MEZE EMPYREAN HEADPHONES REVIEW

Meze Empyrean Headphones are clearly a high-end headphone with a price tag of £2699. Dan Worth takes a listen.

Meze Empyrean Headphones Main

Meze’s Empyrean headphones certainly look the high-end part

Meze is best known for its 99 Classic dynamic headphones and their in-ear-monitors ( IEMs). The Meze Empyrean headphones are the company’s flagship planar magnetic design with an open back.

Meze uses a ”Hybrid Isodynamic Array Driver” for the Empyreans. The driver comprises two separate areas. The “Switch-Back Coil” and the “Spiral Coil”. The Switch-Back coil produces the low-end frequencies and the Spiral Coil serves the higher frequencies.

The sensitivity of the Empyrean’s measures at 31.6Ohms and has an SPL of 100db/1mw, which means that they will run from anything, smartphone, television, an inbuilt headphone output directly from say a CD Player or Streamer, or of course a dedicated headphone amplifier, which is essentially what they deserve to be powered by for high fidelity listening.

FIT, FINISH & FEATURES

Arriving double boxed with a custom aluminium flight case inside to protect what is a commitment in terms of outlay for a pair of headphones, the Meze Empyrean’s are very beautifully presented!

Beautifully Crafted

The Empyreans are also a beautifully crafted design. Available in Jet Black or, currently, a limited edition Copper. I have the Copper version here. Contrary to my initial speculations, believing that they would be quite blingy and thinking that the copper may be fairly bright, it actually isn’t. They look even better in the flesh from what I had seen on the internet and the detailed CNC machined grills look incredibly intricate – the copper really shows off and enhances the design. The adorning copper accents too are more subtle than stock pictures may lead you to believe and are a lovely touch in balancing out the overall colour compliment.

Meze Empyrean Headphones Side

A close up look at the Empyrean’s details

The construction of these headphones is stunning. A premium non-padded head strap is ultra-comfortable and is a snug fit with the carbon fibre tension frame.

The driver cups spin a full 360° as they have their own individual cable point connections.

Two sets of earpads are included – one in leather and the other in Alcantara.

Cable-wise, there is an option for either Meze’s standard copper TRS jacks or a 4 pin balanced cable. In addition, there is an upgraded silver cable in varying lengths.

Overall fit and finish are superb and they sit snugly on the head, with plenty of room inside for my ears, have a nice level of clamping, and weight distribution is also very pleasing.

Meze Emyrean Headphones Cups

Fine details of the Empyreans

RUNNING IN

The running-in of the Empyreans is a bit of a task. I’d suggest 250-300 hours are suitable to enable you to really begin to access their true character and performance. This isn’t uncommon with headphones and really to be expected. As well as breaking-in the planar drivers I also needed to give some good time to run in the single-ended and balanced cables, which I have in the standard copper and silver iterations. I left them connected for 10 days or so to the Tron Antares Ultimate headphone amplifier, listening frequently in order to hear how they developed over this time period.

Most notably the Empyrean’s extension increased and notes became more fleshed out after about 150 hours, with decays and inner detail becoming more open and prominent thereafter. 

THE SOUND 

After this run-in period, with the Empyreans (running single-ended with the standard copper cable) now sounding more relaxed and effortless, there was a more coherent flow and ease of dynamics to the headphones. I particularly noticed how well they conveyed the delicacies within many pieces of music I enjoy listening to. They are a gracious sounding headphone, which due to their particular planar design have a beautiful way of overlaying treble with a strong and rounded bass response. If you’re a fan of the Audeze, Oppo, or Hifiman range of planar headphones the Empyreans will suit you very well.

They don’t have the crisp forward punch of some other headphones such as the Focals I have at home. They are more like a Fostex 900 in comparison in terms of refinement, with a typical planar sound, although be it an extremely accomplished variant of the topology. The Meze Empyreans are silkier and more rounded in their character than that of a high-end dynamic headphone, which will typically be more forward sounding. The Empyreans have a lovely openness, full of rich detail and sparkle, but it’s a more refined rather than a glisteningly bright sparkle.

Undoubtedly, for hard-hitting beat-driven electronica and bass-heads alike, other options may be more favourable, but with their additional control and less forward treble, it’s easy to crank them right up and still listen comfortably. I was pleasantly surprised listening to Boris Blank for instance – noting how open, controlled and stable the sound was, and the bassline unexpectedly drove things along admirably enough. With this, I felt any compromises made in selecting a headphone that would perhaps be far more suitable for timbre rich genres, vocals and euphoric sounds was still a very rewarding listen for those odd periods of something a bit more off-piste. Plus, the Empyrean’s do deliver more bass than say the HD800 which sounds thinner overall in comparison – they don’t have as much slap to a kick drum as some other high-end dynamic driver style sets, but, conversely, tackle many other attributes in reproduction far more naturally.

I listen to a lot of Pop music from the past five decades (excluding most of today’s nonsense). Pop has great diversity and a vast range of characteristics due to its very nature (great for burning in headphones and speakers alike) and varied production styles. Mostly recorded for radio in the past, bit-rates can be lower with older music that hasn’t been remastered and the music can be more condensed as a result, but through Tidal or Qobuz one has the ability to build their own playlists in higher resolutions.

I wouldn’t say everything I listened to was perfect and at this level, it’s natural to be more critical. For example, my AKG Bluetooth headphones cost around £150. I have used them for long walks, whilst on holiday and for other non-critical listening for years now and I just can’t praise them enough. They always get me moving a little, toes tapping, and often singing along – to everybody else’s woe. My point is, at that level, and although an engrossing listen, I just don’t pick them to pieces and over criticise their performance.

