Meze Audio Liric Closed-Back Planar Magnetic Headphone

Hey Everyone! Earlier this week Meze Audio announced their latest high-end offering, the closed-back Liric. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to receive a demo unit, so I thought I would share some quick first impressions, and for the most part, I’d say first impressions are strong.

As is expected from Meze, the Liric is an exquisitely designed headphone that is both aesthetically gorgeous and very sturdy in its construction–without a doubt, it’s a premium headphone. Now, something that really surprised me was how much more compact it looks and feels than something like the Elite or Empyrean, which makes sense given that it’s trying to be more versatile and portable, but it’s not something I really expected; so, it’s definitely not just a closed-up Empyrean/Elite. Now, because they are little bit more compact, they’re not quite as comfortable as its Rinaro-powered peers, but it’s still a supremely comfortable headphone. It’s maybe not as comfortable as a Verite Closed from ZMF, but definitely easier on the ears than something like the Stellia–at least in my experience.


As for sound, I have to say that I’m quite impressed. It may not deliver the best technical performance when compared to the open-back Empyrean and Elite, but I sincerely think that of the three high-end offerings from Meze this one had what was the best tuning and tonality for me. Out of the box I found myself really enjoying my favorite tracks on the Liric. I’d describe it as being a balanced headphone that has just a very slight emphasis in the mid-bass and upper treble regions. As for the midrange, I think that the Liric has some of the best mids I’ve heard from Meze and from closed-backs in general, with the only stand-out for me being that there seems to be a gentle bump between 1-2K, which does make it just a tiny bit nasally.

I didn’t get the chance to listen for that long, and I don’t want to give too much away in this post, so expect the full review to arrive in a few days!!

P.S. I apologize for those who were looking for measurements, but our GRAS is currently on the run… we’ll share measurements in the coming weeks!

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Well I guess ordering some Verite C’s will have to wait…

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As a former Verite Closed owner, I think the highest praise I can give the Liric is that I’d personally struggle to pick between the two. I kept thinking about that last night whilst I did my initial listening.

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Wow, that is high praise! Looking forward to the full review : )

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Kinda plain for Meze as far as design.
I’d really love to see this compared to the DCA Stealth too.

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It compares incredibly well to the Stealth in my listening. The Stealth has the slightest bit more top end sparkle and just a little bit less closed back bloom to bass but otherwise it’s way closer to the stealth than the 50% cost would indicate but we know how that goes in headphones.

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How’s the soundstage?

I fixed it for you haha :smiley:

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Not quite as wide or deep at first listen but that could also be because the Stealth are so superb at dampening resonance and make the quiet parts REALLY quiet. In summary though, Close.

@Chrono ’s first impressions are up of the LIRIC! Seems to align with the pretty positive impressions shared by others who got them this week.

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Posted my initial thoughts on head-fi, forgot to share here as well.



"They literally just arrived, so I can’t really offer sound impressions yet. Initial just on the head impression is they do feel smaller than the empyrean and elite, but are still comfortably over ear. Nice unboxing experience, feels “quality.”

and then

"Ok so initial sound impressions time. Please keep in mind these may change, and hey the headphones may burn in also (though I’ve never noticed huge differences from burn in to be honest.)

The first thing was that I had to spend half an hour just getting used to the “feel” of a closed headphone. It was colouring my initial impressions, as I am so, so used to open back headphones and being more aware of that which is going on around me. I gave them a bit time, and I’m feeling much more comfortable with the feel and lack of spatial awareness. That has allowed me to concentrate on the sound. If you are used to open backs, and trying any closed backs, give yourself a little while just to get used to the closed sensation. It was really throwing me off at first.

-Great sense of openness and imaging from a closed back, especially of this physical size and isolation level (quite high compared to some.) Not as open as the Empyrean or ELITE, but…those are open headphones. Though, with that said, it has a larger and wider stage then the Focal Utopia, so thats interesting.
-Has a very natural sounding presentation, similar to how the Empyrean and Elite present music, though they all have different individual tunings.
-Can be a little bit boxy sounding in the mids somewhere. Far from a deal breaker in terms of severity so far however.
-Treble sensitive people may struggle with the highs, I’ll need more time with this aspect, and trying them from other source gear to reach a more informed conclusion.
-Definitely not as refined or detailed as the ELITE, but hey at half the MSRP I was not expecting them to be the same.

