Empire Ears Wraith - Reviews
Pros: Build quality.
Gorgeous looks (love the purple!)
Wonderful overall sound.
Clarity, sound stage.
Layers of detail.
Presentation.
Cons: Price.
Lacks the bass of the Legend X.
Sound, which may not fit all (too detailed).
Empire Ears Wraith ($3499): What’s in a name?


EE website:
https://empireears.com/collections/ep-series/products/wraith-universal

HeadFi tour site:
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/us-head-fi-tour-empire-ears-wraith-vs-valkyrie-totl-ciem-tour-starting-october-2019.915269/

*Empire Ears is proud to present the World's First Quad Electrostatic IEM, The Wraith. The Wraith is Carnegie Hall built for one; a vast cathedral erected in the name of crystalline, pure sound. *






Often on IEM tours, pairs of good are sent. One near-top and one TOTL. This can cause a conundrum as one may be more apt to spend the majority of the time with the TOTL, neglecting the “lesser” of the two. I will admit this happened with the Phantom/Legend X pair sent some time ago. I liked the Phantom, but absolutely fell for the LX. So much so, that I will most likely order one in a few days. It is not that I was on the fence, oh no. The reason is that after hearing both the Valkyrie and Wraith I am quite comfortable purchasing the LX. I do see a difference between the LX and Wraith, with more similarities between the Valkyrie and LX. Some even called the Valk a baby Legend X. I think that is a disservice, since in my Valkyrie review, I state unabashedly that the Valk can stand on its own merits quite nicely.

No, what sent me over the top for the Legend X is pure and simple…the bass. Intoxicating would not be too strong a word. From the Valkyrie, the bass of the W9 subwoofer is strong. The bass of the LX is well, twice as strong (not really) due to the dual-W9’s. While the Wraith is an extraordinary model, it does not have my signature of choice. It is too similar to my CTM Da Vinci X to allow me the purchase. I dearly love the sound signature of the Wraith but found myself leaning towards the Valkyrie for better than 50% of my time. That said, the Wraith paired with an excellent source be it the Questyle QP2R or Cayin N6 mk2, you are set for a superb sound, and one I enjoyed immensely.

The Wraith defines flagship/TOTL for EE and competes on equal terms with IEM’s such as the 64Audio tia Forte. And it should. Priced in the same bracket, one would hope that even with differing signatures, they are on the same level. The Wraith has more bass than the Forte. The Forte has more air between the notes. The Wraith is warmer to me. The Forte is more “reference.” I will state up front that if you prefer detail, the tia Forte has few peers, even here. But if you want more of a soul, a sound described by some as detailed, but with a meaty sound, then the Wraith is the one with few peers. I would liken the comparison to the U18 tzar as more akin in the 64Audio lineup and the two present sound similarly to me.

The Wraith is an extraordinary example from a company, which had no need to raise the bar (think Zeus iterations and the Legend X) but chose to and now that bar is set higher. I called the Legend X “the standard” in my review, and I meant it. The Wraith would be the higher standard for EE, and one in which other manufacturers should be very wary. Aim for it if you must, but few may attain that same level of sound across the board.





Specs:

Technical Specifications:

4 Electrostatic Drivers (EIVEC - Empire Intelligent Variable Electrostatic Control)
7 Proprietary Empire Balanced Armature Drivers (Knowles and Sonion)
2 Low, 3 Mid, 2 High, 4 Super-High
5-Way synX Crossover Network
A.R.C. Resonance Mitigation Technology
Impedance: 4 ohms @ 1kHz
Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 100kHz
Sensitivity 117dB @ 1kHz, 1mW
UPOCC 26AWG Handcrafted Cable by Effect Audio (Cleopatra: $699)


What’s in the box:

Included at no additional charge with each order.


  • In Ear Monitor
  • Empire Pandora Case
  • Empire Cleaning Cloth
  • Empire Cleaning Tool
  • Final Audio Type E Tips - SS, S, M, L, LL


Gear Compared/Used:


Unique Melody Maestro V2 ($1599)
Empire Ears Valkyrie ($1599)
Unique Melody Mentor V3 ($2599)
Clear Tunes Monitor Da Vinci X ($2499)
Empire Ears Legend X ($2299)

Cayin N6 mk2
Questyle QP2R
Dethonray DTR1
Shanling M5s


Songs:

Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World, Midnight Radio
twenty one pilots-Blurryface, Trench, Regional at Best
Van Morrison-Three Chords & The Truth
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Bonnie Raitt
Ziggy Marley
Damien Marley
Bob Marley
Santana
Stevie Ray Vaughn

Whatever my fancy of the moment


Unboxing (copied from Valkyrie review, tbh):


Coming in a fair-sized box, you would expect the EE product to be well packed and chock full of goodies. One would not be wrong. With a pull up sleeve opening from right to left, you open the book on the purchase. Tucked neatly inside is the IEM already attached to the Effect Audio Ares ii cable. A stunning first look.

