Discussion in 'Headphones' started by AllanMarcus, Sep 1, 2021.
Snake + Minesweeper = $4,000... But, Rinaro, not going to badmouth them, not their fault. I hope it is as wonderful sounding as it is looking, this time.
I really wanted to like the Empyrean, it is beautiful IMO and my preferences lean toward a more warm sound signature. I just found it to be sub-par, especially when considering price. It was released around the same time as the Aeolus (IIRC) and I just enjoyed that a lot more for a lot less cash.
The new Elite is supposed to be a more incisive headphone, at least Lieven over at Headfonia gave that impression. However I'm tired of mega-buck offerings that just don't live up to the hype. I think we need more new comers like ETA & LTS that are challenging what you can get for your money. Heck after reading about the mods @rhythmdevils can do to relatively cheap pair of orthos, I'd be really curious to hear a "shootout" from trusted ears between this Elite & his modded HiFiMan HE560V4.
I had the same thing happen. I was able to hear the Verite, Aeolus, Empyrean and quite a few other neat things together. The Aeolus beat the Empyrean for me too for probably the same reasons as you.
The thing I will give Meze the win on is... their products actually look like they are worth the money. When idiots are paying this much for a headphone it is just to yank it in front of their friends. I know we have plenty of wealthy folk here, but they have all earned it the hard way and the pricing of headphones is insulting.
I already watched the Bloom review, and the fact that he is also comparing to the Susvara, which is the same price... it is already a win for Meze. If it can compete with the Susvara and cost the same while looking like a real product... I'll let it slide, but these prices are B.S.
I listened to the new Empy Elite last weekend.
It is again beautifully made. It has a better sound profile from the OG Empy imo. The Empy Elite is more incisive, slightly brighter, more energetic, tigher bass.
It is not on Susvara level (was at the meet), it is not on Utopia level, nor other $4k headphones like LCD4. I think that it shouldn't have even been $1k over the Empy OG.
It is not a bad headphone, but it is nowhere near worth the $4k pricetag.
I'm an unabashed Empyrean fanboy (and Meze fanboy too, honestly...their team is so great) and the Elite is a dream come true for me. It's easily become my favorite headphone after just 2 weeks and I would absolutely choose it over Susvara for the simple fact that it's hands down the most comfortable headphone for a guy with a massive head like me.
the susvara is in another league from the empyrean which was to me a huge disappointment I sold shortly after buying it...the elite would have to be a huge improvement to compete with the susvara
Empyrean Elite review
Brief because I want to stop listening to headphones and go back to speakers.
The OG empy was hot trash, seriously, it had less resolution than yamaha orthos. It had deep bass but it wasn't good bass, it was bloated and loose top to bottom, it is not even remotely high fidelity, even as a coloured/fun can it lacks any technical prowess to redeem itself. Absolute fashion-fi and owners should know they could buy entry level sony closed cans for a similar experience the OG offered.
system: music bee/sft-1 > rockna WD Sig bal > EC studio > Meze Elite leather/velour pads
The Elite like the OG has impressive build quality, looks and feels luxurious, is extremely comfortable and light.
Thankfully the Elite is better sounding than the OG, a lot better. I don't have the OG to compare directly but Elite only maintains a little of the original lushness of Empy but actually has some technical ability now.
The bass is still deep and punchy but now much tighter than OG, bass still lacks some layering and is not that well fleshed out and sounds like a ported sub.
lower mids are less scooped out than the OG was, mid range is brought up and slightly forward, but upper mid range detail and air is still lacking with stuff like cymbals, microdetail is audible but same as Empy has minimal plankton to flesh out these little sounds to give full tone and timbre to sounds.
Elite is far more polished than the OG, it's tuned to be more neutral and less of a flavour can, but at its price point it's still nowhere close to a totl can, it has some technical prowess but I would rather listen to sennheiser hd800/650. Utopia/susvara/lcd-4/abyss are significantly better in the price bracket if you have to own an expensive flagship.
It's not bad like the OG, it's good, but not good enough to spend anywhere near the asking price. It's more like lcd-2f/he560 sort of level. It may be redeemable with some heavy EQ but for me it is still an immature product.
It's a shame because it is very pretty.
Mate, appreciate the write up. I had a listen to the Empyrean more than two years in a crowded meet. Took me 10 seconds to rip it off my head. I offered my Elex to the guy organizing the meet and he had this look on his face when he realised it was a $600 HP versus $2,999. Anyway, saves me a trip to audition the Elite.
This isn't about the Elite as I haven't heard them yet. As always, I appreciate your takes, and thoughts you share, but not sure I 100% agree about the Empyreans. I don't think they are hot trash.
