The Meze Empyrean are Meze’s stab at high-end headphones. Meze bringing their unique design to high-end headphones should be a real treat and after trying them out at CanJam SoCal I am super excited to try out the finished product! Anyone else get a chance to try them out at CanJam NYC, SoCal or Axpona?
I heard these at RMAF on several different setups. They had them connected to various high end Auris tube amps. I would describe the sound as bassy and rich. It has emphasized bass, and if you imagine an FR graph, just tilt a straight line down from there into the high treble. I think it is a planar cousin of the ZMF atticus in several ways. I really liked it.
The telling part came when we took a pair over to the zmf table, and hooked it up to a Gilmore light Mark 2 from Massdrop. The overly gooey sound went away and it sounded very clean, rich, and the part I liked the most, not fatiguing in the treble despite having plenty of detail. I don’t think those Auris amps were doing this headphones many favors.
It is definitely unique for a planar magnetic headphone. If you get a chance to listen to it, I definitely would. Try to make sure it’s paired with clean sounding DACs and amps though. I would not say this is a headphone appropriate for treble-heads.
Listening to the Empyrean was the highlight of the day for me this past Sunday at CanJam. Absolutely phenomenal headphones. And what actually blew me away more than the sound (which was excellent) was the build quality and comfort. The design is brilliant and, no exaggeration, they are THE most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. The clamp and weight distribution is better than any set of cans I’ve put on my (massive) head. I could easily see myself wearing these all day without the slightest bit of fatigue.
@taronlissimore Any idea why the US Meze Empyreans don’t seem to have an XLR cable as an option? I see it on their website, but only see the 1/4" or 3.5mm options here.
Ok, listening to these through the ADI-2DAC and Phonitor XE…and… well I kind of want to go back to the Airist R-2R -> HoloAudio Azure chain… they feel lifeless, in comparison. Very accurate, the bass has lost some oomph and feeling, still there just not emotional. Very detailed, doesn’t feel as wide, imaging is still great, feels like lows are recessed, and mids are more forward along with highs having some brightness to them. It is crazy how neutral/uncolored the Phonitor/RME ADI-2DAC combo is, it really is an extremely revealing combo and will find any flaws with your chain.
With this combo, the Empys are from my memory on par with the Utopias, with better bass, and to my ears less detail and imaging quality.
Just swapped to my Verite…and instantly prefer the Verite sound over the Empyrean…Need more time to verify with proper a/b…but as of right now…with some quick song swaps and HP swaps…Verite takes it. I’m going to play with these two for the next 30min or so…I’ll update this post if I have more thoughts…
Switched to the micro suede, comfort instantly went up, on an already amazingly comfortable headphone. Also, the bass is up, highs tamed a bit, a little more forgiving. More in line with the Verite now…let me switch and continue my stream of conscious…
Verite is back on my head and they are sounding less fatiguing? Hmm…odd. Something about the highs is bothering me with the Empys, can’t quite pin it down. I’m fairly positive it is just a preference thing unique to me though.
Time to switch to the Azure and do some a/b…
Wow, the Azure amp is nice, it definitely is doing something to the sound…slightly less fatiguing…well I should clarify the chain does not have the ADI-2DAC, but the Airist R-2R DAC, which I’ll have to do a proper comparison of the amps on the same chain to make sure the major change is the amps and not the DACs.
I really like this combo, I’m on the Verite. Yes, I think I’m more of an “emotional” listener…give me color, give me life, emotion, I want to have goosebumps =) I will say the Azure does have some…quirks…it almost has an artificial sound at times…which breaks the feeling I’m getting from it, but it only occurs on occasion, this is both with the Verite and the Empys.
…sorry…Empyrean thread…not amp thread …
Emps are back on the head…I think I figured out something…they sound slightly congested compared to the Verite, mind you, it is very slight. But with the chain I’m using I can pick it up. It on occasion loses its imaging and detail, and feels like noise being thrown at me…this I do believe is due to the mastering of some of the tracks… I also can be overly sensitive to this sort of thing and is probably why I like the HD800, Verite, and now SR1A so much, as they do imaging and detail so well. I do not blame the Empyreans for this, as it is a quirk of mine and that they seem to not handle bad sources very well. But still, more time is needed. conscious stream to continue for maybe another song or two…
They really can pick up some cool details in tracks that are mastered well though and really do shine…they are definitively the best Planars I’ve heard to date for extended listening. Which to be fair, I don’t have a lot of TOTL Planar experience. The closest TOTL extended listen I’ve had was the LCD-X and these blow those out of the water easily, but are almost 3x the price.
Just for reference sake, I’m listening to my Qobuz library on random…It mirrors my Spotify playlist that I’ve posted a couple of times and can be found in my reviews.
