Review: Empire Ears Legend X – Pompeius

Empire Ears Legend X

 

Aftermarket cables:

The Legend X, as well as all of Empire’s models, comes with a stock Ares II cable from Effect Audio. This already is a high-quality cable that is held high by many audiophiles. So why would you even consider shelling out more cash to tweak the sound of the Legend? Maybe because you want to tame that bass, lift treble or play with resolution and sound stage, or maybe you already have some aftermarket cables at your disposal. Maybe you’re like me, and you are curious enough to see how Legend X performs with different materials.

Effect Audio – Ares II (Bespoke 8 wire)

The bespoke eight wire Ares II is using the exact same materials as the stock Ares II that comes with the Legend, yet with double the wire count. This fact plays a nice role in the sound differences perceived with the Legend X. Bass reaches a tad lower with more rumble, mid-bass is slightly less forward and more under control. Whereas the midrange has a neutral sound with smooth vocals and a nicely organic instrumental presentation. I hear the sound stage stretching wider into depth and width with more resolution and micro-detail retrieval. Treble is still nicely clean and energetic, yet a tad softer and more laid back.

Effect Audio – Leonidas

The Leonidas is one of my absolute favourite cables, as it matches very well with most of my monitors. Sadly, not too well with the Legend in my opinion. While I love the added tightness to bass, extreme resolution and wonderful detailing, I feel that mids are a little too recessed and voices sound somewhat hollow.

Empire Ears Legend X

Empire Ears Legend X

Effect Audio – LBE Leonidas

The Black Edition Leonidas stretches the sound stage even further, with incredible amounts of transparency and resolution. It becomes a bit brighter and crisper up top, while not losing the rich tonality I like so much. Bass reaches deeper into sub-bass, it holds lows a little tighter and is more in control. Mids again appear a notch more recessed with slightly hollow voices. If it weren’t for the midrange hit, this would be my pairing.

plusSoundX8 (Tri-Copper)

The Tri-Copper adds a decent amount of low end quantity to the picture, if you weren’t ready for the Legend X‘s bass tuning before, you probably will have serious issues with the Tri-Copper attached. It gives bass even more dynamics and body, while at the same time reaching lower into the dark regions. Mids sound exemplary full and lush with just right about perfect body and emotions. High notes are softened out a touch and sound stage goes even wider out of our head.

plusSound – X (GPC)

The Gold Plated Copper X-series cable is my weapon of choice for portability and honesty. Using it as sparring partner for the Legend results in more dynamic lows, with a touch more forward mid-bass. Midrange is more neutral than with the Ares II, losing some body, but not too much. Vocals and instruments are still rich and smooth, as are upper mids and treble. High notes are tamed a bit more.

Empire Ears Legend X

Empire Ears Legend X

labkable – Samurai III

The labkable is another silver cable with gold infusions. It tightens up Legend’s bass, while expanding sound stage and increasing treble energy. Mids are smooth but again put more into the back of the scenery.

While all the above have aided Legend X in some areas, I still found the best match to be the stock Ares II and the eight-wire variant of it. So in my opinion, there is no need for any other cable. Your mileage may vary of course, but that’s the beauty of tastes. Everyone has his/her own. I don’t judge.

This part of the review made it clear to me, that the Legend is a very picky monitor for cables and especially its full and lush midrange with smooth vocals rely on a good matching Copper cable.

Sources:

Most of my listening I do either on the go or at the office, the main reason is that I have to hide stuff from the little hands of my kids. The Legend of course pairs very well with portable gear, yet I found that it does scale up very well with the quality of sources and that it does enjoy additional power. It is one of the few in ears I feel benefits from extra juice. More on that a little below.

Astell&Kern – SP1000

With the SP1000 you will get a highly-resolved sound, with excellent layering and a deep, wide sound stage, perfect instrumental separation with the right amount of air between them. The bass goes deep, with good texture, yet feels a bit less in control than with other gear. Midrange is nicely rendered with a clean sound. Upper mids are simply gorgeous with a rich and fine tone. Treble is well articulated with high precision.

