Empire Ears Odin Review

Empire Ears Odin
64 Audio – A18t (18BA; 2,999$)

 

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The A18t is 64 Audio’s co-flagship in their custom range. Earlier this year they have introduced a second flavor of it, called the A18s. Which is more aiming at the professional users. The A18t is what 64 Audio has created for us regular folks. The A18t has been out for a couple of years now too, and I still enjoy mine on a regular basis.

In comparison, the A18t comes off as more studio neutral. The Odin has a fuller, denser and more authoritative low end. It also has better texture and layering in its bass. The A18t however sounds faster and tighter. You can however definitely hear the differences in driver technologies. The Odin has a more organic sound with more air in it.

The A18t has more transparent mids, with higher resolution and better instrumental separation. It often is described as a monitor of surgical precision. And that is absolutely right. The A18t makes a clear cut between every musician. On top of that, it also has a blacker background than Odin. Odin however has a fuller and smoother sound in its mids. This is an area the A18t has been lacking to me.

Treble is less bright and softer on the Odin. If you’re sensitive to highs, then the A18t might probably sting your ears more than Odin. The EE flagship has a calmer and less edgy tone than the 18t. In perspective of technicalities it’s the A18t that goes out as the winner to me. It stretches a slightly wider stage, but comes out second in depth perception. It creates a slightly darker background and due to its better separation places instruments with better precision.

JH Audio – Layla (12BA; 2,750$)

Layla is a monitor that I had to learn to love. It didn’t wow me right from the start, but as time passed it grew on me. Now Layla is one of my top picks for personal listening. Although I think it’s heavily held back by its stock cable, the following comparison is done with it. This is what customers get by default and it wouldn’t be fair to compare it in any other way.

Layla’s lows are probably one of the very few BA lows that come close to sounding like a dynamic driver. Albeit that, it can’t hold a candle against the Odin’s. Odin has more power, more punch and more grunt in its bass. The texture again is incomparable and a clear step ahead of Layla’s. Layla’s big benefit however is, that you can alter the amplitude of the bass drivers via the bass-pod. Mine usually sits at around 1 to 2 o’clock. Odin reaches deeper and puts sub-bass more into focus than Layla. Which gives mid-bass more prominence.

The Odin’s mids sound more open, a bit more transparent and clearer. Layla’s however sound richer, fuller and more organic. Overall I’d say that Layla keeps a more natural tonality in her midrange. Odin’s midrange is a bit more recessed and neutral in coloration, while Layla paints it warmer.

Treble is a section where these two clearly differ. Odin has wider extension and puts more volume into its highs, while Layla has a sharper tone in her lower treble region. Odin sounds calmer, yet more detailed and clearer. Layla suffers from sounding partially muted and drowned at times. This can be solved by using a different cable with Layla though. The Moon Audio stock cable really doesn’t do it justice.

Technicalities pretty much all go to Odin in my opinion. It creates a larger stage, separates instruments sharper and has higher resolution. One area where the Layla leaves Odin behind is imaging though. It places the instruments more precisely in the room it creates. Odin however stays better in control of complex situations. Where Layla loses focus, it’s Odin who keeps going.

Empire Ears Odin

Empire Ears Odin

Conclusion:

The Odin might be the perfect candidate for those who thought the Legend X was too overpowering, or for those who liked Wraith’s midrange clarity, but didn’t cope with its light bass. The Odin creates the best of both worlds, but keeps things more civilized in the bass. Empire created a monitor that definitely will speak to many people. To me, it’s my favorite product of their lineup so far. The elephant in the room clearly is the price. 3,399 USD is not cheap. Not even close. But it gets you absolute top level performance, all put together in proprietary hardware that was made from scratch.

The Legend X has always been touted as the bass-heads’ dream IEM. Built around a similar driver configuration, the Odin is so much more. Yes, the bass is spectacular, but it is not as forward and attention seeking as with the Legend X. Odin is more versatile than the LX, it is better suited for a wider range of different genres.

The Odin to me offers something unique. Something that makes me crave for more time with it. Its full, dense and powerful bass, coupled with an open and smooth midrange and a detailed and clear, yet inoffensive treble makes it jump right at the top of the shortlist for best universal IEM this year.

