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Empire Ears Legend X

Rating:
5/5,
  1. yong_shun
    Legend Reborn
    Written by yong_shun
    Published Dec 27, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Fascinating Sounstage
    Good Quality Stock Cable
    Lush and Sturdy Sound
    Subwoofer Quality of Lows
    Cons - Price could be slightly lower
    Big housing for universal
    Disclaimer

    I bought this IEM with full retail price. This is not a sponsored review.


    Introduction
    A week ago, I posted a review on Empire Ears Professional (EP) Series top of the line – Phantom. Thank you Head-Fi and fellow Head-Fiers for the all the support although I am still a relatively new review provider. Phantom is an all-rounder, but the Legend X perform beyond an all-rounder, close to perfect. Being the top of the line of X series, Legend X caters the needs of the audiophile community. I will explain this further in the latter part of this review.

    “At long last the Legend has returned to the throne to push the limits of in-ear monitor performance to its highest point ever. Experience a world-class prestige IEM and a new era of uncompromising design and performance. From its arsenal of 7 proprietary drivers (including twin sequential W9 subwoofers) to its industry leading, state-of-the-art 10-way synX crossover network, the Legend X is the culmination of everything extraordinary we do at Empire.” Empire Ears on Legend X.

    From EarWerkz Legend R and Legend Omega, Empire Ears had put in lots of effort addressing the greatest challenge yet - incorporating the low-reaching, impactful bass of the W9 subwoofers, with technical performance rivaling any in-ear monitor on the market. By presenting the Legend X to the market, Empire Ears proudly proclaim that the challenge was overcome. By offering top-tier levels of transparency and separation, as well as one of the widest sound stages in the industry, Empire Ears X Series flagship has earned its position at the top of the line-up: Legend X, a Legend is reborn.

    Technical Specifications
    • 7 Proprietary Drivers, Hybrid Design
    • 2 W9 Subwoofers, 2 Mid, 1 Mid-High, 1 High, 1 Super High
    • 10-Way synX Crossover System
    • A.R.C. Resonance Mitigation Technology
    • Impedance: 14 ohms @ 1kHz
    • Frequency Response: 5 Hz - 40kHz
    • Sensitivity: 102dB @ 1kHz, 1mW
    • 26AWG UPOCC Litz Copper Cable, Handcrafted by Effect Audio
    Tech Specs.JPG

    Packaging
    • In Ear Monitor
    • Empire Aegis Case
    • Empire Dust Bag
    • Empire IEM Pouch
    • Empire Cleaning Cloth
    • Empire Cleaning Tool
    Packaging.JPG

    Technologies
    Empire Ears embedded a few technologies in the creation of Legend X. The technologies such as synX Crossover Network and A.R.C Resonance Mitigation Technology are explained in detailed on Empire Ears websites. For those who are interested can browse and read through.
    https://empireears.com/products/legend-x-custom-in-ear-monitor

    Technologies.JPG

    Fitting
    I chose Universal with 3.5mm terminated when I order this IEM. The shell is Piano Black with Empire Ears Logo on it – shiny and nicely done. I love the colour matching. The shell could potentially be huge for those who have relatively smaller ears. I would recommend them to opt for Custom fit for the best result.

    OI001213.jpg OI001214.jpg OI001215.jpg

    Reviewing Gear
    I used my Effect Audio Ares II in 2.5mm balanced terminated as the cable. I used Sony NW-WM1Z (without any modification) and iBasso CA01 adaptor to run this IEM on balanced output.

    Test Track
    • Hotel California (FLAC 192kHz/24Bit) - 70 on low gain
    • Billie Jean (FLAC 96kHz/24Bit) – 60 on low gain
    • Payphone (FLAC 44.1kHz/16Bit) – 60 on low gain
    • Better Than Revenge (FLAC 44.1kHz/16Bit) – 63 on low gain
    • 入阵曲 (PCM 44.1Hz/16Bit) – 63 on low gain
    • Send My Love (FLAC 44.1kHz/16Bit) – 63 on low gain
    • Perfect (FLAC 44.1kHz/24Bit) – 63 on low gain

    Sound
    The first impression I have towards Legend X is the unbelievably wide sound stage. This could be the widest sound stage an IEM can possess. It is a breakthrough and thank you for all the hard work from Empire Ears to make this happens. The wide sound stage makes separation and imaging even better. This IEM sounds extremely spacious. Generally, Legend X sounds very sturdy – solid, powerful and robust. All-rounder could potentially be the best adjective to describe the performance of this IEM. The sound signature I would describe as lush – warmth and fullness. Notes are more authoritative and have a sense of life about them.

    Lows
    I would describe the lows of this IEM as seismic and weighty – you feel it more than hear it. Only IEMs can have this quality of lows. The lows remind me of subwoofer in car audio system where you put the subwoofer at the back of the car. The kick comes in without bleeding towards other frequency spectrum. After nearly 2 years of relentless R&D Empire is proud to announce the Weapon IX (W9), a proprietary 9mm rare-earth magnet subwoofer with the ability to deliver extreme output, accurate dynamics and sublime sound quality all at the same time. The keys to these performance capabilities lie at the very core of its design, where the woofer is enclosed in a tuned bass-reflex system with a front-firing sound port and rear-firing vent for maximum efficiency. It is very fascinating that having a significant size of subwoofer (9mm) that create seismic and weighty lows without trading off the details and clarity of the frequency spectrum. Amazing. The attack and decays of the lows are fast for this IEM with full of energy.

    Mids
    Immature listeners might find the mids being recessed. This comment might be a little unfair towards this Legend because it is merely the lows are taking the front and centre stage. By using more precise term to describe, the mids are actually nicely done if we were to analyse it alone. The vocal and mids instruments are full, smooth and sweet – for both male and female vocalists. Adam Leveine and 阿信 sounds full of soul while the lows are kicking in energetically at the back. The layering has been done perfectly by Empire Ears. Adele and Taylor Swift – 2 of my favourite female singers sound silly smooth, sweet and breathy. The presentation of vocals is flawless and rich in body – naturalness, realism. It is not analytical or clinical at all.

    Highs
    Cymbals is crisp without piercing the eardrums. Not much of sizzly or sibilant high in this IEM. I can easily listen to this IEM for hours. This is very important because fatigue-causing highs will kill the entire IEM. The presentation is very open, airy, spacious at the highs. Sufficient amount of air is injected for Billie Jean. It sounds breathy. Good spacing created good imaging which prevent congestion – very accurate and precise performance. It rises steadily then extends well before it decays smoothly. The smooth decays or roll-offs prevented unwanted distortion – making the highs as sweet as candy. Well done Empire Ears!

    Cable Rolling
    Lionheart by Effect Audio
    • 26 AWG
    • EA propriety customised 7 bundle litz hybrid proportional mix
    • Silver plated copper and Gold-plated copper hybrid
    • EA UltraFlexi insulation
    The emphasis at the lows is reduced and shifted to mids and highs. The lows now are taking only the front stage and mids have been elevated to the center stage. Listening to the vocals, they are now richer and fuller. The lows are still having sufficient amount of emphasis and weight. The IEM is now more balance and transparent as compared to Ares II.

    Horus by Effect Audio
    • 26 AWG
    • Propriety multi-size stranded design
    • Ultra-high strands count
    • Ultra-purity OCC Gold plated silver
    • EA ferrite guard technology
    • EA Ultraflexi insulation
    This could be the perfect matching for Legend X except for the price of the cable (It costs about 2000SGD). The presentation is now even more spacious and transparent. The kicking at the lows are even faster and more controlled. I will describe this cable to tame the beast and making it performing better at its region. As compared to lionheart, this would be a more balanced performance matching – highs are breathy and the mids are sweet. Flawless!

    Source Matching
    20181226_130645.jpg

    SP1000 Stainless Steel
    I am using the balanced output of this DAP. This could be one of the cleanest sounding pairing. Very pronounce lows – weighty and seismic. The soundstage is mind-blowing, even wider than WM1Z. The separation is astonishing with the aid of widening of soundstage. Overall presentation is balance with slight emphasis on highs – brighter than WM1Z pairing.

    Chord Mojo (Opus #3 Optical Output)
    Good extension at the lows and highs. The overall presentation is warmer and richer now. This is a more musical pairing. I find the details are slightly compromised for the sake of musicality.

    Chord Hugo 2 (Opus #3 Optical Output)
    The sound signature is close to Chord Mojo pairing – warm and smooth but with better separation. The sound stage is wider in this pairing as compared to Mojo. I would classify this pairing as fun and musical too, but it does present the details and clarity well. Very clean and breathy vocals with fast attack and decay of lows. However, it is not as seismic as NW-WM1Z – a little superficial.

    Comparison
    Campfire Audio Solaris
    The soundstage and amount of air in Legend X is definitely a great selling point over Solaris. Solaris does present the fullness and richness. However, due to the slightly narrower soundstage, it could sound a little congested, but this is very source dependent. I did manage to find some pairing that can make Solaris wider in term of soundstage. Close fight here!
    OI001216.jpg

    Jomo Trinity
    Trinity emphasis more on transparency. Yes, Jomo did it very well on their Trinity. It is like a piece of glass that you can see through every note. This reminded me of HD600. However, Legend X is bringing the whole stage performance to the listener. Very different experience and this is very subjective. I would opt for Legend X because I do need some musicality in daily listening.
    20181226_130859.jpg

    Empire Ears Phantom
    Phantom has slightly narrower soundstage as compared to Legend X. The performance at the lows is a clear win for Legend X – Cleaner and leaner. I find the lows of Phantom are a little tubby in some of the track. It could definitely be mitigated through series of cable rolling.

    Sony M9
    This is a cold and dark IEM (for me). I would prefer some musicality and sense of life when listening to music. Sony M9 can be a very good reference IEM but for daily listening I will opt for Legend X.
    OI001219.jpg

    Campfire Audio Andromeda S
    Another tough choice. I am huge fan of Campfire Audio especially Andromeda. The limited Andromeda S is warmer as compared to Andromeda. The lows of Andromeda are definitely leaner as compared to Legend X but in term of energy and weight Legend X will have my vote. The mids are equally good but one is at the front stage while the other is at the center of the stage. The highs of Andromeda S are soaring, and some people do find it a little fatigue causing. Legend X highs are more like a tamed beast. Close fight!
    OI001218.jpg

    Verdict
    With years of research and development, I really appreciate how Empire Ears present the new Legend, Legend X to the community. It is an all-rounder in term of performance. Looking forward for more surprises from Empire Ears. It is definitely worth waiting.
  2. PinkyPowers
    Weapons of Power and Myth
    Written by PinkyPowers
    Published May 21, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - God's Bass. Great clarity. Lush, smooth, and dynamic sound. Awesome cable.
    Cons - Price.
    LX 02.jpg

    ~::I originally published this on THL. Now I wish to share it with my Head-Fi fellows::~

    :: Disclaimer ::
    Empire Ears provided the Legend X for a discounted price, for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill.

    Legend X sells for $2,299
    www.EmpireEars.com

    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The first EE product I heard was my Spartan Custom. Since then, I’ve also heard Zeus XR, and you know, it’s just impossible not to love these in-ears. They are phenomenally tuned, with state of the art tech and crossovers. The result is a sonic delight. I’ll not be content until I hear everything Jack and his team come up with.

    I knew Jack was working on something new back when I turned in my design for Spartan’s shells. I understood it would replace a large portion of the old line-up. As is the way with these sorts of things, R&D lasted much longer than he anticipated, and the project evolved into something far grander.

    Two entirely new lines of IEMs emerged:

    The Empire Professional Series (EP), with EVR, ESR, and Phantom.

    And the Empire X Series, representing the company’s foray into Dynamic Driver hybrids, with Bravado, Vantage, Nemesis, and Legend X.

    Of course, before any of that, there were just two prototypes showing up at shows here and there. One was an all Balanced Armature design, and the other, a Hybrid. Jack knew my lust for bass, and had me slated for the hybrid. There was even talk, way back in August, of me helping with the R&D/tuning. Sadly, that fell apart before it began. Empire Ears was besieged by the workload. So I waited… like everyone else.

    Then Nic (Flinkenick) laid out the whole grand plan, giving a breakdown of each IEM in the line-up. Turns out, the hybrid I was slated for became a mid-range item, and a new flagship sprung into existence during the preceding months. Nic talked me into upgrading my order for the flagship, swearing it would not disappoint. So I sent my designs, which he passed on to Jack.

    The grueling wait began. A wait which seemed much longer due to my early knowledge of EE’s development. In reality, after the order went through, it was only a few weeks. But **** reality! Pinky had been starved for months and months, feeding vicariously off the morsels Nic let fall during his time with the prototypes.

    Finally, at long last, this happened:

    Unboxing 01.jpg
    Unboxing 02.jpg
    Unboxing 03.jpg
    Unboxing 04.jpg
    The Empire Ears Legend X is a 7-driver hybrid. That’s right. A flagship with less than 10 drivers! ****, we’re talking half the drivers of their last flagship. What is the industry coming to?! Well, I’ve spoken with a number of the major companies innovating today, and most express dissatisfaction with the Driver War they’ve found themselves fighting these last few years. Even those who’ve done well in the fight understand the futility of it. They’ve begun looking for ways to deliver more for less.

    EE, for example, has achieved true greatness with its 7 drivers. 5 Balanced Armatures: 2x for Mids, 2x for Highs, and 1x for Super High. And a bad mother******* twin dynamic driver setup for bass response called Weapon IX (W9). To complicate things further, LX utilizes a 10-way crossover system called SynX. Just how 7 drivers can have a 10-way crossover is beyond me. I’ve heard it explained, how each driver can have more than one crossover, and I still can’t quite grasp the logistics.

    Needless to say, Legend X is an elaborate sonofabitch.

    Empire’s build quality is top shelf all the way. I’ve had my hands on three of their IEMs now, and always feel impressed by the immaculate craftsmanship. Though I must say, they’ve outdone themselves here. My LX is gorgeous! Even lovelier than the version I built with the IEM Maker on their website.

    Fit took some getting used to. Empire used the same molds which produced my perfect-fitting Spartan CIEM, so I was confused when Legend X didn’t seat in the same fashion. LX is bigger, to accommodate more internals, but I figured it should fit more or less the same. Eventually I figured out how this particular Custom wanted to be inserted. I guess it’s different for every IEM. Since then, I’ve enjoyed perfect seal and wondrous comfort.

