General Information

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Isodynamic hybrid array planar-magnetic driver from Rinaro
$4000US

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betula

Headphoneus Supremus
Meze Elite: endgame material*
Pros: - best available build quality
- best available comfort
- top shelf technical performance
- uniquely sweet and addictive tone
- well-balanced across the spectrum
- hard hitting bass when the recording calls for it, but never intrusive
- long term fatigueless (and fun) listen guaranteed
Cons: - might sound too laid back for someone who is pursuing a more aggressive presentation
- ludicrous price, but considering the competition it is actually a fair offer
Prologue

Without going into details three months ago I purchased the Meze Elite as I was so impressed by how perfectly they meet my personal preference in sound presentation. As a long time Empyrean owner the Elite also impressed me by the level of improvement in technical performance and balance versus its predecessor. For three months my Elites have been in daily use and I still cannot get enough of them.

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I write this review as a thank you to Meze for creating such a wonderful headphone and also for the benefit of the community. The more opinions we share the better overall picture we get. I will try to bring a lot of comparisons but at times this review will be slightly more biased than usual due to my emotional involvement in this headphone.

Sonic taste, background & gear

I always liked a smoother, slightly warmer sound with focused and impactful bass and gentle treble presentation. I was always looking for headphones which are suited for extremely long listening sessions but within that package offer the highest possible level of technical performance. I really like Audeze LCD2/3/X/4, Final D8000, Empyrean and now the Elite. My aim was always to keep only one pair of headphones (ok, sometimes two) of the highest possible quality I can afford. I am not a collector, not by nature and not by wallet.

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The gear I currently own is RME ADI2 + Burson Soloist 3XP with supercharger. I also tried the Elite on Chord TT2/MScaler combo.

Build & comfort

This section will be short. Both build and comfort are simply the best I have ever tried or experienced on any headphones. Perhaps the only other company that competes in build quality is Abyss, but to me they fall short on comfort. Meze really puts to shame some other multi-thousand dollar flagships in this regard.

Comfort is also unparalleled. The curved suspension headband distributes the light weight of 430g perfectly. For someone who often wears headphones longer than 2 hours (occasionally 6-8 hours) this is a major factor. To me almost every other headphone became uncomfortable after 2 hours including Audeze, Focal or Final. Not just because of the sheer weight, but the lack of thoughtful weight distribution and/or a poor ear-pad design.

With the Elite (or Empyrean) you enter the world of ultimate comfort. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. It is impossible to enjoy a good sound if you have to readjust the headphones every 5-10 minutes or start to feel the weight after 30 minutes.

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Sound

There is a unique, special quality in the Elite's sound which is hard to describe. A sweet and addictive tonality which makes you want to listen more and more. One thing is the non-fatiguing, relaxed and supremely natural sound; another thing is this lingering sweetness which spoils your ears. To me the Elites are a huge improvement on the Empyrean when it comes to technical abilities and overall balance. The new Meze flagship is well-balanced and a lot more neutral sounding from sub-bass to upper treble and it is a true flagship, top of the line performer when it comes to detail retrieval, speed, clarity and resolution.

There are other flagship headphones which do certain things better like an even bigger soundstage or even more obvious details or slightly higher resolution or even bigger bass impact, but to me at least none of those are this good in almost everything. The resolution, detail retrieval, speed and other qualities on the Elite are simply stunning and leave no further desires for the last 5% when the level of musical engagement is unrivalled. In this regard (as well as in comfort and build) in my opinion the Elites are the best of the best.

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Technical performance

The Elite is a worthy challenger when it comes to technical performance of the best headphones on the market today. Perhaps Meze is a tad behind something like the Susvara, Abyss 1266 or Solitaire P, but not to the extent anyone should be concerned about. In case you value one or two aspects of the sound a lot higher than anything else, you might prefer another headphone. If you value the overall performance package and coherence, the Elite is hard to beat.

I will talk more about technicalities when I get to direct comparisons. For now, let me just say I find the Elite to be a huge jump over the Empyrean in technical performance.

The Elite also has a significantly bigger soundstage and clearer imaging than the Empyrean. The stage has a lot more air, the distance between instruments is bigger and the overall picture is a lot clearer as well.

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Bass

I love my bass clean, impactful, extended and balanced. I recently realised, a lot of enthusiasts who describe themselves as 'bass-heads' are in fact 'mid-bass-heads'. They just want a relatively clear but strongly mid-bass emphasised bass tuning. I am not that kind of a 'bass-head'. What I prefer is a relatively linear bass with great extension to sub-bass territories which gives a contour to the low frequencies that everything is built on. I am after a sub-bass that is a foundation to everything else and hits with authority when needed. A sub-bass that is only present when the recording calls for it but when it calls for it, the dynamism and impact makes you smile. This kind of bass is equally good for orchestral music and psychedelic trance. This is one reason I absolutely loved Audeze bass and love the Elite.

The Empyrean's mid-bass hump is gone, the Elite's bass is similarly balanced to other TOTL headphones. I would call it a more elegant, more sophisticated bass tuning. That said, this bass can hit harder than you would expect. Harder than the Empyrean in fact, but only when the sub-bass in the recording hits hard as well. The Empyrean pretty much maintains a constant mid-bass level, which in comparison can be hazy and sometimes overbearing. The Elite is clearer and more impactful but only when it has to be.

I have to mention, despite the Elite being a very efficient headphone that can be run by almost any amps, they do appreciate better source and the very first sign of that is an improved fullness and quality of bass performance. (3D imaging would be second on this list.)

