1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Empire Ears Zeus

Rating:
4.9/5,
  1. MikePortnoy
    Empire Ears Zeus Custom In Ear Monitor Review: Master of Olympus
    Written by MikePortnoy
    Published Mar 15, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Resolution, Imaging, Separation, Craftsmanship
    Cons - A little big shell, Sub-bass tone could be a bit more emotional
    Introduction:
     
    Empire Ears was known as Earwerkz in audiophile world. They have changed their name and released new product line a while ago. Their flagship is now a 14-driver unit, Zeus; and Apollo that I reviewed a while ago is their second most expensive custom in ear monitor in the product line. Apart from these Olympus series two custom monitors, they also offer lifestyle line, which has hard-wired cable and lower profile fit. In addition, they produce Delta series hearing protection monitors. In sum, Empire Ears has a very rich product line.  
     
    I am always impressed by Earwerkz customer service and they seem to carry this tradition in hands of Jack Vang, Empire Ears Co-Manager. Jack always takes care of my problems about monitors and he is very responsive. My Zeus was safely delivered via FedEx. The delivery process was just opposite of my Apollo’s story; my Apollo had a world tour due to USPS fault.  
     
    zeus1.jpg
     
    Design, Fit and Accessories:
     
    Zeus utilizes 14 balanced armature drivers per side. There are also 4 acoustic bores as well as a complex passive crossover network. There is no technical information given by Empire Ears, but Zeus is easy to drive.
     
    The craftsmanship is simply awesome. There is no sign of error with the craftsmanship. A beautiful abalone faceplate is nicely cut and perfectly put on the body in sapphire blue. However, the fit is a bit different than my other Empire and Earwerkz monitors to due Zeus’ larger shell. I think there is a problem with upper concha part of the monitor and this can be a little disturbing at the beginning of listening. I should say that Empire Ears usually do a great job regarding fit; this little change is specific to my Zeus, since they used my old earmolds that are already in their file.     
     
    zeus3.jpg
     
    zeus4.jpg
     
    Zeus has detachable two pin cable; as far as I can see on Empire Ears website, it is shipped with BTG Starlight Cable for a limited time. Starlight has very good memory wire section for an aftermarket cable, but its built quality is not very soft.  As accessories, there is an impressive Aegis Case, on which my name is printed, a dust bag, an IEM pouch, cleaning tool and cleaning cloth. Honestly, I feel myself special by looking at this impressive Aegis Case.  
     
    Sound:
     
    Empire Ears Zeus custom version sounds with a combination of musicality and technicality. The most impressive parts of the Empire Ears’ flagship are imaging, resolution and separation. Considering its price tag, it should be on the top of list. Lotoo Paw Gold and BTG silver cable (current stock one for Zeus) were used during critical listening.
     
    Low Frequency:
     
    The lows of Zeus are not very dominant, but prominent enough to give a good body. Sub-bass has good power and a nice rumble. Texture and speed is very good; Zeus can handle the most difficult metal tracks. However, I cannot say that the tone of sub-bass is the most impressive one among my other customs, but still very satisfying. In fact, Zeus seems to sound a little technical in sub-bass region.
     
    Mid-bass doesn’t sound too forward and prominent. The tone is neither too warm nor too cold, but still have a technical approach. In fact, this is sort of a good ability; Zeus provides a neutral air between instruments and there is no problem in terms of tightening the stage. However, we might want a little more mid-bass body to get a better note recreation in lower regions of the midrange.
     
    Mid Frequency:
     
    The most forward frequency of Zeus is the midrange. The overall tone is in the natural class and the transparency level is very impressive. Zeus doesn’t sound entirely bright or very aggressive, but average note thickness is on the thin side by a very small margin. Actually, describing Zeus as a thin sounding unit is not correct; instruments just have a little small size in a large space. The amount of detail is very high and the resolution is the most successful one along with Spiral Ear SE5-way.
     
    Upper midrange is also very detailed with a slight coloration that results in little brightness. This area is not completely smooth, but still forgiving. Vocals have good dimensions and resolution, but Zeus can slightly tend to sibilance depending on record quality.  
     
    High Frequency:
     
    The treble notes are not very forward, but there is a substantial quantity of high frequency for a mid-centric monitor. Still, Zeus sounds natural and smooth in high frequency region with nice extension ability. However, it doesn’t have a complete true tone here; there is a brightness added to tuning in order to make Zeus more impressive. While listening fast metal tracks, the notes don’t get sticky and it can carry a remarkable amount of resolution. The transparency is also good with a high amount of detail.  
     
    zeus2.jpg
     
    Soundstage and Separation:
     
    Zeus does have a large stage, but it isn’t a super big or virtual stage type like Tralucent 1p2 or Ref1. In fact, having overly large stage makes focusing more difficult as well as having less coherent instruments. In this regard, Zeus performs within the limits, but it has an impressive depth to crate a very good layering. The background is not very black, but it has very strong cleanliness and background’s nuances are clear.
     
    The coherence is not the best among my others, but the imaging is very impressive. Even if there is no crossfade effect, the 3D positioning of the instruments is quite exciting. In addition, the instrument separation is definitely of the best among my customs. Zeus uses a bit small sizes while recreating notes. This provides longer and cleaner distances as well as more separated presentation and airier headroom, but at the cost of reducing in nuances of lower harmonics.  
     
    Source Matching:
     
    I experienced that Zeus’ sound may slightly change depending on the sources. The difference is not very significant, but the low frequency may get a bit fuller. In the simplest term, when we switch from Lotoo Paw Gold to an iPhone, Zeus hits with a little bolder notes. Also, Zeus is unfortunately a very hiss sensitive monitor. You may want to be sure that the source you are matching has an impressive dead silent background otherwise the mighty Zeus picks up the hiss. When the music plays though, there should be no audible hiss.     
     
    Selected Comparisons:
     
    Empire Ears Zeus vs Spiral Ear SE5-way Reference (2.099 USD vs 1650 USD)
     
    Both monitors have mid-centric approach. SE5 is a little darker, while Zeus has open tone. Overall, SE5 seems more organic and Zeus sounds more technical. They both are very impressive in terms of resolution.
     
    Low Frequency:
     
    In sub-bass region, SE5 is a little more powerful and emotional. Detail and texture levels are similar, but SE5’s decay is a bit longer and more natural in comparison. Both SE5 and Zeus can handle fast metal tracks very well in bass presentation.
     
    SE5 has a little more prominent mid-bass presentation, while Zeus sounds less warm in this region. Pursuant this tone difference in mid-bass, Zeus creates more neutral approach. In addition, resolution level of mid-bass is similar.
     
    zeusvsse5.jpg
     
    Mid Frequency:
     
    Both have an impressive and forward midrange with very similar resolution level. However, SE5 is a little better in terms of average note thickness and uses larger sizes while creating instruments. In this regard, SE5 is a bit more capable to release lower harmonics and sounds bolder in comparison. On the other hand, Zeus articulates details more and is more transparent, but both are non-fatiguing.
     
    Overall tone is natural on both monitors, but SE5 is less aggressive in terms of note structure. SE5 is less stressed in releasing notes, puts some organic signs and grains on them, while Zeus sounds cleaner with a bit open tone. In upper midrange, SE5 is smoother, while Zeus has more detail. In addition, SE5 spreads more emotion and naturalness on vocals, but Zeus’ vocals are cleaner and more resolved. However, Zeus can tend to sibilance more depending on record quality.
     
