Rosson Audio RAD-0, Meze Audio Empyrean, MrSpeakers Ether C - My Hardest Comparison Ever!?
I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to hear many headphones over the years in all sorts of price points, designs and driver types. There for sure ia a mega amount of quality headphones available but three have stood out to me over time; MrSpeakers Ether C, Meze Audio Empyrean and Rosson Audio RAD-0.
I am blessed to own all three of these headphones and I use them all daily. All of them play a vital part in my review process.
The MrSpeakers Ether C are my benchmark for how a closed-back headphone should sound.
The Rosson RAD-0 are my benchmark for how an open-back headphone portrays a natural, accurate, real-life experience.
The Meze Empyrean are my benchmark for how an open-back headphone portrays an engaging, realistic experience.
Now let's get into the reason why all three of my favorite headphones are planar. As I have listened to various headphones, there have been a few things that always stand out about planar driver headphones; speed, agility, accuracy, control, authority and natural sound.
Speed is the ability to portray the sonics in a timely, natural, realistic manner.
Agility is the capability to present the sonic speed in a cohesive, flowing, natural and realistic style,
Accuracy is the reproduction of recording in a realistic fashion, not adding or removing from the original.
Control is reproducing a sound that is tight, detailed, focused in a natural and realistic manner.
Authority is the ability to maintain the listeners attention without drawing attention to itself by adding or removing from the original.
Natural is realistic and accurate to everyday tones. A natural headphone presents a sonic bliss that is neutral from sonic alterations with natural, detailed realism and musical, tone and timbre, accuracy.
There are a lot of dynamic headphones that have some of these abilities but I have not found a dynamic headphone that combines them all together into one headphone like these three planar. This of course is a very subjective statement and is limited to my listening experiences, source gear, music preference and my own ears.
Build of all three are spectacular. The carbon-fiber of the Ether C glimmers in the lights and just oozes premium. The hand-made colors of the RAD-0 are artistic eye candy . The Meze Empyrean's unique headband shape and cup shape scream out premium luxury. All 3 are built of high quality materials and none of them will disappoint.
Comfort is different on all three. The Empyrean and Ether C are lightweight and the RAD-0 is the heavyweight. The nitinol headband and leather strap of the Ether C expand to the proper width and the leather pads fit snuggly around the ears; a fit that is soft and comfy. The Meze Empyrean headband is formed perfectly for any head, the pads are lush and huge and the leather strap disperses weight evenly; they are like a pillow designed by Mike Lindell but only in headphone form. Amazingly the RAD-0 even with it's double weight to both of the others isn't uncomfortable, the leather headband pad does an adequate job of removing hot spots, the massive pads comfort the head and the clamp force holds it all in place. All three are comfortable in their own ways but I find the Meze to be the best in this regard; followed by the Ether C and then RAD-0.
But the hardest part of the comparison is the sonics. This is the area that I have struggles the most with personal bias, subjectivity and attempting to be as objective as possible during this comparison time. As listed above, there are reasons why all three are my favorites, my daily headphones and my review benchmarks. I came to these three headphones with a lot of listening and critiquing over a long time. I trust these headphones more then any other headphones I own. I believe that these three headphones are the best that I have ever reviewed. Why do I say this?
Let's start with the most basic element to a headphone; tone and timbre.
The Rosson RAD-0 to me has the most natural and realistic tone and timbre of the three. The RAD-0 has a note density and weight that sounds accurate to real life instruments. Every instrument sounds distinct, recognizable and accurate to it's real life counterpart.
The MrSpeakers Ether C is a close second when it comes to tone and timbre. The Ether C has less note density and weight then the RAD-0.
The Meze Empyrean is right in between the two when it comes to tone but the timbre is less defined as it is on the RAD-0 and Ether C. The Empyrean at times struggles to differentiate between instruments and to show the fine intricacies of an instrument.
Moving on to another basic element of a headphone; details and resolution.
The MrSpeakers Ether C has the most detail retrieval and best resolution of the three. But this comes with a caveat as it is not the most natural and realistic portrayal. There is an over abundance of information that is provided by the Ether C that is helpful in the studio but isn't portraying the natural, realistic amount of details.
The Meze Empyrean lags behind slightly with detail retrieval and resolution but it doesn't matter as much as you would think. The Meze portrays a more accurate and realistic portion of the details for listening consumption but not enough for the studio. The Meze isn't the best resolving headphone but it will put to shame most everything else that I have heard that isn't part of this comparison.
The Rosson RAD-0 has the balance that both the Ether C and Empyrean are missing slightly. With the RAD-0 there is a proper amount of details retrieved without being excessive or limited. The resolution is neck and neck with the Ether C but edges out the Ether C slightly at the finish line.
Bass is another basic element of headphones and a very popular one at that.