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Mids

Due to the very well balanced tuning bass never bleeds into the mids as opposed to the Empyrean. Mids on the Elite are extremely natural and have great texture. Coming from mid-tier headphones like the popular Arya or LCD-X the lifelikeness can be shocking in a good way. Listening to your favourite vocals has never been more enveloping. The sound is not thin but also not overly thick. The texture of the voices/acoustic instruments is almost tangible. This combined with the big and clear space allows you to very easily 'see' the performers in your head.

Treble

The treble is definitely clearer, brighter and more detailed than it is on the Empyrean, but it is still a relaxed and smooth treble. It is very clear and airy in a natural way. You do not perceive any artificial treble shine/shimmer or sharpness here. The Elite does not operate with artificial treble saturation in order to enhance fake detail perception. All details are there in a natural light. Like a walk in a sunny forest as opposed to the neon lights of a tech lab.

Comparisons

Meze Empyrean

I really like the Empyrean. Apart from the same level of comfort and build quality the Empyrean is the ultimate relaxing flavour headphone. A warm and smooth sound with enhanced bass, loved by many people including me. The Empyrean's strength is not its resolving capability or detail retrieval, but a very smooth, coherent and natural sound. While the former qualities may raise some questions when it comes to the asking price, the latter qualities in my opinion justify the Empyreans place. It is definitely a divisive headphone, but I think users just need to be more aware of what they want from a headphone and what the headphone offers.

The Empyrean is a fantastic smooth listen with enhanced mid-bass. The Elite is a well-balanced top performer with stronger sub-bass but flatter/better balanced mid-bass. The Elite has significantly higher resolution and bigger soundstage with better instrument separation, imaging and detail retrieval. To my ears the Elite is simply next level.

What the Elite retains from the original Empyrean sound is the smooth naturalness throughout the frequencies. A never fatiguing but very engaging and enveloping sound that makes it hard to put the headphones down. You always want to click for just one more track and finally this addictive Meze sound has no obvious technical faults or limitations anymore.

Those who generally like the tonality of the Empyrean but wish for a better balanced sound with higher resolution, bigger soundstage and an overall sound quality upgrade will simply love the Elite.

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Final D8000

Another headphone I really like. The sound is very much like an improved Empyrean with clearer, tighter bass and better detail retrieval. The bass on the D8000 is big, bold, similar in quantity to the Empyrean but better quality. Overall the soundstage is smaller than on the Empyrean but imaging is slightly better. Treble is clearer too. Mids are better on the Empyrean.

When we compare the D8000 to the Elite, to me the Elite sounds clearly superior in pretty much every category. The soundstage is huge compared to the D8000 and the instruments stand out better with more air around them. The D8000 suddenly sounds a bit claustrophobic. The Elite is also better balanced across the spectrum with higher resolving capabilities.

Both the D8000 and the Empyrean are very natural sounding headphones, clearly a higher category when we compare them to something like the Arya or LCD-X (which are also great headphones on their respective level) but the Elite simply sounds even more lifelike and natural than the Empyrean or D8000.

The biggest fault of the great sounding D8000 is its comfort. They become heavy after a couple of hours and the headband/weight distribution is far from perfect. Also the earpads are somewhat flimsy and not a great touch/feel on the skin. The D8000 can be impressive at first, but when you have to adjust, touch and move around the headphones on your head this often, that simply kills enjoyment.

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Audeze LCD-5

While I owned both the D8000 and Empyrean, I only auditioned the LCD-5. I owned the LCD-2, LCD-X and heard the LCD-3 and LCD-4. As I mentioned earlier, I like Audeze sound mostly for its bass. When it comes to mids and treble, I actually prefer the Empyrean. This is true for the LCD2, X, 3 and 4. The LCD-5 is simply not for me.

The LCD-5 is a very, very different tuning compared to previous LCD models. Audeze took an extremely neutral U-turn in their tuning versus the former warmish bass king LCD-4. The LCD-5 to me sounds like the ultimate studio monitor. A perfect machine that delivers technical accuracy like nothing else. I admire it but can't love it.

Solitaire P

Absolutely fantastic sounding headphones. It is a shame they are a lot more expensive than the Elite and also do not showcase the same level of build quality. The sound is very well balanced and extremely detailed but in a very effortless way which makes the Solitaire P an appealing and unique offer. I really enjoy these headphones. Yet, I would still pick the Elite due to its engaging musical qualities. There is some sort of a sweet addictiveness in the Elite's sound which I cannot describe.

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HiFiMan HE1000SE and Susvara

I am admittedly not a HiFiMan fan. Build quality aside the sound of the Arya/HE1000 series is just not for me. They are good headphones, but to me the treble can be too bright. The vast and diffuse sound is an even bigger issue for my taste. Soundstage is good, but not when you loose focus. I prefer a more focused, more dynamic and more impactful presentation.

The Susvara is different from the other oval shaped HiFiMans; I actually like the Susvara's sound. It is wonderfully balanced, very detailed, a really impressive pair of headphones. Perhaps the Susvara has the more accurate presentation, but I still find the Elite more engaging and more pleasant to listen to.

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Conclusion

I hope those fierce objectivists will forgive me for a more personal and slightly biased write-up. At the end of the day I was reviewing my own Elite; my personal choice of TOTL headphones. Hopefully the members who followed my journey can see beyond my enthusiasm and take away the objective points I touched on to help them choose their bestie/(beast). At this level there are not really good or bad choices, good or bad headphones in an objective way. There are only personal choices just like in a fine-dining restaurant. The Elite is an exceptional combination of many outstanding qualities: build, comfort, a musical and enveloping sound with top shelf technical performance. To my ears the Elite surpasses its predecessor the Empyrean not just by a nose. I do not think there is a better all-rounder out there for someone who only wants to keep one pair of luxury headphones.

