Meze Audio Alba In-Ear Headphones - Official Discussion Thread

Introducing the new Meze Audio Alba, a pair of $159 IEMs from the Antonio Meze and the team in Romania!

From Meze
SOUND THAT SPARKS EMOTION

Experience the unmistakable Meze sound. Possessing a neutral sound profile with an added touch of warmth, ALBA can vividly emphasize both the rain and the thunder in your favorite songs. Reach for the light, close your eyes, and press play.

RADIANT COMPATIBILITY

Take the light with you anywhere you go. The Meze Audio custom-designed 3.5mm to USB-C adapter has a built-in DAC/AMP to ensure an immersive audio experience.

BUILT FOR COMFORT

By preserving the Meze Audio design language, high levels of comfort, ergonomics, and noise isolation are assured. The combination of zinc alloy and anodized aluminium parts ensures a resilient build.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Driver: 10.8 mm Dynamic Driver
Frequency Range: 15 Hz – 25kHz
Impedance: 32 Ω at 1kHz
SPL: 109 dB SPL/V at 1kHz
Distortion: <0.1% at 1kHz

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Meze makes such great-looking products! I’m excited to hear these.

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Ngl, that white looks damn attractive

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As attractive as young Jessica Alba?

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Looks very nice (as is Meze’s “thing”)!

And from the descriptions I’ve read, this would be a near-perfect head-on-the-pillow IEM (right now I use the Moondrop Chu II for that … as the AirPods Pro 2 are just a bit too big to be comfortable when actually laying on one’s ear) …

BUT …

You’re already backordered!!! :laughing:

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Yes! Unfortunately we weren’t able to get our entire initial order shipped all at once from Meze. Next shipment is supposed to go out mid-July.

The nice thing about them is they fit quote small and the nozzles are smaller too. Not the ear hole stretchers that have become the norm in IEMs.

Has anyone from headphones.com measured these yet? I hope there’s a review coming later :slight_smile:

It has been measured on 5128 and @Fc-Construct has a review of them coming. Stay tuned!

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This IEM was one of the highlights of the Munich Hi-End 2024 show, both in terms looks and sound. I had a personal interest in it, as my wife was looking for a sound quality upgrade from her current Apple AirPods Pro (1st gen). Knowing her sound preference and pickiness about the comfort and aesthetics, I thought this IEM would be a good candidate.

As the time between the show and the final release day was going slowly, we went to Apple Store to try out the AirPods Pro 2, which everybody is so hyped about. Given how satisfied everybody even in the audiophile community is with the AirPods Pro 2, I was expecting this to become a no-brainer purchase. I personally find the diffuse field tuning of the AirPods quite thin and boring, and to me none of the Apple audio products are a good bang for the buck (I don’t care about Spatial Audio and moving between Apple devices). My wife’s verdict surprised me: she didn’t like it, it was too little of sound quality improvement over the 1st gen AirPods Pro in her opinion. She wanted more bass and more detail. I thought that’s a perfect chance for Alba.

Unfortunately there is no way to buy Alba by her birthday in the beginning of June, the sales only opened on 20th. I was quick enough to place an order in the first batch, which was sold out within 24 hours.

A few days later the Alba arrived directly from Romania. Here are my subjective impressions after stealing it now and then for a critical listen during the last 2 weeks.

Design, build and comfort

Let the pictures speak for themselves, these IEMs are gorgeous!


It’s not easy to please my wife’s visual taste with any audiophile product (for example, she doesn’t like the looks of Meze’s over-ear headphones), but these ones she approved from the first picture she saw. In reality they look even nicer, and the pearl finish of the shells shines and sparkles in the sun.

The comfort and fit is another big win. They have non-intrusive nozzles, small footprint, and they don’t stick out of your ears to double the width of your head - which is getting trendy among IEMs these days. My wife finds them more comfortable than any other wired IEM that she has tried, and the fact that she agreed to move to these from her wireless AirPods Pro means something. Having spent a few hours with the Albas, I fully agree with the comfort sentiments.

The build quality is great for its price. The cable is soft and high quality, but it’s is more on the thinner side, so it tangles quite easily - this would be my minor complaint about the comfort and build.

Sound

Of course, I didn’t buy Alba just for the looks. I am a sound-quality-first customer. And these affordable IEMs manage to deliver one of the best examples of House Meze sound.

Frequency response

Overall, Alba can be described as mild V-shaped with fully present bass and sub-bass, and an extra excitement in the upper treble.

The bass is rich, weighty and clean. It maintains a pleasant balance between sub-bass and mid-bass, being able to deliver very low notes without sacrificing the punch and impact of the mid-bass. Without side-by-side comparison, I can be pretty happy just with the Alba’s bass. If I do a side-by-side comparison with Hisenior Mega5EST, the latter has more bass both in quantity and quality. But at this price, the only thing I can complain is the eartips material which can give some resonances on certain tracks.

