Empire Ears Legend EVO

KuroKitsu

Headphoneus Supremus
What?! LX is evolving?!
Preamble: @Jack Vang used the Weapon X driver on the LX. What?! LX is evolving? ..... Congratulations your LX evolved into the Legend Evo! If you know what I'm referencing, you're probably fairly old, as I am. My love for the Empire Ears brand is well known at this point, between my incessant outbursts as @riverground can attest to and my ownership of 8 of their items in the kilobuck and above range in the 4 years I've been at this hobby. This might be a feat only surpassed by @CL with more in a shorter period of time. My disdain for the LX is also fairly well known outside of the forum and I was extremely weary as the LX was reference in the blurb Empire dropped. Of course, this was my same reaction to the Odin and look at how that turned out... So of course, it necessitated a visit to the Canadian dealer of Empire a week after the demo unit arrived to see for myself (and give the LX yet another chance to redeem itself). Shoutout to Charles @ Headfoneshop for giving me and @riverground 2 hours between the 2 of us with Evo (and also tempting us with more gear), all around great guy, go help fund his daughter's education y'all fellow Canucks!

I was extremely pleased that my reaction was the same as the Odin, the LX on the other hand...Ehhhhh. But that's another story. Long story short, the Evo is what happens with Jack and Dean turn their Odinizing beam on the LX: something that invokes the pleasant parts of the LX, but something also...different.

Design: Compared to the bling of the Bifrost on the Odin, the Evo takes a classier route with a well designed logo representing both the brand and the model name. The Evo won't be turning any heads if you're mad enough to take it out on the go, but Team Rocket won't be after this like Ash's Pikachu. I found it similar to Odin if no the same shells, and both sat in my earlets prefectly fine. They're still the lipless stems Empire is known for, so a minor point off for that as it's nowhere as egregious as being off a couple EVs playing competitive. Despite it's sensitivity, there is no hiss at all. The Evo is silent off the 4.4 even on high gain, a welcome addition given how distracting for me the hiss on the Wraith was. For those off you where the notorious Empire driver flex causes your stomach to feel like it decided to lurch towards the Cave of Origin, I'm pleased to say that the Evo has significantly less driver flex than DD equipped Empire models of yore. Whether this is due to the venting on the Evo or Empire figuring something out, I hope this is something they can carry forward. The leather case would have been nice as a standard for all Evos, the dealer demo didn't come with that anyways. Big thumbs up to Empire going with 4.4 for the stock cable like that one guy finally realizing M-Rayqauza is in Anything Goes and not Ubers.

The purple sheen on the Genesis cable is an excellent match aesthetic wise to go with the mature demure Evo. it's an excellent stock cable and the only issue I have was with how chonky the new hardware PWA uses was compared to the wires themselves, but that's an issue with them and not Empire. I'm sure Dean has his reasons for a stock copper cable, but my experience with the LX and Evo I both concluded that both would be better served to my ears with a warmer silver than pure copper.

Testing: Radius Deepmounts by default, they had no issue staying on the stem and I got a good insertion to make sure the WX was coming across fine. I had the 1A at 35 on high gain off the 4.4. Similar to the Wraith, it does need a bit of power to be driven properly, yet incredibly sensitive. I also tried on the standard 55 on low gain, and while the Evo is mostly fine it does seem to take a hit in musicality. The 1A outputs sufficient driving power in case anyone is concerned about "moar powuh" . Put down that thunderstone, you do not need a Raichu for this!

Bass: BASS is what the LX is known for and what the Evo invokes: A visceral bass that borders on guilty pleasure territory. A deep rattle that you can feel in your fillings with excellent slam and impact. But that's where it starts and ends. Unlike the bass cannon reputation of the LX, the Evo exudes control as well as quantity in the low frequencies with a clean bass shelf that eliminates any bleed. If anything, this is the Odin's bass, but with quantity added to the control that we've already seen. I like to say that this is Empire showing their mastery over the W9+ iteration of DD's but this could equally be due to the WX's addition. Either way a fun iteration of the Odin's bass is an excellent start to a new TOTL and something I've been waiting for post-Odin honeymoon.

Mids: I would like to say that the mids are forward. But even in comparison to the Odin, the mids on the Evo are slightly recessed. Of course the bass being so clean, this is not an issue. Even with the bass firing on all cylinders, vocals still come across clearly and are never drowned out. I had no issues with the upper mids "bump", for those who had issues with the Odin there should find the Evo to be a superior match for their ears. The overall recession of the mids allows for more air without pushing female vocals into shouty territory. The Evo despite being a darker sounding iem easily has my favourite upper mid signature amongst the dark iems I've heard to date.

The mids is also where you hear the WX driver doing it's magic yet again. I noticed 2 distinct things that the Evo does. First: Despite the recession, the mids have excellent body. Normally this is achieved through colouration of the mids by warmth in the mid and upper bass ala Balmung. The fact that Evo can do this despite the bass shelf is astounding. Second: The reverb of string instruments on the Evo are unlike anything else I've ever heard on an iem. It's very difficult to describe and something you have to hear for yourself. This also makes the Evo incredible for listening to live and acoustic recordings,

Treble: Treble wise, the Evo is a mixed bag for me. It does what dark and bassy iems tend to do: Excellent energy but little sparkle. Taken in a vaccum or treble heavy tracks, the treble feels unbalanced and a bit fatiguing for me at times. I also noticed the lack of sparkle makes high hats and cymbals sound slightly off for me. This is probably the one place I actually found the LX taking an advantage over the Evo. Despite the lack of sparkle and roll off on the graph, I found extension well done, no doubt another feat of the WX. The lack of sparkle is less exciting but does make for an excellent long listening session iem.

Conclusion: Regarding the black box of this release, the brand new WX driver: Compared to other BCD driver equipped models in the market, it's quite easy to determine what it does on the Evo against the graph after a listen. After the debacle with the first gen estat flagships, it's quite impressive to see the initial release of a particular piece of driver tech actually showcasing that new tech clearly without abandoning the rest of the tech. Personally, any doubts I had with a new driver were dispelled after my sessions with the Evo. The tuning might not be your cup of tea, but there's no denying the BCD is both tangible and audible.

My sound impressions should have clearly illustrated the "something different" produced by Empire's Odinzing beam being turned on the LX, and this comes across in the technicalities as well. The LX had excellent soundstage and imaging for it's bracket but that tended to be overshadowed by a bombastic bass, even if it wasn't booming at that particular moment. So obviously the Evo would go in the opposite direction and go for Odin tier technicalities. Well yes and no. While the LX is more of a Loudred or Noivern, the Evo ends up being more of a Jigglypuff. Evo opts to go for a soundstage with smaller area, but when paired with the controlled bass and laid back mids presents something beyond the LX. The sound is slightly more intimate, but at the same time scales incredibly well to live performances. This applies similar to imaging as well, the LX was never congested by any means but the bass again took away from what it could do. The Evo one ups this as well and I found it much easier to enjoy how well it imaged.

While the Evo could be classified as a dark iem, it ticks all the right boxes in being a more fun, less technical take on the Odin. For myself, I see this being an excellent complement to the Odin, when the precision and brightness is not what you're looking for. There is that minor issue I have with the cymbals and high hats, I much prefer it as it allows for a much easier longer listening session than say something like the Wraith where the sparkle is fun but ultimately fatiguing over the long run. I also never though there would be a day I took a listen to upper mids on a dark iem and go "I like this". But like being the Champion of the Elite Four never say never! To echo those that prefer the Evo for vocals, I strongly agree. There's just something about the laid back mids and WX combination. Hello Evo! Bye Wraith!

As initial impressions trickled out following the arrival of Evo's into consumer hands, there seemed to be a lot of disappointment on the Empire thread that the Evo was not a LX successor despite Empire never having marketed the Evo as an upgrade to the LX , as well as Jack's comment earlier this year that an LX upgrade was not in the works. While the memory of the Hero being "Odin Jr" is still fresh in my mind, Empire has been very consistent as to what the Evo is and isn't. The LX was already at the pinnacle of bass cannon iems, and there's not much you can improve there. Instead they took the inspiration and ended up with an "Evo"lution of the LX: a fun but balanced iem where the technicalities are also allowed to shine without the bass hogging the spotlight. I could only find 1 area where I found the LX "better" than the Evo and I much rather take the Evo where it can show off it's imaging and soundstage chops while being simultaneously fun. Well done yet again Empire!
gLer
gLer
Love this write-up, great insight too. And cheers for the K-Pop tips 😉
C
CL14715
Great read. I’m loving these insightful reviews.
YonnieVenaux
YonnieVenaux
Can the evos be worn straight down? If it's necessary that they be looped behind the ears, can the cable hang in front or does it have to be cinched behind the neck like the customs do? It boggles my mind that there are so many people who have compiled lists of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of custom and universal iems, and yet I can't find a single one that felt the requirement that you wear a wire down the back of your shirt which plugs into a receiver hanging from your belt constituted enough of an inconvenience to warrant mention. Several users even indicated that they do heavy workouts in their customs. Based on this information, I can only conclude that the majority of custom iem users are narcs.

CL14715

Banned at his own request
Empire Ears Legend EVO... aka the guy she tells you not to worry about.
Pros: All of them.
Cons: Cable struck me as a little less ergonomically friendly than I presumed.

Preamble…



I was provided early access to the Legend EVO by Empire Ears in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way influences my assessment and I have not been compensated or promised anything from Empire Ears in exchange for a positive review.

If you’d like to purchase the Legend EVO, I’d highly recommend checking out Bloom Audio, here! They also have their own stellar published review of the Legend EVO.



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Specifications…



Legend EVO:


  • Dual W9+ Subwoofers
  • Five Precision Balanced Armatures
  • Weapon X Bone Conduction Ultra Driver
  • 9-Way synX Crossover Network
  • Dual Conduction Architecture
  • ARC Resonance Mitigation Technology
  • Impedance: 4.5 Ohms @ 1kHz
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz-35kHz
  • Sensitivity: 103dB @ 1kHz, 1mW


GENESIS CABLE - EMPIRE X PW AUDIO:

  • 24AWG Ultra-Pure OCC Copper
  • Quad Conductor, Polypropylene Reinforced Core
  • Insulated UV-Resistant Polyvinyl Chloride Sheath
  • 4 Balanced Pentaconn Termination


In the box…



The first 400 launch edition units will come with your standard Empire Ears affair Final Audio Type E tips, Genesis cable, paperwork, cleaning cloth and cleaning tool. Unique to the launch edition units only will be a gorgeous, handcrafted leather puck case, as pictured below.



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(Launch edition hand crafted leather carrying case. Limited to first 400 units sold.)



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(The new Empire Ears mesh drawstring IEM pouch shown with the Launch Edition leather carrying case.)



The units sold after the launch edition will come with the items mentioned above minus the handcrafted leather case. Instead, the robust metal pandora case will be included in its place. A unique and welcome addition this time around for all Legend EVO retail units will be the new mesh IEM drawstring divider. I can’t even tell you how handy these things come, especially when you want your gear to remain pristine.