I bought a pair of Empyrean last week as I got a good deal on a pair used locally. I wanted something really easy to drive, so they fit the bill.
Now, I agree that they don't perform up to 3k MSRP, and they definitely need a bit EQ to sound as best as they can. I think you are being a bit harsh on them though?
They definitely aren't as good as other headphones in term of sound performance on a whole on its own. Disregarding their build and comfort, which are great, they still do stuff I like.
I think they maybe match with headphones in the $1000 arena in terms of technical performance and detail. The louder you listen, they better they sound. They don't do the "micro" stuff, as well as the do the "macro" stuff I find. I own a pair of Sony 7506's and the Empyreans smoke them, imo.
In all honesty, the fact that you picked out the 7506 as a comparison does not inspire much confidence.
Yeh some people seem to really like them but they sounded broken to me. The first unit sounded so bad I went out of my way to try a second unit and it was the same situation.
I did that because @Xecuter mentioned low level sonys being better than the empyrean, thats all. The reason is I have correspondence with Xec sometimes, and I appreciate his thoughts, and he knows my past headphone history.
My other headphones are the Susvara and AB1266TC run off a Boulder 866. I've heard a lot of headphones, and in the past I've owned the following amongst a few others I'm probably forgetting.
Cool, thanks for sharing your thoughts dude. I definitely think that if someone was saying to themselves "I want one headphone that is the best I can afford" the Empyrean is not the right choice. The Arya's, and even the HE6seV2 with a couple mods would beat them in technical performance. Of course, they come with other considerations, but on sound quality alone...
The fact you can buy *new* he6sev2's for 600 still kinda blows my mind.
Sorry, I didn't mean that I didn't have confidence in you, just that I didn't have confidence in the headphone based on what you chose to compare it to. I didn't notice the comparison to low-level Sonys in the prior post.
Empyreans are definitely one of those cans you either like or you don't. I was in the like camp for quite awhile, then I picked up a pair of Auteur Blackwoods that helped stir up a discontentment with the lack or resolution. I've had the Empyrean Elites on my head since last Friday, and am definitely appreciating the improvements.
Today we are talking about the new flagship headphone from Romanian based Meze Audio. Meze are an interesting company, with great design chops, coming up with some very interesting headphones as of late. Up until the release of their former flagship headphone, which was released in 2018, the Empyrean, Meze had largely focused on more “consumer” type headphones. However, the Empyrean target the high end of “Audiophile” headphones, and was released at an MSRP of $3000USD, which is not insignificant. The design phase of the Empyrean headphones saw a partnership begin involving Meze Audio, and Rinaro Isodynamics. Rinaro is a designer of planar magnetic driver, and their roots actually date back to the soviet era. This combination of overall design from Meze, and drivers from Rinaro, has resulted thus far in 3 headphones. Today, we will focus on the new ELITE, but also talk about the Empyrean. The also recently released LIRIC closed headphone, will be covered in another forthcoming review.
ELITE box (now just called ELITE)
Lets talk about the main thing that made both the Empyrean and now the ELITE somewhat different. The driver uses what Rinaro calls an ISODYNAMIC array. Essentially, it separates the low frequency, and mid/high frequency production from the driver into two separate trace and magnet arrays. The mid/high array is circular and centred right over the ear hole, and the bass array is larger and centred above the mid/high array. The general idea of using this array is a reduction in time delay problems that can be created from having the entire driver produce all the frequencies. This reminds me somewhat of what Wilson Audio talks about a lot in the speaker space. Focusing on time domain accuracy with their modular driver units, and trying to get all the sounds arriving at the listening position all at exactly the same moment. Whether or not this actually effects the overall sound is a topic of hot debate, but I’m open to it being an effective method of achieving “good” sound. I do think that in a headphone, it may not matter very much as the driver is literally right beside the ear, but I could see the placement on the mid/high array being right over the ear hole making sense, as the lower in frequency you go, the less directional the sound becomes. I have read some people who felt the overall sound of this ISODYNAMIC driver type was not as coherent sounding as regular planar magnetic drivers, but honestly, I have not found that to be the case. To me, it just sounds like other planar magnetic headphones, obviously with differences in terms of tuning and technicalities. Is this a case of solving a problem that doesn’t exist? It might be, but Meze and Rinaro have indeed got something good going on here, so perhaps that is not the case.
