these Meze Empyrean are vying for my crown of favourite headphones ahead of the Utopias at this moment
This is my review of the stupendous Meze Empyrean headphones, retailing at near £2,700 with our friends at SCV, they are in the very top drawer of top drawer, expensive headphones. I am in the review queue for the similarly expensive but desirable Focal Stellia, having previously been shown what real music sounds like by the Focal Utopias; these Meze Empyrean are vying for my crown of favourite headphones ahead of the Utopias at this moment.
a headphone of unique frequency range, lower impedance, and exceptional build quality
The company began when Antonio Meze was searching for a pair of headphones that he could use with his Fender Stratocaster guitar. This guitar was his passion and he wanted to do it justice.
Meze Audio was only founded in 2011 in Baia Mare, Romania. Starting small but researching and experimenting with parts already on the market, products emerged and the 99 Classics were launched. These early products were acclaimed and the brand has moved from strength to strength, these Meze Empyrean are the culmination of their research and a collaboration with Rinaro, a Ukrainian company specialising in planar magnetic diaphragms over the last twenty years.
The result is a headphone of unique frequency range, lower impedance (being planar magnetic), and exceptional build quality.
They are very comfortable indeed with soft feel leather ovoid ear cups that surround the ear
The headphones are open backed, allowing for pure performance with no sonic reflection from the back of the headphone cup. They are very comfortable indeed with soft feel leather ovoid ear cups that surround the ear. The headphones feature a ‘Renario IsoDynamic Diaphragm’ driver with a huge frequency range 4Hz-110,000Hz. The skeleton is lightweight aluminium and so is very light, physically. The headband distributes the weight nicely and the combination makes for very comfortable longer term listening.
The headphones come in a ‘007’ high strength aluminium style metal case that is very nice indeed, there is a spare pair of ear cups and two sets of cables, I have a 3m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 6.3 jack connector and a more portable 1.3m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 3.5 jack connector.
The quality is all here, the headphones are hand assembled and this therefore makes for fully serviceable options should there be a problem down the road. With an array of futuristic materials, ferromagnetic plates, carbon fibre headbands and 0.16g isoplane diaphragms and the like the money is all on display here and it all makes for very comfortable, long term listening.
(from the site)
EMPYREAN TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
- Driver Type – Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array
- Operating Principle – Open
- Ear Coupling – Circumaural
- Frequency Respons – 4 – 110,000 Hz
- Impedance – 31,6 Ω
- Nominal SPL – 100 dB (1 mW / 1 kHz)
- Maximum SPL – > 130 dB
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) – < 0.1%
- Weight – 430 g
MZ3 DRIVER SPECIFICATIONS
• PHYSICAL •
- Geometrical Shape – Ovoid
- Size – 102 mm x 73 mm
- Weight – 82 g
- Casing – Fiberglass Infused ABS
• DIAPHRAGM •
- Type – Rinaro ISOPLANAR®
- Active Area – 4650 mm2
- Weight – 0.16 g
- Acoustic Mass – 10.7 kg/m4
- Lower Frequency Limit – 4 Hz
- Upper-Frequency Limit – 110.000 Hz
• MAGNET ARRAY •
- Type – Isodynamic
- Size – 75 mm x 49 mm
- Magnetic Flux – 0.35 T
I’m mainly using my Dell XPS with a Questyle CMA 400i headphone amplifier, one of my favourite bits of equipment that I actually bought from SCV after reviewing one of the recent Focal launches. I’m also lucky enough to have my daily use Pioneer XDP-100R with which I’ve been listening to the Empyreans. I’ve also used my Dell XPS 13 with an Audioquest Dragonfly red. Finally I’ve had the odd evening with my own Naim NAC-N 272 as well.
With the Questyle CMA 400i headphone amplifier
I’ve listened to ‘Chiquitita’ over twelve times for goodness sake!
These headphones feel to me to be particularly responsive with a speed that is particularly good where snappy snares are to the fore, for example Led Zeppelin’s ‘What is and what should never be’. Although some parts of the production are poor on Tidal, the Master version is slightly better, the snares come across really nicely.