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(The Legend EVO standard retail pandora case with etched EVO design included with standard retail units after the 400 launch edition units are sold.)



Let’s start with the meh…



My only Critique comes by way of the cable oddly enough. I am very familiar with Empire Ears IEM shell fit and finish which have yet to disappoint me. Cables have typically been “thrown down” cables just to get you up and running without jacking up the price of entry. During its announcement, the EVO was introduced with a 4.4mm PW Audio Genesis cable that looked as if it was revolutionary and on par with the stormbreaker that is included with Empire Ears very own, Odin. Then I received it… The cable isn’t terrible, but it was much less impressive in person. The ergonomics are average, and nothing really jumped out at me that felt premium. It does sound great though, I just wish it was a bit more substantial elsewhere.



Some objective things others can look out for would be based upon fit, cost and tolerance to bass, mids or treble as we all have our own sensitivities that no one can justify for us. Also, Empire Ears tunes for instrumental realism… instruments can be very loud, so listen at a reasonable volume. Keep in mind, I am only one data point and I always recommend a first-hand experience to qualify your own biases for the aforementioned.



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Now on to the nerdy subjective sound stuff…



Test tracks:


Rock Candy Funk Party – Groove is King

Hi-Lo - Zeus

Breakdown of Sanity – Story of a Stranger

Issues – Drink about it

PVRIS - Use Me

Soundgarden – Fell on Black Days

The Weeknd – Prisoner

After the Burial – Behold the Crown

Moneybagg Yo – Rookie of the Year

Wunna - Feigning

Animals as Leaders – Physical Education

Tool – Stinkfist

Chris Stapleton – Tennessee Whiskey

Becky Hill - Gecko




Sources: LPTG Ti and L&P W2


Bass:
The EVO is unlike anything I have ever heard regarding its approach and execution throughout the entire bass frequency response range. It starts with unbelievable detail retrieval and projection from incredibly low bass lines that in most cases aren’t even discernable. We’re talking like 20hz here. The EVO extracts these typically imperceivable or empty-sounding driver excursions and mimics the likes of a large bandpass or ported woofer enclosure. Not only are they able to be heard but they portray a sense of power and control that is mind-bending for any monitor, let alone one that fits in your ear. For reference, if you wanted to reproduce these frequencies in the same manner at a larger scale, you would need an abundance of space for an acoustic enclosure, a very stout subwoofer, and amplification. When you move up to your normal sub-bass ranges, the EVO dominates this area with a thunderous and articulate wallop. This would lead most to believe that it must crowd out or drown the remaining sound profile, and that’s where they’d be wrong. The bass on the EVO images. Yes, you read that correctly. It remains respectfully in place and approaches your senses from its intended location. It’s powerful, dynamic, and demonstrates layering that removes it from harming or distorting higher frequencies and their respective details. This allows the end-user to avoid sacrificing their love for bass and detail retrieval at the same time, which has often not been the case. This sub-bass layering and control also assists another game-changing dynamic: mid-bass punch. The mid-bass punch is layered away from the rumble of the sub-bass, which is awe-inspiring once it all comes together. You enjoy can a low rolling sub bassline that incorporates a sophisticated or powerful mid-bass textured impact without any merging or distorting over one another. In and of itself, the mid-bass punch, amongst the rest of the bass, is class leading. It punches with impeccable control and speed, there’s no lagging or blooming as it thumps along; it’s always tight and detailed. It’s present when it’s called upon and remains reserved where intended. The EVO isn’t simply ‘elevated bass’, it’s an accurate reproduction of bass characteristics at a technical level that is currently class leading. Typically, we self-proclaimed audiophiles seek neutral tuning to remove the element of powerful bass having its way with the mid-range and treble. Not the case here, it’s all articulate, distinguishable, and powerful while separated from the remaining signature. The addition of the Weapon X and its conductive properties add an attack, decay, texture, and transient advantage (technicalities) that no dynamic driver array on the market can rival. It’s not a gimmick and that is quickly realized if you compare the bass performance to the defacto basshead monitor in which the EVO is an EVO-lution to, the Legend X. The EVO has compartmentalization of its bass display while the LX just has bass everywhere. Don’t get me wrong though, despite the larger flooding of bass throughout the LX’s signature, it’s quite an impressive technical monitor. Purely going by bass performance, the EVO has more controlled and separated bass with a noticeable projection advantage, likely due to the Weapon X conduction. This may seem long-winded but, in all fairness, the bass of the EVO could fully justify its own review entirely.



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(Peeking through the top is the all-new Empire Ears Weapon X. This is a built from the ground up bone conduction driver constructed from a nickel plated SPCC housing and combined with a rare earth N52 neodymium magnet to ensure resistance to demagnetization.)



Mid-Range: The mid-range is where things get interesting compared to the original Legend X but in a positive way. One well-known fact regarding the LX is that it performed poorly in the mid-range when paired with thick or warmer sources. This was likely due to just too much mid-bass and lower mid-range density playing tug of war. This inevitably moves on to drag down much of the mid to upper mid dynamics and you are left with boomy, non-dynamic mud. The EVO remedies this thanks to its overall bass separation and improved mid-range resolution. The lower mid-range carries a healthy amount of body in note weight without going too far in either direction (analytical or warm). 300-2k Hz sounds accurate with the harmonics of almost any instrument. 500 to 1k Hz isn’t honky or shouty sounding, it produces a natural note weight that exercises a balanced clarity. The lower to mid mid-range has a linear elevation up into the upper mid-range that avoids any peaky shrillness or sibilance. From 2k-4k Hz, there’s a distinct elevation over the Legend X, but this does not portray that of Odin’s upper-mid forwardness; rather, adding clarity to the EVO in this region. I suspect this is the result of a slower, more gradual, or linear rise from 500 Hz to 2K Hz whereas the Odin accelerates this elevation, as I hear it. Another interesting thing about the mid-range is the width, which produces a reverberation effect in certain tracks. This reverb not only can seem like echoes bouncing between the bass and treble, but it can also diffuse vocal subtleties out in front of your head. Imaging of the EVO is also well-executed. Its stereo separation and pinpoint accuracy placing of sounds throughout a track are the best I have heard from anything Empire Ears has produced. The Odin has precise imaging as well, but it does not share the same width as the EVO. This perceived width naturally offers more psychoacoustic space to arrange these sounds, thus adding just that little bit more reality to the experience. The overall mid-range tonality is natural with more slightly more body than transparency but there is a very close balance. Chesty, soulful male voices such as Chris Stapleton, sound dynamic and enveloping with accurate tonal weight or density. I am not picking up on any injected artificial warmth. On the other side of the spectrum, Female's voices such as Becky Hill who can sound chesty but quickly clear up as they modulate to their upper registers, have accurate transitional tonality and no vocal vibrato detail is lacking. Texture in the exhalation to achieve a pitch or note is perceivable and adds a pleasant air (no pun intended) to vocal presence. Lastly, there is a slight rounding to the higher vocal registers which I assume is to prevent any aggressive peaks but may also slightly blunt maximum detail retrieval. Considering the EVO was not designed with mixing and mastering in mind, this mild sacrifice makes sense.



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Treble: I can sum the EVO treble up in two words, dense and natural. I will have to elaborate but it is that simple. The single biggest factor that achieves this is the linear transition of the mid-range into the lower treble. It provides a coherence that blends the transition seamlessly. I would not call the lower treble overly reserved, but I would not consider it in your face either. It has a natural weight and presence to it without any artificial splash or gritty metallic crunch sometimes present to force perceived detail retrieval. The Weapon X adds an almost full-size tweeter density to the lower treble that can absolutely be felt, especially in heavier cymbal crashes. Transient attack and decay are crisp and clean also contributing to the natural accuracy of the lower treble. The upper treble does just enough to add that extension to the higher frequencies and as certain instrumental decay transitions into and beyond the upper treble region. Again, nothing artificial here, I am only picking up on sufficiently detailed, clear, and accurate reproduction. Relative to the Legend X, the EVO treble comes across as more tonally accurate and with more body in this region. The million-dollar question is does it image just like the mid-range? Yes, it certainly does, and I would argue to say the Weapon X adds height to the soundstage via the treble regions imaging. The higher notes appear and dissipate around your head with an infinite blackness in between. Stretching high and low in the treble while the mid-range is pulling wide left to right creates this oval shape to the sound stage. The EVO obtains its holographic nature from these aspects which I will touch on later in this review.



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How it compares to other heavy hitters…



Empire Ears Legend X: I figure we can start here, where it all began for the EVO, its predecessor. The LX, for brevity, was hands down the bass king and somewhat of an unsuspecting technical marvel. Many gave it a 5-minute audition and discarded it completely while the rest of us gave it a chance and learned what it was all about. It’s a chameleon with an L shaped sound that can quickly present as much more balanced given the source pairing, tips, and cable. The EVO comes in and off the bat keeps the bass elevated but refines it thanks to the Weapon X. The extra speed and control the EVO displays in the bass region over the LX is immediately apparent. LX can bloom bass and the EVO does not, yet the bass is just as powerful and more textured. The EVO extracts more detail out of the mid-range and boosts the upper mid-range which makes the LX sound veiled in an A/B comparison. The EVO has just a bit more extension in the treble and the tone is more accurate and natural than that of the LX. The EVO presents as more balanced and technically impressive of the two. Imaging and staging are also noticeably more open and holographic than the LX. The kicker is, if bass is your metric for enjoyment, then the LX and EVO as a duo is a cheat code and will leave you smitten and not looking back.



Empire Ears Odin: The EVO has the bass technicalities of the Odin, which are incredible, and elevates the dB. The added Weapon X in the EVO adds air and texture to the bass, putting it a bit ahead of Odins bass reproduction finesse. The mid-range of these two are tonally similar, but the Odin accelerates the elevation from 1k to 4k which is also a few dB over the EVO. The treble of Odin is more extended and airier than the EVO which is a more dense and natural sound. I find the Odin is intended to be an intimate life like representation of instrumentation in the rawest form and the EVO takes that, sacrifices some top end technicalities but brings the better bass and overall energy to the music. Imaging was a bit more tangible for the EVO and I also found the EVO a bit wider sounding overall. The EVO and Odin to me don’t make as ideal of a pairing as the EVO and LX would. On the contrary, if you listen to a fair bit of piano based music amidst your other varying library, then yes, EVO and Odin would cover you very well.



