1. Wiljen
    Bravado, not just bragging, it backs it up.
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Aug 12, 2018 at 2:22 PM
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Extremely good bass. Attack and decay are better than expected. Great signature for Rock and EDM.
    Cons - Mids are recessed, cable adaptors cut in and out.
    logo.jpg
    First off, a heartfelt thank you to Devon and the Empire Ears crew for entrusting me with both the Bravado and the ESR as part of the review tour. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with both and look forward to trying additional members of the new product lines.


    Unboxing

    The outer package is a side opening pressboard box done in flat black with a silver Empire Ears logo on the top and the Name emblazoned on the flap. While not particularly obnoxious, I will say that Empire missed no opportunity to brand absolutely everything in the package. Inside the box is first a cardstock quick start guide again emblazoned with the large wings. Under that a large black drawstring cloth bag also with large silver logo. Under that, the hard case. The hard case has an aluminum inset in the lid with the logo, branding, and model designation written in black. The interior of the hard case is well thought out with protective compartments for each earpiece and a larger compartment for storing the cable and a small compartment for the cleaning tool at the end opposite the earpiece compartments. Under the hard case are a smaller cloth bag and a set of cleaning clothes. (Also in matching black). Honestly, if each piece was seen independently, the branding is tasteful and not overstated. When taken in all at once during the unboxing process, it can get a bit overwhelming as the cleaning tool was the only component that I did not find an Empire logo or branding on.

    box1.jpg interior2.jpg interior3.jpg interior4.jpg interior1.jpg



    Accessories

    As previously mentioned, the package comes with a good assortment of bags, boxes, and wipes, but the tips, cable accessories etc… were all shipped separately. This may be a tour thing or it may be that with the arrival of two sets of IEMS that the shared items were not duplicated so were sent outside the packages. Accessories include the previously mentioned hard case, large cloth bag (that the hard case fits in) small cloth bag, cleaning wipes, and tip cleaner, in addition to Final Audio Type E tips, an Effect Audio 4.4 to 2.5 Balanced adapter, a 2.5mm balanced to 3.5 Single-ended adapter, and a package of alcohol cleansing wipes. A cardstock page with details of the ESR and Bravado was provided as well and since both models are included, I would assume that item was specifically for the tour and not a standard item shipped with retail purchases.

    Overall the kit is fairly complete although a couple additional tip options (Comply, spin-fits) would be welcomed as none of the provided tips was a perfect fit for my ears. (more later).

    accessories1.jpg full kit.jpg

    Build

    The IEMs themselves are a deep gloss black with a subtle Empire logo on the faceplate and the model and serial number written on the underside of the earpiece. Build quality is fantastic as seams are blended so well as to be difficult to detect without magnification. The bi-pin connector is so well fitted that was the color not slightly different it would effectively look like it was one solid part. Had I not previously been told the shell was a high impact plastic, I would have thought they were made of ceramic as the polish is that good and the seams that invisible. Overall, a masterful job. The only difference in the ESR and bravado in the shells is the number of ports in the nozzle as the Bravado sports 2 ports while the ESR has 3.

    earpieces4.jpg right ear.jpg right ear2.jpg


    Both models were supplied with Effect Audio cables which have a sterling reputation for performance at with a retail of $150 for the cable alone, they should indeed perform well. The cable itself is thicker than some but still very pliable and microphonics were kept to a minimum as the earhooks on the cables were effective in preventing cable weight from transferring to the earpieces themselves. My complaints with the cables center around two items. First, nowhere on the length of either cable exists any strain relief. Not at the jack, the splitter, or the earpieces. For a cable in this price range, I expected that they are designed in a way assure longevity. I am probably harder on my iems than some as I wear them almost constantly during the work day and if purchasing the Bravado or ESR for my personal collection (Which I intend to on the Bravado) I will purchase a different cable that I feel offers better longevity.

    bi-pin1.jpg bi-pin2.jpg chin Slider.jpg jack.jpg jack2.jpg splitter.jpg



    The Second issue is the adaptors. Quite simply, they do not work well and should be avoided. I had numerous cut-outs while using either of the adapters and slightly twisting the connector in the adaptor would cause the channel to come back but at the expense of clicks or pops in the sound while moving the connector. If you need two different cables for use with different DAPs or amplifiers, I would strongly suggest you forego the adaptors and buy additional cables. I used a Norne Audio 3.5 Single Ended to bi-pin cable to do my single ended testing once I realized the adaptor could not be made usable.

