Meze carries on with the great work!
What brand do you (all) feel is the best match-up for Meze? What competitor holds the same popularity, quality, and performance standards, even if across price points?
Meze carries on with the great work!
I’d have to say Focal. Nice options for open and closed at many different price points.
Focal doesn’t offer anywhere near the low price points of Meze at retail price. Yes, the Elegia is available for $300 through the Adorama deal. Otherwise, Focal’s cheapest off-the-shelf can is the Elex, which is $750 normal retail at Drop. It’s cheapest non-collab audiophile can is the Bathys ANC at $800 or the Celestee wired at $1,000.
Meze offers the 99 Neo at $200 and the 99 Classics at $310 off the shelf.
Focal has more mid-range cans available, as before the 109 Pro ($800), Meze’s lineup jumped from the 99 Classics ($310) to the Empreyan ($3,000) if you’re not counting IEMs.
I’d say a better comp is Dan Clark Audio. A variety of beautiful, well-designed and well-built open- and closed-backs at prices ranging from $400 to $5,000. Only difference is I think all or nearly all of DCA’s offerings are planar-magnetic.
LOL. Hey, your comp was good! Focal does offer a nice, complete line, like Meze. But it’s lacking in entry-level models at normal retail prices that don’t scare the shit out of typical consumers.
We don’t flinch that much at spending a grand on a pair of cans. Tell that fact to a non-audiophile, and their eyebrows peel back halfway up their scalp.
That’s why I think Meze’s lineup is a smidge more complete due to hitting more price points. Focal aims high end only. Meze aims entry level and high end, with the 109 Pro being its first mid-fi offering.
I consider anything under $400 to be entry level, anything $400-1,000 to be mid-level and anything $1,000 and above to be high end. Your mileage may vary …
Maybe Sennheiser and Audeze (if the Mobius and LCD-1 are still available). Also, HiFiMan and Dan Clark Audio.
I have a buddy who just got his first proper high end headphone - the Audeze LCD- X and absolutely loves it.
We’re looking for something that provides a little different flavor for his second purchase.
Currently, we are between the 109 Pro and the ZMF Aeolus.
Frankly, I can’t discount him from choosing one or the another because I love both! Appreciate the insight.
I love my LCD-X 2021, and if I were to purchase another open-back it would probably be a dynamic, such as the Focal Clear, Meze 109 Pro, ZMF Aeolus or Aurorus Borealis. I kind of regret selling my Elex and 6XX, as it would have been a nice change of pace from the LCD-X.
Edit: I honestly think I’d go 109 Pro or Borealis; this is based only on what I’ve read and seen, as I’ve not heard either.
They do have the Listen and the Listen Pro, which are around 200 - 250.
They are not really aimed at the audiophile headphone world but they do show up on a lot of “general consumer” stores.
Isn’t the 109 Pro a revealing can with good bass, midrange and a bit of sizzle in the treble? I haven’t heard one, but the 109 Pro sounds fairly similar to the LCD-X, minus the treble sizzle.
I want something different but complimentary to my LCD-X 2021. I also own HD 6XX. That’s why I’m focusing on the Aeolus or something warm and smooth, which it appears the 109 Pro is not.
Please school me if my interpretation – based only on reading and videos – is wrong, people!
If you want warmth, the Aeolus is a good choice but the pad choice is crucial IMO. The 109 Pro appears to have bass warmth based on Resolve’s measurement, but it may not translate that way when listening.
Best thing to do is audition if you can; if you can’t, find a trusted reviewer who seems to have the same tastes as you and hears things similarly, and put together a list of options based on that. Then, use measurements to assist. Again though, nothing beats hearing the headphone for yourself.
My LCD-X 2021 is a little distant in the upper mids and lower treble (I fix with EQ), and then is brighter in the mid and upper-treble. Aeolus is a little zippy in the low treble if I recall; Crin’s measurement confirms that. It also doesn’t show warmth, but varying pads and possibly the choice of wood (?) may help with that.
The Meze 109 Pro does show bass warmth in the measurements, though:
Agreed. All great brands, I’d suggest ZMF despite differences. Sennheiser is nice and scaled in its headphone catalog. Focal was also a good mention too! The Celestee’s blew my mind last CanJam but so did Meze’s Elites…too many to choose from!
Thanks for the excellent information in such a detailed reply!
I had to drop in here and give my quick 2 cents on the 109 Pro. I could not be more happy with my decision to purchase it!
I remember first really getting into this part of the hobby and almost pulling the trigger at times on products that were overly hyped but then turned out to be a fizzle (looking at you GL2000 lol).
That is not the case with the 109 Pro. I’ve written up an impression of them and also have a full video of it up on my channel. It is a permanent fixture in my collection and will be used quite often. If I wasn’t bonkers over headphones and the constant interest of trying new things, I could easily be done and call it a day with my journey. Ok…outside of my Atrium because those are just damn special.
This now makes me want to find this kind of excitement in the sub-$500 range of gear. This is why I love things like CanJam as opportunities to actually hear things before buying.
