The Once and Future King
Pros: Good packaging
Good stock cable
Good Instrument Separation
Cons: New Price
A black body is boring for this price range
Up for review today is the King of Asgard – the Empire Ears Odin. This (slightly dated) TOTL IEM is stuffed with a ton of tech and drivers. It has 11 drivers with 3 different types, 2 Next Generation W9+ Subwoofers for Sub-Bass, Bass; 5 Proprietary Balanced Armature Drivers – 2 Low-Mid, 2 Mid, 1 Mid-High; and 4 Premium Electrostatic Drivers – 2 High, and 2 Super-High. There’s also a ton of other tech you can read about on their website if you want. @jlawso13 generously let me borrow these to review before shipping them along to his buyer.
The packaging is pretty nice – basically identical to what you get from FiR’s Frontier series. You get the IEMs in all their glory, the Stormbreaker cable, 5 Final E ear tips, a metal carrying case, and a cleaning cloth. All of this comes in a box inside a sleeve with a drawer in the bottom like a jewelry box – very similar to what Unique Melody does with theirs, basically identical in fact, but without a leather case like FiR and UM have. Oh, and a cleaning tool – woot. At least the sleeve was much easier to get off the box than on the Rn6 – which is an actual Chinese Finger Trap in sleeve form. Also, no empty space-filling boxes here like FiR has, they used FOAM to fill the empty spaces – not cardboard – a much nicer look. So, it’s not mind-blowing, but it’s nice and a step above FiR that’s basically on par with UM. Still, there’s nothing here that really compares with what Noble, FAudio, and VE are doing with their packaging. 8/10 points. As always, I’m using my Spinfit W1 tips since they’re the best I’ve found (You can buy them here if you want a set: https://amzn.to/3WDrNIk.)
Full disclosure here: mine did not come with the Stormbreaker cable, so I had to use the Eletech…whatever this is – a 4-wire Fortitude (?) cable, which is basically the nicest spare cable I had laying around – The rest of my cables were MMCX because I’ve been on a Campfire Audio kick. Feel free to complain in the comments below to the empty black hole that is the internet. Sorry, I don’t have like $4k worth of cables sitting around to test out stuff with – most reviewers get those for free (I have not). Anyway, the Stormbreaker is a pretty nice cable and is basically a PWAudio 1960s 2-wire cable. These have a great reputation for sound, so no worries there even though I can’t listen to it. Unfortunately, they also have a reputation for cable rub microphonics and tangly-ness and cable-kink. You can even look at the Founder’s Edition official photo on their website and see what I’m talking about on the Stormbreaker. That said, it comes with an awesome Norse Valknut in a silvery metal. Love it. So, overall, a 7/10 for the paracord cable noise and the cable kink-tangle.
Build Quality/Comfort (9/10):
Driver pop is a real thing, though it doesn’t seem to happen as much on modern IEMs as it does on IEMs a year or two old. It definitely happened on the Jewel, the Thunder, and obviously the Odin. It’s annoying, but not the end of the world. It does bring up questions about the overall long-term durability of the drivers though. The shells themselves have a gorgeous Bifrost coloration – easily one of the coolest designs you’ll find on an IEM. The Empire Ears logo and the Valknut logo show up on the faceplates as well – it’s a very cool-looking package. The rest of the IEM is a letdown aesthetically though with just a plain black – and there’s a lot of it. Still, the IEM feels quite durable and there are really no concerns there, though I do prefer my IEM nozzles to be a metal insert instead of formed acrylic, but that’s a nitpick.
Comfort is good – these are definitely not Ronin-sized behemoths. I’d put their size at medium-large to large – they’re not even super thick and won’t stick out of your ears much. They’re pretty comfortable as well. I didn’t really have any issues with the Odin comfort-wise, though they’re not Rn6 or Trifecta in either the weight or size department. They do have a nice, smooth fit. 9/10 here for the driver pop.
Check out the Wolfhawk.squig.link below to get an idea of how these measure. I have the Trifecta here with me to compare to these but check out how close the Ronin is also until 2k Hz – interesting stuff. Obviously, there’s far less sub-bass on the Ronin and the Odin – these are more of a reference tuning than the Trifecta. Both also have more pronounced mids than the Tri. The highs for all three look like the heart rate of a Republican Senator getting caught with a trans prostitute (I like to paint a visual image for you dear reader), so you’ll have to read each individual review to figure out exactly how all of those dips and peaks impacts the sound coming out of these.
Normally, I’d run these off of my HiBy RS8, but I just traded the RS8 for a Cayin N8ii, which hasn’t arrived yet, so these are hooked up to my PC through a Truthear SHIO balanced connection, using Tidal with software MQA since the Shio doesn’t have it. Yeah, it’s not ideal, again, complain about it below – I promise I won’t respond. The volume is around 10-12 on here and the SHIO does a great job for something its size and price.
I’m starting off with the Mid-bass/Sub-bass test I’m using David Guetta’s “I’m Good (Blue).” There’s some decent impact here, nothing offensive or rattly like you can get on the Trifecta, but nothing particularly interesting either. The detail and quality are good, and the sub-bass is still decently strong, but it’s nothing mind-blowing. You probably figured that from the FRG above. Still, there’s more bass and sub-bass than I was expecting and it’s good quality – enough to ear the Odin a 6/10. Not bad for a non-basshead IEM.