The Empyreans are superior, of course, but at this price, there will be a keener ear lent to their strengths and weaknesses.

Meze Empyrean HEadphones Closeup 2

Another close up of the fine detail that goes into the copper finish

I’ve not had any disappointing moments with them, although I would favour them more with jazz, acoustic, vocals and Cafe del Mar type music, and my biggest regret at the moment is that I can’t offer them a valve amplifier, which I believe will do wonderful things with them.

The Tron Antares Ultimate is a fantastic solid-state amp. It’s nicely balanced and on the warmer side with its class A presentation, but with a valve-based amp I feel the Empyreans would step up a level, become more holographic and open up their soundstage further to give even more density of tone in their upper end and project their vocals in such a way that their already organic nature would thrive on.

Going Balanced

Going balanced with the Empyreans lifts the performance. How much this is down to the topology of the amplifier in question or the headphones themselves I couldn’t comment. However, in my experience all headphones I’ve tried which have balanced options change slightly when being fed a balanced signal. In the case of the Empyreans, they seem to have a lower noise floor and in turn more separation and are slightly more open sounding. Timing seems slightly better and there is a stricter tolerance on image placement. The sound is a little tighter and lower end details come through stronger, removing a fraction of roundness from the bass.

Using Meze’s silver cable is an improvement in terms of a crisper approach to details and clarity of leading edges. It’s actually silver-plated rather than pure silver and I did have a few doubts about it prior to connecting it, as I’m rarely a fan of silver-plated cables, although done correctly I have been made to eat my words, but that’s rare.

I do like Meze’s plaited cable here, it has a crisper and cleaner sound to it. There’s unquestionably more emphasis on cleaner details and upper bass response has a bit more slap to it. In a balanced and silver configuration – inner details are able to come through better and the sound is livelier and more vibrant – its most likely the cable of choice for most people I’d imagine, as the characteristics of the silky smooth Empyrean’s has room for these attributes and is a nice touch for those who like that additional sharper inner detail retrieval, crisper dynamics and sparkle. I’d also hazard a guess that with a good triode amp this would indeed be the cable of choice for most.

Earpad Choices

Another tweak to factor in is the two sets of earpads included with the Empyreans. The leather type and Alcantara options.

Neither changes the sound in such a way that’s going to offer two different sonic signatures as such, but, as with the cable changes, subtle differences are to be heard. My personal tastes had me enjoying the Alcantara pads best. They take a little layer of glare away from the top end when listening at higher volumes with the silver cable and flesh out the lower treble better. Bass response is a little more absorbed by the material, so more beat-driven music, or music with a heavier bassline, is a fraction lighter (and I do mean a fraction) but alongside the silver cable, I found there to be fantastic synergy and balance.

Meze Empyrean Headphones Close Black

The Empreans certainly exude high-end credentials

The leather earpads are a little crisper in nature in comparison with the Alcantaras and present a slightly thinner treble and with slightly less warm mid-band, especially when used with the silver cable as opposed to the copper version which helps flesh things out a little better. Arguably, they excel in bass performance. A slightly punchier upper midrange with a little more perceivable detail in the lowest regions. In contrast to the Alcantaras, I personally don’t find the sound as well balanced unless using the copper cable – both sounds are equally dynamic, but I’d say the leather pads lend a slightly cleaner tone to the sound. You could liken it to a slightly sparser, harder sounding listening room with a speaker system, rather than the same room with an abundance of soft furnishings. The softer outer of the Alcantaras are just more absorbent as well as being more comfortable on the head for those long listening sessions, especially on warmer days.

CONCLUSION 

Meze has produced a true high-end headphone in the Empyrean. The level of workmanship is exquisite. Comfort levels, weight on the head and level of clamping are spot-on for me. It’s only when you look in the mirror that you realise that you have something so substantial on your head!

Sound-wise they are wonderfully refined, rich in detail, have great bandwidth with a well balanced and dynamic sound. The soundstage could be deeper, but in contrast, their placement within the aural matrix never puts the top end or vocals forward and they will remain controlled like this at very high volumes, unlike many other headphones.

Earpad and cable combinations offer slightly different recipes to try. A copper cable/leather earpad combination sounds rich detailed and slightly more tamed in the top end and will change with the silver cable to become a little crisper and more vibrant. With a balanced option with the Alcantara earpads and silver as the cable choice, one has a combination of effects/options to try.

Most importantly to express, the Empyrean’s are a sonic joy and these combinations alongside choices in associated electronics will always produce a high-end, joyful and impressive sound. It’s down to the listener how they wish to tailor what could be the last pair of headphones that you ever buy.

AT A GLANCEHifi Pif Five Hearts Award

Build Quality:

Nothing short of exquisite. Attention to detail, machining techniques and selection of materials give a very high- end feel and look.

Sound Quality:

Engaging, refined, dynamic and very well balanced. Nicely tweakable and very enjoyable.

Value For Money:

Not cheap and the upgraded silver cable is also arguably expensive. However, the price doesn’t cause one to gasp any more than it does with the competition. 

We Loved:

Exceptional build quality and material choice

The engaging, non-forward, dynamic sound

Refinement and subtlety of details

Incredibly comfortable fit

We Didnt Love So Much:

Soundstage could be deeper

Price: £2699, €2999, €2999 

Supplied By SCV Distribution

Elevator Pitch Review:

A high-end headphone with a high-end price that is beautifully finished and presented. They deliver an engaging yet refined sound and have a good degree of tweakability to suit individual preferences.

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Worth 

Review Equipment: Xodos ox|one streamer, Audiobyte Hydra Clock, Bricasti M3 DAC, Tron Antares Ultimate Headphone Amplifier, cables by Studio Connections, Mundorf and Gobel High- End

 

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