Meze Empyrean over-ear Headphones - Official Thread

I use the MZ3 and BF2 with the Empyreans and find it very enjoyable.

3 Likes

One thing with the Empys they work well across a variety of amps/dacs well. We all have our preferences for sure, objectively and subjectively.

Being so relatively easy to drive…another hidden benefit.

Alex

3 Likes

I have to share this Song! I just listened to in while working on the Empy and my jaw just dropped open! correction wrong initial link:

It’s a live recording and I just can’t stop smiling! :smile:

3 Likes

This headphone is so enjoyable and fun imo. And just about every Yosi Horikawa track is a trip :grin:

6 Likes

Awesome tune!! Thanks for sharing.

The bass is phenomenal.

Alex

Meze Empyrean Review

Written by Chrono

Introduction

The Empyrean is Meze Audio’s flagship, open-back headphone, and it’s the first planar-magnetic headphone using Rinaro’s Isodynamic Hybrid Array Driver. With the Empyrean, which retails at $2,999, Meze seeks to deliver an unparalleled Hi-Fi experience that revolves around top-tier planar-magnetic performance coupled with an aesthetically daring and supremely comfortable design.

Sources and Music Used in Listening Tests

The Amplifier/DACs used in this review were the SPL Phonitor XE (with built-in DAC), Grace Design SDAC + Topping A90, and the JDS Labs Element II connected via USB to my desktop computer. For the listening tests I used music from a wide variety of genres including Rock, Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Hip-Hop, and latin. I played tracks from my own FLAC library as well as from Qobuz streaming service played via Roon (exclusive mode).

Packaging and Accessories

Upon unboxing the Empyrean, you are met with a very nice suite of accessories. For starters, the Empyrean comes packaged in an aluminum suitcase with foam inserts. Given that the Empyrean itself is a large headphone, it’s not surprising that the included suitcase isn’t really the most portable case out there. However, despite being very tough, it’s actually pretty lightweight, and it’s low profile should allow it to easily fit in luggage without taking up that much space. So, should you find yourself travelling with the Empyrean, rest assured that they’ll be kept safe from any physical damage.

As for the included cable, the Empyrean comes with a 2.5m braided cable using dual-sided 4-pin mini XLR connectors on the headphone side and a ¼” jack on the amplifier side. Worth noting is that when ordering an Empyrean you also get the option of going with a 4-pin XLR balanced connector, or a 3.5mm single-ended connector instead of the default ¼” termination.

Lastly, the Empyrean includes two sets of pads (one genuine leather and one Alcantara), a printed note Meze Founder Antonio Meze, as well as an authenticity card with the Empyrean’s hand-written serial number.

Build and Comfort

The Empyrean’s design is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated I’ve seen on a headphone thus far. Its hand-assembled chassis beautifully blends premium materials like carbon fibre, leather, and solid aluminum; with the result being a headphone that not only looks like a sophisticated work of modern art, but is also extremely durable.

Comfort on the Empyrean is as impressive as its build and design. It comes in at 430g, but with its superb weight distribution, it sincerely feels like the lightest headphone I’ve ever worn. Then, the ear-cups’ spring-back mechanism in tandem with the plush pads make for a low clamp force listening experience. Important to note as well is that the ovoid-shaped pads are deep and very spacious, allowing the user’s ears plenty of room. Overall, the Empyrean is easily one of the most comfortable and least fatiguing headphones I’ve worn; easily on-par with the likes of the HD 800 S in this regard.

Sound

As previously mentioned, the Empyrean is the world’s first planar-magnetic headphone using an Isodynamic Hybrid Array, which uses two independently shaped voice coils on one diaphragm to handle different frequencies, and to improve acoustic delivery to the listener’s ears.

First Impressions

Upon first listen, the Empyrean struck me as being distinctly a planar-magnetic headphone, with the recognizable speed and tightness that is characteristic of planar transducers. That being said, though, its presentation and transients were quite a bit smoother, or a tad slower, than what I’ve experienced on other planar-magnetic headphones; which tend to have a more “instant-feeling” leading edge and decay.

Then as for tonality, when first listening to it, the Empyrean actually came through as being a well-balanced headphone. After a couple of hours listening and comparing, though, there were some tonal quirks—particularly in the treble—that began to surface in my listening experience with the Empyrean.

Bass

As is usually the case with planar-magnetic headphones, the Empyrean’s bass is exceptionally well extended into the lowest registers, with plenty of depth and sub bass rumble. Additionally, the Empyrean’s bass is controlled, and tuneful; it’s adept at nuancing and texturing low tones in a way that makes the bass feel detailed and adequately contoured.

For its tuning, the bass response has a warm balance to it, with an elevation centered at around 150hz that pronounces the mid-bass. For the most part, the bass feels even and clean throughout, with no one low frequency overpowering others or making the bass “one-note-sounding.” There is one concern I had when listening to the bass, though, and that is that the mid-bass elevation does not come down early enough or around 200hz, so as result I did hear a bit of upper-bass bleed into the lower mids; making for a somewhat wooly sounding bass to midrange transition.

