Meze Liric: the best closed-back headphones?

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After conquering the hearts of music lovers with the Meze 99 Classic in 2016 and the Meze 99 Neo in 2017, then that of audiophiles in 2019 and 2021 with the Meze Empyrean and Meze Empyrean Elite, the Romanian manufacturer has decided to use isodynamic drivers in a pair of closed-back headphones for the first time: the Meze Liric. A subtle blend of the Empyrean’s founding elements and new exclusive technologies such as the Phase-X System, the Meze Liric headphones promise a sound that is as close as possible to that of open-back headphones. An ambitious challenge that could well revolutionize headphone use.

Meze’s first closed-back isodynamic model, the Meze Liric promises to revolutionize closed-back headphone sound.

Meze Liric: packaging & accessories

The Meze Liric headphones come in elegant packaging with a second box inside that opens like a chocolate box. Inside, the Meze Lirics are inside their hard carrying case whose interior is covered with a suede-like fabric for softness and protection. An imitation leather pouch holds the accessories, which consist of two 3.5mm mini-jack cables (1.5m long and 3m long), a mini-jack to 6.5mm jack adapter and an airplane adapter.

The Meze Liric headphones come with a rigid carrying case, a mini-jack to 6.5mm jack adapter, an airplane adapter and two 3.5mm mini-jack cables (1.5m and 3m).

Meze Liric: presentation

Design 

While being more understated than the Meze Empyrean, the Meze Liric headphones have a luxurious and refined look that makes a strong first impression. Luxury that is embodied through the choice of materials, including genuine leather on the headband. This is combined with a solid aluminum frame, giving the headphones an additional touch of elegance, but also great robustness.

Meze Liric structure
The Meze Liric headphones feature an aluminum and magnesium structure to maximize robustness and resistance. 

The leather covered magnesium ear cups can be moved up and down as they are mounted on magnesium rods. In the center of this assembly is the mechanism for adjusting the height of the earpieces. The adjustment of the ear cups is done by forcing very slightly, and once you find the right position, it always remains in place, even after repeated use.

Thanks to the pivot system, the height of the ear cups is maintained so it doesn’t have to be adjusted with each use.

The Meze Liric headphones have a closed-back, over-ear design. Their relatively large ear cups sit delicately around the ears. They have a soft and comfortable covering, as well as rather generous memory foam padding that guarantees pressure-free and gentle wear. The passive isolation is impressive and manages to block out the majority of ambient noise. As soon as we began listening to music in the living room, we could no longer hear the discussions around us and outside, only the loudest noises were perceptible without being distracting.

The Meze Liric headphones’ thick memory foam padding ensures great comfort, allowing you to listen for longer without any unwanted pressure or warmth.

The comfort of the Meze Liric headphones is also evident in the headband, which features several symmetrically placed “+” shaped pads to maximize airflow and reduce heat build-up. This very wide headband manages to effectively distribute the 391g of the headphones, which is quite heavy for a closed-back pair, across the head. The Meze Liric successfully manage to overcome this weight with the help of their various paddings and their shape which ensures good mass distribution. These headphones are always comfortable and pleasant to wear.

The headband features “+” shaped pads to evenly distribute the weight of the Meze Liric headphones while ensuring good air circulation.

Isodynamic drivers

Romanian manufacturer Meze has built its reputation and become renowned in the hi-fi world thanks to its isodynamic drivers. The Meze Liric are no exception, opting for MZ4 drivers designed with the specialist Rinaro, who also contributed to the development of the acoustic design for the high-end Meze Empyrean and Meze Empyrean Elite headphones. As a result, there are many similarities, notably an oval shape so that the drivers better fit the ear cups of the Meze Liric headphones. This design extends the surface area of the diaphragm, for a total emissive surface of 3507mm². This is 25% less than the Meze Empyreans’ 4650mm², but is still much larger than the majority of competing closed-back headphones.

The Meze Liric headphones feature 3507mm² drivers that take up the whole of the ear cups.

