Meze Audio Empyrean - Reviews
Pros: Overall tuning, changeable pads / changeable sound, comfort, style, smoothness, spectrum-wide detail retrieval
Cons: Stock cable is a bit of a bottleneck
The Empyreans might be the best headphone on the planet right now depending on your tastes. I was fortunate enough to review them a little while ago on the channel and have been in love ever since. I tend to use the leather pads almost exclusively because I love the extra bass presence they provide and I find the velours to create a slightly less realistic overall sound due to a slight upper-mid emphasis, but they still sound great overall.

Here's the full review I posted to YouTube:
Full Meze Empyrean Review
Pros: World-class mid and vocal performance. Extremely smooth and natural sound. Super comfortable fit.
Cons: The sound signature might not suit every music genre. Bass quantity can be too much for someone.
I received the Meze Empyrean back to late April as a part of the Empyrean tour. I was supposed to finish my review in the middle of May. However, I was extremely busy for the last 2 months, I don’t even have too much time log into my head-fi account. All the scheduled review was delayed in these two months, including the earlier Solaris review, which I received the AMP in February, but the review was done till the end of June. Luckily, I have written a review outline and took enough notes during the testing session which can help me to complete this review.

Anyway, I must sincerely apologize to Meze, I’m sincerely sorry about the delay. But guilty will not bias my judgment to the headphones, I will still be as objective as possible.

Intro

A few years ago, a friend of mine blind bought Meze 99 Classics and send them to me for a try. I was immediately impressed by the quality/price ratio of 99 Classics. Thus, in 2018 when Meze released their flagship planar headphones Empyrean, I had a very high expectation on them and tried them quite a few times here and there. But this the first time I have tested them on my own setup. Thanks to Meze for giving me this opportunity!

Packaging and Accessories

Open up the outside shipping box, there is a nicely built metal travel case right in front of you, it seems made of aluminum, I’m not quite sure on this. The headphones and all accessories are nicely placed in their spots.
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The demo kit comes with 3 cables: stock 1.3m OFC 3.5mm cable, 2.5m SPC PCUHD balanced 4-pin upgrade cable, and 2.5m copper PCUHD 6.35mm single-end upgrade cable. All these cables are in good quality, especially the SPC PCUHD cable which is ultra-soft, and the sound is quite good too. Also, there are 2 pairs of earpads are included in this kit, one pair of Alcantara pads and one pair of leather pads.

Design and Comfort

In terms of design and comfort, I have to give full credit to Meze. Empyrean is the most comfortable headphones that I have ever tried, there is no "one of", it is the best of the best. They perfectly cohere with my head and ears with no uncomfortable pressure. I can easily wear them for hours and possibly days if I don't need to sleep. I prefer fabric materials for ear pads over leather in terms of comfort, but both pads are extremely comfortable. The size of the headphones is big enough to cover my whole ears, and there is some extra space that allows them to breathe.

Although the design of Empyrean is relatively simple, the quality is at the top of the roof. All the joints move freely and the joint levers between drivers and headband are tight enough to prevent unexpected movement. Moreover, the copper/brass color driver shells look so stylish, aren't they? Overall, I would give a 10 out of 10 to Empyrean in this section, undisputed.
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Sound Impressions

In this review, I have tested Empyrean on Cayin HA300 and Auidovalve Solaris as two main AMPs, Bricasti M1SE as the main DAC.

The music albums (tracks) I have used for this review are:

Classic (strings): La scala di seta-- Gioachino Rossini recorded in 100 Essential Pieces of Classical Music

Classic (piano): Sonata facile-- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart recorded in 100 Essential Pieces of Classical Music

Classic (symphony): Symphony No.5 -- Ludwig van Beethoven recorded in 100 Essential Pieces of Classical Music

Classic (wind orchestra): Swan Lake Op. 20, Act II No. 10--Tchaikovsky recorded in Tchaikovsky music

EDM: Songs by Martin Garrix, Mike Williams, David Guetta, Alesso, etc.

Funk/Smooth Jazz: Live from the inside--Brian Culbertson

Metal/Metalcore: What the Dead Men Say--Trivium

Progressive Metal: Handmade Cities--Plini

Rock: Dirty Honey--Dirty Honey

POP: Continuum--John Mayer + Pop Life playlist on Tidal (sorry I really do not listen to nowadays Pop that much)

Vocal, male: 1973--James Blunt

Vocal, female: I Will Always Love You (compilations)--Whitney Houston



Tonality & Timbre

Empyrean has a warm tonality. It is more noticeable in the lower frequency, the touch of extra warmth from the mid-bass to the lower mid makes Empyrean a great choice for good school rocks like Aerosmith/Led Zeppelin. Also, I found that the extra warmth makes pianos sound almost creamy at lower keys. It is very comforting and relaxing. In the upper mid to treble region, Empyrean has a small dip at around 1-2khz which is a common issue for most planar headphones. Seemingly, the dip is more significant on Empyrean than D8000 Pro or Abyss 1266, it is closer to HEKv2. Therefore, Empyrean sounds very laidback, unaggressive. Similarly, there is a treble roll-off at around 10khz which further enhanced the laidback signature of Empyrean.

Overall, I would say Empyrean is very coherent from the bottom to the top. It implements the laidback signature throughout the entire frequency range. It is warm, laidback, and sounds full, rich at the same time. For some reason, Empyrean reminds me of HD650 in terms of timbre and tonality.

Bass

When you put on Empyrean, you will immediately notice that there is a lot of bass. It would be bass heaven for bassheads. The bass focuses more on impact than physical attacks. Although the bass quantity might be too much for some, I never feel a sense of pressure coming from the bass region. I think that’s mainly because Empyrean offers a good amount of bass decay, which creates a cozy feeling.

Quality-wise, Empyrean's bass is good but not the best. It has top-level bass details and a very good bass texture. The sub-bass can reach very deep and still maintain a good figure. It also sounds pretty linear from sub-bass to upper bass. However, I do wish it could be a bit faster. The bass size is also a bit too big for my preference.

I think the biggest issue of Empyrean’s bass is that it limits the genre versatility of the headphones, and it also makes Empyrean a little bit picky to the source. The warm yet mild (in terms of speed) mid-bass from Empyrean makes it a good choice for rock and POP genres, but not so much for metal which requires a much faster response. Similarly, Empyrean is great for some EDM genres like traditional house, deep house, or even some future house tracks, but it is not so good with hardcore, dance and electro house. Also, you need to be careful to choose the right amplifier. You will need an amplifier that has good bass control, clarity, and vertical stage, otherwise you might face the bass bleeding issue.

I prefer the bass from leather pads. It sounds tighter and has more control. With the Alcantara pads, it sounds warmer but slower in the mid-bass.

Mid

This the most beautiful part of Empyrean! God, I wish words can describe how beautiful it is. The vocal from Empyrean is extremely smooth and with the right amount of warmth and sweetness. The vocal presentation is upfront, but not in your face. You can get lots of details in the mid-range, but the details do not take place in the major part of the music.

Instruments sound very full, rich, and vivid. As a musician, I would say the instruments are embellished but in a good way, they sound unreal but very natural. Empyrean ideally expressed what I wish the instrument should sound like instead of what they actually do. It is more significant when compared to headphones like Kennerton Thror. Where the instruments from Empyrean sounds smoother, more euphonic, and more fluid; they sound more realistic but raw from Thror.

Ultimately, I think the mid from Empyrean is about perfect in a music enthusiast/ audiophile’s perspective. Because when we are listening to the music records with hi-end headphones we only care about how beautiful the "reinterpretation" is, so we will need some "artificial flavors" more or less. I think Empyrean added just the right amount of spice to the music in the mid-range which makes the mid sound not necessarily “real” but very “natural” and beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, Empyrean doesn’t sound fake by any means. It just perfectly balanced the tonality and the reducibility.

The leather pads offer a touch more details than Alcantara pads. The Alcantara pads make Empyrean sounds slightly warmer and fuller than the leather pads. The difference is not as significant as it is in the bass region.

Treble

The treble of Empyrean follows the overall signature. The small dip at around 10khz makes the treble a bit dark but very smooth. The treble quantity is not aggressive compare to other headphones in my collection. However, the treble is full-bodied with excellent texture and details. There are some sparkles in the upper treble which makes the sound relaxing but not boring by any sense.

Overall, the treble is tuned naturally and nicely coherent with mid and bass. But I really hope the treble could be more energetic and denser. Sometimes, I feel Empyrean is a little bit lack of transparency, or in other words, it is not as vivid as I expected.

Stage and Image

Empyrean's soundstage is large enough, it is capable of large-scale symphony. It is three-dimensional with a touch extra horizontal width. The soundstage is a lot more natural than HD800. The image size suits very well with the stage size, the instrument separation is just right. You can hear all the instruments placed in the right positions. It is not the airiest headphones in my collection, both Susvara and D8000Pro is slightly airier than Empyrean. But I don’t find it lacks air or too dark.

Pairing

Empyrean is not hard to drive, it is rated 31.6Ω and 101dB SPL. I paired Empyrean with Cayin N8 during Canjam NYC, the sound is fairly healthy. However, I do think a desktop setup is necessary to reveal all the strengths of Empyrean.

I tried Empyrean on both Cayin HA300 and Audiovalve Solaris. With HA300, the bass is more controlled the bass figure is leaner. 300B tubes also add more sweetness to the mid and vocal, this combination delivers an extremely euphoric and enjoyable sound. The treble now has more air and sounds more refined.

While Solaris adds more body to the Empyrean from the bottom to the top, I felt the sound is fuller and harder. The bass becomes tighter and has more physical attacks. The mid is more upfront, but it is not as smooth as it is when paired with HA300 especially in the upper mid. Similar in the treble, Empyrean sounds slightly more energetic and edgier compare to HA300+Empyrean combo.

Comparison

Empyrean vs D8000 Pro

Empyrean and D8000 Pro have similar power requirements. However, the sound signatures are quite different. Empyrean has a fuller and warmer sound, while D8000 Pro is more neutral and flatter. D8000 Pro has more bass attack, hit harder and faster, Empyrean has more sub-bass rumble. In the mid, D8000 Pro doesn’t have the sweetness that Empyrean has, the vocal is also more distant. D8000 Pro has more treble sparkles, it sounds slightly airier and more energetic. Both of them sound smooth and refined. Empyrean has a wider soundstage, D8000 is deeper.

Empyrean vs Susvara

Susvara requires a lot more power than Empyrean. Signature-wise, Susvara is calmer and more distant. Susvara has less bass, but the bass is also tighter and has more details. In the mid, Susvara’s vocal is more distant and thinner. The treble is a touch smoother on Empyrean, well Susvara is brighter and airier. The soundstage is about the same on both headphones, Susvara has better resolution and transparency, Empyrean has more organic sounding harmony.

Empyrean vs 1266 TC

Similar to the Susvara, 1266 TC requires lots of power too. 1266 TC’s sound is more backboned and also more balanced. The energy is almost perfectly distributed between bass and treble. In the bass, 1266 TC reaches deeper, slams harder. Empyrean has warmer mid-bass, more quantity but hit softer and slower. In the mid and vocal, Empyrean sounds livelier, the vocal is more upfront, you will have a more realistic mid image on 1266TC though. In the treble, both are very smooth, the lower treble from Empyrean is fuller and more natural. 1266 on the other side has more upper treble energy and more impactful extension.

Conclusion

Empyrean is a great yet unique offering to the market. Nowadays, most TOTL planar headphones or dynamic headphones are trying to be as "impressive" as possible. They either offer huge expansive soundstage or a crazy amount of details. But Meze impressed me in a different way. There is no insane soundstage or details, but they are so reliable and comfortable for long listening sessions which is one of the most important things to the users but often time has been overlooked.

Every time I put them on, I feel my ears are at home. The sound is warm, cozy, and refined. No matter what songs I throw to Empyrean, it can perform them at a very high level. Empyrean might not be the best-sounding headphones in the market. It is not a headphone that you can show off to your friends and easily impress them, but if you like the signature of Empyrean, it can be one of your lifelong patterner.
Icenine2
Icenine2
Great review!
Got them, love them!
Pros: Beautiful and durable build. Extremely comfortable. Easily replaceable pads. Detachable cables. Musical, warm and engaging sound. Robust carrying case.
Cons: Treble is pretty soft. Bass "punch" could have been better with respect to price. Cost. Despite specs., doesn't really play well with mobile devices. Driver housings easily free spin which causes cord twisting.

To date I’ve a very fond appreciation towards Meze products. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing 3 iems, 2 of which I see that they no longer offer, those 2 being the 11 Neo and 12 Classics respectively and their flagship, the Rai Penta. Their over ear model 99 Classics even won my Product of the Year award back in 2016 with how much they impressed me. Fast forward 4 years and I was given the honor of being invited to take part in a tour they established to review their flagship product, the $3,000 behemoth, Meze Empyrean also known as the highest part of Heaven.
Coming into this review, I had extremely high expectations considering Meze’s previous track record and considering this product costs 3 grand. Fast forward 2 weeks of very extensive listening and I must now complete this review for it’s time to send this product off to the next. So please allow me to discuss with you my thoughts on the Meze headphones flagship product, Empyrean.

