Headphone Review Update: Sennheiser HD 820, Audeze LCD-4z, Meze Empyrean

Things here at the bungalow are settling down into a more well-oiled machine status after the birth of my second daughter a few weeks ago, and with that comes more in-depth reviews.

With that said I wanted to let readers know what was coming up in the pipeline so they knew what to expect in the coming weeks.

First up will be the closed-back, dynamic-driver Sennheiser HD 820 equipped with the company’s “ring radiator” technology. The HD 820 is the latest iteration of the legendary 800-series (HD 800, HD800S).

Regarding the original HD800 open-back, I wrote: “[The 800] was viewed by many as an incredibly accurate headphone with an disarming honesty to its sonic presentation, but one that many listeners found could be fatiguing.” I wasn’t in that camp and loved the 800s sound and just as importantly: its comfort. I can wear them for hours without any discomfort whatsoever. The $2,399 USD 820 is quite different from its previous iterations having moved away from the open-back design of the 800 and 800S to a smartphone-grade glass (partial) enclosure. Compared to the 800 I find the 300-Ohm, 360-gram, (12Hz~43.8kHz -3dB) 820 to have a warmed-up sonic signature with more bass oomph and the same linear-response across the frequency range I fell so hard for.

After the 820 will be the $3,995 USD Audeze flagship magnesium-housing LCD-4z planar-magnetic open-back review. These are one of the most open and dynamic-sounding planar designs I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with and Audeze’s proprietary 106mm FAZOR Neodymium-magnet array helps get the 4z down to 15 Ohms impedance and up to 98dB sensitivity (5Hz – 20kHz). I had my eyes opened wide by the $1,945 USD LCD-3 planar a few years back and also think the $799 USD LCD-2 Classic is one of the best bargains in hifi, but the LCD-4z is on a level of resolution, bass slam, timbral accuracy and speed that few can match.

Following the LCD-4z will be the beautiful to look at and even more beautiful sounding $2,999 USD Meze Empyrean (430 grams, 31.6-Ohm impedance, 4Hz – 110kHz) that features a “Hybrid planar-magnetic dual-sided magnet geometry array” with three distinct sections within an unbroken trace pattern. A rounded maze-like upper section (switchback coil) and a more circular shape for the lower half of the driver array all with differing levels of excursion to handle differing frequency levels (upper trace: bass, lower trace: treble and midrange) helps set the Empyrean apart from other planar designs. The “suspension wing” headband of carbon fibre and leather along with the CNC-milled aluminum/alloy chassis, yoke and driver grilles only adds to the totally unique look and feel of these ‘phones. The Empyrean is one of the most cohesive sounding planars I’ve spent time with and they have an uncanny ability at unfolding a song’s sound stage between your ears with exquisite tone, timbre and most of all, real musicality.

Thanks for stopping by and catching up.

jaredjcrandall84's picture

Congrats on the child!

Rafe Arnott's picture
Really appreciate the kind words!
Rthomas's picture

Hi Rafe,

First of all many congrats on the new arrival. Hope your family is doing great!

Will these three TOTL reviews come with the long awaited measurements? I'm starting to feel that Keith Howard has disappeared. Is he still officially the new Innerfidelity's measurement guru or are you looking elsewhere?

Best Regards


Rafe Arnott's picture
Thanks for the congrats, always nice to hear!

As for measurements... it's still a work in progress and not for lack of trying.

Stay tuned, you'll know as soon as I do.

Rmusic's picture

Exciting stuff , Rafe! Will you be comparing these models to showcase how they differ while highlighting their strengths and weaknesses? After all they seem to be flagships with similar price points. These are exciting times for headphone buffs but, man, what a bewildering array of choices.


Rafe Arnott's picture
Will be part of the review process!
jagwap's picture

I guess it will be hard not to favor closed back now...