Today we are taking a closer look at the new flagship of Empire Ears – the Wraith. It is the spiritual successor of their highly acclaimed Zeus monitor. Let’s find out if it convinces us.
Disclaimer: Empire Ears provided the Wraith free of charge for this review. I only had to pay for importing the product. Headfonia is not affiliated with Empire Ears and they are not a site advertiser. Many thanks for the generosity and opportunity. I received a prototype for this review. The design of my unit does not represent the final production version.
About Empire Ears:
Empire Ears is an American IEM and custom IEM company, seated in Norcross, Georgia. They are no new face to the audiophile world. The main people behind Empire are Jack Vang, vice president and co-founder, and his father Dean Vang, the main man behind tuning and development of their products. Before the Empire brand was launched, Jack Vang was owner of a very successful company called EarWerkz. In late 2015 Jack joined forces with his father and merged with Dean’s company, who was working on hearing aids and OEM in ears, to form Empire Ears. This step took their business to the next level.
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. Just see how many people have been raving about the Phantom, their five-driver IEM.
All their products are hand-made in their facilities. Returning customers don’t have to send in new impressions each time, as Empire stores them for future events.
Empire Ears is working with a lot of award winning and successful artists such as Flo Rida and Future or producers and engineers like Michael Graves and Jeremiah Atkins. Who both were very much involved in the tuning of Empire’s line-up.
Empire Ears is one of the companies that looks further than just their tuning. They also worked meticulously on finding the best materials to optimize their drivers. Therefore, they have introduced a special driver coating and a highly advanced new crossover network.
They have reached critical acclamation with their flagship monitor of their previous Olympus line, the Zeus. The Zeus is still regarded as one of the best monitors created, and I see many people still raving about their Zeus XIV, Zeus XR or Zeus R monitors. Personally, I own a Zeus XIV and wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.
The cycle of life doesn’t stop for Zeus though, so today, we are reviewing the successor of Empire’s legendary In Ear Monitor – the true flagship of the EP line – Wraith.
Wraith has been in the works for over a year and has been pushed back because of numerous events. But now Empire Ears feels confident enough to finally launch the real EP flagship. Wraith is an eleven driver hybrid design, using seven balanced armatures and four electrostatic drivers.
The driver configuration of Wraith is as follows: 2 BA’s for lows, 3 BA’s for mids, 2 BA’s for highs and 4 e-stats for super highs. It comes with a five way synX crossover system. The interesting thing about synX is that both time and frequency domains are synced and that enabled Empire to assign more bands to the drivers. The rated frequency response goes from 4 Hertz to 100 Kilo-Hertz, way above human hearing.
For further optimization Empire has coated all their drivers and internals with what they call A.R.C. (Anti Resonance Compound). This makes sure that unwanted resonances from the drivers during action are absorbed and won’t affect the audio performance of the Wraith. This coating has been introduced in the past already, and if your CIEM has a clear or translucent shell, you can see it on the surface of the drivers.
When we are looking at the technical specifications of Wraith we will learn, that it has an insane low impedance of just four Ohms, yes, you’ve read that right, 4. Couple that with the 117dB per Milliwatt sensitivity and you get a super easy to drive IEM. This also means that the Wraith is likely to pick up hissing from your source, if the noise floor is too high.
Empire Ears has introduced a new technology with their Wraith, which is called EIVEC – Empire Intelligent Variable Electrostatic Control. This technology is said to handle the quadruple electrostatics to a better performance. Here’s a little insight on how EIVEC works: EE is utilizing a combination of active and passive electronics, each ES driver and its corresponding transformer is controlled individually and then seamlessly intergrated into the synX crossover network to harmonize with the other driver technologies to achieve the target frequency response. By design the ES driver is low voltage design and thus it can easily overpower all other driver technologies, shouting from it’s remarkable 4kHz-100kHz peak operating range. Other manufacturers have worked with dampening the electrostatic drivers, Empire Ears controls them.
Wraith can be acquired either directly from Empire’s website or through one of their many regional retailers. Currently it’s only available as universal fit IEM for 3,499 USD. Due to the number of drivers and the size of the dual transformers of the e-stats there isn’t enough space to make it into a CIEM as of now. The problem here is specifically in the tube length of the drivers, which would be affected.