Isodynamic technology, also known as planar magnetic or orthodynamic technology, is found exclusively in the high-end headphones of major hi-fi manufacturers such as HiFiMAN, Audeze and Fostex. It consists in using an extremely thin and very light diaphragm containing a component sensitive to magnetic impulses. It is this component that differs in the Meze Lirics’ 0.08g diaphragm. While standard isodynamic transducers use a single constant coil, each diaphragm of the Meze Liric uses two coils: a spiral coil and a switchback coil.

The Meze Liric headphones’ isodynamic diaphragm is placed in between two magnetic arrays with neodymium magnets to ensure perfectly controlled movements.

This design, which has proven successful in the Meze Empyrean, allows sound to be focused more effectively around the natural shape of the ear. This is because the switchback coil, which is more effective at reproducing low frequencies, is placed in the upper part of the transducer. The spiral coil is more precise for the midrange and highs and is positioned at the bottom of the diaphragm, directly in front of the ear canal for a more direct diffusion of the sound waves. This layout eliminates reflection and delay, for a more accurate reproduction of the entire audio spectrum. Finally, two neodymium magnet arrays with a power of 0.3 Tesla are responsible for producing a strong electromagnetic field to ensure the proper movement of the diaphragm.

Meze Liric driver diagram
Using a diaphragm with two coils allows the Meze Liric headphones’ drivers to provide a more precise distribution of sound waves towards the ear canal.

Phase-X System

The use of transducers very similar to those of the Empyrean does not guarantee an identical musical reproduction, especially with a closed-back model. So, to get as close as possible to the sound offered by its open-back headphones, Meze has developed the Phase-X System technology. The latter promises to provide a wider soundstage and better transient reproduction, while limiting the phase distortion and resonance usually found in closed-back headphones. To get as close as possible to open-backed headphones, the Meze Liric also features Ear pad Air Flow (EAF) technology, which uses vents to redirect the rear wave away from the ear pads. With this design, the MZ4 drivers operate in an extended acoustic chamber that takes advantage of both the internal space of the ear cups, as well as that of the ear pads. This design reduces the amount of space in the rear acoustic chamber so that the Meze Liric remains compact and truly portable, without compromising acoustic performance. Lastly, a precisely adjusted vent on the back of each shell reduces sound pressure for a more comfortable listening experience.

Meze Liric vent
The ear cups of the Meze Liric headphones feature a vent to extend the acoustic volume and broaden the soundstage, but also to reduce sound pressure for more comfort.

Double mini-jack cable

Thanks to their large isodynamic drivers, the Meze Empyrean headphones have a wide frequency response ranging from 4Hz to 92kHz. They have a high sensitivity of 100 dB for an impedance of 100 ohms, allowing them to be connected to a smartphone, even though they will offer the best musical performance when connected to a DAP or headphone amplifier. To connect to the latter, the Meze Liric headphones come with two 2.5mm mini-jack to 3.5mm mini-jack cables. The first one is 3 meters long and makes it easy to use the headphones with a remote source, while the second measures 1.5m and is ideal for portable use. To adapt to all sources, a balanced cable would have been appreciated. That said, it is possible to opt for an optional cable such as the Meze Furukawa PCUHD 2.5mm jack, Meze Furukawa PCUHD 4.4mm jack or Meze Furukawa PCUHD XLR.

The Meze Liric headphones come with two mini-jack cables of different lengths to make them easy to use with a remote source at home or with a DAP outside.

Meze Liric: key specifications

  • 92mm x 63mm MZ4 isodynamic transducers
  • Closed-back over-ear headphones
  • Steel and aluminum structure
  • Phase-X System and Ear pad Air Flow (EAF) technologies
  • Frequency response: 4Hz to 92kHz
  • 1x 1.5 meter long 3.5mm mini-jack cable
  • 1x 3 meter long 3.5mm mini-jack cable
  • Weight: 391g

Meze Liric: listening conditions

We used the Meze Liric headphones at home with the Shanling EM5 Streaming Music Center and Astell&Kern Acro CA1000 headphone amplifiers, then on the go with the Astell&Kern A&norma SR25 MKII and FiiO M17 DAPs. We listened to DSD and 24-bit/192kHz files stored locally, as well as Hi-Res music streamed via Qobuz.