The MrSpeakers Ether C lacks in bass slam and thump but excels in extension. The Ether C is a linear bass that reveals what is down in the sub bass all the way through the upper bass regions with clarity. The Ether C gives a clean portrayal of all bass present without being elevated or bloated.
On the other hand, the Meze Empyrean has an elevated bass line along with extra note weight and density. The Empyrean has moderate extension but isn't as defined as the Ether C. The Meze puts a fun spin into the bass all the while keeping it within realistic levels even though it does controlled drifts at times, seeming on the edge of too much fun and sounding loosey goosey.
The Rosson RAD-0 slots in right between the Ether C and Empyrean while maintaining the linear bass. The RAD-0 adds in natural and accurate note weight and density, along with authority and control, slams and thumps. The Rosson is the best defined and refined bass of the three.
Mids is the next basic element of a headphone that we will compare.
The Rosson RAD-0 is balanced, cohesive and natural in the mids. The RAD-0 portrays mids with clarity and accurate tonality. There is natural warmth without coloring the overall sonics.
MrSpeakers Ether C is diffuse field tuned and the mids take to the forefront. The Ether C mids are more dominant and expressive all the while maintaining cohesion. The upper mids of the Ether C tip toe the line of too much.
On the other hand, the mids of the Meze Empyrean are a warm breeze of naturalism. The Empyrean has an approach to the mids that neither the Ether C or RAD-0 can accomplish. The Meze envelops the listener with emotion and the Empyrean puts you in the venue with the performer. Unlike the other two headphones, the Meze removes the recording and replaces it with imaginary performers.
The next basic element of a headphone to compare is the treble.
The Meze Empyrean treble is lush and airy with soft and smooth edges of enjoyment. Non-offensive, enjoyable but detailed and accurate is the treble of the Empyrean. The Empyrean glosses over the sibilance and harshness of treble for a more forgiving and enjoyable listen.
The Rosson RAD-0 has a natural and realistic approach to the treble with natural sibilance, harshness, grit and bite. The Rosson treks along the line of just enough and not enough and doesn't waiver off it. The RAD-0 is direct and precise with the treble without being overly forceful and intimidating. Rosson allows the listener to hear and feel the natural sibilance, harshness, grit and bite of the treble without forcing it upon you unwillingly.
MrSpeakers Ether C comes out holding nothing back; there is a grit and an edge to the treble. Bold and true is the Ether C treble; you can hear and feel the natural sibilance and harshness. The Ether C has a bite that the Empyrean lacks and is more piecing and forceful then the RAD-0.
Another basic element of a headphone that is very popular to compare is soundstage, depth, layering and imaging.
The MrSpeakers Ether C are not at a disadvantage because they are a close-back when it comes to soundstage. The Ether C portrays a stage with excellent width and depth, allowing the listener to envision the size of the venue. Imaging of the Ether C is craziness as there are sounds coming from everywhere around you with control and accuracy. Layering is spot on, allowing instruments and vocalists to be separated and spread around and about each other without sounding cramped or mushed.
The Meze Empyrean presentation is all about the engagement and enjoyment. The Meze puts you in the venue, all you are missing are people bumping into you, blowing smoke in your face, spilling drinks on your back and yelling at you to move over so they can see around your head, etc. The Empyrean is an experience like none other as the stage is displayed in front of your seat. You can almost reach out and touch the conductor and you can read the sheet music of the performers. Imaging is ridiculously good at portraying the musicians and vocalists positions on stage as they move about. The width and depth of the Empyrean change with each song depending on the genre of music and recording venue.
And then the Rosson RAD-0 brings you back to reality. The RAD-0 presents with natural, realistic width and depth; allowing the studio to determine where instruments and vocalists are presented without having to lift their heads. Imaging is precise and direct with the RAD-0. The Rosson portrays the music exactly how the studio heard it live. Unlike the Empyrean's imaginative venues of live experience; the RAD-0 has you at the mixing controls putting the finishing touches on a recording masterpiece.
Somehow I have arrived at the conclusion of this very, hard comparison. I absolutely love all three headphones and I highly recommend each of them. The MrSpeakers Ether C are the best closed-back headphone I have ever heard with it's exceptional detail retrieval and resolution along with it's stellar tone and timbre. The Meze Empyrean is the most fun and natural headphone I have heard with it's insane, immersive soundstage and excellent tone and timbre. The Rosson RAD-0 is the most neutral and natural sounding headphone I have heard and it excels with everything I throw at it. For those moments of relaxing and being immersed with the music, I grab the Meze Empyrean. For those critical listening moments and comparing to the minutest of degrees, I grab the MrSpeakers Ether C. And for those times of relaxing, immersion, critiquing to the smallest of slivers, I reach for the Rosson RAD-0 the most. I prefer the RAD-0 over the others the most because it is the more refined and defined and better implemented. Don't get me wrong, the Ether C and Empyrean are no slouches they just aren't as finished like the RAD-0. The Rosson RAD-0 pairs with my ears the best of anything I have ever heard and owned. Everything that I seek as an audiophile is on full display with the Rosson RAD-0.
