Most headphones have a definable personality. Some are neat and fast, some are soft and warm, etc. But once in a while you encounter an IEM with a real soul. So emotionally mature and profound in its expression, that you become attached to it as you would to a lover. Well, the Vantage is one such IEM. Let’s find out why these earphones broke my heart in this Empire Ears Vantage Review.
Empire Ears Vantage Review
IN the BOX
Let me preface this by saying that I wore the Vantage for almost 4 hours straight. (Yes, I have a life, thank you very much.) How do my ears feel? The contours of my canals feel a little worn, but I’m not in any significant pain. The shells are quite big, so tiny ears be warned. However, the sound isolation is pretty effective once you find the right fit or lose your hearing.
The Vantage is proof that more drivers don’t always mean better sound. We’ve got a hybrid three driver set-up. 2 Subwoofers and 1 mid-high.
But let’s talk about Empire Ear’s A.R.C. Resonance Mitigation Technology. It produces a yummy dampened feel, reducing resonance and vibration. And you can really sense it in every Empire Ears model. Their effective five-way crossover design also seems to add to the definitive feel of the notes. All I know is that no other IEM sounds quite like it.
The cable is Copper Litz with two-pin connections and a super tough 24k Oyaide gold plated right angle plug. The whole combo has a level of solidity I haven’t seen in any other high-performance IEM in this echelon.
Overall Impressions: perfect for lovers of vinyl; warm and expressive.
Anyone who has listened to Empire Ears knows that they do sub frequencies really well. And the Vantage is no exception. However, they’ve really highlighted the lows in this model, and brought the bass a little more forward than usual. So, bass-heads, you’re in luck. But it’s not a particularly tight or fast sound. Rather, it’s softened and warmed up. So, it doesn’t quite feel snappy enough for pop. But hip-hop sounds juicy and generous. And because of that reduced edge, percussion instruments, like toms, rumble in very dramatic fashion. The track, Take Five, for example, felt impactful, if not earth-shaking.
Yes, very present, even keeled mids. (And seemingly more even than the mids on the Legend X) But more important….Is it just my time of the month or is the Vantage the most emotive IEM model in the Empire Ears lineup? Warm, thick and velvety is its talent. If you love vinyl, you’ll probably love these earphones. Of course, with a sound profile like this, you can’t expect an incredible amount of separation. But you’ll still feel a lot of detail and resolve listening to guitars. Besides Jerry Harvey’s Lola, I can’t think of an IEM more perfectly suited for The Beatles; the thickness, along with that beautiful E.E. dampening effect lends itself so well to stuff like muffled drums and textured electric guitars. It just tastes so rich. Add that impressively multidimensional soundstage, and Strawberry Fields Forever blows you away. (I only wish that the drums were a tad more forward. I’m just being a spoiled brat because these buds are such a gift.) You’d think that the fat consistency of this sound would make it an unsuitable IEM for folk. But again, there’s a surprising amount of detail for an IEM with this kind of character. The most important and delicate elements of a guitar pick somehow emerge gracefully from that pulpy goodness, especially in the upper mid-range.
A nice amount of detail here too, but because of that sweet, ever-so-slight blurry feel, you can’t call this IEM the most transparent of the E.E. bunch. That being said, strings will bring you to tears. Edges are softened, so, note progressions are fluid, while peaks are round and romantic. Brass was equally enjoyable for that reason. Smooth, but still breathy enough to convey feeling, these IEM’s lend themselves well to melancholy saxophone solos and contemplative piano chords.
I’ll say it again, you’ll feel like you’re floating in a constellation of notes. Perhaps you don’t get that pencil sharp feeling of accuracy that you get from something with superior separation. But this soundstage galaxy is vast, my friends.
God, I love these IEMs. Maybe the Vantage is less versatile than models like the Phantom (my other favorite), but what it does well, it does really, really well. If you wish you could ride the subway with your tube amp, the Vantage is the perfect solution.
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