It is a pleasure for me to do another review today. to have our first impressions of Joshua Chan with us. Josh may be known to some as a reviewer for Headfonics and so he has a lot of experience - especially in the area of in-ear monitors.
Since it is important to us to reproduce the review 1:1 unabridged and true to the original, we are leaving it in English - just as Josh wrote it.
RAVEN Impressions Written by Joshua
August 10, 2023
The Empire Ears Raven (Raven) is a true Bass head’s delight. From the very first track, you will notice how the Raven follows Empire Ear's staple tuning philosophy as it showcases a (very) forward mid-bass, coupled with a forward center to upper mid-range.
The Raven represents the hallmarks of a powerful yet engaging sound which is sure to lure listeners in and keep them there especially with its grand and deep soundstage.
The Raven is not for everyone though and whether you love it or not, will come down to your own personal preference and your current gear line-up. For those who prefer a more reference sound with a leaner midrange, punchier and faster bass, this may not be for you. The Raven’s strengths lie elsewhere and caters for those looking for a bass-centric IEM.
The following impressions are based on my own thoughts and how I decipher music and sound. As everyone has different interpretations of sound, my opinion may differ as well. The stock cable, ear tips were used alongside the Cayin N8ii as a source.
The Raven’s shells are unmistakably large. They easily eclipse the size of its flagship counterpart, the Empire Ears ODIN, and its other brother, the Empire Ears Legend EVO. If you have small ears or prefer smaller sized IEMs, it's best to try them first.
I want to highlight 2 points. First, the fit of the Raven is similar to that of the Empire Ears x Astell&Kern Odyssey. Therefore, if the Odyssey fits you well, then the Raven should be the same. Second, the Raven’s IEM shells are actually quite light given they have such a large size. Coupled this with the short nozzle which as a counterweight to the large shell, the fit and comfort is actually not bad at all. During testing, no discomfort was noted.
The unit being tested donned the black faceplate which is to be used for the normal release of the Raven. The launch release is a limited batch which will utilize a shiny, gold faceplate instead.
The Raven has a bass-centric tuning where the mid-bass is the most forward frequency followed by the sub-bass, center to upper mid-range and treble. The lower mid-range sits further back. The Raven has a very warm timbre which is a result of its mid-bass tuning. This premise is supported by a grand soundstage which has excellent depth and width which gives off a spherical, 3D effect.
The Raven’s bass tuning is the focal point of the IEM’s tuning and sits very far forward, ahead of the mid-range and treble. It is clearly a bass-head IEM where the goal is to give the user a powerful and engaging listening experience. The Raven’s sub-bass digs very deep whilst providing a lot of reverb and rumble. Sub-bass notes have excellent extension and texturing.
The mid-bass is visceral and tactile. It slams very hard and provides a large amount of rumble. Mid-bass on the Raven has excellent texture and layering which has been excelled by the Raven’s large soundstage. The mid-bass does present itself as the most forward frequency in the Raven’s overall tuning and is always present.
As a result, the mid-bass is slow to decay and for some, can be overwhelming at times if bass is not your cup of tea. The forwardness of the mid-bass does affect the mid-range and timbre. Mid-range notes come off as thick where the overall timbre is quite warm.
The mid-range on the Raven is where things start to shift a bit. The center to upper mid-range is forward in the overall tuning which is then followed by the lower mid-range. The center to upper mid-range is forward enough to seem like it sits in the middle of the stage and is presented ahead of the lower mid-range. The mid-range in general has quite a warm timbre.
As a result, vocals and instrumentals sound natural and are highly detailed and resolving. Given the large mid-bass boost, you do get a lot of tactility within the mid-range’s notes, where they also come off as thicker sounding. However, at times the mid-bass does overshadow the lower to center mid-range.
The overall treble on the Raven comes off as slightly above neutral with a hint of sparkle. The treble extends excellently with a high level of detail. High hats and cymbals sound crisp, clean and not overdone. Since the ODIN, this is one of the better treble executions from Empire Ears to date.
The Raven comes equipped with a great soundstage. What you end up with is a very wide, tall and deep soundstage which gives off a spherical, 3D effect. The stage is executed in a way in which it gives the listener an immersive effect.
Coupling this with the deep sub-bass and hard-slamming mid-bass, you are left with a stereo or speaker like effect from the Raven. Imaging is excellent where the Raven does well to place instruments and vocals with pin-point accuracy. Layering is also very good however it can be perceived to be somewhat impacted by the very forward mid-bass as it encompasses the whole frequency response.
Empire Ears ODIN
The ODIN's sub-bass is very deep with excellent extension and bass texture. Compared to the ODIN, the Raven's sub-bass has slightly more depth and extension with similar bass texture. The mid-bass is where things change as the Raven’s mid-bass is much more forward, has more slam and is slower to decay. The ODIN’s mid-bass is punchier and faster with less forwardness. This results in the mid-range coming off with less thickness and volume compared to the Raven. This allows the lower mid-range to become more forward on the ODIN.
Furthermore, the upper mid-range on the ODIN is much more forward compared to the Raven although the Raven has a forward upper mid-range itself. The center mid-range on the Raven has similar forwardness as the ODIN. Timbre wise, the Raven is much warmer compared to the ODIN.
Overall treble on the ODIN has slightly more sparkle however the Raven is not far behind. Lower to center treble has equal forwardness on both IEMs and the upper treble on the ODIN seems to be slightly more forward. Treble extension is similar.
Soundstage on the Raven is just as wide as the ODIN however there is more depth in comparison. You get a more spherical soundstage on the Raven however imaging and layering is similar between both IEMs. The forwardness of the mid-bass restricts the Raven’s layering to go beyond that of the ODIN.
Empire Ears EVO
The Empire Ears EVO and the Raven are almost like twin brothers but with a few differences. The EVO follows a very similar tuning to the Raven as it has a similar forwardness in the sub and mid-bass.
Sub-bass depth and extension is similar between the two however the Raven has slightly more forwardness in the mid-bass. Quality and texture of the bass frequency is similar between the two.
Both EVO and Raven exhibit a warm timbre with a forward center to upper mid-range. Although, the center to upper mid-range is slightly more forward on the Raven. Lower mid-range takes a back seat on both IEMs where they are a similar position in the overall frequency response.
The treble on the Raven has more sparkle and extension compared to the Raven. Lower to upper treble has more forwardness on the Raven. As a result, treble quality and resolution improves on the Raven.
Soundstage on the Raven is just as wide but deeper than the EVO. The EVO has excellent imaging which is equal to that of the Raven.
The Raven was paired with both the Cayin N8ii (N8ii) and the Hiby RS8 (RS8). Both DAPs are excellent pairings with the Raven and which one is more suitable simply comes down to personal preference. The pairing of the Cayin N8ii resulted in a more forward upper midrange and brighter treble compared to the Hiby RS8. The RS8 has a smoother mid-range which comes off with a more natural tonality. Both DAPs produce a very wide soundstage on the Raven however the N8ii has more depth to the stage.
The Empire Ears Raven is definitely a step in the right direction for Empire Ears. The Raven represents a bass-heads delight and a guilty pleasure listen for most of us. With its forward bass, center to upper midrange and grand soundstage, the Raven will definitely pull you in and keep you there for hours on end.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Josh very much for his time and effort in writing these impressions for us and, above all, our customers.
THANK YOU, JOSH! 🙌😊
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