    The new X and EP Series come equipped with the Effect Audio Ares II cable. A particularly liquid, clean, and robust OCC Copper Litz, which serves as a fine upgrade over any ordinary stock offering.

    The Empire Ears Legend X is a superbly balanced, slightly warm piece, with lots of air, and a richness to end all others. For my tastes, this is the single best all-arounder. In that it does everything exceptionally well, but almost nothing at the very top level. Which means, it sounds amazing with all sorts of music, but there are IEMs which do specific things better. Yet nothing I’ve heard so far covers as many aspects as well as LX.

    A carefully crafted U-shape gives Legend X a fun, live rock concert tuning. The bass dominates, the highs shine and twinkle, and the mids sit back a step on the stage. It’s full and powerful, yet surprisingly clear and detailed. A wealth of harmonic overtones fill out the music, giving life and body to the notes as they decay naturally.

    Treble is beautiful. It’s one of my favorites I’ve heard to date. It extends so very far, has a hint of warmth about it, and possesses a rich, honey-like sweetness. There is a smooth, organic quality, though a decent amount of sparkle does add a little exaggeration.

    LX’s highs use a linear path, with perhaps a gentle bump in the lower treble, for articulation. It’s emphasized just enough to ring with magic, but doesn’t come off bright or in any way harsh. Neither is it thin or cold. Indeed, it has thickness, and wholesome density. The treble ushers in plenty of light to avoid congestion or murk. You can really hear how clean and organized the stage is, and perceive a solid blackness behind the instruments. It does just enough, and no more. Empire exercised remarkable control here. The treble is special and delightful and never overstays its welcome.

    In spite of being what the kids call “recessed”, Legend X’s vocals play a huge role in making this IEM so exceptional. They are full and weighty, warm, with a touch of lushness about them. But only a touch. For they are not woolly. Detail and enunciation are at a very high level. The artist comes through clear enough, but not in a lonesome way. Meaning, the voice is accompanied by the warmth of the music, particularly the bass, and does not feel isolated or separate. You don’t get the studio experience, where every element exists on its own track. No, you get the LIVE experience, where the music hits you like a wave; a single body of water.

    LX & DX200 03.jpg
    Voices and mid-range instruments have moderate size and great note weight. They are spaced out with ample room to breathe. Richness and articulation walk hand-in-hand. So much depth and musicality complements a sharply defined image, with a tremendous sense of energy. Savage crunch imbues electric guitars, and realistic twang completes the acoustic presence. All of which is rendered in vibrant definition, where you can clearly mark the shape and boundaries of the instruments.

    Legend X’s Weapon IX subwoofers put out teeth-rattling bass. Now, does that mean there’s too much bass? Not to me. Hell, in terms of quantity, I’ve heard more. But don’t get me wrong, LX is not neutral. Its low-end is carefully emphasized. You must be careful, because these drivers can kill a moose. Empire paid close regard to balance here. Show off the twin DDs, but rein them in before someone loses an eye.

    They strike like a ballpeen hammer, and decay at decent speed… for a DD. Sophisticated detailing and deep layers provide the texture, while angry rumble gives voice to Empire’s hellish tech. Sub-bass bellows loudest, with mid-bass a tad quieter. This results in tighter low-end and less bloom. However, this control is not absolute. A reckless grandiosity allows for a pleasant degree of blossom. It bleeds into the vocals the perfect amount for lush timbre, but never so much as to cloud matters.

    Soundstage is very wide indeed. Among the best I’ve personally heard. It seems to stretch passed the confines of the skull with ease. Depth is also superior to most TOTLs out there, creating glorious immersion as you fall through the layers. Height is about average. Nothing to get excited over. It’s sufficient to make the stage feel natural, which helps you get lost in it, but the stage is far from cubical. LX does a fantastic job at imaging, rendering with accuracy every possible position. This solidifies the coherency of the presentation. You feel confident in the recreation, utterly buying into it. Legend X portrays a highly resolving, sharp picture, well deserving of its status as a flagship for the likes of Empire Ears. It’s surprisingly precise, given how smooth and musical LX is. Another boon of the skillful balancing act, I suppose. Separation is also aided by this, for you can cleanly spot every element all across the stage, including ones layered depth-wise. It’s an impressive achievement, and awesome to behold.

    LX 03.jpg
    Comparing two flagship hybrids from two of the top companies is just too irresistible. The 64Audio tia Fourté ($3,599, Review HERE) is just as unusual an innovation as Legend X. Fourté uses three types of driver technologies. BA, DD, and tia. LX uses, BA, W9 subwoofers, and SynX crossovers… and let’s not forget A.R.C damping. They both deserve their status as cutting edge TOTL products.

    The first thing you notice when switching from LX to Fourté is a massive increase in clarity and air. The roof opens up, and you are suddenly in a sky-lit sports arena. Soundstage is a little wider, but much taller. Depth is about the same, being one of LX’s great strengths.

    LX & DX200 01.jpg
    It is obvious you are hearing more treble. Not just in dBs, for there is a slight increase there, but in extension. It goes on forever, creating so much light and air it feels like the parting of rainclouds. However, the highs are thinner and less sweet. More ethereal and less harmonic. Fourté manages all this treble in a smooth, non-fatiguing manner. On the plus side, everything comes off more transparent and clear. On the negative, you lose warmth and musicality.

    Fourté’s vocals are larger and closer to you, seeming freer and unbridled. Hell, all the instruments are larger, on a stage that is grander. They sound more vivid and detail-oriented. I’m not of the opinion Fourté is especially thin, when taken on its own. Some IEMs sound thin no matter how long you listen to them. Fourté is balanced in such a way that it actually sounds rather natural… until you compare it to something like Legend X. LX is fulsome of body, with greater note weight. Its warmth and power makes Fourté seem a little lackluster. But only when making direct comparisons. A few minutes of listening, and Fourté shines again. It’s all relative, as both are tuned expertly for their desired purpose.

    You might think, given the dynamic drivers both Fourté and LX use, that bass might be the great equalizer of these two IEMs. Not so. Their lows are so very different. Starting with quantity: LX has more across the whole spectrum. Its sub-bass strikes with even greater visceral impact. Mid-bass, also, has heavier presence. In comparison, Fourté sounds cleaner and tighter. Far more controlled. LX is like a demonic sex gimp: absolutely frothing with NEED and pent-up energy. Fourté’s low-end tends to stay in its place, adding very little color to the rest of the presentation. While LX adds weight and warmth and overtones to everything, mids and treble alike. Although Fourté exhibits that naturalistic DD tone and physicality, LX outdoes it in all ways, showcasing superior texturing and detail. Not to mention that guttural rumble. For my tastes, there is no question; Legend X is Lord of the Bass Region.

    LX 06.jpg
    tia Fourté shows its prowess in other areas, of course. I’ve yet to hear another IEM match it in resolution, micro-detailing, separation, or holographic dimensionality. Legend X competes admirably, especially in dimensionality and resolution, but there is no denying the winner here.

    Choosing a favorite is less about quality and more about signature preference. Both tia Fourté and Legend X do their thing like no other. That said, I have found myself utterly enamored with LX, to the extent I must admit it’s become my new favorite. I lose a little of that technical expertise, but not enough to make me feel guilty for siding with the sheer, mad musicality of Empire’s beast.

    Unfortunately, I’m short on TOTL IEMs to which to compare LX. I wanted to write about the FIBAE ME by Custom Art, but that is currently back in Poland for a refit. I could do Noble Audio Kaiser Encore, but tia Fourté is basically Encore Ultra, so I’d be repeating myself there.

    So why not make an Empire Ears comparison, with the Spartan IV CIEM ($749, Review HERE)?

    Spartan is neutral with a capital N! Everything is in harmony, resulting in a linear, smooth signature, which excels at clarity and air.

    Treble is well extended, and a touch brighter than Legend X. Yet bright is not the defining character here. I’ve always celebrated Spartan’s liquid, natural highs. They reveal well, but are not sharp or harsh. They are a little thinner than LX, and less syrupy.

    Vocals don’t have anywhere near the same weight and density of LX. They have less body and warmth and sit more neutral on the stage. Note size is about the same, though. They come off a little less energetic and more relaxed. While they are quite articulate, they have a ways to go before Spartan catches Legend X’s mid-range.

    LX 05.jpg
    Bass is properly neutral. Meaning it is not lacking, but it’s also not trying to draw your attention. For BAs, it has great extension, achieving good lower-bass, and a natural upper-bass hump for realistic tonality. Needless to say, LX’s Weapon IX woofers destroy Spartan. There is simply no comparison. Spartan is like a kitten trying to play with a lion. Extension, texture, timbre, presence… LX is infinitely superior.

    Spartan also falls short in soundstage. Only in height does it seem to match LX. Imaging is more or less perfect. But separation, resolution, layering, etc… LX dominates in a big way.

    I feel I need one more comparison. And I have one which actually provides a lot of the very same things I love in Legend X. The IMR Acoustics R1 (around $700, Review HERE) is a powerhouse in bass, with remarkable clarity, soundstage, and resolution.

    Treble is tunable, but always thinner and brighter than LX. It has amazing extension, which lets in more air and light. But it doesn’t have LX’s rich treble timbre. Lots of detail comes through, nearly as much as LX. Where the R1 loses the most ground is with the coldness which permeates these highs. LX is warmer and sweeter.

    Vocals possess brilliant transparency. They manage great separation from the other instruments, helping the perception of layering. LX’s vocals feel much more part of the music, making for a greater sense of cohesion. R1 renders detail and texture with skill, but the mids lack body and a sense of energy. LX has gobs of body and energy.

    Bass is R1’s greatest strength. It’s nearly Legend’s equal. In fact, before I heard LX, the R1 jumped to the top of my list of most impressive IEM bass. It’s so full and dynamic. Detail and resolution are out of this world. Extension is fathomless. And you can tune it with filters to just about any quantity, including one that is quite a bit heavier than LX delivers. To be honest, I can’t even say with 100% certainty that LX has better quality lows. I think I like better, but on merely a technical level, R1 is so amazing, it may be Empire’s equal.

    R1 does beat LX in soundstage. Dynamic drivers have to really **** up to fall behind Balanced Armature in this arena. It’s probably the tubes that do it. DDs are so much more open and natural-sounding. R1 is wider, and insanely taller. Depth, however, is more or less the same between these two. Resolution goes to LX, but not by much. R1 is outstanding. Separation… probably R1’s win. Despite the profound difference in price, IMR Acoustics has created a frightfully vicious competitor.

    LX 01.jpg
    Thanks to the adroit tuning Legend X sports, you shan’t easily find a bad source with which to pair this IEM. LX is neither overly warm nor overly bright, and therefore a source is unlikely to push it too far in either direction. Furthermore, it is already endowed with phenomenal bass, and equally phenomenal resolution. So your source doesn’t need to help it where it’s weak. As I said early on, Legend X has no weaknesses; it’s the strongest all-arounder I’ve come upon.

    So? ****ing don’t worry about tuning. Just feed these buggers the best juice you can, and bask in the moisture-inducing audio.

    LX & DX200 02.jpg
    To that end, I use the DX200 with AMP4 module by iBasso ($899 + $199, Review HERE). It’s my current reference player. Unreasonable levels of detail, and raw, resolving power. The enormous soundstage is intensely real in depth and spatial reproduction. Transparency is off the charts. Simply put, it’s the best I own. And Legend X deserves the best. It scales like a champ and will thank you for every ounce of performance you can muster. For an IEM which does everything well, a DAP with these sorts of abilities makes a truly magical pairing.

    My previous reference DAP, the Opus#2 ($999, Review HERE) is nearly as fulfilling for LX. It has the peculiar trait of being unrelentingly natural of tone. It just sounds true. Note weight, dynamics, bass, mids, and treble… all feels absolutely correct. And real. The soundstage is quite large, in the most effortless way possible. Detailing and resolution are among the best you’ll ever find, yet it conveys its virtues humbly, without conceit. This makes for a lovely counterpoint to LX, who is rife with ego and showmanship. Opus gives these IEMs a grounded platform upon which Legend X can dazzle and confound.

    LX & Opus2 01.jpg
    LX & N5ii 01.jpg
    The Cayin N5ii ($369, Review HERE) is perhaps the greatest bang for your buck player out today. It’s feature-rich and sounds tremendous. Performance-wise, it is not far off from the TOTL DAPs I’ve mentioned. Soundstage is huge, and it renders dimensionality better than most. It is so good, in fact, when I connect Legend X, I sense no mediocrity or lack. Cayin sounds refined, and complete, and so does Legend X.

    How about a warmer, thicker sound, with a crap-ton of features, excellent build, and proper mid-tier price and performance? The iBasso DX150 ($499) fits that bill to a T. It takes the fun musicality of Legend X and adds mescaline. This setup is wild. Smooth and robust, rich, and dripping with gooey goodness. Might be too warm, or lacking detail for some. But if you desire less of a reference player and more of a rockbox, this is my recommendation.

    LX & DX150 01.jpg
    Cables. Cables? Cables! What’s to be said about them? Well, finding the right cable is less about spending the most, and more about spending the wisest. Depending on what you want to do to the monitor—and all cables do something—you may get away with a fairly simple copper, and still achieve an upgrade.

    However, that’s not likely to occur in this case, because LX already ships with a truly wonderful cable which would amount to a noteworthy upgrade in any normal situation. If you want better than Ares II, get out your ****ing wallet!

    Effect Audio Thor Silver II Bespoke 8-Wire: Right now, of the cables I have on-hand, this is my favorite with LX. And it just came in yesterday! It unchains the beast in terms of power, dynamics, and bass impact, widens the soundstage, blackens the background, and increases clarity. All this without brightening the highs, so it remains silky to the very end. But oh my, treble is given extra headroom. The extension and air is fabulous.

    plusSound Exo Tri-Copper: This was my favorite until last night. Tri-Copper beefs up all of Legend X’s most incorrigible habits. Sub-bass and mid-bass get boosted, vocals thicken, treble warms, and the whole tone gains weight and aggression. It’s a joyous experience, but not especially refined.

