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Empire Ears - Discussion & Impressions (Formerly EarWerkz)

  1. Layman1
    Hi Tristy,

    By sheer coincidence, I'm currently listening to both Nemesis and Legend X and comparing them both.
    I'm away from home at the moment, but will be back tomorrow and will be hopefully able to give you some good insights by the end of the coming week if you can wait that long? :)
    Tristy likes this.
  2. Tristy
    Great! Yeah please if you could... Depending on when these Black Friday sales start I’m not sure if I can wait out that long as I don’t want to miss the boat but some initial impressions will be great in the meantime! Cheers
  3. Layman1
    No problem; I'll have a listen in the next couple of days and let you know what I find :)
    Tristy likes this.
  4. Tristy
    thanks, appreciate it!
    Layman1 likes this.
  5. pali
    Status update on the EE Custom Eartips DIY Project.

    OMG. I don't know how I'll go back to normal eartips after this. It feels like I'm actually there and I can listen to music all day and night, coz I don't feel the eartips in my ear.

    I ordered 2 sets of Custom Earplugs:

    1st attempt: Messed up real bad, took too long to mix the stuff and it was hardening even before I could mold them onto the IEM and into my ear.

    2nd attempt: Split up each part in half so that I could mix each ear's putty individually. First the right side (my tricky ear coz it has extra fat), seal is just okay. I do the "if I can hear my fingers rubbing then the seal is not perfect" test and I can hear rubbing but only on the top part. Then on the left, I learn from my mistakes and get the seal right. Can't hear my fingers rubbing.

    After 10 mins, I cut out holes in the silicone.

    This is just bliss. But I am slightly annoyed at how the right ear has a not perfect seal and has slightly lower volume.

    Ordered 2 more pairs to hopefully make it better next time!

    You guys should try it as well. I was worried that the silicone would react chemically with the EE shell but so far pretty good. I also put some stuff in the eartip tube so that the silicone wouldn't go into the shell. Pics to follow, when I get them right.
    SBranson likes this.
  6. SBranson

    This is really interesting. I'd love to see photos of the results.
  7. pali
    15741417823363479705979495683443.jpg 15741418531967648689659743549906.jpg Here you go.

    Definitely not the nicest looking IEMs.

    I guess my insight here is that if you're on the fence about customs, just go ahead and get customs, you will not regret it.

    The comfort is a major plus in how much I can enjoy my music now.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2019
    davidcotton and SBranson like this.
  8. SBranson
    Thanks! It looks like a great exercise to try out the idea of customs before committing. I would love to get custom LX but they are just so expensive..
  9. Tristy
    Any initial impressions on these?
  10. Layman1
    Sorry, been overwhelmed with stuff! Will try to get some impressions for you ASAP.
    What genres of music do you listen to most of all?
    If I have similar stuff, I'll test using those genres. Feel free to also suggest specific tracks/albums, although I may not have them and don't use streaming :)
  11. Tristy
    No problem! I just appreciate the offer. Umm quite a lot of metalcore, synth stuff quite a bit along with trance, and quite a bit of acoustic stuff as well! Really quite a wide range so any sort of feedback you can give would be appreciated, even if it’s related to individual instruments etc.
  12. Layman1
    Well, whilst I'm waiting, I'm going to fire up a few random songs.

    By way of a disclaimer, my stress levels are close to maximum after a brutal day, and I'm in a chaotic and moderately noisy environment, so please take these quick impressions with that in mind!

    Oh, and for completeness, I'm using iBasso DX220 with default AMP1 Mk II and the thicker gauge Ares II+ cable.
    Which also means I have to keep swapping the cable over every time I switch between models; less than ideal.
    I'm using New Bee memory foam tips (wide bore), simply because with the EE models, I can't get a good seal with any size of Symbio W (my usual choice of ear tip).