A little about me
I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.
I'm a firefighter for both the civilian and military sector and the cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.
I enjoy fishing and relaxing to audio products and then reviewing them to help others decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.
Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.
My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.
Equipment used at least some point during the review
-Amp.(s)
-Audio-Technica AT-HA5000
-D.A.C.(s)
-PS Audio DigitalLink 3 w/ Cullen Stage IV Upgrade
-Sources
-LG G8 Thin Q/HP Pavilion
-Playing Pandora, YouTube, and various format personal music
-Misc.
-Source Cleaner
-iFi Audio Nano iUSB3.0
Disclaimer
I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.
The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.


The Opening Experience
Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience
Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short, implies to the other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.
As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’
This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this product introduced itself shall we?

*IMPORTANT NOTE* The default cable that comes with the Empyrean is ONLY the 3.5mm cable. The other 2, being the copper and silver cables, can be purchased as an optional accessory for $349 & $499 respectively.


Construction


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The build quality of the Meze Empyrean is absolutely both beautiful and top notch. The framework uses machined aluminum that keeps with the traditional Meze elegance with the face plate being a very royal appearing copper color, but one can opt for an all black look if that’s your forte. The headband is made from ultra light yet strong carbon fiber with the support band being real leather. Also on the support band, Meze engraved the word Empyrean on the top along with a “L” and “R” to quickly discern which way it goes on your head. The ear cups slide up and down on a smooth cylindrical shaft which provide ample size options so just about anyone can utilize the Empyrean comfortably; additionally, they’re able to rotate a full 360 degrees however be mindful of your cable when doing that to prevent tangles and excessive twisting. Lastly, the cups themselves are easily interchangeable and even come with 2 sets of pads, one real leather and the other, a personal favorite, alcantara.
As for the cable(s) themselves. You’re provided the standard cable by default, that you can choose at time of purchase which termination you desire, but if you so choose you can opt in to purchase their copper or silver branded PCUHD cable(s) for an extra $349 and/or $499 respectably. With the above being said, it’s pretty much a given but the cables are detachable however, though not proprietary, the headphone connection is fairly specialized so finding third party aftermarket cables may take a little bit of work.
As far as the product durability is concerned though I did not personally test it, I honestly have no concerns about these headphones in the least. I feel that, heaven forbid, with what the Empyrean’s are made from and the overall craftsmanship, these headphones can most certainly handle a drop without issue and should serve you faithfully for the indefinite future.
So my final thoughts on the Empyrean’s construction is that it’s truly a top notch summit-fi quality product in both appearance and durability. Meze did not hold back when they were designing their flagship product and I for one truly feel like I’m holding a top of the line product which is very nice considering many other flagship and equally price tiered products claim they focus solely on sound so they cheap out on the construction.

Comfort

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A great build quality is nice but that’s fairly null if the darned things can’t be comfortably worn for long listening sessions. Thankfully, that is absolutely not the case with the Empyrean headphone. Regardless if you decide to use the leather pads or the alcantara, at least with my own experience, you can comfortably listen with either and have absolutely no difficulties for in excess of 6 hours (though I can’t comment on the headphone head you’ll have though). The way that Meze distributes the weight makes these headphones, though not disappear, hardly noticeable.
The ease of use with the sliding cylinder makes finding that sweet spot very easy regardless if it’s on your head or not and once found, it stays and doesn’t drift. The clamping force also hits that nice goldilox zone of being just tight enough to feel secure but in no way constricting or forceful.

Sound

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Before I start this section. It should go without saying but though I link YouTube videos when I’m giving examples, this is for convenience only. If applicable, I HIGHLY encourage you to listen to the music I’m referencing on as high a quality as possible to experience the fullest sound possible.

The first thing I experienced when I played the first track through the Meze Empyrean is how, as tacky as it sounds, liquid smooth the sound is. Like water, the Empyrean’s sound is so crystal and ambient that I find it hard to critically listen to them; I’m just so swept away in the music. The soundstage is intimate and personal while being impressively directional. The tonality is warm and inviting and musical yet still not heading any detail. A piece I use a lot and also one that really plays well with the Empyrean is the Koto piece called Tenkyu by Magiwa Hashimoto. Listen to it and you’ll notice just how calm yet authoritative the Empyrean can be without being aggressive.
Another major bonus note that the Empyrean employees over many other top of the line products is that they’re very efficient at 32ohms of resistance (31.6 to be specific) and also boast a 100dB sensitivity which means that they can be driven by just about any mobile device. Now, with that said, there’s a very notable drop in performance when driven as such. So though these can be driven mobile the entirety of my review is based off of them being powered via my home setup using their optional $349 copper cable.

Treble

The highs on the Empyrean continues my earlier motion of the crystalline smoothness I stated the Empyrean’s possess. Now, I will state that I can foresee some not enjoying the treble on the Empyrean not due to their sharpness but instead its softness. Though the musical enjoyment is wonderful and each instrument is unique and can be separated in the ensemble, it’s notably softer than what the instrument originally sounds like. I don’t believe that there’s a roll off similar to my PM-1’s for the treble does have impressive extension, it’s just much softer at standard listening levels. Two pieces that showcase what I mean are Crescent Moon Dance by Akito Matsuada and Winter by Paul Halley.


Mids

Imma just skip my usual spill about my feelings about the mids because good gosh are these some of the most creamiest and full bodied mids I’ve ever heard very much so rivaling that of my reference and beloved Oppo PM-1. The vocals are forward and take focus over the rest and are so lifelike and real that when I close my eyes I am being sung to. It makes no difference if it’s female vocalists such as Adele or Jane Zhang or male vocalists such as John Moreland or Johnny Cash they all come through true and lifelike and personal that you can not just experience but almost feel their emotion and/or sorrow. Listen to the songs Hurt by Johnny Cash and Love in the Dark by Adele and tell me otherwise. When it comes to instrumentals the same sentiments of realness and calm ambiance remain. Guitars really portray this as the piece Last of the Mocians performed by Luca Stricagnoli proves.
I can continue providing examples of how amazingly warm and beautiful the Empyrean’s mids are but I’d just be rambling. There’s very few headphones, at least that I’ve personally experienced over my 5 years of reviewing and 3 years of enthusiasm before, that compete so strongly with my PM-1’s and I hope that statement really nails in how stunning the Empyreans performance is.

Bass

Finally there’s the bassline. Since these are the world's first isodynamic hybrid array driver (I’m not an engineer so I’ve no idea what that all entails) I don’t have any past experience to compare them directly to but of course the same can be said for all of the sounds aspects listed previously. The bass on the Empyrean is very fast and very controlled. Similar to that of the PM-1 I can’t call these very impactful headphones because I never got that hit in my chest but in that same breath I was just about always very content with the level of bass I was given. My go to band and song to warm up my workout with is Jekyll and Hyde by Five Finger Death Punch. Though I don’t wear these when I’m doing a workout of course they’re great to get me warmed up because the bass attack and depth portrays all the adrenaline needed. If you like a real drum to be your reference then please look no more to another personal favorite of mine Fertility of the Sea as performed by the Senzoku Gakuen College

Conclusion

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To conclude my thoughts on the flagship product of the Meze brand, I find these headphones to be truly every ounce of flagship and top of the line status they claim. From the strong materials put together in a beautiful and elegant finish to the breathtakingly warm and musical sound that is mastered by them, I yet again find myself awe stricken by what Meze is capable of. I compared the Empyrean to my ever faithful and beloved reference headphone the Oppo PM-1 many times throughout this review and for good reason, the Empyrean, as much as I’m surprised to say this, not only gives it a run for it’s money but, in some respects, even beats it. The largest downside with the Empyrean is absolutely the staggering price tag. A product costing 3 grand is plagued with that ever well known term called diminishing returns but for those who’re fortunate enough to be able to afford this masterpiece and truly want the most musical experience that I’ve personally heard, then look no further than the Meze Empyrean.


BONUS

I've also created a VS. video comparing these and my own beloved Oppo PM-1. Didn't think I'd ever feel I had to make one.


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Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.
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pataburd
pataburd
The Meze's ultimate lack of extension, at both ends [treble and bass], were the deal breakers for me.
gancanjam
gancanjam
Nice review ! Agree with your observation on the Treble, to me ..for Treble smoothness instead of rolling off the highs, what Mezze has done is to smoothen the harsher lower Treble area around 6Khz - 8 Khz and then extended the Highs after 10Khz region so the Treble sound is not rolled off, comes out more airier but still smoother, but it does misses some Treble details
dmdm
dmdm
I absolutely love my pair. Fantastic headphones all around. I have quite a selection of flagships and these are incredible.
Pros: beautiful build quality, well tuned and voiced, most effortless delivery I’ve heard to date.
Cons: Cost, unforgiving of poor sources.


disclaimer: I received the Meze Empyrean as part of a review tour. I got to keep it for 14 days before sending it on to another reviewer. I have no financial interest in Meze or any of its distributors but will admit to owning the 99 Classic and having reviewed the Rai Penta previously so I have spoken to Anto Meze in the past and do have at least a casual acquaintance there. If you are interested in Meze products or the Empyrean, visit their website. To purchase the Empyrean in the USA, I recommend TTVJ , I have no financial interest in Todd’s business either but know he is a stand up guy and when purchasing something this pricy, personal service is required.

Unboxing / Packaging:
Well for starters, when unboxing a $3200 headphone, one has a right to expect things to be extraordinary and from the word go, the Empyrean delivers. Once the outer box is opened, it reveals an anodized aluminum briefcase with a small booklet on top introducing the Empyrean. Opening the case reveals the headphones, 2 sets of pads, 3 cables, and various warranty cards, thank you notes (signed by Anto no less), and instructions all packed neatly in their own compartments in the foam to prevent scratches and bumps in transit. Hinges are aluminum and the only plastic in sight is the handle and some parts of the locks. Overall, it is a very sturdy case and while I’d stop short of using it as luggage, it’s ready for about anything short of that kind of abuse. The included pads are leather and alcantara and do alter the sound a bit (more on that later). Cables include a portable 3.5 single ended, a heavier braid 6.3mm, and a pro-style XLR terminated cable so pretty much all use cases are covered. (As a reminder, this is what is included on the tour, the retail package has one of the three cables with the other two being add-ons that can be ordered separately). I must say this pretty much sets the bar for unboxing experiences as it made the Hifiman presentation box seem a bit cheap by comparison.

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Build/Fit:
The first thing I noted when lifting the Empyrean out of the case was the weight, or more precisely lack thereof. I expected them to be heavier based on the look and materials but they are quite pleasant and weighed a bit less than some others in my collection. The headband is quite flexible and relies on the weight of the cups to help with tension. This makes for a very comfortable rig, but one that I don’t recommend using during periods of activity as it will not stay in place as readily as others with more clamping force. Having said that, no-one really wears these on their treadmill do they? Fit and finish is extremely well done with anodizing matching between parts to a degree that is hard to accomplish. I even borrowed my daughter to test a few parts with a spectrocolorimeter she had been playing with from the university and found most pieces were either exact or within a very small tolerance. When a colorimeter has trouble finding the differences, you know your anodizing is well matched. At first glance it looks to be very few parts, but closer inspection reveals there are quite a few smaller parts. Adjustments for example have the vertical cup height controlled by a friction control using the copper colored shafts, this also lets the cups pivot on the vertical axis. Below that, the empyrean uses a different style connection between the cup and gimbals than is typical. Usually we see a pivot at the junction between cup and frame and the frame itself is solid, but here the junction between frame and cup is solid with a hinge instead being located at the junction of the horizontal and vertical frame components. A close look at the last two photos in the group below shows the joint in both relaxed and extended position, what cant be seen in the photos is the fact that the joint is spring loaded and helps maintain a good seal and provides some of the clamping function of the Empyrean rather than relying on pressure from the headband. The cups are beautifully machined and finished as well and pads are magnetically attached so are very easy to swap without risking damage to pad or frame in the process. Again impressive workmanship all around.

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Internals:
The driver in the Empyrean is made for Meze by Rinaro Isodynamics. Rinaro started out as a Soviet era government run research firm and has evolved since the collapse into an international concern making high end acoustic components. The driver in the Empyrean is listed as a hybrid and can best be thought of as an attempt to blur the lines between a planar magnetic and an electrostatic driver. It has the advantages of a planar in the sense that it does not need a high voltage energizer, but utilizes a diaphragm not dissimilar to an electrostatic in form or function. Also, with two different traces (the circular at the lower end and the serpent shape above) the Empyrean can be thought of as similar to a dual driver but on a single membrane and thus not requiring a crossover. Per Rinaro, the Serpent handles the lower frequencies while the circular driver handles the upper frequencies Per Meze and Rinaro, the advantages are reduced weight and greater reaction speed which in turn reduces THD and improves sensitivity. Meze touts the Empyrean as a flagship you can run off a phone without amplification and while I did find it scales qualitatively (more than a little too), it does indeed work well from a phone. Specs back this up as the empyrean is listed as 31.6Ω with a sensitivity of 100dB/mW. For more information on internals, see Meze website as it goes into considerable detail.

