Until now the Romanian firm Meze Audio has been best known for its excellent and affordable 99 Classics headphones, which offer incredible value for money. However, for over two years Meze has been hard at work developing an extremely sophisticated, ultra high-performance, cost-no-object headphone called the Empyrean (£2,699, $2,999).
The Empyrean is an open-back planar magnetic headphone stemming from collaboration between Meze Audio and the Ukrainian firm Rinaro™ Isodynamics (a veteran planar magnetic driver technology specialist). Basically, Rinaro developed the Empyrean’s Meze-exclusive, patent-pending, hybrid array Isoplanar™ driver, while Meze created everything else.
The Empyrean can without exaggeration be called a work of industrial art; it is extremely comfortable, well made, and lovely to behold. At the top is a carbon-fibre headband beneath which is suspended a leather headrest support strap with patented 'support wings'. All metal frame parts, including the finely filigree rear grills, are CNC machined from solid aluminium (the process takes about 20 hours). Angled mini-XLR-type signal cable connectors protrude from each ear cup housing, while high quality OFC cables with various termination options are offered. Completing the picture are two sets of magnetically attached ear pads, one with Alcantara covers, the other clad in leather.
Rinaro’s hybrid array Isoplanar driver is Ovoid-shaped and features a diaphragm made of a custom isotropic thermally-stabilised polymer said to be “ultralight yet rigid”. Significantly, the driver features two distinctly different voice coils trace patterns. Down near the narrow tip-end of the ovoid is a spiral coil said to be “more efficient at reproducing middle-high frequencies”, while in the wider upper sections of the ovoid Rinaro uses a serpentine 'switchback coil' claimed to be “more efficient at reproducing low frequencies.” The result is a crossover-less, mechanical two-way driver, where the mid-high frequency sections of the drivers are deliberately positioned over the wearer’s ear canals to minimise time delays.