After a couple of years having gone wireless for walking, exercising, and generally shutting myself away, I am back where I should be when I am on the move, listening to the highest quality tracks on a HiRes player with these wired Empire Ear Hero in-ear monitors, featuring four drivers and a 4-way crossover. And the Hero is not even near the highest end of the Empire Ears range that extends to the Wraith with 11 drivers, including 2 subs and a 5-way crossover!
the kicker with these in-ear monitors is the Alpha IV cable … which is as noiseless as a piece of string
Empire Ears Hero is part of a range of Empire Ears that share their heritage with the acclaimed Zeus XIV in-ear monitors that had an incredible 14 drivers. As Empire Ears put it on their site:
Hero reveres our past to emulate flagship levels of performance without the flagship admission
The Hero sits towards the middle of the Empire Ears range that starts with the Bravado II, which has 4 drivers, and works its way up to the Odin and Wraith models both with 11 drivers and 7- and 5-way crossovers, respectively.
The Hero I have are a Universal fit, meaning they are designed for an average ear, but you can order your Empire Ears to be custom fitted for an additional sum. In this case, you will need to send through an ear impression, all the Empire Ear monitors are hand finished. In my Universal box, there is an array of 5 pairs of rubber tips for the ears and I found my size easily, fitting the rubber tabs is quite simple. Once fitted the ear tabs provide an isolating seal to the ear. There is no noise cancelling involved here, but you are removed from background noise by the seal created.
For me, the kicker with these ‘in ears’ is the Alpha IV cable, a four-core stranded cable, which is as noiseless as a piece of string. Added to this I have the right angle 3.5mm, 24k Oyaide gold plated
right angle plug which is so easy to slip into your back pocket, there is no element of compromise at all. There are balanced terminations offered by Empire Ears if preferred. Added to this the cable has the ‘ears curl’ builtin for ease of fitting and I have not had them falling out on my travels.
Inside the Hero are 4 drivers, the W9+ subwoofer and a set of proprietary balanced armature drivers, one at mid and then, a mid-high and a high frequency driver. The proprietary 9mm rare-earth magnet subwoofer can deliver what is described as ‘extreme output’, the frequency range of these Hero is an
astonishing 5Hz -40kHz. I have noticed there are three small holes to the top of each monitor, presumably to let the air pressure adjust as required.
Quite simply these are Empire Ears Hero are uncompromisingly made with what feels like a durable acrylic shell housing the array of drivers. There is a polymer based proprietary Anti-Resonance Compound Technology which is a coating inside the shells on the drivers and crossovers and it is this technology that manages effective vibration absorption.
The un-boxing experience is laced with luxury. Inside the box, there is the usual array of earpieces from super small to extra large with all sizes in between. Also in the box is the heaviest portable storage box about the size of an ice hockey puck. It is called a Pandora Case, which is metal, heavy and unscrews like a large pot of hair gel with a very narrow screw.
My version of the Hero is a Founder edition. In my box I have signatures from all the production team on the box, each ear monitor has a serial number and CTO and founder Dean Vang’s signature on each shell. This is a nice personal touch. See the Founder Pics on Instagram.
The Empire Ears Hero is retailing in the UK at £1,349, with SCV Distribution.
I have been listening to the Empire Ears Hero mainly with my Pioneer XDP-100 which is a HiRes portable music player. The Pioneer has Android OS and I have downloaded Qobuz and Tidal as well as having a collection of 24-bit recordings on the two SD cards. Otherwise, I have been listening to the with my Pixel 4 with a Dragonfly Red using a Dragontail C, I finally took the £20 plunge! I have also been listening on the desktop with the still stunning Chord Hugo 2 with Qobuz desktop and Tidal Masters.
First up, overall, the rubber tips do a really good job of keeping the noise out and everything in place physically, I have had no bother with them falling out. Most of the time I have been fitting them, pulling the tab on to hold them to the rear of my head and then I am away. Finally, although wires are a bit of pain, this cable is so non-sticky and not noisy, you barely notice it is there, once you are in place.
The Heros seem to be exceptionally easy to drive, I have had the Pioneer on a relatively low volume setting to that I was used to when I use the ACS EVOLVE three drivers in-ear monitors that have a higher impedance at near 50 Ohms. These Hero have a claimed 17.6 Ohms impedance. They both have a high sensitivity, the Hero are 105dB.
The first track I put on happened to be a 24-bit download on an SD card on the Pioneer XDP of Coldplay’s Everglow which has an overpowering bass introduction alongside the vocal. There is a wonderful tone and depth to the bass extension in this piece and the control and rounded bass note is pure joy. Inevitably I then start searching around for my favourite bass heavy tracks; Moby’s Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? rolling bass line is delivered with control and presence and Skrillex’s Bangarang EDM dance classic is delivered with an uncluttered beat I have rarely experienced.
Needless to say, at this level with four drivers, I’m getting bags and bags of detail, in Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (Qobuz desktop, 24 bit, 96kHz) the cymbals in the right ear just brush along absolutely beautifully as John Coltrane’s saxophone saunters on through the left ear. This is real breathing jazz, the fact that piano legend Bill Evans has a side role in the background of this track just makes you realise what a moment in time this recording was.
The Heros are exceptionally immersive, with a modern production like America by London Grammar (Qobuz desktop, 24 bit, 44.1kHz) you are placed in the centre of a huge room with Hannah Reid’s vocals reverberating around you. Lana Del Rey’s White Dress (Qobuz desktop, 24 bit, 48kHz) carries the most fragile vocal you could hope to hear, and that emotion comes across passionately with these in-ear monitors.
Birdy’s new album Young Heart has some fantastic vocal pieces and is rather nicely produced in my view. The opening track after the Intro is a meandering track called Voyager, it has a ring of Nick Drake’s Northern Lights. Notwithstanding this, the track has tremendous detail, and the vocal is beautifully soft as we hear Birdy maturing as an artist. The Heros pass on the detail of the birdsong in the background behind the vocal.
At the time of writing, Rag’n’Bone Man’s new album (Life by Misadventure) has been released (7 May 2021). Just like London Grammar (Californian Soil) and Birdy’s new album, the vocal is sumptuously delivered. It feels to me that modern production lends itself to the Heros where there is a modern ethereal heavy bass background.
…these Empire Ears Heros have been one of the best audiophile experiences I have heard in my time
Headphones are truly the best way to hear the most as the audiophile listening experience. In-ear monitors go further, offering a window into the soul of the artist; these Empire Ears Heros have been one of the best audiophile experiences I have heard in my time. Modern vocal productions appear to be well served by the 4 driver selection offered by the Hero. I always feel if I want to buy a product desperately after a review, it gets an Editor’s Pick and I really, really need to buy these.
Built-in cable ‘ear curl’
Fairly neutral tone
Right angle jack
Ease of use
For nothing else
Full details of the Empire Ears Hero are on the company’s site.