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Cables:
Under normal circumstances, when one orders the Empyrean they are presented with the choice of three cable options. You can request that yours be shipped with one of the following; the 3 meter cable with 6.3mm jack, a 1.3meter cable with 3.5mm jack for portable use, or a 3 meter 4 pin XLR balanced cable. All cables terminate at the headphone end with mini XLR terminations. There are also two upgrade options sold on the Meze website, a Silver plated model at $499 and a copper at $349. Both are made of ultra-high draw-ability single crystal copper with 140 conductors in 8 wire braid up to the splitters and then two 4 wire braids above that point. All use Jensen silver solder for all connections and TPE Sleeves to protect the wire from oxidation. I found all cables well made and with good functionality. All show the same level of craftsmanship expected as part of this package. I have no source that will accept all three of these style of cables without at least one of them requiring an adapter so will refrain from any discussion of how cables impact the sound as I have no way of attributing 100% of changes made to a cable and not either changes in source or adapters used.

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Sound:
Before diving into a discussion of sound, we need to address the pads. The Empyrean ships with Alcantara and Leather pads and the two do offer slightly different tunings. Choosing leather produces the more neutral signature of the two (somewhat surprisingly as usually leather enhances bass) while the alcantara does boost the bass very slightly and creates a slightly warmer sound with a very mild recess to the lower mids as a result. I found myself preferring the leather pads, but those who like a touch more warmth may well opt for the Alcantara version. The good news here is the attachment system designed by Meze is one of the best I have encountered and means if you feel like changing pads frequently, there is little risk of damage to either the pad or the cup, and little time involved in making the swap as no intricate operations are required. Simply lift one pad away from the cup starting at the top and lower the other into place starting at the bottom. In practice when using due care this operation takes about a minute including retrieving the new set of pads from the case and placing the removed set back in it.

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Bass:
With the leather pads in place, the Empyrean is near ruler flat from the low 20s where roll off becomes evident up through roughly 1kHz. Bass is well detailed, and very quick in both attack and decay leaving just a little lingering warm in the mid bass. While not bass boosted, the Empyrean does have good rumble and slam when called upon and can in no way be considered bass shy either. This is where source material and components will play a huge role in the users perception of the Empyrean. If the track is boomy, muddy, or overly aggressive, the Empyrean will be as well. If the track simply doesn’t go much below the 50Hz mark, the Empyrean will appear to roll-off higher up. If however the stars align and a good track on good gear is presented, the Empyrean does a masterful job of presenting it in full detail and with its entire dynamic range on display.

The Alcantara pads do add a small mid-bass bump with a bit more attendant warmth and a slight step back of the lower mids. Those looking for a bit of extra warmth may prefer this signature, but for me the leather pads were the better option.

Mids:
If you’re read my reviews, you’ll know that I am a lover of mids and the fastest way to elicit negative comments from me is to obscure them with too much bass bleed, recess them behind the upper-mids/lower treble, or thicken them too much and present an unnatural timbre to strings. Turns out the way to elicit positive remarks is to make a headphone that presents the mids with a mild forward push as you move toward the upper-mids/lower treble (leather pads) with stunning clarity and detail and a very effortless presentation. Strings have good tonality all the way through the range, which is no small feat in itself. I think the thing I was most taken by was the layering and how cleanly the Empyrean is able to stack different voices in complex tracks with no hint of thickening or compression to the sound. This is easily one of the best headphones I’ve heard for listening to string quartet or full orchestral pieces for that reason. Upper-mids are emphasized and vocals do step forward of the mix as a result. This is especially true with higher vocals that are presented a bit closer to the listener than their lower counterparts.

Treble:
With mids being the star here, treble takes a slight step back, not enough to be detrimental, but enough to keep the laid-back easy going nature of the Empyrean intact. With the upper-mid boost, it would be easy to become a bit strident if the treble were allowed to simply follow the same path. Luckily, the lower treble falls back gently from the mids and gives enough energy to feel open and to present percussion well, without any tendency to be harsh. Snare rattle is realistic and high-hats sound good as well with no metallic sound and no dullness to the crash. Here again detail is very good with speed giving the empyrean a clean overall sound. Remember here that clean and sterile are different things and the Empyrean is in no way sterile. ng sessions.

Soundstage / Imaging:
The stage on the Empyrean is well proportioned and well sized and seems quite natural. Instrument separation is extremely good and seating the orchestra is straight forward with no large overlaps or gaps between and no incidents of misplaced items side to side vs front to back. I came away feeling as the Empyrean does a good job of mimicking the actual stage size of an orchestra and while not cavernous like the HD800 can be, it did a good job of reproducing the actual venue for live performances. This is the one place I felt the alcantara pads had the upper hand in that the stage depth was markedly larger with the alcantara than the leather. Imaging is spot on as well with objects being easily tracked in space and positions being very tightly defined in space. Layering was extremely good with no tendency to compress as tracks got busier and no blurring or thickening when playing tracks like Blues hand me down that is notorious for causing both.

Synergy:
I tried to mate the Empyrean with a bit of everything just to see what it liked and what it didn’t.

In the desktop arena, I used a Valhalla/Bifrost combo, a Topping D90MQA/Valhalla combination, D90MQA with Asgard2 and Burson Fun, Burson Swing/Fun, Auris Euterpe, and Xduoo Ta-30.

For portable testing, I used the Shanling M5s, DTR1, WM1A, Earmen TR-amp, Xduoo XD-05+, and the ifi iDSD micro.

While the Empyrean did well with everything, it actually performed best with some of the lower powered sources. Of the desktop sets I used, I found the Euterpe to be a fantastic pairing when a warmer 12at7 was used in the pre-amp (Mullard/Amperex) as they gave the Empyrean a little more warmth. The Burson combination was also very good and provided the most detailed performance of the day, but was a bit cooler and came off as slightly less musical and more analytical than the Euterpe.

Portable use went to the DTR1 and Earmen TR-Amp as the best matches as both offered great detail and good dynamics. If I had to chose only one, I’d probably go with the Tr-amp as it could be used in both portable and desktop roles, but the DTR1 is so convenient on the go, its hard to argue against.

The least compatible of the bunch was probably the Ta-30 as while it sounded good, the brute force of an amp capable of pushing nearly 4 watts simply isnt needed with the Empyrean and left the user with very little usable volume adjustment. The Ta-03s on the other hand was a much better fit for those looking at a small desktop tube DAC/amp.

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Thoughts / Conclusion:
The Empyrean stakes a claim to being one of the world’s best with its price tag, and in large measure backs up that claim with its build and performance. The fact that it can be driven by a low powered source makes it a rarity in that realm, and the fact that it has nearly the speed of an electrostatic without requiring an energizer puts it in a class with very few competitors (LCD-4). While comparing the LCD4 to the Empyrean, the first thing I noticed was how much more fluid the delivery of the Empyrean is. While the LCD4 may be ever so slightly more detailed, it definitely doesn’t have the musicality or easy going nature of the Empyrean. Nothing I threw at the Empyrean could make it struggle, nothing weighed it down, or sounded off. It simply took everything I had to throw at it in stride as if it was all in a day’s work. In that regard, I find the Empyrean not unlike most of Meze products in that they all seem to share a laid-back, easy going demeanor which makes their delivery sound nearly effortless. Some like the 99s sacrifice some level of detail for that smoothness, the Empyrean shows that when given an unlimited budget, that trade off doesn’t have to be made. I came away understanding why those with the funds to do so, invest in the Empyrean, and while I may not have $3300 to spend on a headphone myself, I can’t fault those who do. It is a spectacular way to put on your favorite playlist and lose track of time. I found it hard at times to remember I was supposed to be reviewing it and listening for technical details and not just enjoying the music. The only knock on the Empyrean is that for the price, I would like to see both a portable (3.5 terminated) and an XLR or pentaconn terminated desktop cable included in the bundle. That is what kept the accessory score from reaching the level of the other categories.

Attachments

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pataburd
pataburd
Odd, I found the Empyreans to be among the most forgiving headphones I have heard.
dmdm
dmdm
I find that I like the lcd 4 and the empys the same. Both fabulous cans.
rskbug
rskbug
At this price point there should be absolutely NO Cons at all.
Pros: Design, build quality, mature and detailed sound, driver tech, and musical delivery
Cons: Not the most resolving headphone
PREFACE

This is my first experience with any Meze product. I was contacted by Andy Kong asking if I wanted to be a part of an Empyrean loaner tour and I replied with an emphatic YES! So many thanks to Andy. With that said, all opinions and views are my own. They were formed through hours of listening and comparisons.

PACKAGING

The Empyreans arrived double boxed. Once you get pass the cardboard outer boxes you are greeted with what I think is an aluminum, briefcase style, headphone carrying case. Open up the case and you’re met with a beautiful black and copper headphone. The carrying case is compartmentalized and nicely laid out. There is a spot for the cables, the headphone, the extra set of earpads and pamphlets.

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BUILD

The Empyrean are built in Romania. They sport an aluminum frame with a carbon fiber and leather headband. The headband is designed with suspension wings. This is a break away from the traditional styled headbands.
The purpose of the suspension wings is to increase the surface contact area on the head to relieve uncomfortable pressure points. This design works very well. The Empyreans felt sturdy, comfortable and secure on my head no matter which direction I moved. The comfort allowed me to focus on the sound and not have to putz around with the fit or positioning of the headphone. In contrast, the HD820’s I owned, had a very lose clamp force. They would slide around on my head and repositioning them altered the sound. Eventually, I grew tired of this and sold them.

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DRIVER

The Empyreans are the world’s first isodynamic driver. It’s designed and developed for Meze Audio by Rinaro Isodynamic’s. Taken from the website, the driver consists of fiberglass infused ABS frame, the Rinaro Isoplanar diaphragm, and a hybrid magnetic array placed on both sides of the diaphragm.

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The Hybrid design on the voice coil consists of two different trace patterns. The “spiral” coil is positioned directly next to the ear canal and produces the mids and highs. This enables more direct sounds to enter the ear without any time delays.

The “switchback” coil is positioned at upper part of the driver coil. It’s dedicated to low-end reproduction. According to Meze, these unique shapes allow the sound to be targeted with more accuracy around the natural form of the ear. The two different voice coil patterns generate an increased exposure of direct sound wave frequencies over the 10kHz range and improves imaging and localization by decreasing the impact of shortwave time delays caused by diffused field reflections.

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This goes hand in hand as to what I was hearing. The entire sound field of the Empyreans always sounded elevated throughout the entire frequency range. The sound was more direct in my ears while still sounding expansive.

The ear pads have an ovoid shape with ferromagnetic plates on the interior. This unique design works with the magnets to create a demagnetizing field generated by the driver to hold the ear cups in place. At the same time redirecting the magnetic field back into the driver and improving driver efficiency. This tech is called Isomagnetic ear cushion coupling technology. To exchange ear pads it is as simple as pulling off one pad and replacing it with another. There are other headphones that have magnet earpads, Abyss and Klipsch. But they don’t incorporate a metal mesh plate as a driver cover to serve as a secondary purpose.

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PADS

The Empyreans come with two sets of pads, leather and Alcantara. The pads do have an effect on the sound. The Alcantara adds some warmth and low-end presence to the sound. At the same time, the mids get pushed back slightly removing some of the forwardness of the leather pads. What’s interesting about the Alcantara pads is you get a little more low-treble presence. Making the Empyrean’s sound almost v-shaped. I found these pads worked great for rap and hip-hop, pop where you want a more bass to your sound.

The leather, which I preferred, made the Empyrean’s more neutral sounding, painted a more vivid image, and sounded more energetic. Micro and macro dynamics, resolution, and transparency are on display with the leather pads. The midrange is more forward sounding and engaging.

I like the more detailed sound of the leather pads. With the Alcantara pad, you do lose some of that midrange magic, that makes the Empyrean’s appealing headphone. But if you like a little more warmth to your sound, smoother timbre, and a little more bass presence the Alcantara pads are the way to go.

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CABLES

The Meze Empyrean’s tour sample came with three cables: stock, Furukawa PCUHD copper, and Furukawa Silver Plated PCUHD Copper. The Furukawa PCUHD silver-plated upgrade cable costs $499.00 dollars. Furukawa PCUHD copper upgrade cable will cost you $349.00 dollars.

I tried the stock cable last, which as it turned out is not bad. It doesn’t pull out the hyper details of the Silver Plated PCUHD Copper, but it also isn’t as laid back as the PCUHD copper. It sits perfectly in between the two sound wise.

The Furukawa PCUHD copper cable were a little too warm sounding for my ears. Even with the leather pads, the loss of detail to my ears was too big of a compromise. The Empyrean’s, I feel are already on the warmer sound of neutral. Any more warming of the sound is not needed. The PCUHD copper on the Empyrean’s with the Alcantara pads invoked too much softness, loss of clarity, and loss of some of the technical prowess which make these great sounding headphones. The addition of the leather pads with PCUHD copper cable did bring back some of the detail that was lost.

