Meze Elite Headphones Review
Sometimes, from time to time, a product awakens my need to come back to this dusty website to share my impressions of it.
Do you know the feeling when you are experiencing something awesome and you want to share those impressions with friends or family? Some people don’t have this urge, but I am one of those who have.
So yes, this is why I am here, these wonderful headphones have awaken this sleeping need within me.
This is not the first Meze product I have reviewed, as I have virtually met the team in 2015 when I have been given the opportunity to listen to and review the Meze Classics 99. Yes…2015…Now that I think about it, I can’t believe how much time has passed.
Fortunately Meze Audio has constantly evolved since then and they have a managed to release quite an impressive range of products. Now…looking on what they managed to achieve, the 7 years doesn’t actually seem too long.
Let me say that even the Meze Classics 99 managed to impress me with the sound but also the comfort and build quality.
I actually own a pair of Meze Empyrean as well, but I didn’t manage to get to review them till now, but now with the Elite near them, I’ll be able to make a brief comparison between the two.
You can also check my youtube video if it helps
Looks and Build Quality
Both Elite and Empyrean have an impressive build quality, one of the very best I have ever seen. Incredible attention to details, very well built, nice to touch, look at and more importantly, incredibly comfortable. You can wear them all day long and they won’t become heavy on your head. The carbon fiber pressure distribution wings are doing an excellent job.
And they do feel and look amazing as well. I have rarely seen such a thing. You know you are looking or holding a luxury/top of the class product in your hands. Both empyrean and elite are in the same class from this perspective, even if Elite has taken it a little further with more refined carved aluminum, which looks and feels even better.
First of all, both headphones come with a first of it’s kind unique isodynamic hybrid array driver. The Empyrean has the MZ23 and the Elite has the improved MZ23SE driver. We’ll talk about the differences in a bit, but first, let’s talk about common characteristics.
The size of this thing is actually quite impressive, but also the ovoid shape it has. This was chosen to optimize the weight while fitting the shape of the year better.
STRAY FIELD REDUCTION FROM ISOMAGNETIC® PLATE COUPLING
Patented ferromagnetic plates channel the demagnetizing field back into the driver increasing efficiency by 1db or 12% and deflect 95% of stray fields away from the head.
Also, the form of the driver itself is special and it is optimized to focus important frequencies better into the ear canal.
ISOPLANAR® DIAPHRAGM MATERIAL
The diaphragm is manufactured from a custom developed isotropic thermally stabilized polymer with a conductive layer. Through unique processing methods, an ultralight yet rigid diaphragm has been achieved.
The switchback coil is more efficient at reproducing lower frequencies and is positioned in the upper part of the driver.
The spiral coil is more efficient at reproducing middle-high frequencies and is positioned directly over the ear canal enabling more direct sound waves to enter the ear without any time delays.
Now let’s look a little to the new driver found in Elite.
“The MZ3SE driver builds on the pioneering technology of the flagship MZ3 driver found in the Empyrean headphone. The innovative Isodynamic Hybrid Array technology delivers a more selective acoustic performance to the various areas within the structure of the ear. Advances in diaphragm materials have opened the doors to even higher resolution and accuracy of the sound reproduction, setting a new benchmark in headphone design.”
The new driver also achieves an ultra low THD of less than 0.05% on the entire frequency range.
“The new driver behind ELITE features Rinaro Parus®, an innovative low mass acoustic diaphragm built on an ultra-thin biaxially oriented semi-crystalline polymer film. This, combined with the signature Isodynamic Hybrid Array Driver technology, allows sound waves to be targeted with more accuracy around the shape of the ear, producing natural sound transparency and a wide, articulate soundstage. This results in improved definition and speed over the entire frequency range.”
“The polymer is produced with bespoke sequential biaxial lengthening technology, a process that involves stretching the polymer in transverse directions at elevated temperatures to improve structural performance. This result is a complex semi-crystalline micro structure developing in the material, which exhibits remarkable strength, stiffness, and stability, combined with an extremely low acoustic mass.”
And now I think that we have been through enough technical details. Let’s get to the testing and how it sounds.