    High Frequency:
     
    Zeus has more prominent and slightly brighter treble presentation. SE5 is less detailed, but more forgiving with a truer tone. In addition, Zeus is more sensitive to bad recordings, but both have a good speed. Resolution and extension levels are very similar; SE5 has a bit more natural attack/decay ability.
     
    Soundstage and Separation:
     
    Both have impressive stage depths, but Zeus is slightly wider as well as having longer distances between instruments. SE5 has warmer and darker spaces, while Zeus has more neutral ones. In terms of background, both are very clean, but SE5 is a little blacker in comparison.
     
    Zeus has a little better imaging and instruments separation; it uses a bit smaller instrument size in a larger space and this creates more distant and separated instruments. However, SE5 is more coherent and focusing is easier at the cost of having a little congestion in instrument placement.
     
    Empire Ears Zeus vs Lear LCM BD-4.2 (2.099 USD vs 1300 USD)
     
    As we all know, Zeus is BA-only powered unit, while Lear 4.2 utilizes 4 BA and 2 dynamic drivers. The presentation styles are also different; Zeus has mid-centric signature and Lear is a little U-shape.
     
    The comparison is done with Lear’s bass knob set at the half way.
     
    Low Frequency:
     
    The sub-bass of Zeus is slightly more prominent, while Lear carries more air in accordance with dynamic driver advantage. Texture and resolution level is similar, but Lear sounds a bit more emotional and natural. During fast metal tracks, Zeus betters Lear in terms of speed.
     
    Neither of them have a dominant mid-bass presentation. Overall tones are in natural class with a bit warmth, but Lear’s mid-bass is more emotional by a very small margin. Both Lear and Zeus are able to provide neutral air between instruments.
     
    Mid-Frequency:
     
    As it is in the description in the first part of the comparison, Lear has an U-shape signature that results in laid-back mids, while Zeus locates midrange closer to listener. Detail level is similar, but Zeus is more controlled, resolved and natural; it also betters Lear in terms of recreating both thin and thick notes well. Lear sounds a bit thin and has ‘’bright and mechanical’’ transparency when compared to Zeus. In addition, Zeus has more three dimensional vocals as well as slightly better resolution. Both tend to sibilance, but Zeus is smoother in upper-midrange area.
     
    zeusvslear.jpg
     
    High Frequency:
     
    Both have a slight brightness in treble region with a similar prominence, but Zeus is more natural and refined. Extension and detail level is high on both, but Zeus sounds more resolved pursuant treble speed advantage in fast metal tracks. However, both are sensitive to bad recordings. We need to take that Lear gets smoother when the bass quantity increases into consideration. However, Zeus still sounds more natural.  
     
    Soundstage and Separation:
     
    Lear has wider stage with more spacious and slightly laid-back structure in comparison. On the hand, Zeus is also airy and its depth is definitely more distinctive, especially in crowded tracks. In addition, Zeus has blacker, more stable and clearer background, while Lear has some stability problems in fast tracks in accordance with its general character. Both use impressive stage spaces and neutral air between instruments, but Zeus betters Lear when it comes to separation, coherence and imaging.
     
    Final Words:
     
    Empire Ears Zeus is a very strong monitor that brings musical technicality to our ears. My personal opinion is that it can be ranked very high among my custom in ear monitors. The craftsmanship is very nice and the overall comfort is good. However, we need to take its only mechanical problem ‘’the hiss’’ into consideration. The MSRP of custom Zeus is 2.099 USD with the exception of customization options.
     
    Please click to see Zeus' scores in the Progressive Custom Monitor List
     
    To order Zeus and seek more info, please check the link below: 
     
    http://empireears.com
  2. Cotnijoe
    Empire Ears Zeus: The 14-Driver Behemoth
    Written by Cotnijoe
    Published Jan 16, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Customer Support, Beautiful Presentation, Flawless Build, Very Good Sound
    Cons - Mediocre Isolation, Expensive
    Introduction:
    I’ve been acquainted with Jack of Empire Ears since his earlier days as the CEO of Earwerkz. Back then, I was a happy customer who was lucky enough to pick up a pair of Supra-II during their Kickstarter campaign. Upon hearing that Jack plans to start again under a new name, I was honestly pretty surprised. While I never got a chance to give the Legend R or Legend Omega a listen for myself, the Earwerkz flagship was certainly a product that has garnered quite a bit of respect amongst enthusiasts and reviewers alike.
     
    The decision to start again was certainly sudden and surprising for many of us, but it seems that Jack has great confidence and pride in his new lineup. With the exception of the Supra-II, all of the Empire Ears models were created from the ground up and Jack was confident that his new lineup exceeds even the performance of the popular Legend R. I had the good fortune of having the opportunity to spend two or three weeks with the entire Empire lineup the few weeks before the Zeus was even announced – my thoughts were quite positive to say the least (Empire Ears Impression). After giving the lineup a listen, I kept in contact with Jack and he was generous enough to offer me a custom review unit of the Zeus. Having heard the universal Zeus already, I chose to purchase the review unit at a discount. I would like to extend my gratitude to Jack and his team for the opportunity to listen to the Empire Ears Lineup as well as my beautifully handcrafted Zeus.
     
    The Irony:
    The last IEM I reviewed was Ultimate Ears’ reference monitor – a beautiful and incredible sounding three driver monitor. In the review, I not only praised the UERM for its fantastic sound and sonic capabilities, but I also pointed out that the UERM only contains three drivers and emphasized quite heavily that more drivers does not mean better. Well, ironically, I now find myself with an IEM that might just be the epitome of “more drivers is better.” As the world’s first and only 14 driver monitor, the Zeus would naturally be under some skepticism and attack regarding the number of drivers in its design. Jack has been vocal about his hopes that the Zeus will be appreciated for what its capable of rather than to be seen as a gimmick of “more drivers is better.” Of course, no manufacturer would wish for their product to be seen as a gimmick. My hope is that I can put forward my own opinions regarding this subject through this review.
     
    DSCN0357.jpg
    Zeus-XIV
     
    Packaging and Accessories:
    The packaging and accessories that Empire offers is simply fantastic. Everything has been customized with the Empire theme and logo and Empire also includes quite a bit of accessories to go with their products. The extra gold-color accessories to differentiate the flagship Zeus from the rest of the lineup is also a nice touch. The unboxing experience is one of the most fulfilling that I’ve experienced.
     
    DSCN0189.jpg
    DSCN0190.jpg
    Packaging
     
    The Zeus comes in a very study and quality feeling box – with gold logo of course. Inside, the hard case is covered by a very nice large microfiber pouch. The hard protective case is one of the best that I’ve encountered. While many companies use otterbox or pelican cases, Empire opted to use a different case. This case, made by a company called S3 (I believe), is one that is not seen as often as the others. I’m not particularly familiar with the company that makes the case, but I did recognize the case as it’s the same case that came with my Aurisonics ASG-2 a few years back. Of course, Empire really stepped it up and made the case absolutely beautiful. The case has an awesome brushed metal look to it with the Empire logo and individual’s name (or nickname) engraved onto it. What I really like about this case is that while it’s just as sturdy as the other cases, I find it to be much easier to open and close. Empire also lines the inside of the case with solid foam for maximum protection. In addition to the large microfiber pouch, there is also a microfiber cleaning cloth and small pouch – all, of course, with the gold logo for the extra bling.
     
