Antonio Meze leader designer and founder of Meze started ten years ago with a simple headphone design that took the country by storm. The year following they began working with Rinaro Isodynamic located in Ukraine whom for over 30 years had been working on completing their hybrid array technology.
Meze’s Empyrean was the first to use the technology and received worldwide awards for best-sounding headphone when it hit the market. Priced at $2,999 US, and still available, it is regarded as one of the best sounding and most comfortable headphones.
Three years in development the Elite has many of the same features as the Empyrean with a more refined and new Rinaro designed driver featuring a Rinaro Parus® diaphragm reducing distortion and creating a headphone with more lifelike transparency in the midrange and tight bass with a high-end that competes with any headphone currently on the market.
Elite’s Isodynamic Hybrid Array employs separate voice coils near the ear canal to produce articulate midrange and a pristine treble while ensuring bass reproduction is balanced, textured, and lifelike on acoustic recordings. A sensitivity of 101db@1mw/1kHz makes the Elite an easy-to-drive headphone, whether using your smartphone device or full-range amplification you will notice the sound quality. Advanced drivers, tunable earpads, and a patent-pending wing support headband while priced at $4000 make it competitive with the leading flagships currently being offered.
The Elite features the MZ3SE driver which builds on the pioneering technology of the flagship MZ3 driver found in the Empyrean headphone using Rinaro Parus®, an innovative low mass acoustic diaphragm built on an ultra-thin biaxially oriented semi-crystalline polymer film. Isodynamic hybrid array drivers are designed to deliver selective areas within the structure of the areas and provide better resolutions and accurate sound reproduction.
The headband uses a patent-pending technology with wing suspension which is elongated and curved at both ends, descending further on the side of the head and distributing the weight of the headphone evenly. The comfortable and lightweight modern-looking outer cups are beautiful to look at and the open back design creates an open and airy soundstage.
The Meze Elite headphone comes with two uniquely shaped earpads developed by Rinaro to allow for personal calibration of the sound signature;
01. ALCANTARA® the well-known 30mm deep Alcantara® ear pad originally developed for the Empyrean headphone in 2018.
02. HYBRID (Perforated Alcantara® Interior + Real Leather Exterior ) with a soft, yet durable outer finish balancing the qualities of Alcantara® and leather into a single design lowering the bass pressure and delivering an “airy sound signature, in which sound waves appear to transcend the space around you to create an immersive experience.”
To complete the package a hard-shell Meze Case made of high-quality aluminum is provided.
Two amplifiers were used for this review, the HeadAmp GS-X Mini a fully balanced solid-state design, and the single-ended VPI 299D tube integrated with its impeccable headphone amplifier. A Marantz SA10 was used as the primary DAC while streaming high-resolution files from Qobuz and Tidal. I used the stock cables provided for the review and encourage balanced users to use the XLR connectors to get the most from balanced amplification such as the GS-X Mini.
Alison Krauss is a favorite to use and listening to“Ghost in this house” from her Forget about it album produced a beautiful articulate midrange and Alison’s performance was sibilance free with her ability to get the most out of the lyrics and the Elite produced a terrific soundstage on HeadAmp’s GS-X Mini.
Andrea Bocelli’s vocal is majestic and is special. Listening with the VPI 299D tube design added a wider and deeper soundstage with a more transparent midrange and the bass was exceptional. The orchestra was in its own space and listening to each individual section produced a sound that was alive and bought the performance to my listening room.
“Thunder Road”‘s live performance from Springsteen on Boadway showcased Bruce in an acoustic performance different from his studio recordings and it was as transparent and sounded as f I was in the audience sitting in the front part of the stage and brought heartfelt meaning to the lyrics and brought me back in time in my life to when I was younger. The music was soothing to my soul and the Elite delivered this performance flawlessly.
“Promised Land” from The Promise album was fast and dynamic on the Elite and it never lost pace with the fast music and always sounded alive and realistic. The Elite captured the E Street Band without compromise. The music and Springsteen’s vocal were in unison the sound was once again spectacular.
Adele’s 30 is another great album showcasing Adele’s rare talent and the elite captured the emotion of her vocal and was sibilance free for “Strangers of Nature” and allowed me to get deep into the performance. The Elite disappeared and the soundstaging of the musicians was deep. The music delivery on the VPI 229D was out of my head, it was as if the headphone disappeared completely and her beautiful vocal was in front of me and the performance was astonishing while listening with the Elite. Wow!
