General Information

Empyrean_II_-_image_03.jpg

“When we first talked about creating the second generation of Empyrean, I knew it would be far from easy. With many ideas in mind, I reached out to our community, eager to gather their feedback in any way I could. I wanted to dive into their hearts and minds, to understand their expectations, and so their input is what shaped the path toward Empyrean II. What followed was a test of patience and precision. At first, the possibilities seemed endless, but reality showed us that only a few of our plans were feasible. We made a lot of revisions to discover the right proportions and materials that would deliver the sound signature we aimed for.”

Alex Grigoras, Acoustic Engineer

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Gizm0Guru

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Meze Audio Empyrean II - Maximum Expression
Pros: Infinitely listenable, expressive tuning, excellent for nearly anything
Truly holographic stage & layering
Unmatched comfort (except other Meze gear)
Versatile in terms of use cases and drivability
Unique, ultra-premium craftsmanship & artistry, including accessories
Cons: Resolution slightly weak vs. other TOTL gear (though other options are more expensive)
Treble-sensitive folks be on notice (not bad per se, but sensitive folks could have an issue)
Introduction, Background & Setup
By way of background, I am a very passionate music and sound lover. I am not an audio engineer or professional in any capacity in the industry, but music has been a huge part of my life since I was a little one. I’ve performed as a singer and instrumentalist, have done some DJ-ing, and I spend a lot of time today making mixes (all as hobbies) and just listening and discovering new music in general – easily a few hours of listening every day. I am a millennial, so I came of age as the transition to iPods and Beats was taking place. I spent many years staying on the “consumer” side of things and still have a lot of that type of gear in my collection – but I got serious about wired high-fidelity listening about ten years ago now. I did not own the OG Empyrean (Empy), but I do own the 109 Pro along with 19 other headphones. I listen to a very wide range of genres – House, EDM, R&B, Hip-Hop, Pop, Reggae, AfroPop, Alternative, Jazz, Orchestral/Classical/Film Score, Classic Rock, Acoustic…you get the picture. Because of this, my preferences gravitate towards gear that can perform well across a wide array of genres, with each headphone bringing its unique approach to the presentation.

This is also my first detailed review of any gear. I’ve done smaller reviews here and there in other places, but this is my first “full and detailed” review. Like many in the hobby, nearly all of my research and the progression of my journey has been due to forums like these and folks willing to take the time to provide views and opinions on gear, so I am happy to pay it forward. As mentioned, I am not a pro, so I do not have any audio measuring equipment. Everything I will be writing here is based purely on my ear and experience during listening. All comparisons are to other pieces of gear that I currently own and listen to regularly. I did watch and read other reviews during the pre-order period to educate myself on the product, but I have not watched any reviews or referenced any FR graphs or anything like that since I received the EmpyII’s and started listening (I had a re-look at FR graphs again after completing the write up, so to do appropriate editing). I’m also not a pro reviewer on any level, so this was a purchase I made on my own, and Ihave no connection with any entity. I hope this write up is helpful, and I will answer any questions that I can.

Summary – The Meze EmpyII is a uniquely enjoyable experience from top to bottom. From the moment you open the box, the passion that Meze places in its products is evident, and most importantly, that passion carries through to the listening experience. It is a headphone that sacrifices pure neutrality and takes some artistic liberties with the tuning - and the result is a phenomenal, spacious, warm and glistening sphere of sound around your head. It’s unfair to call it a traditional V-Shape tune. While that term may work as a starting point, the team at Meze has added a touch here and a touch there with such precision that it deserves to be labeled separately – it is tuned for maximum expression. It’s a headphone that does almost everything well and practically nothing poorly. It’s among the best of the “jack of all trades” headphones. It may not be the absolute best in all categories, but none are weak, and the sum of the parts is Meze’s house sound and knack for exquisite audio products on full display.