*As most of us know, ‘endgame’ is an overused term. Usually less experienced fellow enthusiasts use it when they hear a sound that astonishes them. After having a few epiphanies like that we, more experienced users know endgame is a mirage as there is always a better sound. The price of it is a different story. The reason I still used this term in my title is because I can see the Elite fulfilling most needs. Most audio lovers wouldn’t need anything more than this.
There was always something in my previous headphones I wanted to change or improve. Not with the Elite, which is a first for me.
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betula
betula
Haha.. Thanks, but it is admittedly a more personal review. Personal taste/need plays a big role when it comes to TOTL headphones.

The Solitaire P is fantastic and technically slightly better than the Elite. For orchestral music only I would possibly pick that one.

As an only TOTL headphone though the Elite is more multifunctional with different genres and I find the musical engagement level unique to the Elite. While it's technical level is still absolutely TOTL and more than satisfactory to me. The Elite's sound is just extremely pleasing.
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OCC7N
OCC7N
Thanks for insight :)

Im really close to pull the trigger on the elite. But the store only has it in XLR. I dont like interconnects….I also heard latency issues on the tt2. So on the dac side I dont have alot of options with XLR.

Is there a dac/amp you would recommend?
betula
betula
There are plenty of aftermarket cables available. This shouldn't be an issue to hold you back from purchasing the Elite.

Also, there are so many DACs and amps that I don't even know where to start. If you search the Elite thread, I am sure you'll find plenty of alternatives to the TT2. The Elite while scales well, also sounds good from almost anything. ADI2 plus iFi iCan was another decent combo. Good bass weight and texture from the iCan.

rev92

Reviewer at Ear Fidelity
Meze Elite
Pros: World's best build quality and comfort
Beautiful craftsmanship
Innovative technology
Unboxing experience
Goo included cable and two pairs of earpads
Beautiful timbre
Soundstage
Good detail retrieval
One of the best vocal reproductions in headphones
Pairs well with most stuff
Jack of all trades, highly universal with different music choices
Very easy-going listening experience
European audio at its best
Cons: Very expensive
Still not as technical as the Susvara/D8000 Pro/HE1000se
It looks huge on your head

Introduction​

Meze Audio is just a great “underdog” story in the headphone audio world. Founded in 2011 they started with some OEM headphones like many others. In 2015 they launched their vastly popular 99 series with the 99 Classics. This was the turning moment for the company, as the 99 Classics is still selling great in 2022, meaning it’s already 7 years old and still going strong.
Nonetheless, it was a good $300 pair of wooden, mobile headphones, nothing to really write a book about in terms of raw technical supremacy. After that, they launched the 99 Neo and two IEMs, The Rai Penta and a budget Rai Solo. There was some fuzz about it, but it still wasn’t anything revolutionary.
It all changed in 2018 when Meze announced their new flagship headphone, called the Empyrean. Boy oh boy what a launch that was. A rather small company with a few headphones in its lineup just created something to rival the big dogs of the industry. While its technical performance was and still is questioned by some people, it was without a single doubt the best-built pair of headphones ever created. It made all the multi-thousand dollars flagships feel and look cheap and unpolished, and that was very, very impressive.
Other than that, Meze has teamed up with Rinaro to create the most technically impressive planar-magnetic driver in the world. With its “HYBRID ARRAY DRIVER”, it was one of its kind in the entire world (more about it in the TECH paragraph though).
Three years have passed, and it was about time to put the Empyrean to rest as the true flagship of Meze. While having many strong points in terms of the build quality, comfort, overall technical advancement, and its one-of-a-kind design, it had its flaws as well. The tuning was definitely not for everybody with its rather dark character and its somewhat uninspiring bass response. Hear me out though – the Empyrean WAS and still IS a great pair of headphones, but it’s just not a Jack Of All Trades, something that should be expected by a $3000 flagship pair of planar headphones. While it was marvelously mellow sounding and just about perfect for chilling on your sofa, it was outperformed by its competitors when it comes to detail retrieval and overall resolution, mainly because of its specified sound signature.
What did Meze do about that? They’ve released the Elite in 2021, an improved Empyrean with a $4000 price tag. The first thing that came into my mind when I saw that announcement was…Woah, that’s a risky move. It looks similar to the Empyrean, has similar technology and it’s now $4000 instead of $3000. They had a lot to prove for it to be a success.

Packaging​

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The packaging and the overall presentation haven’t changed since the Empyrean, and it is a great thing. The Elite comes to you in a double box, to begin with. After getting through the first, default layer, you’ll get to the outer box with some cool and minimal branding. It’s what’s underneath that really matters though.
Inside the box, you’ll find the best carrying “case” you’ll find in this hobby. It’s an aluminum suitcase that looks simply badass. Every time I hold it, I feel like I’m a secret agent on an exciting mission. Audeze gives you great carrying Peli cases with their headphones, but as far as they’re brilliant in terms of security, they are not a match to the one that comes with the Elite. It just looks and feels so elegant, expensive, and in great taste. It has two locking hinges and a carrying handle, so it’s very comfortable to carry around.
This is the best type of packaging you can get with headphones period. It is rather large, but it is literally the only thing that could be criticized by anybody. It offers splendid security to the headphones inside, and there’s plenty of room for you to pack your spare earpads, a cable or two, and maybe a small DAP or DACAMP.
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Let’s dive into it and see what else you’ll be getting. When ordering the Elite, you’ll have to choose a cable to be supplied with it. You can get a 2.5m 6.3mm cable, 2.5m XLR cable, and a 1.2m cable with a 3.5mm jack. It would have been great if you could choose a 4.4mm cable or a shorter XLR/6.3mm version, but you can’t have everything. That would mean a lot of options for the manufacturer itself, and more importantly, for the distributors. They had to limit the choice somehow, so it is one of these three – basically, all of the most popular choices. You’ll have to spend extra to get a 4.4mm cable or a shorter/longer version of the XLR/6.3mm, but still, the choice is good. More on the cable itself later.
Secondly, you’re getting two pairs of quality earpads. When I say quality, I mean QUALITY earpads. Definitely one of the best in the game, if not the best when it comes to stock earpads. You’ve got one that is made of Alcantara, big, thick, and plushy. The comfort and feel of these earpads are just beautiful. If Alcantara is not your thing (or if you want a different sound signature – more on that later), you’ve also got new hybrid earpads. Significantly shallower than the Alcantara ones, they are made of leather with perforated Alcantara on the inner ring. Due to its different material and reduced thickness, you’ll be getting quite a different sound signature with these earpads, and spoiler alert…these are the ones to go with.
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Lastly, there’s a small business card with proof of authenticity (date of inspection, serial number) and a little catalog with the story behind Meze and the Elite.
All of that makes for an absolutely marvelous unboxing experience. It is both secure and luxurious, giving you all you need to start using the Elite and then more. A $4000 pair of headphones, and it definitely shows by the packaging. Well done Meze.

