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A Lean, Mean, Fighting Machine – A Review of the Empire Ears Spartan

Empire Ears provided Spartan free of charge for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill.

Spartan IV CIEM sells for $749.00

One of the first things I did when I became a reviewer for THL was reach out to Jack Vang of Empire Ears. Not to hit him up for a review sample, but just to make contact. I knew he was working on some new designs, but they were a ways out. I also knew I wasn’t all that interested in Zeus, due to the very neutral bass response. And Athena was “secretly” on the way out of production. So there was nothing I really craved from his current lineup. Yet I desired to connect with him, all the same. Empire Ears had earned a place in my mind as one of the most important IEM makers in the industry, and I wanted to get to know them.

Late one evening, when I was too tired to think clearly, I wrote Jack a letter. It was weird. It was raw. Sort of Pinky Unfiltered… and through a blender. I felt more than little anxious over his response. Had I gone too far? Did my missive make any kind of sense? Was he now arming himself in defense against this clearly dangerous character? Only time would tell. And so I waited.

A month went by.

When he did respond, it was brief but heartening. He told me my “super awesome email hasn’t gone unnoticed,” and that he was very busy on his new projects, but hoped to have some interesting news for me in a few weeks.

Thank f**k! Contact made! And he didn’t sound scared at all. Righty’O, I’d just reach out again in a few weeks.

When I did, Jack had very little he could share. The prototypes were well underway, and he was buried in R&D. Clearly they were many months out yet. Which was fine with me. I’m never in any hurry. Plenty to write about in the meantime. I established a friendly discourse, and EE didn’t feel the need to open an FBI file on me. Mission accomplished!

But I did ask my super special Pinky Question, the one I like to pose to respected manufacturers: Was there an item in Jack’s lineup he felt deserved more attention than it got?

He named Spartan.



Pinky Powers

Pinky Powers

Pinky is an artsy twat. Illustration, graphic design, writing. Yet music escapes him, and always has. He builds his own cables, and likes to explore the craftsmanship of others. He's a stabby one, also. At the first hint of annoyance, out comes the blade. I say he's compensating for something... in a big bad way. If we all try really hard as a collective, maybe we can have him put down.


6 Responses

  1. I spent a week or so with the Miracle many moons back. While I find it smooth and ever so pleasant, I do give Spartan the unequivocal win. It layers and separates better. Transparency is much higher. And it produces a more vivid sound.

    Of course, my memory of Miracle is suspect, so don’t take that as God’s own truth.

  2. I have never heard the other two, but I can compare to Zeus.

    Zeus has thicker, but tighter mids. Stronger note weight. More aggressive vocals.

    Spartan is thinner, more airy. Vocals are neutral, but sound larger in scale. The bass is bigger, with more sub-bass presence, though not as detailed.

    They are both very transparent. Though, Zeus renders at a higher resolution. Soundstage is about the same, with Spartan MAYBE a little wider. Zeus is deeper.

    To be honest, I prefer Spartan to Zeus. Not a huge fan of Zeus’ mids and lack of bass. But that is 100% a matter of personal preference, and not an issue of quality. On pretty much all technical fronts, Zeus is superior. I just like Spartan’s tuning.

  3. Can you compare with the alclair studio 4 and ultimate ears reference remastered? Also, I know there’s a massive price difference, but are you able to compare to the zeus? Wouldn’t be surprized if it’s not better but just different considering how strongly you wrote how you feel about the spartan’s performance at its price.

  4. They are sort of close in tone and quality.

    I’m at work right now, so cannot perform a direct comparison, but based on memory:

    I would say Spartan is clearer and more transparent, with better detail-retrieval.

    Sage is warmer, with more bass and less treble.

    But again, these differences are rather small, as Spartan and Sage share more in common than don’t.

  5. Can you compare Spartan with Noble Sage ?, they seem close, i live in France and not have official distributor for EE.

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