    First up, Billy Joel's 'Captain Jack' (24/96 HDTracks FLAC):
    Now, I've listened to this with some decent IEMs before (but I can't remember exactly which).
    With the Legend X, I'm noticing that all the components in the mix - guitar, bass, piano, vocals etc - all seem beautifully separated and given their own space.
    Details are really popping out - but without distracting me from the enjoyment of the song overall - and it's easy to focus on specific things if I choose, like the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar in the background.
    The low end is solid without being obtrusive. I'm not noticing any excessive warmth in the mids.
    There's a lovely sense of spaciousness, crispness and authority.
    It's really musical and engaging. A delight to listen to.
    I'm suspecting I should have listened to the Nemesis first; I have a suspicion it's not going to give me this feeling :p

    Next up, the Nemesis (same song):
    I'm feeling more warmth and body and richness; very enjoyable. But that seems to come at the expense of the feeling of separation from the Legend X, which seems diminished in comparison, albeit not excessively so.
    It's still a pretty spacious and open feeling. That soft strummed acoustic guitar is not popping out like it did with the Legend X.
    I feel like there's plenty of depth to the soundstage. It's strange; I don't feel that the separation or soundstage are particularly diminished compared with the Legend X.
    However, the difference is that with the Legend X, there was a noticeable and delightful perception of separation and spaciousness, that doesn't stand out to me with the Nemesis.

    I've now gone back and forth between the Legend X and Nemesis 3 times each, and I think I stand by my initial thoughts there.

    Next up, 'Faith & Science' by Norwegian singer-songwriter Marit Larsen. She can do folky acoustic and rocking pop songs with equal aplomb; this song falls into the latter category.
    She has a fairly high-pitched voice, and the song features piano, guitar, a particularly thumping kick drum and keyboards chiming and shimmering in the background.

    Nemesis first:
    That drum really has impact and depth; I can feel it inside my skull (in a good way) :p
    Her vocals sound rich, despite her higher pitch. All the details and background instruments are there on display - and this song has quite a few.
    Great timbre (everything) and decay (piano) on display here. Despite the relatively high vocals and music, I'm feeling only a tiny amount of sharpness/peakiness in the treble (I have a sensitivity to such things).

    Legend X:
    Immediately I notice that whilst the drum has similar levels of impact, but less depth and slightly less of the skull shaking feeling.
    Note that the drums on this song are mastered strongly and sound prominent on pretty much *all* IEMs I've tried.
    I'm missing that richness and warmth from the Nemesis, that adds note thickness and presents timbre very nicely on this song.
    The treble seems more peaky/sharp on this track than with the Nemesis. (NB: when I'm stressed, I'm much more susceptible to treble sensitivity anyway though!).
    Not having such a feeling of separation and detail that I had with the first test track ('Captain Jack').
    Time to go back to the Nemesis.
    I have to say, from the first listen of this test track on each IEM, my immediate reaction is that the Nemesis - to my surprise - was much more enjoyable, whereas it was more in favour of the Legend X on the comparatively more acoustic 'Captain Jack'.

    Nemesis (2nd try, 'Faith & Science'):
    Definitely the drums just have more depth and impact. It's glorious :D
    The piano seems to have better timbre and is more resonant and engaging.
    Rock guitar has more body.

    New track:

    Shawn Mullins - 'The Gulf of Mexico'. This one is a mostly acoustic number, singer-songwriter with acoustic guitar.
    First up, Nemesis (mainly because it means I can listen without changing the cable first) :p

    Really loving - again - the timbre, richness and resonance of the shimmering acoustic guitar and slightly raspy vocals.
    There's a delightful tactility to the strumming of the guitar in places, a strength of a good dynamic driver setup, and the Nemesis has it in spades :)

    Legend X:
    Immediately I notice a more spacious feeling and that separation is back, and sounding great.
    Piano seems to have more impact, although less richness.
    I think this is partly because of that quality of the Legend X that seems to present each instrument in its own distinct space.

    Strangely, I feel his vocal is not only more defined with the Legend X, but the timbre seems more realistic too.

    Ok, I just saw your post. I have no trance or metalcore, but here's some dark electronica; this is 'Monument' (T.I.E. version featuring Robyn) by Royksopp.

    Again, sticking with the Legend X as it means I don't need to cable swap immediately:
    A ton of definition and texture to the synthetic bass; very noticeable.
    Every aspect of the song is sounding great, with lots of weight and power.