Now, if you have followed my previous posts about Empire Ears’ products, you may have noticed that I have given the Legend X, Phantom and Zeus names of the first Roman triumvirate. Legend X was Pompeius, Phantom Crassus and Zeus Caesar. Those of you who have paid attention during history classes might know that Caesar’s heir was Gaius Octavius, better known as Augustus, he followed Caesar as the Emperor of Rome.
Build Quality, Comfort and Isolation:
Since my unit is a prototype, it doesn’t feature the final design. Mine came with standard black shell and face plate together with the golden wing logo on both sides. This is what their other units look like, but Wraith will come with an “Amethyst Haze” faceplate instead of the all-black one. Wraith’s looks were designed by an Award Winining Designer in Tartarstan and is comprised of automotive grade carbon fiber blended with acrylic amethyst colored material. The inspiration behind “Amethyst Haze” was the was the character Black Panther.
Even as a prototype the build quality of Wraith is excellent though. I have handled my fair share of prototypes from a good number of manufacturers in the past, and none was made like Wraith. When you look inside the housing, using a flash light, you’ll notice how packed this monitor is with drivers. There’s literally no more room left for anything in the shell.
The face plate closing is perfect, without any glue residue anywhere. Not around the corners and not even around the 2-pin sockets. Again, for a prototype this is outstanding. I expect the retail units to be at the same level. The nozzle of Wraith is rather short, as you can probably spot in the pictures. It features four sound bores for the audio to come to your ear-drums.
Wraith is a bigger IEM, due to the number of drivers and the dual transformers inside, but I did not have any issues with fitting them in my ears. To be fair though, my ears are bigger than those of most folk. The only IEMs I could never fit in my ears are the original JH Audio universal IEMs.
As a person with two slightly different sized ear-canals, it’s a real pleasure having so many ear-tip sizes to choose from. The Final Type E tips do seal my canals pretty well and hold the monitors in there securely. I haven’t noticed any issues with comfort with them even after longer sessions. The Wraith isolates as good as a closed universal In Ear can.
The review continues on the next page.
Great impressions , thanx for the review
Having Zeus XR , how much of an improvement does Wraith is , sonic-wise ?
5% ? 10% ? 20% ?
many thanks for your comment.
That’s a tough question, rather than giving you a percentage of improvement, I’d like to just tell you that for me it was a noticeable improvement in many ways. I know you really like your Zeus XR, and coming from a Zeus XIV myself, I understand why. The Wraith did take the Zeus a level up for me. Nicer bass response, better detailing and rendering, superior control and overall just enhanced technical abilities. The key strengths of the original Zeus are still alive. Emotions, excellent midrange and impressive realism.
Hope that helped.
The Wraith was potentially the first quad e-stat in development, but it wasn’t the first to market. The WAVAYA Octa was released to market in mid-2018, so way before the Wraith.
thanks for the comment.
I was not aware of that brand at all.
as usual, nice and detailed review.
However, I would like to bring to your attention a sentence “EE is utilizing combination of active and passive electronics..”. This sentence can be misleading and is essentially incorrect, a passive IEM or earphone, for its nature, obviously cannot have any kind of “active” electronic components, otherwise it would need a power supply and would become an “Active IEM”.
many thanks for your comment!
This is info I got from Empire Ears directly, I’ll see if I can get a further explanation how it works. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. 🙂
Good, it would be great to have some clarification from EE, otherwise such statement could be interpreted as an “excess of marketing”..????
so I got feedback from EE.
What they’re doing is manipulate the transformer (active component) with passive electronics to play nicely with the rest of the drivers.
Hope that clears it up.
thanks for the answer,
but a transformer, that is made of windings, like in the Electrostatic Tweeter is a “Passive” component, not an active.
“A transformer is a passive electrical device that transfers electrical energy between two or more circuits.”
So, is not correct from EE to say that they utilize ” combination of active and passive electronics..”
based on overall score, which would you prefer among tia fourte & wraith?
Hi Linus! Thanks for this amazing review. I would like to know if those IEMs are very suitable for rock, metal (heavy, trash, technical death, etc), jazz and classical music. Those are the genres I mostly often listen to. Specially the first three albums of Metallica with bassist Cliff Burton. Can you try this an tell me how detailed is the sound of Cliff’s bass guitar? I will appreciate your answer!
Thanks in advance,