The day was the 24th of February 2018 and I was on my way to the official Empire Ears Thailand launch event. Eager to hear the new product lineup I stepped outside and began the journey from my home in Nonthaburi to the heart of Bangkok.
One taxi and three trains later I arrived at the Greyhound Cafe in Siam Center where the event was taking place.
Jack and Dean Vang are the guys behind this hugely successful venture. During the day I had time to talk with both of them and they are both super cool and very friendly guys.
Empire Ears has quickly become one of the most respected names in custom in-ear monitors and for good reason. If you’re not familiar with them yet you can check out the Empire Ears website.
The event was run with the help of BKK Audio, which is my favourite place in Bangkok for checking out all the latest personal audio products.
There were a whole bunch of Thai celebrities coming in throughout the day, including Thaitanium, Labanoon, The Toys, Ebola, Zeal and many more. They also had some giveaways, which included a CIEM and T-shirts.
When I stepped inside I saw all the glittering treasures laid out on a couple of tables. So after chatting with Dean and Jack (Empire Ears), it was time for some listening.
I didn’t have a notebook with me so was only able to scribble a few notes down on my phone. As such, I won’t be giving any detailed descriptions of each model because I don’t want to go purely from memory but I can give a brief overview of some of the stuff I heard.
Take these notes regarding the sound with a grain of salt because I was in a busy and noisy environment and only spent a short time with the IEMs that I tested. With that said, here are some very brief descriptions:
First up was the ESR (Empire Studio Reference) model. The ESR has 3 BA (Balanced Armature) drivers and an MSRP of $999 for the custom version and $799 for the universal.
I was expecting something more on the analytical side of things but the ESR is actually really musical. It’s not a lean or dry reference model but actually has a good measure of body and richness. I found the sound to be balanced and detailed with a focus on the midrange and vocals.
The Bravado is the entry-level model in the new hybrid range and consists of one BA and one DD (Dynamic Driver). MSRP is $$699 for the custom and $499 for the universal.
Despite being the entry model of the new X Series, the Bravado was one of my favourites of the day. Right from the get-go, it surprised with its body and warmth.
The bass has a weight and impact that only a dynamic driver can provide and sounded fantastic with the old school hip-hop I was listening to at the time.
Treble was crisp but at the same time smooth and the midrange was clear and resolving. One thing that got my attention was the coherency, not just of the Bravado but all of the hybrids. There is some masterful tuning in effect with this lineup.
EE’s Vantage has 1 BA and 2 DD and comes in at $1399 for the custom and $1199 for the universal.
The Vantage has a buttery smooth and warm signature. The treble is a bit more subdued making the Vantage very easy to listen to overall and non-fatiguing.
This one sounded to me predominantly like a dynamic IEM due to its body, bass impact and warmth.
With 3 BA and 2 DD, the Nemesis comes in at $1599 for both custom and universal models.
I found the Nemesis to have a bit more energy than the other models with a V-shaped signature. There’s less emphasis on bass here and more going on in the high frequencies. Having said that, the bass still has great extension but vocals are more forward and the treble has more prominence.
As a result, I found it to be a bit brighter than the others, so consider this one if you prefer that type of presentation.
Finally, I had a listen to the flagship of the X Series. This one has a 5 BA + 2 DD configuration and the price is $2299 for both custom and universal variants.
The Legend X is a pretty full-on IEM. It’s refined and controlled but big in every aspect when it comes to sound. Great tonality, lots of body and lots of impact is what I have in my notes. The highs have the same smoothness as the other X Series models (not counting the Nemesis) with excellent timbre and extension.
Wrapping it up
As I said earlier, please don’t put too much weight on my impressions because the setting and time restrictions were far from ideal for critical listening. I hope that I got at least most of it right though!
I definitely plan to do some more listening of the new Empire Ears IEMs at CanJam in Singapore next month and also hope to check out the models that I missed this time around. If you haven’t tried any of the IEMs from Empire Ears I would recommend you do so as soon as possible!
I’d love to know what you think about EE. What is your favourite IEM from Empire Ears or which one are you most looking forward to hearing? Let me know below in the comments.