Review: Empire Ears Wraith – Augustus

Empire Ears Wraith

Sources:

Since the Wraith has a very high sensitivity it sure doesn’t demand for the most powerful sources out there. In finding a suitable source for Wraith you should keep in mind that it might pick up noise from your DAP, DAC/Amp or phone.

Due to the neutral and lighter signature of Wraith, I like to pair it with warmer and fuller sources.

Lotoo – PAW Gold Touch

The Lotoo has a pretty low noise floor, but the Wraith still seems to pick up very mild hiss from it. Since I am more sensitive to that than most people, I guess the majority won’t notice that at all.

With the PGT in pure mode (XRC and PEQ turned off) you get a very transparent sound, that is a little light on bass. The Lotoo brings in a lot of details to the Wraith though, it’s filled with information. You get a spacious sound that is on the lighter but faster side. The created sound stage is wide and deep, the layering is excellent and the same goes for imaging. The technical finesse of Wraith really comes out with the Lotoo.

Treble sometimes is on the edge for me with the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch to be honest. The lighter sounding Wraith does have a tendency to sound a bit hard edged when it’s not getting enough low ends. In all other cases it is fine though.

Empire Ears Wraith

Empire Ears Wraith

Astell&Kern – SP1000M

The SP1000M is one of my go-to sources, because it has very high audio quality and comes in a very pocket-able size. During quiet parts I can detect very faint hissing, but again, I’m more sensitive to that than most.

With this combination you get a fuller and richer sound, that convinces with great body and precision. It might not tickle out the amount of details like the Lotoo, but it corrects some of the Lotoo’s flaws. You’re still getting very high micro-details and a sound stage that wraps around you.

The Wraith sounds nicely precise and features a super dark background. Imaging and instrumental separation are wonderful. Instruments and vocals sound full and emotional, with the right amount of air surrounding them. Midrange overall has very nice levels of richness, where everything sounds gorgeous and melodious. The same can be said about treble, which seems softer than with the Lotoo for example. It’s richer, but still features good speed and energy.

Woo Audio – WA11

With the WA11 there is not a lot of play on the potentiometer before it gets too loud. The WA11 also produces noticeable hiss, though when the music is playing it doesn’t bother me at all anymore.

The Woo dac/amp does have a typical Class A sound, that’s full and rich. You’re getting more weight in the lows and lower mids. Where deep male vocals sound more physical and stronger. The sound stage is more holographic in appearance, where musicians are more in front of you. Vocals have excellent body and emotions in them, while instruments sound very organic and have perfect weight. Upper mids again have a very nice glow in them, while treble stays on the safer side.

There is still good air around the musicians for good separation, but I feel the WA11 does put in a bit more warm air, so instruments and vocals don’t stand on the black background I’m used to from Wraith.

Wraith seems to be a bit critical of the pairing. Brighter sources might not be the best for it, and I suggest finding a partner that stands on a slightly fuller side. For my personal taste, the SP1000M was just perfect, and it was the one source I used mostly with Wraith.

Empire Ears Wraith

Empire Ears Wraith

Comparisons:

So many new flagship products have been released in the last twelve months, others however have stayed at the top of their respective lines for a while now. I know the current competition all concentrates on the e-stat race, but I want to take a look at the other top offers from Empire Ears first, then dive into the competition. Hopefully this little segment here helps you, the reader, understand better what I hear. After all we do hear things a little different, and putting Wraith in relation to other IEMs might do the trick to get a better picture yourself.

All mentioned prices are for their custom built variants, some companies offer universal models at a cheaper price. Comparisons were done using the respective stock cables.

Most people probably want to know how the Wraith fares up against the other members of the Empire family of IEMs. So let’s start with Zeus, Legend X and Phantom.

Empire Ears – Zeus XIV (14BA; discontinued)

It comes as no surprise that both models are alike in many things. They both feature a very transparent midrange with superb emotions and details. I’ve mentioned it before, one of Zeus’ main critique points was the lack of bass, or the lack of weight in bass to be precise. That is something EE has taken into account when creating the Wraith. It has more bass presence and features more weight indeed. Wraith goes deeper and to me has higher resolution in them. Lows are fuller on Wraith and it also possesses more drive.

The midrange of both is superbly transparent, yet both have good body it is Wraith that sounds slightly fuller and a touch more engaging in the mids. Zeus does have a touch more air in vocals and instruments to my ears, while Wraith does put more blood in them. Wraith is slightly richer than Zeus, where Zeus sounded a bit dry and hard at times, it’s Wraith that does not.

Both monitors have an agile top end, though Wraith again seems richer and fuller to me. Wraith to me outperforms Zeus in terms of instrumental separation, blackness of the background and sound stage dimensions as well as keeping things organized. Wraith renders a finer picture with higher resolution as well.

More comparisons on the last page.

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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.

    10 Comments

    • Reply July 31, 2019

      proedros

      Great impressions , thanx for the review

      Having Zeus XR , how much of an improvement does Wraith is , sonic-wise ?

      5% ? 10% ? 20% ?

      Best ,

      Proedros

      • Reply August 1, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Proedros,
        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.
        Cheers!

    • Reply August 2, 2019

      Micah Rose

      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.

      • Reply August 2, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Micah,
        thanks for the comment.
        I was not aware of that brand at all.

    • Reply August 10, 2019

      John Butler

      Hi Linus,
      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”.

      • Reply August 12, 2019

        Linus

        Hi John,
        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. 🙂

        • Reply August 17, 2019

          John Butler

          Hi linus
          Good, it would be great to have some clarification from EE, otherwise such statement could be interpreted as an “excess of marketing”..????
          Regards
          John

          • Reply August 18, 2019

            Linus

            Hey John,
            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.

            • Reply August 20, 2019

              John Butler

              Hi Linus,
              thanks for the answer,
              but a transformer, that is made of windings, like in the Electrostatic Tweeter is a “Passive” component, not an active.
              From Wikipedia:
              “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..”

    • Reply August 30, 2019

      rnath

      linus
      based on overall score, which would you prefer among tia fourte & wraith?

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