Meze Audio - Angled Alcantara pads


Reviewer at hxosplus
The Balancing Act (The review is for the Elite)
Pros: + Supreme sound fidelity and transparency
+ The most neutral bass response
+ End game technicalities
+ Enhanced mid range presence
+ Will not alter the basic sonic character of the headphone
+ Will not make the treble sound brighter and sharper
+ Impressive detail retrieval without sounding analytical
+ Open and holographic soundstage with masterclass imaging
+ Especially recommended for reference and critical listening
+ Very comfortable and breathable
+ Excellent build quality
Cons: - Will make the Elite more unforgiving and ruthlessly revealing
- Bass texture is drier and leaner when compared to the hybrid ear pads
- Less fun sounding than the hybrid ear pads or the Alcantaras
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
I didn't receive monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don't use affiliate links.
The price of the Meze angled Alcantara ear pads is €199 and you can order them directly from Meze or all authorized dealers around the world.


Angled Alcantara ear pads for the Elite & Empyrean headphones

These earpads are designed to enhance the acoustic personality of the Elite and Empyrean headphones, revealing new and exciting sound nuances.
The angled shape creates more space inside the ear pad, which translates to an airier sound signature, with cleaner bass and improved presence in the mid-range frequency.
Made of soft foam coated with Alcantara, with a fine protective mesh on the grill, the angled earpads also provide increased wearing comfort for most ear shapes.
The outer dimensions are 125 mm height x 95 mm width x 25 to 33 mm ±1 mm depth and the inner dimensions are 80 mm height x 52 mm width x 26 to 32 mm ±1 mm depth, so the wide side is the same dimensions as the original Alcantara and the narrow as the hybrid pads.
The wide side is positioned at the back of your head and the narrow at the front of your face.
If you are an owner of the Elite or the Empyrean then you already know that pad swapping is a very easy task because they are magnetically attached to the headphone frame.


Comfort and build quality

Just a couple of notes regarding comfort, all the Elite ear pads are comfortable but the new angled ones are the most comfortable of the bunch.
They can accommodate the whole ear which doesn't touch the inner mesh, there is plenty of space and air circulating around, the pads don't feel as thick as the regular Alcantara.
There is a chance though that you might prefer the feeling of the outer leather surface of the hybrid pads which are cooler and better for hot weather with the downside that your ear will be slightly touching the protective mesh.
Build quality is excellent, the pads are carefully stitched and assembled, they look very durable and they are going to wear after hundreds of hours of use, especially if you are careful enough to keep them clean.


Listening Methodology

The magnetic attaching system allows for easy pad swapping, you can place the headphone and the pads in a desk in front of you and with a little practice you can learn to do it really fast so you can switch between them while your acoustic memory is still fresh.
I don't have the Empyrean so all the listening impressions apply exclusively to the Elite headphone.
In order to keep things simple and straight, for starters I used only three audio tracks and then reverted to more leisure music listening.
Track 1, Track 2, Track 3
I have also limited the listening gear to three sources, the Violectric V380², FiiO M17 and iBasso DX320 with the AMP14, all of them perfect examples of fidelity and transparency.
Two cables were used, the Meze copper PCUHD upgrade cable and the Lavricables Grand which is one of the most transparent sounding cables in the market.


Listening impressions

The Elite already has a very balanced sound signature with excellent sub-bass extension, relatively linear and neutral bass response without too much of a mid-bass emphasis, evenly handed mid-range without boosted upper mid-range and a well extended treble albeit smooth and easy to the ear.

Regular users will already know that you can fine tune the frequency response with the two ear pads that come as a standard with the headphone.
If we consider the Alcantara as the reference pads then the use of the hybrid ear pads results in a sound with a relatively more extended sub-bass, a touch of a lower mid-range emphasis that makes for a warmer and fuller sound while the upper mid-range and presence areas get a touch of attenuation so the hybrid pads are smoother, of a less critical mood and more visceral sounding than the Alcantaras.
The takeaway is that the bass is just a bit less controlled, detail retrieval is not up to the level of the Alcantaras and the soundstage is a little less airy and open.
Differences are subtle though, the overall sound character of the headphone is the same with both pads and you can only use them to fine tune it up to a certain level.