Sliding the light, smooth cardboard sleeve off, complete with both EE logos, you find the main box with minimally more writing. Laden on the “flap” side is the company motto, “the pursuit of extraordinary.” On the bottom front is the model and color on a silver sticker. Open the flap and you are presented with a black paperboard thank you wrapped over a foam-core base. In another sleeve are the quick start guide and a cleaning cloth. With the cable wrapped under the thank you, the IEM’s form a heart shape. In other words, double duty in seeing the beauty and making your heart aflutter.

The “drawer,” which is like a child’s jewelry cabinet slides to reveal the Pandora case, Final tips on an aluminum board, and cleaning tool. And, when you think about it, we of the hobby do in fact collect “jewelry” of a different sort…maybe Empire Ears already know, and are playing mind games with us…



Not too much, and some might think not enough. Of the boxes I have, the Clear Tunes Monitor is the best box I have ever seen. Replete with info galore, you marvel at all while listening. Here the focus is on listening. And that is all right.


Fit-n-finish:

Running that many drivers one would expect the unit to be on the larger size. One would not be wrong, and with a long nozzle, fit can be tricky, and did become tedious over time. Where the Valkyrie and LX fit my average sized ears quite well, the Wraith does as well, but can become uncomfortable after a few hours. I was able to adjust and keep listening, but it did affect the overall fit. Using the included Final Audio Type E tips, the seal was quite good, and so was the sound. A company such as EE would not include a tip of choice if it did not fit their bill. I will also admit that the Type E tips are just about the only silicon tips I will use on the higher priced IEM’s I have in possession. My choice as always is the Comply line of tips. I do vary between the comfort, sport and isolation varieties between IEM’s.





The techy bits:

Empire Intelligent Variable Electrostatic Control Technology - EIVEC for short - is a new-found approach to incorporating electrostatic drivers into in ear monitors. For all their incredible range and resolution, electrostatic drivers - ESTs - are notoriously hard to control, often overpowering other drivers. EIVEC is our solution to that, and the degree of control provided by EIVEC is so precise that, in the case of Wraith, each EST driver operates independently, performing disparate tasks within the sound stage. The result is a seamless and rich sound signature layered in detail and texture the likes of which you've never heard before.

ESTs are capable of stable production of the entire frequency range from 4kHz - 100kHz. Naturally, humans can't hear much above 20kHz but a driver capable of reliably producing the extreme high frequencies possesses an agility requisite for levels of detail unmatched by any other driver technology.

synX Crossover Technology

How do crossovers work?

Think of a crossover network as an audio traffic officer, directing highs to your tweeters, midrange to your speakers, and bass to your subwoofers. This is essentially what a crossover does; it takes an input signal and splits it into separate audio bands. Could you imagine having numerous speakers with just a few dedicated audio bands? It would cause a massive audio pile up, forcing the wrong speakers to reproduce the wrong frequencies constantly. We avoid all of this by utilizing specially designed drivers for designated frequency ranges and further maximizing their potential with our latest crossover technology, synX.

Introducing synX
synX is a supercharged crossover design that designates more individual audio bands per driver than any other crossover technology currently in existence. By creating an ultra-wide, multi-channel highway our engineers can manipulate specific parts of the frequency range in order to precision craft the target response and eliminate any signs of phase incoherence between the drivers. Alternatively, mix engineers and audiophiles will have full control of the drivers when equalizing through a mixing console or digital audio player. synX is the industry’s most advanced IEM crossover technology with each model featuring its own uniquely designed synX network.synX advantages: Ultra-Wide Frequency Bandwidth, Best Signal-to-Noise, Low Distortion, Maximum Signal Transfer.

Well…how does it sound?


I will again admit that while I heard the Wraith first, my early time was spent with the Valkyrie. I did initially like the Valk more. It fits my listening style more. I still like the Valkyrie. But after spending extensive time with the Wraith using mainly the QP2R and N6 mk2, I came to completely respect the direction EE is taking with the Wraith. One does not simply throw a flagship out without fully vetting it. You have your reputation, current and future with which to take into consideration. As such EE took their time, and most definitely raised the bar of sound.

So, what does this all mean? Is it worth the $3499usd? That is a judgement of which you and your significant other make, not me. Suffice to say that if I was in the market for a TOTL IEM at this price, the number considered would be quite few and they would have to beat the Wraith to me. Maybe not at the top of the list, but serious listening and consideration would be needed. The Wraith is an exceptional example of music taken to another level by a company, which had no need to improve in this manner. What with the Phantom, Legend X and more affordable models such as the Bravado and ESR; EE was set. But that shows how much the company cares. Implementing new sound sources within their unit takes a bit of guts and a bit of a gamble. I will not mention another company of which I consider on this level who did so and have kind of failed when taking the chances. It is a hit-or-miss sometimes and a company must be quick to recognize either direction. In one you capitalize on it. In the other you learn from the decision and move forward. Here though, EE has a winner. No need to re-evaluate. The Wraith is worthy of the TOTL moniker.

