Empire Ears 2021 Buyer's Guide

With products like Odin and Legend X, Empire Ears has become one of the premier names in audiophile IEMs, and they continue to evolve and refine their lineup. In this guide, we cover Empire Ears current IEM lineup and the basics of their cables and in-house technologies to help you find the Empire Ears IEM that’s the best fit for you.

Technologies

Empire Ears has developed a number of proprietary technologies that they use in their IEMs. These are largely their own versions of features that you’ve heard of before, but understanding Empire Ears internal naming and tech will make it easier to understand their product descriptions and marketing.

Empire Ears Odin Technology

EIVEC is Empire Intelligent Variable Electrostatic Control and is Empire Ears’ technology for integrating electrostatic drivers into hybrid and tribrid driver configurations.

synX is an active crossover control technology featured on almost every Empire Ears IEM that serves as the traffic controller for which frequencies are handled by which drivers. synX’s design enables it to balance the output to each set of drivers without sounding unnatural or generating distortion in the signal chain.

ARC is Empire Ears method for eliminating distortion and improving the lifespan of Balanced Armature (BA) drivers. It involves using a protective ferrofluid coating that aids the drivers in providing a consistent response.

Weapon IX+  is the latest iteration in Empire Ears dynamic driver technology. The design uses an enclosed woofer which represents a miniaturized version of the latest in technology for full sized subwoofers and woofers.

IEMs

Empire Ears current IEM lineup contains seven IEMs, ranging in price from $799 to $3499 (for Universal IEMs). The lineup includes a mixture of different technologies, with Empire Ears focusing a lot of their lineup on IEMs which use their EIVEC electrostatic technologies whether in conjunction with balanced armature drivers, or in a full “tribrid” with a mix a dynamic, balanced armature, and electrostatic drivers.

Bravado MKII - $799

Bravado is a tribrid design with one Weapon IX+ dynamic driver, one BA, and two EIVEC electrostatic drivers. Tribid designs are not very common at under $1000, making the Bravado MKII really stand out. At its heart, Bravado MKII is a bass-heavy sort of Legend X-lite style IEM, with a ton of low-end slam, but with the MKII revision, it gained a surprising amount of detail and air at the top end, which makes it more than just a bassy IEM.

Empire Ears Bravado MKII

ESR - $1099

ESR is a hybrid, but not your typical BA/dynamic hybrid, instead it uses one balanced armature driver each for the lows, mids, and highs, two EIVEC electrostatics for the highs and ultra-highs. In the Empire Ears lineup, ESR, which stands for Empire Studio Reference, seems like the adult in the room. There’s no huge bass or dramatic V-shaped tuning, just a balanced, neutral tuning designed as exactly what the name says “studio reference.”

Empire Ears ESR MKII

Hero - $1349

Hero is a traditional hybrid with a Weapon IX+ dynamic driver for the bass, and one BA driver each for the mids and highs. Hero’s tuning is somewhere in between the studio sound of the ESR and the more exciting dramatic tunings of the rest of the lineup. While it’s not truly neutral, Hero balances accentuations in the lows, mids, and highs in an exciting, but still accurate W-shaped tuning.

Empire Ears Hero

Valkyrie MKII - $1599

Valkyrie MKII is another tribrid design featuring one Weapon IX+ for the bass, one balanced armature for the mids, and one EIVEC for the highs and ultra-highs. Valkyrie MKII has a heavily accentuated V-shape with strong bass and treble response and scooped mids. One way that Valkyrie MKII stands out from the crowd is the way it makes such an exaggerated tuning feel natural as well as the high level of technical performance it provides.

Empire Ears Valkyrie MKII

Legend X - $2299

Legend X is a hybrid design with dual Weapon IX+ subwoofers for the bass and five balanced armature drivers handling the rest. It’s an absolute bass monster with a low end that creates a bass response that is both insanely deep and viscerally physical. While the mids and highs aren’t the focus, both remain well constructed and provide strong detail and overall performance.

Empire Ears Legend X

Odin - $3399

Odin is a tribrid design with a mix of dual Weapon IX+ subwoofers, five balanced armatures, and four EIVEC drivers. Odin is, in many ways, the culmination of everything that’s come before it in Empire Ears’ lineup. It uses aspects of Legend X’s bass, as well as Wraith’s highs, and tech from across Empire Ears offerings to create an IEM with brilliant tonal balance and incredible technical prowess.

