Today we share the review of the all-new Empire Ears ESR MKII, which is a $1. 099 USD priced reference Universal IEM.
Disclaimer: Empire Ears ESR MKII was provided directly by Empire Ears. Astell & Kern SP2000SS was primarily used as the source. The review reflects my honest opinion.
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.”
About ESR MKII
The ESR model represents ”Empire Studio Reference”. This IEM is supposed to be the flattest sounding Empire Ears IEM with a ”true to the recording” approach. It offers precise imaging, clean separation, and high-resolution overall. The 2nd generation model now utilizes two EST drivers for the treble region for a better-defined treble response.
The configuration of the Mark I was simple. 1+1+1 BA drivers, with a 3-way crossover. The Mark II however has 5 drivers. 3 of them are also 3 BA drivers for lows highs and mids, but now there are 2 EST super tweeters for delivering an improved high-frequency range. There’s also the 4-way synX Crossover Network, and the EIVEC technology for EST drivers. Another technology of Empire Ears, the A.R.C, is used in the ESR MKII.
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 ESR MKII is a very sensitive IEM with 3.9 Ohms @ 1kHz impedance.
This is the first 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. 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, 4 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 ESR MKII looks gorgeous. As a person who doesn’t like sophisticated designs, this gets the job done for me. It’s elegant, smooth, and serious at the same time. Just look at those face-plates. They’re awesome. And they reflect the ESR’s sound presentation too, but more on that just a bit later on. But the sure thing is, I dig this design. Yes, the Bravado MKII has a more appealing look maybe, but this one is fabulously elegant.
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 an 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.
The review continues with fit, and sound quality on page 2.