The bass, while short of the LX and Valkyrie is excellent at presentation. Coming on in the right bits and right quantity the support to the others is quite evident. The Wraith is not meant to carry on the level of bass in the others. We are talking of a more neutral sound (to me). Balance and detail come to mind with the Wraith. Vocals are still behind center, but you get the feeling that is where they would be should you be live. Convincing in presentation, it is almost a trick. But it is not, for the sound is true and fairly detailed. Not as detailed as the CTM Da Vinci X, but the sound is not meant to be. For this is a slightly warmer signature, which fits the EE “mold” perfectly. Presenting warm vocals gives an almost sensuous quality to the music. You feel that this would be the IEM of Billy Holiday’s choice. Pure sound, with that bit of chocolaty warmth that comes with winter warmth in front of a small venue live show. Call it authentic bass and you would not be remise.






I do find the mids to be behind the center stage, which until you get used to it can be a bit off-putting. Until you realize that this support range is meant as a tie to both ends. Male vocals are presented a bit darker, while female vocals have that sumptuous quality of sublime presentation. Bonnie Raitt’s rough voiced quality comes across a bit gentler, but without losing that edge. Her voice is to die for, and even through the Wraith you do not lose that quality. You gain a bit of dark nature, which aids in the mystique of her vocal presence.

Others have mentioned how the treble is a bit subdued and rolled off. I concur and really cannot add much other than this is an upper end I thoroughly enjoy. I do not tolerate too much sparkle or sibilance, and neither are present here. Bonnie’s voice carries into the treble range nicely without fatigue, and I find that even with the sensitive nature of the Wraith, I can turn the volume up on Thing Called Love and still enjoy all. Man, what a voice.



With an exceptional soundstage you appreciate the thick nature of the overall sound, especially when a song such as Too Soon To Tell comes on as you sink back into your easy chair, relishing the splendid sound. Wide, deep and fairly tall, the sound is wider than tall. Not cubic but panoramic again. Whatever the elves of SE GA do with regard to soundstage in their swampy shop, do so right. I am enamored with the soundstage application of all EE units. This is no different.

Detail is impressive, as it should be for this level. Not on par with the U18T or tia Forte but combined with the warmer sound than the two just mentioned, and you get a really pleasant signature. This is wonderfully detailed, in that combination. As such the separation is very, very good. On par with the UM Mentor V3, but not quite as good as the CTM Da Vinci X. That provides the listener with excellent air and separation to go along with the detail. Here there is good clarity to go along, and that helps.

To alleviate any fears regarding less than stellar detail or separation or an airy presence, I throw on Dave Matthews Stay Or Leave. Such a wonderful love song, with a complex intricate melody, much like a love affair. And this is how you could look at the Wraith. In its presence, it will surprise you. And that is the telling nature of the signature. A nice surprise to make you feel, “yep, this is really quite extraordinary on its own merits.” This is an impressive package, indeed.



Comparisons:


Empire Ears Wraith ($3499) vs Unique Melody Maestro V2 ($1599):


Repeatedly stated, this was my first foray into TOTL-dom. And I still have the pair. Presenting a very clean signature, the sound is nonetheless thin when compared to the robust Wraith sound. Where the Wraith is robust in its presentation and signature, the Maestro is more delicate. More deliberate. Just like the name implies, the Maestro is in control of the overall, moving with authoritative distinction and delicacy. The bass is as good quantity-wise as the Wraith, but of lesser quality. There is definitely more air between the notes, with better placement and separation of note. The sound is pure, ever so slightly warm and breathes wonderfully in most genre of music. I still appreciate the tuning very much, even as other wares from UM and others pass it by technologically. With 12 BA drivers (4 each for lows and mids, 2 each for high and “superhigh”) and “only” four crossovers, the Maestro set the stage during the driver wars. Tight control, with the airy sound lent a signature, which was clear but not analytical as were many of the time. It was only a short time ago that not only were driver counts the forte, but a “reference” signature was au rigor. UM flew against the grain setting sound signature as their “reference,” not pure analytical sound. A sound I very much appreciate and still like.

But here is where the Wraith has passed the Maestro. Newer technology, and the electrostatic drivers are just too much for me not to like. The Maestro is very, very good. The Wraith is exceptional. If you like air between your notes, and value placement, then the Maestro is your ticket here. If you want an overall higher quality signature, then the choice would justify the price difference your wallet would suffer.



