Introduction to the Meze 109 Pro review
A couple of weeks ago, after a Meze Liric review, I thought “Ok, how many times will I write about Meze in such a short period of time? That’s enough reviews of their gear for this year”, but it was November 2022 and DHL had some problems with delivery and now it’s 2023 and another review of Meze headphones – Meze 109 Pro.
Let’s start with the formalities because I think if you’re considering spending almost $800 for a headphone then you will probably know some popular brands like Sony, Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, HiFiman, or finally the manufacturer of the reviewed headphone – Meze, but for those of you who are just beginners in the hobby, let me write something about the company.
Meze Audio is a Romanian audio equipment manufacturer that has made a name for itself with its premium audio products. The company has been consistently delivering high-quality audio devices since it was founded in 2010, and its headphones and earphones are highly regarded by audiophiles all over the world. Meze’s first headphone, the Meze 99 Classic, was released in 2015 and quickly gained popularity among audiophiles who appreciated its powerful bass. The company later joined the summit-fi club with the Empyrean, an innovative and highly sought-after headphone.
The Elite – the natural successor of the Empyrean’s legacy, followed becoming one of the best High-End headphones available. Now, Meze has introduced the Meze 109 Pro, its latest offering. The over-ear headphones feature a sleek and modern design that is sure to appeal to audiophiles who value both form and function.
Meze 109 Pro is another milestone in the company’s history, that’s because of the 50mm dynamic driver. It’s the first driver fully designed and manufactured by Meze in-house. This achievement is significant for Meze Audio, as it highlights the company’s dedication to innovation and quality.
To achieve their acoustic goals for the 109 PRO, Meze Audio engineers focused on materials research for each component of the driver. They developed a Dual-Composite Diaphragm, which combines Beryllium-coated polymer and cellulose-carbon fiber composite to find the perfect balance between mass and stiffness. This diaphragm is encased in a CNC-machined, high-precision aluminum frame for exceptional reliability.
The reviewed Meze 109 PRO headphones with an impedance of 40 ohms and high sensitivity of 112 dB per 1 milliwatt are really easy to drive with almost any amplifier. This means that they can be used with almost any device that has a headphone output without the need for a dedicated headphone amplifier. However, with a better source, the 109 PRO headphones can achieve even greater resolution and soundstage, allowing the listener to fully appreciate the headphones’ capabilities.
The unboxing experience of Meze products is always a pleasure and fun and in the case of Meze 109 Pro nothing changed. The headphone arrives in sleek-looking black cardboard, padded with foam, so you don’t have to worry if your headphone will survive the journey with a delivery service and arrive at your house in one piece.
Inside the cardboard, you will find an accessory set that is pretty similar to the one you will find in the Meze Liric package – a hard EVA pouch, a 6.3mm jack adapter, and two 3.5 mm terminated cables – one shorter which is about 1.5 meters long and the other, longer one that is about 3 meters long. When compared to Liric there is missing an airplane adapter.
The hard EVA pouch is a great addition to the package, as it provides a safe place to store the headphone when not in use, ensuring that it remains protected from any accidental damage. The two cables that come with the package are of high quality and offer flexibility in terms of usage, depending on the length you need. The absence of an airplane adapter may not be a big deal for most users, as the Meze 109 Pro is an open-back headphone designed primarily for use in quiet environments. Overall, the accessory set that comes with the package is well thought out and practical, adding value to an already exceptional product.
Design, Build Quality and Comfort
This part of my reviews, when I’m writing about Meze products, is getting really boring, that’s because the design and build quality of them are just superb. All parts are fully replaceable, so if something breaks you don’t have to throw the headphone into the rubbish, you just can call Meze and they will send you the necessary parts, take a screwdriver and fix them in a moment. The biggest drawback of the headphone is probably the cable sockets, Meze repeated the issue known from their Meze 99. On one hand, it’s a very popular 3.5-millimeter jack socket but unfortunately, it’s nested very deep inside the earcup, so none of my aftermarket cables can fit in, and probably this will apply to most 3.5mm jack plugs available in the market.
When writing about build quality I need to mention that one of the most striking features of the reviewed Meze 109 PRO headphones is their premium materials. The ear cups are made of black walnut wood, while the headband is crafted from leather and metal. The leather band provides a comfortable and secure fit, even during extended listening sessions.
So as I already mentioned the comfort while listening with Meze 109 Pro is good. The clamping force is perfect – not too tight so you won’t feel like your head is being crushed, but also not too loose so the headphones won’t fall from your head. Another great thing is the material that the ear pads are made of. The velour is soft and breathable, providing a comfortable listening experience during long use even in a warm environment.