Mids

Because of the slight upper-bass bleed, the midrange can unfortunately feel a little overwhelmed from below. Due to the slight swelling at around 250hz-300hz, I found that vocals or instruments like acoustic guitars and pianos could sound a bit congested in their lower registers. It’s a bit of shame that the upper bass sort of muddy’s up the lower mids, as the rest of the midrange has a very even and linear response, with a natural tonal balance and proper presence.

Highs

The treble range on the Empyrean is both very interesting and a little strange. The highs on the Empyrean sound–for lack of a better word–glassy. Between 6K-10K it’s actually pretty even with no dips or peaks making the highs fatiguing, but for me, the treble on the Empyrean had a pretty unnatural and artificial-sounding gleam. This “shiny” sound came from its upper treble, of which air frequencies above 10K were significantly boosted relative to the rest of its frequency response. It wasn’t sibilant or harsh, really, but the treble sounded dramatically brightened, with over-exposed harmonics that made vocals in particular come through with an in-organic, crystalline quality.

Resolution

Whilst it feels very detailed and articulated in the bass region, the Empyrean didn’t really impress me when it came to reproducing individual vocal or instrument lines, and instead I felt as though it came up short. In the midrange and treble region the Empyrean didn’t feel anywhere near as capable as I expected it to be for its detail retrieval and its ability to surface intricate tonal and textural nuances in my music. As a whole, the image created by the Empyrean lacked cohesion for me, and compared to all the other headphones I’ve had the opportunity to listen at its price range it was unfortunately a bit grainy.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Layering

For staging capabilities, the Empyrean delivers outstanding performance. It wasn’t quite as wide-sounding as the HD 800 S, but it still made for an incredibly open-sounding listening experience that conveyed a good sense of space and distance. Imaging was also very good, with an even and precise distribution across the stage. Furthermore, the Empyrean has what I believe is the best instrument separation and layering I’ve heard on a headphone thus far, easily surpassing what I’ve experienced on the HiFiMan Arya. Listening to “Gavota,” an instrumental piece performed by Los Macorinos, each guitar string feels like it has its own distinct presence in the mix. This, I feel contributes to the Empyrean having a good overall sense of clarity, but I still don’t think it’s enough to make up for the poor internal resolution, as the tracks composing complex musical passages ultimately lack the transparency that other headphones like the HD 800 S, the Arya, and the Vérité Closed have.

Dynamics

The Empyrean is utilizing an extremely lightweight planar-magnetic array, so I didn’t really expect to have an outstanding sense of punch slam. However, I found that in the lows it still had a bit of kick to it. It may have been because of the accentuated mid-bass, but bass notes carried a bit more impact than on other headphones with a lightweight planar transducer, like the AEON 2 Closed, or the Ether Flow 1.1. Additionally, I found that in the upper registers it had a very good attack, as it did a good job at recreating the pressure and tension of string instruments, the tactility of pianos and keyboards, and the strike of percussion instruments as well.

Pads and EQ

As mentioned earlier, the Empyrean includes two different sets of pads, one of them being genuine leather and the other one being Alcantara. Sincerely there weren’t many differences that I could discern from the two sets of pads, but the Alcantara ones seemed to have marginally more pronounced air above 10K. Again, for me they weren’t all that different, so I would just go with whichever feels most comfortable to wear.

Then, as for EQ, I wouldn’t say the Empyrean really requires it as its tonality is a very inoffensive and mostly balanced one, but I do think it could use some adjustments. The biggest adjustment I make to the Empyrean when I use EQ is that I downshelf the air region above 10K to reduce that upper treble glisten. Additionally, I like adding a bit more presence under 100hz with a bass shelf whilst also reducing the slight swelling of the upper-bass. If you’d like to try out my EQ for the Empyrean, these are the settings I used:

Low shelf at 85hz, +3dB Q of 0.7

Peak at 200hz, -4dB Q of 2

Peak at 11000hz, -7dB Q of 0.7

Conclusion

I really want to love the Empyrean; there are many things I really like about it. Having the opportunity to spend some time with it, it’s very clear that a lot of care and great attention to detail has gone into the making of this headphone; and honestly, in many ways it’s design is absolutely brilliant. Unlike many of the high-end, flagship planar-magnetic headphones available in the market, it’s actually incredibly comfortable, maybe even the most comfortable headphone I’ve ever worn. The problem for me, or the reason why I struggle to recommend the Empyrean, then, is that I feel as though there is a bit of a mismatch between the user and sonic experience it delivers.

Don’t get me wrong, the Empyrean—as it is—still makes for great listening experience, but it’s not one that I really think competes with others in that $3,000 price range, and in fact, I think several headphones at half or even a third of the Empyrean’s price can make for just as great a listen.