Empire Ears Wraith ($3499) vs Empire Ears Valkyrie ($1599):

This would be like comparing the older sibling to the younger less-developed sibling. But warranted, because each is their own IEM, and each delivers a significantly different sound. Where the Wraith is all-encompassing, with a fantastic tone; the Valkyrie is oriented around that fabulous W9 subwoofer. The bass is almost thunderous (the Legend X’s dual-W9 subs are thunderous), bettering the Wraith in the reach department. That is not to say the Wraith does not have sufficient bass like a reference sound. It has exceptional bass quality and can hold its own against whatever TOTL IEM you throw in its path. It simply to me does not have the sub-bass quantity of the Valkyrie (or Legend X).

Where the Wraith is pure and exudes that sense of complete immersion, the Valkyrie would be the Disneyworld ride with the thundering bass, adding to the impending natural disaster, which magically avoids you JUST in the nick of time. I love the Valkyrie sound. It fits my tone better than anything I have encountered save the Legend X. And if it were not for the Legend X, I would purchase the Valkyrie. I think that highly of it. But the Wraith is the proverbial ‘nother level. It is all-around better.



Empire Ears Wraith ($3499) vs Unique Melody Mentor V3 ($2599):

After participating in another tour, I deemed the Mentor V3 worthy of a purchase. I liked the sound signature more than the Mason V3. To me the bass presented was better and more prevalent. But, when compared to the Wraith, the separation is pretty clear. I found the sound stage to be wider in the Wraith, and separation of note better as well. The overall darker signature of the Mentor is quite good for my tastes, but I do wish it had a bit more sub-bass quantity; even with the adjustable opening (which is quite novel, as is the changeable cable from side-to-side).

As an equal partner at the top of the UM line, the Mentor arrives at its signature sound in a different manner than the Mason V3. With a bit less air and detail, but better mid and bass presentation, the Mentor is a complimentary pair to the Mason, giving people two options from which to choose. It was the slightly darker signature, which I preferred with the Mentor, and still use it quite a bit. The only part I do not like is the fit of the cable over-ear. Well too stiff for me, the ear guides are pliable but too stiff. Plus, the proprietary cable is not for everyone. With the ability to change from a cleaner to darker signature, I applaud the decision, but find the cable ungainly with which to work. Having the adjustment screw for bass can help alleviate one’s need for bass. With the Wraith, you are set. But man, what a set tone. Having the ability to fine tune the sound is nice to have, but not entirely needed. And in this regard, I would put the Wraith ahead of the Mentor for overall sound quality.



Empire Ears Wraith ($3499) vs Clear Tunes Monitor Da Vinci X ($2499):

Also purchased after a tour, the Da Vinci X is just about the clearest sound I have heard. With enough air between notes to make a stadium full of Futbol fans lightheaded, you get every nuance. Every detail. Every bit of clarity there can be from the music. Of the IEM’s I have heard, the X is the cleanest sound I have heard. Without being antiseptic, the sound is wholesome and good. Treble with the perfect amount of sparkle. Mids worthy of inclusion in the finest museum, and bass sufficient enough to put it all together. But there may be a bit TOO much clarity as I cannot turn the volume up too much without it bothering me after a listening session. That added clarity comes at the cost of listening-ability. It is a trade-off I take, but do feel there is a presence, a lack of soul, which is missing on some tracks.

There is no lack with the Wraith. Cut from similar clarity sound, the Wraith is an excellent sound, period. Darker, more mysterious the Wraith can cut it with pretty much anything out there. Not quite the clarity of the Da Vinci, but with more depth of sound, I very much like the sound.



Empire Ears Wraith ($3499) vs Empire Ears Legend X ($2299):

From one TOTL to another, the comparison is valid for when you replace a Legend, you had better bring you’re A-game. And the Wraith does. But I prefer the Legend X. Having one w9 like the Valkyrie is fabulous. Having TWO W-9’s is phenomenal, and the bass is worthy of your floor-standing speakers. It is that good. And I cannot underestimate how much I like that sound. Treble stops short of becoming grating to me, and I can listen for long periods. Pinky says this right: it is the best IEM he has ever heard. We have both heard the tia Fourte as well, which does provide more air and clarity, but that meaty sound of the Legend is what makes it for both of us.

If you want a no-nonsense sound, then the Wraith has very few peers anywhere. If you prefer a meatier sound, then the Legend X has few peers. Plus, that bass is to die for.



Sources:

Most of the time was spent with the Cayin N6 mk2, since that was also in house. To think of the pairing together as good would be an incredible insult to both. This truly is end-game material especially with the functionality of the Cayin. I only scratched the surface of usability with the N6ii, but in the short time I have it I discerned it quite capable. As such, it was a wonderful pairing with the Wraith. Adding a touch more warmth, the sound was sublime. Adding depth as well, gave what few shortcomings the Wraith may have had a boost, the two seemed destined for each other. It was truly a treat to hear the pairing and one in which I could easily judge all others. I spent approximately 40 hours together with the duo.