The full package
Back in 2018 when the Empyrean was originally doing the rounds at shows in prototype form, it was all the rage. However, the community at large seemed to largely disavow the Empyreans sound signature as being too warm, too muddy, and not detailed enough. “$3000 build quality with $1000 sound quality” was something I read more than a few times. The ELITE seems to be trying to address the communities concerns about the Empyrean, and in my opinion, it does so very well. I will get to that more in a little bit, but first, I have to talk about the build quality of the Empyrean and ELITE.
Usually I would talk about this area later in a review, but the Empyrean and ELITE are so remarkable I need to mention it first. These are without a doubt the best thought out, best built, and comfiest headphones I have ever tried. This seems to be the impression of everyone who comes across a pair. They fit so well, are so comfortable, and not heavy, and just ooze quality in terms of feel. Aluminum, carbon fibre, sumptuous ear pads, leather, alcantara. Meze has absolutely nailed the ergonomics and build quality of both the Empyrean and ELITE. Truly superb craftsmanship and design. 10/10.
Now, where the Empyrean and ELITE differ is the sound quality. The ELITE have an altogether new driver, which they have called the Rinaro “PARUS.” With entirely different tuning, both the Empyrean and ELITE seem to have a niche they fill, and I can entirely understand Meze continuing to offer both headphones in their lineup.
I will speak of the Empyrean first, then get to the ELITE.
The Empyrean is a warm and thick sounding headphone, that could be a bit shouty at time in the upper mids and lower treble. Some people found the upper treble to bright, but I didn’t have a problem with it at all. The bass was certainly higher in level than most “audiophile” headphones, and when I used the leather pads I didn’t find I needed to boost it via EQ at all, when with most headphones I usually do a small increase. Overall, I usually prefer headphone I don’t have to EQ beyond a small boost in the low end, but I did find the Empyrean benefitted from more EQ than I would usually do. In its stock tuning, for me personally, it was a bit warm, and thick sounding. If you like that sort of sound, then these are very much worth considering. If you don’t mind doing a bit of EQ, then the Empyrean is also worth considering. In terms of technical performance, I actually think the Empyrean has gotten a bit of a bad rap, and perhaps people are basing their opinions on reading about them, vs actually listening to them. Whilst they don’t perform as well as some other headphones in terms of technical performance, I do think they perform well enough to not be written off entirely. With that being said, if you are after detail, dynamics, and that sort of thing above all else, I would recommend looking elsewhere. The Empyrean makes a case for its use when you need a headphone that is incredibly comfortable, well built, warm sounding, whilst also being incredibly easy to drive and accepting of all types of amplification.
The Empyrean in Jet Black
The ELITE is a very different animal to the Empyrean in terms of overall sound. It is largely a fairly neutral “audiophile” type tuning, whilst retaining a little bit of the musicality aspect that the Empyrean perhaps overdid. I much prefer the ELITEs tuning over all, but do find that I need to do a tiny boost with EQ in the low end. Apart from that, there is nothing about the ELITEs tuning that I don’t like. Its not too bright, its not shouty, its a very well balanced sound signature. The new driver from Rinaro is a heck of a lot better in terms of technical performance also. The ELITE bring more detail, better dynamic performance, and better overall coherency to the table. The Empyrean did quite well with the “macro” side of things, but I found it struggled with the “micro” side of things. Micro detail, microdynamics, the tiny things you notice which add up to a more involving and enjoyable experience are overall much better with the ELITE.
Comparative Empyrean Listening
In terms of soundstage and imaging, both the ELITE and Empyrean have an extremely “natural” sounding presentation. The ELITE is much better in terms of imaging accuracy than the Empyrean, but both present a soundstage that is neither wide nor small. As I said, it sounds natural. The headphone disappears in this aspect, and you just listening to music. Whereas a Focal Utopia sound noticeably claustrophobic and small, and the Abyss 1266TC or HD800 sounds wide and grande, the Empyrean and ELITE are similar to the Susvara soundstage, striking a great balance right in the middle.
The Elite and Empyrean both have the best pad attachment system I have come across. Making it incredibly easy to change between their two pad options. The Empyrean sounded better with the Leather pads I found, but the Alcantara were more comfortable. The ELITE sounds better with the shallow leather hybrid pads, as I found the Alcantara pads reduced the bass far too much for my personal preference. Each headphone comes with both sets of their respective pads, so I would recommend trying them both out, as you may be different to me, and will find out what you and your ears prefer.