Oriolus Traillii: The heavy weight both in price and performance, known as the bird. So… much to the “which one is better”, crowds dismay, I can’t tell you. They are both technical marvels for very different reasons. The Traillii is exciting in an atypical way as its tuning, and coherence is executed so well that it just finesses your brain. The EVO is exciting in the typical aspect as it gets in your blood and connects you with the energy of the music at a very high level. Going bass for bass, the EVO wins and it’s an easy call. Mid-range is tough because the Traillii is warm and wiiiiiiiide in this region. It has an ever-present intimacy at the same time. EVO has a more resolving and up-front mid-range that is not as warm or wide but it’s not lacking technicalities. Doing an A/B between Traillii and EVO, I did not perceive any veil from one to the other so they both resolve well in the mid-range. Treble of Traillii sounds a bit more rounded in the lower range which can overly smooth harmonics but then the higher treble range sounds a bit more transparent and shimmery when compared to EVO. The EVO has a bit more body in the lower treble, has well extended upper treble but does not have the transparency or airiness going beyond those ranges that Traillii does. The EVO upper treble sounds more accurate and realistic but I know some prefer that extra sparkle at times so this will come down to what you prioritize when listening. I will go out and subjectively say that the Trailii is NOT worth its asking price, even if you consider it better. Objectively speaking, the Trailii and EVO could be an end game duo if your pockets lack a bottom.



64 Audio U18s: I really enjoy the U18s and in layman’s terms, I find it a less impressive Traillii but not any less enjoyable. Compared to the EVO, the bass once again easily goes to EVO. Mid-range here is so different that it’s hard to directly compare. Lower mids are thicker and slower on the U18s, while beefier, punchier, and more dynamic on the EVO. Upper mid-range shares the same intimacy, but it comes across a bit more veiled or distant on the U18s when compared to EVO. The EVO also expands the mid-range width compared to the U18s. Treble is a bit subdued on the U18s whereas the EVO exhibits a denser and greater extended feel in the top end. Considering I could have both IEM’s for less than a retail cost of Traillii, that’s the route I would take if money was a factor.



64 Audio Fourte: Can you guess which one has better bass performance? I guess it’s becoming a pattern here so why not be cheeky about it, right? EVO has better all-around bass and that will apply to anything you compare it to. The mid-range of the Fourte has always sounded veiled to me and in fairness, that is because I typically listen to resolving IEM’s, especially in the mid to upper mid-range. After allowing brain burn in to take effect, the Fourte sounds great but the minute I swap over to EVO it’s jarring. EVO is more present, resolving, detailed, and balanced in the overall signature. Treble is what 64 Audio is known for thanks to its tubeless Tia design in the Fourte, and yes it has awesome albeit sometimes peaky, treble. Awesome but a bit artificial and splashy sounding to me. It’s more of a guilty pleasure treble to me than it is accurate. The EVO is just accurate and natural. I have grown up in a family of musicians and been around live instruments my entire life. EVO is more natural which I prefer and Fourte is brighter and more artificial, but it still sounds good, especially if you’re a treble head. Just be prepared for that recessed vocal region of the Fourte.



Noble Audio Sultan: I am putting this here as more of a transparent disclaimer. I do not like anything about the Sultan and I am beyond pleased that, yet another manufacturer put something out at the $3k price range that shows Nooble what $3k sounds like. If you like it, I am happy for you and you can ignore me, but I do not. I only put this here, so people don’t ask for the comparison as they share a similar price bracket.



In Summary…



The overall presentation of the EVO would be dependent upon which configuration you settle on, but I am speaking from the presentation as intended (Final E tips & Genesis cable). It is hands down a thunderous king of bass presence, depth, texture, and overall technicalities. There is a sense of razor-sharp layering amongst the entire response range, yet the coherence remains intact and then some. The largest sense of space is created by how the bass interacts with the remaining frequencies in not obstructing them. This coupled with natural tonality of the mid-range and perceived coherency of its linear rise to the treble, really gives you all the clarity one could want from a high-grade monitor, let alone one with bass on this level. The overall sound with its Weapon X driving depth and air throughout, plus the imaging and width places you in the center of an oblong sphere or oval dome. The EVO seems as if it was made to reproduce the experience of an amplified concert or club speaker feel and refine it to the most enjoyable portable experience that can be crammed inside an in-ear monitor.

In contrast to many reputable reviewers, I did not cable, tip, or source roll EVO during my review. Although I commend those who do, I personally feel that those variables are extremely specific to me, even more so than how an IEM sounds to me in general versus how it sounds to you. I went for the most baseline, neutral approach possible so that any desired tweaks or changes in one direction or the other are easy to decipher for your intended use case or outcome. Now get out there and give them a listen!
S
sun0190
Z1r......most wanted comparison here....how can someone forget to compare🤔🤔
C
CL14715
@sun0190 Can't compare what doesn't fit me. Sorry.
P
Pascal3366
Hi, how do you like the Legend Evo for Rock & Metal music ?

Pacman2806

New Head-Fier
Empire Ears Legend Evo - Top of the line bass response and more
Pros: - totl bass response
- next level Bone Conduction experience
- engaging overall sound signature
- full bodied and detailed sound
- great soundstage and separation
- maybe best in class bass and presentation
Cons: - comfort for some, it is large
Disclaimer

I bought the Legend Evo with my own money at Musicteck. So all opinions are my own.

I cannot recommend the shop highly enough. Great customer support and great delivery in no time. So hands up.

https://shop.musicteck.com/collections/empire-ears


Empire Ears Legend Evo - Specs

Legend EVO:


  • Dual W9+ Subwoofers
  • Five Precision Balanced Armatures
  • Weapon X Bone Conduction Ultra Driver
  • 9-Way synX Crossover Network
  • Dual Conduction Architecture
  • ARC Resonance Mitigation Technology
  • Impedance: 4.5 Ohms @ 1kHz
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz-35kHz
  • Sensitivity: 103dB @ 1kHz, 1mW

GENESIS CABLE - EMPIRE X PW AUDIO:

  • 24AWG Ultra-Pure OCC Copper
  • Quad Conductor, Polypropylene Reinforced Core
  • Insulated UV-Resistant Polyvinyl Chloride Sheath
  • 4 Balanced Pentaconn Termination


Unboxing

So we have nothing fancy here. A nice clean white box with the earphones. You either have a leather or metal case, Final E tips, the Genesis cable, a cleaning cloth, paperwork, two stickers I think and a cleaning tool. What I have is the mesh divider pocket for each earphone so they won’t touch each other when you have them in a box. Really nice and I have to get those for my other pairs.


What do they sound like

Sources
: Astell and Kern SE 200 and SR 25

Bass:
So the bass response of the Legend Evo is massive. You get tons of bass. It really feels like a subwoofer. But it is also very well defined and detailed. For the lowest frequencies it really reaches deep and hits really hard. When we go up the latter the Evo provides a thunderous bass with a lot of articulation and musicality. The different areas of the bass are well separated and you get lots of detail here. The bass response is quite fast, musical and very engaging. The implementation of the Bone Conduction driver is excellent. It gives a body to the bass which I haven’t heard on any headphone. It is rich and full and adds another dimension in a kind of physical impact. It always puts a smile on my face when I can hear and really feel the double bass drum in a song. It is really strong and massive you can hear it and feel it when you listen to your music. What is most fascinating to me is the fact that the bass imaging is near to perfect. So with all the punch and slam the bass stays where it has to be in the mix. So I cannot give enough credits to Empire Ears on handling that. The bass is outstanding and is one of the best reproductions in class.


Mid-Range: Mid-range is interesting because it is well separated from the bass response so it stands on its own unlike Legend X. The lower mids have a great amount of body. It is more than enough to keep electric guitars on an authentic energy level. Palm Mutes sound the way they should sound. There is enough of energy in this area. The Odin lacked some of the energy here, where as a result guitars sounded a bit flat and less energetic. The Mid-Range is a bit forward sounding but not much. Vocals feel just a hair in front. Clarity and detail retrival are on a very high level. You can easily separate the different instruments if you want to. Again the mids are musically sounding and very engaging. The upper mids are a bit elevated but not as much as on the Odin which makes it less shouty. For the mids are great for rock and metal. It is the better pairing compared to the Odin in my opinion.


Treble: The treble area is well extended and airy. It is not too much like the Empire Ears Hero where the treble was hurting my ears somehow. Compared to the Odin the treble on the Evo has less resolution maybe due to the EST drivers missing here. But all in all, it is still enough but nothing too outstanding. Treble is on a natural side and connects well to the midrange. There may be something like an addition of more body due to the Bone Conduction driver but I am still not sure. For me it is just fine. Higher guitar notes ring as they should and the crushes of a drum kit have a lot of information without hurting by any means.


Soundstage: The soundstage is on the larger side. I wouldn’t describe it as holographic, but you get a great idea of depth and width. Instruments are well separated, and live recordings get alive. You get a great of being in the middle of the audience.



Comparison to other gear

Empire Ears Legend X:
First I have to say that I don’t see much in common between the Evo and Legend X. Yes they are both bass orientated headphones but that’s it for me. For the Legend X there is bass all over the place. It is a more fun sounding headphone for me and will stay in my collection. The Evo has a different reproduction of bass. It Is hard to say if it is better or not. The Evo is better in its technical performance. Bass is more refined, better controlled and has more resolution. For the Legend X is there a still more quantity in bass and this guilty pleasure experience which is hard to describe.
The Evo is faster too overall, with a more detailed presentation and an airier treble. Evo is also more balanced and more neutral. I still think these two can coexist in a collection.


Empire Ears Odin: For me as I listen mostly to rock music the Odin is not my headphone. As much as I like the look and the cable it doesn’t fit my preference. It lacks the energy in electric guitars and the upper mids are elevated too much. Detrail retrieval is excellent with the Odin, better than the Evo. In all other categories the Evo just nails it for me. But things can be different for your taste and your library. Both are fantastic earphones but there these two dealbreakers for me.


Vision Ears EXT: As I am from Germany, I really like Vision Ears and the stuff they produce. The EXT is no exception. It is also bass orientated, but with another approach. The bass is a little faster I woluld say which results in a snappier bass response. The bass is also a bit drier, not in a bad way, it results in a very punchy bass experience where each note kind of explodes in a really hard hitting way and vanishes a second later. So it is not the boomy and overwhelming bass you have with the Evo but a bit more laid back and extracted bass but still very powerful.
The mids on the EXT are outstanding for me. Very musical, great separation and a very nice and holographic soundstage. I would also say that the treble is more extended so the EST drivers are very well implemented. The sound stage is more holographic but on the same size.
Which one is better? Hard to say, a bit more detail resolution and a “better” soundstage for the EXT vs. a best in class Bass reproduction and a more bodied overall signature. Fit is better for with the EXT. The Evo’s are more on the larger side and can feel bulky. EXT are rather small and fit in my ears very easy.


Unique Melody Mest Mk II: I bought the Mest Mk II some time ago because I was interested in this Bone Conduction thing. The Mest gives you a smaller soundstage with the advantage that the music is presented in a more energetic way. It is more directly in your face. The Bone Conductor is not full range as the Legend Evo. It is more like mids and treble or in the upper bass, I am not quite sure, but it is not a full range implementation. The difference between those two is obvious. Empire Ears has done a better job with the implementation. The sound has more body, a better bass response etc. For me it is a clear win for the Evo. What bothers me with the Mest is fit. I wasn’t able to get a good fit with my left ear, right ear is no problem, left ear always a pain even with different tips and sizes. But that’s just me and maybe a reason why I didn’t get the best sound quality out of it. So your situation may be different.
Is the Mest MK II a bad headphone. No, not by any means. It is a great headphone even for the price. So the Evo is not twice as good but at least a little better in every category. So the Mest has to go and the Evo will replace it.