Next on the list was my Questyle QP2R, which is quite superb on its own. Rivaling the price of the N6 mk2, the QP2R comes at you with pure sound. Fewer frills than the Cayin, the Questyle is meant for sound. And in typical Questyle manner, it is clean, clear, crisp, and vibrant. This was actually an excellent. Pairing as well, giving the Wraith a lift where needed, adding a bit of air, which is lacking in the presentation. Think of it as the frisky friend Tigger who tries to raise Eeyore’s spirits. And does so, because Eeyore has no choice. I would call the pairing as good as the Cayin, but from two different points: the Cayin is dark and mysterious, while the QP2R is open and airy, almost clinical in presentation but not. This is most definitely reference sound, and good.


Spending a bit of time with the Dethonray DTR1, I found the pair quite musical, but a step down from either the Cayin or Questyle. I liked it, but I do believe even the pureness of the DTR1 was out of its depth here. It did work quite well with the Valkyrie, though. Tale of two IEM’s maybe…


Conclusion:

The duo is headed east to NYC at the moment, and I lament their loss. They are marvelous from two differing directions. The Valkyrie is certainly not a baby-Legend X, but a wonderfully affordable unit, which espouses terrific bass and the electrostat pulls the rest together. The Wraith on the other hand is meant for purity of sound, with a solid thump as well. Not like the Valk/Legend, but cleaner and respected for the overall slightly warm tone, which presents itself rightly as a TOTL. This is not kids play. This is serious business when you reach this point. To flippantly flail out $3500 on an IEM would be foolish no matter what us hobby-gentlemen state. I would state the same with the 64Audio pair mentioned often here as well. When one reaches this point, you had better listen, lest you find out the tuning is not for you. That said, the Wraith is forgiving enough that you would quickly adjust. And I do think that is one of its greatest strengths…the ability to win you over, once you listen. I still like the Valkyrie more, but the Wraith won me over in the end with its solid build, fabulous electrostats, and a sound, which the industry should take notice of…or be jealous on the sidelines as EE passes them by. Splendid, indeed.

I thank all from Empire Ears for the loan of these gems, as well as @Barra and @BulldogTM for the continued support of these tours. I have heard the gear of a lifetime, and hope it continues. Now the wait for my Legend X…


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Barra
Barra
Great review!
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Much obliged, sir. And thank you for the wonderful tours!
Pros: Best I've heard
Cons: I miss Adel though these are plenty open.
The review portion is short as I only heard them relatively briefly. These are the most accurate, resolved and musical in ears yet. Hard to describe something that will only shows flaws elsewhere in the chain. They sounded like what I put through them but with the best relaxed yet dynamic when appropriate res I've come across in an in ear while at the same time transcending the medium with a phenomenal goosebump factor. That's it.

I find that, in general, I like the other reviews but personally think IEM reviews lean toward greater than accurate bass as their reference since that has become the mean for top monitors. Not saying other reviews put quantity over quality as they clearly do not but I very much appreciate EE bucking the norm and still making top IEMs with (at least what I perceive as) an accurate overall tonal balance and to honest, even these may have the bass breathed upon for the sake of natural. It's tough nut but EE gets as or more right than anyone when they want to. At this price, you know that it's clearly a choice to make their top device, also their most accurate. I suspect they've dropped ADEL on new models because the tonality can't be super accurate with and without at the same time and true pro monitors should isolate better than Adel or M modules allow

I've had some costly customs and universals in the past (JH13fp, PP8, Adro, etc) but now own the the more budget EE Spartan ADEL as my top device, which are considered relatively neutral. Without Adel, they are actually somewhat too weighty for my tastes but awesome with the right cable and tips to balance the mids with Adel. I would suspect most reviewers would think Spartans with adel B1/G1 too lean but I could easily mix on these with G1. B1 is a bit lean etc, G1 is great with an odd little 1 db or so bump around 1k and the S1 is a touch warm but nice smooth balance. Sealed is added bass with best isolation but least open.

If I were to buy a new pair of IEMs, it would be EVR or Wraith depending on budget. I'm sure the ESR outsells the EVR but a bit too warm for my personal preferences. EVR is more (extremely) accurate than what I currently use (think musical, more refined top end PP8) but I got these spartans to where it's close and it has ADEL:k701smile:. ESR would probably be the better choice for louder environments like the train, stage or live mixing. The other thing about Adel is that when the environment gets noisy. Seal it up and you get that extra bass to cut through the ambient noise (which lessens perceived bass) plus normal sealed isolation.

