Empire Ears & Effect Audio Collaboration
Eric from Effect Audio loaned us this knight and his shiny sword. Arthur is a collaboration IEM by Empire Ears & Effect Audio.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
- Sensitivity: 21ohm @ 1mw
- 14 Balanced Armature Drivers (6 highs, 6 mids, 2 lows) with Effect Audio’s Silver and Copper internal wiring
- Crossover type: 8-way passive crossover
- Noise Isolation: -28 dB +/- 2
- MSRP: $3799
- 24awg UPOCC Gold/Silver Multi Bundle Litz cable
- Empire Ears Aegis Case
- IEM Pouch
- Cleaning Tool
- User Guide
We have experimented with numerous sources to see what Arthur is capable of.
List goes like this:
- HM901S (Main Source)
- Chord MoJo
- Chord Hugo
- Astell&Kern AK120
- Audioquest Dragonfly Black
Design | Build | Fit
Arthur’s housing is made of acrylic and it has a fairly comfortable structure. Although the nozzle part was a bit long for me. I had no comfort problems whatsoever. Bores are nicely cut and well-made. Faceplates, likewise. Apart from these, there is not much to say about product quality. Empire Ears standard, it’s great.
The first thing that caught my attention when I first listened to Arthur, was its liveliness. When you listen to the music, you feel a sense of vitality and rhythm. Arthur does not have a sharp character, it is rather musical and on the other hand, it is quite detailed. To wrap it up, Arthur is smoother, more musical and more harmonious than the Zeus-R. Zeus-R is a bit more technical and detailed. What I like most about Arthur is the texture and clean midrange. While the instruments are pure and articulate, vocals manage to stay perfectly clean too. Arthur’s background is also quite dark, improving the sense of imaging even further. Note that Arthur is prone to hiss but not as much as Zeus-R. Additionally,, iPhone can easily drive Arthur but of course, Arthur deserves more than that.
I am not a “true basshead” but for me, bass is one of the important aspects of an IEM because it provides the excitement factor. I prefer strong, tangible bass.
Arthur has a strong bass but it doesn’t go too deep, so extension is a little problem. Don’t get me wrong, you do not feel the “classic dryness” of balanced armatures but it could’ve been definitely better. Attack/Decay ratio of bass region is actually well-done, it can react well to twin pedals, or high bpm EDM tracks without any problem. This is a plus for Arthur in all-rounder class..
Arthur is not a basshead headphone but the bass is deep and impactful enough when the music calls for it. Additionally it never bleeds into the midrange and always remains controlled. Generally the bass is perfectly balanced with the rest of the sound spectrum.
For me best part of Arthur is definitely the mid region. Midbass is dense, bodied and controlled. Overall mids are rich, smooth and lush with a good resolution.
As I stated before, Arthur is presenting instruments in such a way that they never make you feel the “digitalness” of recordings. The vocals are incredibly realistic and vibrant.. Especially female vocals. They’re fluid yet resolving. What really got under my skin is Arthur’s string instrument presentation. I listened to Le Trio Joubran – Masar album with great joy. Every vibration of the stringed instruments can be felt and heard.. I can easily say that Arthur’s string presentation is unique and unrivalled.
Arthur has amazingly clear and detailed treble region as expected. Arthur owes its airiness to its crystalline treble performance. Cymbals and crashes are very easy to focus on. You can notice every detail and layer without any veil. The best thing about treble & upper mid region of Zeus’ is control. His creators tamed his mighty beard little bit so no matter what you do, the treble never gets harsh or piercing. No hints of sibilance even with bad recordings whatsoever.
Soundstage, Imaging and Instrument Separation
The Arthur has both horizontally and vertically wide headstage. The locations of the instruments are precise and they all can be focused on individually. Relatively close proximity of the vocals may fool you that the vertical extension may be somewhat limited but after hearing the instruments, these thoughts are starting to disappear. The details, as well as the macro details, are also presented clearly.
Excalibur cable is quite soft, skin-friendly and has impressively low microphonics. Aesthetically it’s an eye-candy. The softness of the cable is very similar to PW No5. The cable sounds a bit warm and it improves details and resolution compared to the stock cable. I think it pairs better with bright signatured monitors. When I use it with my Zeus-R, it adds more sub-bass and body to the sound. It also increases the musicality factor of Zeus-R, makes it a delight to listen to.
vs. Oriolus MK2 + Pw5 ($1300) (1400€)
Oriolus has deeper and stronger bass but at the same time it is slower than Arthur. (PRaT-wise) -Armature drivers strikes again!- The strongest part of Oriolus is the mid section. Prominent mids of Oriolus gives it an edge over Arthur, making it more emotional, more coherent vocal-wise. While Oriolus has more dramatic and emotional mids, Arthur has more realistic and more detailed midrange. In the treble area Arthur has a higher resolution, better separation and clarity. Stage-wise, Arthur has a larger scene. The installations are spread out over a wider area, but Oriolus is more centered.
vs. Earsonics S-EM9 + Eros (1400€)
The S-EM9 is one of my favorite earphones. I think it is the fastest earphone I have ever listened to.. Against the Arthur, the S-EM9’s lows can go deeper and its bass have greater impact. Surprisingly so, it also has even more agile bass response. I find S-EM9 better suited for EDM because of the low region success. As for the staging, the S-EM9’s horizontal headroom is more narrow than Zeus-R. Vertically they’re equals. As for detail reveal, I can say that both are almost equal. However if we talk about who is going to win the battle of mid, by a long shot it’s the Arthur. It is more detailed, cleaner and more accurate. The S-EM9 feels a little bit colored midwise. Although the situation on the treble region is a bit different. The S-EM9 is one of the best when it comes to the treble area.. It is VERY detailed, very articulate and airy. In comparison, Arthur feels just a little bit airier and wins the separation point. Although I still prefer the treble of S-EM9 because of the articulacy. Both earphones are quite musical. You’ll be happy with both :]
vs. Empire Ears Zeus-R + Starlight ($2099)
Two big brothers, two different voice signatures. Even though they are technically same but they have diversified tunes that makes them different from each other. Arthur is bit smoother, the mid region is much more musical. Zeus-R is aggressive, detailed and transparent, This causes an emphasis on the resolution and detail retrieval.. Zeus-R is a IEM that sounds a bit colder compared to Arthur. Don’t get me wrong, Zeus-R is musical as well but it’s focus is on the technical side of things, resolution, speed, separation and such. At first listen, Arthur stroke me with a little fuller and stronger presentation, but the margin is not that big. Mids/Vocals of Arthur is presented a little closer compared to Zeus, perhaps in a more emotional way. The soundstage of Zeus-R is a little wider, and the reason for that I believe is the mids being slightly behind. Arthur is more vivid and smooth on treble, and Zeus-R is more aggressive and sharper. This should also be noted that they are both reacted different to various of sources.
Effect Audio & Empire Ears collaboration idea is actually great. We, as customers, get the chance to taste the advantages of both worlds. Arthur is a special product. It successfully injects this idea to your audiophile veins as soon as you pick it up. Even its accessories feels premium! And the cable? It looks truly gorgeous. If you like warm sound signature, high-level detail retrieval and musical tonality, go get yourself the King Arthur!
But watch out! It’s not cheap to buy a king…