Empire Ears Hero Review

Empire Ears Hero

Build Quality, Comfort and Isolation

 

Empire Ears recently decided to give their new universals a fresh look by adding unique face plate designs to each IEM. The Hero comes with a black/white face plate that resembles a marble look in my opinion. On top there is the word “HERO” on the left face plate and the EE logo on the right side. Both held in black.

The shells are made of acrylic, which I am personally not the biggest fan of. I prefer metal shells for their durability. But then you can’t realize special designs as metal is not as flexible on a visual
standpoint. One thing that has bothered me with all of EE’s universals is the lack of a lip at the end of the nozzle. It has happened more than once that I had an ear-tip stuck in my ears because they slipped off. This could’ve been prevented by adding some sort of lip for the tip to hold onto. Other than that, I think the build quality is very much spot on. There are no bubbles, no hairline
scratches and no glue residue anywhere. Which should be the case for a product of that price to be fair.

Comfort-wise I don’t have a problem with the Hero. It goes fairly deep into my canal and with the supplied tip selection I get a good seal. Which is crucial for the Hero’s performance. If you can’t get a decent seal you won’t get to experience the Hero in its full glory.

In terms of isolation the Hero is okay’ish. Due to the hybrid nature it uses a vented design, which makes it more prone for leaking sound in. I notice that especially on my daily commute to work
when I get to hear the announcements in the subway more easily. If you need full isolation I suspect the Hero won’t be satisfactory for you.

Empire Ears Hero

Package

Hero comes in a moderately sized cardboard box, that holds a white sleeve on the outside. On the inside you’ll find your IEMs, a quick start guide, a pair of silver stickers, your Pandora travel case,
Final Audio Type E tips and cleaning accessories. The Hero comes equipped with an EE version of the Effect Audio Ares II cable. It uses the same wires as the Ares II, so in its core it is just that, but EE chose to use different hardware. Empire Ears calls their version the Alpha 4.

A little about EE’s selection of cables for their IEMs. I don’t know if you’re aware, but Empire Ears goes through a massive selection of cable choices to pick for their final product. I have seen photos of their lab with literally hundreds of cables to try out. EE’s chief sound engineer (Dean Vang) goes through them to find the perfect partner for their new product. That is quite some dedication.

Sound

The most important aspect of an audio product is always its sound quality. When evaluating a product I like to look past my own sound preference. I think it’s more important to get a neutral
look at something and consider the design goals for the signature. The manufacturer had a specific sound in mind when they created their new product. Time to see if EE reached their goal.
On the product page of Hero it says, that it was created with the Zeus XIV’s and Legend X’s signature in mind. I do have both of them as CIEMs here in a watch box at home. So let’s check out
how much of EE’s statement is true.

For this section I used the Chord Electronics Hugo2 as my main source, because it is the device EE uses to tune their monitors.

The Hero can be put down in a few sentences as a monitor with impactful, authoritative and extended lows. It has a beautifully smooth mid-range that puts upper mids lightly forward. Vocals
on the Hero stand out the most as its best quality in my opinion. The treble is a bit conflicting, as it can be on the edge of sharpness at times, but generally it has an agile top that delivers a great
sense of air.

Hero reaches deep into the sub-bass and does so with good drive. It has a slightly forward bass presence, that does not overshadow any other frequency range. Hero does keep its lows well
controlled and with excellent speed. It sounds natural, full and weighty, but doesn’t come across as elastic or plasticy, which is always welcome in my books. There are good levels of resolution and
texture in the bass of Hero. It’s something that the Weapon 9+ drivers are especially good at in my opinion. On tracks where there is a Cello going deep you can absolutely hear the quality of EE’s
dynamic drivers. It’s very special.

Empire Ears Hero

The lower mid-range is positioned a bit behind the center and upper mids. However, lower mids do have good density and weight. The body is good, but could be a touch bigger and fuller. Instruments appear in a realistic manner with good shape and contrast to the background. The Hero does have a nicely dark background, but it isn’t pitch black. Mids overall are smooth, detailed and precise. The body is good and especially female vocals sound spectacular on it. If you’re into female singers I strongly suggest you listen to the Hero.

Singers like Björk, Soap&Skin or Anna Ternheim sound wonderful. Absolutely gorgeous. In the upper mids there is a certain richness, that makes the Hero a pure joy to listen to. This spectrum
also is standing out a bit more compared to the rest of the frequency range. In technical performance I think the Hero does well. It sure is behind a list of higher end IEMs, but for the price it’s going for it holds up value strongly. The Hero has good resolution, texture and rendering. It positions instruments with accuracy and gives you a sharp separation for good  imaging capabilities. The sound stage it creates is well spread, but it isn’t a particular overachiever in that regard. It stretches more into width than it does reach into depth or height.

The Hero’s treble is a bit conflicting. On one hand it has wonderful energy and agility, but on the other hand it does stand on the edge of sharpness at times. People with lower tolerance of highs
might steer clear here, as cymbals and violins as well as other higher pitched sounds can become hot. And that’s coming from someone who enjoys a good dose of treble. The Hero does reach well
into the highest registers. It provides good levels of air and detail as well.

So did the Hero combine the DNA of Zeus XIV and Legend X? To some extend yes, absolutely. The detailing, vocal performance and mid-range is certainly something it has inherited from the Zeus XIV. I can see that the bass is coming from the Legend X, although it is nowhere near as impactful or thunderous as the Legend’s. Hero positions itself in a bass section somewhere between the Odin and the Legend X, closer to the Odin though.

A page full of comparisons can be found after the jump!

4.5/5 - (203 votes)

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

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