In the last years we have seen a lot of hybrids launched. Although the most recent ones have concentrated on tri-level hybrids with electrostatic/electet tweeters, there have been a number of traditional hybrid launches as well. In this section I want to give you a brief overview of how the Hero compares to other monitors in my arsenal. This should aid you to understand how the Hero
I can only give you comparisons to monitors that I have direct access to. I won’t do anything based on dealer or show visits. Those conditions are not credible in my book. I can only form a firm
understanding of a product if I spend a considerable amount of time with it. Not just a few minutes.
If you want to see other comparisons, let me know in the comments. If I have the monitor in question, I can add the comparison.
All mentioned prices are in US Dollars and correct at the time of writing. If the prices changed since publication, blame the manufacturers, not me.
Empire Ears – Valkyrie (1DD/1BA/1e-stat; 1,599$)
These two couldn’t be further apart in my opinion. The Valkyrie is one of the hardest hitting Vshaped IEMs I own. In comparison the Hero is calmer and more controlled in the bass section. Both
extend similarly deep, but the Hero does so with higher resolution and better texturing. The Valkyrie is the more excitingly tuned IEM. It goes for pure power and energy, while the Hero is
more about a perfected mids and vocal performance. Hero keeps you sitting down, while the Valkyrie will make your fist pump. Valkyrie’s mid-range is more recessed and at times overshadowed by the tremendous bass it brings. Hero places mids more in line and even puts it forward.
Both monitors have good performance in the technical section. But Hero does stretch a slightly wider stage than Valkyrie to my ears. It goes just that notch further. Hero also places instruments
more carefully. In a resolution aspect they both have a similar performance, where they tickle out fine amounts of information.
Treble is richer and a bit softer on the Valkyrie, while the Hero does have a brighter and sharper sounding top end. Both have excellent energy and air in their highs. The Valkyrie does extend
further into treble than Hero, which might or might not have to do with the fact that it uses a Sonion e-stat driver for that.
Jomo – Quatre (1DD/3BA; 1,499$)
The Quatre is an interesting IEM concept. It features an interchangeable venting system to control the air-flow behind the dynamic driver. This let’s you tune the low end of the Quatre to your liking. Seems like a good idea, taken from the two-channel market.
The Quatre is quite thicker sounding in comparison to the Hero. EE’s hybrid is more precise, more open sounding and less warm. The Quatre is fuller, darker and denser overall. It has a slower bass, that does not reach as deep as the Hero’s. Hero has better texturing, resolution, imaging and stereo separation. Overall it comes with higher dynamic range and more air surrounding the
Hero’s vocals can’t be touched by the Quatre in my opinion. While the Jomo’s are super smooth and organic, they lack the emotion and easy going nature of the Hero. The Hero sounds more
open, wider and more extended. It creates a bigger and wider stage, where musicians are better positioned and less woven into each other. Hero separates instruments with a cleaner cut and puts
them on a darker background with higher contrast.
Treble on the Quatre is more subdued. It doesn’t reach the level of energy or presence as the Hero’s. The EE has more agility, a brighter tuning overall and extends further. The Quatre is darker
sounding in the top.
FiR Audio – M4 (1DD/3BA; 1,799$)
The M4 does have an almost identical driver configuration, but it uses a fully tube-less design in its housing. Both monitors have different sound characteristics. The M4 is overly warm and smooth, while the Hero trades the warmth for a more neutral to mid-forward signature.
Both monitors have a rather dense and authoritative low end, but the Hero to me sounds more physical. It has better texturing, while the M4 has more impact and thunder. The M4 has a fuller
sounding bass section too, although the Hero does have slightly more body. The M4 has a more prominent lower mid-range, which sounds thicker, darker and denser in comparison to the Hero. The Hero on the other hand sounds more open and more emotional especially in the center to upper mid-range section. It puts vocals out with more pleasure and emotional connection. The M4 is a monitor that scales significantly, but even in its best form it can’t reach the Hero’s vocal performance.
The M4’s treble is softer, calmer and its edges are less sharp compared to the Hero’s top end. Both have a brighter tuned treble, but the Hero does go higher up with its signature. The Hero sounds
more energetic to me, it also puts in more air in its sound.
The technical performance of the M4 is heavily influenced by the source. As previously mentioned it scales immensely. With regular DAPs the M4 doesn’t reach its summit of sound. For comparison I used the Hugo2, which also doesn’t unleash the full potential of the M4, but it’s where it starts scaling.
The Hero and the M4 reach similar stage dimensions, but the M4 does go further into depth and height, while the Hero slightly edges out the M4 in width to me. The M4 creates a more holographic presentation in comparison. Both monitors have wonderful resolution and rendering. The M4 does have the upper hand when it comes to background darkness and contrast. Both have good imaging abilities, but the M4 does separate with a slightly sharper cut.
Empire Ears set out to create a monitor that pleases the fan-base of the Zeus XIV. They wanted to bridge a gap to the Legend X and serve their customers with a whole new experience. Creating a
monitor as a mix of those two is a bold move. They are so vastly different, but the team behind Empire Ears has proven that taking risks is something they certainly can do.
The Hero is a monitor that satisfies on many levels. Personally, I enjoy its vocal performance the most and it makes listening to French Genres and female singers, like Edith Piaf, Nina Simone or
Björk, a pure pleasure. Hero offers a whole lot and shows that a mid-tier priced monitor doesn’t automatically mean big cuts in performance to bigger guns.
I wholeheartedly recommend the Hero to anyone who wants a touch of Zeus XIV coupled with the goodness of Empire’s Weapon 9+ dynamic drivers. Vocal and mid-range lovers take note, this one is a must to audition.