Summary

So what do you get for your money? For me the Evo is a best in class in ear monitor. Really totl and I can only highly recommend it. Is it for everyone one? Hmm hard to say. If you want something completely neutral, there are better options. If you want something leaning towards fun and warmth with an exceptional and unique bass response, give it a try. The sound is really engaging and I enjoy every minute with it. There is no fatiguing at all and I can listen to the Evo for a long period of time.

Are there areas of improvement. As always yes. The fit can be better. Don’t get me wrong they fit and they are comfortable for their size. But they are on the larger side and they look out of your ear quite a bit. So for sleeping, not the best use case. I like the cable but the stormbreaker cable was a hair better for my taste. I like the fabric material on the outside of the cable.

Regarding the face plate, I love the black one but a flashier option like the Odin would be nice to see as an alternative.

Finally, sometimes I would wish a bit more detail, but I guess that’s the compromise you have to take for that again outstanding bass response. For me it’s worth it. So again, highly recommended.
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DAS OHR
DAS OHR
Sehr gut geschriebener Testbericht. Seit bald zwei Jahren höre ich unterwegs bevorzugt mit meinem Astell&Kern SP2000 und meinen custom VE Elysiums. Und ich bin sehr glücklich damit. Um es auch im Bassbereich hin und wieder krachen zu lassen, habe ich mir nun ebenfalls einen EE Legend EVO bestellt. Ich liebe Vision Ears, aber leider hasse ich die Farbe Lila. Die Sony Z1R sind mir inzwischen etwas überholt, obwohl ich mit ihnen sicherlich auch viel Spass gehabt hätte. Ich bin wirklich sehr gespannt auf die EVOs und freue mich, mal wieder eine Rezension von Dir zu lesen. Viele Grüsse aus Heidelberg! marcus.
P
Pascal3366
I am currently torn between the Legend Evo and the EXT. Which one should I get for Rock & metal ?
C
CL14715
The Odyssey being released in November.

gLer

No DD, no DICE
EVO: The Legend Lives On
Pros: Unique dual conduction architecture
Unprecedented bass quality, quantity and physicality
Well-balanced tonality with clear mids and natural treble
TOTL technicalities, from stage to imaging, dynamics and resolution
Engaging, powerful and vibrant sound
Cons: Large and potentially cumbersome fit
Some rough sonic artefacts out-the-box (requires burn-in)
Questionable cable quality despite custom build
Full disclosure: Empire Ears sent me an EVO sample in exchange for a full and honest review. It’s not mine to keep, and if I want it, I need to buy it, like everyone else. The views and opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Also:
The review features an exclusive Q&A with @Jack Vang about the motivation, challenges, and design of EVO, so you can enjoy some insights direct from the source. I’ve included Jack’s comments as ‘spoilers’ throughout the review, so you can choose to read it with or without his input.


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First, some context

Basshead.

It’s a loaded word that, in the not-too-distant past, was used to distinguish ‘purist’ audiophiles from those who enjoyed blood and thunder with their music. IEMs with boosted bass were generally relegated to cheaper models, and the higher up the ladder one climbed, the more reigned in the bass seemed to be. If you wanted bass, went the saying, get a pair of Beats.

But then, one fine day in 2017, Jack and Dean Vang and their Empire Ears crew unleashed an IEM so confounding, so contrary to the norm, that it literally turned heads and had audiophiles of every ilk giggling like schoolgirls caught in a lie. Legend X, a derivative of Empire’s previous Legend lineage, almost singlehandedly upended the commonly-held notion that big bass had no place in civilized audiophile company.

It became, quite literally, a legend in name and reputation, and still holds sway today as one of the very best ways for serious audiophiles to have their bass fix and eat their Diana Krall/Eagles/Vivaldi cake too.

Still, despite the inclusion of higher-end technicalities and sophisticated tuning, Legend X wasn’t for everyone. Out the box with stock tips and cable, it was unashamedly a big bass sound first, refined listen somewhat distant second.

Over time, audiophiles started to find ways to fine-tune Legend X to their liking. They discovered it was very amenable to tip and cable rolling, and combined with neutral sources and some healthy burn-in time, it delivered a more balanced sound with bass still very much the foundation, but with its inherent technical strengths brought to the fore – like excellent resolution, a comfortably-wide soundstage, and a more open midrange.

Legend X was usurped as Empire Ears’ flagship long before the current flagship, Odin, was unveiled at the height of the 2020 pandemic, but even then, Dean and his team were quietly working on a new IEM that would take the very best of the technically-gifted Odin, and marry it with the raw power and sex appeal of Legend X. It’s an evolution of everything that the X began, matured and transformed, and appropriately called Legend EVO.

Jack Vang: To us EVO is the evolution and successor to the Legend X. We understand that not everyone will agree with this statement, which is why Legend X will continue to be made so long as there’s demand for it. It is personal preference after all! As far as positioning, Odin remains as the pinnacle of our air conduction tuning whereas EVO breaks new ground and leads the way for the future of Empire Ears.

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Introducing EVO

The headline feature that separates EVO from every other Empire Ears IEM before it is the all-new Weapon X full-range (5 – 35Hz) bone conduction driver. Using Japanese-made materials and a strong neodymium magnet, coupled with anti-resonance technology that minimises vibration diffusion, Weapon X affects and enhances EVO’s sound in different ways, from adding impact and physical vibration to the sub-bass response, to padding the air and volume in midrange notes and infusing a tweeter-like physicality in the highs.

This is a very different take on bone conduction than we’ve seen in other IEMs, with the main vibration channel working through a dedicated solid bore that connects Weapon X to the nozzle tip. It also means foam tips and very soft silicone won’t be as effective as solid core silicone tips for the bone conduction effect, something to keep in mind when pairing tips with EVO.

Jack Vang: Weapon X is primarily used as a full range surround sound speaker and is responsible for imaging, soundstage, detail retrieval, low-frequency extension, and reverb. Because bone conduction perceives sound so differently, we’re able to really manipulate its characteristics to enhance psychoacoustics and the entire FR to achieve [an] immersive 3D imaging and expansive, airy soundstage, while keeping our signature sound through air conduction via the balanced armatures and Weapon IX+.

Weapon X is not the only new addition to EVO’s internals. The two Weapon IX woofers that made Legend X famous have been upgraded with the new Weapon IX+ drivers first seen in Odin, only this time they’ve been allowed to deliver their full, unbridled power, rather than tuned to neutral as in Odin. The same five custom-made BA drivers used for the midrange and treble frequencies have also been included, but re-tuned for EVO. Lastly, EVO sports an all-new nine-way proprietary synX crossover circuit that was designed specifically to work with Weapon X’s full range frequency extension in EVO’s Dual Conduction design.

Also present is Empire’s Anti Resonance Compound (A.R.C) coating that’s meant to eliminate internal resonances from those giant woofers inside the confined IEM shell. Build quality, as always, is top shelf, with the same seamless shell molding that makes Empire’s IEMs lightweight, comfortable, and highly resistant to shocks, though I’m still always ultra-careful bordering on pedantic when handling resin shells.

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Presentation, design and fit

If you’re familiar with any of Empire Ears’ latest releases, from their ‘entry level’ Bravado Mk II to the aforementioned flag-bearers, then you’ll also be familiar with the attention to detail that goes into the retail packaging and presentation of these IEMs. EVO eschews some of the fancier elements – like the pull-out tray – and downsizes the box too, making it less bulky but also more environmentally friendly, while retaining the same solid appeal and obvious brand identity.

Gone is the magnetic foldover, replaced by a sturdy lid that lifts off to reveal some branded documentation and, beneath it, Empire’s exceptionally solid Pandora storage case, emblazoned with the all-new EVO logo. The first tranche of EVO preorders will receive, in place of Pandora, a custom Vishnu Leather case of similar dimensions, which may or may not be preferable, depending on your penchant for leather or metal.

Also breaking from tradition, EVO’s earpieces are no longer displayed in foam cut-outs and are instead shipped inside a small mesh pouch – separated down the middle to keep the earpieces from rubbing against each other – inside the case. Mine were sent already attached to the cable, so I assume retail versions ship with the cable pre-attached too – unless yours was shipped sans cable due to some unforeseen production issues at the time of launch.

On first removing the earpieces from their bubble wrap pouch (I didn’t get the mesh pouch with my review unit), I was struck by how similar-but-different they looked to Legend X. Made of solid resin, the shells are mostly opaque, polished to a brilliant piano black finish and coated with clear lacquer resin. EVO is notably bigger and bulkier than Legend X, but also translucent in parts, giving you a clear view of the Weapon X drivers when the light hits the shells just right. The left shell features the new EVO logo – and did I mention how much I like the new EVO logo? – while the right features the same Empire Ears ‘Wings’ logo that adorns recent Legend X iterations.

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Size-wise they remind me of the new Bravado shells, only bigger, with slightly longer and thinner nozzles than Legend X. My main concern, prior to receiving EVO, was that the nozzle would be too long and thick for my smaller ears and canal openings. I personally dislike deep-insert IEMs, so it was with some trepidation that I picked the smallest-size Final E-type stock tips and, after saying a little prayer, carefully fitted EVO for the first time. To my surprise, the smallest tips were too small, and moving up a size allowed me to get a good seal – denoted by the customary ‘pop-pop’ of the Weapon IX+ driver flex – with a fairly shallow and reasonably comfortable fit.

Despite the better-than-expected fit, these are not the move around, walk outside, use for gym-type IEMs, at least not for me. Even with comfortable tips I still get some pressure, after a while, just inside my ear canal, and if I don’t tilt the earpieces just right, I can feel them pressing against the sensitive parts of my outer ear. You could argue this means the fit isn’t perfect, and I agree; they require careful positioning to seat just right. They’re large, cumbersome, and there’s no getting away from the feeling of having two large, intrusive objects stuffed in your ears, at least initially, and that feeling does go away after a while.

That said, they’re comfortable enough for how I use them, seated or lying down, on a couch or in bed, taking in an hour or two of quality listening. If you’re anything like me, they won’t work for all-day listening, but then few IEMs do. If, on the other hand, you’re blessed with big ears and even bigger earholes, EVO should fit you just fine, and so, like everything else in this hobby, YMMV.

One other thing to note is that EVO sports dual tri-port vents, unlike Odin and Legend X’s single port, likely to accommodate the new Weapon X driver, or possibly because twin Weapon IX+ drivers pushing air at full tilt need more pressure relief than previous designs. Regardless of the reason, the added port means slightly less isolation, though in practice EVO isolates extremely well, and I literally can’t hear anything else in my surroundings once the music starts playing. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t leak any sound either.