Full Review Contents:
Equipment/Setup
Scoring System Explanation
Design & User Experience
Listening Experience
Overall Value Proposition
Brief Comparisons (Meze 109 Pro, Final Audio D8000 Pro, Focal Utopia, Audeze LCD-X, Sennheiser HD800S)

Equipment/Setup:
Ferrum ERCO Desktop (Primary)
Chord Mojo 2 (Portable)
Feliks Audio Elise MKII OTL Tube Amp (Tube)
Apple Music Lossless/Hi-Res Lossless

Scoring System:
Keeping it simple here and will use a relative scoring of Weak, In Line or Strong scoring system. This will hopefully keep it as objective as possible and help provide points of reference. For the purposes of this review the point of comparison is relative to other top of the line (TOTL) headphones in the USD $2k+ category.


Design & User Experience – Score: VERY Strong
I am one that usually focuses on sound quality first, then things like accessories, cables, etc. are firmly second place. For this reason I’m going to talk about all of the things not directly related to listening in this section and score them together. For the listening experience, I will score things more granularly. That being said, as I mentioned in the opener, Meze is very obviously dedicated to making sure EVERY aspect of this product contributes to a pleasant experience, and that extends both to its design, as well as some practical product choices.

Let’s start with the artistic. Continuing with Meze tradition, it’s genuinely wrong to call the EmpyII anything less than a work of art. The pictures truly don’t do it justice. It is a wonderful example of artistry combined with industrial design to support great user experience. The sliding mechanism to adjust cups up and down, the wonderfully designed leather strap-based weigh distribution system, the dual material pads – these are all design choices that are strikingly distinct, yet also are in service of something practical. Layered on top of this are decisions like the simple but striking black color, the etching of the outside of the cups…it all comes together immensely well. There are also some included materials with the EmpyII that tell more of the story of Meze and how their products connect to the history and nature of where they are located. Exotic stuff. All very appreciated at the EmpyII’s USD $3k entry price. Now that we’re talking money, let’s get practical.

The first thing you notice when you hold the EmpyII in hand is how well-built, sturdy and flexible it is, while still being relatively light. The cups also bend at nearly all angles – rotating in multiple directions. The band has quite a bit of give while still being firm. All of this, unsurprisingly, also leads to the unreal comfort level. Every single person I know that has put them on has had a “wow” moment when the the pads first rest on the ears for the perfect seal with just the right amount of pressure. While a bit big and bulky visually, it truly does disappear once you have it on in terms of feel. The pads are also pretty breathable (both styles), which keeps the ears from getting too warm. I can’t say that the Empyrean II is the most comfortable headphone I’ve ever worn, but that’s only because I also own the Empy’s little brother, the 109 Pro, which is equally comfortable – but much smaller and lighter, so all the more impressive for the Empy. Meze is dominating comfort, and it doesn’t seem to really be close. [Side note here: I wear both contact lenses and glasses, and the Empy’s deal with glasses very well.]

Next – versatility. We’ve already covered how Meze makes the EmpyII super easy to put on your head and wear it for as long as you want without thinking. They also make it super easy to connect it to your source in the way you desire and power it with a wide range of sources – without adding extra cost to the equation.

At the time of purchase, you have the choice between copper or silver-plated copper cables, along with a selection of common termination options. By the way, the cable is both the most good-looking (braided) and utilitarian (good thickness, weight, connection mechanism, and nearly impossible to twist/distort) of every headphone I currently own and have ever owned. It also connects to the L and R sides of the headphone with a nice button lock mechanism. It makes you really question why some headphones that cost multiple hundreds or thousands of dollars have pretty bad cables (looking at you HD800S). Also included is a nicely built hard briefcase-style carry case with foam insulation that also holds the spare pads and can fit the included leather bag for the cable – making portability a cinch. It’s a really nice accessory experience that’s not always a given, even at this price range.

The relatively low power requirements adds both ease of use and versatility. Consistent with the trend of more TOTL headphones releasing with lower power requirements, while it certainly won’t give you the best experience, you can have a pretty darn good experience with the EmpyII with the likes of a simple dongle DAC, if your device itself can’t drive them (which it may). This is a good opportunity to bring up how this versatility can work out very well – gaming – especially console gaming. We have not touched on sound yet, but for now, trust me when I say that the overall presentation here is great for gaming – tonal balance and soundstage bring incredible levels of audio immersion to gaming. The fact that this is a relatively easy to drive headphone means a simple $20, 3.5mm line-in headphone amp from your retailer of choice can plug directly into your controller and perform better than 99% of gaming headsets on the market (for those that may be curious, current-generation consoles have made it extremely tedious to plug a DAC directly into the console).

