Meze Audio Empyrean Impression
EQUIPMENT--
Ref. Headphone: Sennheiser HD650
Amp/Dac: Questyle CMA600i
Source: Jriver MC25 (WASAPI)
Connection: Single-Ended
Heilung - "Othan" (Lifa) Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean -1 2 - 2 1 - 2 Empyrean
Commentary --- On intro of intricate, prehistoric instrument sounds the Empyrean was superior in detail exposing the drops, clicks and clacks
over the HD650. My fav. benchmark is of the 1:10 & 1:20 archaic base hit, & it was a close call but I would give it slightly to the Meze for impact/depth/quality. As the above scores indicate the Meze was better than the Senn in all but 3 catagories. However since this song is so vocal-centric, it was a close call. The HD650 just made Maria's voice that much more lush and pulled you into the atmosphere, but I did just prefer the Empyrean in the end. 
 
   
   
Depeche Mode - "Wrong" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean 1 -1 - 2 1 2 2 Empyrean
Commentary --- The Empyrean did great here. Although slight hints of sibilance could be heard on the highest zipping synth sounds, it excelled in all catagories. What set it apart most was the soundstage, depth, and definitions of the analog synth sounds. I love the HD650 with this track but the Empyrean was superior.  
   
   
Anoushka Shankar - "Mahadeva" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean 1 1 - -1 -1 1 1 TIE
Commentary --- Indian musik, especilly classical musik, is an excellent source of atmospheric, ethereal, layered sounds. This great track by the prodigy sitar player Anouskha Shankar can really bring forward the capabilities of headphones to place instruments in the soundstage as well as
measure attack, snap and acoustic realism of the Indian drums overlaped by the sitar and vocals. The HD650 does an amazing job with
this track. Really brings a big, powerful, warm sound that is very atmospheric and draws you  in. The Empyrean was just as good but a
different presentation. It had better attack/release, crisper but thinner drums and more airy sound. For the first time the bass response
seemed less than the HD650 in both impact and volume. Very close and i could not choose a favorite so marking it a tie.
 
   
   
Depeche Mode - "Halo" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
DSD  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean -1 1 -1 1 -1 1 - HD650
Commentary --- This song is custom made for the HD650. It is all analog, and very mid-centric. Even with my fav. Focal Elear headphones, the HD650 engages you in a very vinyl-like way into this track (esp. when DSD) over most other headphones for me. The Empyrean once again displayed its superior details in the highs and bass range and soundstage but overall i just prefer the Senn a tiny bit more.  
   
   
Macklemore - "Can't Hold Us" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean - -1 - 1 - 1 1 TIE
Commentary --- I was a little surprised at my overall preference and how close it was. I love this song because it's a menagerie of multi-layered
instruments and sounds that's great for examining detail/layering/depth retreival. Although the Empyrean had better definition
and seperation it was by a smaller margine than i thought. The quality of the big horn was about equal. The HD650 hand more thickness and Meze more detail. I could not pick a favorite and both are equally engaging in different ways. Like two equally good views of the same vista.
 
   
   
Rodrigo y Gabriela - "Diablo Rojos" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean - 3 1 2 - 1 - Empyrean
Commentary --- This one started close with Empyrean leading with slightly more detail and the HD650 with a little bit thicker acoustic sound but at about 2:30 when the finger rolls came in, to the rhythm work at 2:46, and then the intricate melodies at 3:26 to the percussive finale at 4:08 the Meze show'd is vastly superior technology and it wasn't close. An absolutely amazing acoustic presentation.  
   
   
Amir Diab - "Nour El Ain" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean - 1 -1 - - 1 - HD650
Commentary --- This is a beautifully sung, Arabic song with textures galore. Other than the vocals which I enjoy, I like this track for it's textured guitars and especially the accordian: an instrument when misused or badly recorded can conjure images of hill folk in the south, and when properly used can project an almost unmatched cry of romtanticism and meloncholy. Here, probably because of the old equipment used to record, the Empyrean didn't shine. The HD650's ultra-smooth, warm, vocal presentation added that air of drama to both the accordian & vocals which won it over for me.  
   
   
Audiomachine - "House Of Cards" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit WAV  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean 1 2 1 3 1 1 1 Empyrean
Commentary --- To no surprise here, when presented with an intricate classical style orchestral piece, the Empyrean's strengths shined. Here the quality of the bass and impact was more stark than other tracks so far. Excellent choral voice detail without being fatiguing. Great wide soundstage as well as lower mids with the cello.   
   
   
Metallica - "Blitzkrieg" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
24-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 1 1 HD650
Commentary --- This was the most decisive win for the HD650. In combination with the style of musik, the way it was recorded and already thin sound of the late 70s early 80s guitar, none of the Empyrean's strenghths seemed to help and in many cases didn't match up to the experience of the HD650. The Empyrean's sound was thinner, more sibilant and lacked the mid-guitar bass to really rock this track.  
   
   
Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean 1 2 -1 -1 -1 2 1 Empyrean
Commentary --- This one was almost another tie but in the end the more airy soundstage, details in seperation and overall sense of atmosphere
had me prefering the Empyrean's strengths again. Especially in the acapella section at 1:59, it made its superiority clear for me.
 
   
   
Die Antwoord - "Evil Boy" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean - - -1 1 - - - TIE
Commentary --- This was another tie. This is a tricky song for high end headphones which is why I like using it. The HD650 excels in taming this song and
smoothing out a lot of sharp high-hats that cause clipping/sibilance in many ultra-detailed transducers. However, I will say I am very
impressed with the Empyreans control. It flirted with sibilance a few times but always under control. The HD650 was overall a more
silky, retro hip-hop presentation so I will call it a tie in my preference.
 
   
   
Hillbilly Moon Explosion - "Depression" Vocals (+/- 3): Highs (+/- 3): Mids (+/- 3): Bass Quality/Impact (+/- 3): Bass Volume (+/- 3): Soundstage Width
(+/- 3):
Soundstage Depth:
(+/- 3):
Overall preference:
16-bit FLAC  
Sennheiser HD650 - - - - - - -  
Meze Audio Empyrean 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 Empyrean
Commentary --- The HD650 excels at this track with its attributes making the presentation very thick-sounding, smooth and jazz clubby. However, I was
very impressed with Empyrean here. It seemingly replicated all the HD650's strengths and elevated them through the spectrum. Nasty
sounding guitars and grit to the vocals. I always find it very difficule to find any headphones to play this song just like I want it and the
Empyrean just might have done it. Now to find a few thousand under my couch cushions :-D