You know that quote about Alexander the Great weeping when he realizes there are no more lands to conquer? Well, today I had the chance to sit down and review the Empire Ears Legned X. Retailing for a cool $2299, it’s the best earphone I have tried in four or five years of reviewing headphones. And, truth be told, after this earphone, I don’t know that I need to try another one.
The Empire Ears Legend X comes in an unsealed cardboard box. There’s a cleaning cloth, a soft carrying pouch, and a hard plastic case. Inside the case, you’ll find a cleaning tool, the earphones, and a bag of Final Audio Type-E eartips.
And that’s pretty much it; no bells and whistles, no extraneous stuff.
The earpieces themselves utilize a plastic shell, but one without a visible seam. These look like they were molded with the drivers completely constructed within them. And, despite appearing a bit large, once placed in the ear, the fit remains surprisingly comfortable.
Using a standard 2-pin connection, the Legend X comes with an Effect Audio ARES II cable measuring 4 ft (1.2 m) and terminating in a standard 3.5 mm plug.
All-in-all, the build quality strikes me as phenomenal, with the lingering impression that you could abuse the hell out of these earphones and never see a drop in sound quality.
Under the hood, the Legend X rocks a 7-driver setup with 10-way crossover that includes 2 drivers each in the lows and the highs, while three more handle the mids. The two low-end drivers are actually dynamic subwoofers, while those focusing on the mids and highs include Balanced Armature drivers from both Knowles (!) and Sonion.
Frequency Range: NA
Nominal Impedance: NA
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): NA
Specs-wise, Empire Ears doesn’t offer too much info regarding the Legend X. If I had to guess, though, I would posit the frequency range is close to 10-35,000 Hz. I know part of that estimate would fall outside the range of human hearing, but there is a TON of detail throughout the frequency range. Nominal impedance should be a low number, too – perhaps 18 or 25 ohms, if not lower. Finally, Sound Pressure Level seems to land around the 100 dB mark.
Honestly, though, I could care less what the specs are for the Legend X. Once you hear this beast, it becomes apparent any specs are just numbers on paper.
Rich, vibrant, and full, the low end bursts with strong detail and joie de vivre. There’s an slightly-emphasized bass at play here, too; landing with impact, it remains emotive while not overpowering the rest of the low end. Normally, I tend to gravitate toward a more neutral low end without any added emphasis. But Empire Ears delivers such a fine, pure sound here that it seems impossible not to love it.
The Legend X has a perfect midrange. In terms of detail and clarity, the sound here remains excellent no matter what I throw at it. To be honest, there may be almost too much clarity; the Legend X easily reveals artifacts and inconsistencies in any recording. And while this heightened level of accuracy may seem a bit intense for older recording, it does offer a fine standard of fidelity for any serious audio file.
Slightly bright, the high end nails every high note while still never sounding too piercing or harsh. Almost-sparkling detail and excellent contrast give way to a dynamic and illuminating high end.
Good depth and phenomenal placement allow for an exacting sense of soundstage that will suck you in and leave you aching for more. Honestly, the sense of space and realism here borders on transcendental, being the best headroom I have yet heard in an earphone at any price.
The fit achieved with the Legend X can be tricky, and while I found the supplied eartips a bit too rigid, the nozzle on this earphone can accommodate much softer tips from SpinFit. Suffice to say, though, that once the earpieces are in place, isolation and comfort allow you to forget you are even wearing earphones.
Cabling provides another nice touch, as the included ARES II cable does a flawless job of delivering good resolution while still remaining robust. I am slavering to try something higher up on the Effect Audio roster, or even the same cable with a 4.4 mm connection.
Lastly, I just want to gush about raw sound quality. Actually, there isn’t all that much to say: this is the best sounding earphone I have ever demoed. It makes me wonder why anyone is even buying anything else at this price. I’ve been listening to high-end earphones for years and years, separating the wheat from the chaff. And the Legend X is some premium wheat.
Obviously, not everyone will be able to afford such and expensive headphone. If you like this sound but need something cheaper, I highly recommend the Shure SE846. This particular IEM weighs in with a pricetag of $999, but offers a similar profile with a bit less extension in the high end.
For those who can afford the Legend X, but would prefer a bit more bass, the U12t from 64 Audio provides a decent alternative – though without the same staggering level of detail to be heard from Empire Ears.
Where mids and highs are king, I might suggest looking into the 64 Audio Tia Fourte, but at $3599, this earphone costs twice as much. Whether the juice is worth all that squeeze will depend on your own ears, but my own impression sides with the less expensive Legend X.
Really, Empire Ears knocks it out of the park with the Legend X, plain and simple. You can spend more or you can spend less. Or you can just buy this earphone and be done with it, because it doesn’t get any better. An $2299 price tag may not be within everyone’s budget, but for those who can afford this kind of sound, this is a small price to pay for such pure and unadulterated audio.
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