Meze Empyrean II

Meze Audio's all-new Empyrean II is the company's latest planar magnetic offering from the Empyrean/Elite series of headphones. It's a refined and elegant product, with its MSRP clocking in at 2999 USD.

Introduction to the Meze Empyrean II Review

Meze’s Empyrean II’s release has received a ton of attention from customers and reviewers – suddenly everyone and their grandmother were writing and making videos about it, seemingly overnight. And all of the reviews I’ve seen have been overwhelmingly positive, which is a factor that doesn’t surprise me in the least.

The headphone market at the 3000-USD-ish price point has been very, very competitive lately. After all, we’ve got Erzetich Charybdis, an absolute killer of a headphone and a complete product in terms of quality, accessories, and of course, sound. Hifiman has been releasing further twists on the HE1000 series, namely, the HE1000 Stealth Edition, with the HE1000SE prices dropping significantly at the same time, making it one of the top headphone picks when it comes to the bang-for-buck factor. I consider this spectacle nothing less than exciting, as high level of competition benefits us, customers, in the long run. And it seems like we are reaching all kinds of new heights with every release that we’ve seen recently, at said price point of 3000 USD. Every other month may bring a new release that may dethrone your current daily driver from the “favorite headphone” position. That might get quite overwhelming, and that’s why I’m here for you to review all of it. No need to thank me. 

Admittedly, I’ve always had a thing for Meze. I first came across the brand during my first steps in the headphone world, some years after the release of the first Empyrean, which came in 2018. I remember watching none other than DankPods rave about them, appreciating every single aspect of the Empyrean there was to appreciate – from build quality, through looks and accessories, all the way to their low impedance of 32 Ohm.

Not to mention the sound – that was clearly a source of excitement for him as well, and that was the aspect that made me the most intrigued about the Empyrean. I started wondering back then, how good can a pair of headphones, with a rough MSRP of a kidney, sound? As you can see, we have pretty cheap kidneys here in Poland. Luckily, I got to keep both of mine, and got a chance to take a listen to them during Audio Video Show in Poland in 2022.

I was impressed, for sure, but that also piqued my interest about other gear in a similar price point. Therefore, I guess you could say, that the first Empyrean played a substantial role in getting me hooked to headphones, becoming a step in turning curiosity into passion. 

I must admit that I have a great appreciation for the people of Romania. Certain aspects of its history, like the end of the year 1989, are fascinating, to say the least. As someone with a thing for niche perfumery, I can’t help but be captivated by Toskovat’ and Adi Ale Van’s creativity. Of course, the most exciting of Romania-born creations is Meze Audio, established in Baia Mare by none other than Antonio Meze.

Luckily, we got a chance to meet and talk to Antonio during High-End Munich in 2023. The conversation was brief, but I hope more of it will be had during 2024’s installment of the largest audio show in the world in Munich. When talking about Meze, of course, we can’t forget about Alexandra, whom I also met at that show, due to how friendly and outgoing she was.

When it comes to audio in general, something I appreciate a lot is the people I get to meet along the way, and in the case of the people of Meze, the case is no different. Wishing all the best to Alexandra and Antonio, I sincerely hope we’ll get another chance to talk when the time comes in May this year. Now, let’s move on to the Empyrean II, shall we? 

Packaging

Cable of the reviewed Meze Empyrean II

I’ve always considered Meze to be at the top of the game when it comes to the quality of the accessories they provide with their headphones. It seems like they never fail to deliver, no matter the price point of the product – consumers can count on a premium unboxing experience, whether they’re in the market for the cheaper Meze 99 Neo or looking to grab the top-of-the-line Meze Elite Epoque. This time, when it comes to reviewed Meze Empyrean II, the situation is no different.

The unboxing experience stuns with the display of craftsmanship of every single item involved in the process, starting at the case in which they arrive, all the way to the handwritten warranty card. It’s a complete experience, assuring the user that they’re dealing with a premium product. And rightfully so, as there is no better way to describe Meze’s latest installment in the Empyrean series – it’s Premium with a huge P. In the case I received, there were the headphones, of course, a spare pair of Alcantara pads, the warranty card, and a long 4-pin XLR to dual mini-XLR cable for the Empyrean II. 

Even though the set might seem similar to what you receive with something like the Meze Elite, there is one notable difference – the case in which the headphones reside. In the case (hehe) of the Elite, it was a large silver suitcase made of metal, with the name of the headphone model written on it. If you like some of Rimowa’s suitcase projects, you’ll surely like this one, no doubt.