Both the Empyrean and ELITE are 100db/mW in terms of sensitivity, and 30hms. This means they are incredibly easy to drive headphones. Now, both headphones, the ELITE in particular, will sound better with better source equipment, but their easy to drive nature means that you can use them with such a truly wide variety of source equipment. Its actually one of their best features. I have had tremendous success with the iFi Hip DAC V2, and the Fiio Q3. Both very affordable and easily accessible source equipment. I would like to hear the ELITE from a top of the line tube amp, but they certainly sounded superb from my Boulder 866, that whilst being speaker amp, has a volume ramp up which allows the use of even the most sensitive headphones.
The included cable with the Empyrean and ELITE is the same, and entirely serviceable in nature. However, Meze does offer upgrade cables for these headphones, that whilst not cheap, do look great, and I’m sure provide a better build quality and less microphonics.
In terms of comparisons. The Hifiman Susvara and Abyss AB1266TC are both more detailed and more technically accomplished. The Susvara has a very similar presentation of sound, in that it sounds very natural, and even throughout the frequency response. The ELITE has slightly more bass presence than the Susvara, but is very similar elsewhere. The 1266TC is much harder hitting, and punchier, whilst presenting a much larger soundstage. The 1266TC is a bit brighter, and has a crisper treble.
The ELITE driver assembly
Overall, my take away of the ELITE (and the Empyrean before it, to a lesser degree) was one word.
Now, you may think that isn’t a good description to come to mind for a $4000USD headphone, but, please hear me out.
Every single headphone at the top of the line bracket has some consideration you need to take into account before buying it. The Abyss 1266 is large, heavy, and some find it uncomfortable. The Susvara lacks build quality, great materials, and is extremely hard to drive. The Utopia has a small soundstage and the “mechanical clipping” feature. The ELITE has none of these concerns. It is incredibly easy to drive, it is incredibly well built, with the best of materials, and it is incredibly comfortable. It may not reach the absolute sound quality that the Susvara, or 1266TC reach, but it honestly isn’t far away from them. As a complete package, it is incredibly easy to recommend.
Now, for some people, myself included, the considerations of headphones like the 1266TC and Susvara are worth working around, for ultimate sound quality. However, there are also people who just want a “one and done” headphone, that makes it easy to enjoy their tunes at the highest level. The ELITE does this in spades, and has become one of my favourite headphones with ease. It has taken everything that made the Empyrean great, but improved on all the aspect that made it more of a niche product. If you can’t be bothered with speaker amps, comfort concerns etc…check out the Meze ELITE. Highly recommended. Well done to Antonio Meze, Rinaro, and the rest of the team at Meze Audio
the meze HP's are beautiful and comfortable but simply not in the league of the susvara or abyss or sr1a or solitaire p performance wise
Hey there, I share my impressions on the MEZE Elite from Meze Audio and Rinaro Isodynamics. This video focuses on the build quality, design, and some of my sound impressions about the Elite comparing them to the Audeze LCD-5, and Final Audio D8000 with pro pads using several different headphone amplifiers such as the Chord Hugo TT2 Audio Research I/50 integrated tube amplifier ampsandsound Agartha tube amplifier, the McIntosh MHA200 Headphone tube amplifier, Chord Hugo 2/2go, and the Astell & Kern SP2000T.
I managed to get a Meze Elite in a trade last week. It’s my first planar since my Mod House Argon MK2 (Fostex T50 mod) and my first foray into high-end planar headphones. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.
I have been using various ZMFs exclusively for the past couple of years. Started with an Aeolus, moved to a VC, then got an Auteur and found my favorite. I was content with the Auteur but eagerly awaited the Atrium loaner to make its way to me (I’m last on the list) so I could do a comparison.
While waiting to demo the Atrium, I started reading up on the Meze Elite and got it in my head that this was the planar for me to try. I didn’t have $4K sitting around, but I did have an Epoxy Stabilized VC that I decided might be a perfect trade for someone with an Elite. Luckily for me, this plan worked out and I’ve been listening to my new Elite for almost a week now.
I was amazed at the resolution and detail I was hearing. Nothing sounded forced or overly-sharpened. The sound was natural and smooth, but all the detail was there. I could easily pick out any part of the music I wanted by simply focusing on it, even in complex passages. I didn’t realize how much more I was hearing until I put my Auteurs on tonight for the first time since the Elites arrived.
Everything sounded suddenly inferior. Soundstage shrunk, resolution went down noticeably, bass sounded muddier with less texture, vocals had less clarity, and imaging was far less focused. This may not be surprising to some of you, but it was very surprising to me.
I may need more time, but I’m a little afraid the Elite may have ruined the Auteur for me. I’m going to give it some more time before I decide. Let’s just say the plan to upgrade my Auteur to an “Auteur Classic” is currently on hold. This Meze Elite has complicated things for me a bit.
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