Empire Ears’ EP & X Launch Event @ Euphoria Audio – A New Era

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Select Comparisons

Empire Ears Zeus-XR vs. Empire Ears Phantom

Despite commonalities present in the midrange (particularly that of the Zeus-XIV), the Phantom and the Zeus are more different than they are alike.

A significantly accentuated bass response and an infinitely more linear treble furthers the former from the latter’s more neutral tone. While the Zeus excels in displaying crystalline transparency and sparkly resolution, the Phantom has the more natural response; defining notes with body, colour and tone – rather than articulation or clarity. The latter’s warmer and more guttural bass response immediately rectifies one of the Zeus’s most glaring weaknesses. Compromising neither tone, nor transparency nor clarity, the Phantom presents a more extended, even-handed, physical and technically-capable low-end that the Zeus struggles to attain.

The midrange is where the two are most similar. Emphasising boldness, strength and solidity in vocals and instruments alike, both flagships display an affinity towards the intimacy and soulfulness of the human voice. The Zeus has a tendency the sound throatier, however, due to its heavier lower-midrange. And, a peak in the lower-treble brings articulation (particularly in hotter recordings) to dangerous – i.e. near sibilant – heights. The Phantom, in this regard, is considerably smoother and more linear. A less brittle top-end endows vocals with a more organic timbre, favouring emotional warmth rather than ultimate clarity. 

The treble then, conversely, is where the two TOTLs diverge. Due to peaks in both the lower-and-upper-treble, the Zeus’s top-end embodies a more neutral character as well as a hardness in texture. The Phantom, here, is less theatric; emphasising richness and tone above all. Superior linearity also gives the Phantom a blacker background than the Zeus; necessary for its warmer timbre. Though, stellar extension allows the Phantom to compete with the Zeus in terms of resolution, and where they stand on transparency will ultimately depend on whether you prefer a more clarity-led signature or a textured one. 

Empire Ears Zeus-XR vs. Empire Ears Legend X

The Legend X bears a closer resemblance to the Zeus-R than it does the XIV. Reprising the 14-driver flagship’s brilliant clarity and crispness, the Legend X presents a similarly clean stage; extending outwards in terms of width, especially. But, with two Weapon IX dynamic drivers in its arsenal, the two flagships can’t possibly sound identical.

And, speaking to this, let’s start at the bass. Or – as the Legend X puts it – the BASSThe new flagship has a low-end the Zeus simply cannot touch. Apart from vast differences in sheer magnitude, the Legend X embodies a different genre of bass when compared to the Zeus-R. The former serves low-end in mild portions, prioritising the cleanliness of its stage as well as its perceived transparency. The Legend X – on the other hand – adds a physical, visceral and powerful low-end into the mix, balancing transparency all along the way. Marvellous control allows for this compromise to exist as optimally as possible, allowing the Legend X a wetter, meatier and clearer bass without sacrificing overall clarity in the process.

The midrange is a much closer contest between the two TOTLs. Both the Zeus-R and the Legend X don a balanced midrange – linear from the lower registers towards the upper regions. Instruments on the Legend X sound wider and more spacious, because of a welcome boost in headroom. The Zeus-R has a more aggressive bite to its instruments – due to a sharper lower-treble – and tone is more neutral as a result. Cleanliness and transparency are on par between the two, but the Legend X has the blacker background – again – contributed by its linear top-end. Vocal placement on both IEMs lean towards average, with the Legend X’s bass and the Zeus-R’s treble taking precedence. All in all, the midrange is where both flagships share the most DNA; neutral in mind and clear at heart.

The treble is where the Legend X flaunts its maturity. Building upon the Zeus-R’s crystalline top-end, the hybrid flagship smoothens out its predecessor’s peaks – maintaining clarity, transparency and tone, whilst providing a smoother, more pleasurable listening experience along the way. The Zeus-R has the more prominent response, whilst the Legend X lets it take the back seat in favour of the bass. Though, that does not mean the latter is darker or warmer than the former. Through improved extension and air, the Legend X realises clarity and sparkle just as well, but it does so with a greater sense of finesse. Exhibiting great progress in smoothness, coherency and even-handedness, the Legend X’s top-end is a clear technical improvement, even if the bass still steals the spotlight.