    It seems that the stunning definition and texture is lessened here, although the depth and power remain (and indeed are even more emphasised).
    The whole song seems more closed-in and intimate. It seems to have lost the spaciousness and balance that I experienced with the Legend X.

    I don't have time to do more now, but I'll try to get some more A/B testing done tomorrow.

    Some closing thoughts:

    I myself am currently trying to choose between Legend X and Nemesis.
    At CanJam, where Marit Larsen was used a lot to test, and where I was focusing on bass performance specifically, I preferred Nemesis.

    Here at home, I immediately loved Legend X and felt that the bass difference wasn't all that big that I would feel I was missing out if I chose it.
    I thought I'd just choose Legend X.
    But tonight's listening session has complicated the issue.
    Simply, on some songs, the Legend X is the clear winner for me, whereas with other tracks, the Nemesis just sounds wonderful and I prefer it.

    So I think my mission in the next few days is to listen to a big variety of songs, and decide which IEM sounds best in each case.
    Then I will need to sum up and honestly ask myself, which songs/genres am I going to listen to most often?
    That should help dictate which IEM is the best choice.
    EE have got serious winners with both of these IEM's; as is so often the case, it's going to come down to individual preference and listening habits.
    However, I hope these impressions - however brief and sketchy - may help others (as well as myself!) in making that decision :)
    mvvRAZ, SBranson, YCHANGE and 4 others like this.
  13. Tristy
    More than I ever could have wished for! Thank you, by the sounds of things the legend definitely sounds more up my street. I’m a sucker for separation, spaciousness and vocals so it sounds more suited to me... the better sub bass impact is tantalising though did you notice a whole lot of difference in the treble? Which is more airy?
  14. Layman1
    ok, I lied.. these IEMs are addictive.. :D

    3 more tracks, with even more sketchy impressions. Mainly just because I love them and fancied listening to them lol. But since I'm here, I might as well share my impression with you :p
    I'm just listening to 3 tracks in a row with the Nemesis and then with the Legend X, so this is not so strict A/B testing as with the ones above.

    James Taylor 'September Grass'
    His voice sounds great here with the Nemesis; terrific timbre.
    Again, it feels quite intimate and the note weight and thickness is noticeable and enjoyable.
    But the little guitar details and harmonics in the background are drawn forwards and really shine.
    I'll be interested to hear how the Legend X presents this song (I'm expecting more spacious and less intimate); it's sounding blissful here.
    Nemesis really doing a great job with this track.

    Legend X:
    Well, those twin WeaponX drivers are showing their worth in the opening minute or so of this song.
    The low guitar strings and the percussion have a lovely thump, depth and tactility, despite the comparatively less warm and rich signature.
    The timbre and impact of the vocals doesn't seem to stand out to me as it did with the Nemesis.
    Again, the spaciousness, separation, imaging and detail are all top-class.

    EDIT: reading back, I feel the comment below is one of the most significant differentiators between the two IEMs and worth highlighting:

    Based on my initial impressions, I'd say that the small background guitar harmonics and other details shine with the Legend X due to its excellent technical capabilities; it can effortlessly give them all a discrete space to shine and flawlessly capture their every detail.

    Conversely, with the Nemesis, these details and harmonics shine possibly even more wonderfully with this track, but here I feel it's only partly due to the technical capabilities of the Nemesis (which, whilst slightly behind those of the Legend X, I believe are nevertheless world-class). I'd have to say it comes from the warmth, richness, note-weight and timbre inherent in its sound signature

    A deep dive into some classical now. Alison Lau (Hong Kong opera singer), in this beautifully tranquil and relaxing piece (in 24/96 HDTracks FLAC no less!).
    Handel 'Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno HWV 46a/Part 2 - Lascia la spina' (just rolls off the tongue, don't you know) :p

    I'm immediately struck by the richness and timbre of the string instruments. It's quite stunning and is possibly the most - or one of the most - engaging presentations of the song I've heard on all my IEMs thus far. I'd guess that my Stealth Sonics U4 and the EE Phantom have also wowed me previously, but I can't recall off the top of my head.
    Her voice can go low and soar high, and the Nemesis doesn't hurt my ears when she gets into the highs.
    Seriously, those stringed instruments though! (double bass, cello and violins, I'm guessing - I'm no expert in this genre).. the low end and mids of the Nemesis are just able to present these so stunningly. And it's doing a great job with the highs too. I think I'm in love :)