    In addition to the aesthetic upgrades to the accessories that come with the Zeus, the Zeus (in addition to the Apollo) also comes with BTG Audio’s Starlight cable as the stock cable. I’m personally a bit more lukewarm about this as I’m not as fond of the Starlight cable as some. The braid isn’t particularly tight (partially for ergonomic reasons I assume), the cable is a bit stiff, there’s a reasonable amount of cable noise, and it doesn’t feel quite as premium to me in comparison to other aftermarket cables. Of course, I have been spoiled a bit by more premium priced aftermarket cables, but I feel that the Starlight doesn’t compare well even to similarly lower cost aftermarket cables, from the likes of plusSound Audio for example, in terms of ergonomics. It’s just not a particularly comfortable or premium-feeling cable to me.
     
    At the same time, however, I’m not able to give any thoughts about whether the Starlight cable changes the sound or improves the sound of the Zeus in comparison to the stock cables – since I don’t have a stock cable to compare with. I have chosen to use a Norne Audio 23 AWG silver cable with my Zeus. I’ve played around with cables quite a bit before and while I have found that cables can mess with the sound signature or presentation of the music a bit, Norne Audio’s CIEM cables are the first cables I’ve experienced that I feel truly improve the sound of a CIEM. At the end of the day, Empire is offering an upgrade cable to go with their top-tier products and that’s certainly not something to complain about.
     
    For those looking to get a universal product from Empire, Empire also includes Spinfit and comply tips with their products. I’m personally a huge fan of Spinfit tips and I’m very happy to see a company utilize them as their stock tips.
     
    The only thing I can think of that is missing would be a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adaptor. While the Zeus is designed with stage musicians in mind, I think it would still be a good accessory to have – considering the fairly low cost of including it.
     
    DSCN0193.jpg DSCN0194.jpg
    Carrying Case and Some Accessories
     
    Build Quality and Comfort:
    So my ears are really small. So small, in fact, that UE had to make some adjustments to the internal components for my left ear. Yes, they had to make adjustments for my ears on a three driver CIEM. So on one hand, I’m thinking of how Empire’s going to pull off fitting 14 drivers into my ears, while on the other hand, I remember how manageably small the Zeus universal unit is and think there may be hope for me after all. Unsurprisingly, Empire made it work. From what Jack told me, they actually had to restart my unit a few times due to the difficulties of stuffing 14 drivers within such a small shell along with some QC issues that arose because of that. It’s for this reason that my Zeus was actually delayed and took longer than the 10-15 day turnaround time that Empire’s known for. Despite the delay and extra wait time, it makes me a bit relieved to know that Empire isn’t moving on until they get it exactly right.
     
    Inspecting the Zeus upon its arrival, its build is simply flawless – no bubbles, no scratches, no fingerprints, no nothing. Like my Supra, all of the wiring inside the Zeus is also neatly bundled together by plastic tubing for a cleaner look. While Jack and his team can still be considered newcomers to this trade, they’re certainly no amateurs to this form of art. The quality of build and finish that Empire demonstrates is a good step up from many companies that have been around for years.
     
    In terms of designing the Zeus, I gave creative liberty to Empire with the few guidelines of: transparent shells, no glitter, and no pink. I wanted to see the design inside the Zeus and I didn’t want anything obstructing my view. Empire delivered with a simply yet elegant and beautiful design that I was very excited and happy with. The wooden faceplates are absolutely gorgeous and the shell colors are beautiful as well. In fact, the transparent blue on the left earpiece is the most beautiful shade of blue I’ve ever seen on an IEM.
     
    Despite the Zeus being the largest IEM I’ve ever owned, the Zeus is a very comfortable. The fit is very tight but the IEM does protrude out of my ears a bit simply due to the small size of my ears and the need for to fit 14 drivers in the shell. Some compromise had to be made. Regardless of its size or weight, Empire created what I would consider to be the most comfortable custom IEM I’ve owned to date. Impressively, it’s even more comfortable than my Supra, which was made from the same ear mold that Empire already has on file and also a whole lot smaller than the Zeus.
     
    DSCN0350.jpg DSCN0352.jpg
    Faceplate and Internals of the Zeus
     
    Isolation:
    Custom monitors are known for their ability to isolate outside noise incredibly well. Interestingly though, the Zeus does not perform as well on this front – for me at least. Of the three custom monitors I currently have with me, the Zeus is the least isolating of the three. The Zeus still isolates better than your average universal IEM, but my Supra and UERM isolate noise more effectively. Considering the fact that the Supra and Zeus were made from the same ear mold, it’s interesting that the Supra is my most isolating IEM while the Zeus falls short in this regard. I remember reading somewhere, perhaps on the Earwerkz website, that the recessed faceplate allows for better noise isolation. On the other hand, my ears are too small for Empire to implement their recessed faceplate and the faceplate even protrudes out a bit. My guess is that maybe this different is what causes the difference in isolation between the two IEMs I have from Jack.
     
    Customer Service:
    Jack puts in a lot of effort in making sure that Empire’s customer service is excellent and consistent. With the exceptions of a few days following the release of Zeus and the holiday sales, when order volumes were higher than usual, you can expect a response from Jack almost within a few hours or a day at most. I personally really dislike automated services or automated messages and appreciate the more personal approach to customer service. It’s always nice to know you’re conversing with a real human being.
     
    I actually ran into a bit of trouble with the Zeus a few weeks after receiving the Zeus (100% my own fault), and Jack was able to resolve the issue for me within a day of receiving the Zeus. I was honestly surprised by how fast Jack got the job done for me and I have to give props to Jack for his commitment to great customer service and support.
     
    Sound:
    Background Hiss
    The Zeus is one of the most sensitive IEM I’ve ever owned. For that reason, it hisses with a lot of sources that I tried pairing it with. With my Lotoo PAW Gold, my go-to everyday DAP, the background noise is present even on low gain. In order to reduce the background noise, I’ve tried using a UE buffer jack with the Zeus. I’ve found that the buffer jack can take away a bit of sparkle in the treble from the Zeus. However, in some instances where the background hiss is really too prominent and distracting, I do find the UE buffer jack to be a wonderful accessory to have. Those that may have a hiss problem and do not want to buy a new DAP can look into the buffer jack as a cheap solution. For those looking for the best can look into UE’s Pro Line Drive, which removes background noise without affecting the sound signature. Another option, of course, is to look for a DAP that pairs well with the Zeus in this regard.
     
    Universal vs. Custom
    I was very lucky to have the opportunity to hear the universal Zeus and then to have a custom Zeus review unit. While they are the same design internally, my impressions of the two do differ a bit.
     
    It seems that my ears don’t cooperate with universal products that Jack’s company creates as well as I would like. About a year ago when I first compared the universal and custom Supra, I found the midrange of the custom Supra to be substantially more natural and impressive. It’s a similar story with the Zeus. I had a conversation with Jack after listening to the universal Zeus where I noted that I found the midrange to be forward and somewhat shouty. My impression of the custom Zeus is much more positive. I also recall the bass of the universal Zeus being a bit more elevated and the overall sound being thicker. I liked the sound of the universal Zeus quite a lot – enough to request a review unit – but the sound signature isn’t typically what I prefer. The custom Zeus I have here has a more balanced sound compared to what I recall from the universal Zeus and I’m actually loving the signature of the custom Zeus. I’m not sure what other people’s experience with the custom and universal Empire IEMs are, but from my personal experience, I highly recommend the custom models form Empire. I only wish I had both universal and custom Zeus at the same time so I can compare the two side by side.
     