All of this, and we haven’t even touched on the pads. Again, design and experience come together beautifully. Meze has included two sets of pads with the EmpyII. One set of “Duo” pads, that are a mix of Alcantara and leather, and a set of pads that are purely Alcantara. The Duo produces a warmer sound, while the full Alcantara pads are a bit more spacious and thin out the warmth. Preferences aside, the fact that both are included for the price is nice. And with that Meze touch, the pads use the magnetic field of the driver to easily snap in and out of place – quick and painless. And speaking of easily snapping things in and out of place, each of the the EmpyII’s components are repairable, and the included materials emphasize the fact that this is gear meant to last generations.


Listening Experience – Score: Strong
For me, the EmpyII is an outstanding listen that is both engaging and relaxing at the same time. The experience is extremely immersive and expressive. There are moments with the EmpyII that have gripped me more than any headphone I’ve owned. A theme that will reappear from the design section earlier is versatility. I’m a multi-genre guy, and I have yet to come across something that would not work at least serviceably well on the EmpyII’s – and for most genres, the results are excellent. All this said, that is not because the EmpyII is necessarily the absolute best at everything it does. However, it does do nearly everything at least very well – and it’s this combined this with Meze’s passion for applying their special sauce across multiple aspects of the listening experience that leads to something that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Here’s what we’ll explore and score individually:

(*Note: I appreciate that many of the points I will make below are highly subjective. I am attempting to do my best in being both objective and open about my preferences, so that this review can be useful for all.)

Tonal Balance (including lows, mids and highs separately)
Technical Performance
Detail & Resolution
Amplification (not scored)
Pad Comparison (all other views written with Duo pads in use)

Tonal Balance - Score: Very Strong
It is always difficult to “score” FR because everyone has both different reference points for a neutral target and different preferences in general. That said, I’m going to approach it from a few perspectives – how does it compare to a neutral target, are there any objective shortcomings, and are there any objective strengths.

At first listen, it’s easy to call the EmpyII a V-Shaped tune, though with a deeper listen, that would probably be a disservice – though it is a great place to start the discussion. The reason it would be a disservice is because V-shaped implies broad strokes, and the EmpyII is far more precise. Don’t get me wrong, this is a colored tune for sure, but the artistic liberties that are taken away from neutral come across much more as very intentional nips and tucks than major lifts and drops. The tuning is warm without being overly heavy, with mids that grip you and highs that add just the right touch of sparkle in the right place that bring us to the word I used earlier – expressive.

Lows – Score: Strong
I think the lows will get a lot of attention here. I’ve seen a lot of owners of the OG Empyrean that are very passionate about the warmth that it brings. The EmpyII has an unquestionably warm tilt in the lows, but I would not say aggressively so. It doesn’t necessarily paint everything over with a broad brush of warmth, but instead has a slight mid-bass push that brings a lovely extra touch of warmth to mixes that are active in this area (Pop, R&B, Electric, Drums) – and in these cases, the warmth is outstanding. But if you’re looking for something that brings heavy warmth on the lows into everything, I would not say the EmpyII does that, and I think that may disappoint some of the OG fans. As you get deeper in the lows, the boosting ends. It results in an overall low end that hits but is more cloud-like than thick and comes off as quite natural. This is also reason #1 why I would not use the V-Shaped label here; sub-bass is there, but not overly so, and the extra warmth also doesn’t drift into lower-mid territory. Please don’t take “cloud-like” to mean that the bass doesn’t have impact; it indeed does. In fact, another not to pad design from Meze, the leather seal of the Duo pads do a great job of creating a nice little dynamic seal that does indeed convey low-end dynamics quite well, especially for a planar.