@CarterK_iFi the iFi Uno is a hella fun with the 109 Pro by the way. As are pretty much anything that powers them to be fair.
Glad you like it!
I’ve almost pulled the trigger on it several times, only reason I haven’t is that it kind of covers some of the same ground as headphones I already own. (ZMF x 3!)
It’s so nice looking though!
I can appreciate that, especially being ZMF.
The comfort is crème de la crème too!
Ah yes love to hear it! Thanks for the shout, Ryan. We at iFi love the Meze cans and our interactions with them as a brand as well. I’m always pleasantly surprised by their new releases.
At CanJam socal I heard it a few times, it was great. But as mentioned, in that thread, the headphones jumped to a whole new level with the Chord Mojo 2.
Seems really odd, but I think it’s a synergistic marriage made in heaven
Good to know…I think I’ll bring my 109 Pro to CanJam Chicago this year and see if I can’t listen to that pairing. Synergies definitely exist and matter!
TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Meze 109 Pro
The Meze 109 Pro have been sent to me on loan by DeCine, the official distributor for Meze in Spain. DeCine don’t sell direct so I have left a link to the official Meze page for these headphones on my blog. As always, DeCine has not made any specific requests and my review will aim to be as unbiased and sincere as humanly possible.
I got to try out the Meze 109 Pro, powered by the Feliks Audio Envy, last year and the 20 minutes or so I spent with them left me wanting to try them again ever since. So when DeCine reached out and asked if I would like to review them, I jumped at the chance.
Sometimes we will try something out for a brief period and form a first impression (good or bad) that may change when we get to spend more time with them. In the case of the 109 Pro, the first impression was very good and except for one set up (that I have mentioned plenty of times in the past), these were the most interesting headphones that I got to try out at the High End show.
Also, my setup is a little more modest than the setup in the Meze listening room, which probably added up to at least ten times the price of the headphones (or more), so I am happy to be able to get a more “real world” (for me at least) experience than that brief period.
The 109 Pro use a 50mm Beryllium coated polymer and cellulose-carbon fiber composite dynamic driver. This is mounted with a copper-zinc stabilizing ring and which serves to reduce distortion, at least according to the Meze literature. This is actually the first open back dynamic driver headphone by Meze, coming in at just a little under 800€, which is certainly not cheap but is quite a lot less than some of the flagship models from the same brand.
So, let’s take a look at how all of this translates into my personal use case and what I think of the Meze 109 Pro after being able to put it through its paces for a more extended period.
The presentation of the 109 Pro is simple but elegant, arriving in a black box that opens to reveal the transport/storage case, inside of which we find the contents.
Those contents are the headphones, 2 unbalanced cables (one is 1.5m and the other is 3m long), a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter, a storage bag for the cables and of course the EVA molded case which is of very good quality.
Underneath the case, we also get a nice booklet that speaks in depth about the headphones and the properties I already mentioned above (with much better detail of course).
Build and aesthetics…
Meze makes some of the most beautiful, well built and comfortable headphones I have ever had the pleasure of trying and the 109 Pro are no exception.
Starting off with the build, they use a combination of Walnut, Zinc, Manganese Steel and vegan leather. All of these are of high quality and assembled in a way that leaves no doubt that these are a very well built set of headphones. They are also very proud to announce that these headphones are meant to last and every part of them can be dismantled and serviced if the need should arise.
The aesthetics play with the wood and copper highlights on black steel, which really stand out and give the headphones a look that is elegant and places them as a premium set of headphones. Obviously aesthetics are a very personal thing but there is no denying that Meze has paid attention to each small detail, even to the point of the copper on the back of the drivers being visible through the grill matching the highlights found on the headband, or the internal grilles that also match etc.
While the build is very good and the aesthetics look great (in my opinion of course), when it comes to comfort, these are in a league of their own!
Using a simple dual steel headband, the 109 Pro have a padded strap that is mounted on an auto adjusting system that makes them seem to float on the head. These are not really a heavy set of headphones anyway, but once they are on my head, they all but disappear. In fact, I even found myself forgetting I was wearing them when between calls and forgetting to press play on the music
I admit that it is winter, which makes it much easier for me to wear headphones for an extended period of time (as we are not getting temperatures of over 40ºC every day) but these are still the most comfortable set of headphones that I have worn for a very long time, maybe only second to the Koss KPH40 (which are obviously not a rival in any other category).
My only complaint would be with the cables. They are nowhere near the worst cables I have received with headphones but they are quite rubbery and do seem to have a bit of a life of their own. As they have been coiled (this is a demo unit, so I am not sure how long they have been stored inside the bag/box), they have memorized the coil shape and have a habit of springing to that shape.
This is obviously a minor complaint in comparison to the great aesthetics and amazing build quality of the headphones.
All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)
For those that just want the TLDR (and didn’t just watch the TLDR on YouTube), these are the dynamic driver headphones that I have most enjoyed to date. I don’t think they work for all genres but for 80% of my preferred music, I would be quite happy to have these as my only set (although I would probably suffer from planar withdrawal ).