    DSCN0360.jpg
    Lotoo PAW Gold > Norne Audio Cable > Empire Ears Zeus-XIV
     
    Listening Impressions
    Most of my listening of the Zeus was done with the Zeus directly connected to the Lotoo PAW Gold. I also spent a significant amount of time with the Zeus connected to my Asus Essence III through the UE buffer jack. From my experience with the two sources, I have to say that the Zeus scales spectacularly well. The Lotoo PAW Gold is honestly a pretty impressive sounding player, but the sound you get pairing the Zeus with my Essence III is quite a big improvement.
     
    The bass of the Zeus is quite interesting to me as I find that it’s able to take on different characters. The lower bass range is boosted a bit and gives the bass of the Zeus some serious authority when it needs to punch deep and hard. At the same time, it’s able to demonstrate a good degree of control and pull it back when it’s necessary. In essence, the bass emphasis always has a satisfying and necessary presence in the music, but it never feels out of place or overbearing. The bass response is also impressively tight and speedy; never sounding thick or dark as a result of the lift in the sub bass.
     
    I find that most of the products from Empire have very good low end extension, and the flagship Zeus is certainly no exception. The bass reaches down to 30 Hz with no problem, and is able to maintain presence down to 20 Hz or so. With good extension and a clean and tight bass response, low end detail and texture coming from its two large BA driver is some of the best I’ve heard on an IEM.
     
    I wasn’t completely sold on the midrange when I listened to the universal Zeus, but I’m in absolute awe with the midrange of my custom Zeus. It’s full sounding, a bit warm and a bit forward, giving vocals an addicting and luring sound. Male vocals in particular have beautiful tonality and an incredible sense of clarity. Voices are also presented slightly in front of you so it has a great sense of presence without sounding too intimate. I felt the universal Zeus was a bit more intimate sounding – a bit too much so for my personal taste with the Spinfit tips.
     
    The midrange has incredibly capable separation and dynamics. If you’re looking for a BA-based IEM that’s allows you to feel the instruments, this is the IEM for that. You’ll feel every pluck of a guitar string. Midrange texture and detail is absolutely incredible as well with some of the most detailed sound I’ve heard from an IEM. Vocal reproduction of the Zeus is one of the most realistic and live sounding I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to go back to talking about vocals again, but as a vocalist, I find the voice to be an incredibly diverse and unique instrument and I’ve very excited with how well the Zeus is able to reproduce the nuances and timbre of the voice (and other instruments, of course).
     
    Like the rest of the Empire lineup, the treble of the Zeus has sparkle but remains fatigue-free. It has the 6 kHz lift that’s found in many of the Empire products (along with many products in general) but rest assured, the extra sparkle there is not overly done and does not result in a sibilant or peaky treble response. Treble extension is good and the upper treble response is relatively neutral, giving the Zeus a natural sense of air, but doesn’t give the Zeus a vast sense of openness.
     
    The soundstage of the Zeus makes it a very special and exciting product. It’s not breaking any records in terms of soundstage width or size, but it’s how the Zeus utilizes the headspace that makes it such an impressive IEM. The sound of the Zeus has such a natural sense of openness that it feels in some ways like an open-back design headphone. It’s not artificially open or airy sounding – rather its sound feels like it’s part of the environment you’re in. Again, that’s the sense of space that’s so incredibly natural – not the size of the soundstage itself (it’s still an IEM). In terms of the soundstage size, the Zeus has an amazing sense of 3-dimensionality with incredible depth and height and a good but not amazing sense of width. The sound is also very much out of your head – something that is not easy to achieve on an IEM.
     
    The imaging capability of the Zeus is another marvel of the IEM. I’ve pretty much had all the “hear things you’ve never heard before moments” already with past headphones and IEMs I’ve listened to, but the Zeus presents the music in such a clean manner that you hear everything incredibly well. You don’t have to focus and really listen hard to hear anything. The precision in its imaging and its sense of layering and depth means that nothing sounds even remotely smeared. You’re able to discern different instruments or voices even within the center point of the music because the sense of layering is so good on the Zeus that they’re not presented on the same plane on the Y-axis. It’s truly extraordinary and not something you experience often on an IEM – if ever.
     
    Final Thoughts:
    I considered comparing a few IEMs to the Zeus, but I find the Zeus to have a pretty unique sound and comparing it to other IEMs is a bit difficult. The Zeus is also the most detailed IEM I currently have available to me, so it’s not really all that helpful to just say “it’s better.”
     
    As the TOTL flagship model from Empire Ears, the Zeus comes at a steep price. It’s not a product for your average audio enthusiast and certainly not a product for your average consumer. As prices go up, judging the value and worth of a product becomes more and more difficult and very personal. For that reason, I think it would be foolish to take recommending this product lightly. However, what I can offer and say is that I find this product to be more worthwhile than other popular flagships such as the K10 or Roxanne and Layla. I feel that the Zeus offers a cleaner sound than the K10 and Roxanne while being able to compete with the Layla in some regards. Priced somewhere in the middle of the price bracket for TOTL IEMs, I think the Zeus sort of hits the “sweet spot” in terms of value of TOTL IEMs.
     
    So is this 14 driver behemoth a gimmick? Well I’m sure Empire takes pride in creating and designing such a complex piece of engineering, but the Zeus does have the sound to justify its status as a flagship product – this is one mean sounding IEM.
     
    DSCN0358.jpg
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Cotnijoe
      Cotnijoe, Mar 28, 2016
    3. RobSF
      Thanks very much Cotnijo for your detailed review.  My only question is whether the 64Audio A-12 with manual ADEL is equal to or better than the Zeus...any thoughts?
      RobSF, Mar 28, 2016
    4. cho8
      On the fit issue, was there quite a long time gap between getting the supras and the Zeus done. Just thinking if you said that they were done from the same moods on record, the impressions might have shrunk and I had a similar issue when getting Heir ciems done with a time gap where the first pair fit really well but the second pair didn't isolate at all
      cho8, Sep 13, 2016
  3. Mimouille
    An incredibly resolving and emotional iem, one of the best TOTL out there
    Written by Mimouille
    Published Jan 6, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Resolution, musicality, soudstage, mids
    Cons - Sensitivity / hiss, dependency on source, price
    After having enjoyed the Zeus for quite a while, I think I can reasonably give some feedback on my feeling concerning these iems. This is not a definitive review, as I generally don't do that, and I may provide further impressions later on with other sources.

    In terms of context, I have been driving them with my AK240SS and then with the Lotoo Paw Gold, listening only to FLAC, Redbook and some 24/96. The Zeus I have are a demo provided by Jack, I just paid for the shipping. I will certainly be buying but we will come to that later.


    Customer experience: I am not sure if my experience with Jack is the typical customer experience but it has been nothing but excellent. I have expressed interest in their product range and our interaction thereafter has been nothing but smooth and excellent. Jack had always taken all my comments with interest, trying to improve his products, looking for ways to address his clients' concerns. He visibly loves his products and his job, and it makes it really nice to deal with him.


    Build quality and ergonomics: the build of these is excellent. There are very small for 14 drivers. It is a bit tricky to find the right tips, but once you have (spinfit medium or large for me), the fit is quite comfortable. A bit less than the 846, but more than the Roxannes or Solar. If I could note something to be improved, I think a more ergonomic shaped could be found, like the 846 or the Inear Stage Diver.