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Cable and accessories

The new made-for-EVO Genesis cable (nice one guys…Genesis, EVOlution, get it?) is a 4-wire, 24-gauge, pure OCC copper cable by PW Audio. It features the typical PW Audio angled ear-hook design, which I’ve always found to be very natural, and appears to be a well-made higher-end cable in the same vein as PW Audio’s Anniversary-series cables. It also sports PW Audio’s updated matte-black Y-split hardware and chin slider, though the slider is irritatingly too big for the wire gauge and slides loose most of the time.

Dean clearly had a target tuning in mind when he picked Genesis for the EVO pairing, but it’s not my personal pick for EVO. Genesis is not in the same league as Odin’s Stormbreaker, which is based on PW Audio’s ‘The 1960s’ 2-wire/4-conductor design, or my custom-made @doctorjuggles Cardas copper cable for that matter – though I can only vouch for the sound and ergonomic improvements of the latter. It’s also slightly stiffer than I’d like, and the decorative blue core that’s visible through the translucent PVC jacket doesn’t quite gel with the EVO’s sleek black-and-gold colouring for me.

Still, it’s good enough, with a throaty, full-bodied sound that’s awash with detail, consistent with Peter Wong’s copper cable mastery. It’s also the first genuine Pentaconn-terminated Empire Ears cable, a welcome move that will surely be mirrored by all serious IEM manufacturers in the near future.

Jack Vang: Once we’re near the end of an IEM’s final tuning we begin the cable rolling process. This involves testing countless cables in both live and mastered applications. In live settings, we’re looking for the tonal accuracy and weight of the notes. Is it too exaggerated? Is it too bright? Dark? In mastered playbacks, we seek out the overall harmony between the IEM and cable across multiple genres, ensuring that the cable’s FR enhancements complement the overall sound signature of the IEM.

Along with Genesis, Empire Ears provides the same set of Final E-type black silicone tips in five different sizes, as I may have mentioned earlier, which again are not my personal pick for EVO. While comfortable enough, I’m not a fan of the Final E’s penchant for boosted bass with attenuated treble, as I feel EVO – even though it’s inherently more balanced-sounding than Legend X – sounds better with tighter bass and a tip that helps clarify and smooth out the upper mids and treble. For the record, I prefer Acoustune’s AET07 tips, which I also use with Legend X.

Regardless of how comfortable you are with tip and cable rolling, I strongly suggest trying out different tips and cables with EVO. I find EVO fairly sensitive to sonic changes, mainly with tips but also with cables, and if you’re not completely sold on the sound after a sufficient burn-in period (more on this below), switching up accessories could be the difference between good and great for your preferences.

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Sound impressions

Unlike some reviewers, I don’t have access to a large number of different sources with which to test my IEMs, and I generally prefer a close-to-neutral source, which currently takes the form of HiBy’s flagship R8 DAP. As such all the impressions below are based on this pairing only, with the R8 set to high-gain Turbo mode, as it is for all my IEMs.

Keep this in mind if you’re using more coloured sources, because this can skew EVO’s sound significantly, based on my discussions with other enthusiasts. For a more comprehensive appraisal of different source pairings with EVO, check out the ‘Source Pair Up’ section of @twister6's outstanding EVO review here.

Another thing to keep in mind is that EVO is much easier to drive than Legend X, or the single-driver Sennheiser IE 900 for that matter. Despite being only 1dB more sensitive than Legend X on paper (103dB for EVO vs 102dB for Legend X), it takes a full 10 clicks on the dial to volume match the two. Moreover, I find EVO’s bass to be significantly more powerful, from sub-bass through midbass, at a much lower volume than it takes to achieve the same bass levels with Legend X, and with EVO also being a more dynamic and resolving listen, this makes it much easier to listen at lower volumes, not to mention safer too.

Lastly, my impressions allow for a 100-hour-plus burn-in period, and I wouldn’t recommend any proper assessment of EVO’s sound until you’ve put your EVO through a similar process. Without sparking the usual burn-in debate, I can say with confidence that EVO sounded very different out the box than it does today.

Initially, I found the bass was quite boxy and not very nuanced, almost too ‘big’ in fact, but within days it tightened up and became more precise, without losing any of its initial impact. I also heard some hardness or brittleness, for want of a better word, in more mid-forward tracks with very busy upper-mid/lower-treble sections, and this also settled after burn-in, continuing to settle even more after a few weeks’ regular use.

As a side note, you’d be well within your rights to suggest that a $3,000+ IEM should not have to be ‘seasoned’ like this to reach its best possible level, but this isn’t unique to EVO or Empire Ears IEMs, nor is it uncommon to most high-end, precision audio gear, especially gear with moving parts and/or dynamic drivers.

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Tonality

While it probably makes more sense to compare and contrast EVO’s sound characteristics to its ‘predecessor’, I’ll leave that for the ‘Select Comparisons’ section below and instead focus on how I hear EVO on its own merits.

To my ears, from the very first post-burn-in listen, EVO shirks any suggestion that it’s a gung-ho L-shaped bass-heavy IEM. Instead, I’m hearing a very well-balanced W-shaped tonality, with some added oomph in the bass department only when it’s called for in a track. Even then, the way Dean tuned the mids – especially the upper mids – to generally follow the Harman target curve, means the added clarity and quality of EVO’s midrange is never overpowered by the bass.

With lower mids and upper treble slightly more relaxed, though still well within touching distance of the curve, and the transition from upper mids to treble being fairly gradual, there are no parts of the FR that sound unnatural to me. Upper mids are more forward than I’m used to, but I’ve come to appreciate how this plays into the overall tuning, allowing for listening at lower volume levels without any loss of detail, despite my moderate‘cookie bite’ hearing loss (worth a Google, if you’re curious).

Even for a non-musician like myself, I can tell that EVO has been tuned with instrumental accuracy in mind. The timbre of live instruments, especially drums and guitars, seems very realistic to me, and I’m also liking how EVO presents the attack, fundamentals, and decay of piano strikes right across the frequency spectrum. It’s not a dry, clinical tuning, but rather more lifelike, as I’d expect to hear these instruments played by actual musicians in person.

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Bass is unquestionably the star of the EVO show, however. The same way you buy a performance car for its horsepower, you buy EVO for its bass. Yes, it has much more than just bass to offer, but there’s no reason not to flaunt your superpower when you have one. It’s difficult to describe EVO’s bass with one word, because it’s got not one, not two, but three different drivers contributing to a multi-faceted, multi-layered, almost multidimensional range of lower frequencies that are felt as much as heard.

EVO extends lower into the sub-bass region than any other IEM and virtually any other headphone I’ve heard before. At frequencies this low, sub-40Hz, the bass is more a feeling – a rumble – than an auditory experience. Before EVO I couldn’t imagine an IEM replicating the sensation of feeling the bass in my body, like a life-size subwoofer, and yet on several occasions, I’ve had similar sensations with EVO.

Take James Blake’s Limit To Your Love for a spin, and EVO might just leave you feeling a little seasick. From 0:55 both sets of Weapon IX+ woofers are activated simultaneously in a wavy, warbly sub-bass rhythm that's difficult to describe but oh so delicious to experience. I’m convinced there’s some bone conduction magic happening here too, since the intensity is so focused and also sandboxed in the sub-bass region, with almost no bleed into the upper bass and lower midrange.

Working through my checklist of sub-bass test tracks, EVO hits every low note with authority, from the door slam (0:13) in Rosie Thomas’s Why Waste More Time, to the ghostly rumble (0:59 and 1:07) in Kristin Hersh’s Your Ghost, and the repeating boom (from 2:21 onward) in Lana Del Rey’s Video Games. These brief moments add so much gravitas to each of these tracks that I can’t imagine them otherwise.

Moving further up the bass shelf, EVO doesn’t have a perceptible midbass ‘hump’ like many ‘bassy’ IEMs, and the curve dips gradually downwards towards the lower midrange, keeping midbass elevated, more so than other monitors but still very much in check. For me, this serves two purposes: to retain the maximum slam and punch in the bass when called for in instruments like kick drums, but also prevent the mid-to-upper bass notes from ‘veiling’ the detail in the midrange.

There are some great tracks I use to test out how ‘thick’ an IEM sounds as a result of its midbass emphasis. Ingrid Michaelson’s delicate vocals in The Way I Am can sound muffled when there’s too much midbass in the meaty upright bass plucks in the intro, which continues as a constant bassline throughout the track. With EVO the plucks are indeed weighty – and also perfectly textured – but stay well clear of the vocals when they start (0:17 onward). Likewise, Katie Melua’s indulgent bassline in Red Balloons sometimes obscures her vocal finery, but not with EVO.

Unlike many bass-boosted IEMs (like Legend X) that use special tuning tricks to keep elevated midbass from bleeding or bloating, EVO does it while retaining extremely healthy levels of bass quantity. With EVO it’s less a case of added midrange emphasis as it is sound shaping the bass.

The last thing I want to say about EVO’s bass is that, quantity aside, the quality is equally if not more impressive. This is not the slower, more elongated bass of the Legend X, or, the speaker-like but somewhat subdued bass of the Tia Fourte, or the hyper-realistic but ultimately less visceral bass of the IE 900. There’s a tactility and speed to the low notes that, to my ear, is a combination of very high resolution and precision. Then there’s the positionality (a combination of imaging and layering) that can only be achieved, it seems, with something other than traditional air conduction drivers, and so the combination of all three creates a bass presentation that, as far as I can tell, is unique to EVO and Empire Ears.

This isn’t limited to instrumental bass either; EVO makes EDM drops sound exceptionally clean, crisp and powerful, effortlessly keeping pace with even the fastest kick beats. Take DZP and Zanon’s hot single Indica,for example, featuring super-fast bass drops double timed with funk-like instrumental effects and exotic vocals. EVO can just as easily deliver skull-crushing bass on demand. A track like Groove Delight and Black Jacket’s Baiana, with some of the hardest-hitting drops I’ve heard (1:00 onward), makes EVO one of the most enjoyable EDM IEMs I’ve personally experienced.

Jack Vang: Odin was designed to be a more technical IEM and as such the Weapon IX+ were tamed accordingly. EVO takes on the spirit of Legend X with a boosted low end but with far more layering and resolution in the bass department with Weapon X.

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Midrange is where things get interesting with EVO, and is perhaps its biggest tonal departure from Legend X. Empire Ears’ recent tunings have tended to introduce more upper midrange energy to the sound, most notably with Odin and, to a lesser extent, Hero. EVO follows a similar path, but in a less aggressive manner.

Before we get to the upper midrange minefield, however, a quick note about the lower mids, where most male vocals and the fundamentals of deeper female vocals tend to sit. On balance, EVO’s lower mids are maybe a hair below neutral, but there’s still enough residual energy from the upper bass, I feel, to impart male vocals with very natural if not overly chesty tonality.