    Fit

    The earpiece is on the large side but is deceptive in that it weighs very little. They sat in my ear without trouble and the earhook on the cable makes them feel weightless. Isolation is only average as the bulk of the earpiece sits well behind the ear canal. I did have some trouble finding a set of tips that both fit my ear and were comfortable. The large tips were too large to wear comfortably for extended periods while the mediums were just small enough to lose seal when I moved. The nozzles are standard sized so a quick search of my tips yielded several pairs that worked and I ended up settling on comply foams as they offered the best combination of comfort and seal. They likely tamed the treble just a bit but in testing with large spin-fits, I found that my observations held consistent so I do not think tip rolling dramatically influenced my listening experience.


    Sound

    Lows - The Bravado has taken sub-bass to a new level. The W9 driver provides an absolutely visceral experience that can only be compared to the first time you felt the sub-bass at a THX theater. By encapsulating the dynamic driver, Empire has managed to combine the best features of a dynamic (Slam and depth of extension) with the best features of a BA (Attack and decay) and created a very crisp and clean sound but with an impact not normally seen without becoming muddy. Mid-bass is heightened and gives the overall sound a bit of warmth without overwhelming the details.

    Mids – lower mids are behind the rest of the signature and mids, in general, are probably the low point of the Bravado. Detail level is good but not great (See ESR for that). There is some minor bass-bleed at times leading to a further warming of the signature.

    Highs – The Bravado is very treble forward which can be a bit harsh if the track tends that way. Cymbals were reproduced well and female vocals benefit from the extra energy in the lower treble. Flute and upper strings can get a bit strident at times and I found that when listening to tracks like Hunting Girl (Jethro Tull) a slight decrease in EQ of the 7-9kHz range made a much more listenable signature. I did find this to be very track dependent and the EQ was not needed on fully 80% of my review materials so it may well mean the tracks that exhibit the harsh treble was mastered a bit too hot at the outset.

    Stage – Soundstage is wider than deep with a reasonable sense of height. Overall not exceptionally large, but not overly crowded and separation is fantastic. Layering is better than expected and large orchestral pieces are better rendered than expected by a two-driver arrangement.

    earpieces1.jpg

    Thoughts

    Empire refers to the Bravado as their “Entry level” iem. To put this in proper perspective, the Ford GT is an entry level super-car. While the GT lacks the subtleties and refinement of the Ferrari Portofino, the pure power is there and given the right driver, the GT can occasionally outrun its more refined counterpart. The Bravado is the Ford GT of the Empire stable and while it may lack the finesse of the Legend X or even the ESR, the Bravado is a far cry from the headphones that came with your smartphone.


    Conclusion

    I will be the first to say that while I enjoy sub-bass, I am not a bass head and usually prefer a balanced signature. I expected the ESR to be my cup of tea and the Bravado to be an also-ran. Having listened to both for a week, I can say that despite the shortcomings with the Bravado’s mids, there is something hypnotic about them. For Classic rock and Blues Rock, they are just about as good as I have heard. The detail level falls a bit short for large orchestral pieces and I can’t recommend them for choral arrangements as the signature doesn’t lend itself to those genres, but I suspect that was never the target the Empire clan was shooting for. With the vast majority of current music being in the hip-hop, rock, and pop flavors, the Bravado has plenty of market to work with and will find a home with lots of listeners. If most of what you listen to is rock, metal, hip-hop or EDM, the Bravado deserves your attention. Yes, it is costly, but it just might be the end-game in-ear you’ve been looking for.