In the future, I think that it’d be really exciting to see what Meze and Rinaro can do with a second iteration of this isodynamic driver. If they’re able to overcome the resolution drawbacks of the current one, I believe that the Empyrean could truly be one of the world’s best headphones. As it is now, though, unless comfort is your absolute priority, I personally think that there are better options that’ll at least get you more sound for your money than the Empyrean.

12 Likes

Another excellent review @Chrono. This headphone has been given a lot of love recently so its nice to see another opinion. They are really great looking headphones I must say.

5 Likes

Good review @Chrono. May not agree with everything but that’s OK! :grin:
I don’t know if I’d make this the only headphone I’d own, but I think it offers a good contrast to the Verite.
We like what we like. Keep up the great content!

9 Likes

Was you listening done with or without your EQ settings???

If i read this review I would never have purchased a set of Meze Emperyeans.

Please take the time to audition and listen for yourself.

We all have opinions and experiences.

Highly recommend you read more reviews or “experiences”…

Alex


(many more links to other independent reviews).

:grinning:

2 Likes

For the most part it was without EQ.

2 Likes

Oh yeah, they’re definitely a looker! It kinda reminds me of European hyper cars in its design.

2 Likes

What a different review???

Alex

1 Like

@Chrono Great review! It’s pretty much in line with what I felt when I tried the empyreans as well. Everything except for the sound was really great. I listen to a lot of music that emphasizes vocals which left me confused as to why the pricing was so high. I’d rather have almost any headphone at that price range over the Empyrean.

6 Likes

That’s interesting because I think the vocals on the Empyrean are sweet. We all hear a little differently tho so it’s understandable.
When New Record Day reviewed the Empyrean he said the vocals were just about perfect and I couldn’t agree more. He was using the same amp as me as well.
I guess if you don’t like these you can save yourself some cash :laughing:
But seriously we all have a preference and I’d take these over the Rad-0 but others feel differently and thats ok. It’s all ok! :grin:

6 Likes

Yep, everyone has their own preferences and probably hear things a little differently so I can see why some people really enjoy the Empyrean. When I had it to test, I compared it with the Verite Open and the Arya. The timbre on the Empy wasn’t as off as the Arya but wasn’t quite as nice as the Verites. The vocal quality of females that are known to be smooth and laid back had just a bit of edge to them that didn’t exist with other headphones I listened to. I also found that while the bass was fun and impactful, it would often overpower or overemphasized that region which threw off the balance of some songs. If these quirks were in a cheaper headphone, I think most people would overlook it or view it as character. It’s also hard for me to recommend to people if you need to pair a $2,600 Euforia just to make sure that the Empyrean sounds good.

1 Like

I’d agree the timbre on the Verite is more natural than the Empyrean but the Empyrean offers a nice contrast/change up imo. I wouldnt want a planar thats close to the Verite. What would be the point. Just own one and be done. And I don’t think the bass muddied up the lower mids and some vocal regions. Again I feel it’s pretty enjoyable. I also think synergy comes into play with the Empyreans. I don’t feel you need a 2k amp, but you probably want to find the right pairing.
But, again this is a positive sign for you. As you can put your money towards something you like :grin:
It’s similar to food. Some people don’t like lobster. They think it’s too rich. Some don’t like certain full bodied wines, beer, etc. Get what you like.

4 Likes

Yeah everyone had different preferences and expectations.

Check out Metal571’s review of it. I found that his impressions and Chrono’s line up with mine on it as well.

5 Likes

Agreed. I don’t think it needs a Euforia but I’ve been told by others that if I didn’t pair it with a 2019 Euforia or later, then I wasn’t truly hearing the Empyrean.

I don’t have any issue with people liking what they like. I just don’t think it makes sense to tell someone that their experience with the headphone is wrong when clearly there are other examples of people experiencing the same thing. Everyone has their own take on things.

When I look at reviews of a headphone, I tend to try to find patterns from all the reviews. If a headphone has 50/50 positive/negative reviews, then it’s a polarizing headphone. If it’s predominately positive, then I would say most people will like it or consider it worth the money. If it’s predominately negative, I will tend to avoid the headphone or possibly try it to make sure it’s not for me.

I have plenty of gear that most people don’t have so I have no issue with people not agreeing with me. I think it’s futile to try to convince everyone that the headphone you like should be liked by everyone.

4 Likes

Yeah I remember watching his and wondering what the hell he was listening to :laughing:
I also don’t think his 789 and d50 did it any favors. But that’s OK because he knows what he likes and he enjoyed the lcd 4 much more.

This headphone is pretty unique in that some hear a different headphone completely. Kinda odd lol.

4 Likes

Good review. I demoed the Empyrean with a Chord Hugo 2 DAC/amp and it wasn’t the ideal pairing; I intend to revisit with other amplification.

For these reviews, it would be helpful to include a $500 tube amp and a $2k tube amp to try to cover the range of amps for a given product’s likely consumers/buyers. SPL, Topping, and JDS Labs all seem to have the same neutral flavor, which is favorable as a baseline when evaluating cans, but additional alternative flavors are helpful to inform consumers of optimal gear pairings. Thanks.

7 Likes