Up next is Demon Hunter’s “I Am A Stone,” which I use to test whether the bass is too strong and overwhelms the mids as that is just as important as how strong/good the bass is. I mean, obviously, we’re not going to see the bass overwhelm the mids here. Yet, it can still be heard, so there’s that balance piece I want to see from this song. No, we’re not at the Rn6 level of perfection on bass here, and it’s quite the opposite of the Trifecta, despite getting the same score. It’s a 10/10 on this song for a total of 16 for lows.
Weaving The Fate’s “The Fall” is my test song for clean/dirty guitars and vocals with background instruments to see how clearly the vocals can be heard. The clean guitars in the intro are quite nice, good detail if a little thin and distant. The dirty guitars have good separation and don’t blur together. You can still hear the cymbals and drums quite clearly as well. The Odin doesn’t have the warmth and body that the Trifecta or Ronin have here, but it’s still a really clean, detailed presentation with good instrument separation and no sharpness from the vocals. 5/6 points
Staind’s “Something to Remind You” has clean electric guitars and wonderful vocals – this song tests vocal quality and background noise. Again, very clean and detailed guitar – though it still feels a tad thin and metallic. The vocals sound great, full-bodied and without unwanted reverb in the lower registers. The Odin is missing some of the detail of fingers moving across strings that I look for here, but that could be due to the cable or DAC/amp. There’s a tad bit of tinniness as well, but overall, this is a good presentation. 5/7 points here.
To test classical instruments in the mids, I’m using The Piano Guys’ “Code Name Vivaldi.” Wow, the bass-cello hits harder than I was expecting. That’s a really good presentation here and the pianos still come in clearly with the mid-cello. Nice. I’m very impressed here – none of the tinniness the electric guitars had, just full, warm goodness from the classical instruments – tons of emotion here. This is definitely where the Odin shine – though there is a bit of sharpness in the higher registers, but in an attempt to avoid double-tapping later, I’ll leave it off for now. 7/7 points.
To test sibilance on headphones I use Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes.” The intro trumpets sound flat and tinny. The song itself doesn’t sound as good as I’d like, or as I’m used to from the Trifecta, etc. That said, there’s no real sibilance to speak of at all. Impressive. I guess the dip at 5k must have helped here. 6/6 points.
Dream Theater’s “The Alien,” is the highs test song I use to see if the cymbals/high-hats/snare drum can be clearly heard and distinguished from the rest of the music (also good for instrument separation.) Wow, the highs can be heard quite clearly here. It’s not quite Rn6 or Trifecta levels, but it’s extremely close. The volume level of the cymbals is pretty close to those two, but there’s a little less detail and the sound is a little thinner. Still, it’s good enough for 6/7 points.
Michelle McLaughlin’s “Across The Burren” is another of my favorite highs/sharpness test songs as it can easily sound painful on some headphones. Yeah, there’s a bit of sharpness here. And by a bit, I mean It’s quite bad. And by quite bad I mean jumping a car off a cliff bad. Here’s where the Odin falls flat for me, which is sad because it does really well with classical instruments. 2/7 points.
Soundstage/Instrument Separation/Imaging (5/10):
I use MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” to test soundstage, instrument separation, and imaging. The Instrument Separation is very good (3/3), but the soundstage is just OK compared to a lot of the other Flagship IEMs I’ve heard recently (1/3). Imaging is decent, but nothing to write home about (1/3). Overall, the Trifecta, Rn6, Mentor, and Ronin all destroy the older Odin here.
3 years makes a heck of a difference for IEMs. The fact that the Odin is still mentioned in the same conversation as the Trifecta, Mentor, and Rn6 is an achievement on its own. The new Raven from EE will likely throw EE back into competition with the new kids on the block. Still, at the moment, the Odin can’t compete with the newest IEMs in almost any category. That said, I’m using sub-par gear to power it, so keep that in mind as well, and also, the Odin at its used prices is half as much as the newer IEMs – making it something of a bargain in the flagship battles. Just don’t pay full price for it – if you want better tuning, the Ronin does the same thing, but better. The Trifecta will have better bass with a nice analog sound, and the Mentor will win in the soundstage category, while also sounding better in the bass and mids. Lastly, the Rn6 is still the most balanced IEM I’ve heard and it beats the Odin in every category for the same price new – no contest. As a quick gear side note, the Trifecta sounds great on the SHIO, so maybe it’s not the gear.
I 100% understand why the Odin was a TOTL flagship 3 years ago when it came out. Until the Traillii arrived on the scene, the Odin makes a very compelling argument for good sound. Nowadays, it fails to impress compared to the newer line of IEMs – BUT, it still sounds really good for an $1,800 IEM. So, if you want near-flagship sound quality in a neutral expression, grab a used Odin – it’s tough to beat it at that price range. For $3,300 though, you can do better. Friends won’t let friends pay full price for the Odin in 2023. Get Odin’s Raven instead.
|Headphone Scoring (v3):|
|Accessories / Earpads / Eartips (10 pts):||8|
|Cable (10 pts):||8|
|Build Quality/ Design / Comfort (10 pts):||9|
|Lows (20 pts):||16|
|Mids (20 pts):||19|
|Highs (20 pts):||15|
|Soundstage / Instrument Separation / Imaging (10 pts):||5|