However, the suitcase in which the tested Meze Empyrean II came stunned me even more. It’s more elegant, and compact, and overall doubles down on the luxury aspect of the unboxing. It seems like a genuine fashion accessory. Don’t worry though, you won’t see me flexing it on the latest installment of one of those “How much is your outfit” videos. It seems like Meze made something great with the Elite, then went even deeper with the later installment – the Empyrean II. That sentiment is relevant way beyond the unboxing experience, let me tell you…

Design, Build and Comfort

Meze empyrean II review headband

When it comes to the build, Meze audio is notoriously hard to beat. And the great thing about all of it is that they keep that energy no matter the price point of their products – from 99 Classics all the way to the Meze Empyrean II. The designers at Meze clearly have a great understanding of how to make a product feel luxurious without compromise.

It’s obvious from the first time handling these, that no shortcuts were taken on the road to make this one of the best-built headphones out there. It’s not huge and bulky and its style doesn’t come across as rugged or heavy-duty in any sense, yet the craftsmanship matches both the sturdiest and the most beautiful headphones out there. The moving parts leave nothing to be desired either. Every hinge and regulation pole (as I like to call them) move seamlessly with no creaking, squeaking, or any other noise you’re expecting to hear from an old decrepit door in a haunted mansion. One thing I also love about those is the way the pads are attached to the headphones. They’re magnetic, with a set of grills on each one. The grills seem like they’re supposed to prevent accidental damage to the driver when the curiosity gets the better of you. I’ve seen many headphones, with which even the most keen of eyes would have trouble finding a flaw in craftsmanship. Here, it’s simply not possible. 

The comfort of Meze’s headphones is also a tale as old as… Meze I guess. Andrew from Headphones.com mentioned, that the Empyrean/Elite headphones feel better on your head than wearing nothing at all. It’s quite the statement, isn’t it? I can totally see where he’s coming from. While I and many other people I’ve spoken to may disagree – come on, not having any weight on your head is the most comfortable – I haven’t heard a single voice complaining about Meze’s comfort department. Especially when it comes to the Empyrean and Elite. If wearing no headphones at all is the most comfortable, then Meze Empyrean II is simply as close to that as it gets. No hotspots, no excessive pressure, overall – those feel like taping a pillow to your head. 

The stock pads are comfortable and well built as well – together with the reviewed Meze Empyrean II you receive 2 pairs of pads – a pair of their Duo pads, made of Alcantara and leather, and angled Alcantara pads. Both options trade blows and it’s hard to pick a clear winner among those two, so let’s just call it a draw, even though I’ve found myself doing most of my listening using the Duo. The Empyrean 2 don’t really disappear on your head, as lighter pairs might do, but the pressure they exert is very pleasant – one may indeed look forward to wearing those, sound quality aside, just for the sake of comfort. And that’s why I think Resolve may be onto something here. It’s hard to say if the Empyrean 2 is the most comfortable headphone I’ve ever had on, but it’s one of the few headphones out there with which the comfort was simply outstanding. 

In terms of tech you can’t look past Rinaro Isodynamics when discussing Meze’s planar magnetic offerings. Rinaro is a Ukrainian company, with R&D and manufacturing plants in Ukraine, and, you guessed it – Poland! More specifically, in my beautiful city of Rzeszów! Even more specifically, about 5 kilometers away from my neighborhood! Okay, once you’re done trying to doxx me, we can move on. The driver in the Meze Empyrean II is of an odd shape, and has two trace patterns – there’s the switchback coil, responsible for lower frequencies, positioned on the upper side of the construction, and the spiral coil, responsible for mids and highs. Its positioning is supposed to help with creating a more direct path between the driver and the ear canal. It’s an interesting solution, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Meze in terms of research and development.

Sound of the reviewed Meze Empyrean II

After taking a listen to Meze Empyrean II in my peaceful homestead, plugged into Hifiman Serenade, I decided that I want to push it even further. Those headphones, while not being demanding, benefit greatly from the quality of the source components they’re hooked up to. So I rang up Paweł to send me his Hifiman Prelude, Michał, to provide me with XLR interconnects to pull it all together, and Kamil, to lend me his beloved Elites for a comparison, which will take place later. I’m very grateful for the kindness of my friends, as they all complied. This particular setup – Serenade, Prelude, Meze Empyrean II – is without a question something many of you may consider endgame. The sound is inviting, yet playfully aggressive at times, relaxing, yet technical and captivating at once. It’s a balanced sound presentation with no outstanding weaknesses, whether you’re indulging in some smooth jazz or headbanging to the first Mayhem album. The headphones do a great job of making you forget about the rest of the world for a while – I’ve caught myself having prolonged listening sessions with those quite a few times, even when it was high time to do some university work. Hell, many times I didn’t even feel like taking these off to plug in the Elite and make the comparison, as good as both of them are. Let’s talk details.

