The highly anticipated Wraith is finally here. Boasting a hybrid design that employs electrostatic magic, Empire Ears has taken their sound to a new dimension. But will this dimension be pleasing to all ears? Let’s take a look in this Empire Ears Wraith Review.
Empire Ears Wraith Review
IN the BOX
The sound isolation is fantastic on these buds. And like all Empire Ears models, the smooth angles of the shells fit perfectly in the contours of my ears. So it’s a comfortable wear even during long listening sessions. No problems here.
Empire Ears has created a hybrid design. They’ve employed 4 electrostatic drivers and 7 balanced armatures with a 5-way crossover network. (2 low, 3-mid, 2-high 4 super high). The company admits that electrostatic drivers are “notoriously hard to control, often overpowering other drivers.” So, Empire claims to have come up with a solution, using EIVEC (Empire Intelligent Variable Electrostatic Control Technology). It utilizes two transformers to control the 4 electrostatic drivers and blend them “seamlessly” with the seven balanced armature drivers. We’ll see if this worked below.
As for the cable, Empire Ears has gone with Effect Audio’s famous Cleopatra, which is a proprietary blend of 26 AWG UPOCC Ultra Pure Silver. It’s thick, soft and shiny. I stuck with regular ol’ 3.5mm plug. But the Wraith is also available with balanced cables in 2.5mm and 4.4mm terminations.
These buds are surprisingly easy to drive. And your mobile device will be sufficient to power it. But for the purposes of this review, I used the humble little Dragonfly Red. My colleague stole the Cobalt. Bastard.
The first element that stands out is the tightness. Though nowhere near as forward and powerful as some of Empire Ears’s most famous models, the bass is extremely fast and controlled. And funky pop-tracks will give you whiplash. It’s also important to note that the sub frequencies aren’t crazy. So, if you listen to a lot of hip-hop and like to feel your belly button tooting, then you might want to stick with a model like the Legend X. But in terms of detail, Empire Ears delivers in a way it has never done before. Genres like classical music actually work beautifully in this range. Cellos in the the low end, for example, not only present plenty of substance (though still smooth), but the timbre feels very realistic as well. Rock fans may want to note that rock and pop-rock tracks don’t present a tremendously warm sound. Rather, it delivers a cleaner profile, and the low-end is well separated from the higher frequencies.
In the mids, you won’t get a substantial amount of body (even though the sound profile is very rich). The low mids have moderate presence in the mix. But the middle to upper half of the midrange gets a lot more attention, so vocals really shine through the track. To be honest, I’m a little perplexed by the balance here. And maybe the electrostatic and BA combo has something to do with this? Hard to say. Certain things jump out of the mix while other chunks feel like they’re completely missing. So, I find myself turning up the volume to hear the recessed parts, and then it just feels too loud. But I’m rather conservative when it comes to balance. And kids who enjoy a lot of vibrancy where certain elements of the track really stand out might dig this.
However, the level of separation and detail is what’s most impressive here. If you listen to a lot of folk and acoustic rock, you’ll be pleased by how clean and crystallized guitar strums feel, even in the lower part of this range. And in the mids, acoustic instruments in general have a very natural feel. When you combine this element with the forward leaning vocals, the sound becomes quite intimate. And again, the richness of the Wraith is undeniable. It gives tons of color to any track you listen to. Indeed, it’s a sound that really pops.
Certainly, if you’re a sucker for female vocals, the Wraith will deliver. Even in the highs, there’s a velvety thickness that characterizes the sound. It’s not delicate and airy at all. Of course you will get plenty of detail and breath, but it’s got a ton of weight to it. I also like that this range avoids become to sparkly or bright. So, it may not be as snappy as Noble’s Khan, for example. And though the highs didn’t feel rolled off, the peaks had more solidity than crispness. Also because of this weight, classical instruments seemed to lose some of their nuance at times. Violins solos for example, are thick and honey like, and the fainter resolve was missing. So, the details in this range don’t sound as intricate as they do on a Tia Fourte, for instance.
This is my favorite thing about the Wraith. The sense of spaciousness is something special. It’s rare that an IEM can spread apart instruments so expansively. I don’t think that even the Tia Fourte has such a vast soundscape, though that would be an interesting AB comparison. And, again, because the Wraith is such a luxurious sound, distant instruments retain all their all their juicy flavor. Certainly, the imaging is top notch, and in terms of precision, placement is spot on.
As long as you’re not a purist when it comes to balance, there’s a lot to like about the Wraith. Vibrant and rich with a vast soundstage, these buds produce a very flavorful and extremely fast sound. If you love in-your-face vocals and a sound that’s funkier than blue cheese, you’ll probably enjoy these buds. And though the sound signature may not be the most versatile in terms of genre, the Wraith could be an interesting and unique addition to a bored Audiophile’s IEM arsenal.
You can find the Empire Ears Wraith for the best price here: