(Last Updated On: July 8, 2018)

The top-level basshead custom in-ear monitor of your dreams.

Bass. The final frontier. These are the voyages of Dr. Ziggy McZeke, closet basshead. In today’s episode, we explore the possibility of the good doctor coming out of the closet. Stay tuned!

Empire Ears Legend X Feature
Empire Ears Legend X

For the longest time, we fight our deepest urges. With the exception of a prominent guy from Hawaii, audio reviewers are expected to have refined tastes, in love with a neutral tuning. Bass is for Beats lovers! What do they know about the thug audiophile life!

But in truth, for my friends and I at least, one of the first criteria, when we step into higher-end gear, is “good bass”. Subjective, yes, for while everyone has a definition of what makes bass “good”, the foundation for music enjoyment lies in a well-tuned low end.

To hear and more importantly, feel the bass, like hearing music live and alive.

In the search for every minute detail in our high-res files, high-end in-ear monitors (IEMs) tend to go for more detail, higher resolution, better note definition, often at the expense of the lower end of the spectrum. A rounded, analogue bass has been accused of being slow, poorly-textured, and unrefined. Plebs, all they want is bass, the more the merrier, the louder the better.

Bass-shame Stops Here

No more of this. The bass-shame stops here. Enter Empire Ears (EE) and their momentuously-named offering, the Legend X. You don’t throw around a word like “legend” for nothing! The name carries some pedigree as well.

Before Empire Ears came to be, they were known as Earwerkz, Jack Vang’s earlier venture into high-end CIEMs. The 8-driver Earwerkz Legend was their flagship, followed by retunes to Legend R, and the Legend Omega. The latter was one of the first top-of-the-lines (TOTLs) treading into basshead tserritory, and the spirit of the Omega is now carried over to the Empire Ears Legend X.

A lot of CDs were burned in the making of this review.
A lot of CDs were burned in the making of this review.

To show you they mean business, all 7 drivers are proprietary, tuned to EE’s specific requirements, including the dual “Weapon IX” dynamic drivers. The Legend X also features a staggering 10-way synX crossover system and A.R.C dampening technology using Ferrofluid. It’s a monster hybrid ready for the reckoning.

The Legend X is the top offering from their brand new X Series hybrid line and is available in both custom and universal versions through their official website with a starting price of US$2299.

My sincerest thanks to Mr. Jack Vang for providing a discount in exchange for this review.

Pros:

  • »Class-defining bass
  • »Courageous sound signature at this level
  • »Mids and treble tuning
  • »Details and resolution
  • »Organic timbre
  • »Large soundstage,
  • »Excellent accessory set and stock cable

Cons:

  • »Overwhelming bass sometimes
  • »Not an all-rounder sound signature
  • »Price

Equipment Used:

DAP

  • Sony NW-WM1A “K” Modded, FW 2.0

IEMs

  • Empire Ears Legend X
  • Jomo Audio Flamenco
  • Advanced Acousticwerkes W900
  • Spiral Ears 5-Way Ultimate

Albums Listened

  • Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart
  • Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
  • Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
  • Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac
  • Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
  • Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
  • Mark Knopfler – Privateering
  • Macy Gray – Stripped
  • Melissa Menago – Little Crimes
  • Michael Jackson – The Essential
  • Rage Against the Machine – The Battle of Los Angeles
  • Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
  • Taylor Swift – Reputation
  • The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
  • xx – The xx
  • Yanni – Live at the Acropolis

Packaging and Accessories

The Empire Ears accessories also make good ninja gear.
The Empire Ears accessories also make good ninja gear.

Some like their packaging simple and rudimentary. IEM, Pelican case, cleaning tool, off you go. Empire Ears? Nope. For packaging befitting the company name, they have to go above and beyond, and that they did.

It’s the difference between having steak in a food court and in a steakhouse. Candles, ambient music, waiter bringing out fresh cuts of cow for your selection, US$5 mineral water… the works. It doesn’t change how the steak tastes, but the experience that goes with it leaves a lasting impression. It shows they don’t cut corners either.

All Black Everything

For a premium product such as the Legend X, classy packaging is the name of the game, with “all black everything” the colour scheme. The beautiful, robust Aegis case houses the IEMs snugly, with your name engraved on top. You will also find a smaller IEM pouch, dust bag, cleaning cloth and tool with the package, all emblazoned with a large EE logo.

Last but not least, the exquisite Ares II cable from Effect Audio, a premium USD150 cable given as stock with the Legend X, in the termination (2.5, 3.5, or 4.4mm) of your choice. As far as presentation goes, this ranks among the best, no question.

Design, Build Quality, and Cables

Customisation

A custom IEM design is only as good as your imagination, and Empire Ears happens to have one of the biggest selection of faceplates and shell colours around. To help you along the way, the designer tool gives you an idea, real-time, of what the final product looks like. You can literally spend hours tinkering with the plate, shell, and logo combos that suit your fancy, and then spend days fine-tuning, tweaking and worrying about your final design.

“Good design is the true measure of a man.”

– someone not famous (me)

Seriously, their recently-refreshed faceplate designs are far out funky, and the good kind too. If designing is not for you, you can forego the first world problem of too many design options, by going for the universal version. It comes only in one flavour, all-black with gold logo, which should float anyone’s boat just fine.

Compact Design

Build quality is very good. The faceplate/shell border is smooth and seamless, and the IEM itself has no unwanted bumps or irregularities, just a well-made IEM. What I need to emphasise is that EE is the master of the compact, and they are skilled in jamming higher numbers of drivers into smaller shells when compared to competitors.

The best example of this is their 14-driver Zeus, but even here, with 2 dynamic drivers (DD) and 5 balanced armatures (BA), you have a bit of that compact magic going on. Speaking from experience, the AAW W500 which has 4BAs and 1DD, is larger and bulkier than the Legend X.

Stellar Customer Service

There was, however, one report in the Head-Fi Empire Ears thread that the shells broke without much stress applied. It might have been a rare manufacturing defect, but the episode also highlighted another specialty of EE: the stellar customer service. With company representatives (and sometimes Mr. Vang himself) active in the thread, the problem was attended to and fixed promptly.

I’ve followed the thread since its inception with the Olympus line, and only recently became their customer, but I can attest to the many satisfied customer comments throughout the thread. Empire Ears go above and beyond for their customers.

With them, you’re in good hands. Big, furry, comfortable hands.

The Ares II cable is a ray of sunshine.
The Ares II cable is a ray of sunshine.

Effect Audio Ares II Cable

In a strategic partnership with Effect Audio, the Legend X comes with a stock quality cable, so you’re receiving an upgrade right off the bat. The Ares II is one of the best value-for-money copper cables in the market, comprising four 26 AWG Litz wires in a termination of your choice:

  • 3.5mm single-ended
  • 2.5mm balanced
  • 4.4mm balanced

The metallic-bronze sheen lends a touch of class to its looks, and the cable handles very well too. It is lightweight, supple, coils without memory effect, and generally tangle-free. The pre-formed heat-shrink ear guides provide superb comfort, much better than cables that contain memory wires. You can wear the Ares II for hours without any ill effects, pun intended.

The fun part of Litz wiring is they don’t oxidise to a mossy green. Some people like the green (well-weathered patina is the marketing buzzword), but I like my cables looking new and sleek. I’m happy to report that another Ares II cable that I’ve owned for more than a year has no oxidation marks, so Ares II is truly a well-made cable.

Cable Sound Impressions

The Ares II is an upgrade compared to the stock Plastics One given with most custom In-ears, in both build quality and sound. Cable sound quality is a nigh-on subjective topic, and you can choose to ignore my sound impressions if you don’t agree.

An Astute Balancing Act

If you were to compare the Ares II and a garden variety Plastics One cable side-by-side, you might first notice its good sense of space, and eye for detail. The Ares II strikes me as immediately more vivid, detailed and spacious, from top to bottom. The note texture is readily noticeable, and individual notes take on a more lifelike appearance.

Instruments are better-differentiated owing to the higher resolution, but what impresses me more is that the timbre of each instrument is preserved. Detail, realism, slight warmth… an astute balancing act. Those elements are then placed in a grander sonic landscape, and in a great many aspects complements the Legend X signature as a whole.

The Ares II if bought separately retails for USD150, which might be a blip compared to Legend X’s price, but I do give EE credit for including a premium cable with their IEMs all the same.

Fit and Comfort

The art of making custom in-ears comes down to its most vital factor: fit. As bespoke as they come in terms of driver count, tuning and design, most importantly they are made to fit you and only you. Unless you have an ear twin, which is another story for another day.

Empire Ears’ reputation precedes itself. Many stories I’ve heard of customers getting the perfect fit the first time around and EE even tackles customers with historically “stubborn” ear canals. Those with short or abnormally-curved canals, where other companies would gently pat their shoulders and say no, customs aren’t for them. In tears, they take their business to EE, and oftentimes emerge rejoicing (in tears again) as they can finally, proudly wear custom IEMs for the first time.

True to form, the Legend X fits my ears flawlessly. My regular sized and shaped ear canals (at least I hope) caused very little trouble, and the fit is as precise and secure as Catwoman in her leather garb. Meow… I mean nice! With a perfect fit and compact size, comes excellent comfort. I’d like to say they disappear in my ears, but that’d be a horror story because of how much I paid for these babies.

Noise Isolation

Isolation is very good, on par with other custom in-ears. But a certain amount of outside noise is expected since dynamic drivers need some venting to breathe, so they lose out a bit compared to pure BA in-ears. They are still a step up compared to universals and isolate about 80% of environmental noise.

Legend X, the “key” to a better sound.
Legend X, the “key” to a better sound.

Sound Quality

Common sense dictates that some burning-in should be done to “loosen up” or optimise the dual dynamic drivers. In fact, a minimum of 100 hours burning-in are recommended by EE themselves. So for burn-in opponents, do take your case to Empire, thanks.

Critical listening was done after 500 gargantuan hours of burning in Legend X along with Ares II, just because. I basically left the gas on and forgot about it the whole time. I do have to note that there are several sonic improvements to be heard after burning in. The bass is tighter, leaner and reined in, and as a result, the signature is cleaner, more detailed and spacious.

But don’t worry, it’s still basshead through and through, which I’ll explain soon. You don’t have to go nuts and do 500 hours, 150-200 should hit the sweet spot. The main setup used for this review was the “K”-modded Sony WM1A (low gain) > EA Ares II (balanced 4.4mm) > Legend X.

Overall Sound Signature

I was young once. And with youthful exuberance came the need to experiment and step out of my comfort zone. You know, to impress girls. That included dabbling in EDM, and culminating in attending an outdoor music festival. It was one of the most vivid experiences of my college years. Six separate stages with different acts simultaneously performing for a whole day.

I was taken in by the experience and allowed the music, moreover the palpable bass to take over me entirely. Did I pee my pants? Maybe.

I shuffled around the stages desperately taking everything in, the music, strobe lights, booze and muddy grounds, gyrating with unknowns and pretending to enjoy it. Throughout the night, the bass unified and lit up the entire venue. A singular, pulsating synthetic beast intent on pummeling your head and convincing you it’s worth it.

Bass Unabashedly First

The Legend X brought me back to that night. The bass is like a blunt force of nature, authoritative and never yielding, taking reign over the sound signature.

To call the signature basshead, however, is to deal the mids and treble a huge injustice, for they not only stand and excel on their own, but define the soundscape with equal gravitas. But to NOT call the Legend X basshead is akin to not giving enough forewarning.

This is an IEM, first and foremost for bass lovers. A bass-unabashedly-first signature delivered mightily by the twin “Weapon XI” dynamic drivers. Here, the five BA drivers are undoubtedly tuned to serve the natural, full and organic-sounding DDs, and in doing so, manage to capture a wonderfully coherent signature, a trait overlooked by many hybrid IEMs.

Akin to Full-sized Speakers

Too many hybrids are in a hurry to show off the DDs’ awesome power and the BAs’ attention to detail levels that they sound an incoherent mess, forgetting that music presentation should forever take precedence.

The Legend X carefully sidesteps this folly, showcasing a bloomy, punchy bass akin to full-sized speakers; creamy, engaging mids that sound realistic yet full of layers and details; a masterfully extended and even treble that is as smooth as the day is long.

The sound is given a large stage to show forth its capabilities, equally deep and wide, with good imaging cues and a fantastic level of immersion… you might as well have been transported to the music arena itself, gyrating with yours truly.

The Legend X has a ballsy tuning that is a bucket of fun.
The Legend X has a ballsy tuning that is a bucket of fun.

Bass

We start off with the best foot first, all guns blazing. Like its namesake, the IEM hopes to carve an enduring legend of its own, with personality to spare. This bass showboats, is borderline narcissistic and revels in flights of grandiosity.

Its pompousness reminds me of pro wrestlers with their own theme song to announce their arrival. And this bass no doubt shares the same entrance music as Ric Flair himself, “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss. The track is rousing and fist-pumping, Legend X’s bass personified. Do listen to it, you’d want this song playing when you walk through a doorway too.

A New Bass Standard

Forget everything I’ve written about bass in my prior reviews, a new standard is being written. The Legend X’s subbass reaches further down than anything else I’ve heard. It plumbs the inner reaches of your chest cavity, and threatens to take over the rhythm of the heart.

To paraphrase Thanos, dread it, run from it, but the bass still arrives.

It moves a devastating amount of air, shaping the whole signature in doing so. The notes are dense, thick, full of power and purpose right up to the mid and upper bass. It thunders and bellows like no other, yet stays nimble in combat. Note attack and sustain has this undeniable might, with subsequent release and decay blooming beautifully before the next note hits, like wave after wave of giddy goodness you didn’t know you deserve.

Electric and Dynamic

The bass energy and physical prowess mean songs are brought to life, at once electric and dynamic, and yet thrillingly detailed. Legend X’s high resolution pulls no punches in revealing layers of bass just waiting to be enjoyed. Daft Punk, The Weeknd, Kanye… all given a new layer of resolution on top of bass enjoyment.

Speed and texture take a slight backseat to the sheer bass physicality, but they’re definitely doing their part to prevent everything from sounding like a muddy mess. Even so, sometimes the bass is too overwhelming for casual listening, as there is no off switch in this bass cannon, and might even prove distracting for gentler genres.

I can’t discern any bass bleed, yet the bass air permeates throughout the signature, even in passages where you don’t think there’s a lot of bass. Despite its lingering presence, this is a bass to be savoured, and ultimately to be taken over by. You can rest assured that in any track when the bass hits, Legend X will cover it magnificently.

Mids

Now, if it were not for the bass taking front and center stage (heck, the entire stage), the mids would have been the star of the show. Like a big tummy with a solid six-pack underneath, the mids have hidden depths. They are beautifully rendered, neutrally placed, and following the bass’ lead, steeped in organicity and smoothness.

This is the most coherent bass-to-mids transition I’ve heard in a hybrid, with an extra bonus of added resolution and texture thanks to the ingrained nature of BA drivers to unearth detail. The lower to center mids are rich and organic, with much assistance from the bass weight. As a result, guitars have that engaging crunch, strings exude an extra sweetness, and male vocals have an assured resonance.

The mids signature as a whole is neutral, with note thickness and roundness lending an essence of warmth. However taken individually, instrument timbre is just slightly north of tonally accurate. A bit of bloom and decay is sacrificed for note texture and clarity.

It still sounds quite natural, just that it might lose out to IEMs tuned for tone and timbre like UE18+ and Phantom, Empire Ears’ other flagship. The Legend X is tuned to excite, rather than follow strict euphony.