Neil Diamond sounds very much like Neil Diamond in Hello Again, from the classic The Jazz Singersoundtrack. All the detail in his slightly coarse delivery on this track is there to be heard, with a hint of bass supporting his baritone, but it’s not the warm or coloured presentation that may be preferable to some. The same goes for Mark Kozelek’s brilliant supporting vocals in Holly Throsby’s What Do You Say, which I say sounds very natural indeed. I’ve heard him sound more weighty with other monitors, but I like how he sounds with EVO, and it’s probably more true-to-life too.

The upper midrange, as I’ve already hinted, is where things get interesting. Upper midrange/lower treble tuning – the so-called presence region of the graph – is an ongoing debate in audiophile circles. Some swear by boosted treble and recessed upper mids, a-la Tia Fourte and, to a lesser extent, IE 900, while others prefer boosted upper mids and/or upper treble to provide as much clarity, detail and air as possible.

EVO, for me, takes a measured approach. Yes, the upper midrange frequencies sit well above the lower mids, but the rise from lower to upper mids is more gradual than it is with Odin, for example. Beyond 5kHz, which is probably the upper limit of the upper midrange, EVO’s treble, which I’ll discuss in more detail below, doesn’t deviate sharply upward or downward, continuing the smooth transition from the midrange.

I therefore hear EVO, on the whole, as forward but smooth in this area, without any shout (in all but the poorest of female vocal recordings). It’s a midrange that’s neither too full nor too thin, too wet or too dry, but clear and full-bodied and definitely not sterile. This is tasteful colour, and when it works with the music, it works surprisingly well (for someone like me, who until recently was firmly in the recessed-is-best camp).

Norah Jones’s earthy vocals and accompanying instrumentation in Come Away With Me are so realistic, it’s as if I’m standing right next to her through the performance. There’s no hint of grain, glassiness, or sibilance in any of the tracks I use to test for them, including Katie Pruitt’s It’s Always Been You, Brandi Carlile’s The Story, BEYRIES’ Alone, Lana Del Rey’s Dark But Just A Game or Maggie Rogers’ Satellite. By the way, if you haven’t heard this last track, do yourself a favour and check it out, keeping in mind she recorded it as a teen with her high school band in a high school music studio.

While I do hear some added emphasis in the higher pitches of some female vocals on specific tracks, like Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, they’re never shouty – unless there’s shout in the recording. Vocals are also less forward than they are with some midrange-focused monitors, like Isabellae and, to a lesser extent, Traillii, but are so detailed that any hint of recession is overcome by the clarity.

It’s not all rainbows and roses, however. Out the box, one of the few issues I had with EVO was a brittleness or hardness in the presence region that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It only cropped up on certain tracks, and then only in very specific sections of those tracks. Def Leppard’s Love Bites was one of those tracks, and I say was because, post burn-in, the roughness I initially heard in the parts where the melee of snare drums, grinding electric guitars and Joe Elliott’s pitchy vocals (1:20 – 1:30) was less confronting.

Still, there’s a vibrancy and energy when instruments and vocals get wild and heavy in this FR range that’s palpable, and potentially more fatiguing, than they would be with sedate monitors. Some extreme examples include the crescendo to Jillette Johnson’s Love Is Blind (2:08 – 2:16), and one I picked from the forums, Seven Lions/Wooli/Trivecta’s Island (featuring Nevve), where the combination of compression, bright vocals, and intense electronic instruments (especially from 1:48 onward) sounds like a wall of razorblades on EVO, especially at higher volumes.

My personal view is that, extreme examples aside, there’s an intimacy and immediacy to EVO’s midrange – a tuning choice from what I understand – that works well for the vast majority of my music library, but on occasion shows up the lemons in the mix. Why that is exactly, I’m not sure.

What I am sure of is that EVO is less forgiving than Legend X, or IE 900, or any other number of IEMs with a ‘safer’ tuning. EVO’s midrange, like its bass, is highly resolving, not far off from the most resolving IEMs I’ve been privileged enough to hear, like Fourte and Traillii. The added dimensionality of the bone conduction driver also can’t be understated, often presenting music or specific sounds in surprising and unfamiliar ways, and it could well be this unfamiliarity that jars, at least at first.

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Treble, thankfully, is far from jarring. I could probably stop right there, because unlike its bass or midrange, EVO’s treble is rather inconspicuous. That’s not to say there’s a deficiency here, at least not for my personal preferences. I hear EVO’s treble as smooth, natural and polite, supporting rather than headlining.

There’s no lack of sharpness or detail to Nils Lofgren’s exceptionally trebly guitar play in Keith Don’t Go, or Max Richter’s cacophony of violins in his recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Winter 1. What it does lack is peakiness, harshness or mid-treble zing, preferable, in my opinion, to Legend X (occasionally peaky), Tia Trio (occasionally zingy) or Tia Fourte (occasionally strident).

Despite its bass emphasis and relatively milder treble, you’d think EVO was a darker-tuned IEM, but that’s not the case. It’s not bright – though some tracks lean that way when they hit the lower treble region with too much energy. For those seeking more energy up top, and like their treble to sparkle like a Christmas tree, EVO is probably not your IEM. The same goes for those who seek an abundance of lightness and air.

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Technicalities

Where EVO is a shift away from the warmer, more organic-sounding Legend X tuning, the two are even further apart when it comes to technical ability. Let’s not forget that Legend X was, and is, technically very capable. It has excellent wide staging, good resolution, and commendable imaging and separation despite an overall thicker sound profile. EVO, on the other hand, is a technical upgrade in every single metric. In fact, I don’t think there’s any technical aspect of EVO’s performance that Empire Ears hasn’t managed to improve, either through fine-tuning, better drivers (Weapon IX+), a more efficient crossover network, and of course the inclusion of Weapon X.

Soundstage is the first metric that’s audibly wider with EVO. While depth and, to a lesser extent height has also been improved, the added width gives EVO a spacious, elliptical-shaped stage with many instances of out-of-head sounds appearing from virtually nowhere. Listening to the right and left channel shakers in the intro to the Eagles live performance of Hotel California captures the sense of space in the venue, combined with the layered crowd effects. Meanwhile, Yosi Horikawa’s Bubbles are generously spaced out on a wide and, on this particular track, tall stage.

With Weapon X adding reverb to certain sounds in the mix, I’m hearing more space and ‘air’ around the vocals. Normally intimate vocals, like Heidi Talbot’s in Cathedrals, shrink the stage the closer they come to the listener, but instead EVO creates a void around the vocals so they’re almost floating in space, perfectly centred, with instruments and effects moving around and beyond them. Instead of creating silos on the stage, however, EVO somehow integrates them into a cohesive soundscape.

Imaging is the most obvious beneficiary of EVO’s fleshed-out stage, with instruments, effects and vocals precisely positioned – and sometimes not where you’ve heard them positioned before. The centre image is very solid, without any diffusion or confusion about where the vocals are coming from. Better yet, on some recordings where the singer moves around the microphone, like Meiko covering Crush in David Chesky’s binaural recording of Playing Favorites, it’s easy to follow her as she takes even a few steps to the left, right or backwards. This precision certainly isn’t unique to EVO, but I’ve only heard it presented this convincingly on the very best technical IEMs like Fourte and Traillii.

Separation and layering of the different sounds and elements are the third major quiver in EVO’s technical bow. Regardless of how complex the music becomes (with a few notable exceptions), no instrument, vocal, or special effect is lost in the mix. Even subtle details can be picked out from the crowd, and backing vocals two or three rows deep are distinct in their own space.

The soft backing vocals whispering behind the lead singer in Dadawa’s Sister Drum are never impeded by the main vocals or instruments, and Luke Doucet’s vocals are clear as day even though they’re tucked right behind Melissa McClelland’s lead (and a droning bassline) in Whitehorse’s Dear Irony.

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Resolution is the glue that ties these technical elements together. I don’t think EVO would be able to pull off this level of technical acuity without top-tier resolution across the board, and the jump up in resolving power from the likes of Legend X and IE 900 is significant. It’s not just the clarity that’s been added by tuning tweaks, or the space created by Weapon X, this is raw resolution.

Plug into a highly resolving source, like an R8 or Hugo2, and you’ll be rewarded with inflections of vocal chords and the wet breath of singers standing way too close to the microphone. Play back the famous ‘clocks’ intro to Pink Floyd’s Time, and every gear shift, every hand movement, is clearly audible. You’ll even hear the PA announcer directing passengers to their seats in On The run, the preceding track on Dark Side of the Moon, all the while spaceship and laser gun effects zoom past your head, left to right.

Dynamics could be a descriptor for EVO itself. It’s an incredibly dynamic IEM, with an ability to shift from the quiet, monotone build-up to Hans Zimmer’s Mountains, for example, before exploding into life in a rousing, emotional wave of sound (2:02), an experience in-ear as much as it was on screen. Angel Olsen’s Lark is a more contemporary example, with bursts of powerful vocal crescendos mixed with quiet, contemplative passages and subdued instrumentation. As is the climactic conclusion to Daft Punk’s Contact, a crazy mix of crunchy sound effects and explosions that puts you inside the doomed space capsule.

Jack Vang: We were careful to really only touch things that could be improved with Weapon X, which was mainly soundstage, resolution, and imaging. The slightly more intimate mid-range was a personal choice by Dean.

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The X-factor

This is where I’d normally end the sound impressions section for most reviews, but I’d be remiss not to mention the importance of bone conduction in general and Weapon X specifically when it comes to shaping EVO’s overall tonal landscape.

The way Weapon X affects what you’re hearing really depends on the information in the track. It’s not a blanket ‘filter’ that’s going to predictably make certain changes to the sound. The effect can be subtle, and most often is, but at times is also very obvious. For me, EVO’s X-factor, excuse the pun, is in how it blurs the lines between what’s heard and felt, which adds to the realism and accuracy of certain instruments and sounds.

Take the kick drum in the intro to Big Thief’s recently released single, Changes. Most of us have heard a real kick drum before, and when pedal hits the skin, it’s much more than just a sound you’re hearing. You can feel it, from the initial punch to the hardness of the hit, to the natural decay. Many IEMs with good dynamic driverssimulate this feeling quite effectively, but EVO adds a realism I can genuinely feel from my head to my torso. Of course it’s not the same full-body feeling you’d get from a live performance or actual speakers, but it makes it much easier for your mind to take you there.

Weapon X doesn’t just add to the realism of sound, it also adds to realism of stage. This isn’t limited to the bass frequencies either, although if you’re wondering how EVO manages to keep the thunder so separate from the lightning, so to speak, it’s because Weapon X is working on the resonance and reverb and other aspects of the sound that help place it on the virtual stage.

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Angel Olsen’s pristine vocals in Chance, the closing track of her brilliant LP All Mirrors, don’t just decay, there’s an added echo that helps me see the size and shape of the space she’s singing in. This is a very specific Weapon X effect that affects vocals in particular, since I haven’t heard them presented in quite the same way with other IEMs. Another Weapon X feature affects the treble frequencies, predominantly in bell and chime sounds such as those in the mediaeval instruments of Angels of Venice’s Trotto. The last time I heard this type of sound reproduction was from a full-size silk-domed tweeter.