That EE gives multiple flavors at multiple price points is kinda awesome. You don't need a 'house sound' when you know accurate and how to fold in flavor from there, while always offering great resolution, coherency and build. I think this lack of house sound beyond super accurate flagship may be a bit confusing to consumers. I'd say to not quit on EE after auditioning one or 2 model if you didn't care for it. There will be one near you price point with the sig you like. They are made this way by design and their res/coherency per price point can't be beat.

I'm a speaker guy with a respected ear by those who know me, though it takes crazy money to get this sort of res, so I don't actually use IEMs that much but my standards are high. I just find very conforting that EE is willing to make accurate a priority when they might be able to sell more by bumping the bass a couple DB. True flagship.
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Erfan Elahi
Erfan Elahi
No you won't get legend x bass. I meant both have standalone incomparable personalities. Wraith's neutral bass is fine for me.
Ike1985
Ike1985
Agree with Erfan, you will not get legend X bass, especially with regard to quantity, impact and note density.
iBo0m
iBo0m
@Ike1985 , @Erfan Elahi I see. However, neutral (if the depth is above average) is more than fine for me. Pure bass-head IEMs are not a good all-rounders.

I guess, the Legend X and Hyla CE-5 are still the leaders :)
Pros: Resolution, Separation, Emotion, Clarity, Ultra Black Background
Cons: Some may find bass quantity lacking
Introduction
Packaging
Technical Specifications
Sound Analysis
Lows
Mids
Comparisons
Pairings
Conclusions

Introduction

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I’ve heard many “top of the line” monitors in my day and to my ears EE flagships always have a “crystalline sound”. Crystals magnify and focus. I have always heard a very distinct reproduction from Empire Ears. I would describe it as a sound which is neatly organized in the sense of each sound being completely separated in-stage from the other sounds. Each sound it’s own distinct sound, allowed to arise and decay as it sees fit uninterrupted by whatever else may be going on in the song. Extreme resolution is the next trait I hear in flagship EE monitors, when people say they hear things they’ve never heard because of an IEM this is a quality you will most certainly get with EE flagships. The final quality that I feel EE most often provides their customers in their best offerings is an utterly black background. The Wraith is a master of all three; complete isolation of each sound in the sound stage, an astonishing level of resolution and texture of sound and finally all of this on a totally black silent background.

I am grateful to Empire Ears for giving me the opportunity to review the Wraith as part of the head-fi tour.


Empire Ears is proud to present the World's First Quad Electrostatic IEM, The Wraith. The Wraith is Carnegie Hall built for one; a vast cathedral erected in the name of crystalline, pure sound. Performances blossom in the enormous sound stage, so intimate you can brush them with your fingertips, yet so grand as to fill every corner, revealing and polishing the finest nuances. Every element of the music is arrayed before you, an orchestra lit in spotlights. No detail is overlooked, but instead is nurtured, given the space to grow and shine. You will truly hear music like never before. World leading treble extension dances atop rich and precise mids, all of which is grounded by the earthy, tight low end. The utterly unbelievable level of detail achieved by The Wraith is only possible through the freshly pioneered EIVEC - Empire Intelligent Variable Electrostatic Control - technology. In The Wraith, EIVEC utilizes two transformers to bring the Quadruple Electrostatic Drivers into order, dividing the duties of the EST drivers, and blending them seamlessly with the seven balanced armature drivers which fill out the rest of the robust sound profile. The results are astounding, crafting a world around you with a clarity, texture, and detail that redefine what's possible. The Wraith comes standard with our new and exclusive "Amethyst Infused Carbon Fiber" faceplate and an Effect Audio Cleopatra bespoke cable.

Packaging

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I found the EE packaging with the Wraith to be the best I have ever seen up to this point. I’m sure I could run over the included hefty twist open IEM case with my truck and the IEM’s inside would be just fine. A variety of Final Type E tips are included ranging from extra-large to super small for a total of 5 size options. Being familiar with their packaging as a former owner of both Zeus and Zeus XR, I can firmly say the packaging provided with the wraith is far better than what they used to provide with their IEM’s. It’s industry leading and what is to be expected at this price point.