    Effect Audio Leonidas: Now this is refined. So mature, and well-mannered. Leo brings a thoroughly controlled, liquid quality, where clarity and transparency are at an all-time high and dimensionality expands to new territories. Treble is extended, and air is increased. But honestly, I think Thor II 8-wire may have it beat even in this.

    Effect Audio Thor II 4-Wire: If you want the Leonidas sound, but for half the price, Thor II gets you most of the way there. It is liquid-y. It is refined. Clear as a bell, with tight, controlled lows. Treble is better extended than Ares II, but not quite as free and airy as Leo, and certainly not on the level of 8-Wire Thor. Yet both 4 and 8-wire share that unique treble warmth which defies tradition for silver cables.

    This was an easy review to write. The Empire Ears Legend X, slowly, over the course of the last month, grew in my heart until it usurped tia Fourté as my new favorite earphone. I’ve always known my tastes lean towards the warm and musical, but Fourté won the crown by wielding unparalleled technical might. It took the dark sorcery of Legend X to bring me home. I needed the world-class clarity, detail, and resolution, but I so desperately hungered for earth-shattering bass, lush tonality, and sweet, honeyed highs. Legend X is the complete package. How could it not take the throne?

    The King is dead! Long live the King!

    -~::Pinky_Powers::~-


    LX 04.jpg
  3. Barra
    The King of Dynamics, EDM, and More
    Written by Barra
    Published Apr 3, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Best Hybrid CIEM, Dual dynamic subwoofers, Zeus quality detail and sound stage
    Cons - There is a bit of burn in time required to get full SQ.
    Empire Ears is a custom in-ear boutique powerhouse that cannot seem to do anything wrong. Having listened through Jack’s lineup on multiple occasions, I always leave feeling that his team has raised the bar yet again. The short of it is that EE has a vast array of flagship level IEMs at all price levels and signatures with three at the very top including: the Zeus, the Phantom, and of course the subject of this review – the Legend X. While they are all classically top tier audiophile, they cover the signature range from the Zeus which is the most balanced and delicate bringing out every last ounce of detail; to thicker dynamic fun being the X which to me is the Zeus with dual dynamic subwoofers offering a fun high-end subwoofer approach to audiophile; with the Phantom right in the middle which I see as the Zeus with thickened notes and a stepped-up BA bass response. To be fair, there are several versions of the Zeus with slightly different signatures/tunings, but there is a general Zeus appeal to them all that keeps them in the family. The Phantom and the Legend X however – while obviously based on the Zeus signature – feel like they stepped out a little further than the Zeus variants in terms of the thickened note.

    My Search
    For those that don’t know me, I have hosted a large number of HeadFi audio gear tours, most being high-end CIEM lineups. What got me started was some hysterical claims of high quality on the go sound that I had to hear for myself, but had no way to do so. Having reached out to a few manufacturers, I have begun hosting tours to get the opportunity to hear them for myself, as well as to pass the opportunity on to other HeadFi members to share in the experience and discussion. Over the last number of years, I have come to several determinations:
    1. Overall High-Quality Sound: The quality has skyrocketed over the last 5 years to a point where there are rarely any CIEMs that I can claim not to like. It has become more a judgment on the signature mix in accordance to what I like.
    2. Room for Multiple CIEMs: While I have favorites in each signature style and even for particular genres, I listen to a wide range of music and have moods that change in the day from wanting to hear something tuned for fun vs. tuned for inking out every last ounce of detail. Therefore, I have a collection of several and enjoy them all. Even better, I rotate them to change up my sound when I feel like something new.
    3. Pairing/Source Matters: The final point that I feel is extremely important is that pairing matters. Yes, the cable matters a lot in some cases and that pairing depends on the pairing of the DAP as well as the genre or quality of the recording. There are some CIEMs that are highly sensitive to the impedance and some that are not, others have thicker signatures that need cables or sources that help clear up the sound. So for each CIEM, I have a favorite cable and a favorite source as well as a favorite genre to listen.
    The Best of the Best
    This brings me back to our discussion on the Legend X which I consider to be at the rarified level of being one of the best of the best. The particular use case that I had in mind for the X was the fun category given the dual dynamic subwoofers, but it has proven to be so much more. Given its Zeus DNA, the X drives tons of detail that were completely unexpected given the subwoofer configuration. It also offers high-value production at low volumes thanks to the subwoofer configuration as well. My biggest complaint with CIEMs is that I have to turn up the volume too high for comfortable listening on many to get optimal sound. Optimal sound to me is scaling the output to sound like I am in the same room as the band and they were standing in front of me at full size. This discomfort forces me to listen to many CIEMs at too low of a volume to get that effect which in effect forces me into the nose bleed section for listening. I have sat in the front row of many performances without fatigue at venues done right. The Legend X gives me this experience and even allows me to listen at lower volumes with great detail when listening in bed.

    What I was searching for and not finding was an in-ear experience like my home speaker setup which the Legend X finally offers. My home speakers consist of Magneplanars with dual 12-inch high-end subwoofers converting the low-frequency range. They are crossed at 70 hertz so the subs do not fire until the lowest frequencies are called upon. This gives me great clarity in sound, but a lot of weight and girth in the note. The subwoofers dig down to 15 hertz allow me to feel the sound even when I cannot hear it – just like in real life. Somehow Jack’s team has recreated this experience in my ear and on the go. The beauty of this speaker system is that it can play well at low volume or at high volume – same with the X. When exercising in noisy environments, the extra bass response allows me to continue to enjoy the sound quality. When listening in bed, it allows me to turn down the volume without losing the quality.

    While I have a CIEM collection with a few others sitting at the best of the best levels for their particular achievements, the Legend X is the most versatile and is currently my most used CIEM for all the reason mentioned above. Let’s take a deeper dive into Empire Ear’s remarkable achievement.

    Legend X Configuration
    The Legend X is a hybrid CIEM with 7 BAs and 2 dynamic subwoofers for a total of 9 drivers. What really excited me though was the 10-way crossover which is unique in the industry. I guess you can say that I am a crossover junky having started my journey with the Hidition NT6pro which I contributed its 5-way crossover to its success. The X is priced starting at $2,299 depending on your final custom options. Here is how Empire Ears describes the configuration:

    At long last, the Legend has returned to the throne to push the limits of in-ear monitor performance to its highest point ever. Experience a world-class prestige IEM and a new era of uncompromising design and performance. From its arsenal of 7 proprietary drivers (including twin sequential W9 subwoofers) to its industry-leading, state-of-the-art 10-way synX crossover network, the Legend X is the culmination of everything extraordinary we do at Empire.

    The goal of the designer in producing the Legend X signature is described on their site as this:

    “While neutral in tone and a balanced signature throughout, an addictive treble energizes the music, while simultaneously remaining smooth. But our greatest challenge yet was incorporating the low-reaching, impactful bass of the W9 subwoofers, with technical performance rivaling any in-ear monitor on the market; a challenge we can proudly proclaim we have overcome. Offering top-tier levels of transparency and separation, as well as one of the widest sound stages in the industry, our flagship has earned its position at the top of the lineup: a Legend is reborn.”

    After listening to Legend X, I can confirm that the designer has reached and surpassed his goals. I am even more convinced that the unique crossover setup has offered the speaker like setup utilizing the subwoofers that I was looking for.

    Technical Specifications
    So I don’t leave out the details, here are the technical specifications as provided by Empire Ears.

    upload_2019-4-3_17-43-19.png
    • 7 Proprietary Drivers, Hybrid Design
    • 2 W9 Subwoofers, 2 Mid, 1 Mid-High, 1 High, 1 Super High
    • 10-Way synX Crossover System
    • A.R.C. Resonance Mitigation Technology
    • Impedance: 14 ohms @ 1kHz
    • Frequency Response: 5 Hz - 40kHz
    • Sensitivity: 102dB @ 1kHz, 1mW
    • 26AWG UPOCC Litz Copper Cable, Handcrafted by Effect Audio
    Of note here is a very low impedance which some claim can be prone to noise. I may not be the best to ask due to my old man hearing and a lowered ability to hear high pitch sounds, but I cannot hear any noise from any of my setups. Another point of note is that the sensitivity is claimed down to 5 hertz which I have no way to test, but I do get the same sensations as my full sized speaker system where I can feel the sound even when I cannot hear it. And a final note, the W9 subwoofer is dedicated the subwoofer range with each equivalent in size to many of the full range dynamic CIEMs drivers. This means that there is a lot of real estate driving that dynamic sound.

    The making of the King
    As expected with a premium manufacturer, Empire Ears has a premium builder that we have come to expect. And yes, there are lots of premium and limited choices as well as custom artwork that allows you to make your one of a kind masterpiece. If you want to try it out for yourself, please go here: https://empireears.com/products/product-designer?model=Legend X. It cost nothing to play with the builder, just have fun and see what you can do.

    upload_2019-4-3_17-43-47.png

    For those of you in the US, you will really appreciate the buying experience, no shipping nightmares with impressions or receiving your gear through foreign customs. You can even call EE and discuss ideas or concerns over the phone in your own time zone and language. Delivery is estimated at 5 weeks, but for an additional $300 rush fee you can get it in 10 days. I placed my order and a few weeks later, here it is.

    upload_2019-4-3_17-44-12.png

    upload_2019-4-3_17-44-28.png

    To share the experience of receiving your Empire Ears Legend X, I decided to make an unboxing video for you….. enjoy.



    The thing that stands out most when ordering Empire Ears products is that you get a cable that you can be proud of and actually use. This is a real departure from the standard throw away cables that we have gotten in the past. This is a high-quality copper cable handcrafted by Effect Audio, a well-known quality manufacturer. That means you can hear the X in all its glory on the receipt with no need to change the cable.

    The kit itself is reasonably high quality as you would expect from a high-end manufacturer for a product at this price level. There are a number of expected accessories and a high-quality case. While I love the case and its quality, I typically get something different that is more portable for the gym or other outings.

    The build quality of my CIEMs is superb and I have ordered enough now to know the difference. The look, feel, and design ooze quality.

    Sound Quality
    Now the good stuff…..it sounds great….the end.

    The signature
    This is first and foremost an audiophile CIEM that offers a balanced signature from end to end. The bass, while it might seem excessive or even a bass head configuration, I assure you that it is not. The bass is dialed way down and only comes out when called for. If you are listening to EDM, it is there in gobs, the Eagles it is not even there. The bass integrates gracefully throughout the frequency range offering top tier high-resolution textures and detail. What is even more impressive is the amount of black space between the notes. Again, the dual subwoofers scream dark when looking at the configuration, but it is not. There is no slop, no hum, no bass noise of any kind unless it is called for. The bass that is called for is very tight and can stop on a dime if needed. However, in keeping it real, the dynamic bass decay just feels right – that live feeling. When I say black space, I mean it in a big way as in large sound stage. This is a large stage and you are in the front row or on stage depending on the recording. The stage is very coherent where you can close your eyes and envision the stage. This incredible sound stage is a norm for Empire Ears coming from Zeus DNA and is not lost given the extra bass talents.

    Technical Breakdown
    Getting into the detail, here are my findings:
    • Treble: This is a balanced treble and a very detailed treble. The treble has texture to it and can change to meet the needs of the music. If it needs to be splashy for a song, splashy it is, if it needs air, it is there, if it needs speed, yep, it is there too. When treble is the start of the song, this is what stands out with the X.
    • Mids: Mids are very important to me as I am a voice person and this is where most of the action is. Heavy bass monitors tend to push a V curve with mids in the back, but not the X. The X puts you right next to the singer for a very intimate presentation. The mids also are very textured with a great layering of bass and treble detail to provide natural sounding, detailed voices.
    • Bass: Big subs often step all over the bass….not the case. The X sounds like a CIEM without subs unless the music calls for it where the bass and the sub-bass integrate very nicely and very balanced. Soundtracks often have coherency issues for this reason with lessor CIEMs that get overwhelmed. This is where the crossover steps in and makes a difference in separating these intricate sounds while keeping them coherent.
    • Sub: How low can you go….EE says 5 hertz which is a big statement. Unique to the X, I can say that during extreme sub action, there are times I feel it in my chest where I cannot hear the sound which is like my home speaker experience. There is so much excessive real estate these dual subwoofers that I have to imagine that they had a plan and I am guessing it had something to do with the crossover magic. This is the best subwoofer response I have ever heard in a CIEM, PERIOD. Nailed it. Not just in the class of best of best, but raised the bar.
    • Sound Stage: Just like the Zeus, this relative has the same DNA with a magical sound stage. This puts the Legend X at the best of the best in sound stage shared with very few CIEMs.
    • Coherency: Again, coming from the Zeus DNA, there is a magical coherency that ties into its grand sound stage. As mentioned earlier, just close your eyes and you can imagine the band surrounding you and you will easily be able to point out their locations.
    • Sizing: This again is a unique quality that the Legend X has nailed that I find lacking in so many CIEMs. This is the ability to get the entire band to sound right sized and coherent as well as being able to reach an optimal sizing within a listenable volume. The Legend X can recreate a sound stage at full size within the easy listening volume range and there are no weird artifacts like a drummer that sounds like a chipmunk or that he is playing from a room in the back of the building. The Legend X gets this right, nailed it, best of the best category.
    • Low Volume: As described in sizing, the Legend X creates a coherent sound stage at reasonably low volume and it doesn’t fall apart with volume is reduced significantly allowing for low volume listening. This allows me to listen very comfortably in bed while falling asleep without fatigue.
    Scaling Down
    Scaling my source down to an iPhone and using the stock cable, how does it sound? It sounds fantastic! When first hearing the X at RMAF, I didn’t feel that it did well with my iPhone, but on receiving my own custom, I have to say that I have been impressed. It is wonderful just the Legend X and my iPhone on the road or in the gym. This makes for a very convenient listening scenario. Yes, it does scale up significantly when paired correctly, but on the road where there is lots of noise and distraction, this is not so apparent. It is very nice not to have to wield some special stack on the road to hear music at the level that I have come to expect now that I am spoiled.

    Regardless, lets split some hairs and discuss where scaling matters. While the iPhone works great in general, busy or very dynamic passages can sap the power quickly resulting in a flabby sounding bass or incoherency in the sound stage that would normally be there. In critical listening, this can be heard repeatedly over time, but on the go in a distracting environment, you will miss the decline in quality. The other point of quality reduction if I was to split hairs is that I feel that the range is somewhat stunted without the highest and lowest octaves being represented. Again, not a big deal or even noticeable on the road, but can be heard over time during quiet, critical listening.