With its new Weapon IX+ drivers and re-tuned custom balanced armatures, EVO would still have been a worthwhile, if less substantial, revision to Legend X. Adding a full range bone conduction driver in Weapon X makes EVO a new class of IEM altogether, and something that I believe we’ll be seeing much more of in the not-too-distant future.

Jack Vang: While our array of current drivers is capable of even more output, they would only end up overpowering each other, resulting in incoherent audio delivery and quicker ear fatigue. Any modifications implemented would only lead to a difference of preference in sound signature, adding more or less of specific parts in the frequency band to achieve the desired response.

Simply put we’ve maximized and mastered the performance of current IEM driver technologies through air conduction. From here, our only goal was to elevate the listening experience, evolving it once again to redefine what’s possible with IEMs. [For example] EVO’s ability to effortlessly compartmentalize and layer lower bass without interfering with any of the other frequencies is perhaps one of the most challenging yet remarkable things we’ve achieved to date. It really just takes what the Legend X did well to an extraordinary new level.

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Select comparisons

EVO and Legend X
. Seeing how I kicked off this review with a preface about Legend X, and how EVO came to be, it’s only fitting that this is the most relevant and important comparison to make. It wasn’t too long ago that Jack hinted there was not going to be a Legend X successor, and from early EVO impressions, some are saying there indeed isn’t and that EVO is something entirely new.

For me, EVO is very much a Legend X successor, at least spiritually. The mantra that ‘you can’t go past Legend X if what you want is the best and biggest bass in the business’ has now unequivocally been passed on to EVO. That EVO grabs this notion and takes it well beyond the capabilities of Legend X doesn’t mean it’s no longer comparable, but rather that, like anything audio, some may prefer Legend X’s more restrained tonality and forgiving technicalities over EVO’s extension in every metric.

Design and fit. EVO is notably larger, thicker, and heavier than Legend X, although EVO’s nozzle makes it slightly easier for me to get a good ‘shallow fit’ seal than I do with Legend X. So, while Legend X’s shells fit more easily inside my outer ear cavity, EVO’s fit fine too, even though they fill out my ears completely.

Neither IEM ‘disappears’, to put it another way, and while I’m constantly aware of both of them while listening, it’s not to the point of distraction, and some may even prefer that ear-filling feeling. Both IEMs also share the same silky-smooth finish and classy all-black design that make them, to my mind, two of the better-looking IEMs currently available – yes, even better looking than flashy abalone or Bifrost, if you ask me – though EVO’s black shell is slightly less opaque.

The supplied accessories for both IEMs are visually the same, except for EVO’s Genesis cable being far superior in every way to Legend X’s entry-level Effect Audio Ares II – a decent cable in its own right but no match for the PW Audio alternative.

Sound. Tonally, both IEMs are variations of a W-shaped tuning, though it’s easier to push Legend X closer to an L-shaped tuning, especially with its stock tips and cable. I don’t hear EVO to have less bass than Legend X, especially since it’s much easier to power EVO’s Weapon IX+ drivers than it is to get Legend’s dual Weapon IX drivers to wake up, but quantity is neither here nor there; these are both unashamedly bass boosted IEMs, and proud of it.

Where they differ more drastically is bass quality. EVO’s bass quality is a step or two up from Legend X, its upgraded woofers more resolving, more controlled, more precise, more multifaceted. EVO’s bass is also faster, effortlessly keeping pace with quickfire EDM basslines, while Legend X has a warmer, more organic quality to its bass, with slower attack and decay making it sound more romantic than natural.

EVO’s boosted (upper) midrange is another departure from Legend X’s more recessed tuning. Legend X, with its thicker lower mids and warmer upper mids is also wetter and more organic than EVO, which is clearer, more resolving, more forward, and more neutral leaning in tonality. Most people I’ve spoken to who prefer Legend X’s tuning to EVO’s cite the midrange differences as the main reason.

Both EVO and Legend X have a relaxed approach to treble, at least in comparison to their elevated bass, though EVO’s is more extended, smoother, and less peaky than Legend X’s, which can sometimes be a touch spiky, especially because it rises further up from the relatively subdued upper mids. Where Legend has a touch more sparkle, EVO has more air up top, and also sounds more natural to my ears.

Technically, as I’ve hinted earlier in the review, EVO is a step up from Legend X, literally across the board. Wider, larger soundstage, more precise imaging, better separation and layering, more resolution, and better dynamics are all checkboxes in EVO’s favour. Where Legend X has excellent technicalities for a top-tier IEM, EVO stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the best technical performers on the market.

Jack and Dean consider EVO to be the Legend X successor, and I agree. Other than a relaxed midrange tuning, which is possibly better suited to more aggressive genres, and the sentimental value of owning the original, iconic audiophile basshead IEM, I can’t see any reason to keep Legend X and EVO in the same collection when the latter performs at a consistently higher level with most types of music.

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EVO and IE 900. Why would I compare a diminutive single dynamic driver IEM with one of the largest 8-driver tribrid behemoths? Probably because anyone who’s heard Sennheiser’s flagship can attest to how far it punches above its equally ‘diminutive’ pricetag, for a flagship anyway, and how bass performance is one of its standout features compared to any current IEM, regardless of price. Other than Legend X, it also happens to be the only other TOTL IEM in my current collection, so there’s that.

Design and fit. If there’s one aspect where the IE 900 has EVO beat hands-down, it’s fit. Yes I know, some have tried and failed to find a good fit with this laughably small IEM and its basic set of stock tips, but slipping on my trusty Acoustunes I was floored at how simple, seamless and comfortable it is to wear, even with a slightly deeper fit than I’m normally used to. Unlike EVO, the IE 900 literally does disappear in my ears, and after a few minutes’ use, I almost forget I’m wearing them, which adds to the spooky effect of its massive sound coming from seemingly nowhere.

The IE 900 has a fold-over shape like many on-stage monitors – even though it wasn’t designed for stage use – that slips into my ear canals with only a small faceplate on the outside to show for it. It’s made of precision CNC-polished aluminium that weighs next to nothing yet feels cool to the touch, and will likely stand up to far more punishment than EVO’s shiny resin shells ever could, not that I handle it any less carefully than I do EVO.

Sennheiser’s choice of stock cable is also controversial, with memory wire ear loops that are thicker and heavier than the shells themselves, and a tendency for microphonics when rubbed up the wrong way. That said, in my opinion, the stock cable is a better fit for the IE 900 than Genesis is for EVO, and while I do get better performance out of my custom Cardas cable, it doesn’t warrant the change as much as it does with EVO. Sennheiser also supplies three cables, each with different terminations, while EVO ships without any adapters for Genesis’ Pentaconn plug to other common formats.

Sound. Sennheiser’s flagship was a surprising revelation when I first heard it, with a natural sound that kept everything in balance, an easy-listening tonality, and bass quality unlike anything I’d heard before in an IEM. Even with Legend X in my collection, IE 900 rendered bass in such a unique way that I started giving it more ear time despite my penchant for Legend X’s low-end wiles.

EVO turns the tables with a bass presentation that goes even further. Its bass is more visceral, physical and multi-dimensional, making IE 900 sound neutral by comparison, even though they’re not too far off each other in actual elevation. EVO’s bass is also more resolving, reaching deeper into the sub-bass, although both put more focus on sub-bass with a gradual rise to a flatter midbass, my preferred bass tuning.

IE 900’s midrange is airier and more diffuse. Lower mids are fuller and more present than EVO’s, giving gravitas to thicker male vocals and instruments in that region, while upper mids sit well below EVO’s and lower, relatively, than the bass, reducing the emphasis in the presence region and placing vocals slightly farther back as a result.

EVO’s treble is more relaxed than IE 900’s, where the Sennheiser has significantly more treble energy in the lower and middle treble between 5kHz and 10kHz. That said, IE 900’s treble isn’t harsh, sibilant or bright, but can, occasionally, colour the upper midrange harmonics with some added zing, whereas zing doesn’t exist in EVO’s treble vocabulary.

Technically, while IE 900 is a strong performer, EVO is in a different class altogether. It has a wider stage, comparatively, though IE 900 matches EVO’s stage for depth and, track-depending, height. IE 900 is more coherent, but EVO is in turn multi-layered, with more precise imaging, better separation, and higher resolution across all frequencies. EVO is also more dynamic, but IE 900 is lively in its own right.

Ultimately, I find EVO and IE 900 to be more complementary than competitive. IE 900 is an easier, safer, more balanced all-day listen, with its exceptional comfort and miniature dimensions, whereas EVO is better suited to shorter, more focused listens when nothing but the very best sound quality with maximum intensity will do.

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EVO and Traillii. This is the big one, isn’t it? EVO compared to the summit-fi darling, the IEM that can do no wrong. I’m being glib, of course, because I really do love Traillii, and these two IEMs couldn’t be more different if they tried. But don’t let facts get in the way of a good dust-up, and let’s see what happens when the unstoppable force that is EVO hits the immovable object that is Traillii.

The elephant in the room, as is often the case with Traillii, is the sticker price. Traillii retails for twice as much as EVO, and even though it includes a much more expensive cable, its value proposition is ultimately nowhere near as attractive as EVO’s. Traillii also appeals to a very different audience, one less enthused by bombastic sound and favours a safer, more relaxed, and arguably more versatile tuning. Ultimately these two IEMs make better bedfellows than they do competitors, and if money is no object, make an almost ideal complementary pair for truly summit-fi sound.

Design and fit. Traillii and EVO are not entirely dissimilar in their build. Traillii’s clear, medical-grade resin shells and painted top plate are similar in feel to EVO’s, though I’m unsure if Traillii shares EVO’s protective lacquer coating. Size-wise Traillii is a fair bit smaller than EVO and about the same size as Legend X, with a shorter, thicker nozzle. Traillii’s nozzle notch makes it easier to keep silicone tips secure than EVO’s smooth, notch-less nozzle, but also harder to get many tips on in the first place. The thicker nozzle also limits the type of tip that fits.

In the ear, Traillii is the easier wear, and those with larger ears may need larger tips to fit them securely. And, as mentioned earlier, Traillii’s PW Audio-made cable is a more expensive variant of the company’s 4-wire ‘The 1960s’, a $2,000 cable that’s better performing but less ergonomic than Genesis.

Sound. While Traillii and EVO share a W-shaped tonality in theory, Traillii is more balanced and closer to neutral, while EVO is bolder, especially in the bass and upper midrange, with a more relaxed, tapered treble.

It’s difficult to compare the apples and oranges that are EVO’s and Traillii’s bass, the former powered by twin 9mm dynamic subwoofers and a 10mm bone conduction driver, the latter by two miniature BA drivers. Traillii’s bass makes a good case for the most realistic, and I daresay dynamic driver-like bass, in a BA-bass IEM, at least of the ones I’ve heard, but it doesn’t really challenge EVO’s powerful, deep-reaching, visceral bass in terms of quantity or, in my opinion, quality. That’s more preference than fact, and I know many people who actively seek out less bass than what EVO has on offer, for that very reason.