When it comes to overall bass quality, the EmpyII delivers here as well. As we will get to later, the EmpyII is a pretty spacious headphone, and the gear’s ability to deliver a full and present bass but with the precision that allows pinpoint location of the bass in the mix, is impressive. It also manages to deliver its warm tilt without bloat. I am a guy that listens to a lot of genres with action in the low end, and I have never been disappointed in either the quantity or quality of bass that the EmpyII has delivered. You expect a warm headphone to have a low end that brings something special to the low end, and I think Meze has achieved it here.

Mids – Score: Strong
The easiest way to open up the section about the mids is with - they are reason #2 why I wouldn’t use the V-shaped label here. In my view, to truly be V-shaped, the mids either have to be recessed/veiled, or the highs and lows have to be so distinctly elevated that the mids are indirectly recessed. None of that is on display here to the level that I would call the EmpyII V-shaped. The mids here are quite distinct and are on full display (also for reasons other than tonal balance, which I will touch on in the technical performance section). There may be an instance here or there in which the mids can be somewhat relaxed in comparison to the rest of the mix, but I have found in my listening that this is usually with prominent action at extremes of the spectrum. For example, if you are listening to a lot of bass heavy hip-hop, EDM or something along those lines, that also typically has a lot of detail action going on in the high end, vocals can take somewhat of a back seat – but even then, nowhere near on the level of something that you put on and immediately go – oh, recessed mids.

The amount of expression in the mids here is phenomenal. The naturalness on display across vocals (both male and female) and natural musical instruments is solid, but what most stands out is how the tuning of the mids combines with the tuning of the highs to create something great. Female vocals have that little bit of extra power behind them, with tasteful touches of breathiness that make artists like Adele and London Grammar truly sound transcendent. Male vocals come through with a pleasant smoothness that excels with the added warmth to a baritone voice or the added touch of throatiness from precisely tuned highs. Vocals in the mids allow you to hear the full timbre of the voice of the vocalist and all of its layers – truly awesome. Instrumentation isn’t left in the cold either. That same touch of breathiness can apply to something like a saxophone, and that same touch of extra power can apply to something like an electric guitar. The wonderful thing about the EmpyII in the mids for me is that it adds little touches like the examples I gave – but MANY more. It can be a song you’ve heard dozens of times and the EmpyII will bring a little touch that makes you go “ooo” and rewind.

Highs – Score: Strong
I know the highs are also of importance to the OG Empyrean fans, and like the lows, the highs are a bit of their own thing here. Overall, the highs are a bit lifted. However, as similar to the lows, it is not done in a way that is aggressively evident or fatiguing. You immediately notice the treble energy brought to the mids as I mentioned above, and you definitely feel the extra glisten added to certain aspects of the mid and upper treble frequencies. As with the mids, expression is on full display here. Tracks with expression in the air frequencies perform extremely well. I would say it the EmpyII brings the highs tastefully, to the edge of being called bright. It is not a headphone that I often had to adjust volume down because of a treble-heavy track coming in, but when I threw on some dubstep for example, it was a bit much.

Just as I would say the EmpyII is targeting folks that like warmth in the lows, I would also say it is targeting folks that like extra exposure to the details in the highs. I intentionally did not say extra brightness. To do a mini compare, I would call the Sennheiser HD800S an overall bright headphone, as you almost always have that sense of “sheen” when listening. With the EmpyII, you don’t get that sheen often, yet you do still get the exposure and energy of details when they are present in the track – that’s what makes the treble tuning here impressive.

(*Note: I am not a particularly treble-sensitive listener, so the EmpyII’s presented no problem for me. However, for those that are particularly treble sensitive, as I would recommend with any headphone that has lifts in the highs, it is worth checking out FR charts for this one to get a better view of the peaks, if you’re aware of what frequencies typically hit you too hard and check out other forums, perspectives, etc.)

Detail & Resolution – Score: In-Line
While we are on the topic of detail, this is something that is worth breaking down more deeply. For me, there are a few aspects of a headphone that work together that make up detail. First is whether the headphone is capable of producing and exposing the frequencies where the details lie, whether the drivers are responsive and well-tuned enough to “keep up” with the details of the music, and the last is how natural/lifelike the details of each individual piece actually are themselves.