Captivating Upper Mids

Moving up, the air is finally there. Like emerging from a pool of chocolate milk, the upper mids are tastefully accentuated and breathe with utmost clarity. Female vocals, at once ethereal, captivating and airy, seduces the listener, we mortals of mere flesh and blood. Brass instruments emanate bravado and confidence.

Nary a hint of sibilance, the balance between smoothness and clarity is well executed. Not to be denied by the bass anymore, it was their turn to shine, and the upper mids provide relief from the sickly-sweet syrupy fullness of the bass.

Coming from a whole main course, you just need a refreshing drink to wash it down. It’s a delightful combination, the flirtatious interplay between the bass and mids. On one hand lush and creamy, at the other eager and exciting.

The swirled faceplates are an Empire Ears favourite.
The swirled faceplates are an Empire Ears favourite.

Treble

Now if I were to compare Lord of the Rings characters to parts of the signature, the bass is undeniably Gimli, commanding, forceful and maybe a tad brutish. The mids would be Aragorn, a balanced all-rounder capable of feats of immense strength, skill, and speed. Where does that leave the treble? Frodo? Ehh, he started the whole damn thing.

The treble surely belongs to that elf fellow, whose toy-like name escapes me. Handsome, quick to the feet, light to the touch, and a thoroughly essential member of the fellowship. That blonde dude’s secure and agile hands take on the mightiest beasts and emerge unscathed.

A Delicate Sparkle

That too is true of the Legend X treble. It rises steadily, evenly, without unruly peaks or dips, and extends far up without breaking a sweat. You can hear generous amounts of macro and micro details, it is clean and resolute despite the thunderous bass taking the bulk of the attention. Individual notes are airy and well-separated, with smooth edges that complement the entire signature well.

The treble has bouts of showmanship too. Beneath the layer of organicity, lies a playful sheen, a delicate sparkle, designed to titillate and never offend. It is not as apparent as the detail monsters of current TOTLs, but offer a safe respite for sensitive ears. From the upper mids to the mid-treble, it is as smooth and assured as it is detailed. Grain, harshness, and tinniness begone! Legolas is here! That’s the name I was looking for!

Soundstage and Imaging

The Legend X duels in a spacious arena, owing to its sound signature’s larger-than-life personality. The classic Toto song “Africa” comes to mind when describing the staging. Picture yourself blessing the rains down in the wide open plains of Africa, at once atmospheric, exotic, and brand new.

To accommodate the magnanimous bass, Legend X’s width is among the widest I’ve heard, and superbly deep as well. The layering of instruments from the left to right and front to back axes is evident, and it’s extremely easy to immerse yourself into the music. Height is a bit lacking, but not that noticeable as the stage set remains grand.

Larger Than Life

All throughout the spacious stage, the bass air dances around, lending authority and a sense of ominousness to proceedings. This lower-end airiness takes a bit of getting used to. I’m more accustomed to the commoner mid to upper treble bump that imparts a pristine, crispy and wispy brand of airiness. It’s enjoyable all the same, and has to be heard to be believed.

I hesitate to call the bass air a veil, because it isn’t, and the high resolution plays a big part in maintaining clarity in other areas. Imaging is top-notch but not among the elite, such as Jomo Audio’s Samba or 64 Audio’s A18. This is due to the nature of Legend X’s denser, well-rounded notes coated in a layer of warmth, so imaging is a hair shy of pinpoint accuracy.

The Legend X is intent on presenting music to you as a singular, cohesive unit, rather than cleanly dissected and divided. Voltron rather than five lions.

This is an accomplished soundstage with a presentation that mimics a speaker setup. There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do.

Out for some fresh bassy air.
Out for some fresh bassy air.

Comparisons

Jomo Audio Flamenco

The flaming, flamboyant Flamenco.
The flaming, flamboyant Flamenco.