Listening impressions and tests
Equipment used in the tests: Rockna Wavelight, Benchmark AHB2 Power Amplifier (works great with headphones as well), Topping A90 Headphone Amp, Meze Empyrean, Meze Elite, Hifiman He1000SE, Focal Stellia, Shanling M8 DAP.
Yes, I did use the Benchmark AHB2 Power amp to power the Elites. This is the cleanest and most impressive amplifier I have ever heard in my life and works incredibly well with a large variety of headphones, especially planars. Did the Empyreans and Elite scale with it? Yes they actually did scale quite a lot. They also sound great from a dap, but they do benefit from clean power and from an incredible dac like Rockna Wavelight.
It starts amazing from the beginning. The harp gave me goose bumps, then the voice entered the scene with an incredible presence and clarity. Then, all the instruments started to tickle my ears from piano, guitars and drums. Everything happens in a very holographic and spacious soundstage. Lovely experience.
Susanne’s voice was to die for. The clarity, texture and the focus of the voice is amazing, it’s like it’s beamed into the ear, or like she is singing in my ears. It’s a mesmerizing experience and I loved it.
The cellos weight and texture is something that made me lose myself into the song. You can feel the weight of the notes and the textures are vibrating and natural. It also has good bite, very good clarity and speed in general. Now don’t get me wrong, it might not be as fast or detailed as the Hifiman HE1000SE, but it is certainly outperforms the Empyrean. I am not feeling like I am losing something, unless I am talking about losing myself into the song.
I have first listened to this song on the Hifiman HE1000SE. By the way, I consider the HEKSE to be the fastest and impactful (amazing transient attack and speed) headphones I have heard. The first thing I noticed when I switched to the Elite is that the guitar bodies at the beginning had more weight and were overall more enjoyable. Also the soundstage is wider, sounds coming from more directions. The bass hits with more weight, but it hits hard and fast.
Oh….the pleasure of feeling the vibrations of the guitar strings and the body of the guitars was just incredibly euphonic. I loved the weight of the strings, the vibrating textures but also the very detailed midrange. I had to close my eyes and just enjoy the song while headbanging around.
I was there….in the chorus. I was there near all the singers, feeling the voices in chest, feeling their breath and the power of their voices. I was ready to set sail at the end of the song.
Lovely soundstage, big in all directions, especially in width and depth. It had a sense of big concert room but also very holographic, well separated instruments with good details, spark and natural textures.
The drums start with an impressive weight, giving a good headbanging rhythm to the song, while Freddie’s, voice and the chorus are amazing as expected. When the electric guitars kicked in they gave me goose bumps because of the vibrating and electrifying natural textures they had.
The bass is very enjoyable, presenting addictive weight, good impact and decent speed. I have heard faster and more detailed bass (hekse or susvara would be 2 examples), but overall it has a very good balance with the rest of the frequencies, not shadowing or bleeding into the mids. It also achieves a good balance between the technical aspects and the euphonic character it brings into the music.
The midrange is amazing from more than one perspective, showing very good details, but also vibrating natural textures.
The treble is sparkly and has good details. I think the transition from the lower treble to the mid treble is done better than with the Empyrean, more gradual with no spike in-between. The treble is natural, is not fatiguing and while I have heard better details (with hd800, he1000se, susvara), I prefer this version, as it doesn’t invade my listening experience and it has everything I need to be impressed and not feel I am losing something, nor does it bring this frequency in front in an unnatural way.
This is another area where these headphones shine. I must say that I had one of the best experiences of my life with headphones in this department. The vocals are clear, natural, well textured, vibrating with life and very present.
This a very important area that has been improved over the empyrean. I felt like the attack is stronger and the decay is faster/more detailed. While with Empyrean I felt like it was on the verge of feeling I lost excitement to other flagships, with Elite it got to a point where it’s so enjoyable in this department that I don’t care any longer and I just lose myself into the music.
I feel like the dynamics are quite good with these headphones. They have very good macro dynamics and good micro-dynamics. They can make you feel the music, they can make you headbang or tap your feet while listening to the music.
The details are great on most of the frequency range and they actually do excel, especially on the midrange. You can get more detailed headphones, but I feel like with the Elite, the details flow and integrate into the music in a very effortless way, not emphasizing anything in an unnatural way.
