Thanks for the impressions!
What is the chain if I may ask?
Thanks for the impressions!
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
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.
Macbook pro direct
iFi Hip DAC V2
Boulder 866 w/dac
Definitely smaller than the ELITE and Empyrean, but definitely still over ear, unless you have truly large ears I suppose.
Meze Audio Liric Review
Written by Chrono
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
Don’t forget the DCA mobile amp option:
It’s much lighter than it looks. I float on my tiptoes.
I don’t find the above 10k area problematic at all, but I’ve tried bringing the 3-5k area down a little bit, and have had very favourable results with that.
I really do hope Meze do a fullsize (the LIRIC is over ear, but smaller than the ELITE) closed back with the ELITE driver at some point, as the potential is there imo.
The LIRIC does give up a lot of performance in comparison to the ELITE in an overall general sense, but for what is is, I’m enjoying it a lot, even currently.
Just dropping @Chrono’s video review here - his written review has been published on the main site already. I’m hyped to try the Liric as soon as possible!
@Resolve can’t find measurements of these anywhere Resolve to the rescue?
Meze Audio LIRIC
Today we are talking about another Meze Audio headphone. The recently released LIRIC closed back model. After my positive experience with the Empyrean and especially the ELITE, I was curious what sort of headphone Meze would go for in terms of a closed back model, and what sort tuning it would have. The LIRIC was released a short while ago at an MSRP of $2000USD, so it is not an insignificant purchase. Let’s find out how it fared against its open backed siblings.
The LIRIC is designed to be a more portable headphone than the ELITE and Empyrean, therefore it is physically smaller, and uses a different, non suspension based headband. Also in terms of portability, it comes in a portable style case, which will fit easily in a backpack or similar type of bag. The LIRIC comes bundled with two 3.5mm terminated cables, one shorter, one longer. I would have liked to see Meze include at least a 4.4mm cable in the package, but they do have very affordable aftermarket 4.4mm cables available from their 99 series headphones, which work very well. You can also buy upgraded cables for the LIRIC from the 99 series, and I have read those will be offered in 4pin XLR shortly also.
Very nice presentation from Meze
Obviously, targeting a price point which is half of the ELITE’s, there are concessions in terms of materials and overall build quality. The LIRIC just feels a bit less “premium” than the ELITE and Empyrean. With that being said, it is still one of the best built headphones I have come across. Meze Audio really nails this aspect. Although the physical size is a bit smaller, they are still an over ear headphone, and extremely comfortable. The pads feel deep and sumptuous. They are also a light headphone at around about 400g, and not at all uncomfortable for long listening sessions. The overall isolation level is good for a closed back, but if you need ultimate isolation, I would definitely recommend something with active noise cancelling, or earphones. In terms of aesthetics, I think the LIRIC is one of the best looking headphone on the market. The understated slightly textured black with copper accents is right up my alley, and I absolutely love how they look. I mean, ultimately I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but hey, it can’t hurt either.
Understated and classy.
The LIRICs pads do not share the same magnetic attachment system as the Empyrean and ELITE, and whilst this is a shame, as its the best system I have come across, I also think Meze may have done this to achieve the sound quality and isolation the LIRIC provide. I will include a screenshot of the earpad airflow system Meze has come up with, as the website explains it better than I am able to. It is an interesting idea, and lends itself well to a spacious sounding soundstage, for a closed back. The LIRIC are not as wide and spacious sounding as most open backs, that still remains an elusive, if not impossible quality for a closed back headphone to achieve, but they are also a lot more spacious sounding than the Focal headphones, both closed and open. I think that what Meze has achieved in terms of soundstage with the LIRIC is impressive, and am curious what they might manage in the future if they continue to develop the technology.
The driver of the LIRIC is essentially a scaled down version of the Rinaro ISODYNAMIC planar driver found in the ELITE and Empyrean. I would recommend reading my ELITE review for an idea of how this driver works if you have never come across it before, or head over to Mezes website. It Is an interesting approach to planar magnetic driver design, and worth understanding if you are going to purchase these headphones.
In terms of the drivers capability, at half the price of the ELITE whilst also being physically smaller, you obviously cannot expect the same performance. And that certainly holds true. The LIRIC does not have the same technical performance as the ELITE, and even the Empyrean. It sounds smaller, less detailed, less dynamically capable. With that being said, its tuning and frequency response are better than the Empyrean, for my personal taste. The bass of the LIRIC is slightly elevated, but I never found it to be overbearing, and it is less in level than the Empyrean. They have a bit more sub bass than the ELITE. The mids sound less thick than the Empyrean also, but perhaps a bit more upper mids and lower treble than the ELITE. I didn’t find the treble too hot at any point, especially the upper treble. With that being said, I did find it the tiniest bit shouty at times, but not at the level where it was close to being a deal breaker. I suppose you could tweak this slightly with EQ, but for the vast majority of my listening, I enjoyed the LIRIC without any EQ.
I’m fortunate to be used to the sound of what are pretty much the top of the line in terms of headphones (barring Sennheiser HE1 type esoterica.) Therefore, it has to be expected that a pair which costs less than half of those headphones, will give up certain areas of performance ability. In that sense, I found the timbre of the LIRIC a bit plasticky at times, and as mentioned, a bit shouty and “boxy” sounding, especially with snare drums. The soundstage, as I mentioned earlier, is very well done for a closed back. Not the widest, but also not small. The imaging, detail, and and dynamics remind me of the Empyrean, in that they do the “macro” stuff well, but aren’t as strong at the “micro” stuff. Increasing the volume seemed to help this aspect somewhat, which was interesting.