Technical Specifications

from
http://www.empireears.com

4 Electrostatic Drivers
7 Proprietary Empire Balanced Armature Drivers
2 Low, 3 Mid, 2 High, 4 Super-High
EIVEC - Empire Intelligent Variable Electrostatic Control
5-Way synX Crossover Network
A.R.C. Resonance Mitigation Technology
Impedance: 4 ohms @ 1kHz
Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 100kHz
Sensitivity 117dB @ 1kHz, 1mW
UPOCC 26AWG Handcrafted Cable by Effect Audio

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Sound Analysis

Signature

This is an audiophiles monitor, excelling above all in the technical aspects of sound reproduction. The Wraith is an absolutely clean sounding upper-mid/high centric monitor with industry leading resolution and just enough bass quantity to create an emotive sound. It excels in technicality, becoming the most technical monitor I’ve ever heard when paired with a TOTL source (Hugo2). The stage is circular with an ovular bent, favoring depth ever so slightly over the other stage dimensions. The stage can sometimes appear smaller than it really is due to the extreme resolution of each note as the brain hears sounds with more detail as being closer. Imaging is top shelf giving the sound an impressive sense of realism. Realism is especially evident in voices where every nuance of throat sound is reproduced causing many “wow” moments. The monitor is also quite emotive. Separation in stage is class leading as every instrument is allowed space to emerge and decay against the blackest background I’ve yet heard. Driver technologies are integrated to create a cohesive and seamless whole. Midrange notes are dense and detail packed. With regard to genre’s I see the Wraith’s talents best used in metal, rock, orchestral and acoustic music. Listeners who favor other genres like rap or EDM may find bass quantity lacking.

Keywords: Audiophile tuning , Extreme resolution, Upper mids favored over lower mids, Ovular three-dimensional stage as opposed to width skewed, Utterly black background, Seamless, Emotive, Realism.

Lows

I wouldn’t call myself a bass head as I don’t enjoy bass when it overpowers or dampens the rest of the sound causing a loss of resolution. I find mid bass quantity to be neutral while both mid and sub bass go very deep in tone but with neutral impact/quantity. I’ve read many IEM reviews where the reviewer will say this is a “quality bass” but not a “quantity bass”, the Wraith fits this description. I was initially turned off by the quantity of bass but as my ears became accustomed to the Wraith I reveled in the clarity of bass, the texture of bass notes reproduced at such a high level of resolution is impressive and fast but it’s at the cost of visceral impact. Bass heads will likely find the quantity lacking but if you do not require significant bass quantity then I suggest you allow your ears to adjust to this new signature because the tradeoff’s you get can be worth if speed, tightness and resolution are sound qualities you enjoy.

Keywords: Extremely resolute bass, neutral mid bass quantity, light sub bass impact, excellent bass extension(deep but not impactful).

Mids/Vocals

All the models of Zeus had exceptional resolution and realism in the midrange, Wraith dethrones them in this regard. Wraith provides a higher resolution, bringing note texture to the fore while presenting an even more real sounding experience especially with regard to vocals wherein all the throat sounds come through cleanly. This is a crystalline midrange, totally transparent and natural in tone. Midrange notes are extremely detailed while presenting moderate density. Upper mids are favored over lower mids and the midrange is forward the rest of the signature.

Keywords: Upper mid focused, Moderate note density, Exceptional resolution especially in vocals.

Highs

Highs are non-fatiguing. Electrostatic drivers shine down on the rest of the signature illuminating the texture of notes and creating clear lines of demarcation around the edges of each sound enhancing the separation. Wraith never crept into sibilance with any recordings for me. Listeners will find a great deal of density in the highs, this monitor is a treble head’s dream. Tremendous detail rendered with electrostatic speed and a silky smooth tuning meld to create one of the best high end tuning's I’ve ever heard with female vocals being where the Wraith truly shines.

Keywords: Butter Smooth Sparkle, Dense, Fast.

Stage, Layering and Separation
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Stage construction is three dimensional as opposed to a wide panned IEM presentation. Stage dimensions are epic with extreme note precision and isolation merging to create a sense of black vastness between notes. An un-congested presentation with each sound having full freedom to emerge and dissolve fully without being distorted or blurred into other sounds. The brain can track a sound down to its faintest echo with Wraith if desired. The super black background aids in this regard as well. The stage is huge in all directions, X, Y and Z. I don’t find any axis to be overly favored over another, maybe an ever so slight ovular shape but it’s very slight.

Keywords: Vast, Top shelf layering and separation, Full 360 circular, Super black background, Exceptional separation.

Resolution and Transparency

The A18t with M15 or Fir audio black module is the most resolute monitor I've heard. I hear the A18t w/M15 or Fir black slightly outperforming Wraith in overall resolution, but Wraith presents ultra high resolution as well through an upper mid and high centric tuning. If you are a huge fan of resolution and you are content with moderate bass impact you will love Wraith but make sure to pair it with a competent source. Wraith's resolution is spread evenly from the silky smooth highs right down to the impressively rendered sub bass texture. Wraith is tonally accurate with excellent transparency. I find myself disappearing into the music with the Wraith’s non-fatiguing and accurate and emotional tuning.

Keywords: Class leading resolution, Accurate tonality leading to total transparency, Emotional.