    images

    1. earpieces2.jpg
    2. earpieces3.jpg
    3. hardcase.jpg
    4. Kit1.jpg
      Devon Higgins likes this.
  2. Army-Firedawg
    Should not be thought of as an "entry" product.
    Written by Army-Firedawg
    Published Aug 7, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Very dynamic and revealing, fun sound, build, strong isolation
    Cons - large frame (everyone might not be able to wear them), 2.5mm-3.5mm adapter often didn't have good contact,
    It’s incredible how fast companies will phase in and out not just products, but entire lineups. Way back when I first started doing reviews Empire Ears (then still under the name Earwerkz) contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their newest product offerings in not only their new product lineup but also under their new Empire Ears name. Fast forward to today and the Olympus lineup is all but extinct, minus the Spartan and Zeus-XR now referred to as the “legacy series.” So to say I’ve been interested to hear all the changes my Empire Ears family has implemented since I purchased my Hermes VI all those many moons ago would be an understatement. Alright Bravado, why don’t I show the world what you’ve shown to me during my time with you?


    A little about me

    I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.

    I'm a firefighter for both the civilian and military sector and the cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.

    My interests/hobbies are powerlifting, fishing and relaxing to audio products and reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.

    Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.

    My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.

    Equipment used at least some point during the review

    -Sources

    -LG V20/HP Pavilion

    -Playing Pandora, YouTube, and various format personal music

    Disclaimer

    I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.

    The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.



    The Opening Experience

    20180801_192715.jpg 20180801_192735.jpg 20180801_195051.jpg
    20180801_122231.jpg
    *EDIT* Your iem's will NOT come with tips already attached to them, this was an oversight on my part.

    Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience

    Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short implies to other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.

    As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’

    This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this products introduced itself shall we?



    The Bravado and Empire Studio Reference (ESR) came together so I will copy and paste this section on both reviews.

    The c/iems from Empire Ears, from my Hermes VI so long ago to those of today I watch on YouTube, have remained consistent in their well thought out and delivered impressions. To start with, you’re given a solid black box with only the Empire Ears logo printed on the front. As you fold the treasure chest back, you’re greeted with a large, Empire Ears branded, carrying pouch that you can put everything inside the chest inside, the warranty and instruction manual, an Empire Ears branded cleaning silk like material cloth, a smaller carrying pouch that doesn’t fit more than the iems themselves, and lastly the Empire Ears plated with a custom logo of the buyers choosing hard case. As you open the super protective hard case you’ve the Empire Ears Bravado iems equipped standard with the Effect Audio Ares II cable (terminated in buyers choice {3.5mm unbalanced, 2.5mm balanced, 4.4mm balanced}), and an ear wax cleaning tool.

    Looking at the Bravado itself, the only external difference I could see, is that the horn has 2 vent ports instead of the 3 on the ESR. The shell design has remained the same from the Olympus lineup that I did a complete impression of way back when which is rather on the large side. Now, for products like their Zeus, which has 14 drivers, this is understandable, but for all of them, I think it’s rather large. The model sent to me is solid black with the “EE” logo in gold print but the buyer has an almost limitless customization ability and, at least from my personal experience and those who I’ve spoken with, the people working there are amazingly friendly and go above and beyond to make the buyer truly happy.

    This, is what I wish more companies would be like. I’ve yet to have the pleasure of shaking Jack’s or any of his crew’s hand but I’d imaging it’d be as pride filled as these products came.


    Construction

    20180801_195131.jpg 20180801_122329.jpg


    The construction of the Bravado and ESR iem, like the unboxing, is exactly the same so this section will also be mimicked between my 2 reviews.