BASS

The bass’ strongest point is the balanced presentation it displays. It’s very tactile and snappy, but it doesn’t hit like a truck, and definitely doesn’t interfere with other aspects of the sound. The moments where the bass presentation on the reviewed Meze Empyrean II shined the most took place when revisiting the classic piece of electronic music from 2007 – “Untrue” by none other than Burial. Few other music producers do such a terrific job when it comes to sampling – check out how “Archangel” was made and make sure you don’t forget to pick up your jaw from the floor after you’re done. Burial often layers different sounds in a way that can be best reproduced by a precise, clean, yet decisive performing headphone. That’s exactly how the bass response presents itself when it comes to the tested Meze Empyrean II. The dynamics of the bass are fast and punchy, but not aggravated-assault-punchy. The speed here is very satisfying, especially when listening to the percussive beginning of Solomon Burke’s “None Of Us Are Free”. That tidiness and order in the bass department is what puts the Empyrean II at the summit when it comes to relaxed listening without even a hint of boredom.

You can’t make a proper assertion of the bass region of a headphone without taking the sub-bass rumble for a spin. I love to do that whenever I have a chance. Stromae’s “Ta fete” is one of the main reasons why I consider him to be one of the best electronic-pop artists of our time. The aggressive, nearly tribal percussion is layered with long, extensive notes of sub-bass rumble, making the whole arrangement sound like a living, breathing machine. Reviewed Meze Empyrean II does justice to that spectacle, and does so with flying colors, as it doesn’t lose its marbles trying to layer aggressive sub-bass with even more violent, heavy drums. My description of the experience may make it all seem like a rollercoaster ride, dragging one by the collar no matter the complexity of the music piece. I have to say, all of it was very pleasant and easy to listen to. I think it’s best to attribute this precedent to how balanced and controlled the bass presentation is, despite the fun factor written with a huge F. That’s what a well-done balance should sound like.

Meze Empyrean II review

MIDRANGE

It’s very easy to become captivated by the way the Meze Empyrean 2 handles midrange, especially vocal performances. There is a hint of warmth to be heard in here, but it’s not overpowering by any means. Female vocals sound very smooth and inviting, with the natural presentation cranked up to 11. Listening to “Duvet” by boa makes Jasmine’s vocals sound like they’re taking place right in front of you, with a certain sparkle and magic to them. Among other songs with amazing vocals I’ve tried, it seems to me like no matter the song, the vocalist gets their own five minutes, being well separated from the rest of the band. Heed my words, however – “well separated” does not mean “stranded” in this case. More aggressive vocals exert great energy, and don’t sound like the frontman is trying his best to be the loudest among the overpowering instruments. Any piece of music involving certain instrumental solos, or focusing on the vocals seem to be the perfect match for the Meze Empyrean 2, as that is a headphone capable of giving each element its own magic, lushness, and distinctive clarity, without leaving the detail behind.

The detail retrieval in the midrange is not overdone or synthetic-sounding here, it seems just as effortless as all other aspects of the sound. While not exactly a detail monster, Meze Empyrean 2 seems to love well-produced recordings, with numerous layers of music, and it seems to me that the more technical performance you need from them, the more it shows you that there is no piece of music that the reviewed Meze Empyrean II won’t reproduce faithfully. I am extremely glad, however, to reiterate, that despite the more-than-enough amount of detail being pushed, this is by no means an analytical headphone. Its purpose is to get you in your feelings, to appreciate the piece of music for what it is, and to shift your focus towards enjoyment and love for music instead of analytical listening. There is a certain emotional weight that this pair of headphones can display when listening to something like “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter. The violin soloist seems to be born with one purpose – to squeeze every last tear you have left. And the Empyrean 2 surely isn’t bottlenecking the performance at hand, quite the opposite – it enhances every listening session with a certain magic that is very apparent in the midrange presentation.