Empire Ears Odin MKII

Wraith - $3499

Wraith is an eleven driver BA/EIVEC hybrid with the four electrostatic drivers for its treble. The end result is one of the biggest soundstages and some of the most precise, holographic imaging that you’ve ever heard. Wraith also boasts incredible speed, rounding out its truly top of the line technical performance.

Empire Ears Wraith

Cables

Empire Ears doesn’t just ship a standard cable with each IEM, instead they specially select – or in some cases design from the ground up – a cable they consider to be perfectly paired to each IEM.

Alpha IV is one of the cables that Empire Ears designed in-house. It is made from 26 AWG OCC copper, and is bundled with the Bravado MKII, ESR MKII, and Hero. Valkyrie is bundled with the Alpha IV Hybrid which uses alternating OCC copper and silver strands.

Ares II is another take on an OCC Copper Cable from Effect Audio. It uses a similar 26 AWG gauge, and features 24k gold plated connectors. The Ares II is the standard cable for the Legend X.

Empire Ears Stormbreaker Cable

Stormbreaker is an Empire Ears designed cable built in collaboration with PWAudio to go with  Odin. Stormbreaker uses OCC copper with a quad conductor, dual gauge design.

Cleopatra is another cable from Effect Audio, this time in 26 AWG ultra-pure OCC silver. Cleopatra is bundled with Wraith.

Custom IEMs

With the exception of Wraith, all of Empire Ears Universal IEM models are also available in custom versions. The main benefit of Custom IEMs is that they enable you to get the best possible fit and sound, but Empire Ears also provides a broad array of customization options that let you make your Empire Ears Customs truly unique. You can choose from dozens of faceplate designs and colors, as well as a number of different materials, and customize the rest of the shell as well. In addition you can provide custom artwork to create a one of a kind look.

Empire Ears Customs let you create the ultimate personal flagship IEM with both incredible sound, and a personal design. For more information on getting custom IEMs you can reach out to our team or check out our Custom IEMs Guide.

Recommendations

Depending on exactly what you’re looking for, Empire Ears provides a range of more “fun” tunings as well as more balanced or neutral tunings across a number of price ranges. The best Empire Ears IEM for you will largely depend on your price range and tuning preferences.

Under $2000, you have Bravado MKII at $799 for a more fun tuning with a little bit of an extra bass boost, ESR at $1099 for a neutral sound, Hero at $1349 to provide a balance between accuracy and fun, and Valkyrie MKII at $1599 to get a V-Shaped tuning with an upgrade in technical performance over Bravado.

Over $2000, you’re in flagship territory where you’re going to get the best in design and technical performance. Here you have Legend X – the legendary bass monster – at $2299, Odin at $3399 as the more balanced – but still fun – choice, and Wraith at $3499 as the more neutral to analytical option. While all three have strong technical characteristics, Odin and Wraith are definitely more tilted in favor of all around technical performance as opposed to the Legend X which elevates its fun, bassy musicality over other concerns


Price

Drivers

Tuning

Highlights

Bravado MKII

$799

1x Dynamic

1x BA

2x Electrostatic

V-Shaped

Doesn’t sacrifice detail for visceral bass performance at a great price.

ESR MKII

$1099

3x BA

2x Electrostatic

Neutral/ Reference

Reference sound for studio, stage, or home with Empire Ears quality.

Hero

$1349

1x Dynamic

3x BA

W-Shaped/ Balanced

A balanced, yet powerful and exciting sound, with strong technical performance.

Valkyrie MKII

$1599

1x Dynamic

1x BA

1x Electrostatic

V-Shaped

The next step up from the Bravado MKII with powerful bass, good detail, and strong technical performance.

Legend X

$2299

2x Dynamic

5x BA

Bass-boosted V-Shape

The king of bass. The ultimate flagship IEM for low end lovers.

Odin 

$3399

2x Dynamic

5x BA

4x Electrostatic

W-Shaped/ Balanced

The perfect balance between musicality and technical performance in a mind-blowing IEM. 

Wraith

$3499

7x BA

4x Electrostatic

Neutral/ Analytical

Out of this world imaging and soundstage, with mind-melting fast response.