    Legend X:
    Yes, the absence of that warmth and richness are immediately noticeable.
    It's a relatively more neutral presentation here.
    Definitely the highs do bother me a bit with the Legend X on this track.
    So, whilst I'll have to do further listening, it does seem that the Legend X triggers my treble sensitivities sometimes, whereas the Nemesis doesn't.
    It's by no means unbearable, but it would mean I might be more selective about the tracks I listen to, and the length of my listening sessions.

    Given that the Nemesis is described on the EE website as being 'visceral and crude; intended to capture the feeling of a live concert' (hard rock, I assume, rather than Celine Dion lol), I'd have expected the Nemesis to have been the one that triggered my treble sensitivity, but it was the opposite.
    For reference, the EE website says of the Legend X (amongst other things) "While neutral in tone and a balanced signature throughout, an addictive treble energises the music, while simultaneously remaining smooth".

    Lastly, a bit of Swedish pop/dance music. The musically versatile duo Club 8, performing I'm not gonna grow old:

    Sounds pretty open and spacious at first, but more closed-in as the song increases in complexity (more sounds thrown into the mix).
    The bass is infectious. Background echo-y vocals are there but not popping.
    Chiming synths and, er, synthetic chimes, sound engaging and dynamic.
    The bass drop at 0m55s surprised me by NOT being as visceral as I had supposed it would be. Perhaps the Nemesis works better with real instruments?

    Let's see how the Legend X fares:
    I think I'm too tired to recall and compare; the Alison Lau and James Taylor tracks captivated my attention and dance drew the lion's share of my memory recall :p
    It might be my imagination, but the bass drop possibly seemed more intense here?

    Ok, I really am signing out now :p

    Hope this helped to shed further light on my findings!
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
    SBranson, mr.karmalicious and Tristy like this.
  15. Layman1
    You're most welcome! I just saw this after posting my final impressions post for today.
    I hopefully have answered your question about the treble for the most part.
    Given the Legend X seems to have more spaciousness and treble presence generally, I'd be inclined to suspect that it would be the IEM with the more airy and extended treble.
    However, if tonight's exercise has taught me anything, it's a useful reminder to leave assumptions at the door and just see what comes up in the listening :)
    I won't count the Nemesis out (with regards to treble) until I've done a bit more comparing!

    I'll try to check a few more tracks tomorrow with treble specifically in mind.
    As a reviewer, and particularly as one with some treble sensitivity, I feel more confident describing and analysing lows and mids, but I'll give it a shot anyway.
    Practice makes perfect :)

    Edit: I feel I should add, that although I certainly love to have a 'bass cannon' available within my relatively small set of IEMs - for when the mood takes me - I too am "a sucker for separation, spaciousness and vocals"; actively pursuing these qualities in any IEM I consider for purchase.

    So bear that in mind, especially in the cases where I have said I preferred the Nemesis on a given track; I'm saying that despite me loving those qualities, I *still* preferred the Nemesis on a roughly equal amount of tracks.

    One more thing to note; there's an instant 'effect' when you go from one IEM directly to another. When I switch from EE Phantom to Stealth Sonics U9 (a somewhat Zeus-like IEM), the immediate feeling is that the mids seem a bit scooped out, hollow and lacking body.
    After 10mins or so, the U9 sounds fantastic and that feeling is totally gone.
    Similarly, when I switch from the U9 directly to the Phantom, I feel like there's some kind of veil drawn over a place somewhere in the mids, and there's a feeling that it's a bit veiled and muffled there, and lacking clarity.
    Again, 10 mins later, that feeling disappears completely and the Phantom sounds amazing.

    So there's potentially a degree of that phenomena which might be occurring as I A/B test the Nemesis and Legend X so close together. I suspect the Nemesis may have a great deal of spaciousness and separation etc of its own, but perhaps my perception of it has just been diminished somewhat by comparing it so immediately with the Legend X? Just a thought..
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
    SBranson and Tristy like this.

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