On the first two fronts, the EmpyII performs very well. We already discussed tonal balance, so no surprise there, and at no point during my listening have I felt the drivers weren’t able to keep pace with the music. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the EmpyII’s give off an excellent sense of control – which is a very nice cherry on top of a warm and sparkly tuning. It takes quite a LOT to get these to spit out something that sounds bad (and could really only do it in one case, which I’ll touch on later).

It’s the point on being being natural and lifelike where the EmpyII comes up a bit short, sort of. On the good front, the EmpyII to my ear, never sounded artificial in any way, so that’s not what I am getting at here. This headphone simply does not take the leap into what I would call lifelike – those cases where you feel like the recording has faded away, and you’re there. I don’t think the EmpyII is weak in this area because the only two headphones I have heard that were truly this level of detail are the Focal Utopia and the Final Audio D8000 Pro, and they are both significantly more expensive than the EmpyII at USD $4,999 and $4,299, respectively. You’re still getting something great here, we are talking multi-kilobuck headphones, but it’s not at a level that I would say is special vs. the market – though I admittedly don’t own anything else in the USD$3-4k range to compare.

Technical Performance – Score: Strong
If the tuning on the EmpyII doesn’t grip you right away, the soundstage just might. Everyone has his/her/their own preference for stage, but for me, this is the most technically perfect soundstage I have ever heard. While the stage is quite large, it never presents as artificially so (again with the HD800S as a comparison here). The stage has each – immense height, above average width and distinct center depth, and all three of these combined in a headphone is a true rarity. This allows the EmpyII to position left and right relatively close to the listener and give great immersion in that wide stage and simultaneously have a relaxing feel because of a center depth that is distinctly a step back (as I also mentioned when talking about tonal balance, having the center stage distinctly a step back makes the mids often stand out more prominently). Combine this with near top to bottom of the head height, and you get a truly amazing stage. I will talk more on this in comparisons.

The positioning and layering within the stage is also stellar. When you have such a big stage to play within, with the dimensionality I described, giving each individual piece of the mix its own place the way the EmpyII does is textbook holographic. It places you in the mix in a way that is simultaneously up front to allow you to be analytical, but at the same time somewhat relaxed, allowing you to just relax and enjoy the listen – versatility.

Amplification
Just a few points on amplification here. The first is that I’ve yet to plug it into anything that ran the EmpyII’s poorly, including plugging it directly into a Nintendo Switch (serviceable but can’t get loud loud) and a cheap, $20, 3.5mm, line-in amplifier that I plugged into the 3.5mm ports on my PS5 and Series X controllers (with the amp, awesome experience and can get far louder than necessary or healthy).

The second is that the EmpyII’s also scale. My main portable is the Chord Mojo 2 and main desktop the Ferrum ERCO. The ERCO delivers a more refined experience that is noticeable, especially in the imaging clarity.

Lastly is a word on tube amplification. A bit of a mixed bag here, and for those of us in the world of tubes, the specific amp and tubes used can make a big difference. My Elise MKII is running the stock tubes, and while the result is reasonable, it is VERY warm (not surprising). This is the one instance in which I would say that the sound was not particularly good and was just too bass heavy, which for me, messed up the overall feel. My preferences aside, the results definitely weren’t disastrous, and those that want more kick or just love deep warmth, may want to give it a go.

Extended listening revision - 7 Dec 2023 - as I've had more time to experiment across genres here, my opinion on the tubes has changed a bit. I still feel this is a very warm listen through a tube, BUT it can work for the right stuff. A lot of my early listening on the tubes was electronic heavy, and that's just a ton of bass action. I can see it working very well for specialty listening where even more warmth could be good OR those that are looking for something closer to the warmer presentation of the OG Empy. My Elise MKII also really takes the bite of the treble, making an already pretty "easy" listen flat out risk to your hearing because I can crank it on the tubes without any sense of treble bite. I've never heard the OG Empy, but based on what I am seeing on the inter webs, those that like the OG and also happy to have a tube amp on hand...maybe have a listen to the II.