Empire Ears Legend X

Empire Ears Legend X

Chord ElectronicsHugo2

The Hugo2 is my favourite DAC/Amp at the moment with its extreme high resolution, clear tonality and impressive ability to transport you right into the middle of the scene. Maybe it’s the incredibly low output impedance, maybe it is the additional driving power, but to me it is very obvious how well the Legend X scales up with different electronics. The bass is tighter controlled than with the SP1000 for example. It still keeps its immersive character, but gains a bit in slam. The sound stage stretches wider and noticeably deeper with impressive layering, where you can easily take out every note, and every person from the crowd (in live recordings). The rendering is very precise. Mids are smooth and emotional, highs crystal clean with the silk cover I know from the Hugo2. It’s an incredible pairing which I love to bits.

Chord Electronics – Mojo

The smaller FPGA packed Chord DAC/Amp has an easy to love signature with a warmer ground colour. The Legend X sounds very enjoyable with it. Well controlled bass, rich mids and resolving highs. There is a great number of micro-details passing through the Legend. The sound stage isn’t as wide or deep as with the Hugo2, but still reaches good dimensions out of your head. Layering and imaging are both taken care of with precision. This definitely is a pairing that will suit many people well.

Luxury&Precision – L3 Pro

The L3 Pro is the IEM optimized DAP by Luxury&Precision with a little more power than the non-Pro version. It features a very musical sound with loads of details. For me personally this pairing is not ideal, as the bass is a tad slower, less resolved and too thick overall. Midrange is lush and rich, but again, not as resolved as I like it.

Empire Ears Legend X

Empire Ears Legend X

Schiit Audio – Lyr 3

The Schiit Lyr3 is a high-powered tube amplifier that underlines my assumption that the Legend X likes mating with strong equipment. With an output power of 6 Watts per channel into 32 Ohms and an output impedance of only 0.3 Ohms, it is more than capable of driving a lot more inefficient gear than the Legend X.

I’ve been using the Chord Electronics Qutest as source and the Lyr 3 in amp only mode in low gain setting. The Legend again scales up very nice with incredible control over the dynamic drivers and especially layering went a few steps ahead. The sound changes to a more musical enjoyment, great textured and deep bass, warm and harmonic mids and pleasingly energetic treble. A sound stage to dive in with very nice width and depth as well as height. Wonderful resolution and rendering with immaculate imaging and instrumental separation.

Comparisons and Conclusion on the next 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.

    6 Comments

    • Reply June 12, 2018

      Jobbing

      Thank you for the review, it’s very helpful. The Legend X ought to be on my short list except there’s one feature missing: What happened to ADEL? Admitedly I haven’t been active on HF lately so I must have missed out on essential information in this regard.

      • Reply June 12, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Jobbing,
        thanks for your comment. The Legend X should be on your shortlist, it’s a great monitor. 🙂

        In regards to ADEL, Empire Ears was not able to achieve the soundquality they wanted for their new lineup with it.

    • Reply October 15, 2018

      Jonathan

      Thanks for the great review! Do you think this is an endgame CIEM that you could get and never buy another CIEM again?

      • Reply October 16, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Jonathan,

        thanks for stopping by and your comment.

        I don’t know if it’s endgame for anyone, but I know at least two people personally who speak of the Legend X as their perfect C/IEM. Both have auditioned them and fell head over heels in love with them.

        All depends on your personal taste in the end.

    • Reply October 28, 2018

      Tim

      Thanks for the excellent review. I had a question regarding your Hugo2 setup. Hugo2 does not have balance inputs so wondering if you are using an adapter with 2.5mm cable? If so, does it degrade the audio? Thanks again!

      • Reply October 28, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Tim,

        thanks for your comment.
        Well spotted, yes I am using adapters. In my experience bad adapters can degrade the sound, that’s why I am using some from Effect Audio, PlusSound or Double Helix Cables. These don’t harm the signal. I fully recommend getting proper adapters if you are after one.

        In German there is a saying, I don’t know if it also exists in English, it translates to this: If you buy cheap, you buy expensive.

        Quality is important.

        Hope that helps.

        Have a great Sunday!
        Cheers.

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