Meze Audio Empyrean

Pair up.

With a spec of 31.6ohm impedance and 100dB sensitivity, on paper Empyrean doesn’t look like a hard pair of headphones to drive.  And you can make them sound loud from any source.  But it doesn’t mean you will be driving them to their full potential.  Based on my testing it certainly does benefit from a pair up with a powerful quality source.  A few years ago, desktop amps would have been the only solution, but today we see many portable DAPs with powerful outputs.

In the pair up testing below, I used leather earpads and optional pure copper premium balanced cable.  Also, all sources were set to high gain.

Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT (4.4mm BAL) – wide expanded soundstage, oval shaped with more width than depth.  Balanced sound sig with a natural resolving tonality; extended bass with a balanced sub-bass rumble and average speed mid-bass punch, slightly above neutral lower mids with a natural detailed mids, and clear well defined treble with a good extension and more natural tonality (no exaggerated sparkle or any extreme peaks).  I was a bit surprised this pair up ended up being smoother and warmer, especially in treble where the sparkle was a bit tamed down.

iBasso DX220 w/amp9 (3.5mm SE, using 4.4mm to 3.5mm adaptor) – soundstage expansion here is even wider, and the depth is also a little more out of my head.  The sound sig is still balanced, and tonality is natural but a little more resolving, especially in mids where I hear more transparency; sub-bass has a little more textured rumble while mid-bass is still average speed, mids are now a little more revealing, more transparent, still natural, and treble has a little more airiness and a slightly brighter sparkle.  The sound change from LPGT was like going half way between leather and Alcantara earpads, along with other changes I mentioned above.

Cayin N6ii (4.4mm BAL) – wide expanded soundstage, while I still feel the staging being more oval-shaped where there is more intimacy, but the depth brings you a few rows further from the performer, not quite holographic but pushing that way. Sound sig is balanced, and tonality is natural, but I’m hearing resolution being scaled up; bass has a deeper and a slightly more elevated sub-bass rumble, while mid-bass has a faster attack speed, mids are natural and detailed with more transparency (less coloring), treble is airy and expanded and a little crisper, though still under control.  In this particular pair up I really enjoyed the transformation of bass.

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Sony WM1Z (4.4mm BAL) – wide expanded soundstage, oval shaped with more width than depth.  Balanced sound sig with a natural resolving tonality; bass is extended with a deeper and more elevated textured sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass punch, not too much elevated, but definitely going deeper, more impactful, and more pronounced, mids have a fuller natural body, detailed, resolving, and treble is clear and well defined with a good extension and more natural tonality (more tamed down, with less sparkle). The bass texture and its impact were the highlights of this pair up.

A&K SP1000 SS (2.5mm BAL, using 4.4mm to 2.5mm adaptor) – the soundstage is still wide, and the staging depth has a more intimate feeling with you being closer to the performer, but the width was not as wide as in other pair ups.  The sound sig is balanced, and the tonality is smoother and more organic; bass has a good extension with a nice rumble and average speed mid-bass punch (a little slower in speed), mids have a little fuller body, smoother, and more natural, and the same with treble being clear and well defined, but not with as much sparkle.  Overall, Empyrean had a smoother and more laid back performance in this pair up, wasn’t the best to my ears.

Plenue L (4.4mm BAL) – wider more expanded soundstage with slightly out of your head depth.  Balanced sound sig with a natural smooth resolving tonality; bass is a little laidback, good extension with a textured smooth rumble and slower mid-bass punch, full body more natural detailed mids, and well controlled detailed treble with a bit of a tamed down sparkle.  The overall tonality here is more relaxed, smoother, more organic with a little fuller body.  I felt like Empyrean wasn’t driven to its full potential in this pair up.

