Another product from a well-known company in the audiophile world but let me introduce Meze to some of you, who have never heard of it. The Romanian company was founded in 2011 by industrial designer Antonio Meze.
Why am I mentioning who was the founder? Because when you take any of their product into your hands, look at them and play with them, you will know that behind each of Meze’s headphones stands a big passion to design. For example, Elite in The Battle of The Flagships just left behind other competitors in terms of the build quality and comfort, or Empyrean which looks damn amazing. Meze Advar isn’t an exception in this term, but let me write about it later.
Antonio in one of the interviews said that he wanted to make headphones you look at and want to put on your head. I think that he did it, each of his company’s products just shouts to me, “USE US!!!”, and damn, I can’t resist it. When I had an opportunity to listen to headphones from the Battle of the Flagships, I spent most of the time with Meze Elite on my head. It’s such a good-looking, well-built, and amazingly comfortable headphone.
Many people on the internet accuse Meze of making, gently speaking, moderately good audio gear, but I think it’s worth mentioning that this refers to technical aspects of the sound, because as I mentioned above only an insane person would deny that the build quality is just top notch. Well, that’s true, when we focus only on measurements, Meze may be considered as „slightly” overpriced. But unfortunately, I’m not a measuring microphone, I’m just a human who has been in the audio hobby for a couple of years, and during that time I had an opportunity to listen to music with a lot of different gear.
What I’ve learned during thousands of hours of listening, but also discussions about the gear is that there is no and there will never be any perfect pair of headphones for everyone. We hear sounds slightly different (some people even more than slightly), and each of us has a different taste. That’s why the audio gear market is so differentiated. Some time ago I had the opportunity to listen to the greatest headphones in the world, like Susvara, Final D8000 Pro, or Audeze LCD-X 2020. Each of these headphones can be considered as the definition of the state of the art and I can’t argue, from the technical aspect they are great, but most of the time I used to listen to suboptimal Meze Elite. You can call me Jeremy Clarkson of the audio gear, I don’t mind. Measurements can’t catch emotions, or actually, they can, but from the technical perspective, it’s considered as a flaw, noise, or distortion.
That’s why I repeat this like a mantra, it doesn’t matter if measurements and reviews are objective or subjective. At the end of the day, it’s your music, your ears, and your taste. I hope my review will be helpful for people considering spending their hard-earned money, but I don’t consider myself a guru, so if you want to buy headphones visit a shop where you will be able to test them, or at least order them from a place where you can return them.
I hope that you’re still awake after that lengthy intro, so now let’s dive into the review of the Meze Advar.
If you have read our review of Meze Elite, Empyrean, 99 Classics, or Rai Solo you will know what to expect during the unboxing, yes Meze spoils their customers. Advar arrives in a medium-sized (as for earphones), black box with a golden rosetta symbol on top. The cardboard is very durable so you don’t have to worry about the contents of it, even if your local delivery company uses waste compactors instead of normal delivery vans.
So now you know how the package is secured, but now let me describe what’s inside. It’s neat, nothing fancy, but I wish every manufacturer has added 5 pairs of Final type-e tips in different sizes, a hard case pouch, MMCX to 3.5mm cable (but about it later), a cleaning tool, and an MMCX removal tool. The pouch is great, looks very premium thanks to the leather-like finish, contains everything you would need, and protects earphones well.
So now it’s a moment for cable… The cable provided in the bundle is fine, but only fine, it’s the same as the one from the Meze Rai Penta bundle. It doesn’t cause microphonics, and it’s pretty flexible, but in this price range, I wish I could utilize my balanced amps, unfortunately, balanced cable terminated with 4.4mm Pentaconn made by Meze costs an additional $149. That flaw isn’t big and the solution would be easy, but maybe in the future, it will be possible to pick the cable during ordering.
Design, Build and Comfort
As I mentioned before, Meze products are very well built and Advar is another example of this. Solid stainless steel, with Black Chrome plating, makes the earphone look like jewelry. The fit of all elements is great and when removing the cable I’m not afraid that I will remove it with a socket.
The comfort is very subjective, I would say it’s even more subjective than the sound signature expectations. But in my case, the Advar is one of the best fitting IEMs in my collection, only Craft Ears 4 CIEM fits better, but well… I would be very surprised if universal earphones fit better than the ones printed from my ear canal impression.
The last thing I wanted to mention in this part is the sound isolation, which is pretty good. Yet again it’s not the level of CIEMs, but the isolation was good enough to listen to music with comfortable loudness in the open-space office. On the plane, it wouldn’t be that comfortable, but many IEMs with ANC provide worse isolation.
Here I don’t have too much to write, just a good old-school solid stainless-steel chassis and a single dynamic driver with a diameter of 10.2 mm, for imperial unit users, that’s between 0 and 1 inch (I hope this will help you). The impedance at about 31 ohms and SPL of 111db/mW can suggest that they are easy to drive and that hypothesis is true. Even with an Apple Lightning dongle, the IEM sounds good, not great but definitely on an acceptable level.
Now let’s move to the most important part – the sound. Meze promises that the IEM has natural and powerful sound but also it’s very detailed as well. You know what? Yes, that’s true again, Meze Advar delivers warm, but not overwhelmed by bass sound, details in the treble are exposed as well as the bottom end. I think that it’s a perfect all-rounder IEM for fans of warm and smooth sound.
