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 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