    The better than expected pairing with the iPhone was of great delight to me as it was a consideration when opting for the X over the Phantom which I was comparing. The Phantom seemed to scale down better at RMAF, but I have to admit that I was wrong and extremely happy I stayed the course with the X.

    Scaling Up
    Using my better sources or even my high-end desktop setup shows the significant value of the Legend X as it has the ability to scale up to an exotic level. Like all dynamic drivers, Legend X loves power. The more power, the harder the X kicks and the tighter the sound. While it does not sound to have any junk in the trunk at casual listening, the X tightens up immensely when offered a high powered source. The high amount of detail and textures that I mentioned earlier also scale with better DACs reaching a holographic sound stage quality. Adding clean power with a high-end DAC and you have a mini exotic headphone the can keep up with the likes of an LCD4 or Abyss. Don’t get me wrong, the full-sized headphones with offer a better experience when set up right, but you cannot go to the gym with that like you can with the Legend X.

    Optimizing DAPs
    My stable of DAPs is being consolidated down to my Calyx M and my Sony WM1a with my iPhone taking over the on the road duty. I also have the Hugo 2 for high end listening, but that is a class all its own. To supplement each of these, I have a magical little amp call the C&C BH2 which for $100 was a steal. They each have a roll to play in the sound quality adjustments when using my Legend X.

    Options:
    • Calyx M: Stock Legend X with the Calyx M is as good as it gets. This is a match made in heaven. This has been my go to set up whenever I am willing to carry around a dap or when I go to bed at night. The Calyx M opens up the sound stage even wider with even blacker spaces between the instruments. This is a pairing where everything sounds so right. The slider volume control on the M allows me to play with the volume more than normal in optimizing the volume per song. The only downside is the 4-hour battery that needs to be recharged daily. ☹
    • Sony WM1A: My new favorite pairing when upgrading the cable to the PWAudio 1950….WOW! While the stock pairing sounded boring and thick, 1950 brings out the dynamics and black space. This makes this combo an outrageous combination. This is the best I have ever heard the X in a portable configuration.
    • Hugo 2: My Hugo 2 has been an outstanding performer that consistently brings performance to everything plugged into it. Definitely, the case here too as it sounds wonderful. However, Hugo 2 has a weird power of transforming all headphones into an extension of its sound. The Legend X is no different transforming to the Hugo 2 sound when plugged into it. While this is a good thing, my description becomes more of the Hugo 2 than the X.
    • C&C BH2 Amp: Here is the fun part, at $100, this discontinued amp has provided me with 40 hour play time per charge for over 5 years now with no signs of deterioration. Everything I plug it into benefits from its SQ and power. However, in this case, it is the Sony WM1A that I am focused on. The stock legend X sounded muddy with the Sony and a bit boring. By adding the BH2, the DAC quality cleared up to sound more like the Calyx M sound and the BH2 added mooooooooore pooooower……boom – dynamics galore. Remember, the BH2 is an amp, not a DAC so how it cleared up the Sony DAC, I don’t know. But the Sony > BH2 beat the Calyx M pairing with the Legend X. So it really came down to the question of wanting to carry one extra component as a stack verse using the Calyx M alone. Unexpectedly, with the PWAudio 1950 cable, the BH2 became too much in dynamics with me preferring the Sony > 1950 straight without the BH2.
    • Hugo 2 > Burson Fun: Boy that Burson Fun sure manhandles the Legend X. You can feel the iron grip and tightness of all that power. I mean this in a good way, no slop, just tight holographic sound quality. This is a WOW pairing that is very addictive. I am doing a review of the Burson Fun right now having just completed a review of their Play and can say that at the price offered these products are a steal. Paired with the Hugo 2, they almost keep up with my Eddie Current ZDs and Hugo 2 paring.
    Overall, my favorite was obviously the Sony > 1950 > Legend X as the best sound, and most convenient setup out of the bunch. Without 1950, I am stuck with the Calyx M and its 4-hour battery for best, most convenient setup. In the case that a stack is acceptable and I don’t have 1950, the Sony > BH2 is the best sound.

    Optimizing Cables
    Sorry doubters, cables do matter in some cases. While the provided Effect Audio copper cable is good enough and better than most offered stock cables, the PWAudio 1950 cable blows it out of the water as a match made in heaven for the Legend X………but at a steep cost. Having just run the PWAudio cable tour, I have their cables on hand and wanted to share some thoughts on upgrading cables.

    Options:
    • Stock Cable: The Effect Audio copper cable provided is beautiful and wonderful sounding…..period. No more needed to be said except why doesn’t everyone else offer a quality cable. My guess is that a lot of the wow provided by the Legend X is that it is not being held back by an inferior cable as most CIEMs are. This is a cable that I would spend good money on to replace the crap that other manufacturers provide. Thank you Jack, this is a wonderful gift. I just hope that other manufacturers take note and do the same. This cable combination is wonderful and I wouldn’t know how good if I didn’t have a number of cable tours that I am hosting. Every cable I tried on the Legend X made a difference in the signature with copper being the best compromise in the lower priced cables with silver often forming a v shape signature at an extreme. The Effect Audio held its own until I reached the rarified tiers of PWAudio – their 1900 lineup.
    • PWAudio 1950: 1950 is a match made in heaven. 1950 tightens everything up, blackens the space between, and offers a bit wider sound stage. The sound quality becomes somewhat holographic and the staging becomes even more coherent. Even better, it works a lot like a virtual APEX module taking the fatigue out of the heavier bass passages. If you have the money for 1950, it is worth it to offer the X its soulmate.
    • PWAudio 1960: 1960 is a fun cable. It takes the X dual subwoofers boom up a notch. It also adds more texture to the mids for a more emotional voice. However, there are some songs that can become too thick paired with 1960. If your genre is classic rock or oldies than you will love this combo. If you are into EDM, 1950 is your cable.
    • PWAudio 1980: I loved 1980 with my other CIEMs, but with the X I felt it leaned toward a V-shaped signature. While it sounds wonderful and had many WOW moments, I thought the stock Effect Audio cable was more appropriate for general listening.
    So there you have it. If you want the best, get a 1950 cable and be WOW’ed. Otherwise, the generous stock cable is probably good enough.

    Concluding Thoughts
    This has been the longest review session that I have taken to get a review right. I found that the X took some time to settle in being a hybrid CIEM and each time I thought I was ready to write, it got better taking another leap up in sound quality. I am still not sure that I have seen the last of the burn in improvements. I also found that pairing and cables made more of a difference with this CIEM with the iPhone getting continually better as a pairing where it didn’t sound as good at first. Finally, I wanted to wait until I received a PWAudio tour set back to include them in the review. In the end, I think this led to a better review.

    At first, it sat in the best of the best tier and has since set some new bars for different aspect mentioned within. At first, it was fatiguing, then it was not. This has led to numerous rewrites. When I heard it at RMAF, I thought it didn’t scale down well which almost cost me my purchase, glad I stuck with it. What I am trying to say is that this one grows on you like no other and needs some quality time with you before rendering judgment. I am really having fun with this CIEM and am listening to it more than any other.

    After 5 years of searching for an on the go version of my speaker experience, I finally found it. This allows me to enjoy my music in my preferred format on the go and wherever I am. This is an easy CIEM to recommend to anyone looking for what I am out of a listening experience.
    1. szore
      Epic. You should get paid for that!
      szore, Apr 4, 2019
      Erfan Elahi likes this.
    2. Sound~Patriot
      Great review but the LX has 7 drivers :) - - - > 2 W9 Subwoofers, 2 Mid, 1 Mid-High, 1 High, 1 Super High.
      (Under the LX Config headline you wrote : 7 BA drivers + 2 DD = 9 drivers)
      Sound~Patriot, Apr 15, 2019
      Erfan Elahi likes this.
    3. RebeccaSugar
      The "Full SQ" burn in is a relief, honestly. I'm not as impressed as other people seem to be, at least not $2000 impressed.
      RebeccaSugar, Apr 19, 2019
  4. ezekiel77
    Legend X - A Sterling Tour de Force of Showmanship
    Written by ezekiel77
    Published Jul 6, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Class-defining bass, courageous sound signature at this level, mids and treble tuning, coherence, resolution, natural timbre, large soundstage, excellent accessory set and stock cable.
    Cons - Overwhelming bass sometimes, not an all-rounder sound signature, price.
    Introduction

    Bass. The final frontier. These are the voyages of Dr. Ziggy McZeke, closet basshead. In today's episode, we explore the possibility of the good doctor coming out of the closet. Stay tuned!

    For the longest time, we fight our deepest urges. With the exception of a prominent guy from Hawaii, audio reviewers are expected to have refined tastes, in love with a neutral tuning. Bass is for Beats lovers! What do they know about the thug audiophile life! But in truth, for my friends and I at least, one of the first criteria when we step into higher-end gear is "good bass". Subjective, yes, for while everyone has a definition of what makes bass "good", the foundation for music enjoyment lies in a well-tuned low end. To hear and more importantly, feel the bass, like hearing music live and alive.

    In the search for every minute detail in our high-res files, high-end in-ear monitors (IEMs) tend to go for more detail, higher resolution, better note definition, often at the expense of the lower end of the spectrum. A rounded, analogue bass has been accused of being slow, poorly-textured, and unrefined. Plebs, all they want is bass, the more the merrier, the louder the better.

    No more of this. The bass-shame stops here. Enter Empire Ears (EE) and their momentously-named offering, the Legend X. You don't throw around a word like "legend" for nothing! The name carries some pedigree as well. Before Empire Ears came to be, they were known as Earwerkz, Jack Vang's earlier venture into high-end CIEMs. The 8-driver Earwerkz Legend was their flagship, followed by retunes to Legend R, and the Legend Omega. The latter was one of the first top-of-the-lines (TOTLs) treading into basshead territory, and the spirit of the Omega is now carried over to the Empire Ears Legend X. To show you they mean business, all 7 drivers are proprietary, tuned to EE's specific requirements, including the dual "Weapon IX" dynamic drivers. The Legend X also features a staggering 10-way synX crossover system and A.R.C dampening technology using Ferrofluid. It's a monster hybrid ready for the reckoning.

    My sincerest thanks to Mr Jack Vang for providing a discount in exchange for this review. The Legend X is the top offering from their brand new X Series hybrid line, and is available in both custom and universal versions through their official website (https://empireears.com/collections/x-line) with a starting price of USD2299.

    This review was originally featured in Headphonesty, in a magazine-like, easier to digest form.


    Legend X 01.jpg


    Equipment Used:

    DAP
    -Sony NW-WM1A "K" Modded, FW 2.0

    IEMs
    -Empire Ears Legend X
    -Jomo Audio Flamenco
    -Advanced Acousticwerkes W900
    -Spiral Ears 5-Way Ultimate

    Cable
    -Effect Audio Ares II

    Albums Listened
    Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart
    Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
    Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
    Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac
    Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
    Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
    Mark Knopfler – Privateering
    Macy Gray – Stripped
    Melissa Menago – Little Crimes
    Michael Jackson – The Essential
    Rage Against the Machine – The Battle of Los Angeles
    Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
    Taylor Swift – Reputation
    The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
    xx – The xx
    Yanni – Live at the Acropolis


    Legend X Accessories.jpg


    Packaging and Accessories

    Some like their packaging simple and rudimentary. IEM, Pelican case, cleaning tool, off you go. Empire Ears? Nope. For packaging befitting the company name, they have to go above and beyond, and that they did. It's the difference between having steak in a food court and in a steakhouse. Candles, ambient music, waiter bringing out fresh cuts of cow for your selection, USD5 mineral water... the works. It doesn't change how the steak tastes, but the experience that goes with it leaves a lasting impression. It shows they don't cut corners either. For a premium product such as the Legend X, classy packaging is the name of the game, with "all black everything" the colour scheme. The beautiful, robust Aegis case houses the IEMs snugly, with your name engraved on top. You will also find a smaller IEM pouch, dust bag, cleaning cloth and tool with the package, all emblazoned with a large EE logo. Last but not least, the exquisite Ares II cable from Effect Audio, a premium USD150 cable given as stock with the Legend X, in the termination (2.5, 3.5, or 4.4mm) of your choice. As far as presentation goes, this ranks among the best, no question.



    Design and Build Quality

    As someone not famous (me) once quoted, "Good design is the true measure of a man." A custom IEM design is only as good as your imagination, and Empire Ears happens to have one of the biggest selection of faceplates and shell colours around. To help you along the way, the designer tool (https://empireears.com/products/product-designer) gives you an idea, real-time, of what the final product looks like. You can literally spend hours tinkering with plate, shell, and logo combos that suit your fancy, and then spend days fine-tuning, tweaking and worrying about your final design. Seriously, their recently-refreshed faceplate designs are far out funky, and the good kind too. If designing is not for you, you can forego the first world problem of too many design options, by going for the universal version. It comes only in one flavour, all-black with gold logo, which should float anyone's boat just fine. Build quality is very good. The faceplate/shell border is smooth and seamless, and the IEM itself has no unwanted bumps or irregularities, just a well-made IEM. What I need to emphasise is that EE is the master of the compact, and they are skilled in jamming higher numbers of drivers into smaller shells when compared to competitors. The best example of this is their 14-driver Zeus, but even here, with 2 dynamic drivers (DD) and 5 balanced armatures (BA), you have a bit of that compact magic going on. Speaking from experience, the AAW W500 which has 4BAs and 1DD, is larger and bulkier than the Legend X.

    There was however, one report in the Head-Fi Empire Ears thread that the shells broke without much stress applied. It might have been a rare manufacturing defect, but the episode also highlighted another specialty of EE: the stellar customer service. With company representatives (and sometimes Mr Vang himself) active in the thread, the problem was attended to and fixed promptly. I've followed the thread since its inception with the Olympus line, and only recently became their customer, but I can attest to the many satisfied customer comments throughout the thread. Empire Ears go above and beyond for their customers. With them you're in good hands. Big, furry, comfortable hands.