The Furukawa Silver Plated PCUHD Copper is my favorite of the three. This cable coupled with the leather earpads really elevate the sound of the Empyreans. The Silver Plated PCUHD Copper cable really opens up the sound of the Empyreans. Bass tightens up and the treble gains some air. This cable with the Alcantara pad does add some low-end grunt, but you lose out on bass definition. This cable with the leather pads makes the Empyrean more transparent sounding. The detail retrieval and clarity level both increase as well.

So, depending on what pad and cable combination you choose, the sound can be tailored to your liking.

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SOUND

First thing that jumps out at you is how efficient the Empyrean’s are. I started off with my Conductor 3XR at 30 on the volume display on high gain. I settled with a volume setting around 20, but kept the high gain setting. Now that my ears are happy, let’s get on to describing the sound. I started my listening experience off with the Alcantara pads and Empyrean silver plated PCUHD cable. Listening to Rebelution’s “Bright Side of Life” the P.R.A.T. was unbelievable. Bass was tight and deep. I could clearly distinguish the thump from the bass drum from the rhythmatic bass grooves of the bass guitar.

The midrange was smooth and engaging. Vocals had perfect placement in relationship to the rest of the band. Female voices sounded sultry with a hint of sweetness. Male voices sounded wonderfully natural. The midrange as a whole, is much like the headphone itself, very musically engaging.

The treble has excellent clarity and detail. There is no sharpness or splashiness to the notes. The treble with the Alcantara pads does seem rounded off. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it almost guarantees that no sibilance gets introduced no matter what volume level you’re listening too.

Change over to the leather pads and things improve. The bass becomes more taunt and defined with better depth. The midrange becomes more balanced, forward sounding, and energetic. The treble becomes airier, lively and more extended. The Empyrean’s sound like a different headphone musically. The leather pads also bring about changes to the instrument separation and soundstage. The sound space widens and gains a bit more depth. Instrument placement gains pin-point precision.

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COMPARISIONS

vs the Audeze LCD-4z

The Meze Empyrean and the Audeze LCD-4z share similar traits. I thought this would be a good comparison because of that. They’re both on the warm side of neutral, but the 4z’s are warmer sounding. To gauge the bass response of both headphones I choose Lorn’s “Acid Rain” to listen too. The bass on both headphones exhibited a flat, linear response down to the sub bass frequencies with excellent depth. The bass on the 4z’s had plenty of ear shaking rumble. It was both extended and deep. The bass on Empyrean’s had a bit more impact. The Empyreans also and had a bit more volume and energy in the sub bass region. The bass on the Empyrean’s also came across cleaner with more definition, more texture and was livelier. In the bass category, advantage Empyrean’s

Moving on to the midrange I listened to Enya “Orinoco Flow”. In this song Enya’s vocals have a nice reverberation effect. There’s a lot going on in this song. You have the stringed instruments providing the bass, Enya’s vocals on top of them and the short, quick shake of the marimbas in the highs. Both headphones displayed good separation of the instruments and vocals. The both headphones have shown they can image very well during this track also.

The Empyrean’s have the distinction of being clearer and more forward throughout the midrange. The reverb on Enya’s vocals is more defined. The echoes seem to float out in space. The marimbas hits were a bit too sharp. Other than that, the treble clarity was excellent on the Empyreans with a greater sense of space.

The 4z’s displayed Enya’s vocals in much smoother fashion. The vocals were a little sweeter on the 4z’s and had a more natural tone to them. The sharpness in the marimba hits was gone but the clarity remained. On this track, I preferred the 4z’s midrange and treble presentation. Switching over to the Alcantara pads evens things out in the midrange and treble. The midrange on the Empyreans are not as forward sounding and the sharpness in the treble is tamed. The 4z and Empyrean’s sound virtually identical in all facets of sound.

As an experiment, I placed the Furukawa Silver Plated PCUHD Copper cable on the 4z’s. The results were unexpected. It was improvement across the entire frequency spectrum. The bass tightens up and the treble is a lot cleaner, clearer, more resolving. The mids are more detailed as well. The Furukawa Silver Plated PCUHD Copper cable on the 4z’s propelled them pass the Empyrean’s from a technical and sound standpoint to my ears. The improvements over the Audeze stock cable makes this cable worthy of consideration for anyone that has a pair of LCD-4z’s

Both headphones deserve their top of the line honors. It’s going to come down to the listener’s preference on which headphone to choose. I like them both and would love to add the Empyrean’s to my collection on looks and build alone.

vs the Hifiman HEKse

These headphones couldn’t be more different. From design to sound they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Empyrean’s have the superior build and there is no disputing that. Once you put the headphones on, the HEKse’s felt a tad bit more comfortable on my head, with slightly less clamping pressure.

Both headphones were hooked up to the Chord Hugo TT2. As expected, the HEKse’s sound more open, more detailed, airy and spacious. Making the Empyrean’s sound thick and congested after the quick change. Once you let you ears settle down after listening to the HEKse’s, you realize just how lush, silky and smooth the Empyrean’s make music sound.

Bass on the two headphones is stellar. The Empyrean’s bass is deeper, has more weight, more presence and is slightly more impactful. The HEKse’s bass in comparison is better defined, has more extension, and speed. The bass on the HEKse’s is not at all light. It has very good bass rumble, the Empyrean’s just has more. The Empyrean’s sound fuller as it’s the more mid-centric headphone. Notes on the HEKse’s have more clarity and this headphone images a lot better. The HEKse’s also has a bigger soundstage. The Empyrean’s sound more intimate in comparison.

Both headphones are incredibly detailed, but HEKse’s is a little snappier with faster transients. I really like the HEKse’s. The Empyrean’s are a very good alternative to their sound.

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AMP PAIRINGS

I enjoyed the Empyrean’s more out of the Chord products, be it the Hugo 2 or TT2. These two DAC/Amps oozes transparency, clarity, speed and detail. They are a perfect match for the warm sounding Empyrean’s. The TT2 counteracts the Empyrean’s warmth and infuses in lucidity, dynamics and punch.

The Cavalli Liquid Carbon 2.0 enhances the Empyrean’s midrange even more. The sound is almost tube-like. The Empyreans have so much character on this amp. You lose a lot of transparency, detail steps down but you gain so much musicality.

The Burson Conductor 3XR is blend of both amps. With the upgraded op-amps in the 3XR, transparency, clarity, speed and detail are all improved. Bringing it more in line with the attributes I like about the Chord products. The upgraded op-amps make the mids clearer and they gain a little more texture. I’d still give the edge in ultimate transparency to the TT2, which is a testament of just how good the headphone amp output is on the TT2.

The Empyreans sound a lot like they do on the TT2. The bass notes have a little more heft to them out of the 3XR. Vocals sound a touch more forward and intimate on the Empyrean’s as well. Dynamics and clarity on the 3XR and TT2 are about even. The TT2 is touch more resolving.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the Empyrean’s the most on the TT2 and 3XR.

CONCLUSION

The Meze Empyrean have wonderful texture. The sound is rich, warm and the timbre is beautiful. They don’t have the biggest soundstage and they are not the most resolving headphones. But when it comes to delivering music I’m not sure there is another headphone I’d rather have on my head.

Attachments

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dmdm
dmdm
That's just what I'm looking for+
Audiosolace
Audiosolace
Great review - the Meze Empyrean in copper is a beauty
  • Like
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dmdm
dmdm
I'm absol5loving mine. Simply outstanding cans!
Pros: beautiful design, durable build, natural balanced sound with a resolving tonality, unique dual voice coil design.
Cons: price, source dependent sound quality.


The product was provided to me on loan for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally published on my blog, and now I would like to share it with my readers on head-fi.

Manufacturer website: Meze.


Intro.

It’s been years since I reviewed full-size headphones. I’m always on the go with IEMs and DAPs which is my portable audio setup of choice. Higher end open-back headphones don’t fit my everyday lifestyle, and I was under impression you need a powerful desktop source to push them to their full potential. But when you attend CanJam shows, you can’t help but notice long lines of audiophiles waiting to check out the latest offerings from Sennheiser, Audeze, Focal, Hifiman, and others, and of course a collection of desktop tube amps at their tables.

I usually don’t get tempted to wait in line, but it’s hard to miss Meze sharing a private room with Cayin at all CanJam NYC shows. Last year, that room was busy with reps from Meze (Romania) and Rinaro (Ukraine) doing official unveiling of their new Empyrean flagship. This year, final production model of Empyrean was still the highlight, and I got the urge to try it considering all the positive coverage from consumers and reviewers. The privacy of the Cayin/Meze room was also a big plus without the noise of showroom floor.

As I started listening to Empyrean and switched between different desktop and DAP sources, I quickly realized of how different they can sound depending on pair up. And I’m not talking about a subtle sound change influenced by a signature of the source, like I’m used to with IEMs. Here, the source selection contributed quite a noticeable change. Keep in mind, I’m coming off IEM background, so this “discovery” will probably sound noobish to seasoned 2-channel audiophiles who are used to dealing with desktop equipment.

I was very impressed with the sound of Empyrean and was curious how it will pair up with my collection of portable sources. It took some time while waiting for availability of review loaner since they are in high demand, and now a few months later and dozens of listening hours while driving my wife and kids crazy at home (they are not used to me listening with open back headphones), I’m ready to share my experience of using Meze Empyrean, specifically how it sounds and how it pairs up with various sources.

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Unboxing and Accessories.

The unboxing experience of full-size premium headphones is quite different from small IEMs. While IEMs can fit into any generic universal case, full size headphones will benefit from a custom enclosure. With Empyrean, Meze includes a high-strength aluminum briefcase with foam inserts to keep these headphones secure during transportation and storage. But I’m sure you would want to get a nice headphone stand to showcase these beauties; it will be a shame to keep them locked up in a case.

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Other included accessories were two sets of earpads, the real leather and the one made from Alcantara material. Also, included is a removable cable with mini-XLR headphone connectors and your choice of termination plug. More about earpads and cables in the next section.

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Selection of earpads and cables.

There is a noticeable difference in sound using either leather or Alcantara earpads. With leather pads I'm hearing mid-bass to have a more pronounced punch, mids having a fuller body and more natural tonality with a more intimate presentation, and treble being more natural and smoother. With Alcantara, bass is a little more neutral, mids are more transparent and a little brighter with slightly more out-of-your head presentation, and treble has more sparkle and airiness.

For my own personal taste, I preferred a more natural balanced tonality of leather pads, giving the sound a more intimate organic feeling while bringing you closer to the stage. But since both are included, you can decide for yourself which one you prefer better.

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When placing the order, you also have a choice of cables with either of 3 plug terminations (6.3mm, 3.5mm, or 4-pin XLR connectors) depending on your source output. Considering 6.3mm and XLR are more typical for use with desktop equipment, those are 3m OFC cable, while 3.5mm is suited for a more portable application with 1.3m OFC cable.

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You can also bundle a braided Furukawa PCUHD copper ($349) or silver pated ($499) cables with either Balanced 4pin XLR, 4.4mm, or 2.5mm terminations. I requested Furukawa PCUHD copper cable (99.99% purity) with 4.4mm balanced termination for the review. You can never go wrong with a pure copper! It has standard mini-XLR headphone connectors, Pentaconn 4.4mm headphone plug, 8 wires in a continuous braid that splits into two groups after y-split, 4 wires each going to L/R sides. Each wire has 140x 0.04mm conductors, uses TPE sleeve (non-microphonic), and even uses a premium Jensen 4% silver solder.

When comparing stock OFC cable to Furukawa pure Copper replacement cable, I found the ergonomics of braided copper cable to be superior, with a better overall look and noticeably less microphonics. Balanced termination was also a plus since stock cable is not offered with 4.4mm (or 2.5mm) plug. But despite a difference in wire material, the tonality of sound was actually very close, though I found a stock OFC cable soundstage to have more intimacy and being not as expanded (soundstage width) as the upgraded copper wire cable which gave the sound a perception of a wider expansion.

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Design.

While I noticed that many full-size headphones have a similar design with round earcups pivoting and attached to a yoke extended from a headband, Meze took a different approach with Empyrean. The yoke portion is attached to the back of the earcup, while the yoke rod is connected using a unique spring-loaded mechanism. The earcup itself can freely rotate 360 degrees around the rod and have mini-XLR cable connector at the bottom. The spring headband is lightweight and made from carbon fiber, while the leather headband strap underneath has a unique shape to sit more comfortable on top of the head. Actually, referred to as pressure distribution wings, these patented suspension wings increase the leather headrest contact surface, literally hugging the shape of the top of the head to relief pressure points.

The back of the earcups has a grill with a mesmerizing pattern artwork, CNC milled from a single piece of solid aluminum, which also controls the airflow of these open-back sculpted chassis. According to Meze, the CNC milling time takes almost 20hrs to sculpt this aluminum skeleton. Despite its 430g weight, Empyrean felt very light with an even weight distribution on my head. The unique shape of a leather headband strap, carbon fiber spring headband, cushy earpads, and the spring-loaded attachment to earcups made these headphones feel very comfortable and non-fatigue even during extended use.

