Today we share the review of the Empire Ears Bravado MKII, which is a $799 USD priced tribrid Universal IEM.
Disclaimer: Empire Ears Bravado MKII was provided directly by Empire Ears. Astell & Kern SP2000SS was primarily used as the source. The review reflects my honest opinion. The no-sound topics are similar to the ESR MKII review since they share similar packaging and design elements.
EDIT: Last week we launched an AudioQuest survey and $/€2400 USD/Euro prize draw. Don’t forget to check it out here.
About Empire Ears
I remember the days where there was a very exciting new CIEM company around, which was called Earwerkz. Before being a writer for Headfonia, I actually contacted them to purchase a custom IEM, but that didn’t happen because of some factors in my daily life. The guy I exchanged emails with was no other than Jack Vang, who is now the co-founder and vice president of Empire Ears.
In late 2015 Jack joined forces with his father and merged with his hearing aids and OEM company, to create Empire Ears. This step took their business to the next level. They’re now a well-respected and established brand in terms of high-end in-ear monitors.
Let’s take a look at our Empire Ears master Linus who reviewed several Empire IEMs, about the company’s portfolio:
”Currently, Empire Ears has divided their products into two different lines: the EP (Empire Professional) and X line-up. The EP line is aiming for their professional clientèle of musicians, while the X series is purpose-built for the audiophile world. That doesn’t mean that an audiophile can’t enjoy the products of the EP series though.”
I reviewed the new ESR MKII a while ago and it’s one of my favorite IEMs already with a reference approach to the sound.
About Bravado MKII
The Bravado model represents ”fun” and “wow factor”‘ in the EE lineup. This IEM is the successor of the u-shaped sound of the Bravado Mark 1. It offers a tremendous bass response, clean and crisp highs, a deep soundstage, and high resolution overall. The 2nd generation model now utilizes two EST drivers for the treble region for a better-defined treble response as well.
The configuration of the Mark I was simple. 1 Dynamic Driver + 1 BA driver, with a 4-way synX Crossover System. The Mark II however has four drivers. One of them is a BA driver for mids, two EST tweeters for delivering an improved high-frequency range, and one 1 Next Generation W9+ Subwoofer. That is the star of the show, and I’ll talk about that in a bit.
The IEM is shipped with the Alpha-IV Bespoke 26AWG UPOCC Copper Litz Cable, which is a slightly altered version of the Effect Audio Maestro, I believe. The Bravado MKII is a relatively sensitive IEM with 4 Ohms @ 1kHz impedance. But be aware, the dynamic subwoofer needs some juice to shine nevertheless.
This is the second Empire Ears IEM that reached out to me. I tried several IEMs of Empire, but I’ve never seen an Empire Ears package in person before these two new models. So it’s a first-time experience in my case. It arrives in a beautiful, fully white rectangular box that has the Empire Ears logo on the top. When you open the lid from the side you are welcomed with a ”thank you” card which is a nice touch. And underneath, you face the beautiful IEMs with silver faceplates. The presentation of the package is really nice and it doesn’t end there.
There’s a small drawer on the side which you can slide open and see your carrying case, 5 pairs of silicone tips, and a cleaning tool which is actually more ergonomic with its size compared to those standard cleaning tools that we usually receive. The tips are from Final Audio and I very much like them. Kinera is also a brand that chooses to collaborate with Final Audio for the tips, and to me, it’s a spot-on decision. Those Final tips are really good.
Inside the case, you also get a very nice cleaning cloth that has the Empire Ears logo on it. This is a good touch as well. Overall it’s a very pleasing unboxing experience with premium accessories. I also liked the size of the case, which has enough depth to actually fit the monitors with these kinds of cables. The Empire logo is also engraved on the case so it completes everything perfectly. This is an excellent package overall and I’m not sure what else you would need or ask. Maybe a pair of SpinFit tips would’ve been nice, but Final Audio tips are already one of the best in the market to me.
Build Quality and Design
The Bravado MKII looks very exciting and gorgeous. As a person who doesn’t like sophisticated designs, this gets the job done for me. It’s colorful, splashy, and elegant at the same time. Just look at those face-plates. They’re awesome. And they reflect Bravado’s sound presentation too, fun and dynamic, but more on that just a bit later on. But the sure thing is, I really like the design. The Bravado MKII has a very appealing look and those colorful faceplates are fabulous.
We know the Effect Audio cables are among the industry’s finest so Empire Ears covers that department with ease as well. The aesthetics of the cable is excellent, especially with the 2-pin connectors. Those connectors are from the latest ”Vogue” line-up of EA, but the ”Empire” word is engraved to them instead of the EA logo. The jack is different though. This is a bespoke Oyaide L type 3.5mm mini-jack which to me is durable and more ergonomic with Digital Audio Players.
The build quality of the shells is excellent as well. These are acrylic shells that feel very smooth, one-piece, and premium with perfect face-plate closings. The nozzles are the extensions of the shells so the earpieces are unibody. This is a very good design for longevity. There are perfectly cut 4 bores in each nozzle. The 2-pin sockets are very tight and they give a very rigid feeling when connected to the cable end. I couldn’t find any weakness in build quality as everything is pretty much excellent, just like their offerings from the recent past.