The sound is incredibly clear, as crisp as a mountain spring. The background is black and this is one of the cleanest sound I have heard. It’s like a portal directly into the music. You put them on and you enter the “music metaverse” (now that the metaverse is popular and is used for almost everything :)) )
Imaging – Soundstage
The imaging is also great, the instruments are very well placed into the scene, the sounds are very well separated from each other, having plenty of space to breath and vibrate with energy. The soundstage is impressive, one of the best I have heard in headphones. It’s big in all directions, especially width and depth. It gives a sense of space and holography that transposes you in the music even better.
Comparison with the Empyrean
I consider Empyrean to be amazing headphones. There are headphones with more details, better dynamics or speed, but I love them for the balance they achieved between euphony and technicalities. I consider the technical capabilities quite good on my system, especially combined with the euphony they are capable of. I can put them on my head and listen to music for hours and hours without getting tired, feeling uncomfortable or getting bored. They do share a lot of strong points with the Elites, and I just can’t point to any other headphone that sounds like them. I love the natural sound, the vocals, the flow, the soundstage and how they put it all together into a very joyful and musical experience.
Now let’s get to the Elite. Well, they are certainly an evolution from the empyrean from a technical perspective. Empyrean sounds has a thicker sound with deeper bass than the Elites and they still sound good even after the Elites, but with the later you get the following:
- Faster and more detailed bass with better control
- A better transition between the bass and the midrange
- Better dynamics, especially micro dynamics
- More details, especially micro details
- A better transition from the lower treble to the upper treble.
- The voices are more clear and livelier
Comparison to HE1000SE
This is an interesting comparison right here. As I mentioned above, the HE1000SE was a revelation for me. They are a beast from a technical perspective. They are the fastest and the most precise headphones I have ever heard. I actually consider them to top Susvara in those departments as well, even if they lose a bit in the natural sound department. They are also amazingly dynamic and impactful and really detailed.
I own both Meze Empyrean and HE1000SE and I love both, but after the later, I had to ease into Empyrean with a few songs to get used to the difference in speed and dynamics. Luckily, Empyrean has a considerably more euphonic, more natural and meatier sound. Also with HEKSE it tends to get tiresome after a while because of the treble, but also because of the aggressive nature of the transients.
With Empyrean I could go for hours and hours and still enjoy the music, however tired I was after a day’s work.
And to be fair, when switching from Empyrean to HE1000SE it also takes a bit to accommodate to the latter’s sound, as it’s not as natural and musical.
Elite still doesn’t manage to top HE1000SE in the departments the later excels in, but it closed the gap so much that I don’t feel I lose too much in those departments either, but gain more overall. And because of the incredible balance achieved by Elite between technicalities and musicality/natural sound, I found myself reaching for the Elites more and more.
I already loved the Meze Empyrean for it’s unique sound, but the new Elite takes it even further improving the sound in important areas, achieving an incredible balance between technicalities and musicality/natural sound. Empyrean was already doing that, but with Elite this is on another level. The music flows in an impressive, natural, musical and effortless way.
Yes, you can concentrate and be amazed by different aspects like the clarity/transparency, details, imaging, etc., but these are so well integrated into the music/the flow, that they are not popping in your face or overtaking some other aspect of the sound.
Combined with an incredible attention to details when it comes to build quality, design and comfort, I am really glad these headphones exists today and I must say that they are truly unique.
I must congratulate the Meze team for achieving this level in such a short time if you think about it.
From my perspective these are THE headphones to own.
The measurements were done with Mini Dsp EARS. This is not a professional device, but it can be useful to give you a good overall picture, if not the most accurate.
As you can see, the treble with Elite is a little more linear and it doesn’t have a peak at the 7.5 Khz Region.
Also the bass is not as flat as with Empyrean. I think this might be one of the reasons for why the bass seems a little bit tighter and better separated from the midrange.
From a distortion perspective, both seem to very good, keeping the distortion levels well under 0.5, even lower than 0.2 on most of the frequency range. With Mini DSP I couldn’t observe big differences between the two in terms of thd, but I doubt it is that accurate and I didn’t have a typical measurements quiet room or box, so this can be used to confirm that both are great, but not for more refined comparisons.