Ok, so, knowing that I am going to praise these headphones, let’s go through the usual steps and test tracks, doing my best to point out why I like these for so many things and what I feel are the weaker points.
Starting off with the usual look at the graph:
Seeing that I haven’t gotten around to coming up with a personal preference target for over ears, I have included the HD6XX as a reference point but I have also included one of my favourite planar headphones, the Arya v3 (SE), as another reference point.
Starting off, as always, with the lowest frequencies, the extension into the subbass range is very good, with no perceived roll off at all. I find that they reach way down into the depths of “Chameleon”, presenting the rumble in a way that is certainly present but not boosted. In fact, I find that the low ranges of the 109 Pro are very planar like in their presence but have more of a smooth timbre than the somewhat cold timbre that is found commonly on planar headphones.
That is not to say that they are warm, I do not find the bottom ranges of these headphones to seemingly add any warmth at all, it is more about the way that the bass is reproduced that is more “normal” than that of the planar alternatives. As I have mentioned before, I play bass (although not very much recently) and dynamic drivers just seem “right” to me when reproducing those bass guitar notes, probably due to being what I have been used to for so long. When listening to some of my tracks, while there is no additional presence over something like the Arya SE, it does come across as smoother and more natural to my ears.
I wouldn’t say that the bass is quite as detailed as on some other alternatives but it is nicely balanced and things like “Elephants on Ice Skates” I find to have a very natural timbre to the bass guitar.
I don’t think that these would be the first choice for someone who is more into EDM than acoustic, I feel that “No Sanctuary Here”, although the bass is nicely balanced, may be lacking a bit of additional boost for those who listen mainly to this genre.
The mids are very well balanced, with acoustic instruments sounding very clear and realistic, keeping lower percussive hits well clear of interfering with any of the mid centric playing. The same goes for vocals, with the various voices of The Fairfield Four harmonizing in “These Bones” without ever getting in each other’s way. The lower tones of the deeper voice could possibly benefit from a little more warmth but that is more of something I am used to with dynamic drivers than anything wrong per se.
Even the climb to the 3k mark is very similar on the Meze to the Hifiman offerings, something that I have found over time that I really like. It brings vocals forward but does not make them harsh or nasal, something that I have found to be the case with other sets that attempt a similar tuning.
The treble extension is good, with a nice sensation of air and openness which I find very impressive. Some people may find them to be a little overly present in the upper ranges but that is not the case for me, I like the presence and find that they deal very well with these higher frequencies.
My usual sibilance test with “Code Cool” places Patricia Barbers just about where I would expect her to be, in comparison with what I hear on my speaker set ups of choice, maybe with just a tiny hint more. In other words, her vocals are just slightly over the verge of sibilance. If I go back to my usual non-scientific -12 to +12 scale for sibilance, I would maybe place her somewhere between the 0 and +1 mark.
Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” basically confirms (to me) the same result with his vocals just edging into sibilance.
Details are also impressive on the 109 Pro, making everything sound detailed and complete but without pushing those details at you. Where some sets of headphones can push details in a way that can create a “wow” factor upon first listen and then become tiring over extended periods, that is not the case here. All details are nicely presented and not overly exaggerated.
Soundstage is very good, with a nice wide feel to it, and image placement is excellent. Everything is in its place, with plenty of space between things like the vocal layers in “Strange Fruit” or the main hit of the guitar body and the reverb in “All Your Love Turned to Passion”.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, when I first tried the Meze 109 Pro, I was impressed but I really wanted to spend more time with them to see if it really was a set that I would enjoy over extended periods or if it was just the initial impression. After spending this time with them, I have to say that I am just as impressed now as I was then.
I would describe the 109 Pro as a set of headphones that is very good for almost anything you throw at it, at least with my personal preference as far as tuning. It is not a set of headphones that is aimed at those that like a large presence in the bass area and I could see some people maybe finding it a little too hot in the upper ranges. But again, for my preferences, I find it a very enjoyable set of headphones.
As a fan of the Hifiman sound, I find that the 109 Pro gives the same sort of general tuning, maybe with a little less speed, yet with a touch of that dynamic driver sound that just seems natural. I understand that for many, planars are an acquired taste and here Meze gives you a dynamic driver option for a very reasonable price, especially factoring in aesthetics and build quality etc.
I also found that the Meze 109 Pro are not very picky about what they are powered by. I tried them on all kinds of set ups and while I really enjoyed them on the Echo Mk2 (not quite an Envy but still has that Feliks flavour ), I found that they were just as good powered by things like the Gryphon (used for this review) or the Asgard 3. They even sound good powered by the iFi Uno.
If you are someone who enjoys a nicely balanced sound and are looking for an all-rounder set of headphones without getting into 4 digits, then I think that the Meze 109 Pro should be high on the list of candidates to try out.
As always, this review is also available in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (Acho Reviews - YouTube)