Design, Build and Comfort​

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I’m gonna start with a bold statement: The Meze Elite is the best-built headphone on the planet, just like the Empyrean.
See, I always look at the build with the function in mind, just like it should be. A headphone can be a piece of art, forged of the best materials with the greatest care, but if it’s poorly designed and/or uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter.
The Elite is designed and built to be comfortable, reliable and to last many, many years without problems. It has it all, and at the same time, its finish and overall design are just extraordinary.
I’ve been playing with the Abyss Diana Phi lately, and this headphone really made me re-think everything about the build quality of headphones. The Diana is built with unbelievable attention to detail, it uses great materials, it looks astonishing…and it’s broken. It REQUIRES some modifications right out of the box to be called anywhere near comfortable and well-designed, and even then it’s just poor in these regards.
The headband looks and feels great to the touch, but it literally has no padding, so hotspots on top of your heads are starting to bother you after like 15 minutes of using them. Of course, you can improve it by using some aftermarket headband cushions (ZMF for example), but it just shouldn’t be a thing in this price bracket, or any price to be specific. The earpads are not deep enough, so you either get the driver touching your ear, or you break your seal…or both. The cable uses proprietary connectors, so you’ll basically have to use either the stock cable or one of Abyss’s upgrade cables, and they come with a huge price tag.
All of the above made me just simply disappointed. I really wanted to like the Diana Phi, but I simply couldn’t.
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Back to the Elite. This is a completely different story. First things first – it is very, VERY comfortable. The weight distribution is perfect, mainly because of the carbon fiber, bent headband that is just designed with ergonomics in mind. The suspension strap has unique curves to it, and it makes the headphone simply disappear on your head, something that many headphones fail to do.
The earpads, just as I said in the unboxing paragraph are brilliant. They are great for the touch, are deep and plush enough to just comfortably sit around your ears without them making contact with the drivers. The build and finish make me sure that they will last a long time if you’ll take care of them of course.
Next up is the adjustment mechanism. The earpieces are attached to the headband by a superbly tight and smooth sliding mechanism with no steps. They do slide with a perfect resistance, so they will not loose-up on their own. I can’t comment on the longevity of this solution, as it’ll probably take me years of regular use to see how it ages, but at this time it works like a dream and is definitely one of the best adjustment mechanisms on the market.
Lastly, the earcups themselves. They are made of raw CNC aluminum. This is a great headphone for macro photography, thanks to its beautiful finish. You can see all the CNC passes throughout every single aluminum part of the headphone, and they are a true testimonial to why Elite takes over 20h to be forged. This is pure art.
Personally, I find the silver color of the Elite less appealing than some of the Empyrean versions, especially the black + copper version. There’s something warm and inviting in most of the Empyreans, while the Elite looks more technical and raw, industrial. This is highly subjective though, and I’m standing by my words – The Elite is the best-built and best-designed headphone ever. A piece of art.
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Let’s get back to comfort for a short while. The Elite weighs 430g, which is definitely not the lightest headphone on the market. It is how Meze has handled this weight though, that makes the Elite an extremely comfortable pair of headphones. The weight distribution on top of your head is perfect, the earpads are plush and pleasant to the touch, and the entire construction just hugs your head gently. This is a huge pair of headphones, but it is also designed with long listening sessions in mind. Definitely, one of the most comfortable high-end headphones ever made. Might as well be the most comfortable, but it will depend on your head shape and size. Of all the competitors, only the Hifiman HE1000se and the Susvara can come close to the Elite when it comes to comfort, and I’ll still give a significant edge to the Romanian flagship.
The cable included in the box is also of great quality. It is made of OFC copper and is great to the touch. While it is not the most tangle-free and soft cable in the world, it is still one of the better stock cables you can get. While some competitors give you cables that should have never been included with such an expensive and high-end product, Meze got you covered with something that is reliable, well-built, and good sounding. Meze also offers upgrade cables made of FURUKAWA PCUHD copper, as well as silver-plated. They do come at $349 and $499, which definitely don’t make them affordable, but this price is still fair for a quality, well-made upgrade cable. The competition offers upgrade cables even at $3490 for the same length, which is 2.5m. $499 vs $3490, let that sink in.

