentation with good note density/size and a dip around 6k. Resolution is high due to the bump around 7-8khz, Elysium was never fatiguing for me, quite the opposite its as one of the easiest-listening monitors I’ve ever heard yet it never sounded dark or veiled. Keywords: Crystalline, airy, smooth, slightly attenuated extension, relaxed, airy, sparkle, high resolution.
Craftsmanship is what one would expect at the top of the market.
High Mid-range Frequencies(1k-2k): Vision Ears took a unique approach to the highs by using dual electrostatic drivers. Elysium features a steady rise from the high mid-range to the high frequencies. This rise adds vibrancy to the sound, notes burst onto the scene when cast against Elysiums’ silent noise floor. This gives more weight to the high mids as opposed to the low mids, creating heaps of texture and clarity. There’s no harshness in the upper mid-range and notes have solid body and presence in the stage. Keywords: Vibrant, slightly favored over lower mid-range, high resolution texture, clarity.
Mid-range Frequencies(500 to 2000Hz): Vision Ears chose to use a dynamic driver for the mid-range, a driver that they spent over a year tuning to perfection. They went through dozens of prototypes to achieve the HALC dynamic driver technology you will hear in Elysium. The mid-range is rich, wet, highly textured, highly resolved and detailed while being incredibly transparent and smooth(non-clinical). The most striking feature to the mid-range is it’s true to life quality, it’s a quality that I’ve never heard before. The mid-range is positioned neutrally in the stage yet vocals can often sound intimate. Overall the mid-range is neutral-warm. Keywords: Lifelike timbre and tone, intimate vocals, impactful, rich, transparent, vibrant.
Bass(60 to 250Hz): Elysium’s mid-bass has moderate quantity, quick impact, decay is good but never creates congestion Elysium maintains great separation and air while tonal extension is deep. There’s enough looseness to provide good weight and density. Harmonics and reverberations interplay nicely and maintain the crystalline clarity Elysium I known for. Strings, kickdrums and vocals have impressive presence and image size. Down-tuned guitars have solid heft. Keywords: Moderate quantity, fast, tight, clear, high resolution texture, rich.
Note the array of drivers: dual Sonion Electrostatic drivers, a balanced armature for the lows and a unique dynamic driver technology for the mid-range.
Sub-bass(60Hz and below): Vision Ears chose to go with a balanced armature for the sub bass, they tuned it with top tier tonal extension, it’s fast, tight and impactful creates a very un-congested sound. Those looking for slam or thundering rumble may find the overall quantity insufficient. Sub bass is favored over mid-bass with regard to quantity which is to my tuning preference. Pleasing and natural sounding harmonics create a satisfying decay. While the tuning affords a cleaner presentation it does so while maintaining excellent note density. Tip selection will be critical in achieving the desired sub bass quantity or step up the custom version of Elysium which should get you a little more bass presence. Keywords: Slightly boosted, deep tonal extension, high resolution, clarity, moderate quantity, high resolution texture.
Stage: The first thing you’ll notice about Elysium’s stage is its’ unique dimensions. Elysium emphasizes vertical height/depth while still maintaining good width. I’ve heard the word holographic thrown around a lot on audiophile circles, the Elysium’s stage is very holographic. Images are massive with great air, clarity and separation. Elysium is a chameleon in the sense that it can be intimate yet expansive, vocals are often intimate yet the overall sense of the sound is one of space and air. Keywords: True holographic stage, exceptional layering and separation, uncongested, large headroom, tall and deep, moderate width.
Resolution: There are a combination of elements that mix to create the Elysium’s unique take on a high resolution sound. Elysium’s resolution is achieved in a large part through its’ use of separation combined with massive spaciousness/air as well as the commanding attack and solidity of each note. It’s not resolution in the sense of being clinical but in the sense of each note having all the space it needs to fully bloom, have solid presence and good decay. The high mids shine down and provide texture as well. Never did I find myself wanting more detail. Elysium is a monitor you can get lost in, for hours enveloped in its’ pleasing glow. It’s easy to crank the volume up with Elysium due to its’ smooth natural sound and when doing so it only gets better. Keywords: Warm-neutral presentation of detail, good resolution, musical, uncongested, non-clinical.
The stock cable is a fantastic pairing with Elysium. The included leather case is sturdy and refined.
Imaging: Elysium creates massive images, some of the largest and most impactful I’ve heard. There’s exceptional separation between images. Everything just sounds larger, dynamic, vibrant and alive. Images are three dimensionally coherent, large, impactful, radiant, detailed and holographic. These combined attributes give them a sense of weight and solidity in stage. Keywords: Huge images, radiant, solid/grounded images, holographic, airy with great separation.
Timbre/Transparency: Elysium’s timbre is the first thing you’ll notice about it, that incredibly realistic sound with perfect natural tonality due to the HALC technology. This is industry leading timbre. Ever so slightly pulling back from the highest highs contributes to the realistic non-clinical sound. Elysium possesses the best transparency of any monitor I’ve ever heard. What makes it so spectacular is the incredible realism created from the combination of perfect timber and tone. Attack and decay is true-to-life and most apparent with cymbals wherein they burst onto the scene but dissolve naturally and realistically. Elysium simply disappears and nothing but the music remains. In my opinion, there is no limit to how long you can listen to Elysium as it’s so smooth and natural. Keywords: Unparalleled transparency, timbre and tonal accuracy.
Coherency: Coherency is becoming increasingly important as manufacturers are now incorporating multiple disjointed audio technologies in their monitors. Elysium has seamless coherency, I tried very hard to discern any disjointedness in Elysium, I found none. Vision ears have achieved perfect coherency. Keywords: Perfect coherency, seamless high-fidelity sound.
Drive-ability: While it is true that Elysium can be driven by any device, Elysium is one of the most scalable IEMs I’ve heard to date. You want something with a lot of power for the dual electrostatic drivers. I used a Chord Hugo for this review but did find Elysium to sound slightly darker and less crystalline with inferior sources such as my Macbook Pro or my Samsung Note 10+. Elysium only gets better when you turn up the volume and give it the juice it needs.
Comparisons: Elysium vs A18t: A18t has a higher resolution sound while Elysium counters with superior clarity and air compared to A18t’s slightly darker sound. A18t will satisfy bass heads with it’s powerful bass, Elysium counters with a cleaner but less impactful bass. Vocals are more intimate and life-like with the Vision Ears offering. The timbre and tone of Elysium is what set’s it apart from A18t and frankly all other monitors, it has a sense of tonal accuracy, naturalness and attack that is truly unique. A18t has a much wider stage while Elysium counters with a taller and deeper stage. Elysium has larger images, they’re more radiant, three dimensionally coherent, impactful and holographic. The ability to fine tune the sound of A18t with a number of modules from both 64 Audio and Fir Audio is very appealing and is a trick Elysium can’t replicate. Both are exceptional monitors and deserve a place in any serious audiophile’s collection.
Final Thoughts: When I heard other reviewers talking about the unique properties of the Elysium, I knew I had to review it. There have been a few monitors that have burned their sound into my brain and I can’t forget them, Elysium is now one of those monitors.
Does Elysium do everything perfect? No, bass heads may miss their slam and rumble but what Elysium offers is a perfect timber/tone, musical, clean, vibrant and spacious sound that is very hard to put down and not available anywhere else given the unique HALC chamber. Make sure you have a powerful source to drive Elysium. I appreciate Vision Ears giving me this opportunity, I look forward to one day owning a custom version.