PAIRING WITH SOURCES:-
With an impedance of 17.6 ohm and 105db sensitivity Hero is not a tough IEM to drive. Use it with mobile phones (I used my Vivo V19) or entry level dongles (Shanling UA1), it has no problem with maintaining its fun sound signature and good amount of details. The few problems I see with weaker sources are the lack of dynamics, notes definition and smaller stage.
No need to think twice that driving it out of more capable sources like Micro Signature will make the Hero much more spacious and resolving. Bit no need to bother if you want to enjoy the Hero out of a decent mobile phone.
HOW DOES THIS SOUNDS:-
Empire Ears have been making some of the best IEMs, they are known for their unblemished finishing and the Hero is not an exception. It just simply has no note which feels unpolished or unfinished.
I have been working on a few good mud range IEMs for a while, even when I have been listening to the VE6XC every now and then the Hero is the most capable IEM I have reviewed in a long time. Empire Ears have utilized their home grown drivers and crossover technology here. Hero has a single 9mm w9+ sub woofer and 3 BA drivers put together with their legendary synX technology. I am intrigued by the W9+ woofer driver and in their words:
“Our signature W9+ dynamic driver brought serious performance to the IEM world by combining the breakthrough of an enclosed woofer in a tuned bass-reflex system. Elevating the W9 design formula to its highest level, the W9+ boasts a larger internal coil diameter, more linear excursion envelope along with a more capable suspension to handle peak-to-peak excursion while mitigating distortion. W9+ extinguishes any limits the previous design had and delivers unparalleled bass on all fronts.”
Even when Empire Ears earphones are made with musicality in mind they do not miss out on technicality. One can expect some coloration when the brand itself is proud of their woofer driver. It has a slightly V shaped sound signature where the bass is full and thumpy, the mid range is slightly laid back and the treble region is well energized. The Hero has a 4 way crossover design thanks to synX.
I am using stock Final tips and Qudelix 5K, TR-Amp and Micro Signature for this review.
I used these albums to evaluate the Hero:
1. Emeli Sande: Our Version Of Events
2. Delilah: From The Roots Up
3. James Blunt: Once upon a Mind
4. Smashing Pumpkins: CYR
The Hero is equipped with one of the most complete sounding DD driver (for bass) of its time. The W9+ is simply the best low end driver I have ever experienced. Nothing delivers a more complete and satisfying lower end better than this. It just has excellence written all over it and guess what, it can pound!! Let it be sub-bass extension or rumble it has the best of both, the only other IEM I think comes close to this is the Custom Art Fibae 4 but fibae lacks some rumble and body which the Hero has plenty of. The mid bass is full and has a meatier body. It has the slam and punch I had not heard in a long time. No doubt that it moves more air too. The upper bass does not have much emphasis and nicely blends into the lower mid. The decay speed lets a lot of details and texture in, one can literally feel the waves hitting one after one. It is simply a perfect lower end for those looking for the enjoyment factor.
The W9+ woofer driver give a feeling of a top firing sub-woofer, by doing that it steers clear of any interference. With all this said the fun and punchy sound comes at a cost of being less precise or tight. Even the Fiio FD5 has tighter notes. If you want it fast and flat look into the EVR MK2 .
More than anything else Empire Ears is known for their exceptional finishing with notes, they do not have any jitteriness or unwanted sharpness with notes and Hero is a prime example of that. It just simply does not have a single note which feels raw or edgy. Hero does have a bit of mid range recession which is applicable to the mid range instruments surrounding the vocals region while the vocals enjoy excellent transparency and emphasis. It feels like the instruments surrounding the singer are slightly lacking energy. Hero used two drivers for the entire mid range, one for mid range and other is a mid-high driver which is responsible for upper mids. The transition phases have no obvious drop in energy at the lower mid region but the rise of energy at the upper mid region can be distinguished. Even though the energy is high it does not have any aggressive traits to it.
Moving on to the vocals, they sound crisp and clear. Energy with the vocal notes is very accurate. Decay is paced with both precision and musicality in mind, giving the notes their required amount of body, weight and height. Both male and female vocals sound accurate while resolving excellent details. Irrespective of gender, vocals sound crisp and clear with a natural tonality, it does not emulate a more organic or warmer tonality like Pola 39 or Shozy Blackhole (Hero has true to BA vocal nature) but the texture and emotions portrayed is equally impressive.
Just like any good BA driver Hero has no problem with intricate details and separation, the whole mid range enjoys excellent clarity and transparency. What distinguishes it from others is its calmness. It just simply has a more diffused field with excellent background transparency. It has much superior layering that Pola twins and Vison Ears EVE20.
With two drivers at work the Hero deliver an enjoyable yet detailed treble region. It delivers a sparkly and lively treble with excellent resolution. Energy gained with the mid high driver is kept up till around 11-12k and slightly rolls off with the single treble driver while still maintaining excellent relevance. No need to be worried about treble extension, even when it doesn’t have the flattest treble it does have excellent extension. Treble region can feel a bit hot coming from a calmer mid range. It feels like the treble region is on the front foot with the hands down while delivering class leading amount of details. Even with a slightly hotter treble Hero stay clear of any type of discomfort. Notes do gain a bit of height and can come off as a bit aggressive but nothing alarming unless you just simply can’t stand some aggression.
Hero manages to extract excellent resolution while keeping the timber neutral. Don’t expect it to sound more organic like the more expensive VE6XC. Separation and layering is much better than $1000 IEMs like Shozy Pola39 and UM Mirage. The treble stage is well spread, assisted by excellent sonicality. If you love treble, tingling instruments and minute details, Hero should be an option.
I wish the treble region was a bit more linear with energy though.
STAGE AND IMAGING:-
I was in a delusion that UM Mirage has better stage than the Hero, then I compared these two and I was very disappointed in the Mirage. It was saddening but Hero is simply leaps bounds better. Even the open BA was unable to save the Mirage.
The Hero has one of the best 3D hollow graphic stages for around $1300. It just simply is lot more rounded than Pola39 or even the Vision Ears EVE20. The bass has its projection towards the roof with a surrounding feel. And all the vocals and some of the instruments are placed under it until the mid-high driver takes thing out of the W9+ driver’s umbrella. It just gives a completely surreal feel. Close your eyes and feel yourself submerged in the music. Hero does not favor any part of the spectrum here, as the bass takes the roof, all the instruments feel well spread with excellent density and air between them.