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  1. koover
    Meze Empyrean
    Written by koover
    Published Apr 7, 2019
    5.0/5,
    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.

    IMG_2340.JPG

    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.

    IMG_2316 (1).JPG


    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

    IMG_2345 (1).JPG

    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.

    IMG_2352 (1).JPG

    • 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

    IMG_2343 (1).JPG

    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.

    IMG_2341 (1).JPG

    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
    1. View previous replies...
    2. TWerk
      Great review, Koover - I enjoyed reading this! You have some great cans. Glad your HP-3 is still getting some love!
      TWerk, Apr 13, 2019
      koover likes this.
    3. dsrk
      Excellent review. I like reviews like this than the more technical ones. Fantastic, keep it up.
      dsrk, Apr 14, 2019
      koover likes this.
    4. tradyblix
      Great Review ! :wink:
      tradyblix, May 11, 2019
      koover likes this.
  2. ngoshawk
    Meze Empyrean: The Steampunk of headphones
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published May 7, 2019
    5.0/5,
    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

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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…

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    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…

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    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…

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    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.

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    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.


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    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.

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    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.

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    1. View previous replies...
    2. ngoshawk
      Aah, there are times I find the Cascade too much and the Atlas. But, I find them intoxicating as well.

      With regard to the Atticus I would appreciate a bit more, but it is good.
      ngoshawk, May 10, 2019
    3. tradyblix
      I didnt like “wouldnt dare take them in public”, and “not portable” as cons. Well, these are not active lifestyle headphones. They are not portable headphones. It goes without saying. It is not a con. It would be like putting down “not open” as a con on closed headphones.
      tradyblix, May 11, 2019
    4. 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...
      ngoshawk, May 12, 2019