You can definitely feel that they are a bit smaller physically around the ears. With that being said, these continue the trend of supreme comfort from the Meze/Rinaro headphones. Also, not that it matters really, but I love the understated dark look with slight copper accents. They are a very pretty headphone.

I am impressed with the Liric so far : )

People may hate me for this, but you know what I would love to see? A larger (physically, think ELITE/Empyrean pad sized) closed back from Meze, with the exact ELITE driver, with the closed back tech and headband from the LIRIC. I’d have an incredibly hard time not being interested in that headphone, if it was ever created."

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Thanks for the impressions!
What is the chain if I may ask?

I got to try these a few weeks ago at Cap Audiofest, I thought they were on-ear not over-ear headphones……they are smaller than the Empy and Elite by a good amount. Sounded good for on-ear :joy:

They presented as an on the go type headphone given their size and accompanying case. Made me think of a what DCA tries for yet the AFC are not quite walking around town headphones, whereas these are heading in the right direction.

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Macbook pro direct

Fiio Q3

iFi Hip DAC V2

Boulder 866 w/dac

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Definitely smaller than the ELITE and Empyrean, but definitely still over ear, unless you have truly large ears I suppose.

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I have ears like

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Meze Audio Liric Review

Written by Chrono

Introduction

The Liric, which retails at $2,000, is the latest release from Meze Audio and is once again a product born from a collaborative effort with Isodynamic driver manufacturer, Rinaro. Now, the Liric is a very interesting addition to Meze’s line-up because it’s one of the few, high-end, closed-back, planar magnetic headphones available out there, and it’s also one that promises an exceptional listening experience both at-home, and on-the-go. So, in this article I’ll be sharing my experience with the Liric, whilst also drawing some comparisons to its open-back siblings, the Empyrean and Elite.

Sources and Music Used in Listening Tests

The Amplifier/DACs used in this review were the SPL Phonitor XE (with built-in DAC), Grace Design SDAC + A90, and the JDS Labs Element II connected via USB to my desktop computer. For the listening tests I used music from a wide variety of genres including Rock, Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Hip-Hop, and latin. I played tracks from my own FLAC library as well as from Qobuz streaming service played via Roon (exclusive mode).

Accessories

As a headphone that was designed with portability in mind, it’s no surprise that what you’ll first find when unboxing the Liric is a newly-designed, hardshell carrying case. It’s a little bit on the larger side, not too unlike the cases included Focal headphones, but I think that labeling it as portable or travel-friendly is definitely appropriate; especially if compared to the gun cases included with the Elite and Empyrean.

As for cables, there are two dual 2.5mm to 3.5mm cables packaged alongside the Liric. For stock cables, these feel very good to me; they’re very flexible, they aren’t noisy, and I really doubt that you’ll have any issues with them. Lastly, I’ll mention that the difference between the two cables is that one measures roughly 3m in length, whereas the other one measures 1.2m, and you do also get one 3.5mm to ¼” adapter.

Build & Comfort

I think at this point it’s what we’ve come to expect from Meze Audio, but I’ll say it anyway: the build on these is superb.

The Liric isn’t just a closed-back Empyrean or Elite, it’s using a new design from Meze that is considerably more compact, and it features a beautiful, clean, and elegant design. Everything on the headphone looks and feels the way you’d expect for a product in this price bracket, and immediately it’s noticeable that Meze ensured that these were crafted with the utmost care and attention to detail.