Flamenco is Jomo Audio‘s 11-driver flagship with bass and treble switches to fine-tune your sound preference, but all signatures boast an incredible amount of detail and transparency. If ever there was an Opposite Day, Legend X and Flamenco would walk arm in arm. Where Legend X would put on a grand, unforgettable show, Flamenco would focus on stone-cold precision. The different tuning philosophies at work here, one is intent on immersing the listener while the other wants to lay out all the complex intricacies.

Bass: Legend X

Flamenco’s bass sounds downright economical compared to the indulgent Legend X. It has the pacing, speed and note definition but pales in depth, naturalness and genuine impact.

Mids: Legend X

For mids, vocals and instruments have a brighter edge to them and sound more alert and exciting. However, next to Legend X they sound a bit thin and inaccurate.

Treble: Flamenco

Treble, Flamenco’s forte, is energetic, sparkly, and just reveals oodles of detail like second nature. Moreover, it’s mostly sibilance-free. Legend X is less well-extended with smoother note edges, and is easier on the ears. The details are still there, just more subtle and tactful. One is “Someone pooped on the floor!” while the other is, “I think you better check the floor” if you get my drift.

Soundstage: Legend X

Legend X absolutely dwarfs Flamenco in soundstage size, besting it in all dimensions.

Imaging: Flamenco

Fighting back, Flamenco has better imaging, due to its thinner notation and emphasis on precision.

All in all, Legend X is the more natural sounding of the two, and definitely more spacious and relaxing. However, Flamenco’s flexibility in the switches means it’s a more capable all-rounder than the Legend X, whose bass might be too heavy-handed for some. Choose your poison.

Advanced AcousticWerkes W900

W900 is often mentioned when people mention TOLT hybrid.
W900 is often mentioned when people mention TOLT hybrid.

High atop mount hybrid sits AAW’s 8BA + 1DD flagship, the W900. 64 Audio’s Tia Fourte might be the most expensive and well-known hybrid today, but since it’s priced out of contention for me, W900 will be the interim hybrid to beat.

It is a warmish take on neutral, attenuating the bass slightly for a reference signature. This is the battle I’ve waited for the longest time. W900 sits near the summit of my IEM collection, reigning over the lands as the best hybrid I’ve ever heard. That is about to change very shortly.

Bass: Legend X

Comparing both hybrids with one track, “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, W900 has flatter, less fleshed out bass than the mighty Legend X. Extension and airiness down low is also less stellar. Legend X basically gave W900 a masterclass on how to execute bass correctly. It also handles all things bass (impact, rumble, decay, naturalness) better.

Mids: Legend X

Coming to mids, W900 sounds hollower with sharper edges. Dare I say it, W900’s instrument timbre is glaringly weak when compared to the smooth and cohesive Legend X.

Treble: Legend X

Now the treble is where things get interesting. One of the reasons I love the W900 so much is because no other IEM can replicate its never-ending upwards extension, long fluttery decay, thick treble notes and enduring smoothness.

Legend X can’t compete with the extension, but its seamless integration with the rest of the signature as a whole shows you just how amazing hybrids can sound if done right. Dueling both trebles, W900 sounds metallic at times and disjointed from the rest of the signature. The difference was jarring and made me think twice about something I once held so dear.

Soundstage: Draw

Comparing soundstage qualities, W900 has airier, more transparent staging and blacker space in between instruments. Its mighty width is equal to Legend X’s but is not as deep.

Imaging: W900

Imaging, however, is more precise in W900, while Legend X is more diffuse due to the abundant bass air.

I have previously stated that I had no problem with coherency when it comes to hybrid IEMs, that incoherence is a necessary evil inherent in most of them. Well, I’m eating my words with barbecue sauce. Legend X is the reset button. They’ve accomplished this relentlessly coherent signature that has me dreaming that the very best hybrid is yet to come. Hail to the king, baby.

Spiral Ears 5-Way Ultimate

Sometimes I call SE5U the Timbretron 5000.
Sometimes I call SE5U the Timbretron 5000.