Hiby R6 Pro (4.4mm BAL) – wide expanded soundstage, with slightly out of your head depth, more oval-shaped with more intimacy, but the depth brings you a few rows further from the performer, not quite holographic.  Sound sig is balanced, and tonality is natural, but I’m hearing resolution being scaled up, similar to N6ii; bass has a deeper slightly more elevated sub-bass rumble while mid-bass has an average speed, mids are natural detailed with a little fuller body, treble is expanded, well controlled, but more on a smoother tamer side.

In addition to DAP pairs up, I decided to try it with a few of my powerful DAC/amp combos where Micro and Broadways are portable and battery powered, while Deckard is a desktop bounded since it needs a power outlet.

iFi Micro iDSD BL (3.5mm SE, driven by T480s laptop) – soundstage has more expansion, becoming even wider with a little more depth, still on a boundary of oval-shaped with more intimacy, but sounds more expanded with improved imaging and separation of sounds.  Sound sig is still balanced, but the tonality is more transparent, more revealing, the sound is more layered and with an even better expansion of vertical dynamics.  Bass has a deep textured rumble with a faster mid-bass punch and overall bass is more articulate; lower mids are closer to neutral, not as thick, upper mids are more layered, more transparent, with a better retrieval of details; treble is airy and expanded, with a well-controlled sparkle, not too crisp or harsh.  The step up in sound quality was noticeable.

XI Audio Broadway S (3.5mm SE, tested with LPGT LO set to 4Vrms) – soundstage expands more, becoming even wider with a little more depth, still on a boundary of oval-shaped with more intimacy, but sounds more expanded with improved imaging and separation of sounds.  Sound sig is still balanced, but the tonality is more transparent, more revealing, the sound is more layered and with more expanded vertical dynamics.  Bass has a deeper textured rumble with an average speed mid-bass punch and overall bass is more articulate, lower mids are a bit north of neutral with a little extra body, upper mids are more layered, more transparent, with an excellent retrieval of details, treble is airy and expanded, with a well-controlled sparkle, not too crisp or harsh.  The step up in sound quality was noticeable.  In comparison to Micro iDSD here I hear the bass being a little less aggressive and mids having fuller more natural body without losing resolution or sacrificing retrieval of details.

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Audeze Deckard (3.5mm SE, tested with LPGT LO set to 4Vrms) – soundstage expands more, becoming even wider with a little more depth, still on a boundary of oval-shaped with more intimacy, but sounds more expanded with improved imaging and separation of sounds.  Sound sig is still balanced, but the tonality is more revealing, the sound is more layered and with more expanded vertical dynamics.  Bass has a deeper textured rumble with a faster speed mid-bass punch and overall bass being more articulate, lower mids are a little north of neutral with fuller body, upper mids have more transparency with an excellent retrieval of details, treble is airy and expanded, with a well-controlled sparkle, though a bit on a tamer side.  In comparison to Broadway S, while Deckard has a little faster bass punch, its lower mids were a little thicker and not as layered in comparison.

In a summary, out of all DAPs, I preferred N6ii pair up the best and out of my limited selection of amps, Broadway S shined more.

Recently, I received HiFiMAN R2R2000 Red for testing.  Though I didn’t spend as much time testing it with Empyrean, this pair up impressed me as well.  Straight from its 4.4mm BAL headphone output, it sounded nearly identical to Broadway S amp, but had a little warmer tonality.  When compared to R2R2k, N6ii tonality was even warmer and had a deeper bass, but R2R2k soundstage was a little wider.

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Conclusion.

Empyrean” literally means the highest part of heaven.  Perhaps, that was a reason behind its name because for some audiophiles in search of that balanced natural resolving tonality Empyrean will sound heavenly.  But we all have different taste and different preferences and go through different sources in a journey to find a perfect pair up synergy with our earphones and headphones.  Testing Empyrean and going through all my sources was a lot of fun, and for me personally this was the first pair of full-size headphones which I didn’t want to take off my head.  My only wish here is that I would like its sound signature and overall “open back” performance to be captured in a closed-back design to enjoy this “heavenly” sound without bothering people next to me.  Hope this will happen one day!

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