atelier 13 audio
"If you’re an audiophile with a good set-up at home, and you are looking for a pair of headphones that can match the very best loudspeakers, then you really owe yourself the opportunity to audition these superb headphones"…
... an excellent comparison ...
Elite vs Empyrean ... what has changed ?
Meze has not tinkered too much with the Elite design which is a damn good thing because I adored the original Empyrean design. That means the Empyrean form factor, similar comfortable weight (430g), but with a different color scheme and some different but nuanced finishing accents.
Gone are the original darker black and copper designs to be replaced by an equally smooth but brighter silver-finished CNC aluminum frame with ‘Elite’ signature accents on each side of the pivot rod. The pivot rod has also been changed from an aged copper on the Empyrean to a pure black to compliment the Elite silver frame.
The final aesthetic change is the branding on the ‘patented suspension wings design’ leather strap with the Elite signature replacing the previous Empyrean logo. Everything else stays almost the exact same. That means those beautiful ovoid-shaped cups with the flawless quasi-Persian intricate dark grill pattern and the super-light carbon fiber headband frame.
Also, the cup rings still house that cleverly extended shape and flow on the outside of the faceplate to smoothly incorporate the gimbal and pivot system. The gimbal is actually shaped much like the triangular cuts on the grill and feels quite integrated rather than sticking out in a jarring dysfunctional fashion.
The entire pivot system can quietly swing 360-degrees on the rod at the top giving it a fantastic level of lateral articulation. Like the Empyrean, the vertical is a little more restrictive with just a little bit of movement. However, the supplied pads are supple enough to compensate.
Sound Impressions - Summary
Although the Elite pulls a little from the Empyrean’s nod to those who favor a smoother sound over clinical reference qualities, it is in fact a very different proposition from the original.
Putting aside the pad tuning differences, the Elite is a spacious sounding, neigh big-sounding presentation with an easy-going lilt to its timbre. Despite retaining some head-gain in the upper-mids similar to the Empyrean, the Elite is never in your face, too shouty or unbalanced sounding.
In fact, you could argue it has a lighter touch than before with a bass response that is more linear, tighter, and articulate than the Empyrean. I still find the Elite bass response to be punchy though, just with a reduction on the upper bass bloom that in turn, allows mids and vocals, in particular, to sound clear and natural.
The Elite treble presence this time has been given a welcome boost in presence over the original though again, not a shape piercing tuning. Rather, it’s not as faded and sounds more coherent with a better harmonic balance, a superior extension that, in turn, provides more space for the mids to breathe.
Sound Impressions - Specifics
Bass, as in many Meze headphones, is full and it always comes delivered with good punch. Bass is fast and tight and the Rinaro drivers are always perfectly in control. The bass presence and impact is good and it’s never too full or overpowering. Bass goes really deep when needed, with excellent layering. The sub bass presence is powerful when called upon. I really like the bass quality as well as the quantity. Here we have a case where the quality is slightly more important than the quantity, but the ELITE is not bass-shy in any way. Most bass body and presence you will get with the Hybrid pads but it also very strongly depends on the amplifier you’re driving the ELITE with.
The mids perfectly connect to the bass in regards to presence and body and the ELITE appears very balanced. The mids sound full at all times but they are oh so natural as well. The mid timbre is incredible and for me it’s probably the part where the ELITE shines the most. The spaciousness, naturalness, separation and extension are exemplary and the Rinaro drivers absolutely nail it.
The mids are addictive with a very musical presentation. The mids are soft, resolving and completely un-fatiguing. The vocals (which can be more forward depending on your amp) are super impressive and addictive. The mids to my ears, simply are a delight to listen to.
The treble section is softer on the ears and it shares the natural and slightly softer presentation of the mids. They’re really easygoing on your ears but they at the same time carry enough energy to keep things exciting. Treble also is transparent and a warmer tube amp will soften down this section, where an amp like the Atlas will make it more neutral, cleaner and livelier.
The Elite to me is like taking the excellent Empyrean, listening to the feedback over the last three years, and coming out with an even more likable and resolving flagship headphone.
For those that wanted more air and treble shimmer, it has that. Those who still wanted great vocal presence and that natural Meze house tone, you have that also.
For those that felt the bass was too dominant ... well bingo, you now have a tighter, more articulate, and refined sounding low-end. And finally, for anyone who wanted more staging presence, the Elite will surprise you.
And all this, yet still within the confines of probably one of the most comfortable and well-built headphone designs I have reviewed in the last few years. Do not let that slightly heavier weight on the package fool you, there are lighter headphones but none as easy on the head as the Elite, (and the Empyrean).
The Elite is a step up but a step up in a very competitive high-end headphone market right now in 2021. Thankfully it has a unique sound signature that is I think many will embrace. Both portable and desktop audiophiles are included in that statement which is rare for flagship planars.
Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array
3 - 112,000 Hz
101 dB (1 mW / 1 kHz)
> 130 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
~ 430 g
MZ3 Driver Specifications
• PHYSICAL •
102 mm x 73 mm
Fiberglass Infused ABS
• DIAPHRAGM •
Rinaro PARUS MZ3 SE
Lower Frequency Limit
• MAGNET ARRAY •
75 mm x 49 mm
Warranty Period : 2 YEARS
High-strength aluminum suitcase with foam inserts
Two set are included : one real leather, one Alcantara
2.5m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 6.3 jack connector
1.2m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 3.5 jack connector
2.5m OFC cable, 4pin mini XLR plugs ending with 4 pin XLR connector