Tech​

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The Elite is not only built wonderfully, but it also uses advanced technologies that I can call revolutionary with no hesitation.
The heart of the headphone is the driver. Here, Meze Audio teamed up with Rinaro, a company that specializes in acoustic technology. Here’s a quick introduction of Rinaro, taken from Meze’s official website:
“Rinaro originated in the USSR (today’s Ukraine) during the Cold War as part of a state-funded acoustic technology research program. With government backing and access to advanced testing facilities, the team was able to focus all of its efforts on planar magnetics. A field they have continued to innovate in for the last 30 years, since the collapse of the USSR. In the last decade, Rinaro have expanded their capabilities and capacity with the development of state-of-the-art R&D and manufacturing facilities in Ukraine and Poland. The new facilities have been a driving force in the creation of the revolutionary Isodynamic Hybrid Array technology found in Meze Empyrean and ELITE headphones.”
What’s so special about this driver you’d ask. Well, let me explain step by step, with some help from the official Meze Audio site.
First of all, the most impressive and the most original approach of this driver has to be its hybrid voice coil configuration. A planar-magnetic driver has an ultra-thin diaphragm with a voice coil on it. Both the Empyrean and the Elite are the first headphones in the world to use two different types of coils on a single diaphragm. The Switchback coil is meant to reproduce low frequencies and it’s located on the upper part of the driver. The spiral coil though is more efficient in reproducing the midrange and the treble, and it is located directly next to your ear canal, enabling more direct sound waves to enter the ear canal to minimalize time delays.
This makes for improved phase delays and better time shifts of the actual sound wave, resulting in a cleaner, more precise soundstage reproduction and better imaging.
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The diaphragm itself is made of an ultra-thin biaxially oriented semi-crystalline polymer film to ensure the lowest mass of the diaphragm possible. This low mass, together with the Hybrid Array Driver technology, allows sound waves to be targeted with more accuracy around the shape of the ear. The weight of the diaphragm is 0.11g with an active area of 4650mm2. The neodymium magnets are placed symmetrically on either side of the diaphragm, and they create a 0.35 Tesla magnetic field. This might not say too much to you, but this is one hell of impressive technology.
Another great thing about these drivers is that they utilize the demagnetizing field generated to hold the earpads in place whilst also redirecting the magnetic field back into the driver and improving driver efficiency. Thanks to that, changing the earpads take a couple of seconds, thanks to its magnetic mounting technology. Every time I change the earpads in my Susvara I feel like I’m going to break something, I’m not kidding. Compared to that, changing the earpads in the Elite feels like a breeze, it’s super easy and convenient.

Sound​

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So far so good, the Elite is a wonderfully built headphone that is marvelously comfortable and it uses some ground-breaking technologies when it comes to the drivers. Every high-end headphone should be maximally optimized upon the sound quality though, as at the end of the day this is the single most important thing in audio.

As I mentioned before, the Empyrean was a marvelous product held back by its somewhat limited technical performance. The detail retrieval, resolution, and speed were a bit lacking when compared to the upper echelon of the headphone audio market. On top of that, it has that specific sound signature that surely won’t satisfy everyone, and it made the Empyrean a specialized headphone for a specific type of experience / or a limited choice of music to listen to. The story behind the Elite is to maintain the best qualities of the Empyrean but to offer a signature that is more refined and neutral, which would also allow for better technical performance.
This surely isn’t easy. After all, Meze Audio together with Rinaro has been working on the Empyrean for years and it requires a lot of patience and knowledge to sit to that project, re-do it, and actually come up with significant upgrades.
I’m going to say it right here and right now – the Elite is a significant upgrade to the Empyrean. Not only it is far better when it comes to technical performance, but its tuning has also been changed quite moderately, resulting in a complete shift of the use case scenario of these headphones. The Empyrean was great with some type of music, but it couldn’t have been called a good all-rounder. The Elite is the absolute opposite to that – ever since I got it, it became my most used pair of headphones, having the Susvara, D8000 Pro, 1000se, and many more.
The Elite is a Jack Of All Trades, but it manages that through enjoyment. It has that monstrous amount of fun of using it, listening to it, experiencing it. It is at the same time very involving yet forgiving and easy-going. It is a refined type of experience that just works well with basically everything, no matter the music genre or the quality of production. Let’s go step by step, shall we?
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The bass has been the weakest point of the Empyrean for many. While it was quite a boosted and rich type of bass, it lacked resolution and texture when compared to Top Tier headphones from the competition.
The Elite remains quite a bassy headphone when talking high-end, but it improved that frequency by a lot. It is still hard-hitting, deep, and thick sounding, but now it is wonderfully controlled, heavily textured, and nuanced.
Low frequencies do extend right into the sub-bass region with ease and they do that with authority. This is NOT a bass-light headphone, not even close. The amount of bass when compared to the Susvara is just a lot more pronounced and physical.
It does not cheat though, giving you an accurate timbre and the size of the bass instruments that is just right. It does great with bass guitar, double bass, electronic music, and percussions. Everything.
Let’s take a song called “Starboy” by The Weeknd as an example. This is a modern track with modern bass that is hard-hitting, big, and saturated. The Elite handles this track perfectly, giving us the bass that is both natural-sounding and super fun. The texture quality sounds great, and the beat that is present throughout the entire song is just physical, raw, and powerful. It adds that layer of excitement to an already insanely fun track (oh Daft Punk, that has to be one of your best). When listening to this track with the Susvara I can never get this amount of fun, excitement, and spiciness.
Switching to something more “true”, a song called “Long After You’re Gone” by Chris Jones. This is a wonderfully mastered music with some heavy-hitting acoustic guitar. Right at the beginning of the song, you’ll hear that they recorded that guitar from very close, showing the whole resonance box of the guitar itself. This bass can murder a lot of high-end stereo systems if the bass isn’t just right (been there, done that a lot of times). The Elite however handles that monstrosity of a guitar with such elegance and authority, it does sound huge, bold, and saturated, but there’s also control, a lot of texture, and resolution. The reverberation of the guitar feels natural and pleasant, even though it might seem on a heavier side, which it is. As I said previously, this is a bass-heavy type of experience, but the quality of this bass is just right this time, not giving us anything to be desired. This is the type of bass I would love to have on the Susvara, as it (subjectively) feels just a bit too lean for my personal liking.
Last but not least, “Sleeping And Household” by Felix Laband (shootout to Michał Sommerfeld who showed me this great album). This is an electronic masterpiece, the mastering quality is just out of this world, and the Elite works wonders here. The entire song is filled with heavy bass elements and the Elite never fails to deliver good control, texture, and impact. Actually, this is one of the most impactful representations of this song I’ve heard on a planar-magnetic headphone to date. It’s rich, deep, physical, well extended, and perfectly controlled. The Empyrean does a lot more mediocre job in this song, lacking in definition and being way muddier and slower.