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    Fit, Comfort and Isolation

    The art of making custom in-ears comes down to its most vital factor: fit. As bespoke as they come in terms of driver count, tuning and design, most importantly they are made to fit you and only you. Unless you have an ear twin, which is another story for another day. Empire Ears' reputation precedes itself. Many stories I've heard of customers getting the perfect fit the first time around, and EE even tackles customers with historically "stubborn" ear canals. Those with short or abnormally-curved canals, where other companies would gently pat their shoulders and say no, customs aren't for them. In tears, they take their business to EE, and oftentimes emerge rejoicing (in tears again) as they can finally, proudly wear custom IEMs for the first time.

    True to form, the Legend X fits my ears flawlessly. My regular sized and shaped ear canals (at least I hope) caused very little trouble, and the fit is as precise and secure as Catwoman in her leather garb. Meow, I mean nice. With a perfect fit and compact size, comes excellent comfort. I'd like to say they disappear in my ears, but that'd be a horror story because of how much I paid for these babies. Isolation is very good, on par with other custom in-ears. But a certain amount of outside noise is expected since dynamic drivers need some venting to breathe, so they lose out a bit compared to pure BA in-ears. They are still a step up compared to universals, and isolate about 80% of environmental noise.



    Cables

    In a strategic partnership with Effect Audio, the Legend X comes with a quality cable as stock, so you're receiving an upgrade right off the bat. The Ares II is one of the best value-for-money copper cables in the market, comprising four 26AWG Litz wires in a termination of your choice (3.5mm single-ended, 2.5mm balanced, or 4.4mm balanced). The metallic-bronze sheen lends a touch of class to its looks, and the cable handles very well too. It is lightweight, supple, coils without memory effect, and generally tangle-free. The pre-formed heat-shrink earguides provide superb comfort, much better than cables that contain memory wires. You can wear the Ares II for hours without any ill effects, pun intended. The fun part of Litz wiring is they don't oxidise to a mossy green. Some people like the green (well-weathered patina is the marketing buzzword), but I like my cables looking new and sleek. I'm happy to report that another Ares II cable that I've owned for more than a year has no oxidation marks, so Ares II is truly a well-made cable.

    The Ares II is an upgrade compared to the stock Plastics One given with most custom In-ears, in both build quality and sound. Cable sound quality is a nigh-on subjective topic, and you can choose to ignore my sound impressions if you don't agree. If you were to compare the Ares II and a garden variety Plastics One cable side-by-side, you might first notice its good sense of space, and eye for detail. The Ares II strikes me as immediately more vivid, detailed and spacious, from top to bottom. The note texture is readily noticeable, and individual notes take on a more lifelike appearance. Instruments are better-differentiated owing to the higher resolution, but what impresses me more is that the timbre of each instrument is preserved. Detail, realism, slight warmth... an astute balancing act. Those elements are then placed in a grander sonic landscape, and in a great many aspects complements the Legend X signature as a whole. The Ares II if bought separately retails for USD150, which might be a blip compared to Legend X's price, but I do give EE credit for including a premium cable with their IEMs all the same.


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    Overall Signature

    Common sense dictates that some burning-in should be done to "loosen up" or optimise the dual dynamic drivers. In fact, a minimum of 100 hours burning-in are recommended by EE themselves. So for burn-in opponents, do take your case to Empire, thanks. Critical listening was done after 500 gargantuan hours of burning in Legend X along with Ares II, just because. I basically left the gas on and forgot about it the whole time. I do have to note that there are several sonic improvements to be heard after burning in. The bass is tighter, leaner and reined in, and as a result the signature is cleaner, more detailed and spacious. But don't worry, it's still basshead through and through, which I'll explain soon. You don't have to go nuts and do 500 hours, 150-200 should hit the sweet spot. The main setup used for this review was the "K"-modded Sony WM1A (low gain) > EA Ares II (balanced 4.4mm) > Legend X.

    I was young once. And with youthful exuberance came the need to experiment and step out of my comfort zone. You know, to impress girls. That included dabbling in EDM, and culminating in attending an outdoor music festival. It was one of the most vivid experiences of my college years. Six separate stages with different acts simultaneously performing for a whole day. I shuffled around the stages desperately taking everything in, the music, strobe lights, booze and muddy grounds, gyrating with unknowns and pretending to enjoy it. Throughout the night, the bass unified and lit up the entire venue. A singular, pulsating synthetic beast intent on pummeling your head and convincing you it's worth it. I was taken in by the experience and allowed the music, moreover the palpable bass to take over me entirely. Did I pee my pants? Maybe.

    The Legend X brought me back to that night. The bass is like a blunt force of nature, authoritative and never yielding, taking reign over the sound signature. To call the signature basshead however, is to deal the mids and treble a huge injustice, for they not only stand and excel on their own, but define the soundscape with equal gravitas. But to NOT call the Legend X basshead is akin to not giving enough forewarning. This is an IEM, first and foremost for bass lovers. A bass-unabashedly-first signature, delivered mightily by the twin "Weapon XI" dynamic drivers. Here, the five BA drivers are undoubtedly tuned to serve the natural, full and organic-sounding DDs, and in doing so, manage to capture a wonderfully coherent signature, a trait overlooked by many hybrid IEMs. Too many hybrids are in a hurry to show off the DDs' awesome power and the BAs' attention to detail levels that they sound an incoherent mess, forgetting that music presentation should forever take precedence. The Legend X carefully sidesteps this folly, showcasing a bloomy, punchy bass akin to full-sized speakers; creamy, engaging mids that sound realistic yet full of layers and details; a masterfully extended and even treble that is as smooth as the day is long. The sound is given a large stage to show forth its capabilities, equally deep and wide, with good imaging cues and a fantastic level of immersion... you might as well have been transported to the music arena itself, gyrating with yours truly.



    Bass

    We start off with the best foot first, all guns blazing. Like its namesake, the IEM hopes to carve an enduring legend of its own, with personality to spare. This bass showboats, is borderline narcissistic and revels in flights of grandiosity. Its pompousness reminds me of pro wrestlers with their own theme song to announce their arrival. And this bass no doubt shares the same entrance music as Ric Flair himself, "Also Sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss. The track is rousing and fist-pumping, Legend X's bass personified. Do listen to it, you'd want this song playing when you walk though a doorway too.

    Forget everything I've written about bass in my prior reviews, a new standard is being written. The Legend X's subbass reaches further down than anything else I've heard. It plumbs the inner reaches of your chest cavity, and threatens to take over the rhythm of the heart. To paraphrase Thanos, dread it, run from it, but the bass still arrives. It moves a devastating amount of air, shaping the whole signature in doing so. The notes are dense, thick, full of power and purpose right up to the mid and upper bass. It thunders and bellows like no other, yet stays nimble in combat. Note attack and sustain has this undeniable might, with subsequent release and decay blooming beautifully before the next note hits, like wave after wave of giddy goodness you didn't know you deserve.

    The bass energy and physical prowess means songs are brought to life, at once electric and dynamic, and yet thrillingly detailed. Legend X's high resolution pulls no punches in revealing layers of bass just waiting to be enjoyed. Daft Punk, The Weeknd, Kanye... all given a new layer of resolution on top of bass enjoyment. Speed and texture take a slight backseat to the sheer bass physicality, but they're definitely doing their part to prevent everything from sounding like a muddy mess. Even so, sometimes the bass is too overwhelming for casual listening, as there is no off switch in this bass cannon, and might even prove distracting for gentler genres. I can't discern any bass bleed, yet the bass air permeates throughout the signature, even in passages where you don't think there's a lot of bass. Despite its lingering presence, this is a bass to be savoured, and ultimately to be taken over by. You can rest assured that in any track when the bass hits, Legend X will cover it magnificently.


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    Mids

    Now, if it were not for the bass taking front and centre stage (heck, the entire stage), the mids would have been the star of the show. Like a big tummy with a solid six-pack underneath, the mids have hidden depths. They are beautifully rendered, neutrally placed, and following the bass' lead, steeped in organicity and smoothness. This is the most coherent bass-to-mids transition I've heard in a hybrid, with an extra bonus of added resolution and texture thanks to the ingrained nature of BA drivers to unearth detail. The lower to centre mids are rich and organic, with much assistance from the bass weight. As a result, guitars have that engaging crunch, strings exude an extra sweetness, and male vocals have an assured resonance. The mids signature as a whole is neutral, with note thickness and roundness lending an essense of warmth. However taken individually, instrument timbre is just slightly north of tonally accurate. A bit of bloom and decay is sacrificed for note texture and clarity. It still sounds quite natural, just that it might lose out to IEMs tuned for tone and timbre like UE18+ and Phantom, Empire Ears' other flagship. The Legend X is tuned to excite, rather than follow strict euphony.

    Moving up, the air is finally there. Like emerging from a pool of chocolate milk, the upper mids are tastefully accentuated and breathe with utmost clarity. Female vocals, at once ethereal, captivating and airy, seduces the listener, we mortals of mere flesh and blood. Brass instruments emanate bravado and confidence. Nary a hint of sibilance, the balance between smoothness and clarity is well executed. Not to be denied by the bass anymore, it was their turn to shine, and the upper mids provide relief from the sickly-sweet syrupy fullness of the bass. Coming from a whole main course, you just need a refreshing drink to wash it down. It's a delightful combination, the flirtatious interplay between the bass and mids. On one hand lush and creamy, at the other eager and exciting.



    Treble

    Now if I were to compare Lord of the Rings characters to parts of the signature, the bass is undeniably Gimli, commanding, forceful and maybe a tad brutish. The mids would be Aragorn, a balanced all-rounder capable of feats of immense strength, skill and speed. Where does that leave the treble? Frodo? Ehh, he started the whole dam thing. The treble surely belongs to that elf fellow, whose toy-like name escapes me. Handsome, quick to the feet, light to the touch, and a thoroughly essential member of the fellowship. That blonde dude's secure and agile hands take on the mightiest beasts and emerge unscathed.

    That too is true of the Legend X treble. It rises steadily, evenly, without unruly peaks or dips, and extends far up without breaking a sweat. You can hear generous amounts of macro- and micro-details, it is clean and resolute despite the thunderous bass taking the bulk of the attention. Individual notes are airy and well-separated, with smooth edges that complement the entire signature well. The treble has bouts of showmanship too. Beneath the layer of organicity, lies a playful sheen, a delicate sparkle, designed to titillate and never offend. It is not as apparent as the detail monsters of current TOTLs, but offer a safe respite for sensitive ears. From the upper mids to the mid-treble, it is as smooth and assured as it is detailed. Grain, harshness and tinniness begone! Legolas is here! That's the name I was looking for!



    Soundstage and Imaging

    The Legend X duels in a spacious arena, owing to its sound signature's larger-than-life personality. The classic Toto song "Africa" comes to mind when describing the staging. Picture yourself blessing the rains down in the wide open plains of Africa, at once atmospheric, exotic, and brand new. To accommodate the magnanimous bass, Legend X's width is among the widest I've heard, and superbly deep as well. Layering of instruments in the left to right and front to back axes is evident, and it's extremely easy to immerse yourself into the music. Height is a bit lacking, but not that noticeable as the stage set remains grand. All throughout the spacious stage, the bass air dances around, lending authority and a sense of ominousness to proceedings. This lower-end airiness takes a bit of getting used to. I'm more accustomed to the commoner mid to upper treble bump that imparts a pristine, crispy and wispy brand of airiness. It's enjoyable all the same, and has to be heard to be believed. I hesitate to call the bass air a veil, because it isn't, and the high resolution plays a big part in maintaining clarity in other areas. Imaging is top-notch but not among the elite. This is due to the nature of Legend X's denser, well-rounded notes coated in a layer of warmth, so imaging is a hair shy of pinpoint accuracy. The Legend X is intent on presenting music to you as a singular, cohesive unit, rather than cleanly dissected and divided. Voltron rather than five lions. This is an accomplished soundstage with a presentation that mimics a speaker setup. There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do.


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    Comparisons

    Jomo Audio Flamenco

    Flamenco is Jomo Audio's 11-driver flagship with bass and treble switches to fine-tune your sound preference, but all signatures boast an incredible amount of detail and transparency. Ifever there was an opposites day, Legend X and Flamenco would walk arm in arm. Where Legend X would put on a grand, unforgettable show, Flamenco would focus on stone-cold precision. The different tuning philosophies at work here, one is intent on immersing the listener while the other wants to lay out all the complex intricacies.

    Flamenco's bass sounds downright economical compared to the indulgent Legend X. It has the pacing, speed and note definition but pales in depth, naturalness and genuine impact. For mids, vocals and instruments have a brighter edge to them and sound more alert and exciting. However, next to Legend X they sound a bit thin and inaccurate. Treble, Flamenco's forte, is energetic, sparkly, and just reveals oodles of detail like second nature. Moreover, it's mostly sibilance-free. Legend X is less well-extended with smoother note edges, and is easier on the ears. The details are still there, just more subtle and tactful. One is "Someone pooped on the floor!" while the other is "I think you better check the floor" if you get my drift. Legend X absolutely dwarfs Flamenco in soundstage size, besting it in all dimensions. Fighting back, Flamenco has better imaging, due to its thinner notation and emphasis on precision.

    All in all, Legend X is the more natural sounding of the two, and definitely more spacious and relaxing. However, Flamenco's flexibility in the switches means it's a more capable all-rounder than the Legend X, whose bass might be too heavy-handed for some. Choose your poison.



    Advanced AcousticWerkes W900

    High atop mount hybrid sits AAW's 8BA + 1DD flagship, the W900. 64 Audio's Tia Fourte might be the most expensive and well-known hybrid today, but since it's priced out of contention for me, W900 will be the interim hybrid to beat. It is a warmish take on neutral, attenuating the bass slightly for a reference signature. This is the battle I've waited for the longest time. W900 sits near the summit of my IEM collection, reigning over the lands as the best hybrid I've ever heard. That is about to change very shortly.

    Comparing both hybrids with one track, "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac, W900 has flatter, less fleshed out bass than the mighty Legend X. Extension and airiness down low is also less stellar. Legend X basically gave W900 a masterclass on how to execute bass correctly. It also handles all things bass (impact, rumble, decay, naturalness) better. Coming to mids, W900 sounds hollower with sharper edges. Dare I say it, W900's instrument timbre is glaringly weak when compared to the smooth and cohesive Legend X. Now the treble is where things get interesting. One of the reasons I love the W900 so much is because no other IEM can replicate its never-ending upwards extension, long fluttery decay, thick treble notes and enduring smoothness. Legend X can't compete with the extension, but its seamless integration with the rest of the signature as a whole, shows you just how amazing hybrids can sound if done right. Dueling both trebles, W900 sounds metallic at times and disjointed from the rest of the signature. The difference was jarring and made me think twice about something I once held so dear. Comparing soundstage qualities, W900 has airier, more transparent staging and blacker space in between instruments. Its mighty width is equal to Legend X's, but is not as deep. Imaging however is more precise in W900, while Legend X is more diffuse due to the abundant bass air.

