Meze Audio Elite Masterpiece Open Back Headphones Review
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 headphones when it hit the market. Priced at $2999, 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 RinaroParus 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 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:
1. ALCANTARA the well-known 30mm deep Alcantara ear pad originally developed for the Empyrean headphone in 2018.
To complete the package a hard-shell Meze Case made of high-quality aluminum is provided.
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 if 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!
Listening to vocal recordings the Elite always captured the artist without sibilance and delivered everything you expect from a reference headphone and delivered a 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 cost 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 Editor's 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.