TREBLE

The dynamics of the treble also make a major contribution to how captivating the sound is. Every single clap in Stromae’s “ave cesaria” makes you want to put your hands up and clap together with it. The dynamics here play a huge role in depicting the realism of the sound, helping the listener bridge the gap between being a listener and being the participant. “ave cesaria” feels like singing gospel with your family on a Sunday in summer, and Meze Empyrean II’s realistic presentation of numerous high-pitched sounds and tones helps the listeners imagine that they’re there with the artist. As was the case with the bass, when it comes to the treble, the layering is a thing to behold as well. The claps make way for the strings to work in unison, pushing the sound system’s technical performance to the maximum. Throughout every second of the listening session, through every change in the arrangement of instruments, there is one common denominator – Meze Empyrean II’s sophisticated treble reproduction. None of what I just mentioned would’ve taken place if it wasn’t for great dynamics, immense detail, and airy presentation that pushes realism to the extreme.

Over-the-top treble reproduction that can be had in headphones is often synonymous with the sparkle and dynamics being cranked up a bit too high, resulting in some unpleasant extremes in some passages during one’s listening session. That’s something no one is fond of, as it rips you away from the laidback and relaxed atmosphere you may try to cultivate with a pair of headphones on. I often like to prepare myself for such occurrences by putting on some tracks that really put you on the edge with their brightness. One of those tracks is “13 Angels Standing Guard ‘Round The Side Of Your Bed” by Silver Mt. Zion. Ahh, I love it when track names are concise like this. This is a very odd piece of music for many first-time listeners, as the highs on it reach an intense, nearly hallucinatory presentation, with the violins being the main culprit, with odd vocal-like noises following suit. More often than not, this track has its highs quite overdone. I’m happy to report that no such thing has taken place with the reviewed Meze Empyrean II, with its balanced sound and restraint in the highest registries saving me from pain when listening to this captivating masterpiece. All of that without an ounce of technical pedigree left behind.

SOUNDSTAGE

Let’s get this straight – this headphone’s staging isn’t the largest that can be experienced at this price point. With competition like HE1000SE and Charybdis costing a similar amount nowadays, reviewed Meze Empyrean 2 seems to deliver a slightly more intimate performance. That, however, doesn’t mean that there is any congestion involved. Meze Empyrean 2 displays a good balance between the size of the stage and the scale of the sounds. This transfers to a very natural listening experience, without the music seeming inflated or artificially stretched out. One could say it’s “just right”. The soundstage wraps around the listener’s head, without extending too far into the left or right. 

The perceived depth of the stage is pretty impressive as well, as it helps with the layering of the sounds that I’m so fond of. As ridiculous as it may seem to use such headphones for gaming, the layering and staging enhance the immersion of the experience quite significantly. I love first-person shooters, and whenever I get to lay my hands on some new headphones, I always test them out with titles like Battlefield 1 or 3. It’s a perfect example of how well-executed sound design can have you at the edge of your seat. And the Meze Empyrean II is an example of a perfectly fitting tool to help yourself experience that. 

Despite not being the largest, the staging abilities of the Meze Empyrean 2, coupled with the black background it showcases, are more than enough to deliver a very realistic three-dimensional experience. The headphone’s appropriate spaciousness with plenty of air makes way for the imaging to step in and do its job properly. Listening to “TV on mute to light the saloon” by Ulvo puts you in a trance, with multiple different sounds with different dynamics seemingly dancing around one’s head. The scale of the sound helps captivate the listener, as whenever you shift your focus on the sound from left to right, it seems like there are new artifacts and curiosities to be uncovered. And that’s precisely where the staging and imaging tie perfectly with the rest of the properties of the Meze Empyrean 2. Overall it seems like a pair of headphones tailor-made for laid-back, relaxed listening, all backed by immense technical performance. The staging abilities of the Empyrean 2 certainly help here, without stretching the stage to “near-synthetic” lengths.

Pairing

For the purposes of this review I have chosen the aforementioned combo of Hifiman Serenade + Hifiman Prelude combo. I feel like Serenade’s excellent R2R DAC section works perfectly with the immense punch delivered by Prelude’s respectable power. After all, we have 10 Watts of Class A power on tap, at 32 Ohms. The Empyrean 2 isn’t a particularly demanding pair of headphones, so you could easily get away with something much less flamboyant in order to make them sound good. However, I just feel like this pair deserves that extra push when it comes to power. Meze Empyrean 2 have an impedance of 32 Ohms, with a sensitivity of about 105dB. That makes them easily drivable, should you choose to pair your Empyrean 2 with something less powerful.