I very much feel that the overall package however, combined with very competent tuning is entirely worth the asking price. If you need a closed back headphone, and don’t want to spend $4000 on the DCA stealth, or $5500 on the Hifiman HE-R10p, then the LIRIC makes a serious case for itself. Also, if you need a physically smaller, and more portable headphone, the LIRIC makes a very serious case for itself there as well. It is built wonderfully, with great materials, and has a more enjoyable tuning than the Empyrean. It’s a punchy, slightly “fun” sounding headphone. I see what Meze Audio was trying to achieve with the LIRIC, and I think they have managed it very well. I’m not as experienced with closed back headphones as I am with open backs, but I can’t think of a closed back that I have tried that I enjoyed as much as the LIRIC. I think that if you take note of your use case, and feel that the LIRIC fits it, its is very much worth consideration. Whilst the LIRIC doesn’t match up to the performance of its open backed Rinaro driver based siblings, it also costs half as much, and brings a lot of their good qualities to the table, whilst also being isolating, and portable. That makes for a very interesting and compelling package.
I’d love to see Meze make an ELITE/Empyrean full sized closed back, with the driver and tuning from the ELITE. I think that would be up there for the best closed back, regardless of price. Until then though? The LIRIC does the job, and does it well.
Finally got a chance to get them on the GRAS. Here are the Meze Audio Liric measurements.
Channel matching (for Crin)
Out of the box, the tuning is serviceable. It’s very mid-bass and upper treble focused, and that 1khz forwardness can cause just a hint of nasally timbre at times, but this is also one of Meze’s better tunings overall. In general I think @Chrono nailed it, and I hear it in a very similar manner to how he described. More importantly, there aren’t any weird features that are difficult to EQ should anyone feel like diving into that. Let me be clear that this isn’t massively out of whack, if you use Chrono’s subtle adjustments you’ll see what I mean. It also seems to take to it reasonably well without any significant harmonic distortion swings - all seems kept well under control.
For those wanting a simple EQ profile, I recommend using Chrono’s as it’s really quite close. For mine, I opted to go a bit more surgical for those who want that option, which I don’t typically recommend doing - so be sure to also use your ears and see which you prefer:
And after EQ:
Source used (I’ll try some more over the course of the weekend, these are just what I’m running in the studio at the moment):
- DAC - SMSL SU9
- Amp - Vioelectric HPA V550
Super mega ultra comfortable. And this is it… this is the best looking headphone, period. Okay of course that stuff is super subjective but I LOVE how this thing looks and feels, as its got top notch mechanical and industrial design. Best in class in my view.
Detail - Generally pretty good, in particular the clarity for trailing ends of tones is excellent in the mids, and it’s somewhere around LCD-X level for immediacy of initial leading edge. So not quite as tight and fast as an HE6, but still snappy and engaging, and importantly no blunting whatsoever on the microdynamics. I do hear a hint of haze in the upper treble at the moment.
Soundstage - yeah it’s a bit tighter here than the open-backs, but that’s also somewhat expected. Image distinction is excellent though, as is the layering and incremental image placement (no ‘three blob’ issues as far as I can tell).
Dynamics - Chrono explained it well here again, it’s the main drawback, as there’s really not much going on for macro contrast and punch, even though it’s bass boosted. Keep in mind, very few planars excel at this, and those are all open-back.
Other - These Rinaro planars always have some unique trait to them, and Chrono mentioned the layering… Yeah it just sounds different from other planars in a way that’s difficult to describe. Maybe that’s it, but at least it sounds unique.
In my view, the big question with the Meze Liric comes down to how it compares vs something like the DCA Aeon 2 Noire, since they have similar strengths, drawbacks and use cases. For me, the Liric is slightly more detailed for clarity of trailing ends of tones, which is something the Noire was already good at. Neither have much going on for dynamics, maybe slightly better on the Liric again but not by much. The Noire (perf pads) has a better tuning out of the box without EQ, but for those wanting that sort of ‘warmbright’ sound the Liric might be fine. After EQ… Yeah I think I prefer the Liric, as it’s just a bit more comfortable and a bit better for microdynamics, even if it’s not a whole $1k better.
Also, just thinking about the Liric as a product on the whole. While it still has some tuning quirks, I find the Liric to be Meze’s most mature release to date.
Finally some measurements of the Liric, thanks @Resolve It’s a shame about that 8/10k hotness, I know I’m sensitive in that region so I’ll probably stick to my Radiance and VC as far as closed backs, but they do seem to be legit entries in the closed back world for sure!
One other thing I’m noticing about the Liric, it’s very good at isolating me from the environment - better than most closed-backs I’ve used. I’d need to verify this with in-ear mic measurements or something but anecdotally, there was stuff going on in my apartment that I was totally oblivious to while wearing these haha. Not something that would’ve happened with other closed-backs.
curious about airgap/sensitivity to seal compared to noire and stealth
They’re all dependent on a seal, but that’s reasonably easy to achieve. Fs is a bit lower on the LIRIC than on the Aeons, but not hifiman low or anything like that. I’ll try to remember to post that tomorrow.
Doing a live Meze Audio Liric Impressions stream today. I’ll be doing my best to answer any questions folks may have about the Liric:
Glad to see you liked it, Chrono. I had been considering an IEM in the 1500-2k range, but have not really enjoyed IEMs in the past (admittedly it was the chonky OG Solaris, which sounded wonderful but wouldn’t stay put). But really the Liric seems much more my zone of enjoyment, especially for hours in transit (for the isolation and comfort). My currrent “road” headphones are the original Aeon Closed. Would think about matching with DX300.