    I have previously stated that I had no problem with coherency when it comes to hybrid IEMs, that incoherence is a necessary evil inherent in most of them. Well, I'm eating my words with barbecue sauce. Legend X is the reset button. They've accomplished this relentlessly coherent signature that has me dreaming that the very best hybrid is yet to come. Hail to the king, baby.



    Spiral Ears 5-Way Ultimate

    Legend X's final opponent is the (ahem) legendary SE5U. A veteran and winner of multiple TOTL shootouts, its neutral-natural signature has charmed and enticed many a reviewer, a feat performed using only five well-tuned drivers. Despite newer and more technologically advanced IEMs available today, the SE5U's evergreen status remains unmarred, and is still regarded as the one of the best (if not the best) IEMs around. Will Legend X's brand of um, basshead-natural hold any water? Legend wannabe or in the making? Let's find out.

    SE5U's bass is brighter. Individual notes have more apparent detail and palpable texture. The decay is very pleasing and will delight detail-heads very much, while still giving off a natural tone. It has lesser extension and bloom than the Legend X, but that might be expected since it's a BA vs DD fight. Legend X takes charge in slam, reach, rumble, timbre and authority, but gives up speed, texture and clarity in doing so. Its midbass is also very prominent whereas very few will accuse SE5U's as overdone. For mids, SE5U is bloat-free and nimble, sounding cleaner and clearer than Legend X. Its oft-spoken-of instrument timbre shows its true might here. Every note has distinct air around it, with a near-ceremonial feel; and when played together, sounds like the real thing. The little things, like friction between the bow and the strings, individual guitar plucks, and the thud of the piano key... are rendered in exquisite and loving detail. The accuracy is unnerving, frankly. Legend X can only watch in awe. However, the X pulls off a surprise in having more emotional and weighted vocals, in both male and female. If you want a jazz ensemble or orchestra to drift you away into sonic bliss, SE5U is practically default. For vocals, I'll take Legend X's pleasant colouration. The 5-Way has a brighter treble but not by much, notes have a bit more sparkle and "bite" to it, I guess that's why they describe treble as crispy, which is the case here. Extension is similar, just a matter of preference between Legend X's darker tone or SE5U's intricate note texture. I'd call it a draw. For soundstage, overall SE5U has thinner notes and an ethereal airiness to the entire signature, compared to the fuller, grandiose approach of Legend X. Predictably, SE5U has slightly more accurate imaging and positioning capability. SE5U is no slouch in stage dimensions either, losing to Legend X a bit in width but emerging triumphant in depth.

    Strictly for personal preference, I do prefer SE5U, mainly because it is a better all-rounder. However, Legend X does take this fight down to the wire. I would say SE5U is for people who prefer a classy and refined sound, while Legend X is for anyone looking to have a downright enjoyable time. Do keep in mind that SE5U is significantly harder to obtain, and you can't demo before you buy.


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    Final Words

    First impressions matter, and for Legend X, many start and stop at the bass. They find the initial listen difficult due to the overwhelming bass quantity channeled to their ear canals, crowding the signature and congesting the sound. The high price tag is also another hurdle to overcome. For me, only after repeated listens did its qualities finally manifest. This is an IEM that surprises at every turn, imbuing a degree of urgency and liveliness to every track in every genre. Even after listening for hours on end, the wow factor does not fade. For Legend X, I relish in giving it the workout of its life, throwing at it every song I could think of, ripping my dad's old CDs, and buying new music; just to hear how it renders them. And what a strong personality it has, present in every track. Like a beast unleashed, unwilling to be held down by the confines of drivers and sound tubes, it delivers an experience resembling speakers in a treated room. It gave me a calming sense of familiarity, since I've been listening to speakers my whole life and couldn't pinpoint why IEMs sounded so different. The Legend X is a bridge to the speaker sound. Wonderfully dynamic, combining woofer-like bass, natural mids, smooth highs, tremendous soundstage, first class resolution and an epically coherent signature in a miniature package. The signature might not be for everyone, the Legend X is after all, anything but subtle. But for what it is, the bold, brassy, bass-first signature is instantly memorable in its own right, and for bass lovers, a siren call to finally succumb to.
      Layman1, Yassa, F700 and 17 others like this.
    1. FastAndClean
      masterfully written
      FastAndClean, Jul 6, 2018
      EarFun and ezekiel77 like this.
    2. San Man
      Well done Lau!
      San Man, Jul 6, 2018
      ezekiel77 likes this.
  5. SeeSax
    Empire Ears Legend X: The Incredible Hulk
    Written by SeeSax
    Published May 8, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Bass of incredible control, depth and power, detailed and natural mids, articulate but smooth treble
    Cons - Driver flex, case is tricky with larger cables
    Intro & Me: Does anyone actually read this part? Does anyone actually care about who I am? Didn't think so. Well, a few words anyhow! I have made a lot of friends on these forums by doing two things consistently: giving my unapologetic, honest opinions of gear and managing to get my cute dog in the photos of my IEMs/cables/gear. I love a wide array of sound qualities, musical genres and gear and writing a review of fantastic audio hardware such as the Empire Ears Legend X comes naturally (and eagerly) for me. That said, I have nearly zero ability to articulate the technicalities of sound equipment. Instead, I will do my best to explain how these wonderful IEMs sound to my ears, how they compare to other IEMs in my collection and generally how they respond to a wide variety of music that I listen to on a daily basis. I hate to give a spoiler so early on, but these have impressed me so much that I inadvertently sold another pair of IEMs that many people probably would have wanted me to compare these to. Oops! On that note, I purchased these directly from Empire Ears, albeit it at a partial discount, with my own hard-earned money.

    Test Equipment: As far as sources go, a majority of my listening was done on my desktop Gustard A20H DAC/amp combo via the balanced output. This has dual AK4497 DACs and is on the musical side rather than clinical, but it does produce very high amounts of clarity and detail while having tons of headroom to drive a wide variety of headphones. For portable sources, I primarily use the AK70 mk2, as well as my DX200 with the Amp3 balanced module. All testing was done via 2.5mm balanced connections. Music was streamed via Tidal HiFi (FLAC, or "Master" where available) and this is consistent with my daily listening habits.

    Ordering, Accessories, Tips, Packaging: Unlike many other IEM makers who will remain unnamed, Empire Ears has a nice, functional web page for ordering with some great visuals of their various offerings. Throughout the process of shopping, checkout and delivery of the IEMs you can expect a smooth process with no guesswork of what you will receive or when you will receive it. I mention this because sometimes cutting-edge equipment is actually fairly difficult to order and even harder to know when you will receive it. Once my Legend X arrived, I was extremely impressed with the packaging and accessories on offer in the box. Granted, this is my first pair of Empire Ears IEMs, but I have purchased many-a-TOTL pair and this is up there with the best as far as presentation goes. The case, for example, is engraved with my name and upon first sight, I screamed in joy so sharply that my wife thought our one-year-old son had fallen out of his crib. Nope, it was just me Babe! Included are the highly-regarded Final Audio tips, a cleaning cloth/tool and to my surprise, a very high quality Effect Audio Ares II cable. Seeing such a high quality "stock" cable quickly reminded me that these really are a serious offering.

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    Fit and Cable: I mentioned the cable, so let us start there. Effect Audio and Empire Ears have recently partnered and it is great to see such a nice cable included with these IEMs. Not only is the Ares II highly-regarded for its sound quality, but it is one of the softest, most supple and comfortable cable I have used. There is nothing worse than taking a pair of TOTL IEMs out of the box and learning that they come with the same cable as the $200 entry-level model (Earsonics, I am looking at you!). The cable has very comfortable bends around the ears with no memory wire and again, it is extremely flexible, lightweight and exhibits zero microphonics. This is a big win.

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    Moving on to fit, the elephant in the room (or in your ears in this case) is that these are massive IEMs in size (and sound, but more on that later!). They are, however, extremely lightweight and ergonomic. Too often do folks assume big, bulky IEMs will not be comfortable. Once I found the right sized tip and got these planted in my ears, I discovered that they can be left there for hours with zero discomfort. They are just so comfortable, despite their size, that I do not believe many people will experience any issues with fit or comfort. I applaud this effort because I do get the impression that a lot of thought went into designing the shape of these. It is no small feat to cram two dynamic drivers and five balanced armatures into a shell that you actually want to wear, so high-five to you Empire Ears!

    Sound Signature: Without measurements or frequency graphs, my ears tell me that these fall somewhere in the V-shaped category which is fine by me. That said, you aren't going to find super exaggerated bass or super sparkly treble missing mid-range impact. Instead, everything is just done well. The bass is the star of the show, but I'll get to that as we dive into each range. The IEMs are extremely musical, very detailed and while I've said this about certain other IEMs, no other has managed to make me say with such confidence that I can listen to these all day long.

    Bass: Again, the star of the show, but not in the traditional sense. I had high hopes for the dual dynamic drivers, yet at the same time I was slightly concerned that they would be overly bassy. My concerns were not only unfounded, but I quickly realized that this is some of the most controlled and impactful bass I have ever heard. Think of the bass as energetic and forward, while reaching extremely low (lowest I've heard, in fact) and never becoming muddy. It just sounds different. I love bassy IEMs and am never turned off by slow, "analogue-like" bass, but these don't have that. Instead, these have bass that is like a race horse ready to be let out of the gate in a precise, tuned manner. You can hear it, always, waiting and waiting to let loose until the music calls for it. It doesn't muddy any music and it doesn't ever become too much, but you know it's there. It reminds me of when I drove my friend's Nissan GTR in that it was so civilized and drove like a normal car, but when you mashed the gas pedal it was like an explosion of power ripping the asphalt in half. Then when it's done, you pull onto your 25mph suburban side street and all is normal again. Until you hit the throttle again, that is. I cannot overstate how much I love the lower frequencies on this IEM. In fact, I find myself awake at night worried that bass this good will become illegal and I will have to give them up to the authorities. Seriously, a terrifying thought. A test track I like to use for bass is "Why So Serious" by Hans. If you scroll to about 3:15 in the song, you'd better have your seatbelt on and be ready for what is to come. It is horrifyingly deep, authoritative and I'm pretty sure it just took several years off my hearing abilities. And I will do it over and over.

    Mids: I feel bad for the mid-range. It's like the damn-good athlete that has to run a lap around the track behind Usain Bolt. He may be the fastest runner in his class or school district for that matter, but how do you stand out when an Olympic runner just got finished making his move before you? That said, the mids are warm, smooth, lush and overall have a nice thickness to the vocals that are very pleasing to the ears. You'll hear that thick, crunchy electric guitar here and emotional male/female vocals. The mid-range actually contributes to the musicality of this IEM in a big way, giving a euphoric tone and spicing up stringed instruments very nicely. It's a pretty epic showing for a V-shape IEM where clearly bass is the star, so I think this is another check in the box of incredible tuning by Empire Ears.

    Treble: Being somewhat of a treblehead, I think the treble has a decent amount of sparkle. I would welcome a bit more, but not at the cost of unsettling the wonderful bass and mid-range. In other words, it's just right. I think for most people, even those sensitive to trelbe and sibilance in general, there is a lot to love here. Again, musicality is the key and you can't have a super musical IEM that also has ear-piercing treble. It's a nice, extended treble that reaches high and has very good decay. Playing electronic music on these IEMs yields a very tasty treat, which quick and precise treble keeping everything tidy and coherent. That bass does slightly take your attention away, but if you give yourself an ounce of a nudge to really listen and appreciate the treble, you will hear that it's doing its job perfectly. Let me mention again, these attributes mean I can listen to this IEM all day long.

    Vocals: I touched on this in the mid-range a bit, but let's go a little deeper. I'm an unapologetic lover of modern pop country music and one of my go-to favorite songs is Easton Corbin's "A Girl Like You." Singing through these IEMs, there is so much clarity and precision while still being emotional and not cold in any way shape or form. When I think about something like the Dita Dream (which I'll compare with further down), the Legend X gives the vocals so much more life to the vocals and while I don't think vocals are super forward, I just think they sound damn good. On the female side, and in keeping with my addition to modern pop country, Carrie Underwood shuts down the show. There's a lavish quality that makes you feel like you're in the room with the singer and it's so enjoyable. Female vocals sound every so slightly overpowered by the mid-bass, but that is only on certain tracks and given how great that bass is, it's a very small tradeoff that I am more than willing to make.

    Soundstage, Separation & Timbre: If you have read any of my other reviews, I have not been shy about pointing out that I am an idiot when it comes to measuring soundstage. Well, I am happy to report that the Legend X has come to my aid and actually made it slightly easier for me to describe the various stages that this IEM portrays (a win in and of itself!). On a few of my test tracks recorded with binaural microphones, I noticed immediately how wide the stage was. Certain attributes of tracks are so clearly defined, yet you can tell that they are very distant on both sides. This was sort of what made me understand what it means when someone says an IEM has a wide soundstage. I could picture members of the band and where they stood, clearly defined. Depth seems to be similarly portrayed, although not to the extent of the left/right extension. Height, sorry, couldn't tell you. But what I can say about soundstage is that I got a very clear picture in my head of where everything was and it overall added to the sepration of instruments. Sometimes I use the term separation synonymously with detail, but in this case not only can I hear the clear separation of instruments, but I can also hear loads of micro-details on each track. Detail is sometimes associated with reference tuning, but not here. Musicality with this much detail is just another factor that makes these IEMs incredible to listen to. As far as timbre goes, well this is a V-shaped IEM after all and I think that may be somewhere that the Legend X doesn't slaughter its competitors. I briefly owned the Phantom and while I much prefer the Legend X based on what suits my style of listening and preference, it was ahead in timbre.

    Comparisons: For better or worse (worse if you ask my wife), I have owned a lot of TOTL IEMs throughout the years. For the better, I am able to compare the Legend X to some other popular IEMs that buyers may be considering. Let's dig in!

