Now I’ve heard the Meze Empyrean headphones probably a dozen times at the shows. And every time I try to nitpick them, I end up just enjoying the music. It didn’t matter which amplifier or DAC it was plugged into. Music just sounded truthful.
I primarily listen to 2-channel these days so didn’t give it much more thought for months. However, I heard it once more at Munich High End and knew I had to get this in for review. It took a while…but the Meze Empyrean is finally here.
My audiophile journey started with headphones. They don’t require a lot of space and I don’t have to the complexity of room treatments, speaker positioning, etc. Today, I think I’ve heard pretty much every high-end headphone out there.
Every designer has their own philosophy and it’s interesting to hear the various approaches. There are sonic compromises when it comes to headphones – simply due to the inherent physical constraints. So how an engineer works around and adjusts the moving parts becomes more of an art form. Keep in mind, when you listen to a headphone…you’re getting an idea of how the designer enjoys music.
When I started this hobby, I chased what I “never heard before.” This meant headphones with incredible soundstage, resolution, and transparency. Hearing the inner details of familiar recordings was refreshing and emotive. It was addicting. After spending years listening to audio gear (full-time), I was able to focus on what’s important. I started to get a grasp of what the limitations were and how certain sonic qualities create a balance. “You can’t have it all” so you have to determine what’s critical to your enjoyment of music. Since I value a lifelike sound (not everyone does), I also made a conscious effort to listen to live music as often as possible.
It’s only after the combination of these experiences that am I able to find out what I look for in a playback system. To properly evaluate gear, one has to have heard the “relative paths” a sound could take. It’s the only way to know what’s missing and if it’s something that could be adjusted. And there aren’t any shortcuts to this.
My realization? Just because you can hear every detail, doesn’t mean you were meant to. And having a huge soundstage doesn’t mean it’s realistic. These “special effects” actually takes you away from artistic intent. But some audiophiles find joy in fantasy…and that’s perfectly fine.
My goal was for a natural and faithful sound – and the only way to know what that is is to use your ears in the real world. Aside from social interactions, one should listen to traffic, cars barking, or even just the rain. So for me, tonality is nonnegotiable as the color of a sound determines whether I believe what I’m hearing. Unfortunately, many of the qualities audiophiles seek from their components – compromises tonal variance. It’s just the nature of the beast.
As always, I don’t care much for measurements or the opinions of other reviewers. Aside from the variety of gear and sources people use, everyone listens for different things. My preference is for natural tonality. My opinions are based on the best I’ve heard these recordings and not necessarily specific to headphones.
It all started when Antonio was searching for a pair of headphones that he could relate to, in the same way, he felt connected to his Fender Stratocaster guitar. An object to pour his passion for music in. An object full of personality and life, which also incorporates the attributes of high-end technology.
Meze Audio was founded in 2011 in Baia Mare, Romania. We started small, acquiring knowledge by experimenting with parts already on the market, searching and researching for the right materials and engineering solutions in the quest for the perfect sound and feel. Our breakthrough year was 2015, when, after many years of development, the 99 Classics were launched. They keep receiving awards and nominations that are beyond anyone’s expectations and are placing the 99 at the top of its category. Today all our models, headphones and earphones, are developed in-house from the ground up, in the spirit of our original ‘no-compromise’ vision.
OBSESSING WITH QUALITY IN SOUND AND BUILD, We create high-end headphones, so we obsess about sound quality. Every aspect counts. The engineering, choice of materials, the precision of craftsmanship, the reliability are all equally important. We also make parts easily replaceable. All of these to ensure that a feeling of trust will accompany your every interaction with a Meze.
“Empyrean was born from passion, curiosity, and innovation. As a business, we have allowed ourselves the freedom to experiment and take risks in search of the perfect sound. To generate something truly remarkable, one must dare to explore, and that’s what we did with Empyrean. We pushed and refined industry’ standards and achieved a true game-changer for audiophiles.”
Antonio Meze, Lead designer and Founder Meze Audio
This review unit came with a 1/4″ single-ended jack and a gorgeous steel flight case. Although you wouldn’t walk around with this headphone, I did travel with it a few times and the case comes in handy. It’s great that you could drive this with your laptop or phone. You won’t get as much authority or volume, however.
Every Meze Empyrean is hand-assembled in Baia Mare, Romania. Build quality is one of the very best I’ve seen from a headphone. The chassis takes 20 hours to sculpt and is milled from a single piece of solid aluminum. It’s apparent every part of this headphone was carefully designed. Including the carbon fiber headband, leather pressure distribution winged headband, and resistive side earcup adjusters. Also, their isomagnetic ear cup attachment is by far the easiest earpad locking system out there.
Meze was very meticulous and thoughtful when it came to this package. They made damn sure the listener knew this was a flagship headphone.
The Meze Empyrean sounded best with the Chord Electronics DAVE so that’s what I used for most of this review. I actually enjoy the tonality of the Chord Electronics TT2 more but the Empyrean seems to benefit from the extra resolution of the DAVE. The Hugo M Scaler kicks it up a few notches as well.
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