    I went a little too far in my unboxing and talked about the construction a little too much with its frame size and design but oh well I’ll just continue here. The frame itself is made of entirely standard plastic so nothing special there. The horn is the standard iem size (I do not know the exact measurement but it’s the size I see on the majority of iems) so for those who use aftermarket tips you’ll likely be able to use them with the all Empire Ears universal products. The cable is also DETACHABLE, which ,as I say in all my reviews and will continue to, is something that I feel should be standard. Though the iem is made from plastic I’m completely confident that it’s a very well built product. I can, sadly, personally attest from dropping my Hermes VI’s that they can handle a good size drop without even scratching (at least in my lucky case [I do NOT advise testing this yourself]). On the inside of the iem you’ve the product name printed along with, what I would assume to be, a serial number or a personal iem identification number.

    The cable is beautifully made and feels as premium as it looks, which it should for it is a $150 cable if bought separately, and is made, according to the Effect Audio website, from 26 AWG UPOCC Litz Copper. Something that I’ve REALLY liked about them is that, at least to my ears, they don’t have any microphonics. It doesn’t matter if I’m just sitting or walking around, I haven’t heard any cable feedback from it brushing against my clothes. Now, an issue I did have is not in the cable itself but in the 2.5mm to 3.5mm adaptor from Effect Audio that Empire Ears included in the tour. The majority of the time the signal was nice and clean, but occasionally, for the only reason I can conclude is it isn’t making a completely solid connection the whole time, the left side will go out until I tap the adaptor. Nothing groundbreaking, and a very quick and easy fix but for something that costs SEVENTY DOLLARS, I feel this shouldn’t exist.

    Overall the build quality of the iem is standard but also sturdy. They’re very lightweight but very large. Assuming you take proper care of these, they should last you for several years to come. My personal Empire Ears ciems have well over a thousand hours listening time from the almost 3 years time with them and they’re showing no sign of slowing down as I doubt yours will. Before I finish this section I do need to express some concern that I’ve found. Because the frame is so large, people with smaller ears (and/or ear canals) may not be able to wear this iem in either its universal or custom variant. I recommend you contact Empire Ears for help with this if you’ve smaller ears and have concerns.


    Comfort

    20180728_181346_HDR.jpg 20180728_181402_HDR.jpg

    Because the Bravado and ESR iem share the exact same framework, their comfort levels are also exactly the same. So, like my previous 3 sections, this section will be copied between this and the ESR review.

    Once you get past the large framework of the iem, I personally find them no different than any other. They’re deceptively lightweight so I forget they’re even in my ear. Actually, that’s likely because the only contact they have with my ear is the horn and corresponding tip. So laying on your side with these is 100% out of the question. But in terms of long term listening durations, I’ve personally gone in excess of 3+ hours with these in listening in one session and have absolutely zero comfort issues or felt the need to readjust them (not that I can really adjust something that’s only making contact with my ear canal anyways). They do isolate VERY well. If you’re wanting to just listen to your music and don’t want to hear what’s going on around you them you’ll probably find yourself very happy with these (and I just used the default tips that came with these).

    To conclude my thoughts on the comfort of these iems, if I’m listening to them in a position that doesn’t involve my side then I’ve not had any issues with them. I do have concerns with those with smaller ears not being able to listen to them but in the same sentence they wouldn’t have any comfort issues because they can’t get them in their ears.


    Sound



    Haha, finally, there’ll be no copy and paste here. The Bravado and Empire Studio Reference (ESR) iem’s do NOT share the same sound, so I will continue with an individual analogy.

    The Empire Ears Bavado has truly impressive seperational abilities. Though some may not like it due to the very heavy left ear bias, the song “Daddy Sang Bass” by Johnny Cash does a fantastic job showing what I’m talking about. For an iem it’s extremely rare for the sound to not be in my head, but with the Bravado Johnny’s voice, as well as his backup singers, sound very spatially outwards. Everything has its place in this iem and I really respect that level of control. Though the Bravado is the entry level model in their X series lineup it’s by no means a push over. As I’m writing this review the song “Clocktown” by Theophany from the Legend Of Zelda Majora’s Mask album came up in rotation and my goodness does the Bravado to a great job and putting my in the song. Though the entire piece will show you what I’m talking about the first 30 seconds showcase it the best.

