Meze Audio 109 PRO Review
For audiophiles, Meze is a company that needs no introduction. If you haven’t heard of them before, they are responsible for some truly legendary headphones such as the Meze Empyrean and Meze Elite, units that have developed reputations as bona fide G.O.A.T’s by bloggers, reviewers, and listeners alike. The Meze Audio 109 PRO is a brand new, open-back, over-ear release that intends to bring the superior sound of the Empyrean and Elite to a somewhat more affordable $799 price point (stop crying and rejoice – or go buy the Empyrean for a cool $2,999). As one would expect, some very serious state-of-the-art design and technology has gone into the 109 PRO. It is now my woeful burden to listen to some music with this hotly anticipated Meze release and describe to you in detail just how damn good it sounds.
What’s In The Box?
– Meze Audio 109 PRO Open-Back Headphones
– Hard EVA Carrying Pouch
– 1.5 meter soft TPE cable, black aluminum casings, 3.5mm jack
– 3 meter soft TPE cable, black aluminum casings, 3.5mm jack
– 6.3mm gold plated headphone adapter
– 2 year Warranty
Look and Feel
The 109 PRO is an exceedingly classy aesthetic blend of walnut wood, zinc, maganese steel and vegan leather that simply demands at least a minute just to ogle over. The ear pads are made with a semi-firm memory foam interior and velour exterior that feels as soft as it looks. A well calibrated suspension-style headband balances the 109 PRO at just the right vertical level on your head, which along with a finely-tuned clamping pressure, makes these headphones fit perfectly with a luxurious lightness the moment they’re put on and can be worn comfortably for hours.
The steel design of the headphone frame is fairly firm but malleable enough to take a little accidental bending. Similar can be said for the cans: though they don’t fold, they are calibrated to have a decent amount of wiggle room. Though the design may not be properly durable, I certainly wouldn’t classify the 109 PRO as fragile either. Harder to break than a vase, but still worth handling with care.
The Meze 109 PRO features a 50 mm dynamic driver with a dual composite diaphragm, composed of high quality materials were specially selected for their perfect balance of mass and rigidity. The dome of the driver, made of lightweight cellulose, has a specially designed convex shape that further refines high end clarity and accuracy. The dome is bordered by an ultra-thin corrugated torus composed of beryllium-coated semi-crystalline polymer that is a mere 22 microns in thickness (for reference, a human hair is approximately 70 microns in thickness). Not only is this composition conducive to a light weight and high level of stiffness, but it utilizes beryllium’s dampening qualities to suppress unwanted resonances. This resonance suppression is taken even further with the 109 PRO’s stabilizer which is built of an absorptive copper-zinc alloy.
The spider shaped structure on the outside of the earcups and the acoustically-transparent grill make the 109 PRO the most open-eared Meze release to date. Anthropometrics were utilized to determine the perfect distance and angle at which the driver sits relative to the listener’s ear.
-Driver: 50 mm, Dynamic
-Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 30 kHz
– Sensitivity: 112 dB SPI at 1 kHz, 1 mW
– Impedance: 40 ohms
The physical design of Meze’s 109 PRO is the perfect set up for an awesomely wide listening experience; speakers sit far from the ear and cover a large area of the head around the ear. Coupled with the light clamp pressure, these headphones slather the outer ear with sonic vibrations. The very open-back design takes the wideness and imaging even further still, with vocals sounding as close, intimate and natural as they can on a premium pair of room-tuned monitors. Response time was spot on, expressing every little stereo-sample delay and fast pan with pin point accuracy.
Of special note is the layering capabilities of the 109 PRO. Every frequency band is fine tuned to that elusive sweet spot of standing in it’s own distinct spot while still blending seamlessly into the greater mix. Though the EQ could certainly be described as balanced, there is a certain sweet saturation to the overall tone; here, I don’t mean saturation in the technical audio sense (added harmonic distortion), but rather in terms of color. Every instrument comes across with a dense energy that you can literally feel coursing through the drivers. As I’ll get into below, the highs play a particularly special role in the sound character and balance of the 109 PRO.
The bass on the Audio 109 PRO is a sleeping giant. Though normally reserved and complimentary to the rest of the mix, they can pack a car-speaker rumble when a mix really demands it. Even on tracks where the low end of the frequency spectrum plays more of a supporting role, subs maintain a lush, full presence and retain detailed energy. The rumble present in the truly deep frequencies, say sub 80 Hz, are balanced at just the right levels to give the listener room to hear the growl in the upper lows. This thoughtful low end balance gave electric basses a highly detailed character that all too often gets reduced to a lossy, imprecise sine-y sound on other headphones.
Naturalness and accuracy is the 109 PRO’s modus operandi when it comes to the center of the frequency spectrum. The main parts of mixes are expressed honestly in high fidelity, with a crispy brightness that starts ramping in the high-mids into the highs. Harmonic qualities have pristine presence without any detectable bleeding or distortion. The fundamental frequencies of vocalists sit cleanly in perfect balance with their overtones, separate and not obscured by competing mid range parts such as guitars and keyboards.
By chance, I’ve saved the best for last. The 109 PRO proves its audiophile-level quality with its high frequency expression, which comes across in energetic and granular detail. These meet a very special criteria of being emphatically loud in the highs without a shred of harshness. Snares and hi-hats had a sandy sizzle, while strummed acoustic guitars had a refreshingly bright rattle and emphasis on their percussive transient. Women’s vocals had an extra airy quality that blended beautifully with the aforementioned acoustic guitar timbre. Sibilants came through in highly intimate, condenser mic-level detail, with every clicky “ka” and wet “ts” felt as if the singer’s lips were just inches from your ear. I found myself drawn to Top 40 music, as the 109 PRO added an extra glossy, Barbie-doll sheen to the already-pristine pop production of artists like Doja Cat, and brought out the best of every little breath and reverb in Lana Del Ray’s vocals on Blue Banisters.
Though I expect the best from Meze, I’m nonetheless blown away with what they accomplished with the 109 PRO. Many headphones that shall remain unnamed put too much weight on hedonistic levels of face melting bass. Meze continues to set their own quality standards by instead focusing on overall balance and tasteful brightness, which I find harder to pull off and all-the-more impressive. Though a $799 price tag may rightfully seem intimidating for a lot of curious readers and listeners, I somewhat begrudgingly admit that it is an actual bargain as they come packed with all the premium Meze fixings that could only-up-until-now be found in headphones three times the price.