Ending on this track, and it is very relaxing and highlights a lot of the great things the Empyrean can do:
and here is the youtube, I’m not posting the official video…it is, well…not my thing:
I owned the Empyrean and recently sold it. A great headphone, but personal reasons forced the sale. A local Head-Fi pal is on the verge of landing a loaner pair of the Verite from Zach: if/when that happens, I’ll get to hear it at length IMS on most of the same amps I used for the Empyrean. Really looking forward to that, 'cause brief auditions of the Verite @Canjam/NYC indicated this is a headphone that improbably combines great detail & resolution with a somewhat warm, anything-but-bright/tiresome voicing. That’s a near-impossible trick in my experience. Gotta hear more…
Ok, so more head-time finally…work is starting to slow down thank goodness. I am back on the Phonitor XE and ADI-2DAC chain.
I am enjoying this much more than the first go around. Brain break-in these are smooth, mids feel a lil’ distant, along with the highs. But not in a bad way, more in a relaxed way. I think these are definitely in the relaxed listening realm. I can see just leaning back imbibing and enjoying some great music.
I’m having a different feel to these, this go around. Nice detailed (not as much as the verite), and fun. The bass is smoooooooth! I could see these being an instant buy if they were a bit cheaper. For the price, I think I would rather go with the Rad-O with my own custom coloring options or even the Stelia, but like, that is just, like, you know, my opinion man! But that is as of now… we will see when I have more quality time with them.
For now, I think I’m just going to enjoy them, for what they do.
Another note…these are very well made and very good looking! the chassis and the aluminum cutouts are fantastic, they look really, really good. Also, very comfortable, a little clampy, but not bad at all, also very light on the head. The Suede pads are amazingly comfortable! I will have a hard time swapping them out, but not physically as they just pop off, they are magnetically connected similar to the way CA Cascades are. I wish more headphones took this approach to pads.
Time to get a couple more tracks in.
Here are some shots from this weekend, mostly just auto correct and some photoshop express light touches while on my iPad. I was playing with a couple of my lenses, I’m really liking the Kamlan 1.1 manual lens it’s bokeh is really nice (all of these pictures were taken with it)
I finally got a chance to spend a little bit of time with the Meze Empyrean today (thanks to @DarthPool). This has been something I’ve been eagerly anticipating for a while, particularly given all the hype that has built up around these cans.
My listening time was limited, and I wanted to spend that with them on my head, rather than doing measurements and taking pictures, but these cans were fully “burned in” (to the extent that such things matter), and were driven with TOTL gear/sources.
Initial impressions …
The Empyrean are gorgeous to look at and are beautifully finished. They look and feel the way a $3,000 headphone should. Only Focal do this better, right now. The carry case is substantial, and a very nice addition.
They’re quite a bit larger than they look. I did not have to extend the yokes at all to perfectly fit my average-sized head. And they are very light and extremely comfortable with barely perceptible clamping pressure - yet they stay put without issue.
In the planar-world, only MrSpeakers Ether 2 are even in the running for this level of comfort. And it’d between those, and these, that I would say are, by far, the most comfortable planar headphones you can buy.
The pads are … well … THICK.
This has been a bit of a trend lately … especially with planar units … we’re borderline “comedy thick” on the pads here. They’re superbly comfortable, and compliant, and make getting a proper seal a no-effort affair. There’s not really an issue with thick pads, as long as the sound and comfort are where they should be, and they are here … but I did find it amusing just how thick these are.
Driving them was extremely easy. Even the AudioQuest DragonFly Red or Cobalt could push them to extreme (even dangerous) levels of replay, without issue, even with regards to deep sub-bass reproduction. But most of my listening was done with the “big” Chord stack (with more than ample power).
You could EASILY run these off any competent DAP and even most phone-dongles will drive them well (to 110 dB peaks) with power to spare.
There has been an arse-load (that’s two metric fuck-tons) of hype around these cans online. I can certainly see why they are well received, popular, and hard to find in-stock. It would be remiss of me to say they aren’t excellent - because they are.
They are, for sure, fully competitive at their price point - especially in regard to other planar cans; however, for me at least, I think they’re somewhat victims of their own hype.
Overall bass performance/level is probably the closest to the Abyss AB-1266 that you’ll find. The LCD-4 extends a hair lower, but qualitatively there really isn’t anything in it. At the same time, these are bass-tilted headphone. If I attempted to draw their frequency response plot, the bass would be elevated and it’d be a declining, shallowly-angled, straight-line into the mids, a bit of a dip in the mids/upper-mids, and then continuing that down-angled straight line into the treble.
Bassheads looking for planar cans in this price-range should probably look here first.
The mids, and the upper-mids in particular, are, I feel, a bit recessed. Resolution here is also not as good as I would have hoped. The Sennheiser HD650 will out resolve these in the mid-range. While planar cans are not my first choice for resolution/detail-centric listening, I was a bit taken-a-back at how obvious the delta in mid-range resolution was vs. other similarly targeted cans.
More interestingly, the bass articulation, detail and resolution is first-class and the treble doesn’t lack for incisiveness or detail, either.
One notable aspect of the treble was that it felt a bit like it was being injected directly into my ears, where the rest of the sound seemed to come from above/around the ear.
