Meze Empyrean Headphone Review Page 2

Listening

It’s a testament to the lasting romanticism of the ‘60s and ‘70s that a waning, lament of a song could herald the coming tsunami of hits on U.S. soil from the Bee Gees with the May, 1971 release and subsequent chart climb of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” to Billboard’s No.1 position. The track was written by the brothers Gibb (Barry, Robin and Maurice) as an emotional and creative outlet for their coming back together after an extended time of estrangement and is beautifully layered throughout with their trademark harmonizng vocals. The opening strings, piano, bass guitar and Maurice’s falsetto get stereo play loaded variously into the left and right channels (an effect used in a number of their cuts on various albums) before summing as Robin and Barry join in on the bass/drum/organ drop. Both bass and acoustic guitar plucking and strumming texture and timbre is sublime and there’s incredible speed to transients – rich, thick without sluggishness, warm and easy to discern one from another – and impactful weight to the lower registers on the piano with pedal pressure clearly passed along via the dCS through the Empyrean with such depth and clarity that you’d think it would overwhelm the rest of the song because of how easy it is to pick out of the mix, but it doesn’t. It stays utterly coherent with the overall body of instruments filling the deep and wide sound stage. Vocals, piano, guitar and bass stay rock steady in pitch and in 3D location right behind my eyes.

Dream Academy are probably best known for their big hit single “Life in a Northern Town” and that’s the cut I went with here. It came out in early 1985 while I was attending junior high in the cold, snowy donut hole of central British Columbia and I related completely to the yearning, sad, minor-chord vibe the song engendered. The track segues between the light, lilting vocals of singer/guitarist Nick Laird-Clowes as he winds back time and Mamas and the Papas-esque vocal harmonies mixed with huge percussive slams overlaid with oboe and multi-tracked vocal overdubs. I remember this all as mushed-together and caramelized through my Walkman, on the radio and through my dad’s receiver at home. While the cut is obviously recognizable 33 years on through the Bartók and the Meze, it might as well be a completely new mix recorded from the original analog tapes; I mean, the stark, singularity of each instrument, vocal and sound effect laid out between my ears by the Empyrean was staggering in its precision and transparency, (textures, once agin, were exquisite) but it never went thin or hot. It stayed full, deep and bouncy, but sharp and tight simultaneously too. I could easily pick out lyrics that hitherto were merely mumblings, and the crowd sample of screaming Beatle’s fans mixed in at 1:41 of the song was something I don’t recall ever really clearly hearing as more than background hash.

Described as part of the ‘big-beat’ music genre, The Crystal Method came out of Los Angeles via Las Vegas in in the early ‘90s. Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan were honing their musical and songwriting chops while bagging groceries and it was their subsequent move from desert retail to LA’s music production scene that gave birth to the band. 1997’s “Trip Like I Do” off their debut studio LP Vegas still gives me goosebumps during the opening lines lifted from the 1982 British fantasy film The Dark Crystal directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz and filthy with crazy puppeteering. I grew up on movies like this (along with Heavy Metal and Wizards) watching it at least several times either in theaters, on Laser Disc or VHS while a tween. So when I first heard the cut at a local underground house-music party in my 20s I literally tripped out because here was an electronic music duo pulling lines from little-known fantasy films of my youth. This is an album with driving bass lines, stygian electronic percussion and keyboard/synth work along with generous helpings of music and lyric samples that could all easily get lost or muddied with distortion in the morass of the Phil Spector-ish wall of sound that Kirkland and Jordan have laid down. Through the Meze and the relentless power of that dedicated Class A headphone amp in the dCS we have everything juiced up like Schwarzenegger from the midbass on down, while the upper registers get the light touch treatment and seem to float high above the weight and chaos of everything happening between those lower octaves. The space around the deepest organ/synth notes and drum hits was concussive, distortion-free, tuneful and to be honest gave a sense of excitement to playback that made me feel more like I was in a club near the PA stacks than comfortably ensconced in my living room.

Conclusion

With an obvious pedigree of design and marketing, to look at the Meze Empyrean you would be forgiven if you thought they were anything but a classy, audiophile act for high-res playback of of the finest jazz or classical files with all the right provenance of source from original masters. But no, these cans are that and so much more. Not afraid to get dirty with Redbook or mp3, they revel in beat and bass-heavy electronica just as much as they excel at the aforementioned Coltrane, or Shubert. Mechanical engineering that is meant to be worn, the Empyrean is part objet d’art and sonic time machine, transporting the wearer to the exact moment and space the song of their choice was recorded.

Compared to other similarily-priced wares from Audeze, Sennheiser or HIFIMAN, the Empyreans are firmly planted in the same territory from a sonic-capability standpoint, but stands out because they do not in some way compensate with trade-offs in frequency response, timbral accuracy, transient speed, treble or bass extension for playback, or long-term comfort or wearibility. Capable of ethereal highs, moody, passionate mids with superb palyback of every subtle vocal inflection and nuance and a bassheads delight for getting heavy, the Empyrean offers something few other headphones at any price point can offer: a complete package in set of over-ear ‘phones that will play it all without fuss, bottom-end goosing or hyperbole. They’re a dish that delivers on what the menu promises.

  • Driver Type – Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array
  • Operating Principle – Open
  • Ear Coupling – Circumaural
  • Frequency response – 4 - 110,000 Hz
  • Impedance – 31.6 Ω
  • Nominal SPL – 100 dB (1 mW/1kHz)
  • Maximum SPL – >130 dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) – <0.1%
  • Weight – 430g
  • Cost: $2,999 USD
  • MZ3 DRIVER SPECIFICATIONS PHYSICAL

  • Geometrical shape – Ovoid
  • Size – 102 mm x 73 mm
  • Weight – 82g
  • Casing – Fiberglass Infused ABS
  • DIAPHRAGM 

  • Type – Rinaro ISOPLANAR
  • Active area – 4650 mm²
  • Weight – 0.16g
  • Acoustic mass – 10.7 kg/m4
  • Lower frequency limit – 4 Hz
  • Upper-frequency limit – 110.000 Hz


Bartók HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER SPECIFICATIONS

  • One stereo balanced pair on 1x 4-way male XLR connector.
  • One stereo unbalanced pair on 1x 6.35mm (1/4”) 3-pole jack.
  • Full-scale output levels are 1.4W rms into 33Ω, 0.15W rms into 300Ω.
  • Output levels are 0, -10, -20, -30dB, set in the menu.
  • Minimum headphone impedance is 33Ω.

COMPANY INFO
Meze Audio
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Richter Di's picture

Really need to hear them at one of the German headphone meets, like audiovista. I just bought the Meze 99 classics and I am very surprised how much fun they are, although I already have some headphones (HD 800, Fostex TH-X00, Audeze Mobius, Beyerdynamics modells, Hifiman HE500 and Ananda, Ultrasone Edition 9,....)

Simply Nobody's picture

May be inner/Fidelity could also review the new Meze Rai Penta in-ear phones ($1,099) :-) .........

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