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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.

14 Comments

  • Reply August 5, 2020

    John Seedborg

    Would you say the Odin is similar to the Zeus with a bit more bass heft thanks to the w9 dynamic drivers? I’m a huge EE fan and owner of the LEGEND X, ZEUS, ZEUS XR, SAVAGE 9s (EarWerks) and Im looking for the next wow factor. Something to shock me as much as the first time Jack put the Zeus in my ears. I owe Jack greatly for sending me on a very lonesome path to finding the next great big wow.

    • Reply August 14, 2020

      Linus

      Hi John,

      thanks for your comment.
      In many ways the Odin is like the Zeus, but better. I only have the Zeus XIV in CIEM though. They are similar when it comes to technicalities (sound stage, detailing, rendering, imaging etc). The mids are also alike, but the Odin has fuller notes to me. The bass of course is incomparable. In the treble I find Zeus to be sharper.

      Hope that helps.
      Cheers!

  • Reply August 6, 2020

    Steven Zore

    hmmm… Less than compelling….

  • Reply August 14, 2020

    Rob Rosen

    Being the proud owner of the ZEUS XR w/ADEL please advise if the signature and soundstage is a significant leap past the ZEUS to justify the 3k price tag and thanks!

    • Reply August 14, 2020

      Linus

      Hi Rob,

      thanks for your comment.
      Unfortunately I don’t have the XR or XRA, but only the XIV as CIEM.
      They are similar when it comes to technicalities (sound stage, detailing, rendering, imaging etc). The mids are also alike, but the Odin has fuller notes to me. The bass of course is incomparable. In the treble I find Zeus to be sharper. (copied from the comment above)

      Hope that helps.
      Cheers!

  • Reply August 14, 2020

    Steve

    Any comparisons with the Noble Sultan?

  • Reply August 14, 2020

    Ilker

    Just what Steve said, any comparison with Sultan or when can we expect the full Sultan review?

  • Reply August 20, 2020

    Ilker

    Hi again Linus, no Sultan comparison ?

    • Reply August 23, 2020

      Linus

      Hi Ilker,
      sorry, I’ve been pretty busy with some shit that’s been going on.
      A comparison to the Sultan will come in the Sultan review, which is just about to drop… 😉
      Sorry for the lack of responses. Had to sort out a lot of things lately.
      Cheers!

    • Reply September 1, 2020

      Dan Kuriloff

      More comparisons to the ZEUS XRA Adel are needed. The Adel technology was something special for the Zeus expanding its sound stage far beyond most IEMS.

  • Reply August 24, 2020

    ILKER

    Hi Linus,

    No worries eagerly waiting for the review, already waiting for the Odin shipment as I couldn’t wait for the Sultan feedback however still I might pull the trigger on it as well.

  • Reply August 27, 2020

    ILKER

    Hi Linus,

    Would you kindly help with the cable pairing for Odin and Elysium as well? Leo II octa, Cleopatra Octa, Code 51, so many choices and I am sure you have tried some with Odin. Please help me out here.

  • Reply October 17, 2020

    KevP

    I have to say, not for the first time, and with great respect, there could an element of fanboyism or emperor’s new clothes going on here.

    I have been listening to he Odin for about a week now. I purchased it based on reviews like this one, as I’m not able to demo anything like this.

    I’ve put about 50 hours on them, including running music through them, even when not listening. I am monumentally underwhelmed.

    First, the good points. High-quality, we’ll-controlled bass, excellent detail, good sound stage.

    But that’s where it ends. I’m coming at them from my QDC Anole VXs, AAW Canarys and EE Legend Xs. Compared to all of these, they are astonishingly incoherent. The upper mids and lower treble are terribly shouty and brash. They give absolutely no cohesion to the various frequencies. They don’t make music sound like music. A mass of different elements of sound being thrown at you, without in any way bringing them together.

    I saw one review of these on Sound Check on YouTube. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kRgGjov0Oso

    It’s spot on in my opinion.

    I may well sell them on.

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