Meze Empyrean VS. Audeze LCD-X (2021)

An unlikely comparison, yes - but one that I felt the unique opportunity warranted the work.

(As a note, I am considering making my own Headphone blog\site at some point, and this is a prototype of what one of my comparisons may look like). I used a point system that made sense to me.

The LCD-X (2021) vs the Meze Empyrean. How do they stack up?

NOTE - I have scored each category from 0 to 1, as a comparison of the metric against each other - it is subjective based on my own experiences and should be taken thusly (as should the whole review) If there are categories I feel both are below ‘average’ for the headphones I’ve heard during my time in this hobby, It is possible both could rate below 1.

The only exception to the above is Pricing, which is weighted as a ratio against it’s competitor and can go higher than 1 - to make real the weight of cost in scoring (Price is often a larger factor for folks). (So, in this case, 1200USD for LCD vs 3000USD for Empyrean = 3000 / 1200 = a score of 2.5 for the LCD, and a score of 1 for the Empyrean.

SOUND:

Tuning - LCDX .6, Empyrean .3 (LCDX Stock is better… but both need EQ so in my specific case (Where I will EQ), they are equal. If one were to not EQ, the LCD-X wins hands down as the score reflects. Further, the Empyrean without EQ demands the Suede\Micro-fiber pads that comes with them to get usable tuning, which you lose some tightness of bass on, then… in other words, EQ the Empyrean and use leather pads only, please!..) (Note - my preference is the 2018 Over ear curve)

Impact - LCDX .9, Empyrean 1.0

Detail - LCDX 1, Empyrean 1

Soundstage - LCDX .4, Empyrean .7

SOUND TOTALS:
LCDX - 2.9
EMPYREAN - 3
(If you don’t care about tuning because you’ll EQ anyways… LCDX - 2.3, Empyrean - 2.7)

PHYSICAL:

Power Requirements - LCDX 1.0, Empyrean .9 (LCD-X is a bit more efficient but with sources what they are, it doesn’t matter - they’re both not demanding - at all. That said, LCD-X is DC-04 drivable WITH EQ… Empyrean is not… DAP is needed)

Comfort - LCDX .6,Empyrean 1.0 (Empyrean is lighter, LCD-X is less bulbous, Pads equal’ish… maybe slightly more comfy on LCD-X, Headband is amazing on Empyrean). That Empyrean is -the- most comfortable headphone I’ve ever worn. This alone is a HUGE factor for me personally - i shall restrain myself from adding more weight to this category to keep it objective… but damn.

Build Quality - LCDX .85, Empyrean 1.0 (Empyrean are allegedly immaculately built… and it shows. That said, they strike me as more delicate in places like the grill. LCD-X is very well built also - but in a more ‘American’ big\chunky way. I want to say Empyrean is better built… but what I see before me, and my impressions… I think they’re equal - in different ways. The ways that matter to me they are equal on. (I don’t need a single ingot of aluminum milled down to make something durable… if it’s several sturdy parts put together in a sturdy way… maybe not as sexy, but still durable.)

PHYSICAL TOTALS:
LCDX - 2.45
EMPYREAN - 2.1
(If you don’t care about power requirements since they’re both so close… LCDX - 1.45, Empyrean - 2)

MAINTENANCE:

After-Sale Service Support - LCD-X .75, Empyrean .5 (American made - service\support in country cannot be beat… but Meze seems like a reputible company, and their drivers are allgedly reliable, whereas ive heard of QC issues with Audeze… so…)

Pad Maintenance - LCDX 0, Empyrean 1.0 (Has swappable pads /w AMAZING system… LCD-X glued on i think)

MAINTENANCE TOTALS:
LCDX - .75
Empyrean - 1.5

PRICE (Weighted by price vs price ratio):

LCDX - 2.5 (1200 USD)
EMPYREAN - 1 (3000 Retail)

TOTALS

  • TOTALS (Without Price Considered): LCDX 6.1, Empyrean 7.4
  • TOTALS (Without Price, Tuning and Power considered since you’ll EQ, and since they’re both so efficient it doesn’t matter much): LCDX 4.5, Empyrean 6.2
  • TOTALS (Price Considered): LCDX 8.6, Empyrean 8.4
  • TOTALS (Price Considered, Tuning and Power not considered since you’ll EQ, and since they’re both so efficient it doesn’t matter much… unless you’re DC-4 Dongling…): LCDX 7, Empyrean 7.2

CONCLUSIONS:

Based on the above, I can qualify the following statements (understanding that the law of diminishing returns is alive-and-well in audiophilia…):

1.) If Price is no object, the Empyrean is the better headphone - and is worth the higher cost of admission.

2.) Price as a factor (as it is for most of us…):

  • If you will EQ, and if the difference between 200mw and 398 mw (assuming a 126db peak target for your EQ to exist within…) will not make a difference in your amp stage, the Empyrean IS worth the buy, despite the increase in price.
  • If you will not EQ and you have at most 100mw available (That LCDX is so efficient!), then the LCD-X is a better choice for the money.

Better put, Tuning being solved with EQ, and amping being sufficient for either…

If someone offered you in one hand an LCDX and $1800 Cash, or an Empyrean in the other hand, which would you take? Knowing the Empyrean is objectively a better headphone… is it 1800 dollars better? Probably not… but we are approaching Summit-fi here, and to get that last 5\10%… costs way more.