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Part of this comfortable fit also comes from the uniquely shaped ovate earcups/earpads. Earpads, which feel like a marshmallow memory foam, are deep enough for my ears not to touch the inner part of earcups and spacious enough for my ears to fit in comfortably with room to breathe. Earpads attach magnetically to earcups, but it’s not just for convenience of faster replacement. It’s actually part of a special isomagnetic coupling technology which demagnetizes and redirects the field generated by the driver to improve its efficiency while also holding earpads in place.

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The choice of ovoid shape was not coincidental. It was chosen by Rinaro/Meze to optimize a magnet structure in order to minimize the weight while maximizing the output power. And it wasn’t just the magnetic array design optimized to increase the power, but also the combination of two independently shaped voice coils (switchback and spiral) within the same diaphragm to enhance the acoustic performance of these headphones. The switchback coil, positioned in the upper part of the driver, is designed to reproduce lower frequencies, while the spiral coil, positioned in the lower part directly at the ear-canal level, is designed to reproduce middle and high frequencies.

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As you can imagine, I’m more used to dealing with IEMs where you have BA and DD drivers. So, all this is new and fascinating to me. But after reading about the technology behind Empyrean and then comparing it to other planar magnetic headphones, you can certainly appreciate the unique nature of Meze design and how much work went into it. But at the end of the day it’s all about the sound which I’m going to cover in the next section of the review.

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Sound analysis.

I analyzed Empyrean sound performance with LO of various sources connected to XI Audio Broadway S amp while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), Ariana Grande “Break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored…”, C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. Also, prior to listening, I let Empyrean burn in for 100hrs playing in the loop. Since these arrived from another reviewer, it made no sense to compare out of the box and after burn in since I don’t know how many hours it already had, but I still do a burn in as a force of habit.

From the first second of listening, I hear a holographic soundstage expansion width with a little more intimate depth which brings you closer to the stage, putting you a few rows in front of it. The soundstage has an oval shape which wraps around you, and at the same time puts you right in the middle of the sound. I usually refer to holographic 3D staging when it comes to both width and depth. Here I didn't find soundstage to be very deep, you don't get this far-out-of-your-head feeling, and that's why I feel more intimacy when listening to the music with Empyrean, being closer to the artist/stage. Also, excellent imaging with a very convincing placement of instruments and vocals where I can accurately pin-point every element of the song.

The sound signature of Empyrean is very evenly balanced. I wouldn't call it w-shaped because the coherency of tuning is in such linear even-flow way where you don't feel like there is a separate emphasis on lows, mids, highs, instead the entire spectrum is evenly balanced and emphasized. The tonality is very natural, highlighting a rich organic timbre of instruments and vocals.

Despite these headphones being not exactly analytically tuned, the retrieval of details is on a high level with a clarity where I can pick up every nuance in the sound. The tuning is very natural, with a very good layering and separation of instruments and vocals where you literally feel a layer of air in-between, expanding it to give a sense of open vertical sound dynamics.

Bass has a deep textured extension with a powerful sub-bass rumble, you can definitely hear how deep it goes, but it's not the kind of rumble you going to feel. That's when you realize a difference between dynamic driver headphones pushing the air where you can feel it vs planar magnetic where you hear it instead. Mid-bass has an average speed attack and decay, not too fast or too slow. It punches well through the mix, but not as fast as I would expect from a planar magnetic driver. Bass is very articulate and layered, and also well controlled.

Mids are natural, detailed, layered, with slightly north of neutral lower mids that add more organic body to the sound and clear and detailed upper mids that give vocals a slightly more forward presentation. The tuning is balanced, not mid-forward, but it felt like vocals always had this extra focus and attention when listening with Empyrean.

Treble is well extended, airy, crisp, and very natural and well controlled. Not a single harsh peak, even with some of my poorly recorded test tracks where harshness and sibilance usually shows its ugly side. The tuning is quite forgiving, natural, but it's not smooth or warm. It's crisp and detailed, but it's not bright or analytical.

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Comparison.

I’m probably going to disappoint some of my readers because I’m sure many would like to read about the comparison of Empyrean to Focal, Senns, Audeze, or HiFiMAN headphones, but I currently don't have access to their flagship cans. I was planning to arrange for a few loaners, but at the end it didn’t work out to meet my schedule.

I do have a few full-size headphones but feel like they are not in the same league. Something like Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd gen has thinner mids with a brighter treble, or Audeze EL8C has a more neutral and less natural tonality with a slightly metallic sheen. Audio-Technica ATH-A2000z has a brighter harsher upper mids/lower treble, while their open back ATH-R70x which I always praised for its wide open soundstage now sounded a bit more boxed in and not as layered in comparison.

Out of curiosity I tried a few IEMs for comparison and found Oriolus Mellianus and Unique Melody UM Mentor v3 to come closer to the tonality, though not quite as natural. Some of my other favorite flagship IEMs, like 64 Audio U18t and Fourte Noir have more emphasis on either mids or lows, but overall not as natural or balanced tuned.

Every pair of headphones or IEMs have their own unique tuning and it’s subjective to say which one is better. I do enjoy the headphones and IEMs above, but it felt like Empyrean added an extra layer of naturalness without compromising the resolution or retrieval of details.

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Pair up.

With a spec of 31.6ohm impedance and 100dB sensitivity, on paper Empyrean doesn’t look like a hard pair of headphones to drive. And you can make them sound loud from any source. But it doesn’t mean you will be driving them to their full potential. Based on my testing it certainly does benefit from a pair up with a powerful quality source. A few years ago, desktop amps would have been the only solution, but today we see many portable DAPs with powerful outputs.

In the pair up testing below, I used leather earpads and optional pure copper premium balanced cable. Also, all sources were set to high gain.

Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT (4.4mm BAL) - wide expanded soundstage, oval shaped with more width than depth. Balanced sound sig with a natural resolving tonality; extended bass with a balanced sub-bass rumble and average speed mid-bass punch, slightly above neutral lower mids with a natural detailed mids, and clear well defined treble with a good extension and more natural tonality (no exaggerated sparkle or any extreme peaks). I was a bit surprised this pair up ended up being smoother and warmer, especially in treble where the sparkle was a bit tamed down.

iBasso DX220 w/amp9 (3.5mm SE, using 4.4mm to 3.5mm adaptor) - soundstage expansion here is even wider, and the depth is also a little more out of my head. The sound sig is still balanced, and tonality is natural but a little more resolving, especially in mids where I hear more transparency; sub-bass has a little more textured rumble while mid-bass is still average speed, mids are now a little more revealing, more transparent, still natural, and treble has a little more airiness and a slightly brighter sparkle. The sound change from LPGT was like going half way between leather and Alcantara earpads, along with other changes I mentioned above.

Cayin N6ii (4.4mm BAL) - wide expanded soundstage, while I still feel the staging being more oval-shaped where there is more intimacy, but the depth brings you a few rows further from the performer, not quite holographic but pushing that way. Sound sig is balanced, and tonality is natural, but I'm hearing resolution being scaled up; bass has a deeper and a slightly more elevated sub-bass rumble, while mid-bass has a faster attack speed, mids are natural and detailed with more transparency (less coloring), treble is airy and expanded and a little crisper, though still under control. In this particular pair up I really enjoyed the transformation of bass.

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Sony WM1Z (4.4mm BAL) - wide expanded soundstage, oval shaped with more width than depth. Balanced sound sig with a natural resolving tonality; bass is extended with a deeper and more elevated textured sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass punch, not too much elevated, but definitely going deeper, more impactful, and more pronounced, mids have a fuller natural body, detailed, resolving, and treble is clear and well defined with a good extension and more natural tonality (more tamed down, with less sparkle). The bass texture and its impact were the highlights of this pair up.

A&K SP1000 SS (2.5mm BAL, using 4.4mm to 2.5mm adaptor) - the soundstage is still wide, and the staging depth has a more intimate feeling with you being closer to the performer, but the width was not as wide as in other pair ups. The sound sig is balanced, and the tonality is smoother and more organic; bass has a good extension with a nice rumble and average speed mid-bass punch (a little slower in speed), mids have a little fuller body, smoother, and more natural, and the same with treble being clear and well defined, but not with as much sparkle. Overall, Empyrean had a smoother and more laid back performance in this pair up, wasn't the best to my ears.

Plenue L (4.4mm BAL) - wider more expanded soundstage with slightly out of your head depth. Balanced sound sig with a natural smooth resolving tonality; bass is a little laidback, good extension with a textured smooth rumble and slower mid-bass punch, full body more natural detailed mids, and well controlled detailed treble with a bit of a tamed down sparkle. The overall tonality here is more relaxed, smoother, more organic with a little fuller body. I felt like Empyrean wasn't driven to its full potential in this pair up.

Hiby R6 Pro (4.4mm BAL) - wide expanded soundstage, with slightly out of your head depth, more oval-shaped with more intimacy, but the depth brings you a few rows further from the performer, not quite holographic. Sound sig is balanced, and tonality is natural, but I'm hearing resolution being scaled up, similar to N6ii; bass has a deeper slightly more elevated sub-bass rumble while mid-bass has an average speed, mids are natural detailed with a little fuller body, treble is expanded, well controlled, but more on a smoother tamer side.

In addition to DAP pairs up, I decided to try it with a few of my powerful DAC/amp combos where Micro and Broadways are portable and battery powered, while Deckard is a desktop bounded since it needs a power outlet.

iFi Micro iDSD BL (3.5mm SE, driven by T480s laptop) – soundstage has more expansion, becoming even wider with a little more depth, still on a boundary of oval-shaped with more intimacy, but sounds more expanded with improved imaging and separation of sounds. Sound sig is still balanced, but the tonality is more transparent, more revealing, the sound is more layered and with an even better expansion of vertical dynamics. Bass has a deep textured rumble with a faster mid-bass punch and overall bass is more articulate; lower mids are closer to neutral, not as thick, upper mids are more layered, more transparent, with a better retrieval of details; treble is airy and expanded, with a well-controlled sparkle, not too crisp or harsh. The step up in sound quality was noticeable.

XI Audio Broadway S (3.5mm SE, tested with LPGT LO set to 4Vrms) - soundstage expands more, becoming even wider with a little more depth, still on a boundary of oval-shaped with more intimacy, but sounds more expanded with improved imaging and separation of sounds. Sound sig is still balanced, but the tonality is more transparent, more revealing, the sound is more layered and with more expanded vertical dynamics. Bass has a deeper textured rumble with an average speed mid-bass punch and overall bass is more articulate, lower mids are a bit north of neutral with a little extra body, upper mids are more layered, more transparent, with an excellent retrieval of details, treble is airy and expanded, with a well-controlled sparkle, not too crisp or harsh. The step up in sound quality was noticeable. In comparison to Micro iDSD here I hear the bass being a little less aggressive and mids having fuller more natural body without losing resolution or sacrificing retrieval of details.

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Audeze Deckard (3.5mm SE, tested with LPGT LO set to 4Vrms) - soundstage expands more, becoming even wider with a little more depth, still on a boundary of oval-shaped with more intimacy, but sounds more expanded with improved imaging and separation of sounds. Sound sig is still balanced, but the tonality is more revealing, the sound is more layered and with more expanded vertical dynamics. Bass has a deeper textured rumble with a faster speed mid-bass punch and overall bass being more articulate, lower mids are a little north of neutral with fuller body, upper mids have more transparency with an excellent retrieval of details, treble is airy and expanded, with a well-controlled sparkle, though a bit on a tamer side. In comparison to Broadway S, while Deckard has a little faster bass punch, its lower mids were a little thicker and not as layered in comparison.

In a summary, out of all DAPs, I preferred N6ii pair up the best and out of my limited selection of amps, Broadway S shined more.

Recently, I received HiFiMAN R2R2000 Red for testing. Though I didn’t spend as much time testing it with Empyrean, this pair up impressed me as well. Straight from its 4.4mm BAL headphone output, it sounded nearly identical to Broadway S amp, but had a little warmer tonality. When compared to R2R2k, N6ii tonality was even warmer and had a deeper bass, but R2R2k soundstage was a little wider.

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Conclusion.