Midrange is a wash between the two, Traillii being fuller in the lower mids compared to EVO, and not quite as forward in the upper mids, giving it a lighter touch with female vocals. Traillii’s lower treble dip makes it sibilance-proof, much like EVO, and further up, its quad e-stat drivers deliver more sparkle and air compared to EVO’s neutral-leaning treble.

Technically, both Traillii and EVO are tour de force IEMs. Traillii’s stage is wider, deeper and taller, but only fractionally. Imaging on both is top-notch, with Traillii putting more air between instruments and revealing more layers in the music. Resolving power is on par, with EVO improving on Traillii’s bass and midrange detail and clarity and Traillii countering with more detailed treble.

Where EVO puts you on stage with the band, up close to the singer and right next to the drums and horns, Traillii seats you in the fifth row, close enough to enjoy every nuance and detail of the performance, yet far enough that nothing jumps out at you unexpectedly. As mentioned above, these two IEMs deserve a place alongside each other in any high-end collection, and work better together than apart to cover almost every genre, presentation and mood imaginable.

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Final analysis and closing thoughts

Where does one begin summarising the strengths of an IEM that’s so different to anything that’s come before? Before I give you my verdict, here’s Jack’s take:

Jack Vang: Our IEMs, first and foremost, are tools for professional artists and musicians and the EVO is no exception. The EVO is our take on a live stage in-ear monitor and it ultimately pays homage to Dean’s experience in late ’80s as a live musician, replicating exactly what one would hear if they were playing on stage. With EVO you feel the bass, the notes, the floor noise, air, sense of space, the exact positioning of your bandmates and the vocalist.

Legend X is one of [our] greatest achievements, but like anything, there’s always room for improvement. We wanted EVO to be enhanced from Legend X in ways that both audio enthusiasts and professionals could appreciate, which ultimately [meant] a larger sound stage, full range layering, detail retrieval, authentic imaging and evolutionary bass reproduction.

With a legacy born of Empire Ear’s class-defining icon that is Legend X, Legend EVO is the new dawn, giving us the first tangible glimpse of what the future holds for the brand and the sound. Bass is again the foundation, but it defines EVO far less than it did its predecessor, with a tonality that seeks balance over brawn, and technicalities that elevate it to the top tier of contemporary high-end monitors.

Emotionally and physically, EVO puts me in the front row at a live performance, sometimes even closer – on stage with the band. It’s a powerful, energetic sound that is more immediate than holographic but still has a unique 3D presentation that I haven’t heard with other IEMs. At the same time, its timbral accuracy is astonishing, rendering instruments and vocals so realistically I can almost touch them.

Key to EVO’s sound is a wholly-reimagined approach to presenting music, using specialised bone conduction technology in a new and unique way that goes beyond what was previously possible with traditional multi-driver air conduction techniques. Weapon X might be the first driver of its kind in an IEM, but it won’t be the last, and I expect the technology will filter down to the mainstream before long.

For now, EVO is a compelling prospect for any audio enthusiast for whom powerful, energised, dynamic, and emotionally engaging sound is a priority. It shirks safe for stupendous and does things with familiar music that sometimes takes several listens to appreciate and embrace. For me, it’s an easy recommendation, epitomising the state of the art and ticking almost every checkbox I have for a high-end musical monitor.

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gLer
gLer
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sun0190
Z1r
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EdgarBear
Hi
I listened to z1r couple of days ago, using cayiin n8ii. And this it's a fantastic iem for its price, bass is very good fun overall tuning

But a/b vs totl iem like kublai khan and using a complex piece with multiple instruments showed immidatly that the Sony z1r had a seperation which is many steps down then the new khan, obviously the z1r is a legend but it had its limitations

gc335

Headphoneus Supremus
Empire Ears Evo - Evolutionary IEM
Pros: Sludge hammer bass with scalpel precision, forgiving nature and easy to listen to.
Cons: Some may want a bit more treble.
Intro and Disclaimer

I’m really like Empire Ears IEMs. I have a custom Nemesis, Valkyrie, Bravado and of course a universal Evo.

I purchased the Evo with my own funds from Musicteck at a discounted price in exchange for a review. At no time did Empire Ears or Musicteck influence my review. My thoughts are my own. They can be purchased here.


Gear Used

Fiio M17
Empire Ears Evo with JVC Spiral Dot Tips
Fir Audio Neon with AZLA SednaEarfit Crystal 2


Packaging

My version is the Launch Edition. It comes with signed packaging and a leather case unique to the Launch Edition. The case has a really nice feel to it. The packaging is simple but high quality.

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Accessories

The Evo comes with a good assortment of high quality accessories. The cable is by PWAudio. I really like it. I usually don’t notice cables all that much but the light blue and copper cable really pops and is something you don’t see all the often. The slider, splitter and terminations feel really high quality. The tips are high quality Final Audio and come in various sizes. The IEMs also come in a Campfire Audio style split mesh bag to protect the IEMs from damage.

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Build

The build is typical Empire Ears. That’s a good thing. The shells are transparent black. If you look in the right light, you can see the drivers inside the shells. There is a gold Evo on the left side and the Empire Ears in gold on the right side. They have a nice 3D look and of very high quality. They are more underrated than some of the other universal Empire Ears universals but I like the understated elegance of the Evo.

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Overall Sound Signature

As with several other Empire Ears IEMs, the bass is the star of the show. When I first listened to the Evo I was blown away and the physicality of the bass. It’s powerful but just right. I’m not sure if it’s the updated version of the Weapon 9 driver or the tuning but the bass is more controlled than the Nemesis and Legend LX.

At times, I almost forgot I was using an IEM. The Evo sometimes fools you into thinking that you are using an over ear. I’m not sure if it’s the vibration from the bond conductor or something else but these come so close to the sound of an over ear.

The sound is addictive. I really like electronic music and many of my favorite tracks have never sounded better. There is so much bass but it is never overshadowing other aspects of the sound. It’s amazing. I could listen to these all day.


Bass

This is basshead nirvana but will not put off non-bassheads. I wish I could remember who said this first but the term that comes to mind is audiophile bass. Dispite the quantity, there is nothing bloated or overpowering about it. To me the Nemesis and Legend X have an L shaped signature. The Evo’s bass is more in balance with the mids and treble.

The Evo also seems to adapt. I went from some electronic to rock and the bass is not as powerful but still there. The sound seems to adapt for the genre. When I pulled up a classic rock track the sound was far more balanced almost neutral. I was bit surprised. I never thought that i could enjoy these with so many types of music.


Mids

The mids are smooth and organic. I think they are slightly recessed but at no point did I feel like I was missing something.


Treble

I personally like a good amount of treble. The treble is is just enough for me to get that sense of detail and clarity with out ever being sibilant or fatiguing. I think it is missing a little metallic shimmer that you get on some other TOTL IEMs. I think the place it really hurts the sound a bit is on guitar and cymbals. You don’t get that metallic sound that gives a nice fast attack to guitar pluck. Another way to put it is that the start and finish of a note is a bit smoothed out. Minor grip but it’s something that I noticed. On the flip side, it makes them easy to listen to over longer listening sessions.


Stage

To my ears, the Evo has a really nice wide and tall stage. These sometimes make you feel like you are wearing over-ear cans.


Comparisons

Afterglow - Emancipator
Evo - The Evo really shines with this track. The bass reaches so deep with insane rumble. The bass does not take anything away from the mids or leaving you with a sense the sound is muddy. The control for this amount of bass is great.
Fir Neon - The bass is similar in quality but less in quantity. The Fir comes across as a milder V shaped signature. There is more treble giving a sense of more clarity. The tonality of the Neon is a colder presentation when compared to the Evo. The sound stage on the Eve is slightly wider.

Lindsey Stirling - Elements (Orchestral Version)
Evo - Wide stage works well with track. Nice deep rumble on this track but the weight is more on the sub bass. I think I’d want a touch more treble on this track.
Fir Neon -Again nice rumble in the bass adding a lot of weight to the track. Oddly enough, it's about the same as the Evo in quantity on this track. Awesome clarity and sparkle in the highs. The violin is really forward and natural sounding. I really enjoyed this track with the the Fir.

Grateful Dead - Touch of Gray
Evo - I wouldn't have picked this track but it happened to pop up next on my playlist. I’m glad it did. The Empire Ears sound awesome with this track. The kick drum is so tight. The placement of the instruments is so precise. Wow, very enjoyable. The Evo seems to be very forgiving to older tracks where the recording quality is not ideal.
Fir Neon - The sound is too thin on this track. It’s a bit harsher and fatiguing. The kick drum doesn’t have the same punch as the Evo. It’s not bad but after going from the Evo to the Fir it’s a but more difficult.

Angus and Julia Stone - Yellow Brick Road
Evo - Very balanced sound. The bass on this track can be a bit boomy and I’m supposed it’s not with the Evo. The male feel vocals seem slightly recessed from what I’m used to hearing with this track but I wouldn’t say it’s an issue.
Fir Neon - A bit thinner of a sound. The vocals are a bit more forward. The treble is brighter and gives more sense of clarity. Also, the plucks of the guitar are faster and more metallic sounding. I like both IEMs with this track for different reasons.

Alison Krause - It Doesn’t Matter
Evo - The wide stage gives track a nice sense of space where you feel it’s live and you’re right there. Again, the vocals feel slightly recessed but I never feel like I’m missing anything.
Fir Neon - Nice clarity but a narrower stage when compared to the Evo. Again, the Neon has a colder more digital feel to the more mellow and warmer Evo.

Eric Clapton - Old Love Unplugged
Evo - Smooth and pleasing sound. Nothing is harsh. I think I'd like a little more shimmer on the treble on this track. It still sound great over all but I think a touch more treble energy would help with the attack on the guitar notes. Again, it’s super smooth and easy to listen to.
Fir Neon - The extra treble on the Fir helps with this track. The guitar is more aggressive and the high hat cymbals are more noticeable.

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Low Level Listening

This is something that I don’t see too many people talk about. I think one major advantage of Evo is that it does not lose a lot of it’s dynamics at lower volumes. I just just want to keep these on all day at a safe volume, these are a great IEM. The Fir needs a bit more volume to get those dynamics.


Conclusion

For my preferences, the Evo is probably the best overall IEM I’ve used. If you don’t have the budget to have multiple headphones or IEMs, the Evo is a great pick in my opinion. I’ve was a bit critical of the lack of treble in some tracks but the reality is that it makes these so good to listen to for longer periods of time. Despite the softer treble, I really don’t feel like I’m missing too much air or clarity on most tracks. These are fantastic for so many genres especially electronic and classic rock. They are forgiving to poorly recorded track and awesome at lower listening levels.

Great job Jack and the rest of the Empire Ears team!! You have stuffed a ton of technology into a small package and it is amazing how well these elements come together to give a superb and coherent sound signature.
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