Regarding comfort, I need to mention one of the key features of the Romanian headphone, which is their low weight, coming in at just 375 grams. This makes them an excellent choice for extended listening sessions, as they do not exert undue pressure on the head and ears. This is particularly important for users who enjoy lengthy listening sessions, as it allows them to fully immerse themselves in their music without any discomfort.
Sound of Meze 109 Pro
One of the most significant advantages of open-back headphones is that they provide a more natural and spacious sound. The Meze 109 Pro is no exception, with its open-back design offering a wide and immersive soundstage. The headphone features good, old-school dynamic drivers that deliver a detailed and accurate sound with fine clarity and resolution.
Let’s start with the bass since it’s the major part of the reviewed Meze 109 Pro’s sound characteristics. It has a powerful, fast, and very well-controlled punch in the mid-bass. The bass guitar line in Les mots d’amour sounds juicy and very engaging. The only issue I hear is that I wish the headphone reproduced some more sub-bass. When listening to Vertigo Valley by French 79 I feel a lack of well-defined contour, but don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bad I could hardly listen to the music. I just compared them head-to-head with other headphones that performed better, but at the same time, they cost much more. When regarding price to performance ratio, then the 109 Pro’s bass response is pretty impressive.
When listening to the Invincible movie score, I got some goosebumps on my back. Maybe the bass doesn’t have as much wow factor as the one reproduced by e.g. Denon AH-D7200, but it’s tremendous and airy – I felt like I was listening to the song in a big concert hall, not with mid-range headphones. About the texture of the sound, you will probably read also in the following paragraphs, but damn, Meze engineers did a great job with it and the bass line in Killing In the Name Rage Against the Machine has an awesome beefy, thick texture.
The midrange of the reviewed Meze 109 Pro headphones is warm and full-bodied, providing excellent instrument tonality and a natural sound. The result is a rich and detailed midrange that brings out a lot in vocal performances and acoustic instruments. While listening to Mettavolution by Rodrigo Y Gabriela I felt warmth like I was sitting under a blanket by the fireplace. Nonetheless, it’s the least attention-grabbing part of the reproduced frequency range, but it still has a Meze legacy, thanks to its tuning the 109 Pro provides an engaging and immersive listening experience.
Yet again I’ve used many headphones that knocked me down on my knees, but the reviewed headphones have that something, which motivates me to keep listening to them. I constantly discover some nuances I haven’t noticed even while listening to the songs with way more expensive headphones. As I have already pointed out, the reproduction of vocals is another big strength of Meze 109 Pro. Mat Berninger’s baritone in Demons by The National has hypnotizing, warm timbre with a great texture, so I can hear in his voice each dose of alcohol he has drunk in his life.
To be honest, when I heard about the Meze 109 Pro for the first time, I thought that there will be another open-back Meze headphone that has pretty relaxed top octaves, but after some burning-in, I need to admit, I was wrong. The treble is pretty interesting, lower parts of this frequency range are natural with a slight boost at the top end. This causes the treble to sound very sparkly and energetic but it’s still not too tiring even after extended listening sessions.
While listening to Magalehna by Sergio Mendes I was focusing on the sound of the triangle for most of the song because it was powerful enough to get through vocals and drums, but at the same time, it didn’t drill my ears in an unpleasant way, just perfectly balanced between sparkle and smoothness, without any harshness or sibilance that can often be present in other headphones.
Another great example of top-end demanding songs is Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, it’s over 26 minutes of… Tubular bells sound, to hear all the sounds you need headphones with a great resolution and very well control of the treble, but at the same time, the highest frequencies can’t be too sharp, because after that long exposition, the ears can start bleeding. After listening to it with reviewed Meze 109 pro I want to listen to it more and more because it’s so fresh, and I don’t feel any fatigue caused by the treble.
And here we are coming to the last part of the sound description in this review – the soundstage. It’s quite spacious, with a really good separation of sound sources. Sometimes the separation was so good that when playing Hogwarts Legacy I was wondering if my headphone wasn’t broken, but then I was moving the camera, and the “broken” side was magically fixed and the working one “broke”.
I didn’t test them in any competitive FPS games, but I think they will perform amazingly. Nonetheless, if you’re a gamer or not, you will definitely appreciate the soundstage. Its depth and width are pretty impressive, and thanks to it you don’t feel that the sound comes from inside your head but it surrounds you. It’s almost like listening to stereo speakers.