“Empyrean” literally means the highest part of heaven. Perhaps, that was a reason behind its name because for some audiophiles in search of that balanced natural resolving tonality Empyrean will sound heavenly. But we all have different taste and different preferences and go through different sources in a journey to find a perfect pair up synergy with our earphones and headphones. Testing Empyrean and going through all my sources was a lot of fun, and for me personally this was the first pair of full-size headphones which I didn’t want to take off my head. My only wish here is that I would like its sound signature and overall “open back” performance to be captured in a closed-back design to enjoy this “heavenly” sound without bothering people next to me. Hope this will happen one day!
iBo0m
iBo0m
This is a great review as usual and very nice pictures! :) The price is the biggest issue for sure. I have to say that after some low/mid earphones, Meze have made it to the high-end models pretty fast (at least price-wise).
Law87
Law87
that looks like a Sony Kimber Kable.
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jchandler3
jchandler3
I haven’t had the opportunity to try the Empyrean, but I just got the Meze RAI Penta yesterday and they’re superb. I’ve seen some reviews call them the IEM Empyrean, so maybe you can have your wish!
Pros: Gorgeous
Build quality
Fabulous sound
Clarity
Gorgeous
Fit system
Headband
Meticulous craftmanship
Cons: Maybe a bit loose fitting
Not portable
Wouldn't dare take them in public
Not my pair
Meze Empyrean ($2999USD): The Steampunk of headphones…

Meze empyrean site: https://www.mezeaudio.com/products/meze-empyrean

Tour model graciously offered from Todd at TTVJ: https://www.ttvjaudio.com/Meze-Empyrean-Headphones-p/mez0000001.htm



When one is offered the chance to drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini, one should not politely decline. No, they should politely accept while inside their innards do the Rhumba. When alone with the gift, then one can cut loose, but in a respectful manner. Or just go full-on Tom Cruise in Risky Business.



That is pretty much how I reacted when I found out that I was going to be on the Empyrean tour from Todd at TTVJ. Todd graciously offered a pair for our perusal, asking that we submit an honest review on the tour thread, as well as a formal review, if we wish. Well, of course I agreed, and this is the result. I will admit that Todd added me after he had closed the tour, and I thank him for that. I have previously participated on several of his sample tours and have had the honor of trying (and purchasing) some of the finest gear I have heard. This is no exception, either. I will also admit that the Empyrean is the most expensive headphone I have had the honor of hearing. This ranks right up there with the 64Audio u18t and Fourte in terms of price, but this is the highest headphone of which I have had the honor.



Needless to say, my initial impressions did not disappoint…

Often, I take one of three ways when approaching a tour: 1. Gobble up all I can review-wise so that I can go in with an informed opinion regarding others likes and dislikes. 2. Go in blind with anticipation, not wanting to taint my judgement. 3. Go back and read reviews, whilst I have the critter in hand. The Empyrean combined 2 & 3. I kind of read one review, while perusing the Empyrean Head-Fi thread (https://www.head-fi.org/threads/meze-empyrean-the-first-isodynamic-hybrid-array-headphone.871859/) and measurements (https://www.head-fi.org/threads/meze-audio-empyrean-measurements.891149/), not that I dig too many measurements. Which is odd as an environmental scientist/teacher because we espouse the virtues of data to our kids and in the field…anyway, I do so because I wanted a clear head for not only the first listen, but the follow ups.

So it was with great anticipation, and consternation due to FedEx not following my directions…that the Empyrean arrived. Not packed as well as it will go out (highly disappointed that some on the tour would treat anything not theirs this way…), the Meze arrived dusty and a bit road-weary. I gave a quick half-hour session, then let it sleep to recover as I had other obligations.



Specs:

EMPYREAN
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS


Driver Type: Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array

Operating Principle: Open

Ear Coupling: Circumaural

Frequency response: 4 - 110,000 Hz

Impedance: 31,6 Ω

Nominal SPL: 100 dB (1 mW/1kHz)

Maximum SPL: >130 dB

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.1%

Weight≈ 430 g


MZ3 DRIVER SPECIFICATIONS


PHYSICAL

Geometrical shape: Ovoid

Size: 102 mm x 73 mm

Weight: 82 g

Casing: Fiberglass Infused ABS


DIAPHRAGM

Type: Rinaro ISOPLANAR®

Active area: 4650 mm²

Weight: 0,16 g

Acoustic mass: 10,7 kg/m4

Lower frequency limit: 4 Hz

Upper-frequency limit: 110.000 Hz


MAGNET ARRAY

Type: Isodynamic

Size: 75 mm x 49 mm

Magnetic Flux: 0,35 T



Included accessories:

• Case: High-strength aluminum suitcase with foam inserts
• Two sets of earpads included: one real leather, one Alcantara
• Cable options:
- 3m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 6.3 jack connector
or
- 1.3m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 3.5 jack connector
or
- 3m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 4 pin XLR connector


*included was a 2.5m Cardas Clear cable with 6.35se jack connector (http://www.cardas.com/clear_headphone_cable.php) from TTVJ a $650 option and worth the cost for the Meze.



Gear used/compared (prices USD, unless noted otherwise):

Mr. Speakers Ether-C Flow 1.1 ($1600)
HiFiMan Ananda ($999)
Campfire Audio Cascade ($799)
ZMF Atticus ($1099)-from memory


Source:

XDuoo x10t ii/iFi Pro iDSD (80%)
Shanling M5s/Burson Fun (5%)
Shanling M5s/iFi micro Black Label (15%)

*XDuoo on BL as well

Songs used:

Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
Coldplay-A Message
Coldplay-White Shadows
Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado

The new twenty one pilots album, Trench
The new Mark Knopfler album, Down The Road Wherever



Initiale:

That half-hour together…oh my. Even in its tired state, the Meze gave me its worth. All of it. Plugging the Cardas Clear cable in to the Empyrean and the XDuoo/iFi combo, I listened. And it was good.

It is here I must mention a bit about Meze itself. Moving from a very, very good $310 headphone, the 99Classic to something, which costs 10x the price is daunting in itself. But to do so and produce something on par with the Empyrean is astonishing. The R&D needed to pull this off is akin to what Ford did with the original GT at LeMans. Produce a world beater in a short time, having never attempted something of the sort before.



While I have not been in the review business nearly as long as many here, I have developed an appreciation for the passion presented by two companies. I mention this, because I believe they share that same passion for producing what they consider to be the best of their wares and something that can truly call itself one of the best products in our market, period. I am of course talking about the Empyrean, but the other would be your choice of the Andromeda/Vega/Atlas/Solaris/Cascade from Campfire Audio. Both Mr. Meze and Mr. Ball share that passion to produce the best they can, breaking new grounds if need be to pursue their passion. What the Empyrean did for TOTL headphones, had been precursed by Ken and CA with the Andromeda/Vega/Atlas/Solaris family as well as the wonderful Cascade. Pressing the edges of development with detail, both raised the bar for what could be done with their respective wares. I am thoroughly smitten by both brands, and I am not ashamed to admit it. The 11Neo is one of my favorite “budget” IEM’s, and the Atlas is my go-to for heart-pumping bass, when called upon. I shudder to think what Campfire would do to follow the Cascade, should they determine it worth their while to chase a TOTL range of headphones…please do!

So, you see, there are companies on both sides of the pond, which extend themselves for our benefit. And I am glad.



Unboxing:

This will be a shorter section as many have covered it and covered it well. The Meze comes in a custom aluminum case, akin to an attaché case. Carrying like a thin briefcase, one could be forgiven for that image, save the Meze Empyrean name and logo. So prominent they are that at the end of one day at school, one of my girls googled it. she came up to me and asked if the pair were mine. Alas, I said no, then she said those cost a lot. It was then I found out that she had searched them. She has a new pair of Beats, and I do not fault her for that, for she is at least aware that others exist. Kudos to her.

The case is of course form fitting, with room for two cables. The loaner pair came with the excellent stock cable and the aforementioned Cardas Clear. The majority of my time was in fact spent with the Cardas. But, for comparative purposes, the stock will be mentioned as well. A slot in the upper left of the case houses the personal card showing build date and serial number. Overall, a very tasteful, subdued presentation and one that is small enough to actually be portable.



Fit-n-Finish:

Extraordinary. Superb. Sublime. Time consuming (20hrs alone on the cup shell milling). Methodical. Painstakingly-finished. A Japanese/Germanic level of quality (no offense). There is not much I can add to the verbiage, which has already been put forth regarding the build and quality of the Meze. That alone speaks volumes regarding the passion put into each handmade unit (hand assembled). Suffice to say that the build is as exemplary as it should be for a unit costing the price of a good second-hand car.

The machining of the yokes is but one example: formed with two 90-degree actions, the cascading effect is one of sublime caliber. Most often you may note a smooth character, on which flaws may be shown. But here, the quality is of a smooth surface with the machine details just below the surface. A nice look, and we are talking about the yoke.

With cups, which rotate 360-degrees and about a 15-degree movement in the vertical plain, there is sufficient adjustment for most if not all. Another brand I have inhouse at the time has no fore/aft lateral movement, which makes fit somewhat tedious. There is no tedium with the Empyrean. Finished in a tasteful olive-brown near-neutral color, the Meze also does not draw unwanted attention to itself for the color scheme (yes, I’m talking to you Beats…). I do worry about an “anodized-like” finish, as this can wear over time. One need only look at some of HeadPie’s gear to see the full extent.



What does catch one’s eye though, is the finely finished grill covering the cup. On par with the Sendy Aiva as far as looks in my mind, the equilateral triangle repeated form is again tasteful, yet eye-catching. The ovoid shape is just plain sexy. Mimicking the shape of an egg silhouette, it takes on the appearance of humility as a result in my mind. With mini 4-pin xlr connectors hidden on the bottom, there is a subtle swoop to the shape, adding to the flowing lines.



With light copper colored stanchions, the minimal nature of the Empyrean continues. Although harder to adjust than I would like, this only means it stays put after adjusting. Carrying over to the top of the stanchions, is that olive color, tied nicely into the thin black carbon cross support-headband, times two. The aluminum frame itself is made from one solid piece of aluminum, which takes 20 hours to mill. This is serious work. To finish the mix, the leather headstrap has two different tactile feels. The soft part overlays one’s head, form fitting to maximize dissemination of pressure. The more solid part, where band connects to stanchion is made much like a fine piece of riding gear; stiff and solid. Together they hold the strap nicely on the user’s head and spread out pressure. I will note that to me the clamp pressure is a bit on the soft side, unless I wear a hat. Of course, this is not one to wear while dancing, but I do wish for a bit more clamp pressure.

Removing the ear pad, one is presented with a plastic grate, tastefully placed to protect the Rinaro driver. You can clearly see the driver as well. As I understand it, the grill on the ear pad is even shaped to minimize potential sound disruptions, which could lead to unwanted distortion of sound. This is an open-back headphone, but one in which you can barely see through. But it does need that breathing of an open-back to fully express itself. Removal of the ear cup is as easy as pulling from the top, since each pad is connected by magnets. With just the right amount of pull needed, there is no fear of the pad falling off. I have had some inhouse, where this has been a problem…

So, the Meze has classic finish (but there is one small scratch on the top of the yoke), in a tastefully colored theme, followed by what you would expect in the fit department…think Rolls Royce and you get the picture…



Sound extraordinaire:

So…after all of that, I did not even get to the Rinaro planar driver. I will leave most of that to the other reviews but mention that it is an exquisite example of a planar magnetic driver. Replete with a magnet on both sides (quite large as I understand), the extra magnetic force helps to equalize the movement of the driver. Each isodynamic driver is hand assembled in the Ukraine, something you do not hear often. This set up is said to deflect up to 95% of stray fields away from your head, thus minimizing interference and reverb (as I understand it). By channeling this back into the driver, you also increase driver output, making the unit easier to drive. I am no electrical engineer, so I will take their word on it. I do know that the end result is extraordinary performance. I just replayed the Eagles Hotel California through the XDuoo/Black Label portable set up, and I am in love.

Stellar separation is the result of all that technology. I openly admit that I like reading and understanding technology new and old, but sometimes I just have to kick back and enjoy. And this would be one of those times. With a somewhat laidback presentation, the Empyrean makes one want to kick back into your fine plush leather sofa, with that J. Rieger Whiskey in hand. You just listen. And it is good. Turning the volume down a bit, so as not to draw a headache, you continue, picking out the finer points of sound. The timbre is just superb. Honest open and appreciated, the level of detail is almost startling, even knowing how much development went into the Empyrean. Exquisite detail lends to a clarity of sound, slightly on the warmish side to me using the suede pads, that is thoroughly enjoyable with superb control of bass. I do find that using the suede pads, there is actually better sound isolation from the outside. To me it takes on that deeper reach of bass, while almost becoming a semi-closed back. Almost.



Vocals are splendid. Lyle Lovett on Step inside This House is a testament to honesty. I have often used terms such as “being in the 10th row-center,” or “1st row center,” or even “on stage.” But here the sound reproduced is of such quality that you are riding the sound as it bounces on that roller coaster of note. Feeling every note as it is meant, not unlike every bump on an old wooden roller coaster, you relish each note presented. To ride the stream of note is something, which does not happen often. But when it does, you let go and fully understand from where the musician comes.



Roger Daltry’s Into My Arms epitomizes this ride of note. He is 74 and can sing with the best. His support on the As Long As I Have You album is near perfect. The note of piano and roger together is sublime in quality. You feel it a personal concert of the highest order, and dare not breathe, lest you upset the perfect balance within the room. Sitting quietly, you marvel at the notes approaching you like seeds from a dandelion. You want to reach out and capture them, but know they are meant for your ear anyway, so you smile and let them envelop you. So good is it, you request the song again and again, only to catch something new. The first Monarch of the season, the first Eastern Phoebe. You know they are coming and anticipate their arrival to the day; but it is still marvelous when they arrive. Just like the note in ear. Such an experience!