As for me… I’m still deciding :slight_smile:

Thank you for reading!

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I dig the desire to provide comparisons with such detail, one thing I am not able to quite understand is your point scale. Perhaps having a scoring key at the top to better understand what the points represent?

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Thanks! Good feedback.

I updated the top a bit to explain.

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Nice writeup! Just 1 point of criticism…

You scores were still derived from subjective assessments and personal values, so this comparison is still just a subjective one.

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@Jsim - Agreed. As eluded to above, the entire article is subjective :slight_smile:

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“World’s apart”, would be an accurate phrase that defines the difference between the LCD-X and the MEZE Empyrean.
“world’s apart” in sound, comfort, weight, soundstage, and price.
The Audeze line is always well built to last, but the Meze-E is another level regarding the design and the quality of the build.

The Meze E, is a mildly laid back sound sig, with a round soft bass response, nice soundstage, and an overall lush and less intimate sonic presentation.

The LCD-XF, newly updated, sounds much different then the same gear from 6 yrs ago.
The new model is more linear, more present, less bass, and has a drier tonality as compared to say a 2014 LCD-X.

Where the MEZE-E is lush, the X is forward. Where the MEZE-E is warm the X is intimate.
Typical of Audeze, the X is more about a thicker fuller more dense tone, whereas the Meze -E create a much more immersive sound that never offends, and always lets you enjoy the music.

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Well said.

I like your perspective. I talk less about stock tonality because I’m really into EQ - the way you broke down the sound signature without EQ however is spot on. Thank you!

Enjoyable comparison, thanks.

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Nice write up @Reyess

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A really good Comparison piece @Reyess. Great detail. I look forward to seeing your Blog.

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Nice review. I’m a fan of both Meze and Audeze headphones. I’ve had the LCD-2 (gave to my son) and now use the Empyrean as my primary headphone. I will say that my current set up with the Emyprean, Feliks Audio Euforia 20th Anniversary Special Edition amplifier and Schiit Gungnir Multi-Bit DAC is incredible. The synergy between the three components is world class.

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Do you apply any EQ?

I do not apply any EQ. I don’t find it necessary with this combination.

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Same here. I use my Empyrean with leather pads on a Feliks Euforia Mk2 and Schiit Bifrost 2, and I totally agree, the synergy is spot on. I’ve played around with EQ in many different ways, but haven’t found it to bring any meaningful improvements.

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Wow - I really need to try some of that gear… :slight_smile:

Thanks!

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Exactly. I also use the leather pads. I find their sound signature more to my liking than the Alcantara pads. At least with this combination of components. I’ve also thought of upgrading my DAC to a Denafrips or Holo Audio, but love the Gungnir multibit so much that I can’t really justify spending another $4-5k and feel confident that the results would be that much better.

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@Reyess I really like the format you use. I have one suggestion: would it be possible to describe their sound signatures? When I read the comparison, I don’t have any idea of how the Empyrean or the Audeze sound.

If you like to EQ them, you could also say what you like to adjust, which is another way of describing the sound signature, relative to your personal likes/dislikes.

Agreed. A DAC upgrade is tempting, but to get a meaningful upgrade will cost a lot of money, and I don’t have the kind of income that would allow me to easily justify spending thousands for just a relatively marginal improvement without eventually feeling remorseful over it. I have auditioned a bunch of high-end DACs up to the Chord DAVE + MScaler, and that certainly showed a reasonably substantial improvement over the Bifrost 2, but definitely not a game-changing improvement like the Euforia has been.

If you haven’t yet played around with tube rolling, that’s something I can sincerely recommend. I have recently posted some impressions here from my first step into tube rolling in case you’re willing to consider it.

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I have not heard the Bifrost 2, but it has a lot of the same architecture as the Gungnir Mulitbit for 1/2 the price.I’m lucky that I live within a short 30-40 minute drive from the Schiit factory store, so have visited there a number of times to audition equipment. I also use their Jotunheim amp with multibit DAC as my desktop setup with ZMF Atticus headphones. A very nice combination.

Thanks for your comments about the Chord DACs. They’ve also been on my list as a possible upgrade. But as you say … are the big $$ worth it.

I agree about the Euforia. It was a HUGE upgrade to the sound with the Empyreans. Again … I’m lucky to live close to the North American distributor of Feliks amps (Upscale Audio) and have been able to audition all their models in person and get some very nice suggestions from their staff. One suggestion they did have was to add an XLR to RCA converter to the chain from DAC to amp to take advantage of the balanced output of the Schiit DAC. I’ve ordered one from Decware, but am on a 4-5 month waiting list to get it. They have a 30-day trial for all their products, so I’ll give it a whirl to see what difference it makes. I have done some tube rolling with my previous tube amps, but have so far not tried it with the Euforia 20th Anniversary model. I’m so happy with the sound I’ve so far stopped myself from any tube rolling. Thanks for the link to your impressions. I’ll check them out.

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Absolutely.

I’ll be re-doing this review and publishing it on my website soon - and I’ll take this under-wing and show that :slight_smile:

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