As I previously mentioned, the separation of sound sources is on a great level, but if you haven’t played Hogwarts Legacy yet, let me base my description on a song. At the beginning of the song Pools by Glass Animals, there are some animal sounds surrounding the listener, and damn, I felt like I was in the jungle. The animals were quite far from me but I could easily localize each one.
HiFiMan Ananda is a planar-magnetic, open-back headphone made in China with a recommended price of $999. Since its release in 2018, they have been available with many discounts, and I think it’s possible to get them even cheaper than the Meze 109 Pro. I would say that we should start with the build quality comparison, but ugh… HiFiMan is a company that I can write many great words about, but the build quality of their products isn’t their strength. I would say the build quality of 109 Pro is superb as other Meze products, while the build quality of Ananda is (just is) as other HiFiMan products. Here the Romanian product easily wins.
But the build quality isn’t the reason people buy HiFiMan, it’s their sound quality and in this term, both headphones are on a pretty similar level. The soundstage of Ananda is slightly smaller and I feel like I’m slightly below everything that happens, while the vertical extension of the soundstage in 109 Pro is slightly flatter. The treble is slightly more detailed when reproduced by the Meze headphone, HiFiMan sounds like it from behind a blanket, it’s not a serious issue, but it’s definitely worth mentioning.
The midrange is on the other hand the biggest strength of Ananda, the vocals have a better texture, and it’s a bit more powerful. If you’re looking for a headphone for acoustic music, then probably Hifiman will be a better option, because of how engaging their midrange is. Last, but not least in this comparison – the bass, here I would say Meze 109 pro are yet again taking the lead. The Bass of HiFiMan is typical for most planar-magnetic headphones, very well controlled, and fast, but it lacks power, especially in the lowest audible frequencies. While the bass of the Romanian headphone is strong, but yet very well controlled.
Shortly speaking if you’re looking for a W-shaped, dynamic sound in great packaging you should go for Meze 109 Pro, but when you want a powerful midrange with better texture and you don’t really care about the build quality then HiFiMan may be a better option.
Audeze LCD-X is an open-back headphone priced at $1199. Its heart is a planar-magnetic driver. It was designed as a reference headphone perfect for studio applications but audiophiles can find it a great device as well. The build quality is very good in both headphones, you barely can find any plastic parts, hinge housings are the only ones in LCD-X, while at 109 Pro I couldn’t find anything, only metal, wood, and leather.
I would say you can easily feel the build quality of the Audeze headphones, so unless you have an F1 driver’s neck or listen only while lying, the weight of the LCD-X affects the comfort and to be honest I couldn’t handle long listening sessions with it. On the other hand, the comfort while listening with Meze 109 pro is as great as any other Meze product – simply amazing.
The power requirement of the power is similar as well, they aren’t very demanding, but of course, these aren’t headphones that will sound good powered with an apple dongle lightning jack.
Now let’s move to the sound comparison – directly to the soundstage. The imaging and separation provided by Audeze headphones are amazing, while Meze 109 Pro does it almost as well, but at the same time, it provides way more space. The treble and details are slightly better reproduced by the American headphone – Audeze provides a bit better resolution, and I would say here you can hear the price difference, $400 is pretty much and I wouldn’t expect Meze will win in all categories.
The midrange is also slightly better, it sounds more natural but Meze 109 Pro is still reproducing it very well. Finally the bass – well, in this term LCD-X is easily beating most headphones in its price range, but the cheaper Meze is also a great performer. Maybe the slam and texture aren’t as great as provided by a planar-magnetic opponent, but it’s still good, and especially when powered with tube amplifiers, Meze 109 pro can show a lot.
To sum up this comparison, If I had extra 400 US Dollars and the resolution that I want to gain muscles in my neck, I would consider Audeze LCD-X but when considering value for money and you’re fine to train your neck at the gym, not while listening to music, then I would say Meze 109 Pro wins.
Meze 109 Pro review – summary
The Meze 109 Pro is an excellent open-back headphone with a natural and spacious sound that is worth its price. Its slightly warmer sound signature makes it ideal for people who prefer such headphones.
Low impedance and high sensitivity make it easy to drive with almost any amplifier, but it scales very well with a better source. The headphone is also highly comfortable, thanks to its optimal clamping force and the design of ear pads. The Meze 109 Pro is expected to be a strong contender for the Ear Fidelity best headphone of the year award in 2023.
Overall, the Meze 109 Pro is a great option for people looking for high-quality open-back headphones that offer natural, spacious sound and deliver an exceptional listening experience without breaking the bank.
Big thanks to Meze Audio for providing us with the 109 Pro for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. Meze Audio hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.