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Case: 0.42 x 0.32 x 0.12 m
Headphones: 216 x 236 x 72 mm
Inside ear cup: 75 x 48 mm
Meze Audio is a relative newcomer to the high end personal audio space, but has built itself a reputation for quality headphones, starting with the Meze 99 Classics in 2015. The Meze Empyrean is the result of the company’s partnership with Rinaro Isodynamics, a Ukrainian company involved in planar magnetic development since the 1980s. Billed as “The World’s First Isodynamic Hybrid Array Headphone,” the Empyrean offers more than just premium materials to justify its asking price, with some genuinely innovative technology on display.
Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
The Meze Empyrean is for critical listeners with deep pockets who want a dedicated set of headphones for home use, as long as they don’t move around much.
What’s it like to use the Meze Audio Empyrean?
The Meze Empyrean arrives in a stylish black attache-style aluminum briefcase with a molded foam interior that’s custom fitted to the headphones. The headphones and cable have separate compartments, which means you’ll need to detach the cable each time you return them to the case. When you pick up the headphones it hangs in an awkward, limp, gangly fashion, and the ear cups are prone to rotating on their tension rods. This means slipping them onto your head is not always as straightforward as you might like, and it takes a few seconds to get everything oriented correctly. The mini XLR connectors protrude forwards from the bottom of the ear cups, ensuring the weighty Y split reinforcement of the cable hangs down in front of your chest.
Once the hefty ear cups are properly situated around your ears, it becomes clear that the unusual design of the carbon fibre headband and leather headrest actually makes it extremely comfortable for long periods of time. One important thing to note though is that there is very little clamping force, and Meze’s “pressure distribution wings” seem to rely on gravity to keep the headphones in place. This means the Empyrean tends to slide around a bit if you tilt your head up or down, and if you’re the kind of person who really likes to recline or lie down while listening, you’re probably not going to get an optimal experience because of this.
There is very little clamping force, so the Empyrean tends to slide around a bit
The headphones are supplied with two sets of interchangeable ear pads, one set covered with leather, and the others with softer, suede-like Alcantara. Changing the pads is very straightforward thanks to the magnetic coupling used. Another positive is the fact that the headphone is fully serviceable with replacement components, meaning it ought to last a few years.
How does the Meze Audio Empyrean connect?
Our review sample came with a 1.2m long “Y” cable with locking miniature 4-pin, color-coded female XLR connectors to deliver signal the ear cups, terminated at the input with a 3.5mm stereo jack plug. No adapter for the larger 1/4-inch plug is supplied. The black braided fabric-covered cable is an appropriate length for using while sitting at a computer, or plugged into a pocketable digital audio player (DAP), but too short for much else. Sensibly, options at time of purchase include 2.5m cables, with either a 1/4-inch TRS jack or a 4 pin XLR connector for driving the headphones in a balanced configuration.
Although most of the headphones in this elevated price range feature locking connectors at the headphone end, we actually prefer non-locking connectors that will release in the event that you snag the cable on something or if your DAP falls out of your pocket, thereby actually protecting the most expensive part of your investment (and your head) from damage. But hey, these look premium!
No, you don’t need a separate amplifier to drive this, since it has a respectably high efficiency of 100dB/1mw at 1kHz with an impedance of 31.6 ohms. Pretty much any source should be able to drive it.
How well does the Meze Audio Empyrean block out noise?
The headphones offer virtually nothing in terms of acoustic isolation, owing to their open backs. This could be viewed as a good thing, since you won’t need to remove them to communicate if someone interrupts your listening session.
We’re happy to confirm that Empyrean doesn’t exhibit any audible passive amplification of ambient noise, which we have seen on some open backs.
How does the Meze Audio Empyrean sound?
Editor’s note: this review makes use of a hover-enabled glossary to describe sound quality, based on a consensus vocabulary. You can read about it here.
Should you buy the Meze Audio Empyrean?
If you’re going to spend thousands on one set of headphones, they should be pretty close to perfect. The sound of the Meze Empyrean is exemplary. The headband design does an amazing job of letting you forget you’re wearing it. Build quality is superb, and it certainly looks the part. The main issues we found were with stability on the head and with inconsistent performance across the included ear pads, which itself is likely a consequence of the low clamping force the headphones provide. If these minor gripes aren’t deal breakers for you, find a place to take a listen—at a price like this, you should definitely take the time to try before you buy.
What should you get instead of the Meze Audio Empyrean?
The Audeze LCD-5 is a close competitor to the Empyrean, boasting a similarly refined sound profile from its planar magnetic drivers, and also uses space age materials to try to justify its price tag. It’s definitely worth auditioning side by side if you have the opportunity ($4500 at Amazon).
The Meze Audio Liric offers open-back-like performance with the isolation of a closed back headphone. It’s a bit heavier but shares the Empyrean’s driver technology, so it’s definitely worth adding to your short list—You can pick up for a comparatively reasonable $2000 at Manufacturer site.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S is a bit more down to earth in terms of price ($1599.95 at Amazon), but it still sounds excellent. For those who can live without show-offy exotic materials, it’s still very much a prestige product.
Frequently asked questions
Meze offers the following options:
- 1.2m OFC cable with 3.5mm jack
- 2.5m OFC cable with 6.3mm jack
- 2.5m OFC cable with XLR connector
A vegan version of the Empyrean is also offered by Meze Audio.