Pad Comparison
I have admittedly never been much for pad swapping because I have to draw the line somewhere in terms of the level of tinkering I’m willing to do and because many headphone manufacturers don’t make it particularly easy to swap pads. In the spirit of versatility, Meze has both included a second set of pads, and it makes it incredibly easy to swap them out. I’m happy to say that while the Alcantara pads won’t necessarily be my daily drivers on the EmpyII’s, they will likely get some targeted use in the right circumstances.

I am oversimplifying of course (and I am sure there will be plenty of detailed measurements and analysis done as these spend more time in the wild), but in general, the Alcantara pads thin out the added warmth in the lows a bit and give a bit more space for everything else. The warmth is still present, but tighter and toned down the extent that I would say with these pads, the headphones tilt bright – not in the sense that the highs become harsher, but simply because of the reduction of low-end prominence, the highs become the dominant part of the mix. When I am listening to things like jazz, orchestral/classical, vocal, acoustic, I could see myself loving the still overall smooth sound these bring to a more upper-detail-focused listen over the long term – especially since all of the other aspects of the listening experience discussed so far carry through, and the pad swap takes literally less than 10 seconds. I will also reference these pads in some of the comparisons.


Overall Summary & Score: Strong
I think it’s pretty obvious that I believe Meze has done something pretty great here. As someone that owns 20 pairs of headphones, I’ve never called any of them the “best” because they each have tradeoffs, and the same is true here. I own headphones that do something better than the EmpyII – I have some with more sub-bass, some with more lifelike detail, some with better technical imaging performance – but none that combine everything together this well – design, comfort and the sense you own something created by a company passionate about sound and and elevated listening experience.

As I’ve mentioned, I entered the Empyrean family on this version so never heard the original. I am genuinely interested to see how these are received by that community because based on what I have seen, I do think these have a significantly different tonal balance. If that is the case, I can understand the disappointment of OG Empyrean owners that would like an upgrade on the technical side while preserving that tonal balance. For those that are new to the Empyrean family or are looking to upgrade from a lower-tier Meze model like the 109 Pro, you are in for a treat. The Empyrean II is Meze at its best.


Epilogue: Comparisons
Putting some comparisons in that will hopefully be objectively useful for those that have heard some other things that are out there in the market. All of these I currently own as well. I’ve selected between some other multi-kilobuck TOTL models, some that are in the $1-2k range for those thinking about upgrading and the 109 Pro because it’s in the Meze family as well, and I’d consider the Empyrean line on the upgrade path. I’m going to be fairly brief on comparisons, as we are getting a bit long.

Meze 109 Pro (109)
The 109 was my first Meze product. At the time that I purchased it, I owned many other, much more expensive headphones that perform much better overall. Even still, my first track with the 109s was a “wow” moment. It is why I still own them today. I would call the Empyrean II a direct upgrade to the 109. Overall, it takes a similar approach to the FR as the 109 (warm and sparkly), but it does it in a much more refined way, and it is not as V-shaped as the 109 – the Empyrean still brings the expression but without the bloat and with more detail in extremely noticeable fashion. Soundstage is also a vast improvement. If the 109 is like sitting in a movie theatre, the EmpyII is like IMAX 3D. The Empyrean takes everything the 109 Pro does and does it better (except maybe comfort, because they are both 10/10). That said, you may have to invest in an Amp with the move to the Empyrean if you don’t have one already. The Empyrean II is relatively easy to drive, but the 109 Pro is even easier. Because the Empyrean II is so easy to drive, even something in the $100-200 range would be enough to be serviceable, and you could go up from there if you wish.