(All sonic impressions are with the Mytek Liberty DAC into the Headamp GS-X Mini)
YouTube reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgMj7xJ1SDxGqqxZ5l3g_jg
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TalkDbs @TalkDbs
The Honest Audiophile research and review process: https://youtu.be/UkSnoZZNyYc
Audio Terms and Definitions: https://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/index.html
Rosson Audio Design RAD-0: http://www.rossonaudiodesign.com/
Meze Empyrean: https://mezeaudio.com/products/meze-empyrean
Hifiman Ananda: https://hifiman.com/products/detail/290
Sennheiser HD600: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/best-audio-headphones-high-end-stereo-hifi-hd-600
Sennheiser HD660s: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/hd-660-s
Meze 99 Classic: https://mezeaudio.com/collections/all/products/meze-99-classics-walnut-gold-wood-headphones
MrSpeakers Ether C (non flow version) https://danclarkaudio.com/
(similar to:) https://drop.com/buy/drop-mrspeakers-ether-cx-closed-headphones?utm_source=linkshare&referer=FTSS2S
Meze Rai Penta: https://mezeaudio.com/collections/all/products/rai-penta
Meze Rai Solo: https://mezeaudio.com/products/rai-solo
ADV. M5-12D: https://www.adv-sound.com/collections/pro-audio/products/m5-12d-universal
Empire Ears ESR: https://empireears.com/products/esr-b-stock
Tin Hifi T3: https://www.linsoul.com/collections/tin-hifi/products/tinhifi-t3
Tin Hifi T2: https://www.linsoul.com/products/tinhifi-t2?_pos=1&_sid=7cddd72dc&_ss=r&variant=34447375302811
Tin Hfi T5: https://www.linsoul.com/products/tin-hifi-t5?_pos=1&_sid=a6d49043d&_ss=r
Moondrop SSR: https://www.moondroplab.com/ssr
Monoprice Monolith THX AAA 788: https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=24459
Sony NW-A105: https://electronics.sony.com/audio/walkman-digital-recorders/walkman-mp3-players/p/nwa105-b
Sony NW-WM-1a: https://electronics.sony.com/audio/walkman-digital-recorders/walkman-mp3-players/p/nwwm1a
Mytek Liberty: https://mytekdigital.com/hifi/products/liberty-dac/
HeadAmp GSX-Mini: https://www.headamp.com/products/gs-x-mini
Soekris DAC1421: https://soekris.modhouseaudio.com/soekris-audiophile-line/dac-1421
Tor Audio Roger: https://toraudio.com/main.html#
Schiit Auido BiFrost 2: https://schiit.com/products/bi-frost-1
Massdrop THX AAA 789:
Grace Design SDAC-B: https://drop.com/buy/drop-grace-design-standard-dac-balanced?utm_source=linkshare&referer=FTSS2S
Geshelli Labs Enog 2 Pro: https://geshelli.com/shop/ols/products/enog2-pro-dac-metal-case
Geshelli Labs J2: https://geshelli.com/jnog
Geshelli Labs Archel 2: https://geshelli.com/shop/ols/products/archel-pro-amp-metal-case-b5ca9a41-69ed-4786-98b2-18f72ae911bf
Geshelli Labs Erish: https://geshelli.com/shop/ols/products/erish-balanced
https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/5bbf80ce-33f3-4222-a1fc-6539a95415d6 (in order of playlist)
Tingvall Trio “Beat” - piano tonality
Sinne Eeg “We’ve Just Begun” - multiple layer soundstage
Molly Johnson “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” - female vocal tone
Leslie Odom Jr. “Under Pressure” - male vocal tone
Eric Clapton “Change the World” - soundstage, layering and placement
Yo Yo Ma “Ecstasy of Gold” - acoustic instrument timbre
Adam Baldych “Spem in Alium” - acoustic instrument timbre
Pain of Salvation “Stress” - percussion balance
Michael Buble “When I Fall in Love” - orchestral dynamics
Patricia Barber “Code Cool” - sibilance check
Christian Scott “New New Orleans” - shouty upper mids
Tool “Chocolate Chip Trip” - imaging
Hans Zimmer “Why So Serious” - sub bass extension
Marcus Miller “No Limit” - bass control
Dave Holland Quartet “Conference Of The Birds”- bass check
Ilhan Eshkeri “47 Ronin”- orchestra and bass dynamics
Hans Zimmer: “2049” - sub bass extension
Cher: “Believe” - sibilance
Stanley Clarke - “Passenger 57 main title” - percussion, bass, separation and placement
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra - “The Pine of the Appian Way” - soundstage, imaging and separation
Houston Person - “You are my Sunshine” - tone and timbre
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