Treble is without parallel to me. No sibilance (one would hope not), but not too sparkly as well. Just right and there. You can see the treble note coming and anticipate it all the same as above. And you are found right in the world of sound. My goodness it is right and good. My words fail me. My fingers ache, for they cannot keep up with the thoughts rushing through. Feelings abound. Coherent thoughts leave me. Followed by Santana’s excellent (Da Le) Yaleo, you move with the beat. You feel the thrust of bass guitar. You get the sparkle of treble. You get the subtle with which Carlos entwines with the fibers of string. His music is near and dear to my heart, and this just heightens the tie. An amazing rendition of music it is. I wax on, but this to me is exactly what Anton and company had in mind the whole time. To get lost on the wave of sound, each note acting as a stepping stone to the next. Effortlessly carrying you forward without measure. But with due diligence of care. Not often have I felt this tug of soul in a device producing electrical signals. But I must say, that through this I have been given a higher appreciation of it as a result.

I will note that the sound stage while quite good, is not the widest I have heard. It is almost perfect, though. I think it is @Ike who shows a shape, which represents the definition of sound stage and where the center lies (I could be wrong, if so Hi Ike! I hope all is well). And if that were drawn, it would be an almost perfect cube, excellent height and depth with a bit less width, but nonetheless, superb in presentation. And centered just about perfectly within my cranial as well. Layering as a result (to me) is quite good. Ziggy’s Family Time represents this. Delicate acoustic guitar, and soft vocals present a lilt of sound, which can be easily discerned as separate layer put together with much care. And together they make the whole better than not. Going hand in hand with this is instrumentation, of which again is easy to place. Without effort as well. Perfectly placed, and easy to pick, this is again quite good.



Comparisons:

Meze Empyrean ($2999) vs Mr. Speakers Ether-C Flow 1.1 ($1600):

The Meze has left, before I wrote this. So, there is no back to back, but I did listen to the Ether for a good bit during the week, and as “therapy” to help me recover from the Empyrean…sigh. For a closed-back the Ether does not have the punch, which the Cascade has. That definitive push of music, which can result from a closed-back. That may not be the most apt descriptor, but a decent one. I do like the Ether-C, and as time went by tonight, what drew me to like the Ether in the first place supplanted the overwhelming from the Empyrean. There is a crispness to the Ether, which can become quite intoxicating in the right vein. I thoroughly enjoy it when music such as Mark Knopfler comes on. Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes remind me of that “almost” clinical sound. Crisp is a much better narrative than clinical or analytical. The sound is definitively not dry or antiseptic. A certain lilt comes through in the treble, but with sufficient bass backing it up to not sound weak or anemic. The Ether-C is the headphone, which represents the most reference sound I have. And for that, I do think it is very good.

But it lacks the soul, the feeling wrought from the Empyrean. And I miss that. Vocals in the Ether are well, ethereal in quality, allotting you the time to enjoy a simpler aspect of the music. You just listen. With the Empyrean, you are enveloped. And that to me is the big difference.


Meze Empyrean ($2999) vs HiFiMan Ananda ($999):

Ananda lacks the visceral impact. A bit brighter of signature as well. Not bad. Not as much punch to the bass. Those were my initial impressions after about 15 minutes of listening to the Ananda. Those impressions have not changed. Had I heard the Ananda first, I would most likely consider it near the top of what I have listened. I still do, but that is the taint, the spell, which the Empyrean places over you. The Ananda has a very succinct sound to it. Almost like Germanic-efficiency-succinct. Not analytical mind you, no. But more clinical in sound. I do not mind and appreciate that honesty surrounding its presentation.

I WILL knock the fit, though. With no fore/aft lateral movement of the cups, you are left with your noggin’s ability to shape the pads for best-fit. Luckily for me, this isn’t bad, but I can feel undue pressure along the front edge of the pad after about 30 min. Going back to the Empyrean, it was actually kind of weird. I spent a good five minutes adjusting the fit after listening to the Ananda. And I figured out why…it was because the fit of the Empyrean is SO darn good, that my brain tricked itself into thinking the fit was off. A direct result of the Ananda’s less-than-stellar fit. I will also note that the tour model already has play in one of the slider adjustments, and is much easier to move. The other needs Dwayne Johnson to move…



Meze Empyrean ($2999) vs Campfire Audio Cascade ($799):

Bass, bass and more bass…that is the name of the Cascade. It is to some, a monger of bass, which overrides the total sound. I disagree. I love the impactful bass and the way it is presented. I can understand how people think it overwhelms the signature, because I feel that way too sometimes. But that bass brings me in, shakes me up and just rocks. The fit is a bit hard, almost clamp-like, but with the soft rectangular pads attached, this lessons the clamp tightness. Sound stage for a closed-back is quite good, especially when you realize this is a sub-$1000 headphone. An admirable creation from CA. And, the Cascade still regularly makes it into my rotation, not just for review purposes. The vibrant energy is intoxicating and well worth the effort to get comfortable within them.

A funny thing, though. While the bass is more abundant in the Cascade, the presentation is much better in the Empyrean. You might think this fairly obvious, but to me it wasn’t. Again, I do love the quantity and rumble of bass, which the Cascade gives. Unabashed bass, and no apology needed. But the way in which bass is represented is of such high caliber, that I do not miss the extra quantity at all. That exuberance of presentation more than makes up for the lack of actual rumble. And, this is one of the few times in which I can say this, I enjoy that presentation more. The Cascade is quite phenomenal (in my mind) for the price. The Empyrean is astronomical.


Meze Empyrean ($2999) vs ZMF Atticus ($1099)-from memory:

Aaaahhh….Pinky’s Atticus. What fond memories I have. A glorious two weeks it was. An almost redefinition of what I espouse in a full-sized headphone. Almost. For at the same time (OK, as a direct result of…) I had the Atticus, I purchased the Cascade (found used, a bargain, a steal, etc…do not regret it at all…) and the Ether-C Flow 1.1 used (for a song as well…). It is BECAUSE (notice the change in tone…smh) of that damn Atticus that I ended up with the other two. Yes, I had been eying the Cascade since @wiljen let me have the extended borrow, but the Ether came about as a direct result of the Atticus. And for that I will always hold @PinkyPower accountable…smh…

I can see the Atticus joining my corral to replace something, sometime. I loved how it looks (not quite the same as the Aiva, which I like more), I loved how it sounded, I loved pretty much everything about it, save the size. It made me look like an ugly Princess Leah, it did…



So, what about that sound? It does not have that (to me) characteristic small dip in the mids, for vocals are magnificent. I remember texting Pinky that first night championing the characteristics: warm, embracing, engaging, warm, inviting, coddling, comforting, and comforting (yes twice). He said, “so you like it?” my response was that meme with the kids and the headphones. I really liked what Zack and ZMF had done.



As a result, I could almost get over the sheer voluminous size of the critter. And that is the almost. As good as the sound was, I could not get past the size. And that is a shame, for the sound qualities alone should have been my judge. I regret feeling that way and have softened a bit. Part of that comes from the intermittent discussions with Pinky, and that is a good thing, for something such as the Atticus is worthy of inclusion based upon its sound alone.

The bass, while a bit light for me is excellent. Taught, quick and succinct you tend not to miss the extra bit for the quality is so good. Vocals, especially female are heavenly, among the best I have ever heard in a headphone, and right up there with the Empyrean to be honest. Plus, there is that bit of sparkle, which to me is missed in the Empyrean. Whatever magic Zack and crew put into the Atticus, it worked. And I now consider it one of the best open-back headphones I have heard. That is of course along with the Empyrean.



Courtesy of the fantastic gentleman known to us as @Expatinjapan but better loved as HeadPie. Eternal gratitudes.

Sadly, the finale:

So…sadly the Empyrean has left my humble abode. Video done; review written. Pictures taken. Boxed up, headed back east. Away from hand but not forgotten. I remember every song played over the course of the week. Van Morrison’s Take It Easy, and Brown-eyed Girl. Coldplay’s live version of Clocks. Dave Matthew’s live version of Jimmy Thing. Twenty one pilots Heathens and Car Radio. Roger Daltry’s Certified Rose and Into My Arms. Mark Knopfler’s Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes. All ring through my gray matter, but separately and distinct. Meshing only in remembrance of the Empyrean. The soul presented from each song, given willingly and freely while staying laid-back and somewhat subdued in the shadows like the Empyrean. That is what I will remember. That is what I will embrace. That is what I want to remember, for that is the good in the Empyrean, which FAR outweighs any perceived faults.



For you see, the Empyrean does not like to draw attention to itself. Think Moses Malone. Or Ronnie Lott. They went out did their job, with extraordinary results, and let their play speak. They…just…played. And here to me is the true value of the Empyrean. It…just…speaks…music. And does so without fanfare. Without acclaim. Without shouting look at me. Without pomp. With reverie, and reverence to a past artisan history where the ware spoke. And all within listened in hushed tones. In quiet admiration. Without accord. They listened, and the Empyrean spoke. Volumes by not saying much.

The Empyrean is understated in its beauty. The shapes ring of excellence, and perfect golden shape. Exquisite in build and character finished by sound aplomb with soul. A perfect example of what can happen when we give our self to the music in our ear. I can think of no other, which has wrought this for my entertainment. And it is good. It is stellar, but alas it is gone…

Thank you to Todd of TTVJ, and Anton Meze for the use and production of this fine ware. For it has few, which can match it today, and possibly in the future for a good long time. My opinion, deal with it.

ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Fair enough, but I disagree. My point was not that they might not work as a lifestyle headphone, but that I most likely would not walk around NYC wearing these.

And your closed/open analogy seems counterintuitive to my intentions of describing legitimate cons (to me) in my opinion. I miss these every day. Thanks for reading the review, these are a spectacular example of a headphone. Someday, maybe I may own a pair...someday...
dmdm
dmdm
Fantastic review! It made me look forward to my pair even more!
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Thank you and congratulations! They really are wonderful.
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Pros: Lightweight
Non fatiguing
Great bass extension
VERY musical
Forgiving
Beautiful design and craftmanship
Cons: None at this time
Disclaimer: Meze loaned me the Empyrean as the 1st Head-Fi member to start their tour of this beautiful headphone. The Empyrean was also showcased at the Arizona Head-Fi meet in March 2019. I have no affiliation whatsoever with Meze except I was lucky enough to test drive and share them for a few weeks. I do want to thank Meze and all the people that made this tour possible, especially Alexandra. She was a great help with assisting in the loan of the Empyrean for not only me, but for all the Arizona Head-Fiers. If not for Alexandra, the many members would never have had the opportunity to listen to this fantastic headphone.

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About me
Well whatta you know. This is my first review of anything at all, let alone a review about a headphone on Head-Fi. So be nice guys! Let me start by saying I am by no means a self proclaimed audiophile, but merely a 59 year young regular guy who loves music. My body, soul, mind and attitude is still like a 30 year old. Once upon a time I was an accomplished musician back in the day. What do they say?.... once an alcoh….er, I mean, once a musician, always a musician. I listen to music to relax and enjoy the sounds, not to pick it apart because of the headphone I'm listening to. That doesn't mean every once in a while I don't get down and dirty listening to every little detail the music has to offer. I enjoy critical listening at times but I get so darn involved in it that I totally forget I'm supposed to be enjoying myself, not criticizing a piece of gear I own. I also need to be upfront and say I do suffer from slight to moderate tinnitus so take that for what it's worth.....which could be a lot to some of you. My hearing is still really good and I know what I'm listening too and what a headphone has to offer. Lastly, I'm not going to use all these fancy audiophile terms trying to be someone I'm not. The old Head-Fi saying that everyone's read is, everyone has their own ears and we all hear differently. Please, this review is based off my ears with my gear so keep that in mind. I'm just a layman and I'm gonna keep it real. Hopefully that works for you!

Specifications
Driver Type: Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array
Frequency response: 4 - 110,000 Hz
Impedance: 31,6 Ω
Nominal SPL: 100 dB (1 mW/1kHz)
Maximum SPL: >130 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.1%
Weight: ≈ 430 g (oh so nice)

My Gear
Custom built desktop PC> Schiit Mjolnir 2> Schiit Gumby Gen 5> Various tubes a plenty. Everything balanced.

