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A short film about the Meze Empyrean

  • Headphones. Open-back. Planarmagnetic. High efficiency (100db@1mw/1kHz). 31.6 Ohm input impedance. CNC-d aluminium structure. Carbon fibre upper headband with a winged leather lower headband to better distribute the headphone’s 430g. Rinaro-designed diaphragm (0.16g, 4650mm2) w/ two-part trace: switch-back for mid/bass, spiral for higher frequencies. Swappable earpads. €2999 all up with optional balanced cable going for €349. The full monty nudges three and a half large.

    Those are the CliffsNotes on Meze Audio’s flagship headphone, the Empyrean, first caught by yours truly at Munich High-End 2018. From his prefab cabin at the MOC, company founder and lead designer Antonio Meze talked us through the Empyrean’s particulars. I shot the walkthrough on an LG V30 smartphone:

    However, a show is no springboard for product assessment. A noisy hall is the kiss of death to open-back headphones, easily unstitching even the loosest of first impressions. More often than not, we don’t get to choose the music and must use exhibitor-supplied ancilllary gear. Comparisons with similarly-priced rivals are, quite literally, off the table. The time pressure of a show means we don’t get to sit for hours to discern long-term on-head pressure.

    At home, I can take my time with a product. I can savour it. I sat with the Empyrean for two full weeks before penning a single word. Or WhatsApp-ing Darko.Audio cameraman Olaf von Voss or video editor Jana Dagdagan.

    At home, I get to choose the music: a mix of 80s pop, indie rock and electronica – and summarise my choices as playlists for readers: Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz.

    At home, I get to select the associated electronics used in different scenarios: a Chord DAVE for digital and a Schiit Jotunheim for vinyl and balanced cable try-outs.

    At home, I get to choose the comparative gear used for triangulating the Empyrean’s sound: the Sennheiser HD800S (yesteryear’s summit-fi) and another top-shelf planar – the LCD-4z from Audeze.

    Are the Meze Empyrean the world’s best headphone?

    The Romanian company make a strong case in the affirmative, not only because of their flagship’s almost peerless sound quality. Only HiFiMan and Focal might say otherwise. The Empyrean deliver a double shot of detail and dynamics but with a sense of audible refinement that shows compromise the door.

    On long-term listening comfort too, the Empyrean solicit no quibbles. Some might prefer the Audeze LCD-4z’s more buttery sound signature but for me their on-head weight keeps their audible charms at arm’s length. Instead, the Empyrean’s on-head feel connotes my idea of the perfect listening experience – to sink into a chair and into music and for several hours at a time.

    That Antonio Meze isn’t only caught up in the engineering of a headphone but treats their design as an art project jives with my own approach to reviewing: part tech, part art, part entertainment. At home, our video review style puts the smartphone back in the pocket to favour long-form pro-shot video coverage that reflects the luxury nature of the product under consideration:

    Further information: Meze Audio

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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