    Rhapsodio Zombie: I think the only thing the Zombie and Legend X have in common is that they're hybrid designs. While both also exude monstrous bass, they do so in a completely different fashion. Where the Legend X is precise, tight, punchy and controlled, the Zombie gives off that analogue, slow, relaxed feeling. If you read my Zombie review, you know that I am a huge fan of the sound and while it's not going to win any awards technically for being a "reference" IEM, it's just good old-fashioned fun to listen to. In some ways, the Legend X feels like a grown-up, more mature version of the Zombie. Bass is actually deeper and harder hitting on the Legend X, but the huge mid-bass on the Zombie makes it sound like the bassier IEM. The mid-bass bleeds into the mids a bit on the Zombie, but that gives the vocals are very warm, lush sound and while they're not forward, they're soft and rounded. The Legend X is technically better here with a more natural timbre, but I love them both for these differences. I would say the treble is less sparkly on the Zombie and overall more relaxed, while the Legend X's treble sparkle is pretty fantastic. Given the different sound signatures of these IEMs, I would nto really declare a winner and just say that if you like a slow, relaxed, "analogue" sound then the Zombie has it. If you listen to a wide genre of music, appreciate monstrous sub-bass that is very controlled (and who doesn't?) with very natural mids and the perfect blend of treble sparkle and extension, then I have to say the Legend X is your trophy here. Well that's not entirely true, in the looks department the Zombie is the trophy :)

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    Dita Dream: Even more contrasting than the Zombie is the Dita Dream. I think literally the only similarities here are that they're both freaking expensive and contain a dynamic driver, but you already know that. Starting with the sub-bass, the Dream is praised for a very controlled, tight sub-bass rumble and I agree that it has that. For quantity, though, it's more on the leaner side and the Legend X easily outshines the Dream for me when it comes to my preferred bass representation. While they both reach low, the Legend X seems to just go deeper and deeper and never come across a note that it cannot hit with ease. The Dream is dryer in the mid-bass as well, making it sound cold in comparison. Clarity and detail are extremely high with the Dream, but it is not as enjoyable to listen to for me. Mid-range, the same applies: you have a very natural mid-range with the Legend X and while it is not recessed on the Dream, it is fairly cold and without the "emotion" you get on other IEMs. I'm not trying to say the Dita is losing in any way; it has been tuned this way on purpose and it achieves its excellent technical prowess from that very tuning, but for me I love the way the Legend X sounds with it's musical emphasis. Moving along to the treble, I do actually like the amount of sparkle on the Dream and wish the Legend X just had a tad more than it does. Many will find the Dream to be overly-bright, however, so again this really speaks to personal preference. At the end of the day, the Legend X puts a huge grin on my face every time I listen to it and the Dream only does once in a while.

    00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20180508092609331_COVER.jpg

    Earsonics S-EM9: Ah, the S-EM9. I keep coming back to this pair of IEMs. They're older now, they don't have a dynamic driver, the nozzle design is the worst thing since the Ford Pinto and the cable that comes with them is undeserving of a barnyard animal chewing on it. But dang if I don't love them for what they are. Starting with the sub-bass, the Legend X has a much more pronounced rumble. The S-EM9 keeps everything neat, clean, but still has emphasized sub-bass, although it does not reach as deep. The mid-bass is similar in that the sub-bass is the star of the show and nowhere near that presence of the Zombie. The mid-range on the S-EM9 is a bit recessed in comparison to the Legend X, although again the S-EM9 has this clean, musical, but still technical ability. Pop music really shines through the S-EM9 and when you get up to the higher frequencies, I think the S-EM9 shows its magic and takes on the Legend X. I prefer the treble on the S-EM9 (or to any other IEM, bar none, for that matter), but that sub-bass of the Legend X is not only addictive, but it makes me forget any other minor complaints I have. This one is another tough call because they're so different. Someone preferring a U-shaped sound with incredible precision and speed for electronic music will likely prefer the S-EM9, where someone listening to a wide variety of music and craving that massive bass slam will undoubtedly want the Legend X.

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    Unique Melody Mason II: The Mason II holds a very, very special place in my heart for reasons that have nothing to do with its sound quality. So it's almost not fair here because I will never say a bad word about the Mason, but at the same time it's the only IEM I own that is actually MORE expensive than the Legend X. These prices are silly, folks, just silly. Anyway, the Mason II (not the Mason V2, this is the Japanese version) has 12 balanced armature drivers and no dynamic driver. Bass impact is great on the Mason, but it is tighter and a little leaner than the Legend X. The Legend X, as I have mentioned approximately 6,000 times now, has that insane bass slam and it makes the Mason II sound lighter on the bass in an A/B comparison. The tuning of the Mason II is more realistic, I would say, with an overall signature that just sounds natural from top to bottom. It has a more realistic timbre than the Legend X, but again I will say the Legend X is more fun. Mids are a bit more laid back on the Legend X and slightly more forward on the Mason, but it's not a night/day difference. Treble sparkle for me is actually similar on the two, which is a good thing. The choice comes down to whether or not you prefer a natural but still fun and musical tuning of the Mason, or the havoc that the dual dynamic drivers will undoubtedly wreak on the Legend X. Honestly, and yes I am biased here, if I could only have one pair of IEMs (oh, the horror of that thought), it would probably be the Mason II because it is such a wonderful all-rounder.

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    Cables, continued: Cables are always an interesting topic and it's sort of a new thing for me to comment on them in a review. I'll do my best here to offer up some meaningful thoughts on which cable(s) pair best with the Legend X and how they affect the sound. Non-cable believers, well, the door is over there...

    Stock: The included Ares II with these IEMs is a great cable and one of the best you'll find in the box other than on the Dita Dream. I would also put it up there with the Pandora Dwarf that came with the Zombie as far as build quality and ergonomics. It's soft, supple, VERY comfortable and overall presents a natural and smooth sound on the Legend X. I think this pairing works well and was a smart choice by Empire Ears, but I quickly got tempted to try others as you can imagine.

    Effect Audio EOS X Ms: A slightly re-done and more expensive version of the Ares II, I preferred this cable due its transparency, sparkle and natural tone. It has the same ergonomics and great build quality of the Ares II, but has slight internal upgrades and it's a very nice choice. It is, however, discontinued now so get one while you can. I would say that overall the Ares II is an ever-so-slightly warmer cable across the board, but the EOS gives that slight edge in transparency which I always expect of cable upgrades.

    Effect Audio Thor Silver II+: I thought this was going to be my go-to pairing as a monstrous IEM surely needs a monstrous, 22awg cable! Well, it might be, depending on the sound you are looking for, but for me it missed the mark a bit. While the transparency and detail of this cable are incredible, it is a very smooth cable that gives the impression of a relaxed sound. For me, I wanted to brighten up the Legend X slightly and I figured any silver cable would do that, but this made things a bit too relaxed. Also, I must mention that similar to Twister's findings, this cable did add quite a bit of sub-bass to the mix and the Legend X already has plenty of that. Cable changes are usually pretty subtle, but in the case of the Thor Silver II+ the difference is pretty noticeable in A/B comparisons. It's not a bad pairing, per se, but for me I wanted a bit more sparkle and I was definitely not asking for more bass.

    Effect Audio Leonidas + Thor Silver II: This was my favorite pairing. I have a one-off "bespoke" version of the Leonidas that has two normal wires of Leonidas wires and two Thor Silver II wires. Ergonomics on this are absolutely outstanding and sound quality is among the best I have heard. This cable tightened up that sub-bass and kept everything tight and controlled. Separation and detail is perfect on this cable and unlike the Thor Silver I+, the treble sparkle was still there and even slightly enhanced. The cable just sounded "right" on these IEMs, as if they were made for each other. I am guessing the Leonidas would sound equally good, if not better than this cable.

    Triton Audio Cables Triton8 Silver: David over at Triton Audio cables makes some incredible cables that will not hurt your wallet as much as some of the Effect Audio stuff, so I wanted to try one of my personal favorites: the Triton8 pure silver edition. This cable consists of 8 wires of pure silver and high-end Eidolic connectors. This is a very transparent cable, presenting tons of detail and overall a very pleasing sound signature. It has very tight bass impact, along with smooth but detailed highs. I found this pairing to be up there with the best of the other cables I have tried. It certainly looks the part and build quality is fantastic and I could very easily recommend this cable for the Legend X (and I haven't been shy about doing so in the past). If I didn't have the Leonidas + Thor Silver II, the Triton8 would be my preferred choice here.

    Final Thoughts: It took me 4,000 words to get here, but I think it's obvious now what I think of these IEMs. I used to think that spending this much money on IEMs really does produce diminishing returns, but the Legend X have done the unthinkable and have made me realize that every once in a while, a game-changer really does come around. I have never heard anything like these IEMs and I remember, clear as day, the first time I put them on and thinking "holy ****!" It was that immediate, that profoundly, that I knew these had risen to another level than what I was used to. For years, IEMs have walked the line of "emphasized" or "controlled" bass, but now you do not have to choose one or the other. The Legend X bring incredible tuning, top of the line hardware and a beautiful package to the table and I applaud what Empire Ears have done. It's so easy to recommend these and heck, you probably don't even need my review in the first place. Just check the several-thousand page thread on Empire Ears and see what people are saying. They have built a cult following and it is through their listening and dedication to their users, their unwillingness to compromise on getting the absolute best sound and building products that can make people grin ear to ear. These are IEMs that you will form a bond, a special relationship with, and you will probably cry like a baby if and when you ever have to take them out of your ears. I don't know about you guys, but I am considering quitting my job, moving to a remote island and I'll just send a child-support check from time to time because seriously, there are not enough hours in the day to listen to these gems.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. deafdoorknob
      yup, the local dealer in hong kong suggested it, it kept the bass more controlled without thinning it out, and let the treble become more articulated and the mids focussed.
      deafdoorknob, May 8, 2018
      SeeSax likes this.
    3. klaimzlgd
      Can you sign my T-shirt I tihnk I'm a fan of your reviews haha xd
      klaimzlgd, May 10, 2018
      SeeSax likes this.
    4. Cagin
      Fun read while waiting my own Legend X >:-]]
      Cagin, May 22, 2018
      SeeSax likes this.
  6. twister6
    The BASShead Audiophile!
    Written by twister6
    Published Feb 8, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - the impact, the tonality, and the control of the BASS, the soundstage expansion, the natural transparency and resolution of mids, very compact shell design.
    Cons - beware of the BASS, driver flex.


    The product (pre-production prototype with a final tuning) was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with my readers on head-fi.

    Manufacturer website: Empire Ears. Also available from Euphoria Audio.

    I will update the review with images when will receive a final production unit.


    Intro.

    It always makes me wonder what goes through manufacturer's mind after they release a new flagship. You can’t rest on your laurels for too long, and after a year or more, customers become anxious to see something new, something original, something worthy of their money for an upgrade or a side-grade. Not too long ago, Empire Ears were one of the first to introduce 14-driver flagship Zeus which added some oil to driver wars fire. Now, Empire Strikes Back (yeah, I wanted to use this phrase for a while!!!) with something new: 7-driver Legend X (LX) with a hybrid design of dual DDs and five BAs.

    Multi-driver hybrids beyond a more common 3ways are not a shocker anymore, though dual DD hybrids are rare, especially for a custom model. But you need something more than just an impressive spec to stand out from the crowd, and you can guess that dual DD config can only lead to one thing – da bass!!! The bass can make or break the sound. It’s a beast with a power some IEM manufacturers struggle to control. Now, imagine mating it with BA drivers tuned for audiophile quality, and you get BASShead Audiophile IEM, which is the best way to describe LX. Empire Ears new line-up will have more models, in different price ranges, driver configurations, and sound signatures, but the focus of this review will be solely on Legend X and its performance.

    Unboxing.

    Since I only received the prototype model with finalized tuning, I don't have details about the final packaging, but was told to expect something similar to previous EE releases. I will update this section in the future, including pictures.

    Accessories.

    Just like with unboxing, I will have to update the Accessories section when I have a final production unit, but most likely you should expect a travel case, a cleaning tool, a selection of premium eartips if you have a universal model (EE has been featuring SpinFits in the past, but might use another brand name), and a premium Effect Audio Ares II cable.

    I always point out the importance of eartips selection when dealing with universal IEMs. Eartips are responsible for a proper seal and isolation that plays a very important role in low end impact leading to tonal balance. With dynamic drivers, depending on venting of the shell, the seal can also play a role in driver flex, the click you hear when inserting IEMs in your ears due to an air pressure on the diaphragm of the driver.

    Due to anatomy of my earcanal, I use only the largest eartips with all my universal IEMs. Here, I found that going one size smaller to a medium size helped relax the seal which nearly eliminated the driver flex, plus got the bass quantity to a more balanced level. In another observation, I found a wider bore eartips to enhance the bass, while narrow bore to attenuate it. For example, relative to my ears, I found SpinFit medium size narrow bore eartips to work the best for me, while large bore opening medium Spiral Dots to boost the bass quantity.

    Eartips selection and fit is a subjective matter that will depend on your personal taste and ear anatomy, thus make sure to pay close attention and to experiment. Also, keep in mind, I can only comment about universal fit model I tested which allowed me to tip roll.

    Also, I would like to add, even with Medium size eartips, I found LX to have a decent isolation.

    Cable.

    Legend X comes with premium wires, Effect Audio Ares II pure copper (UPOCC Litz Copper) brand name cable. This cable uses 26awg 4 conductors with a proprietary multi-size stranded design and a flexible insulation. The wires are very pliable and relatively lightweight. The plug is right angled gold plated Oyaide 3.5mm Single Ended. When placing the order, you will be able to select an upgrade with either 2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced termination. Y-splitter and chin-slider are plastic, 3D printed. 2pin connectors are standard, universal, and you also have a pre-shaped flexible earhook shrink-wrap tube for a more secure fit.

    I tested LX with many premium high-end cables, including EA Horus, PWA 1960 4wire, EA Lionheart, Whiplash TWau, HSA Aurora, EA Thor II+, and PlusSound X-series tri-metal. I found all these cables to tighten the sound and to have some level of improvement in resolution and transparency, but at the same time they lifted the bass up and made treble a little brighter. I welcome more airiness and resolution in treble, but preferred to keep the bass where it was with Ares II. I also tested it with both PWA No5 and HSA Zen, both pure copper cables on the same level as Ares II, but ended up going back to Ares II because other two lifted the bass.