The midrange is the star of the show here. When it comes to the natural timbre of human voices, only the Susvara comes out as more real-sounding of all the headphones I use on a regular basis.
It has that sweet, lush, and just real aspect to it, making vocals come alive in an unforced and pleasant way. The Elite is an emotional type of headphone that does everything for you to enjoy the music as much as you can. It does well with every type of vocal I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot), being full-sounding, rich, and accurate at the same time, which is far from being easy. The best aspect of the Elite is how easy to listen they are, I can easily spend an entire day using them, not only thanks to their sublime comfort but also the sound that is just smooth and pleasing.
The Elite is a masterpiece when it comes to rock recordings. I’m a big fan of Foreigner, and their music sounds really great on the Elite, being highly musical, melodic, and dynamic. Luckily, because of the smooth character of the Elite, you won’t have to make sure that the mastering of the music you’re listening to is good enough – it is, always. A lot of high-end headphones and IEMs struggle when it comes to poor recordings, especially with their hyper-detailed treble presentation. The Elite gives you all the detail, but they’re presented in a sublime and sophisticated way.
The Elite is not the most detailed headphone on the market, definitely not. The Susvara, HE1000se, and D8000 Pro from Final Audio all offer a higher amount of details, but to call the Elite not detailed would have been totally wrong.
You see, detail retrieval is not the most important aspect of the sound, because, at the end of the day, you’re listening to music, not to recordings. The Elite has that unique trait of making everything sound beautiful and engaging, and this is the thing that is the most important for me.
A great example for that is a song called “Cold Little Heart” by Michael Kiwanuka. I adore his voice for that rough texture and an absolutely sweet tone, and this song ain’t no easy task for headphones. He can easily start to sound too rough, or too sweet if the midrange is wrong. With the Elite, it’s neither, as Michael sounds just extremely correct and real. It is like a combination of the Audeze LCD3 with its beautiful tone and smoothness and the Hifiman HE1000se with its insane speed and detail retrieval. A great marriage of both, with no compromises.
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The treble response of the Elite is highly natural with great note weight and excellent texture. Once again, it is highly musical, making for a superbly smooth and easy listening experience. This is not a hyper-detailed treble presentation as with the HE1000se or the D8000 Pro, but a more musical approach to reproducing high frequencies. This further extends on a sound signature that is highly polished and just consistent throughout the whole frequency range. The Elite sounds like a pair of headphones that was carefully tuned in every single frequency to ensure a sound performance that is correct and just pleasing to listen to. Wow, I actually feel like a broken record, but this is literally the best way to describe the sound of the Elite. Let’s try with some music examples.
A song called “Chocolate Chip Trip” by Tool is one of my benchmark songs for the treble response. It is just Danny Carey AKA the Octopus playing his insane drums kit, and the amount of high-frequency splash and energy this song has makes it a rather hard piece to reproduce by headphones. First up, the Elite provides a perfect note weight for this song to sound natural and impressive, and the overall speed and resolution give it a pleasant “wow factor”. With drums, you definitely don’t want the treble response to be thin-sounding, as it would have been artificial and harsh. If you’ve ever sat by a drums kit and had a little fun then you know, that all the sounds it reproduces have a proper weight and thickness to them.
The Elite does a brilliant job in making sure that everything sounds as it should. Also, female vocals are engaging and highly hypnotizing, though they might not be as forward as some may desire.
Let’s dive into a band called Archive for an example. In 2020 they released an album called “Versions” with different versions of some of their all-time best tracks. I remember when I preordered this album on vinyl like half a year before its release and just simply couldn’t wait to get it and give it a listen. More so, since they gave as a single, the fantastic “Nothing Else” from their debut album Londinium. The amount of emotions in Holly’s voice in this song is just mind-blowing, and the Elite makes sure that it all goes right into your guts. Her voice sounds smooth, vibrating, and beautifully pronounced, making for a lifelike type of sound reproduction. Fantastic.
The soundstage is just as impressive as the rest of the sound. The Elite has that ability to create big instruments, resulting in a highly saturated stage that can be both big and intimate. The Elite is a brilliant headphone when it comes to the soundstage, as it can do everything well, and its staging capabilities will be a result of the song you’re currently playing. If it’s something huge and spectacular, like “Sorrow” by Pink Floyd, the Elite will give you a huge soundstage that is just epic to listen to. When it’s more intimate, like the legendary “Comfortably Numb” from their vastly popular album “The Wall”, the Elite will produce everything closer to your head, and the size of the instruments will get bigger and bigger. All of that makes for headphones that are capable of reproducing every type of soundstage with brilliant accuracy and separation. Speaking of the imaging, the Elite images like a champ, creating a very realistic type of experience and making it very easy to pinpoint the location and shape of different instruments.

Comparisons​

I will not make any direct comparisons in this review, since the Elite took part in our “Battle Of The Flagships” article launched in March. It is worth mentioning though that it has scored 85/100, coming second in the result, beaten only by the almighty Hifiman Susvara. The Elite scored 10/10 in Presentation, Build Quality and Comfort, and Musicalitycategories, basically meaning that they are the best headphones we’ve ever tried in these three categories.

If you are interested in checking out how the Elite scored in every category and if you’d like a more in-depth comparison with some popular competition, click on the image below to go to the “Battle Of The Flagships” article.


Summary​

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The Meze Elite is just incredible. The build quality and attention to detail are just above anything else on the market, making for a sublime and luxurious feeling of actually using them. When it comes to the sound quality, the Elite has that beautiful timbre that is just a true joy to listen to, paired with great detail retrieval, spectacular resolution, and soundstage. It is now my second favorite pair only shy of the Hifiman Susvara, which I consider to be the best headphone on the planet right now.
Meze Audio basically took their wildly popular Empyrean and improved everything about it regarding the sound quality, and this is the kind of upgrade I really like to see.
Wildly Recommended.

Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
  • Headphones – Hifiman Susvara, Final D8000 Pro, Audeze LCD-X 2021, Hifiman HE1000se, Abyss Diana PHI, Drop + Sennheiser HD8XX, Crosszone CZ-1, HEDDphone, Meze Empyrean
  • Sources– Topping D90se + A90, Ferrum OOR, EarMen Tradutto, Musician Pegasus, JDSLabs Atom DAC+/AMP+, Cayin N3Pro, Pro-Ject Debut Carbon PRO + iFi Zen Phono, xDuoo TA-26, XI Audio Broadway S, Musician Aquarius, Cayin HA-300, Cayin HA-6A, Fiio M17, Cayin N8 ii
Big thanks to Meze for providing the Elite for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. Meze Audio hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.
You can get your Meze Elite on Apos Audio here. This is an affiliate link.
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Would you choose the HE1000SE over the Elite?

tutetibiimperes

100+ Head-Fier
The Lifestyle Flagship Choice
Pros: Extremely Comfortable
Easy to Drive
Excellent Build Quality
Well-Thought-Out Design
Consumer-Friendly Sound Signature
Cons: Resolution/Detail Sub-Par for Price
Sound Signature Too Reserved (may not be a con depending on your preference)
Only One Colorway Available (as of this writing)
Carrying Case Handle Feels Cheap
I'd like to start off this review by thanking Todd at TTVJ for sponsoring this review tour. I was able to spend a week with the Meze Empyrean Elite in my home with my system with the only expectation that I present a review of my experiences.

On a personal note I have been in the market for a new upgrade for a TOTL headphone, and this one was in the running along with the other new flagships. I had never had the opportunity to listen to a Meze headphone before (other than a pair of Rai Solo IEMs) but I'd always heard good things.

Associated Equipment:

Source: Bluesound Node 2i Streamer (sources being Apple Music Lossless and FLAC CD rips on USB stick)

DAC: RME ADI-2 DAC

Amp: Schiit Ragnarok 2

Build and Comfort:

The Meze Empyrean Elite lives up to its reputation for excellent build quality. It's much lighter than expected, but made predominantly of metal, leather, and other high quality materials. The unit comes in a very slick looking aluminum case that reminded me of something a diamond merchant might wear handcuffed to his wrists on the streets of NYC in a heist movie (though unfortunately the handle of the case is made of rather cheap-feeling plastic that degrades the experience when picking it up the first time, an aluminum or at least leather-wrapped handle would go a long way towards making the unboxing experience feel more premium).

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The headphones themselves feature a quite pretty metal lattice design in black with silver aluminum supporting structure. The adjustment rods are of the infinitely-adjustable variety (as opposed to notched) with a friction hold mechanism. It would be nice if Meze would offer this in additional coloways as they have with the regular Empyrean. I've always found the black and copper version of the Empyrean particularly handsome, with the gunmetal version also being quite sharp.

While I enjoyed the ability to adjust the fit without pre-set notches, it also upset my innate desire to have both sides set exactly the same as there were no notches to reference, so I found myself taking them off and on to measure just how far each rod was poking out to make sure I had them even on both sides. People who are less neurotic about such things probably won't have an issue.

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The headband is a suspension strap design with cool looking carbon-fiber printing on the support arcs and a real leather strap that smells great.


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The default pads are a new leather hybrid exclusive to the Empyrean Elite. They are soft and comfortable with plenty of space so that my ears never rubbed the insides of the pads.

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An alternative set of velour pads are included. As you can see these are much thicker than the leather hybrid pads, and the ear opening is smaller. On my face these felt very similar to the velour Auteur or Eikon pads from ZMF. With the thicker pads the headphone does have more clamp force.

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One of the cleverest things Meze has come up with is their magnetic pad attachment mechanism. Switching pads is as simple as pulling one set off and popping another one on. Since they're not angled there's no wrong-way to do it. As I'll mention in my sound section, being able to switch pads quickly is very useful here.

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Finally, a little touch I really love about the way Meze does things is that they color code right and left channels on their cables. With angled cables as on the Empyrean Elite this isn't strictly necessary, but it's amazingly convenient for their IEMs, and doing it on their headphones gives a nice big of uniform brand design. It's also nice for being able to quickly attach them correctly without trying to squint and see tiny R and L markings.

The cable itself is thick, covered with fabric, and feels very nice in the hands. However, I didn't use it in my testing because it's too short to reach my system from my seat, opting for my 3 meter ZMF OFC balanced cable instead. Making their mini-XLR jacks compatible with the ZMF and Audeze pin-outs opens the door for plenty of replacement cable options.

Sound:

Bass -
The Empyrean Elites have a rise above neutral in the bass region (somewhat rare in open back planars) that gives them a full and rich sound. The rise extends up through the mid and upper bass into the lower midrange some, which does give them a bit of a thick sound signature. Bass texture and detail are about average across all of the planars I've listened to, which IMO is an underperformance for the price point, for example losing some of the string texture in Bela Fleck's Flight of the Cosmic Hippo. However, they are capable of some actual slam, and gave satisfying performance during the big bass drops in HA:TFELT's Ain't Nobody. Switching to the velour pads instead of the leather hybrid does result in a significant drop-off in bass.

Midrange - Midrange performance can best be expressed as inoffensive and safe. The lower midrange can be a bit thick, but that works well with male vocals such as in Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker. Female vocals on the other hand feel a bit too reserved for my lacking, mainly due to an upper mid-range rise that doesn't rise far enough for my personal tastes. Switching to the velour pads helps here, adding some upper-midrange emphasis and smoothing out the upper-midrange to treble transition. With the velour pads acoustic music in particular really comes alive, such as Alison Krauss and Union Station's Gravity.

Treble - I'll again go with 'inoffensive' which is a good thing IMO, there's plenty of air, and the treble overall feels accurate and enhances songs as it should without ever drawing attention to itself. Once again there is a difference in pads. I'd tentatively call the hybrid pads "Pop Pads" that are great for pop, rock, EDM, and other similar genres, while the velour pads are "Acoustic Pads" which are great for acoustic genres and classical. With the hybrid pads there's a bit of a rockier transition between the upper midrange and treble which (in addition to the extra bass they provide) can add some excitement. With the velour pads these headphones become more mid and treble centric while smoothing the frequency response up top making more more natural timbre of real instruments.

Soundstage and Imaging - Soundstage feels wider than average, while imaging is a bit less precise than average. Listening to orchestral recordings I could imagine the orchestra in front of me when closing my eyes, but I couldn't pin-point exact areas where each section or musician was like I can with the Beyerdynamic T1.2 or the Audeze LCD-5.

Overall Sound Signature and Technicalities - Overall sound signature is very pleasant and 'easy-going'. I didn't feel the need to reach for EQ during my time with these, so in my opinion they're well-tuned for the folks who prefer not to use EQ. They're consumer-friendly with a moderate bass boost and a relaxed upper midrange that will play well with many genres of music and not expose flaws or sibilance in poor recordings. Depending on your personal preferences the technicalities and resolution may be the Achilles Heel of these headphones. Detail retrieval and resolution seem sub-par for the price. I'd rank them similarly to my DCA Aeon Open X in that regard, which is a much more affordable headphone (though the Mezes do have them beat hands down in terms of build and luxurious feel). On the other hand that does make them rather relaxing to listen to, so if you're the type who just wants to lean back and enjoy the music without worrying about hearing every tiny detail and analyzing every element of the production, you may prefer this.

Comparisons:

Audeze LCD-5


This may be the most natural headphone to compare them to as they came out at about the same time and go for very similar prices. I was lucky enough to have the TTVJ LCD-5 tour loaner at the same time as the Meze Empyrean Elites so I was able to do direct comparisons.

Putting on the LCD-5s after listening to the Empyrean Elites gives the impression of a veil being lifted from off of the music. Details suddenly pop out that were missing before, female vocals come alive with rich harmonics and sparkle, bass develops surgical levels of detail and accuracy, and imaging goes from amorphous to razor-sharp.
On the other hand you do lose bass quantity and some slam (without taking EQ into account) going to the LCD-5 from the Empyrean Elite, and comfort takes a major nosedive as well.

For my personal tastes the sound signature and quality of the LCD-5 is overwhelmingly preferable to the Empyrean Elite, but the Empyrean Elite is overwhelmingly more comfortable to actually wear.

Audeze LCD-3

A pair I own, mine are 2015 vintage that received new pads and new drivers from Audeze in 2020. Stock to stock the Empyrean Elite is a much more rounded sound signature, as the Audeze memory foam pads kill the upper midrange response. With EQ the LCD-3s can hold their and even surpass the Empyrean Elites in technicalities, and are about on par in terms of comfort. The EQ'd LCD-3 can also trump the stock sound of the Empyrean Elite in terms of bass slam and detail. It's difficult to talk to much about an EQ'd sound signature vs an EQ'd one, as the Empyrean Elite does absolutely sound better 'out of the box' compared to the LCD-3 before EQ is applied.

Build quality wise the Empyrean Elite does have the edge again, as my LCD-3s, like many other wood-ring Audeze headphones, have developed the small cracks around the area where the wood rings meet the mini-XLR jacks.

Hifiman HE6se V2

Another pair I own, and the pair I purchased the Rag 2 to power, these fall to the Empyreans in Stock sound signature, sounding much leaner and a bit anemic without EQ present.

The Empyrean Elite is also much more comfortable than the HE6se (which has cups that are just a smidge too small) and has much better built quality than the plastic-fantastic Hifiman.

In terms of sound EQ'd the HE6se can hold its own well, offering worlds more slam with blessed with 11db of bass boost below 100hz, and can offer a great amount of zing and edge when boosting up the upper midrange beak to be a broader plateau. In terms of technicalities overall I'd rank them fairly close, with the HE6se pulling ahead by a bit.

Conclusions

Opening, holding, and wearing the Meze Empyrean Elite is a pleasure. It feels as expensive as it is, and it's clear that Meze are masters when it comes to industrial design. In terms of sound quality they're easy to listen to, with no glaring faults. Unfortunately they're also not particularly exciting and don't bring the level of detail to the table that I'd expect from a $4,000 headphone. Listening to them back to back with the LCD-5 brought both the strengths and weaknesses of the Empyrean Elite to the forefront. If someone could design a headphone that's as comfortable as the Empyrean but sounds like the LCD-5 they'd be able to take the industry by storm.

As it is I'm going to call the Meze Empyrean Elite the "Lifestyle Flagship". It's the perfect headphone for anyone who prioritizes design, comfort, and an easy-going relaxed sound signature that sounds great out of the box with no need for EQ.
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Consumer Friendly sound signature?

What would you choose over the Elite?

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