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Music preference
This is where it gets tricky. I have a special set of musical skills which may not tickle some or most of your fancies. But, hey this is what I got to offer. Progressive metal, progressive instrumental metal, progressive rock, instrumental progressive rock, classic rock.
Bands I listen too most often would include but not limited to; Haken, Dream Theater, Symphony X, Pagan's Mind, The Helix Nebula, Earthside, Icefish, Voyager, Polyphia, Distorted Harmony, TesseracT, Leprous, Circus Maximus, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, The Police, many, many others

Comparisons
It won't be fair, but these are a few of the headphones I own which I can A/B against a little later in the review versus the Empyrean.
  • Focal Clear
  • Klipsch Heritage HP3
  • ZMF Aeolus
Accessories

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A stunning beauty to hold your most coveted belongings which in this case (no pun intended) your Empyrean. It's sturdy, ergonomic and everything fits inside snug as a bug. To put it simply, it does the trick. It kind of reminds me of the old Samsonite luggage commercials that used to air many years ago. No matter what you do to it, you can bet whatever's inside will stay safe and sound. This is probably the nicest case for a headphone I've seen to date. Even though the Klipsch Heritage HP3 is a stunner, it's more a "showcase" piece with a glass cover. Yes, it's VERY cool but personally, I don't think it's best for the safety and longevity of your quite the pricy headphone that you want to keep years on end.

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  • There are 2 sets of earpads, one real leather which you cannot see but they're there, and the Alcantara.
  • 3m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 6.3 jack connector
or
  • 1.3m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 3.5 jack connector
or
  • 3m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 4 pin XLR connector
Build/Comfort

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Supremely built by hand, one at a time in Romania with the finest materials. I apologize in advance if this is corny, but just looking at these bad boys the first time, I felt like Spiegel thinking to myself "my precious". What can I say, that's basically what I was thinking. These are simply the most aesthetically pleasing headphones my eyes have ever gazed upon. Seriously, just look at them and tell me I'm wrong! Didn't think so.
  • Isodynamic Driver
  • Isomagnetic earcup to earcup coupling technology
  • Rinaro Isoplanar diaphram
  • Carbon fiber Headband
  • Fully aluminum skeleton. 20 hours of milling time on each frame.
  • Leather Headrest
When these were on my head rocking out, I completely forgot I was even wearing headphones. They are light as a feather and their suspension headrest fit perfectly on my head. I would consider my grill to be medium in size, so, pretty normal to average I'd say. I had zero fatigue when listening hours on end and that was many days. Not one time did I feel a hotspot or any type of isolated pain anywhere on my head. For me and I'm pretty confident in saying, comfort is really important to a lot of you too. If it hurts, it's not one of it's perks and it's a big ol pass. Not a single comfort issue for this guy.

But, are they easy to drive?
At 31.6Ω and an SPL of 101dB, they are for just about all home set-ups. I'm not sure if I'd want to go portable though. For one thing, why would you even want to take these out of your house? Go ahead and get the 99 classic or Neo if you like Meze's house sound for portable, but....and this is important. DON'T TAKE THESE OUT OF YOUR HOUSE!! Keep them under lock and key and treat as a family heirloom.

You can run these through some modest gear but of course, the better the gear, the more you're going to be able to squeeze out every ounce of performance they have to offer. I wish I had more gear as I'd really like to hear how they scale up. So with that said, I only have the gear I have so for Schiit's and giggles, I hooked these up to my Dragonfly Red and Oppo HA 2 and?....well I could get below normal (for me) levels of sound out of the DFR but it just didn't have enough juice to power them to the volume I'm comfortable with. They just sounded thin. It lacked the bass impact versus running through my desktop and the treble ever so slightly seemed a bit veiled. I had my iPhone 7+ maxed out with volume and it just didn't cut it. You just gotta have some more headroom. The Oppo was a different story though. They have the juice but again, it just didn't serve it justice versus my desktop set-up. Through my balanced MJ2 and Gumby on low gain, I hardly had to turn the POT past 9AM. Of course that won't be the same for everyone because it's dependent on what amp you're using. Are you balanced or single ended? Single ended worked just fine with plenty of juice and sounded great when I tried them out SE. Are you running SS or tubes? I don't own a SS amp and strictly am a tube guy. I have a variety of tubes where some of them are high gain and others not so much. In a nutshell, they're not too difficult to drive and whatever AMP/DAC combo you may have at home, I'm pretty sure you'd get the juice you need to power the Empyrean.

Sound

Bass Wow, these dig down deep. They hit you in the most delicate of areas of your anatomy and can you feel it when the track calls for it. I'll admit it, I'm a bass guy but it's an absolute must that it's NOT fat/boomy, bloated and slow. It must be clean, tight, fast and won't bleed into the mids or treble. If it does? not for me.
It's full of body, rich, clean and tight, all encompassing in the sound when it digs down low. As much as an oxymoron this might sound like, it's natural and is emphasized just enough where it's colored and just north of neutral. At times, dependent on what you're listening too, it can get a bit loose. I don't EQ so I just live with it. By no means is this a deal breaker and I actually like it at times when you just want to hear a bit of sloppy bass. It's no fault of the Empyrean and is track dependent.

Listening to prog metal, there's a ton of fast kick passages where separation and air is so important if you don't want to hear a smear between kicks. The Empyrean on just about every occasion, comes through with flying colors. I don't hear each kick blending into each other which is a welcome change from some of the headphones I've owned or auditioned in the past. They are perfect for the kind of metal I listen too. There is a nice warm and pleasing mid bass bump. Not too much, not to little, the goldilocks affect. Just right! You can hear the sub bass all the way down to 20 Hz and it's immersive. I just dig it. This is the type of bass that I've always wanted to hear and the Empyrean does it for me.

Mids
Stunning. The only other headphones I've heard for my tastes that are equal to the Empyrean mids would be basically all the ZMF's. That's huge because I never thought I'd say that. I have my tastes and it's hard for me to change my mind because I can be stubborn. Since being introduced to the ZMF sound, it's been "the" sound for me. Well, the Empyrean has equaled what Zach has churned out with one headphones after another. A perfect balance where nothing is lost between the other 2 frequencies. You never hear the guitar, vocals, bass, drums bleed into each other but renders a perfect balance between all. They are perfectly balanced and you can hear every nuance in the song. Again, progressive metal and rock both are guitar emphasized and they've never sounded better. They're crunchy, solid and full, crystal clear, a distorted bliss which has a razor sharp sound at times, blended and balanced perfectly. Very detailed as you can hear the pick hitting the strings during those more quite passages. Yes, there's plenty of quite passes in metal....think Dream Theater. LeBrie's vocals (which at times is hard to take) make him sound good all the time. The overall tone of his voice, breaths taken between notes, power and balance make it a pleasure listening to him again. Petrucci's guitar playing has never sounded cleaner, tighter and fast as it does listening to the Empyrean. I use Dream Theater as just 1 example for how beautiful the mids sound. No matter what or who I listen to, instrumental or with vocals, they sound great. This is a very forgiving headphone and it shines it's brightest when you really listen to the mids. The thing is, they just do distorted guitar right! As much as I love the bass on these, the mids steal the show.

Treble
So you say you like it bright because that's the only way that you can hear all the little details that you believe you'll miss out on? That's what detail is all about so it's got to be bright. Forgetaboutit. These are detail monsters but definitely not bright in the least. They're not rolled off but instead, they're very smooth and relaxed with just the right amount of sparkle. Listening closely (or not) you can hear every little detail that the song can offer. They're very detailed with plenty of energy to keep the most ardent treble fans happy. There's nothing sibilant about these headphones at all. Creamy smooth butter that you can cut with a piece of paper. These are as non fatiguing as it gets and you can listen for hours on end and never feel like you just got punched in both ears a hundred times. I'm looking at you TH900. Even though I really like the aforementioned headphone and the qualities it posses, it gets fatiguing quickly. If you can't listen to a headphone for over an hour, ever, why? The Empyrean's treble just sings like a bird, is very airy and like the bass and mids, blends in perfectly. As you can tell, I believe this is a very balanced headphone where a lot of thought went into it's signature sound. I didn't hear any strange weird peaks and valleys but just smoothness with a lot of energy.

Soundstage
Not a whole heck of a lot to say other then the Empyrean has a very nice and solid soundstage. It excels in both width and depth and it feels like the sound is all enveloping. I'm not going to get into "it sounds like I'm sitting in the 7th row, or on stage or the front row" because I don't have any kind of recollection of what the heck that would even sound like. Pure nonsense if you ask me. By no means can this compete with say the HD800s but it holds it's own against most other headphones in it's price bracket. I've read a few comments here and on other sites stating they think they're intimate and polite in it's stage but I feel they're a lot better then that. Versus every headphone I personally own, this is the most expansive soundstage of them all and I like!

Comparisons. All open backs
The 3 headphones that I'll use as comparisons if you so happen to own one of them, or all 3, have really no resemblance to the Empyrean. They're that different but also serve as excellent compliments if you wanted to add to your stall.

-vs- Focal Clear
Can you say night and day? If ever there was a perfect compliment of 2 headphones, this would be it. The Focal house sound has always been in your face. They are extremely energetic, in your face, fatiguing for long listening sessions with excellent detail retrieval. The Clear has energetic treble with not nearly the bass slam and emphasis as the Empyrean. It's clean, tight and punchy, but doesn't have that full body flavor (not the same level of mid bass) as the Empyrean. The mids are noticeably recessed versus the Emp but they're still no slouch in their own right. I just love this headphone and based off my preference, I like it "almost" as much as the Utopia. The reason? The price. I get most of what the Utopia offers at a third of the price. But versus the Empyrean, it doesn't offer the same attributes that I'm looking for in an endgame headphone, if there is such a thing. It's bright, overall more neutral, bass response doesn't have the body/texture and slam and has slightly recessed mids. The soundstage is very polite and intimate where the Empyrean is huge comparatively speaking. The Empyrean excels in each of those areas but I still love the Clear as It's a perfect compliment.

-vs-Klipsch Heritage HP3.
Out of everything I own, this headphone is my go to every single time and my favorite….until I purchased the ZMF Aeolus which will be discussed below. The HP3 has a few similarities with each having plenty of bass slam and great soundstage. The HP3 would be more V shaped with the emphasis on the bass and treble response. Where it's so much better then most V signatures, the mids are not nearly as recessed as say something like the TH-X00 variant or the Fostex TH900. What I really like about the HP3 versus the Empyrean is how it sounds like you're at a live concert. This headphone takes you straight to the venue and has that vibe. It emulates it's sibling speakers so if you like Klipsch's tower speakers, you'll probably like the HP3. Where the Empyrean really excels is in it's mids and it's definitely a more smooth sounding signature. It just has better detail retrieval and an overall more relaxed and smoother sound, organic. Not saying the HP3 has a poor sound, it's just the Empyrean sounds better to my ears because it does "everything" right and is so balanced across the entire frequency range. The HP3 is one HP I'll never trade, sell or give away as it's a keeper for sure. It also compliments the Empyrean and they belong sitting right next to each other with no problems for when you want a different flavor.

-vs- ZMF Aeolus
Well Zach did it again. I was fortunate enough to have all 3 headphones (Aeolus, Verite, Empyrean) for our meet in the Phoenix area a few weeks back. I had very little head-time with the Verite, thus the reason the omission on a comparison. I liked the Aeolus so much that I never sent it back and just bought it outright. Sure, it's not new but it looks and sounds exactly like it was. If any headphone that I've heard or own that "could" compare to the Empyrean it would be this guy. I cannot or will not say I like the Aeolus more then the Empyrean because I don't. The Empyrean is that great of a headphone and it would be a disservice to say anything else so I'll just to leave it at that. Once again, the Empyrean just does everything right and better as they nailed it every and any which way you look. The Aeolus is a warmer sounding headphone with a much stronger mid bass bump which is a ZMF trademark. The sub bass extends down low as the mid bass bump is toned down versus it's closed back brother the Atticus. The Atticus always had great sub bass but that mid bass hump just overshadowed it so you didn't have the opportunity to hear it as well as the Aeolus. The Empyrean definitely has more sparkle up top. The Aeolus is not rolled off per say but is smooth and relaxed. Mids are quite similar and both steal the show. Aeolus still has a plethora of detail as you can hear every little intricacy in the music but the Empyreans extra energy up top gives the impression of more air and space. The soundstage isn't small on the Aeoluis and is very good in both width and depth, but the Empyrean does it better. Bottom line, both are great headphones and would be excellent compliments to each other. But when push comes to shove, the Empyrean stays with me all day long as it IS the sound signature I'm looking for.

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Conclusion

If you have the discretionary income and you're looking for an endgame top of the line headphone, this could be the one for you. Is it for everyone? No. For me? no doubt. At our Head-Fi meet, the most stringent audiophiles "almost" all said they loved this headphone. They were never on my stand and were always being listened to by one of the guests. I'd love to insert some of their comments but that would be hearsay, which I already kind of did.

If I could only keep one headphone, this would be the one. This is a very organic, leaning towards warm, fun, relaxing, forgiving, detailed, slamming all encompassed sound signature that I've been searching for since I got into this hobby more then a few years ago.

Well this is the end of my first review and I gotta tell you, it's a lot of work but well worth it. I know there's a lot of reviews out there that are a lot more technical then this one. I just wanted to do something a bit different and NOT get all technical while just sharing what I hear from a music perspective. My hope is my experiences and personal take has helped you in some way and that maybe we could relate to one another.

G
tradyblix
tradyblix
Great Review ! :wink:
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dmdm
dmdm
Great review!
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mrmoto050
mrmoto050
Great review, and great choice of music also.
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