The first thing I would like to write about is the bass. I wouldn’t say that it’s the star of the show, but it makes the earphones special. Easiest to describe its importance will be an analogy of the bands, Curt Cobain for Nirvana was the spirit, and you wouldn’t notice if any other band members would change, but on the other hand Mick Jagger is, of course, the frontman of the Rolling Stones, but without Charlie Watts, the band will never be the same. In the sound signature of Meze Advar, the relationship between specific parts of the frequency range is similar to the Rolling Stones band relationships. The bass is the frontman, but the midrange and the treble are also very important. The Bad Guy by Billie Elish makes my head shake, but not too much, so I can listen to the whole album and my brain doesn’t become whipped cream.
Despite the V-shaped signature, the midrange is still very tangible and present. The lower midrange and upper bass are slightly amplified, which makes classical guitar sound very powerful. While listening to Tamacun by Rodrigo y Gabriela I felt the impact of each string hit on my back. But it’s also quite smooth, for me the texture of the midrange isn’t the strongest part of Meze Advar. I’m a fan of texture coarse as pumice stone, so the midrange reproduced by this IEM isn’t my type, because it’s very smooth. But I totally understand that audio is a highly subjective matter. That’s why I know that many of you won’t agree with me and you will tell me that it’s the best way to reproduce the sound. It also can be a very good thing when listening to music is only a background during different activities.
The treble is relaxed yet very detailed. Maybe it’s not that relaxed that it will mask the production flaws in Californication by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but it also doesn’t add too much. Well-produced pieces with a lot of treble, like Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield don’t cause me to remove glass crumbs from my ear canal after listening to it with Meze Advar. Hi-hats in Hold the Line by Toto sounds great, again it’s not too aggressive but perfectly audible. Their sound flows but the separation of each hit is also very good. This tuning of the treble makes the Advar very nice and pleasant to listen to but doesn’t sacrifice the details and clarity.
Now it’s time to focus on the soundstage, which is very impressive. I didn’t expect that wide and deep soundstage reproduced by IEM in this price range. Many full-sized open-back headphones don’t reproduce it that well. My benchmark while reviewing the soundstage is To Be by Your Side by Nick Cave – the soundtrack from Winged Migrations. If I feel like flying with the ducks from the movie, then the soundstage is acceptable. With Advar I definitely feel it, and I feel a lot of space to fly.
Due to the size of the soundstage, the positioning of the virtual sound sources isn’t the greatest, but it’s good enough. While listening to Yoshi Horikawa’s Letter, I could predict the position of the pencil, but for playing games on a competitive level, where positioning of the opponent is crucial, there are better options available.
These two – Meze Advar and Campfire Audio Vega 2020 are very equal in comparison. Both can be bought for $699, both are single dynamic driver IEMs, both arrive with final e-type tips in the package (campfire adds also foam tips, but I’ve never used it, because of the signature of Vega), and finally both stay on the warm side of the sound.
The craftsmanship is on a similar level, the body of both earphones is made of metal and each of them feels pretty solid, but when thinking about the build quality I can’t forget about the design. Thanks to a very clever project, the connection of the body and faceplate aren’t as conspicuous as in Campfire Audio IEM, and overall it feels slightly more durable.
The comfort of both earphones is pretty decent, but the Vega applies deeper and still stays out of my ears, so after longer listening sessions it sometimes causes discomfort, while in Meze I can keep listening for hours. The only problem with Romanian IEM is that I want to keep my hearing in good condition, so I need to set a reminder to take a break from listening and give a rest to my ears. That’s why for me in that category an obvious winner is Meze Advar.
When it’s about the sound, I mentioned that both IEMs have a warm signature, but they are pretty different, Vega 2020 can be put to Sevres as a model for the bass, it’s a bass-head’s wet dream. I really like listening to some electronic music with them, but that’s like one album and I’m done, more is exhausting for me. Meze Advar is a warm-sounding earphone, but still very universal, the electronics sound as good as rock, or vocal-based music, and its signature is very pleasant even after hours of listening.
Craft Ears is a company from Poland and their products were reviewed on this portal. Four is their mid-range product equipped with four (guess the origin of the model’s name) balanced armatures and because of its fit, that’s my main pick for planes, trains, and buses. Comparing these two earphones in terms of build quality and fit doesn’t really make sense, because while Meze Advar is mass-produced IEM, CE4 is made (to be precise printed) to order so the design and shape of the earphone can be fully customized. That’s why let’s skip this part and move forward to the sound.
The bass reproduced by Craft Ears is definitely faster, but let’s be honest, Four’s bass is one of the fastest basses I’ve ever heard. I’m a big fan of it, but I know that many of you may like it when it lasts longer and is more natural. The midrange is pretty similar, CE has a slightly better texture, while the Advar sounds more natural again. And the treble here is the biggest difference. Four is sharper, sometimes it’s even too sharp and unpleasant, while Meze still has a lot of details, but not too much, that can be advantageous over the Polish CIEM. The soundstage is very impressive in both earphones, but the Advar is definitely wider but slightly shallower.
Overall, the Meze Advar is a very musical IEM. If you’re looking for one earphone to rule them all, you should consider picking one. Great soundstage, warm, smooth, and very detailed sound. I just can’t wait until autumn comes – October foggy morning far from civilization, my favorite coffee brewed in Chemex and some indie folk music played with Meze Advar. But back to reality, I highly recommend this IEM.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Craft Ears 4 CIEM, Campfire Audio Vega 2020, Bqeyz Autumn, Meze Liric, HiFiMan Ananda
- Sources– JDS el-dac II + SMSL SP200, SMSL SU-9 + Topping A90, Fiio M11 Pro, MacBook Pro 14, iPhone 13 pro with Apple Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter
Disclaimer: Big thanks to Meze for providing the Advar for this review. This review wasn’t influenced by anyone, all of the above is my subjective, honest opinion.