Seeing as the Liric’s design is quite a bit more compact than that of the Empyrean-style chassis, it’s unsurprising that it’s not as comfortable as its open-back counterparts, but it’s still one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve worn–certainly for closed-backs. With its magnesium chassis, the Liric clocks in at 390g when put on scale, but in actual use it felt lighter than that to me; which would indicate the headband and pads are effective at distributing the headphone’s weight. As for the pads themselves, they’re pretty comfortable to my ears but I will admit that their inner spacing is a bit on the narrow side, so users with really large ears might have some contact issues with the pads and it is something to keep in mind. Overall, though, I had no issues wearing these for prolonged listening sessions, and whilst I still think it’s not as comfortable as the ZMF Vérité Closed, I did find it to be much easier on the ears than the Celestee, Radiance or Stellia.

Sound

As I mentioned earlier, the Liric was made in collaboration with Rinaro, and as such, it’s the first closed-back headphone to be powered by an Isodynamic Hybrid Array. The driver utilized on the Liric is Rinaro’s MZ4 driver, which is essentially a scaled-down version of the MZ3 driver that was used for the Empyrean; complete with the same switchback and spiral voice coil shapes that aim to make reproduction higher frequencies more efficient.

First Impressions

Almost a week ago, I had my first listen on the Liric, and my first impressions were very strong. Several more hours of listening later, though, I can confidently say that, yeah, this headphone was by far the greatest surprise of the year for me and thankfully, it was a rather pleasant surprise.

For those who may have checked out my review of the Empyrean, you’ll know that it was very far from being my headphone of choice. Additionally, whilst I believe that the Elite is a significant improvement over the Empyrean, I still think that it’s not quite there for a headphone that retails at $4,000. However, now we have the Liric, and even though it doesn’t achieve the same level of technical performance as the previous Meze offerings, it’s the one that to me was most immediately enjoyable, with the most well-balanced tuning, and–sorry for the spoilers–right away I’ll say that it’s a competitive, exciting, closed-back headphone.

Bass

To me, the Liric’s bass response seems to lean a bit towards the warmer side. It’s got a generous bass shelf that lends it ample presence in the subbass region, but it’s also got a slight elevation at around 120-150hz, which subtly adds a bit more of a mid-bass kick.

For comparisons, I would say that for overall bass level the Liric is closest–in my opinion–to something like the Vérité Closed with Auteur pads, which has a bass shelf that is similar to that which is suggested by the 2018 Harman Target Preference Curve. Now, one thing I’ll note is that whilst the Liric isn’t as punchy as the Stellia or as the Vérité Closed, I do think that it does outperform them when it comes to reproducing the lowest of bass frequencies. As is commonly the case on planar-magnetic headphones, I feel as though the Liric does a better job at fleshing out that 20-50hz range, and it just provides that bit more depth and rumble in the low-end.

Mids

Barring a mild bump at around 1Khz, which can introduce a subtle but nasally timbre, I found the Liric to have a solid midrange tuning for the most part. When compared to the Empyrean, the Liric is a lot cleaner as it transitions from the upper bass to lower mids, with no swelling of fundamental tones that I could hear. Additionally, it’s got a much better contoured and present upper midrange when compared to the Elite, which in my opinion was a bit dark and lacking in energy at around that 3-5Khz region. As a whole, then, I do like the mid-tone reproduction on the Liric, as it doesn’t do anything that distracts me, and it properly represents fundamental and harmonic tones in a pretty natural way.

Highs

The treble region is what I think is the most interesting aspect of the Liric, and I think it’ll be its most divisive element when it comes to user preference. The reason I say this is because, for the treble region, the Liric has what I think is a slightly counter-clockwise tuning, so it is a little bit on the brighter side.

However, for me personally, that is precisely what I like most about the Liric. Unlike most closed-back headphones I’ve tried–like the Vérité Closed, Celestee, Stellia, or Radiance–which are generally quite warm and don’t tend to pronounce the highs as much, the Liric has exceptional upper treble extension, and it feels like all of the harmonics and overtones that embellish this region of the frequency response are nuanced in a way that I had only really heard from open-backs thus far.