This was a little disjointing and I felt was a little bit less coherent than the delivery of offerings like the RAD-0, Ether 2, LCD-4 or Abyss. More listening time might make this moot (I ran into something similar with the tia Fourté, and after a few hours it wasn’t apparent any more). But as it is, this was a distraction in my listening and that’s never a good thing.
I’ve said more than I probably should for a “first impressions” post. I actually quite like the Empyrean. Some aspects of them are top-of-their-class. I totally get why so many people rave about them. They do a lot right, they’re well made, gorgeous, super-comfortable and very satisfying to listen to … especially for those that like a rather more bass than is natural/neutral.
They’re well worth auditioning if you’re in the market for an open-back planar, with a bass-tilt, at this level.
For me … well, my princess lives in another castle.
This is exactly how I hear these as well…it is very hard to convey the “above/all around my ears” bass and mids…I kind of mention it in previous posts. But on certain tracks it gets too wall of noise for me, I blame my own hearing issues and mastering of certain tracks…honestly I was sipping on some sizurp when it happened and now I’ve forgotten the track I was listening to…but if it happens again I’ll be sure to note the track. But it was on Qobuz studio streaming service so a minimum of CD quality streaming. I’m glad I’m not crazy in what I was hearing as @Torq has had a similar experience with them.
Also they really do need to be seen and worn, as they really do outperform majority of headphones in the comfort and looks department…minus my precious ZMF Ziricote cans
@Torq thanks for the impromptu meet up and respite from my work crazy lol
heard the Empyrean with Cayin N8 in tube mode - what a wonderful experiance
the comfort is really best or on same level with Mr Speakers - Dan was always #1 for me and my big head with small ears
Chapter 1: Empyreans
Edit: forgot to say where I got them
I have these on loan from Kitsune HiFi. These thoughts/impressions are my own and Kitsune HiFi only requested that I post about my thoughts on them. These will be going back to Kitsune HiFi.
I was pleasantly surprised by how light and just plain beautiful these headphones are. Comfort is exceptional, along with the build quality. They are a sight to behold.
They are much bigger in person than one might expect though, which isn’t a detraction just a statement.
Sound of the Empyrean:
I find these to be a very interesting listen, they do not fall in line with what I was expecting. The mids-highs are beamed into my ears while Lows-low/mids are to me seems to be coming from above and all around my head. It is a very interesting experience and one I recommend anyone who gets the chance to demo a unit to try.
The bass is not overwhelming but it doesn’t seem as “tight” or precise as what I was expecting. It has nice substance and the traditional planar signature. Bass is there hovering it feels like. Not unsubstantial, but not having the impact I was expecting. Bass for these, kind of throws me off, it is there and sounds very good, but the placement is throwing my brain out of whack due to feeling like it is coming from above and all around my head.
Vocals are very exceptional; they are laser beamed into your ears lol. Same with the highs and other mid-frequency sounds. But the vocals especially are excellent. High hats, snares, snaps, violin, etc., are also fun to experience with the Empyreans.
Highs and mids are for me what really shines as the stand out sound on the Empyreans.
Throw a couple of Pentatonix tracks on for a fun evening.
Overall the sound signature is not overly bass-heavy and I think what shines are the mids, vocals, and highs. The highs aren’t “sparkly” but layered there just about right.
Staging is in front with a decent stage, small venue, intimate but not closed in. Imaging is also in a similar situation for me, as it has just enough separation to keep it a relaxed listen without pulling everything either too close together or far apart. Detail retrieval is also kind of in the Goldilocks realm, as it is “just right” for that enjoyable listen without either going too analytical or blurred together.
As far as sound goes, for me, this falls in the realm of sitting in your audio battlestation, preferably with insert booze of preference here, leaning back and getting lost into what you are listening to while letting your brain engage/disengage and wander.
Build, looks, what it comes with:
This thing is fantastically put together! It screams quality and high end. Honestly one of the best looking, designed, crafted and assembled headphones I’ve come across so far. I can’t really say much here except exceptional quality, craftsmanship and attention to detail went into creating this. The aluminum body and design are beautiful, I can sit and look at these for a long time. Then throw in the fact that they are insanely light and comfortable, well, these are definitely the best “planar” headphone I’ve had the pleasure of having on my head so far.
They come in a very James Bond villain briefcase. An extra set of pads (which are magnetically attached, seriously why haven’t the rest of the industry followed suit!!!) and a cable. I’m unsure as to which cable is stock as my demo unit came with the upgraded cable ending in balanced XLR (which is a very well-built cable, I kind of want one…).
At the end of the day:
So, these are excellent, I find them well built, with a very smooth easy sound, with a just-right kind of sound signature across the board. I could easily recommend them to anyone with the means for a beautiful easy to listen to and power planar headphone.
- For me though I have other headphones on hand that just don’t leave room for these in my stable of headphones at home. I would personally prefer my ZMF Verite or RAAL SR1a over these. That isn’t to detract from these though as this is just my preference. I appreciate greatly what Meze has created in the Empyreans, they are beautiful, unfortunately, they just aren’t for me. They may very well be your cup of tea though and I highly recommend seeking them out for a listen.