PROS: Build quality, rich unboxing experience, good EA stock cable, nice carry case, comfortable fit, small shells, resolution, coherency, balance (with foam ear tips), reference-ish character.
CONS: Stock tips not the best pairing for sound signature, no lip for ear tips, signature needs refinement to work as true reference, uninspired stock shell design.
I would like to thank Empire Ears for sending me ESR to test and review. I am not affiliated with the company or any of its sellers and write this review with an unbiased opinion regardless of how the review turns out.
I majorly listen to rock, acoustic, pop, metal, and sometimes popular EDM songs doing the rounds on the charts.
About Empire Ears.
Empire Ears certainly don’t need any introduction. For those of you who have been living under a rock, Empire Ears are one of the most popular brands in the world, a family owned company based out of Atlanta (Georgia, USA). They have over 30 years of experience in acoustic engineering and manufacturing spanning the medical, consumer and professional markets. They have 2 different range of IEMs,
- X Series (Bravado, Vantage, Nemesis, Valkyrie and Legend X)
The Empire X Series is raw and instinctive, unwavering in its singular purpose: to overwhelm the auditory senses through the vigorous spirit and emotion of a live performance.
- EP Series (EVR, ESR and Phantom)
Engineered to obtain the highest standards of audio reproduction, the Empire Professional (EP) series was designed alongside numerous Grammy award-winning artists, musicians, producers, and engineers, to deliver music as it was intended to be heard. The EP Series features a myriad of new technologies including: synX crossover systems, anti-resonance compound (A.R.C.), proprietary balanced armature drivers, and bespoke, handcrafted Ares II cables by Effect Audio.
Their IEM Legend X in particular is not just one of their most successful products but is also one of the most popular IEMs in the audiophile circles.
According to Empire Ears, the Empire Studio Reference (ESR) was tuned specifically for discerning producers and engineers that require a non-coloured, linear in-ear monitor for reference use. The ESR features a powerful 4-way synX crossover network with 3 proprietary drivers to reproduce the sonic transparency and critical details needed for mixing and mastering. The ESR is Empire’s flattest in-ear monitor and it delivers uncompromising dynamics, ultra-fast transient response, and wide dispersion for use in studios and on stage. Every aspect of the ESR was conceived, designed, and crafted to faithfully reproduce what the artist had intended.
- 3 Proprietary Empire Balanced Armature Drivers (1 Low, 1 Mid, 1 High)
- 4-Way synX Crossover Network
- A.R.C. Resonance Mitigation Technology
- Impedance: 19.3 ohms @ 1kHz
- Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 40kHz
- Sensitivity 112dB @ 1kHz, 1mW
- UPOCC 26AWG Handcrafted Cable by Effect Audio
ESR has a lot of Empire Ears proprietary tech inside like SnyX Crossover network and A.R.C., so if you’re interested in knowing more about it, Empire Ears have explained it pretty well on their ESR product page (link).
Included in the box.
Empire Ears IEMs have a rich and luxurious unboxing experience. ESR’s box has two levels, with IEM, cable and manuals on top and case, ear tips and cleaning brush at the bottom level. The bottom level slides out nicely and everything is easily accessible. 10 points to Gryffindor, ahem… Empire Ears for the nice packaging design.
- Empire Ears ESR
- Effect Audio Ares II cable
- Metal round carry case
- Final Type-E tips in 5 sizes along with info manual
- Cleaning cloth
- Quick Start Guide and thank you card
- Empire Ears stickers
Shells – ESR stock universal shells are black in colour and are made out of medical grade resin with EE logo on the faceplates. They are well made with nice smooth semi-custom contours. The 2-pin sockets are tight and they grab onto all 2-pin cables very nicely. They sit flush with the shell surface and aren’t the recessed type.
The nozzles are small and fit most 4-4.5mm ear tips nicely. Sadly, they do not have a lip to keep the stock Final E tips in place and I had a nice scare because of that. I was testing the ESR with the Final E tips and when I took them out of my ear, the tips came off and got stuck in my ear canal. I then heard a slight pop and felt the tips move inside my canal. I almost shat my pants as I thought the ear tips had gone inside my inner ear. Luckily, they hadn’t and I fished them out quickly grabbing onto the silicone with my nails. And that’s why folks, we need a lip to hold the ear tips in place tightly. What helps is that I anyway prefer foam ear tips with the ESR and they grab onto the nozzle tightly and never come off. So, consider foam ear tips for this reason when using the ESR.
Cable – ESR comes with the famous Effect Audio Ares II UP-OCC Litz cable as stock. You have the option to choose your jack types and terminations while placing the order. Ares II is a very nice cable with a relatively tight braid which makes it tangle free. It is slightly microphonic for the same reason but you don’t hear it when listening to songs. All in all, this is one of the nicest cables that comes as stock with an IEM at this price point, so no complaints here.
Case – The case is made out of metal and is very well built. The paint, finishing as well as the etched logo all look very classy. It is small enough to easily fit in your bag’s front pocket yet spacious on the inside to easily fit the ESR with the cable.
Fit, Comfort and Noise Isolation
ESR with its semi-custom contours fit my ears snugly. I use them with nice squishy foam ear tips mostly and as a result comfort is excellent and they disappear in my ear once worn. Noise isolation is good and I cannot hear the air conditioner or fan running in my room with them in. You can comfortably use them for your commutes and noisy factories, and they’ll block out most of the background noise. Of course, going the CIEM route will be even better for the same.