Final Audio D8000 (D8k) Pro
The D8k Pro shares a few similarities with the EmpyII, but in my view, just a few. The D8k Pro has a more prominent V-shaped tuning, starting with the fact that the mids are noticeably more relaxed. On the low side, the D8k Pro’s standout is the deep extension and prominence of the sub bass, resulting in a thicker low-end than the EmpyII. On the high side, there’s lift, but it is a “cleaner” lift than the EmpyII that makes some high action more prominent but not necessarily sparkly. The difference in timbre between the EmpyII and the D8k Pro is striking – I would say those going for a more conservative and laid back overall tonality may prefer the D8k Pro, while those looking to be intentionally warm and especially sparkly would prefer the EmpyII. Stage is also quite different on the D8K Pro, which has excellent width and decent overall depth, but lacks significant height compared to the EmpyII and doesn’t have the center depth that’s as consistently distinctly present at a second level. Where the D8k Pro wins handily is resolution. As I mentioned earlier, the resolution on the D8k Pro is lifelike level. That alone justifies the price premium of the D8K Pro over the EmpyII for some, but I would call it a close battle depending on your preferred genres and listening preferences, as there are some interesting trade-offs here.

Focal Utopia (2022)
The Utopia by many is considered to be one of the best dynamic driver headphones in the world and carries a price almost 70% higher than the EmpyII. That said, again, there are some trade offs worth discussing, the biggest two are the soundstage and similar but more conservative and mid-focused tuning of the Utopia. Starting with the simpler comparison, which is soundstage, the Utopia focuses almost entirely on height and deep center depth. Its center depth even handily exceeds the EmpyII, but the cost of that for the Utopia is a horizontal stage that is relatively small. The Utopia sort of puts everything in front of you. In terms of tonal balance, the Utopia is far more neutral. There are very light touches of warmth to the Utopia, but much lighter touches than the EmpyII, and the same can be said for the highs. Where they are a bit similar as well is the cloud-like feel of the low end – and this is a good thing. My inclination is that the Utopia gets the majority of its of its feel from the fact that it’s a dynamic driver headphone and the EmpyII more from its mid-bass bump and pad design. The Utopia also bests the EmpyII in resolution, which I would hope for its price point.

Audeze LCD-X (2021)
While I would consider the EmpyII and upgrade from the LCD-X, they are quite different headphones in terms of their presentation in pretty much every way. Full disclosure, I only use the LCD-X with EQ, but for the purposes of this comparison, I ran it stock. The Empyrean II is just a completely different headphone. The LCD-X is typical of the Audeze house sound which has very relaxed mids/upper mids. This alone gives it a distinctly different sound than the EmpyII, which does the opposite and adds more power to this region. The low-end extends deeper on the LCD-X but is more prominent on the EmpyII. The LCD-X also has a much more in your face stage that lacks the depth all around of the EmpyII. The move from the LCD-X would be a definite upgrade, but if you’re going for the same tonal balance, you’d likely have to do a LOT of EQ work – so much so that I’d say it’s not worth it because at that point you’re changing the character of the headphones.

Sennheiser HD800S (800S)
I have a love-hate relationship with the 800S. I love it for its neutrality (except for its lack of sub-bass extension) and the combination of its large soundstage + imaging performance. I dislike it for its stage sometimes sounding artificially and just too diffused, its sometimes overly shimmery highs, and its lack of low-end dynamics. These things combined make the 800S a specialist headphone in my collection that only really gets used for purely natural-instrument genres. With the full Alcantara pads on the EmpyII, I could see myself saying goodby to the 800S entirely. The EmpyII pretty much solves every one of of my dislikes of the 800S and is something I would use with more genres when I want a more neutral listen within the much bigger soundstage of the EmpyII. The issue with this is that the EmpyII is still much less neutral than the 800S and focuses more on musical expression than neutrality, in terms of tonal balance and technical performance – so my 800S may stick around as a specialist for a bit longer. Not because it is better, just because it is different.
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up late
up late
excellent first in-depth headphone review. you've set the bar very high for yourself.
A
anjohn0077
Thanks for the detailed review! I appreciate your work!
I'm currently expecting Empy II which is to be delivered by mid-January.
I'd be excited to hear more about what songs/genres you love to listen to with the new Empyreans
Pelilin
Pelilin
A lot of people say this Empy2 is very familiar with hifiman he1000se is it true?

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