A few years ago, if you had asked me about high-end headphones from Meze, I would have laughed, guffawed, or chortled. But times change, and the Meze Empyrean now illustrates just how far the manufacturer has come from its earlier days. With a world-first isodynamic planar magnetic driver, the Empyrean offers impressive internals that match a bespoke exterior. At $2999, this headphone may not be the most expensive on the market, but how does it compete with other high-end models?
Meze Empyrean Review
The Meze Empyrean’s biggest value proposition may stem from the copious technology that comprises its sound. However, the marriage of comfort and impeccable design in a headphone of this caliber cannot be ignored. As a result, the Empyrean harbingers a new era for Meze and issues an intimidating challenge to other planar magnetic headphones.
At the heart of the Meze Empyrean sits the isodynamic planar magnetic driver – the first time such technology has appeared in a headphone. Sandwiched between two neodymium magnets is a voice coil. This voice coil utilizes switchback and spiral layouts to deliver more accurate lows and mid-highs, respectively. The entire driver array sits inside two fiberglass-infused ABS plastic frames.
All of this technology – while directly leading to a richer, fuller sound – also drives the weight down. Because as heavy as the headphone might appear at first glance, it still remains surprisingly comfortable.
Wide, ergonomic earpads magnetically attach to the earcups, and the Empyrean comes with two pairs of pads – one set in velour for a more accurate sound, and one in leather for a more engaging bass response. Complimenting the pads, a wide leather suspension-style headband guarantees the utmost comfort during even the longest listening sessions.
In its standard configuration, the headphones also come with a 10 ft (3 m) cable terminating in a 1/4” stereo plug. Connection to the headphone is achieved by way of a dual-entry mini-XLR plug, allowing the Empyrean to be used with a wide array of accessory cables from Meze, including balanced options.
Holding the Meze Empyrean in your hands brings of this attention to detail to a very logical conclusion. Every movement of the headphone is smooth and articulate. Its seamless construction instills a sense of awe and pride. Perhaps the way that fine porcelain or expert pottery has been revered for ages, a certain level of craftsmanship can transform a simple utilitarian object into a work of art. The Meze Empyrean is that work of art. But how does it sound?
The Meze Empyrean sounds like a dream – lifelike, but ultimately removed from the humdrum laws that seem to dominate everyday life.
A rich and vibrant low end abounds with detail, but never sounds too clinical or uninteresting. The planar magnetic driver offers an organic intensity in the low end, leading to a sound that is as fun as it is accurate. This sound works wonders on any genre, but sounds especially phenomenal with any track involving solid bass. Clean with good separation, the low end never suffers from bleed and when that bass comes down, it comes down hard and sharp, coming to rest somewhere in the vicinity of my sternum. Suffice to say, the Empyrean offers an impressive but tempered low end that must be heard to be understood.
Complimenting this immaculate low end is the Empyrean’s full midrange. Detailed but not too forward-leaning, the mids compliment the rest of the frequency range while never really competing with it. This characteristic presentation allows detail and nuance to surge to the foreground on mid-heavy tracks, but then melt away alongside stronger highs and lows.
When it comes to the high end, the Empyrean sparkles with detail. Not quite bright, the sound instead comes across and luxurious and musical. While it nails the highest high notes, it never devolves into a harsh or uncomfortable sound. This finely-articulated high end sounds just fine with instrumentation, being accurate but engaging. However, it sounds downright phenomenal with vocals, where the Empyrean’s lush mids and highs work in tandem to deliver a robust listening experience.
Soundstage marries solid depth and a good sense of space. Instruments occupy finite space, but the sense of depth and grandeur to the sound carry it over the top. Closing my eyes and concentrating on the sound of the Empyrean, I’m struck by how vast the sound seems. From crawling lows to sweeping highs, and the stretches in between, this spacious sound imparts a sense of magic to any of my test tracks.
The Meze Empyrean offers a new breed of planar magnetic earphone. It’s less intense and more agreeable, even, than the Audeze LCD-3 at the same price. Its soundstage begs a comparison with high-end HifiMan headphones, but with better design giving the Empyrean a decisive edge. If you wanted a brighter, even more musical experience, the only real contender would be the Focal Utopia. However, at a higher price, the dynamic Utopia still lacks the rich and expansive low end that edifies the Empyrean above its competitors.
In terms of build and design, though, the Meze Empyrean knows no rival. And as impressive as that sound remains, it pales in comparison to the expert craftsmanship that defines this headphone. More than an object for listening to music, the Meze Empyrean offers a work of art that may actually rival the music it reproduces in terms of scope and grandeur.
Headphone Dungeon Score
The Meze Empyrean earns five skulls, but it probably deserves even more. A rating system, while giving our audience some sense of perspective, almost seems to limit the Empyrean in this regard. How do you rate perfection?
I don’t recommend running out and buying the Empyrean right away. Demo it. Get to know it. A match made in heaven – just like any romance – is best savored, bit by bit and note by note.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONSDriver Type: Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array
Operating Principle: Open
Ear Coupling: Circumaural
Frequency response: 4 – 110,000 Hz
Impedance: 31.6 Ω
Nominal SPL: 100 dB (1 mW/1kHz)
Maximum SPL: >130 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.1%
Weight: ≈ 430 g
MZ3 DRIVER SPECIFICATIONS
Geometrical shape: Ovoid
Size: 102 mm x 73 mm
Weight: 82 g
Casing: Fiberglass Infused ABS
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
Size: 75 mm x 49 mm
Magnetic Flux: 0.35 T