    The cable provided is very nice, durable and flexible. I like more compact jacks but the right angled jack is still of great quality.

    The whole iem fits in a very small case, so it allows for a very portable yet high end rig, paired with a high-end DAP.

    Pairing and sensitivity: I will not insist on this, as I have said much about it already, but this is the only issue with the Zeus in my experience. It is twofold: the Zeus are not so easy to drive. I thought they sounded average of the AK240SS and significantly better out of the Lotoo Paw Gold. I am not sure if it is that they like more power, which would be counterintuitive for a very sensitive iem. The second part is indeed sensitivity, the Zeus hisses with my Mojo and my Paw Gold. I am starting to think know my demo is more sensitive than others, as some report no hiss with the Mojo. My Mojo has no hiss with my Solar, so the Mojo is not faulty. So to conclude I have not yet found a source that sounds good AND doesn't hiss at all. To be clear, the hiss on the Lotoo is very present, much more tolerable on the Mojo.

    Sound quality: Once you find the right source, the Zeus is a marvel. It is quite colored, the mids sound pretty thick, I would say that it is because of a lift in the lower mids.

    The key strong points are resolution and imaging. The sounds is quite forward and aggressive but it hits you in such an involving manner, all the layers are so fleshed out and textured, all the details can be heard perfectly placed in the stage, the mids are rich but refined, you can really hear the grain of the voices, making vocals very engaging. The stage is very deep, but clearly not at wide and airy as the Solar. It is not a negative point, because placement within that stage is very precise. Plus the quite narrow stage and lush mids allow a very together and centered sound. The Solar will have a more relaxed and laid back sound, placement in the stage is a bit more diffuse.

    Bass is a bit north of neutral, highs are well extended but not aggressive. They have some sparkle but not the sparkliest nor the airiest if that is your thing.

    On well mastered music, these are the most engaging and musical iems I have heard. I like them as much as my SE5 Ultimate. If I had only one I would keep the SE5 as it is more neutral, but I love the Zeus.

    I am not yet sure which I prefer vs. The Solar, because on not so well mastered tracks, the Solars, being more spacious and airy, will sound better. Plus the Solar is much easier to pair source wise. But with the right source and goof quality tracks, I enjoy the Zeus more. The Solar are less fatiguing also, so for long seasons while reading for instance, I will go for the Solar. All in all these are very complementary.


    Conclusion: I would love to see a less sensitive version come out, and maybe the signature is not for everyone if you like bright and thin sounding IEMs, but apart from that, the Zeus is a brilliant iem, standing above the crowd.
      H20Fidelity and CrispyWonton like this.
    1. twister6
      I keep reading in every review about Zeus high sensitivity and hissing, but can't find its spec anywhere (not even on their website).  Does anybody know the actual number?  I'm curious to try/review these, but this hissing problem sounds like a serious turn off, especially since LPG is also my weapon of choice..
      twister6, Jan 6, 2016
    2. Mimouille
      You should ask on the thread.
      Mimouille, Jan 18, 2016
  4. QBoQBo
    TOTL 14 Drivers Perfection - Harmonized Voices From the Sky
    Written by QBoQBo
    Published Jan 1, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Layering, treble smoothness, vocal naturalness, bass tightness, resolution & clarity, build quality, comfort, isolation, customer service (Jack Vang)
    Cons - Need a good source with very low output impedance
    Rise of the Empire

    When I found Earwerkz made a CIEM called the Legend with 8 BA drivers and 6 crossovers two years ago, I was already intrigued in making a purchase because of the value and the idea that more adequately implemented crossovers help distribute frequencies better. The holdback was generally the lack of design options when it was still under Earwerkz. With the transformation to Empire Ears, introduction of the 14 drivers Zeus, and excellent service from Jack Vang, there was no hassle for me to get a TOTL CIEM for Christmas.

    (Friendly advice – if you have small ears like me, send pictures of your impression to Jack, he will be more than happy to work with you.)

    1053245_10154043752345579_6475599601948755319_o.jpg
     
    Turnaround Time & Hand Shake
     
    This is the part where Empire Ears gives you “the best bang for the big buck”.

    The build time was approximately 10 business day and most people would receive their Zeus in 15 business days if you are in the U.S. (Please note: other CIEM companies would charge extra for this quick build time and might not able to achieve this level of quality)
     
    Empire Ears provide you with a nicely designed case with magnetic lock mechanism and a gold accent logo that fits your pelican-style hard case; whereas, other companies including Noble or 64 audio will only give you a paper sleeve or cardboard cover. This is what I call “Attention to detail” handshake style. The quality of the box is better than some of the Sennheiser’s box I got.
     
    Accessories
     
    Again, Packed with accessories like I have never seen before. The company has the vision of what useful accessories means to an audiophile. For example, the BTG Audio cable comes standard on Apollo and Zeus orders. I can use the big supplied pouch to protect my hard pelican case and small pouch to carry my DX90 or N6 players. The gold Empire micro-fibre cloth can clean out the fingerprint and dust on the CIEM.

    A bad example from my previous CIEM was to give me a 3.5mm to 6.5mm adapter that is nickel plated. I mean what do I do with a nickel plated adapter? Audiophiles probably have tons of gold plated or even rhodium / silver plated in the drawer of their listening station.
     
    (A good recommendation for Empire and other CIEM creator is to include a source buffer as many has brought up from various posts the need to have a UE buffer jack to clear some hiss issue)
     
    Build Quality & Fit
     
    Absolutely fantastic & top notch – the combination of fit, seal, isolation, and comfort.

    The reason I sold my last CIEM is because the isolation and comfort was so horrible. I was getting that “either or” thing from it. Either I get the isolation by pushing the monitor in with my fingers or I hurt my canal with the edgy tips on the monitor.
    (Note: a perfect impression is also crucial – make sure to argue with your audiologist if you notice any missing parts on your mold or if you move your jaw when taking the impression)
     
    10560570_10154055312030579_5307154268291419541_o.jpg
     
     
    Quality of Source
     
    Before discussing about the sound, I want to spend a moment to disappoint those who like paring their smartphones or desktop rig with Zeus XIV. I could see why some people commented this CIEM with a thick bass, rolled-off treble, or even slow granny pace. Zeus XIV is extremely source dependent - it will not sound good with everything. I tried several different sources, including my N6, HP-A4, DX90, and my friend’s N5 and X3. All of which gives Zeus a unique signature. Not to my surprise, Zeus pairs well with iBasso DX90 and N5. Through years of trials, I have found BA CIEM pairs better with a DAC chip with low THD factor, such as ESS sabre chips and top flag Asahi Kasei chip. Hiss is more noticable on my N6, less so on my DX90, and completely silent on the HP-A4 but gives Zeus a dark thick character.
     
    12697304_10154141078420579_1372939938852953460_o.jpg
     
     
    Zeus is a sensitive monitor probably due to the company’s decision to implement no dampers, filters, and resistors to shape the sound. This is a good thing because I am never a follower for any marketing gimmicks, like putting a balloon in a monitor claiming to protect hearing or adding a resistor to a cable to achieve variable bass & flat response. I believe in pure sound done right with simple techniques like the Zeus. The drawback is that Zeus XIV requires a good source with low output impedance, such as DX90 with 0.1 output impedance or HM-901s with IEM card. Issue with hissing is minimal to negligent on most portable lossless players that I have tried.
     