This combo provided me with some excellent performance. There was no bottlenecking of any positive qualities of the headphones. The 10 Watts were easily more than enough to make these sound like a dream, and overall I have enjoyed what the Serenade + Prelude combo has to offer – a slight tint of warmth, served on a plate of intense punch, rumble, with a side of sparkle, clarity and air. Man, I’m hungry.

Comparisons

 

Meze Elite

I think Meze did a great job of curating their product range when it comes to high-end headphones. While the Meze Empyrean 2 are, in my opinion, an improvement over the Elite, they don’t outclass them, instead offering a different kind of sound, all with a similar level of sophistication. That way, your choice won’t have to depend on one headphone beating the other by a landslide, instead, there’s something good for every pair of ears under Meze’s belt.

The main difference between the Elite and Empyrean 2 are, in my opinion, the staging. The Elite seems more expansive than Empyrean 2, though not by a lot. It offers a similar type of staging, with the sounds wrapping around your head,  however it seems like there is more space around the listener and in between instruments and sound. Overall, the presentation seems less intimate in an A/B comparison. This, of course, might be a benefit or a drawback, depending on what you’re looking for.

Another difference lies in the overall warmth and lushness of the sound. I feel like the Empyrean 2 excels in this region in comparison to the slightly colder and more analytical Elite. The latter, however, still provides a full-bodied, dynamic, and tangible sound, perhaps even pushing the detail half a notch above the Empyrean 2. The differences in detail aren’t huge, however – once again, it’s not a landslide. Thus, Elite seems to excel in performances demanding more space and raw detail, with the Empyrean 2 taking the lead in vocal-focused, emotional, and natural music pieces. 

All in all, both of Meze’s top-end creations display impressive levels of technical performance, with the pleasure of listening being cranked up to 11 in both. However, they still have notable differences worth considering when making a purchase. As always – it’s best to take a listen, then decide.

HiFiMAN HE-1000SE

Over time, the HE1000SE has taken the title of “the ol’ reliable” at my desk, being utilized nearly non-stop for any task that involves sitting at the desk – video or photo editing, gaming, movies and TV series, and even studying. Yeah, I do that sometimes, believe it or not.

In comparison to both of Meze’s offerings I’ve mentioned, the difference in weight and clamping force is noticeable when switching A/B from one pair to another. The HE1000SE is way lighter and has that “disappearing” quality to it, not getting in the way of your comfort. The Meze Empyrean 2 feels like a pillow in comparison, exerting a pleasant amount of pressure on your head and around your ears. I love both.

What about the sound? Out of the two, the HE1000SE seems closer to the Elite than the Empyrean 2. The sound is the most spacious out of the three, the bass is the snappiest, and the amount of detail is slightly above the Elite and Empyrean. However, there are aspects of the sound where I prefer the Empyrean 2 – it’s capable of delivering more warmth to the mix, together with a stronger punch and more prominent tangibility. I still love my HE1000SE, however, it’s great to see the competition getting more intense with time, as we all benefit from it in the end. 

Overall, I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind keeping the Empyrean 2 as a daily driver and using it in daily together with the HE1000SE. Not two at once of course, I don’t have 4 ears. Both excel in their respective fields, and both are the perfect tools to fully immerse you in the music you choose for your next listening session, albeit in two quite different ways.

Meze Empyrean II Review – summary

I think the Meze Empyrean II is not only a great headphone, it is also a great product. It’s a pretty hyped release, and once you experience Meze’s latest highest offering, you’ll immediately understand where it’s all coming from. You’re taken on a luxurious cruise, the first stop being the initial unboxing, all the way until you familiarize yourself with the headphones.

In terms of the quality of accessories and the build, the design, and comfort, Meze is notoriously hard to beat, and this release solidifies its place at the top of the game in those factors. It’s a perfect mix of the art of design coupled with high performance and confidence-inspiring build.

Meze Empyrean II’s sound signature is perfect for everyday listening when you choose to relax with your favorite music, with a fun, engaging, but not at all insistent DNA. The perfect single word to describe this pair of headphones is “Balance” in my book. Fun, yet relaxing, natural, yet technical. It’s a well-priced product, deserving of all the praise it’s currently receiving. If you’re looking for an endgame headphone, and the words above seem to match your preferences – trust me, this one is worth trying out.

Highly recommended.

Big thanks to Meze Audio for providing us with the Empyrean II for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. 

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