    Effect Audio Ares II is known to have a wider soundstage, nice sub-bass extension but less rumble and a touch less mid-bass impact with smoother and more revealing upper mids and treble in comparison to some other pure copper cables. With all that in mind, it pairs up quite well with LX. Of course, if you have other replacement cables, go ahead and experiment with different pair ups. Otherwise, there is no need to invest into more expensive cables unless you want to improve/increase the resolution and the quantity of the low-end impact.

    Design.

    As already mentioned, Legend X is a 7-driver hybrid, partitioned into 2 Dynamic drivers and 5 Balanced Armature drivers. Utilizing a proprietary synX Crossover Network to fine-tune and to control every single driver, you have custom W9 (Weapon IX) dynamic driver subwoofers taking care of sub-bass and mid-bass, and 5 proprietary custom BA drivers by Knowles and Sonion, split between mids, upper mids, and highs. Every new Empire Ears model will have their own custom synX Crossover design, corresponding to the number and the type of drivers.

    Another piece of tech utilized in Legend X and all other new EE IEMs is A.R.C. resonance control technology. Its initials stand for Anti-Resonance Compound which is a proprietary coating that eliminates unwanted vibrations and resonance within IEM. This compound actually serves as a dampener to absorb the unwanted resonance.

    Regarding the exterior design, all the models should be offered in custom and universal fits, with the ability to customize them the same way as the rest of EE models. I'm not posting pictures of my prototype model, just in case if there were some final shell adjustment, like the shape and the length of the nozzle. But one thing I was told that universal model design will remain in the same compact shell. Obviously, the shape of CIEM shell will depend on your ear impressions, while universal IEM will have a common compact shell design.

    Also, based on the driver partitioning, there will be 4 sound tubes leading to a tip of the nozzle where you have 4 bore opening. Plus, a careful examination of the shell revealed 3 small pinhole vents on a side, most likely related to DD.

    Sound Analysis.

    Legend X tuning is catered to basshead audiophiles. I have used these two words in the same sentence before, but I haven't heard anything quite like this tuning in the past because many IEMs with enhanced bass usually compensate it with extra treble definition to balance the sound. As a result, you end up with a v-shaped signature where the quality of mids tuning is compromised. LX is different. While I still want to refer to it as v-shaped tuned, if you shift your focus to mids/treble, this IEM sounds like having a fully balanced signature with an enhanced bass impact.

    Bass tuning is definitely the highlight of LX, where sub-bass doesn't just go deep but hits hard with a rumble you don't just hear but actually feel in your chest. We are talking about smooth textured analog quality visceral rumble you expect to hear from full-size floor-standing speakers, packed inside of a compact shell and delivered by dual DD. Mid-bass is also very authorative and hits hard, not too fast or two slow, with a medium speed attack and an average decay, giving the bass plenty of control while transitioning into lower mids. Relative to each other, the sub-bass and mid-bass are well balanced, and overall bass is not too tight or too sloppy, but it's always present. For those who prefer a neutral bass, or more focus on mids/treble without relying on EQ adjustment, you probably going to be overwhelmed by its quantity, though I can't imagine anybody complaining about the quality. The presence of the bass adds a nice deep low-end texture and body to the sound which works quite well with jazz, classical, acoustic, and vocal music genres. But once you play EDM/Club, Top40 Pop, R'n'B, or Hip hop - the bass drum will hit hard, like you have full-size speakers in your ears. But it's still well controlled, and that's what makes this bass unique, and quite responsive under EQ adjustment where 3dB cut around 60Hz can tone it down for those who want a more balanced sound signature (my personal preference).

    Lower mids are neutral, maybe even south of it, being a little leaner than neutral, creating a nice cut around 1k for a better separation between bass and mids. LX doesn't sound like a typical hybrid IEM with incoherent separation of DD and BA drivers. Even with a bass boost, there is still some coherency in the transition. I guess it has to be attributed to crossover tuning because even with the enhanced bass quantity, I still find the transition into the mids and upper mids to flow in naturally. Mids have a rather natural revealing tonality with a good presence between 2k-6k which has a decent retrieval of details, excellent transparency, and a nice layering and separation of sounds. That is the reason why I'm having a difficulty calling LX as a v-shaped IEM because of the mids presence and quality. Mids are not thin or analytical, and don't shine with too much micro-details. But at the same time, they are not congested, or warm, or smooth like some other IEMs with enhanced bass. So, I would classify LX upper mids as naturally-revealing.

    Treble has a very good extension, plenty of clarity and details without being fatigued. It has a nice level of airiness to let the sound breath, but it all done in a natural way without being too exaggerated or too crisp. Some v-shaped IEMs overcompensate by pushing the treble harder, while here you have a good balance. For example, the cymbal crash has a tail with a natural realistic decay without any premature roll off or too much harsh ringing. As I already mentioned, treble has a natural non-fatigued tuning, and a perfect tonal balance without been too smooth or too harsh.

    Soundstage of LX is another element of tuning which stands one the moment you put these in your ears, due to their very wide left to right expansion. The soundstage depth is average, not too far out of your head, closer to the stage, creating a more intimate elliptical soundstage field around my head. With such expansion, the imaging of LX has a very good placement of instruments and vocals with a relatively accurate positioning where you can pin point every sound without a problem. At least for me personally, I found positioning of vocals and instruments to be very convincing.

    Again, despite enhanced bass, the layering and the separation of the sound is very good. Because bass is under control, nothing spills into mids, and the higher resolution and the transparency of the mids and treble keep all the sounds easily distinguishable, never getting congested or muddy. Despite its power, I don't find the bass to be a distraction, I can shift my focus to mids, and the sound is still very resolving.

    Comparison.

    Here is how Legend X compares to some other IEMs.

    Legend X vs Trio - While Trio has a wide soundstage, LX extends the width a little further; with staging depth, Trio extends further from the front stage while LX is a little closer and more intimate. While both are hybrids with a dynamic bass driver, LX sub-bass and mid-bass slam harder, at least 3dB more in quantity. Both have a well-controlled bass without spilling into mids which is impressive, especially in case of LX where low end has a stronger driving power. Lower mids are neutral in both IEMs, actually a little south of neutral in LX, which helps with separation of bass from upper mids and treble, and then LX upper mids continue with a natural detailed tonality where in contrast Trio upper mids are more forward, thinner, and brighter, as well as more revealing in comparison. The same difference carries over into the treble where Trio is brighter, with more crunch and airiness while LX has the same treble extension, but it sounds calmer, more controlled, less fatigue, and still well defined and with a nice level of sparkle. The biggest difference between these two is in the bass slam, especially sub-bass rumble where LX has an upper hand, and treble definition where Trio's TIA driver gives it energy, while LX sounds more natural and less crunchy in comparison.

    Legend X vs UERR - I know it is totally crazy to compare 7-way hybrid with 3BA IEM, but I keep coming back to this comparison because of both having a natural tonality of mids/treble. Starting with a soundstage expansion, LX has more width while both have a similar depth. Also, no surprises here, LX is heavily dominating in sub-bass and mid-bass quantity, going deeper and slamming harder. With lower mids, LX is a little south of neutral, while UERR is north of it, giving a little thicker body to the sound. But starting from upper mids and through the treble extension - there is a lot of similarities in tonality due to their musical nature. I do have to give LX more credit where the retrieval of details is on a higher level while UERR is smoother, but with an exception of the bass, these have more in common when it comes to upper mids and treble.

    Legend X vs Fourte - Finally, we have a soundstage expansion match, with both having nearly the same width and depth. Sub-bass extension and mid-bass slam is noticeably bigger in LX, while Fourte has a more neutral sub-bass and slimmer and faster mid-bass. Both have a similarly tuned lower mids, south of neutral, and from there going up the difference is again quite noticeable where Fourte upper mids and treble are a lot brighter, more revealing, more micro detailed, while LX is smoother and more natural in tonality, with a lot less crunch and airiness. LX and Fourte have a very different tuning, but I know many will be curious if there are any similarities, which I didn't find.

    Legend X vs U12t - Here is another interesting comparison, including similarities. Starting with soundstage, LX is still wider, but U12t has more staging depth. With bass, the sub-bass rumble and mid-bass punch quantities are very similar, but the quality differs between a faster and tighter U12t bass vs more analog quality LX with a dual DD which is thicker, slower and more natural in comparison. With lower mids, U12t is a little thicker which gives the sound more body, while LX lower mids are leaner in comparison. Upper mids have a lot of similarities in tonality, though U12t is a little smoother and more forward in presentation, while LX upper mids are a little more revealing when it comes to detail retrieval, and have a more layered sound. Treble has a lot of similarities in tonality and presentation, with U12t having just a bit of an edge in a crunch and airiness.

    Legend X vs W900 - Another great hybrid for comparison. Without surprises, LX delivers a wider soundstage, while W900 has a little more out of your head depth. Sub-bass rumble quantity and mid-bass slam are close, but LX bass feels tighter and better controlled. The control of the bass is especially noticeable when it comes to lower mids where W900 is thicker due to some spillage, while LX is south of neutral, being leaner. Upper mids and treble have a very similar tonality and presentation, but a different level of layering and separation where W900 sounds a little more congested while LX is more resolving. The biggest difference here is in the lower mids where W900 is thicker and more congested.

    Legend X vs VEGA - The soundstage is wider in LX while VEGA has more out of your head depth. With bass, finally we have a pair of IEMs with even more sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass punch where VEGA has an upper hand in this comparison. Both have a below neutral leaner lower mids to accentuate the bass. Upper mids do vary with LX being more natural, more detailed, less fatigue. 6k peak is more dominant in VEGA which in some pair ups can make the sound harsh, LX is definitely more natural in comparison. Treble is also brighter and crisper in VEGA, versus being smoother and more natural in LX. While VEGA was considered before as one of my top recommendations for basshead audiophiles, I think now LX can challenge that status.

    Pair up.

    Here is how Legend X pairs up with various sources, all from balanced HO (I was using my own Ares II 2.5mm terminated cable), except M2S and LPG which are single ended. In every pair up I found No Hissing, regardless of output impedance of the source.

    Cowon Plenue 2 - very wide soundstage; powerful bass slam with a deep sub-bass rumble; natural, detailed, resolving mids; well defined crisp treble with a natural brightness and airy extension.

    Shanling M2S (5ohm output impedance) - wide soundstage; very powerful bass slam with a deep sub-bass rumble; smooth, detailed mids with a good resolution; well defined crisp treble, a little less airiness. Overall tonality is smoother and warmer.

    Lotoo PAW Gold - very wide soundstage: powerful bass slam with even deeper sub-bass rumble and overall bass being tighter and faster; natural, detailed, very resolving mids with great transparency; well defined crisp treble with a little more crunch, more brightness, and more airiness.

    Cayin N5ii - very wide soundstage; powerful bass slam with even deeper sub-bass rumble and overall bass being tighter and faster; natural, detailed, resolving mids; well defined crisp treble with plenty of crunch and airiness.

    A&K AK120ii - very wide soundstage; overwhelming bass slam with a very deep rumble; natural, detailed, resolving, transparent mids; well defined crisp treble with a natural brightness and airy extension.

    Hiby R6 (10ohm output impedance) - very wide soundstage; powerful bass slam with even deeper sub-bass rumble; very natural, detailed, resolving mids with great transparency; well defined crisp treble with plenty of crunch and airiness.

    FiiO X7ii - very wide soundstage; powerful bass slam with a deep sub-bass rumble, overall bass is tighter and faster; natural, detailed, smooth mids with a good resolution; well defined crisp treble with a natural brightness and airy extension.

    TheBit Opus#2 - very wide soundstage; powerful mid-bass slam with a deep sub-bass rumble, overall bass is tighter and faster; natural, detailed, smooth mids with a good resolution, but overall mids presentation is pushed a little back; well defined crisp treble, a little smoother, and still airy.

    iBasso DX200 w/amp4 - very wide soundstage; powerful balanced bass with well controlled mid-bass slam and deep textured sub-bass rumble; very natural detailed mids with high resolution and transparency; well defined crisp treble with a natural brightness and non-fatigue airy extension. By far my favorite pair up.

    Sony WM1Z - very wide soundstage; powerful mid-bass slam with a deep textured sub-bass rumble; very natural detailed resolving mids with a great level of transparency; well defined crisp treble with a natural brightness and non-fatigue airy extension. My 2nd favorite pair up.

    Samsung Note 4 - wide soundstage; powerful mid-bass slam with a deep sub-bass rumble; natural, detailed, resolving mids with a decent transparency; well defined crisp treble with a natural brightness and a good airy extension.

    Based on how I hear it, I found DX200 w/amp4 to have the best pair up, while WM1Z was 2nd best, just with a little more bass slam. Other pair ups were good too. Pair up with R6 and Plenue 2 was the most flexible due to their DSP effect which help to adjust the tonality.

    Conclusion.

    I’m already anticipating a question if Legend X and Phantom (another all BA new release from Empire Ears) will be the new EE flagships. I didn’t hear the Phantom yet, will do that at the upcoming CanJam NYC, but based on my understanding this is an all new product line, outside of their Olympic series where Zeus remains the reigning king. The sound signature of Legend X opens a door to audiophiles and audio enthusiasts with a guilty pleasure of extra bass without sacrificing the resolution, the transparency, and the detail retrieval of the mids or the sparkle and the airiness of the treble.

    What I’m trying to say, Legend X has a well-controlled bass, with an overall tuning that will appeal not just to bassheads but other listeners. In many IEMs, boosting or cutting the bass, can ruin the spectral balance. With Legend X, I enjoyed the extra presence of the bass while listening to jazz, classical, instrumental, and vocal tracks where it gave more body to the sound, making it more natural, yet still resolving. Switching to EDM or any current Top40 Pop/Urban where the bass drum kicks in, you get a powerful low-end slam. And in some cases, I did have to apply a 3dB cut around 60Hz to attenuate the bass down, to bring the mids more forward. But that EQ cut didn’t affect the tonality of the mids, just their presentation. That’s what I think will make Legend X appealing to different listener, its unique tuning, its control of the sound, and its “legendary” bass.