The treble is slightly elevated to give this earphone some extra fun and excitement. Thanks to Meze, it is not overdone, so it doesn’t come across as shouty, sibilant, or too zingy. It gives you this nice extra spice without becoming fatiguing over a long listen. Don’t expect it to be a detail monster though: it can’t compete with E-stats at finer details in treble, which is fair. The more treble-sensitive people will find Alba to have too much treble, like the 109 Pro or Empy2.

Despite the warmth in the bass and accents in the treble, the vocals are in no way reduced and are fully present. Alba does a great job at separating vocals and instruments into different layers which don’t interfere with each other. On a well-mixed vocal track, you can hear the vocalist in the center and the instruments on the sides or behind them. There is no blend, bleed, or attention drift to other emphasized areas - that’s very nice.

The closest reference of Alba’s sound signature for me is Meze Empyrian 2. Yes, this little $159 IEM sounds very similar to its $3k over-ear brother. More in FR and staging, less in detail retrieval.

Detail retrieval

Don’t get me wrong, Alba sounds great but it doesn’t sound like a $3k worth of IEM or headphone. Where it falls short is finer details, trailing ends of tones and being able to reproduce busy mixes with fast transients.

It has a great level detail for a $200-500 IEM. But I wouldn’t say that it beats the best ones at $800 and above in detail retrieval.

Soundstage, imaging, and layering

The soundstage is surprisingly large. It is both wide and deep, and Alba is capable of reproducing sounds at different stage depth layers. The instrument separation is very good. As I mentioned above, you can hear that the vocalist is standing in front of you, there is a guitar on the right of them, a bass guitar on the left side, and the drum sounds come from behind the trio. And then all of a sudden there is a cymbal crash from the far right corner, or a back vocalist yells from the far left corner - fantastic!

Imaging is not laser-sharp, but is still very good. I didn’t expect all these qualities from a single dynamic driver IEM. Well done, Meze!

Eartips rolling

This is easy: choose the stock tips that are big enough to give you proper seal, and you are good to go. Seal is very critical with Alba, if it’s not there the bass is gone and the sound feels like playing on somebody else’s smartphone. The stock tips are good enough, and I guess Meze spent quite some time selecting them.

From other tips I tried, Final Audio E-type tips made the bass a tiny bit more punchy but narrowed the soundstage. Many other eartips were just off. I’d say, go for the tips that are wide, long, and made of soft silicone (similar to the stock ones). But overall, tip rolling isn’t worth it with these IEMs.

The donglification

Here comes my main complaint. I think the USB-C dongle that comes with Alba doesn’t hold on to the same level of sound quality that this IEM is capable of reproducing.

It is OK if you have no better option, and it has one advantage over my Questyle M15 which I used most of the time listening to Alba: the Meze dongle has large sound stage and Questyle doesn’t. In fact, it made me realize how claustrophobic the M15 is with any headphone.

This Meze USB-C dongle adds shoutiness and harshness to the treble. I guess it adds a peak at around 6 kHz or so, and also makes the treble sound grainy. I’ve heard some reviewers complaining that Alba sounds harsh in treble out of the box and needs some time to break in. I have a hypothesis that it’s not the break-in that helped those reviewers to enjoy Alba in the end, but rather switching to a different DAC/AMP chain.

My wife is pretty happy with the stock dongle, but I would recommend any audiophile getting a better one.

Comparisons

I am not an IEM person and I could only compare the Alba to 3 other in-ears that I have: Moondrop Starfield, Apple AirPods Pro (1st gen) and Hisenior Mega5EST.

No surprises here.

Alba beats the old Starfield easily across the board.

Same goes about AirPods, it just sounds bodiless and plain dead compared to Alba.

With Mega5EST there is no miracle: the only area of sound in which Alba is superior to $550 MegaEST is soundstage. And comfort is significantly better on Meze. Mega5EST has more richness and detail across the frequency spectrum.

Conclusion

My wife is quite happy with her new toy. She uses it in the gym, when doing housework, as well as just sitting down to listen to the music with full attention. I’m also a happy customer who can steal it now and then to enjoy the soundstage or just a well balanced sound of this Meze.

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Hey Guys, here is my review of the Alba, for anyone who is interested.

Hi Guys,

Today we are taking a look at a new, affordable IEM from Meze Audio – The Alba. The Alba was released a couple of weeks ago and is priced at a very fair $159USD. This price point is incredibly competitive these days, especially in terms of “chi-fi” brands all competing to offer more performance for less money. Although the Alba is made in China vs Romania where Meze is based, it does seem to follow the Meze tradition of well-thought-out design, quality build and craftsmanship, and very nice aesthetics.