    The imagine, like the separation mentioned above, is phenomenal. The overall neutral tonality of the Bravado makes everything sound very natural and realistic without coloring it incorrectly. Before I link a song, I do want to talk about the soundstage. Though the soundstage isn’t bad, at all, it definitely doesn’t wow me, it really just lines up with what the majority of people expect with they put earphones in. The separation allows one to easily discern individual instruments and voices but things don’t sound as far away as they could (with respect to other iems I’ve heard around this price range). In the flashmob piece (sorry, YouTube only) “Ode To Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th symphony conducted by Banco Sabadell, you can very easily discern individual conversations and instruments but there’s a clock tower ringing well away from where the piece is being performed (you can see it), but it doesn’t sound that far away.

    I guess I’ve talked about the whole things a bit much, so please allow me to now talk about the more individual aspects of the Empire Ears Bravado so that hopefully I can show you in better detail how I find it sounds.



    Treble


    The treble, like the bass, I would say is north of neutral (perhaps slightly more than the bass is). When listening to the piece “A Moon Filled Sky” by unknown the violin sounds a little sharper than I’m used to it but not so much that it’s harsh or even sounds unrealistic. Quite the opposite actually. The violin sounds focused on just slightly and the resonance is full of energy and vitality I really liked it. It’s another violin focused piece (I really like listening to the violin) but it really hits home the treble sparkle of the Empire Ears Bravado. Regardless if you’re listening to this on the Bravado or anything, please enjoy. Saint Saens Introduction And Rondo Capriccioso Op.28


    Mids


    I find the vocals to be very neutral and accurate on the Bravado. I admittedly thought that they would be kinda subdued but nope. I think they’re quite flat. When listening to either male or female vocals, my ears couldn’t hear any type of bias present. I do think that in some tracks the bass does go beyond its bounds though. “Budapest” by Ezra is a great example of this.


    Bass


    The Empire Ears Bravado is the first iem, at least from memory off the top of my head, that I’ve listened to that combines the punch of an an actual subwoofer and the finesse control of a well tuned balanced armature. The bass on the Bravado is impressively deep but yet very controlled for the most part (as mentioned above I do think they’ll occasionally over step their bounds). They’re not bass heavy but I would put them just north of neutral. I think they’ve a very full sounding bass that, at least for me, have left no desire for more. I’ve found 2 songs that I think do a really good job at showcasing the bass and sub bass capabilities of the Bravado. The first is a song “Bad” by Wale I stole from fellow Head-Fi’er dailydoseofdaly, but it has a consistent and deep bass punch throughout the song. The second, “Resource” by Suzka 870 (no youtube link for this one I could find) is a good sub bass track


    Conclusion

    20180801_192105.jpg


    My ending thoughts on the Empire Ears Bravado iem is that it’s a solid level iem thats “entry level” title doesn’t do justice by. It’s imaging and separation abilities are on par with iems, and heck even some full size headphones, costing much more. They are very large which I do see being a problem for some but they are lightweight enough that, for those able to wear them, I don’t think will be much of an issue.






    Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Army-Firedawg
      @Maelob, IF you have a large enough ear as to where these will make solid contact with your conch and utilize some sweat resistant ear tips, then I personally see no issue with it. Just try and keep sweat from getting directly into the ports.
      Army-Firedawg, Aug 9, 2018 at 8:44 AM
    3. ehjie
      I can imagine the physical bulk similar to my Kickers. They bulge out of the ear, but invisible in terms of weight, I forget them they're there. Thanks for the impressions, @Army-Firedawg ...
      ehjie, Aug 12, 2018 at 1:27 AM
    4. timorinolee
      @Army-Firedawg, hey man love your review, I actually bought a Hermes because of it, just wondering, what are your thoughts compared to it?
      timorinolee, Aug 13, 2018 at 5:09 AM