Type: circumaural, open-back, planar magnetic
Test sample supplied by: SCV Distribution, UK distributor
Reviewed in: Hi-Fi News, December 2018
I ended my Hi-Fi News review of Meze's first headphone - the stylish but otherwise not especially noteworth 99 Classics - by saying, "It’s a creditable early effort from Meze Audio – one which I hope it will build on." Well build it did, and in surprising fashion, with this: an ambitious planar magnetic design having an asking price about ten times that of its moving coil forebear.
Meze specifies a power sensitivity for the Empyrean of 100dB SPL for 1mW at 1kHz, which for the nominal impedance of 31.6 ohms translates into a voltage sensitivity of 115dB for 1V at 1kHz. Were that the case, the Empyrean would be in the elite group of PM designs which achieve sensitivity similar to medium-impedance moving coil alternatives. But we measured 109.3dB, averaged for the two capsules, which puts it about mid-way between that group and the collection of PM models which can only manage sensitivity to match high-impedance moving coils.
Uncorrected frequency responses - forgive me if you are tiring of this phrase - are typical of this type of headphone in that output below about 2kHz is flat in trend right down to below the graph's 20Hz lower limit, while output at 3kHz or thereabouts is peaked only a little (around 5dB), which is insufficient to achieve flat perceived response through the presence band (2kHz to 8kHz). In consequence, all the corrected responses show a deep and wide trough in perceived treble output, while the three Harman corrections also show a peak in lower-midrange output of ~5dB, centred on 200Hz. This is a combination that the Harman PPR metric judges harshly, so the scores are middling at 46/43 ≡ 40%/37% (L/R).
Although the Empyrean is only mildly affected by compromised earpad sealing, the spectacles and 'hair' leakage tests both show a little reduction in output below 1kHz, as a result of which the PPR scores increase somewhat to 51/49 ≡ 45%/43% and 54/59 ≡ 47%/51% respectively.
PM headphones often display poor time domain behaviour but the Meze is a cut above. While its CSD waterfalls shows some diaphragm resonances below 1kHz, associated with the obvious wiggles in the uncorrected responses, at treble frequencies its performance is exemplary. The impulse responses also decay quickly, to be better than -40dB by 2.0ms and 1.8ms respectively, although the left capsule's decay to lower levels is rather protracted.
With its almost-flat impedance versus frequency characteristic, the Empyrean is not subject to any significant changes in frequency response as a result of being used with signal sources having significant output impedance, be it 30 ohms or even double that.
While the isolation graphs show the Empyrean to provide a little more attenuation of external sound at treble frequencies than many open-back designs, this is insufficient to give anything more than limited suppression of most types of intrusive environmental noise.
The acoustical crosstalk plot suggests that there may be some structural resonances below 70Hz, but if so they are at a low level.