The combination of the Meze Liric headphones with the FiiO M17 DAP is a perfect solution for on-the-go use.

Meze Liric: listening impressions

With the Meze Liric headphones, we enjoyed the particularly transparent and airy musical reproduction that made the Meze Empyreans and Meze Empyrean Elites so successful. Without being quite as spacious, the soundstage extended well beyond what is expected for a closed-back model. The feeling of space was undeniable and immersed us in a vast and highly precise sonic environment. Meze’s expertise in the reproduction of details was indisputable and each tiny piece of information stood out so clearly that they seemed to be laser-cut and just as precisely positioned. The sound was clear, precise and always well defined.

To fully demonstrate what they are capable of, the Meze Liric headphones deserve to be paired with a high-quality source like the Astell&Kern Acro CA1000 headphone amplifier with which they provide a soundstage that expands far beyond what is expected for a closed-back model.

The listening experience was always pure and transparent with the Meze Liric headphones. The upper mids and highs revealed the opulence of these headphones, but also their total control. With every frequency range, at any volume and in all situations, the Meze Lirics provided a natural and detailed sound without any harshness or sibilance whatsoever. The highs were very accurate and soared with agility and clarity. We didn’t experience any fatigue, even after long listening sessions at high volume.

Like Meze’s other isodynamic headphones, the Meze Lirics accurately reproduced tones and nuances. They offered a balance that honored the songs, with a consistent reproduction and a deep respect for the work of artists and producers. They played each note with complete fidelity and with an undeniable naturalness. The lows were well structured and were pretty deep, without being excessive. The Meze Lirics never lost their naturalness, which could be found throughout the entire spectrum, with rich, sumptuous and abundant mids. The delicate highs seemed to caress our ears with certain notes: a true delight that we never grew tired of.

The isodynamic drivers of the Meze Liric headphones ensured accurate timbres.

Meze Liric: compared to…

Meze Empyrean: sold for €2,999, the Meze Empyrean headphones are mainly designed to be used at home. Their open-back design lets through some background sound, and as a result offers a less immersive listening experience than the Meze Lirics. The latter provides better isolation, both internal and external. At home and in quiet environments, the Meze Empyreans’ open design has the advantage of delivering a wider soundstage, despite the Meze Lircis’ great performance in this respect. Other than that, the sound signature and performance of these headphones are very similar. However, the Meze Lirics have a slightly more pronounced bass reproduction, due to their closed-back design. 

The Meze Empyrean headphones provide a wider soundstage thanks to their open-back design, at the expense of good isolation.

Focal Stellia: Available for €2,999, the Focal Stellia headphones are the French manufacturer’s luxury portable headphones. This closed-back model features pure Beryllium cone drivers. Thanks to the latter, the Focal Stellias are even more energetic, more generous in the lows and clearer, but can’t match the spacious soundstage delivered by the Meze Lirics. 

Meze Liric: who are they for?

The Meze Liric headphones are designed for discerning users looking for closed-back headphones that make no concessions on sound performance. Ideally suited for outdoor listening, where they ensure that the listener is isolated from noisy environments, these Meze headphones are also suitable for use at home, accompanied by a desktop DAP or headphone amplifier like the Shanling EM5 Streaming Music Center or Astell&Kern Acro CA1000, with which they allow you to freely enjoy your music without disturbing the rest of the household.

The Meze Liric headphones are designed for discerning users looking for closed-back headphones that make no concessions on sound performance.

Meze Liric: conclusion

The Meze Liric headphones arrived on the market with the goal of being the first model capable of competing with the breadth and spaciousness of open-back headphones. While they aren’t quite there yet, they do come close to being one of the most serious alternatives to date. They ensure that the listener is effectively isolated from the rest of their environment and immersed in a vast and sumptuous soundstage. Naturalness is the key word for these headphones, whose unfailing balance ensures a perfect reproduction of every nuance. They offer their best performance when paired with a quality source, such as the FiiO M17.

We liked:

  • The luxurious design
  • The comfort
  • The spacious and ambitious soundstage
  • The spectral balance
  • The high level of transparency

We would have liked:

  • For a balanced cable to have been included

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