     
    Bass
     
    Flawless even though I was not very satisfied in the beginning due to the fact that I was rocking my Sen IE800 prior to getting my Zeus XIV. Nope, Zeus’ bass is not inferior. After further burn-in, I was also switching back and forth between the Zeus and IE800 on day 2. I noticed that Zeus’ bass does have the quality of a dynamic driver with superior tightness and body. The two big bass balanced armature drivers also responded to low enough frequency that I could feel in my head. I tried hard to nitpick problems with the bass, but Zeus just performed perfectly. Sure, I had more excitement with the IE800 from the dual chamber absorber and the back pressure created by a dynamic driver. Nonetheless, the bass on the Zeus fits better into the description of a reference or monitoring bass.
     
     
    Mid
     
    Voice of God coming from a thrilling, emotional, natural, creamy, lush, and beautifully layered mid-range. I don’t use these words often to describe an IEM, but the mid(s) is really the spotlight of the Zeus XIV. Some may say an IEM sounds more engaging if it presents a V or U shape characteristic. However, the Zeus presents its excitement differently with lifelike layered vocal that sings from different points of direction.

    Since I do not have better words to describe how I enjoy the mid-range, I will quote this comment I got from the review by Cymbacavum.com.

    Vocal nuances leap off the headscape. In one song that I have, background singers whisper from side to side, while the lead vocalist sings dead ahead. These background whispers come from left and right, and slightly behind the ear, like someone is literally whispering behind you and right into your ear. The lead vocalist, though, stays steadfastly in front. Harmonies are the Zeus specialty, and my favorite aspect of its presentation — they just seem to soar with mesmerizing depth.” By ShotGunShane.
    Don’t get me wrong, most songs we listen to should have vocals. The Kpop that I have been listening to extensively sings in a group. In the end, Zeus positioned each singer wonderfully with stunning clarity and texture.
     
     
    Treble
     
    Perfect without any peak, splashy, or harsh sounding characters. Listening to the Zeus for the first time had me thinking the treble is a little rolled off, but I did hear a lot of air, transparency, and details in rhythmic music. I then started comparing with my IE800 again and found that IE800 gave me more treble quantity with a splashy quality.

    Next, I compared it with my closed can that is highly regarded as reference level – NAD HP50. The treble on the HP50 is a close resemblance of the treble on the Zeus. They are both extended but not bright, but the HP50 is airier. The treble on the Zeus XIV is top notch with a relatively flat curve at the same level with the bass. It has all the mid-treble details including 6 kHz and 7 kHz, but no emphasis to make the sound harsh like my previous 64 audio V6 or an unnatural dip like my 4 Ai S.

    It is marvelous for Empire Ears to build such a small in-ear monitor that will match the treble quality of a full size can. This is only one of the very few balanced armature drivers that is made of metal without the harsh metal treble.
     
     
    Imaging and Staging
     
    Spectacular deep which reminds me of Sennheiser IE80 that I used to own. I really love IEM with good soundstage depth. IE80 achieved awesome soundstage but it did that with the cost of bloated frequency response. On the other hand, low cost IEM, such as GR07 and XBA3, can easily give you the soundstage on X and Y axis. Whereas, Z axis is always not simple because it gives you that “out of the head” feeling and creates a 3D vocal with different layers of instrument. The Zeus XIV gives you that spectacular 3D soundstage that is adequately wide without sacrificing clarity and frequency response. The word “adequate” is important because my previous CIEM has a super wide staging but it was not adequate. The center stage was not accurate when one voice in the center became two separate voices coming from both channels.
     
    12377852_10154043752310579_950984823909643703_o.jpg
     
     
    Wrap Up
     
    Does Zeus XIV worth the expensive value? Yes, it deserves the flagship and TOTL status. If you have a good portable source/player, Zeus XIV is no doubt a straightforward investment with superb soundstage, layering, vocal performance, resolution, build quality, and smoothness for long listening section.

    If you are still not convinced after the review, Jack will make everything up with friendly and super responsive customer service. While I am writing this review, I was also having appearance issues with my Zeus on New Year Eve. I got a reply on the same day right before countdown. Thanks Jack for assuring customers’ satisfaction is well taken care of. Happy New Year to you and the Empire Crew.
      AOARoses likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Cotnijoe
      Nice writeup! Just a heads up though, I assume the "airline adaptor" you're referring to is the UE buffer jack. That's not an airline adaptor =P
      Cotnijoe, Jan 4, 2016
    3. Takeanidea
      Are you sure you prefer these to your IE800s?
      Takeanidea, Nov 6, 2016
    4. Takeanidea
      Really enjoyed the review though , and it is especially noteworthy that you have paid for these. Thanks for taking the time. Lots of good observations in there , particularly on hiss and the difference a single BA IEM has over a 14 driver IEM
      Takeanidea, Nov 6, 2016
  5. flinkenick
    The Voice of ZEUS
    Written by flinkenick
    Published Dec 7, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Resolution, midrange, soundstage and imaging
    Cons - Can be source dependent
    EarWerkz was already a flourishing company with a respected lineup. But after the merger with Savvitek, Earwerkz has reborn from the ashes as Empire Ears. Everything about the company screams grandeur and ambition, from their company name to the model line up - this is a company heading somewhere. After the launch we were kept in suspense for a grand revealing. It happened to be their proudest feat. One that mirrors that ambition, and puts their money where their mouth is: the world’s first monitor with 14 BA drivers.

    Specs
    Drivers: 14 BA drivers (2 low, 6 mid, 6 high)
    Design: 6 way, 5 point crossover, 4 sound bores
    Impedance: TBA
    Freq. response: TBA
    Price: $2099


    Zeus has gained its initial status and recognition primarily because of its 14 drivers. But there are many different drivers that differ in quality and size of course. Zeus utilizes 3 clusters of 4 very small drivers around 2 big bass drivers, and because of this design it remains within proportion for a multi BA TOTL. The Rhapsodio Solar for instance has 2 big bass drivers, 4 big mid drivers and 4 small treble drivers. Because of the 4 large mid drivers, it takes up more space requiring a larger housing. Due to the design choice with 12 smaller drivers the custom Zeus still has quite an average size, and I don’t think people with small ears need worry that it won’t fit (I have small ears myself). The only possible issue might be that the 4 bores take up a bit more space in the canal, but this is also well within proportion.


    23198407909_c2681ca462_b.jpg

    Impressions
    Zeus is very transparent to the source as it doesn't utilize any dampers, resistors or filters to manipulate the frequencies, and its signature can vary accordingly. With the P1 (connected to Headstage Arrow 5P amp), Zeus has a warm background from a thicker midbass presentation, while treble is smoothed over a bit. With the 901S, Zeus has a clear background with a cleaner midbass presentation and relatively enhanced treble, and an overall more balanced signature.

    Presentation
    Zeus has an engaging, forward presentation with a somewhat midcentric signature: slightly enhanced bass and a very full midrange, topped off with refined treble with a more than adequate amount of sparkle to satisfy. The soundstage is quite wide, while also very tall and deep in good proportions. It wouldn’t suffice to say imaging is excellent, for it has a precision and 3D feel that reflects an incredible degree of technical engineering. Instrument position is very precise in the different layers spreading along the width and depth of the field, and together with the exceptionally high resolution provides a clear image of the instruments in space. For Zeus’ soundstage, picture an ancient Greek temple, built by mere mortals to show their proper respect. The vast surrounding Corinthian pillar formation is sturdy and tall, built with eye for detail and beauty. In the center a statue, cultivated by one of the masterful Greek sculptors. Several items are spread out throughout the hall, varying in size and form - each created with precision and dedication.