Closing Thoughts

With both the EP and X line-ups, Empire Ears have struck gold. All seven IEMs provide an excellent variety of signatures and maintain consistent technical performance. Whether the Bravado or the ESR, elements like extension, definition and background blackness remain within reach of their bigger brothers – proving that entry-level compromise is a thing of the past. The Professional series inducts a new trilogy of IEMs into the reference hall-of-fame; handsomely catering to three distinct use-cases, whilst retaining enough musicality for all to enjoy. The X line is Empire Ears flexing their muscles; flaunting their very own 9mm dynamic drivers in four sumptuous flavours – exhibiting explosive bass and excellent technical performance in great harmony. Whether you’re a sound engineer or an audiophile looking for a bit of fun, there’s tons to love about all of Empire Ears’ new releases. As for me, this is a really exciting time to be both.

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About Author

Church-boy by day and audio-obsessee by night, Daniel Lesmana’s world revolves around the rhythms and melodies we lovingly call: Music. When he’s not behind a console mixing live for a congregation of thousands, engineering records in a studio environment, or making noise behind a drum set, you’ll find him on his laptop analysing audio gear with fervor and glee. Now a specialist in custom IEMs, cables and full-sized headphones, he’s looking to bring his unique sensibilities - as both an enthusiast and a professional - into the reviewer’s space; a place where no man has gone before.

11 Comments

  1. kai on

    hi, wonder if you had tried the “older” customs like fitear c435 and westone es5. curious how would you compare to this.

    Thanks =)

    • Deezel on

      Hello Kai,

      Unfortunately, I’ve tried neither. Sorry.

      Cheers,
      Daniel

      • kai on

        Hi Deezel,

        aah. its okay. hope you wouldnt mind recommending some custom that i should try.

        am looking for something, that goes well with any genres, source “forgiving” as sometimes i do alt between my onkyo dp-x1 or my phone.

        not very good in describing but something with clarity, good soundstage (for concert tracks). “All rounder” & easy to listen to?

        Thanks
        Kai

        • Deezel on

          Hi Kai,

          In that case, the Lime Ears Model X is a great option. It’s the monitor I listen to when I simply want everything to “sound good”. If you’re willing to go all out for a TOTL, the Vision Ears VE8 is absolutely fantastic, but it costs a ton. 😀 The VE8 bests the Model X in bass weight, note thickness, textural resolution and stage density/palpability, but the Model X at less than half the price is an absolute steal. I’ve had it for just under a month and it’s become irreplaceable in my collection, so that’d be my #1 recommendation with price-for-performance taken into account.

          EDIT: It’s also worth noting that the Model X has no glaring weaknesses compared to the VE8. Aside from a more modest mid-bass (that can absolutely be brought out with the right cable), I can’t say there’s anything instantly wrong with the Model X that I’d be dying to fix. The Model X is sublime, but the VE8 – expectedly – is simply better. 😉

          Cheers,
          Daniel

          • Kai on

            Hi,

            =). Any others i can consider too?

            Thnks
            Kai

            • Deezel on

              Hello Kai,

              I’ll let you know if I think of any. 🙂

              Cheers,
              Daniel

  2. Roger Hemphill on

    new to the CIEM world but so far have been enjoying meeting and talking with the guys over at EE and EA….currently been waffling between the Horus and Janus cable for my Zeus XR Adel and cant thank Jack Vang and Eric Chong enough for their help. has been an expensive adventure searching for the optimal sound signature, but i have renewed my love for music production and appreciation for such delicate sound signatures…looking forward to developing a great bond and friendship with these guys in my search for supreme sound….being on the forums i can tell you have a great support team of testers leaving great reviews…please do let me know if you need any more audiophiles with a high sense on detail. love to be a product tester

  3. RP1 on

    Will the new range feature ADEL options?

    • Deezel on

      At the event, Jack said these models were tuned without ADEL in mind, and he also implied that there aren’t any plans to include it in the future.

  4. Wyville on

    Very informative Daniel, you did a stellar job given the limited time you had available! A great reference article for anyone interested in the new Empire Ears series!

    • Deezel on

      Thank you, Erik! I can’t wait for you to receive your Phantom’s, so you can experience their excellence first-hand. 😉

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