The penultimate offering in the Empire Ears lineup, the Phantom will run you a cool $1799. But at such a price, what kind of sound can you expect? And is it the right earphone for you?
Empire Ears Phantom Review
The Empire Ears Phantom comes in your standard Empire Ears packaging with all the fixins: a rugged plastic carrying case, a soft drawstring pouch, a cleaning tool, and Final Audio E-Type eartips.
An ARES II cable from Effect Audio also comes with the earphones. This well-built cable measures a standard 4 ft (1.2 m) and utilizes a braided design for enhanced durability. One end terminates in a two-pin connection, while the other sports a single-ended 3.5 mm plug.
The earpieces themselves sport a plastic shell with nary a seam to be found. Encased within, a five proprietary Balanced Aramature drivers offer 5-way crossover, with 2 drivers dedicated to the low frequencies, and one driver each dedicated to the mids, highs, and super-highs.
Another nifty design feature appears in the nozzle construction, which uses a 3-bore design to attenuate sound as it leaves the earpieces.
Frequency Range: NA
Nominal Impedance: NA
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): NA
Empire Ears doesn’t reveal much about the Phantom’s specifications, but that won’t stop me from guessing. I’d place the frequency range somewhere around 20-20,000 Hz with maybe a little extension in the high end. Impedance should be fairly low, at 32 ohms or less, as these seem fairly efficient. Lastly, sound pressure probably weighs in around 102 dB.
The low end on the Empire Ears Phantom sounds lifelike and natural, but tempered. The overall character never seems over-pronounced, but these earphones still remain highly detailed. Bass lands with slight impact – delivering a little bit of oomph, but not waxing too sloppy or uncontrolled.
With good fidelity and strong sense of accuracy, the Phantom’s midrange comes across as full and vibrant. A bit recessed, and nowhere near forward-leaning, this sound works well with rest of the frequency range. Overall, the mids remain clean and clear with nary a shadow of compression or distortion.
Slightly rolled off, the high end still plays host to a fair amount of detail. Though provided proper attention to the highest high notes, the sound here remains relatively smooth for vocals and instrumentation. The excellent sense of fidelity here meshes well with the stately low end and reserved mids, leading to a balanced character rife with contrast.
The Empire Ears Phantom offers up a strong, airy, and finite sense of soundstage. The ample sense of depth and good sense of placement leads to very articulate listening experience. Whether I am listening to a rock ballad or a classical staple, I find myself being transported to a world of sound where every nuance occupies an almost-tangible realm of space.
The flat nature of the Phantom could almost be considered a benchmark – if the asking price weren’t so far outside most peoples’ price range. However, the truth remains that this sound lands incredibly close to perfect, with a strong sense of accuracy and fidelity that you just don’t see in so many earphones in this range.
Cabling and fit are equally impressive, offering a robust and durable build that wears like a dream. The Phantom stands up to plenty of abuse, but you’ll be too busy enjoying the sound to notice.
For those seeking a more fun or dynamic listening experience, I would suggest the Empire Ears Legend X. At $1850, this earphone will cost a bit more, but it does provide richer lows and highs at the expense of sounding less flat.
For those more concerned with emphasis on the mids and highs, the equally-impressive Empire Ears Nemesis offers clear benefit.
Soundstage junkies might benefit from either the 64 Audio U12t (at $1999) or U18t (at $2999), but as the slight improvement may not be worth the additional costs.
And really, this is what the Phantom does so well; any earphone could probably sound this good, but Empire Ears has managed to create that earphone at a sweet price of just $1799.
Despite plenty of hearty competition from other manufacturers, Empire Ears delivers one heck of a sound in the Phantom. Sporting a detailed and rich flavor that displays thoughtful balance in the lows and highs, this $1799 work of art easily wins out for those in need of a premium, flat-sounding earphone.
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