Rolling rooms. Swapping out pleather (pleasure?) pads mounted upon delivery for alternate velour types affected subjective tonality. The suede-textured jobs responded bassier, their mid frequencies more distanced. The faux leathers had a more forward/present vocal band with slightly less bass power. Being able to tweak this to taste and ancillaries with a quick tug and reseat was quite the deal. After admiring this easy shift, I reverted to the original fit as my more linear notion. Having by now amassed 100 hours of non-stop play to be past break-in, I revisited the tubed Nagra Classic. For my tastes, that pairing overdid the tunes' elastic richly reverberant aspects. The drier though still warm lateral Exicon Mosfets of Kinki Studio's THR-1 dovetailed better. Still moving higher on the pole of possibilities, the COS and Questyle amps came next. The now discontinued Bakoon remained my personal peak consultant on the Empyrean matter. It stated decisively that what drives your headphones is more important than how—standard or balanced—you do it. You might disagree but it's always how that particular cookie crumbles for me.

Pleather left, velour right.

Considering how ear pad depth equaled exactly half my thumb from tip to first joint, it was no surprise that the Empyrean staged well beyond the confines of my skull. Observing the locations of hard-panned sounds, they seemed to occur at least two fingers' width beyond my ears. Rather than beam into the head like a laser, the sound field stretched through and slightly beyond it. Added to physical wear comfort, this supported long-term emotional/mental comfort. I'm personally not the type to be troubled by little-(green)-men syndrome as that discomfiture of compressing a soundstage that's 3.5m wide between speakers into an average skull's narrow 145mm. Perhaps that's because I started phoning it in early. My dad had a Revox reel-to-reel and mega Yamaha receiver with a ¼" jack when we grew up. Back then I learnt the clarinet. I nursed zero concerns over stereophony or magazine-inspired angst about any absolute sound. I just listened and enjoyed. To this day, I know that speaker-fi differs from headfi, both of which differ from live sound. It simply doesn't affect my appreciation for any of these delivery formats. Whilst sushi is my favourite food, having it every day would get tedious soon.

If you are someone who dislikes the crammed-in-the-skull concept of headphone listening, the Empyrean should trigger less of it than most. They neither put your head in a vise nor shove miniature musicians into a sardine can like Japanese subway attendees must do to their customers. Yet unlike sloppy/loose fits, head bopping and swaying won't dislodge the Empyrean. For such mishaps, their larger contact patch and suspension geometry are far too clever. Ditto microphonics. Be it the narrow sleeved ribbon cable on the 6.3mm plug or the immaculate taut multi braid of the 4-pin XLR leash, I've rarely come across stock wiring this impervious. If you didn't already know, headphone cable which hangs down your chest to contact clothes often transmits movements across your shirt as small but audible distortion. That's real annoying. Team Empyrean paid close attention to avoid it. They really considered the complete package just as anyone promoting luxury goods should though to this day, Final offer no balanced cables. In those leagues, that raises eyebrows.

Back to my planar initiators from years ago, the Empyrean stayed well clear of the chocolate-rich yet opaque excess of my early pre-Fazor Audeze LCD-2. Likewise for the ultra-transparent but lean Stax electrostats. Like vintage Quads do to those used to dynamic speakers with big woofers, the stats struck me as more ghostly than borne of flesh. Whilst a Sennheiser HD-800 still peels out more top-end shine, I found the Empyrean's less explicit treble far more natural. When it comes to dynamic life—of the micro type since macro dynamics, headphones and long-term listening health don't gel—Meze had it all over the Germans. Big membranes move more air. Cubic inches matter. On image density and colour pop, the Empyrean in fact were very close to our top dynamics, the heavyweight Final Sonorous X. Managing that with very different technology was impressive.

Because Meze's locking 4-pin connector is also used by Audeze, I could repurpose my custom Forza AudioWorks Noir cables with top-class Furutech 2 x 3-pin XLR and 6.3mm plug. Snap and click did the trick. It'll be easy to roll into the Empyrean whatever exotic after-market cable strikes your fancy since Furutech make these connectors..

Finding myself unexpectedly with replacement cables on hand, I listened in to see whether Meze's went beyond being obviously well built and free from microphonics to also compete sonically with my favored after-market headphone cable supplier from Poland.