Legend X’s final opponent is the (ahem) legendary SE5U. A veteran and winner of multiple TOTL shootouts, its neutral-natural signature has charmed and enticed many reviewers, a feat performed using only five well-tuned drivers.

Despite newer and more technologically advanced IEMs available today, the SE5U’s evergreen status remains unmarred and is still regarded as the one of the best (if not the best) IEMs around. Will Legend X’s brand of um, basshead-natural hold any water? Legend wannabe or in the making? Let’s find out.

Bass: Draw

SE5U’s bass is brighter. Individual notes have more apparent detail and palpable texture. The decay is very pleasing and will delight detail-heads very much, while still giving off a natural tone. It has lesser extension and bloom than the Legend X, but that might be expected since it’s a BA vs DD fight.

Legend X takes charge in slam, reach, rumble, timbre, and authority, but gives up speed, texture and clarity in doing so. Its midbass is also very prominent whereas very few will accuse SE5U’s as overdone.

Mids: SE5U

For mids, SE5U is bloat-free and nimble, sounding cleaner and clearer than Legend X. Its oft-spoken-of instrument timbre shows its true might here. Every note has distinct air around it, with a near-ceremonial feel; and when played together, sounds like the real thing.

The little things, like friction between the bow and the strings, individual guitar plucks, and the thud of the piano key… are rendered in exquisite and loving detail. The accuracy is unnerving, frankly. Legend X can only watch in awe.

However, the Legend X pulls off a surprise in having more emotional and weighted vocals, in both male and female. If you want a jazz ensemble or orchestra to drift you away into sonic bliss, SE5U is practically default. For vocals, I’ll take Legend X’s pleasant colouration.

Treble: Draw

The 5-Way has a brighter treble but not by much, notes have a bit more sparkle and “bite” to it, I guess that’s why they describe treble as crispy, which is the case here. The extension is similar, just a matter of preference between Legend X’s darker tone or SE5U’s intricate note texture. I’d call it a draw.

Soundstage: Draw

For soundstage, overall SE5U has thinner notes and an ethereal airiness to the entire signature, compared to the fuller, grandiose approach of Legend X.

Imaging: SE5U

Predictably, SE5U has slightly more accurate imaging and positioning capability. SE5U is no slouch in stage dimensions either, losing to Legend X a bit in width but emerging triumphant in depth.

Strictly for personal preference, I do prefer SE5U, mainly because it is a better all-rounder. However, Legend X does take this fight down to the wire. I would say SE5U is for people who prefer a classy and refined sound, while Legend X is for anyone looking to have a downright enjoyable time. Do keep in mind that SE5U is significantly harder to obtain, and you can’t demo before you buy.

Reflecting on your wallet, perhaps?
Reflecting on your wallet, perhaps?

Final Words

First impressions matter, and for Legend X, many start and stop at the bass. They find the initial listen difficult due to the overwhelming bass quantity channeled to their ear canals, crowding the signature and congesting the sound. The high price tag is also another hurdle to overcome. For me, only after repeated listens did its qualities finally manifest.

This is an IEM that surprises at every turn, imbuing a degree of urgency and liveliness to every track in every genre. Even after listening for hours on end, the wow factor does not fade. For Legend X, I relish in giving it the workout of its life, throwing at it every song I could think of, ripping my dad’s old CDs, and buying new music; just to hear how it renders them. And what a strong personality it has, present in every track.

A Beast Unleashed

Like a beast unleashed, unwilling to be held down by the confines of drivers and sound tubes, it delivers an experience resembling speakers in a treated room. It gave me a calming sense of familiarity, since I’ve been listening to speakers my whole life and couldn’t pinpoint why IEMs sounded so different.

The Legend X is a bridge to the speaker sound. Wonderfully dynamic, combining woofer-like bass, natural mids, smooth highs, tremendous soundstage, first class resolution and an epically coherent signature in a miniature package.

The signature might not be for everyone, the Legend X is, after all, anything but subtle. But for what it is, the bold, brassy, bass-first signature is instantly memorable in its own right, and for bass lovers, a siren call to finally succumb to.