Meze Empyrean Review





The Meze Empyrean has the looks and build quality to compete with anything in the headphone market, but what about the sound? I took a brief listen to these over a year ago when they first came out and was left pretty unimpressed and somewhat disgusted by the sound. It's been a while since then, but I requested an opportunity to give these $3000 planar magnetic headphones another listen -- a much fairer, and lengthier listening at home and not in meet-up conditions and people staring at my first impressions. 

This headphone was on kind loan from the folks at headphones.com and I am using these with a variety of gear: 

DAC:  Schiit Bifrost 2
Amps: Topping A90, Feliks Elise OTL, and the combination of both (OTL as a preamp tube buffer)

When I first listened to this set, I was mostly listening to it on the RME ADI-2 DAC, so there's a bit more amp power going to the Topping A90.


Anyway, let's start with the build and accessories...

The Meze Empyrean is a stunning unit. It has exquisite build with machined metal cups, an intricately designed grill, and real leather pads and headband. The comfort is among the best I've ever worn, and it feels like wearing pillows on your head and ears. 

The cable included terminates in mini-xlr and 1/4 inch on the amp side, and is solid and usability is good. It may be a tad stiff, but no where as uncomfortable to use as competitor's included cables, and this has a lot to do with the upper portion above the split being very lightweight and supple. 

The pad options include real leather pads as well as an alcantara suede pad. These pads are easily removed and replaced using magnetic attachments and both provide slightly different tuning variations. For the most part, I preferred the leather pads, and I'll be doing my review mainly with those.




Sound Impressions

The Meze Empyrean is a warm-tuned planar magnetic headphone that has some sort of middle ground between the typical Hifiman and the typical Audeze sound. For the most part, I found that there was a slight mid-bass bump and a smooth and laid-back midrange and a slight sharpness in treble somewhere that seemed to pop up in cymbals and hi-hats splashes. I wouldn't call this a V-shaped headphone by any means, even if that description can resemble it to an extent.


On this second go-around with the Empy, I had just put on an hour of listening with the new Gold Planar GL2000 oval-shaped headphone and then swapped to the Empy. In this contrast, I found the Empy to sound a lot better than what I had remembered. It was more dynamic and more open, and had a more powerful low-end and a lush atmosphere around it, especially when compared to the less expensive GL2000.

It was when I started to A-B with the Hifiman Arya that I started to pick apart the areas that I didn't like about the Empyrean when I first listened to it in mid-2019. It was the over-emphasis in the mid-bass and the splashy treble attack that really struck out. Now mind you, the Arya is a referencey-tuning with a brighter low-treble region and some may find that a bit sharp, and so these two don't share a lot in tuning.

But preferences lie where they do, and for me, the mid-bass presentation is just a little too much that I found it can muddy up the midrange and give a blunted and overly lush/wet sound that I am not too fond of. Its probably not on the same level of disgust that I originally could not contain within in 2019, but its still a bit there.

While this does not affect every song I listened to, there are other issues that I did not like.

As mentioned already, the mid-range and lower treble is quite nice. Its bold and has a thick juiciness to it that gives much of my rock and jazz music a glowing ember feel, where I'm relaxing by a fire. It's warm. Maybe too much though, but I am one to like a leaner presentation, generally.

And all the same, leaner presentations generally mean a slightly brighter one. While I don't consider the Empyrean bright by any means, it has one or two treble peaks that jolt me often. It's when I hear a crash of cymbals in Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" or ringing sounds in the beginning of "Fear Innoculum" from Tool. This could be attributed to the rise past 10KHz and later in the upper treble range that is shown in FR Plots. Its audibly present to me, and not the presents I enjoy, even at low volume listening.


So, despite Hifiman Arya's brighter presentation overall, it was the Empyrean's general warm and laid-back nature that cause me more treble heartache. Strange how that is.

I decided to take a chance on trying Empyrean with an EQ more catered to my tastes. Essentially, I got rid of the mid-bass bump, and increased the upper-midrange and treble, and reduced the upper treble and this Empyrean modification seemed to really improve my enjoyment of this headphone.



Wrap-Up

I really do think that the majority of my issues with the Empy revolves around the bass presentation. Its not to my liking, and overly warm, and just gives this too cozy of a sound and I feel ruins a little bit of the magic of a planar driver. Maybe I just have pre-assumptions of how this driver should sound. Heck, Meze did a commendable job going outside the box on this unit with their unique trace design.