Comparisons

A18t vs Wraith

To me this is the only comparison that matters as of right now. I am waiting to hear the top shelf vision ears stuff but until then A18t has been my favorite monitor for its’ easy to love signature, in offensive highs, exceptional detail, solid bass impact and incredible layering and separation. A18t has stood the test of time with its’ traditional balanced armature approach while other offerings coming later offered hybrid designs.

Wraith possesses a faster sound due to its’ electrostatic design. Extreme resolution and texture is more effortlessly presented with Wraith especially in the sub bass regions. A18t presents the same resolution but it requires more active listening to pick up with M20 module installed, with M15 the detail is presented more like Wraith and I give the slight edge in overall resolution to A18t. Wraith has more sub bass resolution and texture but A18t counters with more visceral bass impact. As stated earlier, some may find the bass impact on Wraith to be lacking. They both present very realistic vocals with Wraith vocals being more forward.

A18t has a wider stage whereas Wraith counters with a vast circular stage with an ever so slight ovular bent. These are both massive stages that dwarf most other IEMs. If you prefer a more rounded stage you may prefer Wraith, if you want to have those moments every once in awhile where the vastness of the stage jumps out at you then you will prefer the A18t because left to right panning is epic on A18t to the point that it stands out and says “look what I can do.”

With the A18t you have the option of 6 different modules to fine tune the sound, the M15 and M20 from 64 Audio, the hard to find carrot module which totally seals the monitor and the Fir Audio modules. This kind of customization isn’t possible with Wraith of course. A18t will play nicer with more genres and is the versatile. Wraith isolates notes better and sets them against a darker background, A18t also has class leading layering and separation it’s just that the electrostats slightly exceed the BA’s from what I can tell in this regard. It’s the hallmark of electrostatic designs, a crystalline clarity and cleanness to the sound.

These two are both at the top of the heap and I don’t see either one dethroning the other. It all comes down to preference. If you need bass that’s impactful chose A18t w/M20 or the Fir Audio gold module because you’ll still get a massive stage with excellent layering and separation or go M15 for maximum resolution. If you want an upper-mid/highs rich sound and to see what’s technically possible with regard to clarity, separation background blackness and technicality but at the expense of bass impact chose Wraith.

Vision ears comparison will be coming when I hear it.

Valkyrie Vs Wraith

The Valkyrie presents a surprisingly high level of resolution at its’ price point but ultimately falls short of Wraith due to its lack of separation. Herein is the most distinguishing feature between the two, the Wraith has the best note separation I’ve ever heard while the Valkyrie is a notch below due to note bleed. The Valkyrie has much more sub and mid bass impact than Wraith and doesn’t compromise in this regard. Valkyrie’s V-ish shaped signature plays much nicer with most typical genres. The Valkyrie is an incredible deal at its’ price point vs the Wraith and I found it non-fatiguing and enjoyable for hours on end. I found myself toe tapping and bobbing my head much more with Valkyrie whereas with Wraith I was critically listening and being wowed by the resolution and separation.

Pairing

Sources

Do not buy a top shelf monitor and soley run it out of your phone. The Wraith is an incredible piece of sonic engineering that deserves a Hugo2, a top shelf Astell and Kern or a desktop setup. This is a moderately power hungry monitor, I find myself listening comfortably past the ½ point with my Note10+ phone. You will get plenty of volume out of a phone but again feed it right.

Cables

Low end, low end, low end. I think it’s safe to say most people will be served by a pairing the wraith with a cable that attenuates the upper mids in favor of lower mids. I can’t help but want more bass impact and note density. The wraith paired with a cable that accomplished this would be something to behold. There is plenty of weight that could be trimmed off the highs and transferred down to the lows in my opinion.

Conclusion

To my ears the hallmark of top shelf Empire Ears monitors has always been their utterly black background. I have never heard a blacker background than from Zeus XIV and now Wraith. The Wraith presents a supremely resolute, totally transparent and precisely separated sound with an enveloping stage. This is the bleeding edge of what’s technically possible with regard to IEMs. The signature may at first be off putting to bass heads but I suggest you give the Wraith time to grow on you, it was hard for me to put it down once my brain became accustomed to it. The Valkyrie is also an incredible deal vs Wraith that would allow you to get into the EE electrostat game at a lower price point.
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proedros
proedros
great review man
Erfan Elahi
Erfan Elahi
@Ike1985 just received my Wraith today and you're right - it's no way a bright IEM ! I Easily drove from my cheapest source and cable in my drawer - ZX300 and Ares cable - no hiss or microphonics. Or my ears just cant hear hiss from noise floors : P Even with PHA-3 paring is fine too...

Glad you encouraged me about pairing ability when you mentioned your Note 10 :)
toaster22
toaster22
thx for the writeup, ike.

if you think the left-right panning on the a18 is epic, just wait until you hear the erlkonig...it's mindblowing.
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