Now, that isn’t to say that the highs here are perfect as there were two quirks that did stand out to me when listening to the Liric. The first and most noticeable one was that–like other Meze, Rinaro-powered headphones I’ve tried–the air region above 10Khz was a little too energetic; so, whilst I definitely appreciated the upper-treble extension, it could sometimes sound a little odd, or artificial since it was up-shelved by 3-4dB for tastes and preference. What this resulted in is that things like vocals had a bit much glisten to them, cymbals sounded a bit hotter, and instruments such as classical guitars or pianos had a subtle, but noticeable crystalline-like quality to them. Then there was also a peak at around 6Khz that despite not being overly-aggressive, could occasionally introduce some low-mid treble sibilance.

Resolution

For detail retrieval and image clarity I think that the Liric delivers performance that is very suitable for its price point and when considering that it’s a closed-back. In my experience I didn’t find it to be as resolving as the Stellia, Vérité Closed, Empyrean, or Elite, but it produced an image of the music that was decidedly cleaner than that of–for example–the Focal Radiance.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Layering

For the Liric, Meze and Rinaro have introduced what they call the “PhaseX System,” and it aims at providing better spatial qualities for a closed-back headphone by delivering a more accurate phase response.

Now, that sounds very fancy, but in practice I’d say that the spatial presentation of the Liric is reminiscent of that of both the Empyrean and Elite, but it is undoubtedly more intimate and closer to the listener. For soundstage width and imaging, it’s not the most impressive as it’s roughly on-par with what you get on Focal’s closed-back headphones. However, where it is truly outstanding, and in my opinion performs better than most headphones I’ve heard, is in its instrument separation and layering capabilities, which it has certainly inherited from the Empyrean and Elite. All the tracks that make up a mix are very clearly defined, and it almost feels like even within a track you can hear the different recorded elements more clearly; it allows you to peer into the music whilst also enhancing the headphone’s perceived level of clarity and detail.

Dynamics

Dynamics is a category where I think that Liric is outpaced by most of its competitors. When talking about that bass, I mentioned that a midbass bump does sort of help it in creating a more pronounced low-end kick, but by and large I would not describe it as being a punchy headphone. Still, it does retain a very good sense of tactility that contours and textures things like the plucking of acoustic guitar strings, or piano keystrokes; capturing at least some of the energy behind performances.

EQ

I think that most listeners will find the Liric’s tuning to be a very enjoyable one out-of-the-box, even if it’s a bit bright. With my EQ profile, then, I just seek to bring even closer to my personal preference by turning down some of that upper treble energy, and by ironing out those slight bumps in the mids; they’re subtle changes, but they make for a noticeable difference overall… If you’d like to try out my preset for the Liric, these are the settings I used:

Peak at 120hz, -2dB Q of 1

Peak at 1000hz, -2dB Q of 2

Peak at 2000hz, +1dB Q of 3

Peak at 6000hz, -2dB Q of 1.2

High Shelf at 11000hz, -4dB Q of 0.7

Conclusion

By now it’s probably very clear that I’ve been both surprised and impressed by the Liric. Meze and Rinaro have undoubtedly succeeded in bringing their Isodynamic driver technology to a closed-back headphone that is lightweight, comfortable, fairly compact, and one that indeed sounds great. Honestly, as a former Vérité Closed owner, I think the biggest praise I can grant the Liric is that if I were in the market for a closed back headphone right now, I’d seriously struggle to pick between the two.

I had very low expectations set for this headphone since my experience with Meze’s higher-end offerings hadn’t been great thus far, but the Liric changed that, and it gracefully entered an increasingly competitive segment of the personal audio market at a pretty competitive price. Needless to say then, the Liric gets a very high recommendation from me–I highly encourage you to give them a chance, too.

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I think I looked at you confused when you said on-ear haha.

Agree with your sentiment though. They’re probably the Meze I enjoyed most at first impression.

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You definitely did, and gave me a good laugh when I realize how wrong I was. It was the dude sitting behind the table who gave me the stink eye when I said it was on-ear, explains why he ignored me.

These have potential for an office headphone, not bulky, closed-back, and good tuning. Drive them off something portable like the Diablo or Mojo/Poly, the big question I have is how do they sound off tubes :bulb::bulb: