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Meze Audio Empyrean

Open-back Isodynamic® hybrid planar magnetic headphones

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Item # 455EMPYRN

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Overview

Our take on the Meze Audio Empyrean

These stellar planar magnetic headphones have been years in the making. Throughout production of the Meze Audio Empyrean, Antonio Meze and his team have taken their prototypes to high-end headphone shows all over the world — collecting feedback along the way. I've been fortunate enough to hear the Empyrean twice, about a year apart. The finished product delivers an absolutely deluxe headphone experience, with the best bass response I've ever heard in a pair of planar magnetic headphones.

The Meze Empyrean headphones

The Meze Audio Empyrean headphones are one of the most solidly built, visually stunning headphones I've ever tried. 

A statement piece from a design-focused audio company

These stellar planar magnetic headphones have been years in the making. Throughout production of the Meze Audio Empyrean, Antonio Meze and his team have taken their prototypes to high-end headphone shows all over the world — collecting feedback along the way. I've been fortunate enough to hear the Empyrean twice, about a year apart. The finished product delivers an absolutely deluxe headphone experience, with the best bass response I've ever heard in a pair of planar magnetic headphones.

In fact, Meze Audio teamed up with Ukrainian research team Rinaro to develop an entirely new take on traditional planar drivers. They call them "Isodynamic hybrid" drivers, and it is more than just a fancy name. I feel they've carved out a completely new sound signature, and I really enjoyed it.

Solidly constructed with fine attention to detail

Antonio Meze has an industrial engineering background, and these headphones look and feel like the result of a master at their craft. When I first held the Meze Empyrean, I reacted like you might when handling a piece of art. It felt like I was doing something wrong. Not because the headphones feel overly delicate — they're not — but because the design is so clean and detailed, it was like I was putting my hands on a fine sculpture.

Meze Empyrean in case

The Empyrean headphones arrive packed neatly in a heavy-duty travel case.

From a distance these might look like closed-back headphones, but a closer look at their robust aluminum frame reveals a different story. An intricately etched pattern in the earcup allows air to flow in and out freely. In the carousel above, you can see a video of the machining process that Meze Audio uses to create these beautiful earcups.  

Incredibly comfortable and beautifully packed

The Empyreans are among the physically largest headphones out there, but they also might be the easiest to wear at this size. A flexible, carbon-fiber headband acts as a spine for a leather strap that hugs the crown of your head. This evenly distributed the weight of the headphones, and I felt like I could've worn them for way longer than the hour audition I had with them.

Of course it helped that the earpads were some of the thickest, and softest to the touch that I've ever worn. The pads delicately cradled my head, avoiding pressure points, yet still managed to stay securely in place as I moved my head. Meze packs two sets of earpads — one leather, one Alcantara® — inside a heavy-duty, luggage-size carrying case. It is a stunning presentation.

One-of-a-kind driver for powerful full-range sound

If that impeccably packed briefcase reminds you of something Q would hand James Bond, just wait till you look at the technical wizardry inside the driver. Planar magnetic drivers in general are pretty complex, but here are the basic physics: a super-sized diaphragm moves lots of air, resulting in spacious sound with true-to-life dynamics. The diaphragm is covered with a flexible voice coil circuit and trapped in a magnetic field. It moves when the circuit receives an audio signal.

Meze Empyrean Isodynamic driver design

This color-coded illustration of the Empyrean's hybrid array planar diaphragm shows the separate voice coils for bass (blue) and mids/highs (gold).

Meze and Rinaro developed a way to separate the voice coil circuit into two distinct parts. There is a spiral coil that is positioned right next to the ear canal so that it can carefully distribute mids and highs. Since there is no obstruction to the listening path, it provides greater resolution and helps lower distortion.

Above that spiral, the snake-like coil handles the bass, and only the bass. This is likely why I heard — and felt — that deep, authoritative low-end, whereas some planar drivers can occasionally sound too "polite." But, like those other planar drivers, the bass here is clean and bloat-free. It's the best of both worlds. 

Special magnet array for greater efficiency

One of the coolest features of this headphone from a tactile standpoint is the planar magnet system. The same magnet array that moves the drivers also helps secure the earpads to the earcups. Those lush pads fasten in place with a satisfying snap.

Meze's unique magnetic mounting method also serves a sonic purpose. When the earpads are firmly in place, they help send magnetic power back to the planar driver system. That extra magnetic flux increases the driver output and the overall efficiency of the Empyrean headphones.    

Listening impressions...and other thoughts

I usually recommend listening to planar magnetic headphones through a high-powered desktop headphone amp. Still probably a good idea here, if possible, but I actually listened to the Empyrean through a smaller, portable headphone amp/DAC. And this more than did the trick with these efficient headphones. 

The soundstage felt spacious and breathable, but not huge. And never so stretched out that it was at the expense of the dynamics. Paul Simon has a full orchestra behind him on the song "Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War." As instruments changed in volume from soft to loud — and back — it all felt incredibly textured and real, never too laid back.

These headphones have pinpoint imaging, too, which made the bouncy, reggae-infused track "Tequila Mockingbird" by hip hop artist Smino even more fun. The St. Louis emcee's sing-song, southern-drawl flows seemed to stick right in the middle, while the hypnotic drums and bass swarmed around my head. Guitar samples, ad-libs, and back-up vocals came from very specific places in the mix, and I marveled at how well-produced the song sounds.

Speaking of hearing a song again for the first time, I put on "Can't Find my Way Home" by Blind Faith next. I can't count how many times I've heard this song, but I still find that those opening chords cut through the monotony of Classic Rock radio and grab my attention. Well, they've never sounded quite as detailed and haunting as they did on the Meze Empyrean headphones. By the time Steve Winwood's vocals kicked in, I had closed my eyes, so consumed by the lifelike cohesiveness of the sound that I forgot I was in a room full of people.  

And, oh yeah, that bass. I think that's what I enjoyed the most about these headphones. While the low-end had a slight emphasis, it felt true-to-life on whatever type of music I played on it. It never felt overbearing or out of place on tracks that didn't call for a lot of bass. But on Vince Staples' hip hop track "War Ready," these headphones were ready to reproduce that deep, detailed sub bass.

These headphones bring the thunder. 

Product Highlights:

  • open-back design offers transparent sound
  • planar magnetic drivers tuned to deliver smooth, revealing sound with enhanced dynamics
    • patented hybrid array driver delivers articulate mids and highs with tight, strong bass
  • machined and hand-assembled at Meze's headquarters in Romania
    • made with premium materials and metals
Isodynamic Hybrid Array Driver Details:
  • co-designed and co-developed with Ukrainian research group Rinaro
  • planar magnetic drivers offer exceptional musical detail with low distortion
  • extra-light, rigid isoplanar diaphragm starts and stops quickly for clear, articulate sound
    • oval-shaped diaphragm increases efficiency helps lowers mass of drivers
  • separate voice coil traces for accurate sound across a wide frequency range
    • "spiral" coil positioned directly next the ear canal for resolving mids and highs
    • "switchback" coil dedicated to low-end reproduction for authoritative bass
  • strong, symmetrical magnetic array for greater diaphragm efficiency with fluid movement
    • patented ferromagnetic plates lock earpads firmly into place
    • earpad mounting system sends the magnetic field back into the driver to increase driver output
  • a separate headphone amplifier is required to properly power these headphones for optimum sound quality
Build Quality:
  • milled-aluminum frame with lightweight carbon headband
    • leather headband strap evenly distributes the weight on your head for effortless fit
  • fiberglass-infused plastic earcup chambers
  • two pairs of thick, well-cushioned memory-foam earpads for supreme comfort:
    • furniture-grade stitched leather earpads
    • soft Alcantara earpads
General Info and Specs:
  • 9.84- foot detachable oxygen-free cable terminated by a 1/4" headphone plug
    • heavy-duty design with braided cloth covering
    • terminated at the headphone with 4-pin mini-XLR connection
  • hard-shell briefcase with soft, egg-crate foam protective interior
  • frequency response: 4-110,000 Hz
  • sensitivity: 130 dB
  • impedance: 31 ohms
  • weight: 15.2 ounces
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee
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Details

Features and Specs

General
Earcup Type Closed
Earcup Width x Height
Noise-canceling No
Bluetooth No
Mic For Taking Calls No
iPhone Control No
Lightning Connector No
Android Control No
Frequency Response 4-110K Hz
Sensitivity 130 dB
Impedance 31 Ohms
Weight 15.2 ounces
Cord Length ---
1/4-inch Adapter Included No
Volume Control No
Parts Warranty 1 year
Labor Warranty 1 year
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