That aside, for me, this isn't the one, as much as I like a lot of other parts about it.

One more thing, I did find there was a lot of pressure when wearing these in my ears. I don't know exactly what or why, but it just felt a little strange wearing these headphones. It kind of reminded me of the same ear effect I had while wearing HEDDPhone in some sense.

Anyway, Meze is stylish and quite a looker and comfortable thing, but its not the sound for me, at least not at this price point anyway. 



Comments

  1. Hi, interesting review, as well as your A90 vs Jotunheim. I'm intrigued as to why didn't you use Jotunheim to test Empireans. I thought you liked it better ;-)

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    1. It never amazes me at reviews like these....u start with a pre-conceived bias and then go on to explain all the issues for "YOU" that are negative with your freq chart....see, see I told you so! Look here, right here on the FQ plot...there got you Meze!! But hey your grill work is first class. Really???

      Second time around was not a charm for you with these headphones...things like "Its probably not on the same level of disgust that I originally could not contain within in 2019, but its still a bit there."

      NIce. Professional for sure? Not.

      Hell Zeos would do a better review and not hide his disgust with "technical" explanations....

      Nothing about soundstage, 3D dimensional presentation. Realistic life like presentations with live recordings. Nothing about resolution, transient response, articulation only things like the bass sucks.

      To all the Meze owners out there the message from this guy is YOU GOT SCREWED! These cans are a farce...and try to sell them now!!

      OMG. Considering the source I guess its to be expected. I guess if you come from a Grado world you will never be happy.

      Delete
    2. @diego - I sold the Jotunheim last year, and am waiting for the Jotunheim 2 to ship to me. I hope its great. I'm also considering getting a GS-X Mini or a Flux Amp perhaps. I actually like the combination of A90 and my Elise as a tube pre-amp.

      @anonymous person:
      I admitted my biases. I think thats more than most reviewers out there do. And I listen prior to measuring, always. I didn't even look at the Empy FR prior to listening to these. The FR reinforces some of my listening conclusions. I admitted several times I am not a fan of mid-bass bumped headphones (and IEMs) and I mention this in a lot of my reviews. There is a reason why I state these are my preferences and my thoughts and not absolutes.

      I talk about other technical parts of the headphone if you read carefully.
      " it can muddy up the midrange and give a blunted and overly lush/wet sound" -- this is talking directly at transient response, and quality of resolution in this region. Blunted and muddy is typically not a factor if it has a quick transient response and good definition.

      If you like the Meze Empyrean, more power to you. I am stating here that the Meze isn't for me.
      "Anyway, Meze is stylish and quite a looker and comfortable thing, but its not the sound for me"

      You aren't me, are you?

      Delete
  2. Huh. There’s bad reviews, then there’s bad reviewers. Sorry, my review of your review is that it is unprofessionally written, lacks objectivity, and reeks of graph-thumping. Many of us are just as disgusted.

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    1. Just because I posted a graph doesn't mean all I did was read a graph. I listened to this headphone for 2 weeks straight for several hours a day. I am sorry that my personal take on this headphone does not line up with yours. It's just my opinion, and you're free to have your own. BTW, if any reviewer claims to be totally objective, they are lying.

      Delete
    2. Indeed. And my opinion is that this is one of the worst written reviews I've read. I have not read your any of your other work but if this is consistent with the rest of it then I'm sure this is not the first time someone had the same opinion as mine regarding your writing? And you may want to revisit and see where you can improve? It's not even about a misalignment of preference.

      Delete
    3. Hi Johnny,

      I'd just like to point out several logical fallacies with your comments.

      1) You say there's bad reviews and then there's bad reviewers, implying the latter. Yet, you've stated that you've not read any of the other reviews; it would be fallacious to qualify a bad reviewer from one bad review.
      2) No review about something as wholly subjective as audio will ever be objective. If someone calls themself an "objective reviewer" that's an oxymoron.
      3) You also seem to have something against graphs which, ironically, are one of the most objective pieces of data in audio.

      If you could offer constructive feedback as to what, specifically, is causing you such angst, I'd sure be interested to know; I'm sure Ant would too. That tends to be more helpful than making blanket statements. However, I suspect you're not interested in doing so, as your comments read more like a personal attack from someone overly invested in a product. Cheers.

      Delete

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