Meze made its mark with the Empyrean and the Elite has built on that successful headphone. The sound of the new Elite is a continuation of that design and offers more refinement over the Empyrean. Meze was able to get more bass with the new driver and more midrange transparency.
Listening to vocal recordings the Elite always captured the artist without sibilance and delivered everything you expect from a reference headphone and delivered performance that was among the best for planar designs and rivaled many electrostatic designs as well.
The Bass was tight and controlled and never did I feel as if anything was missing. Some other reference designs have deeper and more extended bass but the Elite still was able to deliver tuneful and deep bass extension while being more balanced than the Empyrean
Trumpets, horns, and saxophone were delivered with transparency and sounded realistic. Drum cymbals have a terrific sheen, and all instruments were extended in the treble region and had all the ingredients necessary to recreate the music without any compromise. High hats were as good as I have heard reproduced with space and air.
Meze once again proved their ability to build with Rinaro’s uncompromised design. The meticulous use of high-end parts all assembled by hand by Meze craftsman in Romania is expensive to accomplish. Each part is assembled by hand and the selection of high-end parts is considerably more expensive than stock parts.
Pad selection and ease of changing the pads in seconds was a delight with the creative magnetically designed cups. Switching between the Leather Hybrid and the Alcantara pads was easy and created different sound signatures. The Alcantara’s thickness moves your ears further back from the driver and created its own sound signature.
Never did I feel like taking them off and found myself listening late into the night and early hours of the morning. The Elite were so comfortable on my head, creating long listening sessions without fatigue, I did not feel any urgency to remove them and always found myself watching the sun come up.
The Meze Elite is the rare reference headphone that delivers a balanced presentation and the better the amplification the better it performs. The HeadAmp GS-X mini was a natural and well-designed Class A solid-state amplifier to use while the Tube-based VPI 229 D showcased excellent performance and detail retrieval with a wider soundstage. Tube tonality from the Genelex KT88 reissues stepped up the performance, as it should costing almost three-time more than the GS-X Mini.
Meze is on a roll with their reference designs and the Elite is a heavyweight champion in performance Priced at $4000 for a handmade design is not inexpensive, but there are years of research along with being hand made by fine European craftsmen with the best parts and the performance itself justifies the price point and makes it competitive with other electrostatic and planar designs and exceeding many.
Elite is my Editors Choice for overall sound quality. If you’re looking for balanced top-tier performance the Elite always delivers uncompromised performance with extreme comfort and gets our highest recommendation. Congratulations to Meze for their accomplishments in a fiercely competitive market and a crowning achievement. Highly Recommended.
Manufacturer’s Website: mezeaudio.com
ULTRA LOW DISTORTION
Total harmonic distortion (THD) measures under 0.05% in the whole frequency range.
75g combined driver weight designed to create a headphone that offers prolonged listening sessions.
ULTRA HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO
Upper frequency limit of audio reproduction is 112,000 Hz.
RINARO PARUS® DIAPHRAGM
An innovative low mass acoustic diaphragm constructed on an ultrathin biaxially oriented semi-crystalline film.
EASY TO DRIVE
101db@1mw/1kHz; 32Ohm; can be driven by almost any source without the need for amplification.
PATENTED ISODYNAMIC HYBRID ARRAY TECHNOLOGY
One of the most sophisticated and advanced planar magnetic technologies in the world.
Driver Type: Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array®
Operating Principle: Open
Ear Coupling: Circumaural
Frequency Response: 3-112,000 Hz
Impedance: 32 Ω
Nominal SPL: 101 dB (1 mW / 1 kHz)
Maximum SPL: > 130 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.05%
Weight: ~430 g
MZ3 DRIVER SPECIFICATIONS
Geometrical Shape: Ovoid
Size: 102 mm x 73 mm
Driver Weight: 75 g
Casing: Fibreglass reinforced polymer
Diaphragm Type: Rinaro Parus® [MZ3SE]
Active Area: 4650 mm2
Diaphragm Weight: 0.11 g
Acoustic Mass: 7.5 kg/m4
Lower Frequency Limit: 3 Hz
Upper-Frequency Limit: 112,000 Hz