The same principle applies to the new angled pads which add another sonic flavor to the headphone without altering the base character.
As you might have guessed, the angled pads sound closer to the Alcantaras rather than the hybrids, so these are going to be our point of reference.

The first and most notable sonic impression after switching to the angled pads is not related to the frequency response.
Instead you get fascinated by the extra openness of the sound, the expansion of the soundstage to all three dimensions, it becomes more holographic and immersive while it gains in positioning accuracy and imaging precision.
The effect is even more noticeable when swapping between the angled and the hybrid pads which in comparison give a more intimate presentation, positioning the listener closer to the performers.


Then you get shocked by the enhanced clarity and the instant increase in detail retrieval, now you can hear the most silent sounds, every last note and the musicians movements, the Elite becomes extremely detailed but not analytical.
This is not an analytical headphone and it will never become one, it is already detailed enough with the stock pads but the new ones considerably raise the acoustic depth, albeit in an effortless and natural way.
The finest nuances and particles of the music are flowing into your head like spring water, finally forming the larger picture instead of being disjointedly projected to make an impressive but short lived impression.
If you have been thinking that the Elite is a TOTL headphone that was lacking in detail retrieval when compared to the competition then trying the new ear pads will change your mind.
Of course there is a chance that some users will not like the increased detail extraction and the crystalline clarity and will end preferring the less magnifying hybrid pads or the Alcantaras that sit somewhere in the middle.

After overcoming the first impressions then you start to notice other differences that the new pads bring to the sound signature with the most notable being the slightly more linear and neutral bass response.
Compared to the Alcantara, the angled pads sound more neutral in the bass thanks to the less emphasized frequency response from the lower bass all the way up to the lower mid-range.
When listening to acoustic bass instruments or classical music in general you will find that now the Elite has a better, near perfect tonal accuracy, everything sounds exactly as it should be and extremely close to reality.
Not that the stock Elite has too much of a bass coloring but now we are talking about an extremely natural and balanced frequency response, something that gets especially appreciated when listening to classical music like the opening bars of Mahler's 2nd symphony.


There is also a noticeable improvement in layering, definition, control and tightens while dynamics remain impressively explosive.
Not without a penalty though because compared to the other pads, the hybrids especially, the texture becomes a little drier and leaner, not as visceral and weighty.

The most polarizing tonal difference is a bit of extra emphasis at the upper top of the mid range, be careful, not the upper-mid range.
This boost enhances clarity, it adds plenty of airiness and better articulation, the Elite becomes now more transparent and energetic but also more revealing and less forgiving, something that not all users are going to like.
Add also a little emphasis in the overall presence area and it becomes pretty clear why the angled pads are the most transparent and reference sounding, the apex of fidelity and the perfect tool for serious critical listening.

Unfortunately I don't have the Empyrean available for testing the pads.
But since I have owned them for more than a year, I feel pretty confident to assume that the angled pads are going to be very suitable for everyone looking to tame down the excessive mid-bass emphasis, add extra clarity and transparency to the headphone and expand the soundstage.


In the end

It is always nice to have options and when it comes to the Elite and the Empyrean we now have three for fine tuning them.
The new angled Alcantara ear pads are a welcomed addition to the family, they are not only the most comfortable but they also add another very interesting variation to the sound signature of the headphones.
They bring the most neutral bass response with the best technicalities of the bunch, pushing fidelity and transparency to their boundaries, while they make for an incredibly expanded and holographic soundstage.
The angled pads are strongly recommended for all those who seek the most reference sound of the Elite but also to all others who just like to have options and be versatile when it comes to sound tuning depending on their mood and the music.
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Thank you for the review. I will buy them.
I auditioned the elite at a store yesterday with stock pads and did find their euphonic signature wonderful but felt more detail would be welcomed. My question is that even on the smallest headband settings the Elites didn't clamp much on my smallish noggin. Would the angled pads be better or worse in this respect?

If by stock pads you mean the hybrids then the Angled will give you better fit and the original Alcantara will be even more tight.