The Alba comes with 4 sets of matching white tips from small to large, and a nice but fairly thin silver-plated copper cable which is very flexible and non-microphonic. More surprisingly (especially at this price point,) it also comes with a nice little 3.5mm to USB-C dongle adapter for use with smartphones, or laptops. The Alba also comes in a small “eco-leather” white case for carrying them and protecting them during travel. The Alba uses a single dynamic driver as its driver topology.

So, on to the sound

The overall sound of the Alba is what I would describe as slightly v-shaped.

The bass of the Alba is slightly higher than neutral, and I personally hear it as slightly more sub-bass-focused than mid-bass-focused. There is still a fair amount of mid-bass, which combined with the dynamic driver does help give a fairly high amount of low-end impact. I can listen to the Alba happily with no adjustment to the low end in terms of EQ, which definitely means it’s not straight neutral as I enjoy a more robust low end than the average listener. Although the bass is not as clear and clean as something like the Audeze Euclid, it is also not fair to compare the two as the Euclid is vastly more expensive. Compared to other IEMs in this price point, the Alba does a good job at keeping up and I had no real complaints about its low end over my time listening to them.

The midrange of the Alba is a bit of a different kettle of fish for me personally. I really like its take on the low mids. They are slightly pulled back and less than neutral which attributes to the overall slightly V-shaped response. I tend to enjoy IEMs with this take on the low mids, so it makes sense I enjoy it here also. I do have a bit of an issue with the upper mid-range, and it seems to have something to do with the 1-2kz area. It comes across as slightly harsh, with a bit of a nasal, honky quality to it. I tried a bunch of different tips, and a tip with a slightly smaller diameter opening did help but didn’t entirely eliminate this issue for me. The mids in an overall sense are not warm and enveloping, but help the Alba have a very clean and clear tone and response. The only issue with it for me personally, is that slightly rough and nasal upper mids area. I did try fiddling with EQ and was able to get things to be a bit more in line with my preferences. I think this will depend very much on the user’s own ears, how they are shaped etc… It’s not enough for me to stop listening to the Alba (as I listen to them right now) and I would still recommend trying them, as they might be perfect for you in this area.

The highs of the Alba are again slightly more than neutral, again contributing to the overall slightly v-shaped tuning. The lower treble seems to me to be more prominent than the upper treble, and I think I would personally prefer slightly more upper treble. However, apart from that, the treble is great. For a $159USD pair of IEMs, combined with the fact it’s a single DD, the treble is incredibly well done, and I really enjoyed it in terms of its tuning. I never found it overbearing or harsh, yet also never found myself lacking detail and space from an overly dark tuning. Treble seems to be hit or miss sometimes on single dynamic driver based IEMs, but I really enjoyed the Alba in this area.

In terms of technical performance, I’d say the Alba plays well at its price point. It’s not a giant killer, and some of the Chi-Fi brands at this price point will offer more technical performance and detail for your money. I think that the Alba makes a case for its existence in other ways than solely based on its technical performance. The soundstage isn’t as big and open as some more expansive IEMs, but it’s not overly narrow and “in your head” as some IEMs can be. The overall detail levels are quite good, and certainly competitive with other single Dynamic Drivers at this price point.

Although the Alba is made in China as previously mentioned, it follows the typical Meze attention to detail and build quality. Everything about the Alba is very well done in this area. It is small and extremely comfortable. The accessories are well thought out, and I think that aesthetically the Alba is absolutely superb. I never had any issues with comfort or edges being too sharp and impacting my ears. The little USB-C dongle that comes with the Alba is a very. nice accessory to have, and I used it extensively with my laptop’s USB-C outs. My iPhone has a lightning connector, so I wasn’t able to test it with my phone, but from my laptop, it was very decent sounding for an included accessory. The only negative I noticed is that the white paint does chip/rub off fairly easily on the edges of the round face of the Alba. Overall, Meze continues to impress in its thoughtfulness, and how well they manage the design and build quality of their products.

To sum things up, and as I mentioned earlier the Alba seems to make a case for its use in terms of the overall package. It is $159USD MSRP, the tuning is very much something that will appeal to a very wide audience (including those who aren’t into headphones and audiophile stuff,) it is incredibly comfortable, well built, and comes with a USB C adapter for use with a phone. I can happily listen to the Alba for hours with no EQ tweaking and enjoy it greatly. Apart from a slight issue that I personally have with the upper mid-range (which might not be an issue for others) I really don’t have any complaints about the Alba. I think that if you are looking specifically for detail and technical performance and forgetting about comfort and overall package, there are some options from Chifi manufacturers that would serve you better. However, if you need a more affordable IEM that offers an incredibly compelling overall package for the price, I would highly recommend the Meze Alba.

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