I’ve stumbled across ‘Chiquitita’ by Abba and this track is a really pretty perfect for listening to speed of delivery. ‘Chiquitita’ sounds amazing with these headphones and serves to profile the very bouncy and snappy nature of these ‘phones.
Channel Separation is a little too good if that is possible; a perfect jazz record I’ve fallen for recently is ‘Two Cigarettes in the Dark’ by Betty Carter (I got it from Jamie Cullum’s magical weekly jazz show on Radio 2). Here the channel separation serves to separate the double bass in the right ear and the piano in the left, so clearly it slightly unbalances the track, and your balance. However, the vocal is middle centre and is beautiful and the creamy and perfect.
I’m hooked as I listen to the exceptionally uncluttered ‘Chiquitita’ for the twelfth time! It is wonderfully rhythmic and bouncy, after several listens. I’m minded to go to ‘Kodachrome’ (Paul Simon) and then to ‘Telegraph Road’ (Dire Straits), before inevitably ending up at ‘Hotel California’, confirming my joy at the rhythm and bounce of these exceptional tracks in these headphones.
If rhythm is a dancer, resolution is the key area for a pair of headphones like this, surely. Straight to the acoustic version of ‘Crazy’ by Seal. And yes it is all there, beautiful. The voice is crisp and the guitars are clear and crazy. Then the fantastic ‘Oil Rigs at Night’ by The Delines. You can hear the breathing from the amazing Amy Boone and the lyrics wash over you wonderfully. Finally guitar perfection in ‘K’ by Cigarettes After Sex; it is like sitting next to the artist as they perform.
Still with the Questyle CMA 400i headphone amplifier I’m looking at the sound-stage from these headphones and thereby the power and dominance should come through. I have a good listen to ‘Rooting for You’ by London Grammar and the power of the track, the vocal richness from Hannah Reid warms through you. If anything these headphones are relatively soft, from an audio perspective, I would say. After prolonged listening, I feel pretty OK, sometimes your ears can burn but I’m pretty happy as I fall through endless tracks. The comfort helps here, particularly as they are circum aural.
I have a final listen to ‘Rooting for You’ on YouTube, the presentation is spine tingling; it’s like an angel is singing to you. Finally, for the millionth time, I listen to ‘The Numbers’ with the CR78 on YouTube. Wow!
I’ve been thinking about this, I’m going for ‘total control’. The headphones seem to be in total control of the music; ‘2049’ from Blade Runner sorts out your flabby bass from controlled and here you know where you are. The stereo imaging is also particularly wide in this track too. Old stalwarts for listening to bass control including ‘Everglow’, and it sounds as good as it can be and new track ‘bury a friend’ by Billie Ilesh, which has tons of contemporary over produced bass resonance is under the thumb here in a very relaxed listen.
Vocal tone, as I’ve hinted, feels to me to be fairly soft and I’m pretty happy with this feel.
On the kids iPad
I’ve just had a quick listen to ‘Rooting for You’ on the iPad, blimey, really good and mellow and wide and atmospheric. I really wasn’t expecting that.
My 24 bit recording of ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ is as good as it can be, the headphones are being driven easily by my daily portable Pioneer portable. The Pioneer does not seem to have any problem driving the Empyreans. Next on the Pinoner is the whole of Amnesiac and the ‘Pyramid Song’, oh my, it is sumptuous.
Audioquest Dragonfly red
I’ve just fallen for the Dragonfly only recently because I listen to headphones a fair bit. It is a fantastic investment if you’re glued to your laptop often. Here the Meze Empyrean are at ease and continue to present a beautiful sound, particularly from Tidal, with the dragonfly changing colours for the sample rate and audio quality. The Dragonfly red is MQA compatible.
Naim NAC-N 272
The sound from my NAC-N 272 is lovely but these Meze Empyrean really do show up the weaknesses of the headphones stage from the old Naim products. including in the old Uniti 2, compared to my headphone amplifier. I presume the headphone output has improved with the new boxes from Naim, though I have not really heard them in detail.
Obviously, these headphones are all about the affordability but they are definitely very special from an audio perspective, clean, soft and very comfortable. It has been a privilege for me to have them for an extended run. I’ve not had this much fun since Rega’s Isis CD was here… last month!
They must be good, I’ve listened to ‘Chiquitita’ over twelve times for goodness sake!