    Tone onset has an accurate articulation; smooth and fast, with good sustain - notes tend to linger a bit. The combination of this smooth and lengthy decay with the high resolution helps to create a clear center image, while accentuating subtle effects of echo and reverberation – making them more present, while contributing to that sense of standing in a great hall. This resolving nature brings detail to the foreground, but from a warm background rather than an analytical or bright one. This reflects quality, as it is technically more challenging than simply turning the light up as a brighter signature would do.

    Signature
    Zeus’ bass is slightly north from neutral. With bass heavy music it is powerful, and slams with the authority one can expect from its name. Bass speed is about average, but has great detail. The sub-bass goes very deep, providing great depth in the soundstage. The mid-bass provides a powerful slam, and warmth and fullness to the lower mids. The lower midrange presence gives great size and power to the presentation. Rock ‘n roll guitars (think AC/DC) sound big and engaging, where a more neutral iem will miss that lower end extension, resulting in a relatively smaller size and different tonality. A fine example is Courtney Barnett’s “Small Poppies”, where she sings a duet with a beautifully tuned electric guitar. The guitar has a unique sound; much lower and deeper than a normal guitar, similar to the difference between a regular and alt violin. But to appreciate its signature, a significant lower midrange presence is required. The same holds for an instrument like the cello.

    But where this midrange impresses most, and truly is one of the highlights of listening to Zeus, is male vocals. The Zeus is in its element with heartfelt songs like Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”, the Righteous Brother’s “Unchained Melody” or R.E.M’s “Everybody Hurts”. Songs where you can feel the heartbreak is sincere; not only by the lyrics, but the emotion behind the vocal. To tap into that pain, the anguish; the sound must come from deep - very deep. Zeus’ midrange provides exactly that: warm, full and clear, making male vocals sound incredibly deep and powerful. The note articulation with well timed sustain adds a certain calmness and confidence to the singer’s presentation.


    23483892111_53fa0e1274_b.jpg


    But for the ultimate experience you need to go one level higher: singers like Andrea Bocelli – that’s where the magic happens. Because of the high resolution, you are captivated by a crystalized image of his performance: sound is being produced from deep within the chest; you can feel the air being released from the lungs. Subtle dynamic changes in his voice are accurately displayed: you can see the position of his mouth affecting the quantity and tone of the sound being produced. Beginning down the lower mids, extending to the upper midrange with unparalleled detail in nuances and smoothness. When opera singers like Bocelli perform, you can feel the effortless production of a high volume of sound, the ample power in reserve. A surplus of power, that is mirrored by Zeus’ technical ability and midrange. I never listened to the guy before, but Zeus’ midrange invites you to find the limits of what is possible, to seek how powerful and full a voice can truly sound.

    The upper midrange sounds relatively neutral, up into the treble. In comparison to other iems as the Solar, S-EM9 and AR6, the upper midrange is less enhanced, so instruments like (acoustic) guitars or violins have less prominence and spotlight attention. Female vocals sound very smooth, and have a sensual undertone due to the inherent warmth of the lower/mid mids. The treble consists of a balance between a good amount of frivolous sparkle, but due the high level of control it remains polite and very linear. All in all, very refined. The treble has good speed, while treble energy reflects the choice for control and a smooth, non-fatiguing sound. A gentleman’s treble, without sounding dull. I can understand and appreciate the philosophy behind the design, as it adds to the overall smoothness of the presentation.

    Zeus wasn’t designed to be as neutral of reference-tuned as possible – far from it. Zeus has a strong, and coloured personality. Because of the full midrange, Zeus sounds massive; tones are thick and carry a lot of weight, while treble sounds smooth and refined. This gives a very solid, full and weighty sound. But one of the general impressions is that Zeus’ value is not inherent to its signature. What makes Zeus special and unique is its presentation; the high resolution and 3D imaging. A certain fluency that results from an articulate tone production, in combination with a smooth note decay and precise dynamics: subtle changes in the articulation of a vocal or a chord. This combination of clarity and fluency has a mesmerising effect: a vocal will envelope you in its presentation, while the continuity and smoothness has a captivating but dreamy effect that drifts you off. While its signature might not be particularly airy, the instrument separation and air between the instruments is the best I've heard. Zeus projects a certain confidence and effortless, a subtle power that feels like it’s holding back but can be unleashed at any moment. A big American V8 engine going 40 mph, while it can easily do 200.

    Select Comparisons
    As god of the gods, Zeus doesn’t have to be the best at everything. He has other gods for that. We deliver a parcel by Fedex, he sends Hermes. But as their ruler, he must have power and authority. Zeus’ technical capabilities are outstanding such as note articulation, resolution and imaging. Being quite midforward, it has a strong but also unique character compared to others.


    23483906191_524a08b1a2_c.jpg

    The god of wind and air: Perfect Seal AR6 ($950)
    At less than half the price and less than half the drivers (6), the AR6 might seem out of place here. But because of a very different signature, the AR6 demonstrates the effect of design concerning signature, and its relation to soundstage. The AR6’ bass is linear, and relatively neutral compared to the bass of Zeus. The mid-bass is leaner, and creates a very spacious presentation. Not to say the midrange is recessed - the lower midrange just doesn’t get the fill from a more prominent mid-bass like Zeus. A lift in the upper midrange gives the AR6 a pleasant tonality, but Zeus has a much fuller sound; instruments are bigger and have more power, while vocals sound deeper.

    But because the AR6 lacks lower midrange presence in combination with a lift in the lower treble, its soundstage is noticeably larger and airier; instruments fan out further in all directions, both in width and depth. The smaller midrange size makes them sound further in distance, similar to like an object in the distance is visually smaller. Zeus’ soundstage however is taller. The thick and full Zeus sounds like standing in a massive hall; with the AR6 you take a step outside to catch some air. The AR6’ treble is more forward, but also less controlled and can sound a bit splashy in comparison. Zeus not only sounds a lot fuller throughout the range with a more powerful slam and fuller midrange, its treble is also smoother and more refined.

    The AR6 was specifically designed for its soundstage. Because of the clean mid-bass and distant lower mids, the size of the soundstage is vast and airy. Instruments have good focus and separation. The AR6 for instance performs outstanding in rock with fast guitars, where the Zeus can encounter resistance due the fuller presentation. But this gives the midrange power and size; notes are full and thick, while also a great deal smoother. The AR6 has a great separation of instruments due to its airiness and soundstage; Zeus impresses with its smooth presentation built on resolution and imaging.

    The god of energy: EarSonics S-EM9 ($1490)
    EarSonics is a French company with their own house sound; a focus on musicality and enjoyment, rather than going for a classic audiophile signature of being as neutral and revealing as possible. A very recognizable and audible signature that is present throughout their lineup; their iems are forgiving, engaging and emotive. EarSonics recently released a new flagship: the universal S-EM9 with a 3-way crossover design and 9 BA drivers. And with the S-EM9, they didn’t stray far from that philosophy.

