Priced at $599, the Empire Ears Bravado is the entry point into the X Series, Empire Ears line of hybrid design IEMs which includes the impressive Valkyrie and Legend X. Placed alongside such esteemed company begs the question, does the Bravado boldly stand out or is it just bluff and bluster?
The Build and Design
Empire Ears is nothing if not consistent. All of their IEMs come in the same premium packaging, and the Bravado shares a similar form factor and vented shell with the rest of the X Series. The Bravado has a simple black design with the Empire Ears “EE” logo. It’s not as striking as the Valkyrie, but if you want something more visually arresting, the Custom Fit version comes in a variety of colors and designs. Overall, the build quality is solid, and the X Series shell is lightweight and comfortable.
The Bravado is not subtle. The bass hits like a punch in the face. The rest of the sound is raw and revealing. Like its X Series counterparts, the Bravado’s vented shells enhance both the bass response and the soundstage providing both impressive bass response and a good sense of space. That sense of space adds to a surprising transparency in the Bravado.
Listening to Led Zeppelin II, there were a variety of recording artifacts – mic noise, reverb trails, and the like – which had been barely noticeable before, but with the Bravado I wondered how I had ever missed them. There were moments when the treble was a bit harsh or the bass lost some detail, but overall the tuning and dynamics of the Bravado was a lot of fun to listen to.
Speaking of the bass, while the subbass has a nice rumble to it, the bass has a bit more of a “smack” than a “punch” to it. Using my current subbass reference – Grimes “Miss Anthropocene” – the Bravado deftly bounced between the tight hits of the bass and the low rumble of the subbass. While they weren’t quite as exciting on some more polished pop or electronic recordings the Bravado brings a new energy to classic and indie rock, and its bass performance makes it a solid performer for hip hop as well. I particularly enjoyed listening to classic hip hop like Run DMC and groups that employ live instruments like The Roots or Beastie Boys.
The Bottom Line
There’s no doubt that the Bravado shares a bit of DNA with the rest of the X Series, particularly the Legend X. The Bravado has a similar energy to Legend X, but the Bravado retains a unique identity, particularly at its price point. The Bravado certainly lives up to its name as bold IEMs with a unique swagger that punch well above their price range. They should stand proudly next to the rest of the excellent X Series lineup.