    The S-EM9 is fast, and precise. The attack is razorsharp and decay is quick, providing a great sense of pace. Both share great bass that is slightly enhanced. While they both have powerful sub-bass slam, Zeus hits with more authority due to its relatively enhanced mid-bass, while also having a more forward lower midrange. Compared to Zeus, the S-EM9’s treble is more forward and energetic, while still remaining controlled and smooth – a remarkable feat. The S-EM9 begs you to turn the volume higher and higher. High hats are slightly more pronounced, and dictate the sense of rythm. The S-EM9 is first and foremost engaging: the fast attack and decay, along with the energetic treble gets your toe tapping the moment the music speeds up - an absolute delight for fast-paced electronic music or rock.

    But the roles are very different for guitar-based music and vocals, due to Zeus’ midforward signature. The midrange sounds full and powerful, and its performance here overshadows the S-EM9. The S-EM9’s mid-bass doesn’t give as much size to the lower midrange, affecting the size and depth of especially male vocals. As the upper midrange is more accentuated our friend Bocelli’s voice is now coming from the throat and mouth; the perception of ‘chest’ is far less tangible. While the S-EM9 has more sparkle and treble energy, Zeus has more size and power in the midrange: a calm but confident presentation.

    The S-EM9’s soundstage is slightly more intimate, but has good proportions in width, height and depth. Zeus’ soundstage however is larger in all directions. Both the S-EM9 and Zeus share excellent imaging evenly diffused in all directions, but Zeus presents a higher quality of layering. While the localization of instruments is similar, Zeus’ resolution is higher, resulting in greater midrange transparency and instrument definition.

    Zeus and S-EM9 are both outstanding flagships, with nothing in common other than that fact. The S-EM9 is U-shaped, bringing the upper midrange and treble to the foreground, while having a great sense of speed and rhythm. Zeus is midforward; and impresses with its full and authoritative sound, while being more resolving. Its soundstage is larger, and resolution is on a higher level. The S-EM9 is the vigorous teenager, Zeus the authoritative father figure.

    God of Thunder: Rhapsodio Solar ($1550)
    Rhapsodio made their entrance in top of the line territory with their first 10 BA driver monitor: the Solar, a warm and smooth operator with thick notes and a powerful bass slam that is not for the light-hearted!

    Like Zeus, the Solar shares a punchy sub-bass that can hit with authority when called upon, although Zeus’ has better extension and can hit deeper. Both share excellent lower frequency resolution, although I’d give the edge to Zeus. The Solar’s mid-bass however is more enhanced, giving good size and especially warmth to the midrange; overall the Solar has a warmer atmosphere, which also gives it thicker notes compared to Zeus. The Solar excels with electric guitars, sounding full and powerful. Due to the boosted lower midrange, male vocals sound clear and full, but they do not have the depth and density of Zeus – this is Zeus’ territory, due to its forward center mids. In addition, Zeus’ upper midrange is also more forward bringing out more emotion and intimacy with vocals. The roles reverse again for the lower treble; the Solar’s significant peak here gives it a more spacious sound, although it is still less airy due to the warmer mid-bass presentation. But after the Solar’s lower treble peak Zeus catches up, and starts to trump the Solar on technical ability; better presence in the mid treble area contributes to Zeus’s greater transparency - acoustics and string instruments not only have a clearer, more realistic tone, but also more sparkle. Finally, Zeus has better treble extension; contributing to the significantly better resolution, especially in the midrange.

    Both have an average to slightly above average soundstage width. The Solar has impressive soundstage depth and imaging; but Zeus adds a higher resolution and better layering. The Solar has a great sense of detail, which can be attributed to the lift in the upper midrange and treble. Zeus presents detail from its resolving nature, the high resolution and precise imaging.

    Two TOTL’s that both impress in a very different way. Zeus' midforward signature, with a massive and tall soundstage, conveys power and size. The Solar’s midrange is more laidback in comparison, with thicker and warmer notes due to its warmer mid-bass. Zeus presents detail due to the high resolution, in a forward and very stimulating way. The Solar in turn has a warmer and smoother sound, compared to highly transparent and clear Zeus.


    23483902091_83b6193f21_c.jpg

    Conclusion
    When you hear a company is launching the worlds first 14 BA driver, you’d automatically assume its aspiration is to sound as neutral and technically proficient as possible. A flat audiophile signature if you will. Not in this case; the designer has had a great deal of liberty to create his own version of a super iem. A choice that I both respect and appreciate, because Zeus has its very own character that sets it apart from the rest. I don’t know anything about the designer, but while listening to the Zeus I have gotten to know him a bit, and we bonded over music. For it is apparent that Zeus was designed with a certain preference in mind.

    Zeus has a strong personality; a forward presentation, midcentric signature with great average note thickness, while its articulation remains incredibly smooth. This allows for a very rich and relaxing presentation, where you can truly be captivated by a center image with a great sense of detail, and still drift away on the soothing tonality.

    But Zeus is a god of many faces. It might have a strong character, Zeus is very submissive to the source and will change accordingly. The combination with the P1 > Arrow is a magical one, as the full midrange impresses with its size, power and midrange density, while presenting detail from a warm environment based on technical ability and resolution. With male vocals like Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, or the Dire Straits, Zeus is an absolutely spectacular musical experience: like seeing a 3D movie the first time when Avatar hit the cinemas. It excels even more when listening to some of the greatest voices of our time: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or Andrea Bocelli. I can confidently say that this is probably the best iem for male vocals out there. Zeus, the powerhouse. With the sidenote that it is heavily coloured, reflecting the equally midcentric and smoother signature of the P1. As such it absolutely excels with its midrange, but is a bit limited in its allround capabilities. How different with the 901S, where the warmth makes place for a clear background, quicker bass and increased treble presence; giving Zeus overall a more balanced, dynamic and forward signature. Zeus proudly boasts its technical capabilities and full range in a more upfront, aggressive manner. I had listed ‘signature varies with source’ as a con; but I have a hard time choosing which pairing I prefer, since they’re so different – in general I’ll reach for male vocals with the P1, and acoustics and female vocals with the 901S, as well as more dynamic music.

    The million dollar question (or actually $2099 to be precise) that might be on a lot of people's mind is can you hear Zeus' price return in its sound. For Zeus costs roughly $500 more than your average TOTL ciem, which a lot of people might already find exorbitant. Zeus has its own signature, and this will ultimately determine someone’s preference. You can never say one signature is better than the other – that also holds for a completely neutral one. But what Zeus does have, is a natural authority over others - regardless of signature. It’s high resolution and resolving nature, total sense of control and linearity in the upper frequencies, subtle presentation of detail from a warm background and 3D imaging reveal a masterful piece of engineering. For me its signature is partially secondary; it could have been either U-shaped or midforward, and I would have appreciated it the same. When I hear Zeus, I hear something special – from the first moment I heard it. So I would say yes, you can.

    The name ‘Zeus’ was a logical choice for a flagship of Greek inspired names. But there are parallels to the mighty god besides its status based on price and driver count. A female god like Athena just wouldn’t have fit - Zeus sounds serious, powerful and masculine. If the mighty god Zeus himself had a voice: rumbling, deep, and awe-inspiring – this is the monitor you’d want to hear it with.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. PDVJAM
      Well, first 14 drivers CIEMs were created by guys from Ambient Acoustics (Kyiv). I have mine since August 2015:)
      PDVJAM, Dec 14, 2015
    3. karanehir35
      sm 9 a very bad headphones.I do not recommend.
      karanehir35, Dec 15, 2015
    4. badwisdom
      badwisdom, Jan 9, 2016