If you’re reading our reviews, you definitely know a company called Meze and its products. Today I would like to write about their TOTL closed-backs – Liric. But let me remind you of their story. The brand was founded in 2011 but its first headphone, the Meze 99 Classics was released in 2015. The launch was followed by a very successful Indiegogo campaign. What’s more interesting now, in almost the last quarter of 2022 the 99’s is still considered a good and worth recommending headphones.
Almost 8 years have passed since 2015, in the meantime, in 2018 Meze released Empyrean, which maybe wasn’t considered as a best sounding flagship headphone, but damn, the build quality just crushed any other flagships. After three years, in 2021 they released another open-back flagship – Elite, which I would call a very improved Empyrean MK2, which has similar technology, but is more expensive. But the closed-back lineup was slightly forgotten, in 2017 Meze has released the 99 NEO, but it’s a cheaper version of the 99 classic with plastic ear cups instead of wooden ones. But a few months after Elite launch, it was another release from Meze, their flagship closed-back portable headphone – the Liric. The reviewed headphones inherit the technical legacy of Empyrean and Elite, but in a more transportable-friendly body.
When the box from Meze arrived to me, I just took a peek inside the “outer” cardboard, inside was a simple box, if I would see any other headphones packed in that kind of packaging, I would say that it was fine, but damn, it’s Meze, I expected much more, but whatever, I got back to my work and let the box wait till the evening.
Later on, I opened the box, and at that moment I thought no Kamil, no this was so not right. Inside that box was another box and the inner box looked much more premium. It’s made of very thick cardboard with leather-like material on top. At this moment I did know I’m unboxing the Meze product. Inside the box, there was a hard EVA pouch (pretty similar to the one that you can find in the package of meze 99 classic and 109 pro). Inside the pouch there are two cables, the shorter one is about 1.5 meters long and the second one is about 3 meters long (to be honest I didn’t even expand it, because it looks and feels exactly the same as the shorter cable), 6.3mm jack adapter, airplane jack adapter and of course the headphone.
The unboxing experience is so good that I would love to get another Liric just to unpack it. I usually wonder if the package is safe enough to survive the delivery by the worst delivery man I can imagine, but this package looks like it could fall out of the plane and nothing would happen to the headphone.
Design, Build and Comfort
I feel that this part of my reviews of Meze products is getting boring. This headphone feels so great to play with. When you think about industrial design icons by country, like Giugiaro from Italy, or Eames from the States you should definitely consider Meze and his products as the icon of Romania. The build quality is as good as Meze made us used to. Magnesium skeleton is very solid but light as well – it’s the material used for example to manufacture top-end DSLR bodies.
The adjustment system, which is pretty similar to the one from Empyrean and Elite is made of aluminum, and the headband whose main part is made of spring steel and it’s covered with genuine leather from the outside and soft, breathable material from the inside.
The hybrid ear pads are very soft and deep, so even people with very big ears should feel comfortable wearing the headphones. The outer part of the pads is made of leather and the inner is made of suede-like material. I only wish they were easier to remove, like in Elite or Empyrean, unfortunately, Liric has pads glued with double-sided tape, so if you remove them, it will be nearly impossible to put them back again.
The next thing I would like to mention is noise isolation. Meze Liric is one of the best passive noise-isolating headphones I’ve ever used. Ok, It’s not the isolation level of custom IEMs, but for noisy places like an open space office, or a house with some dogs and kids inside, it performs awesome, I didn’t need to volume up music too much to be able to hear it. And the last advantage of them is that the music doesn’t leak outside the earcups, so you don’t have to worry if you will wake up your better part while burning the midnight oil while listening to the music, or if your colleague will complain that they have to listen to your music.
The last thing according to design and build quality is the quality of the cables from the package. As I mentioned above, both are exactly the same, the only difference is the length. They are OK, nothing more, just basic cables to survive till you will order an after-stock cable. A thing worth mentioning is that till the end of September (2022) you can get Meze Liric with a good quality premium Meze cable for free.
The build quality is superb, but the technology inside is cutting-edge as well.
Headphones can be amazing in terms of comfort, but without a driver, they won’t reproduce any sound. To produce top-notch drivers, Meze cooperated with Rinaro Isodynamics again. After the Empyrean and Meze flagship – Elite, Liric is the third product that was created in the collaboration lineup. Paweł has already written something about the company in his review of Elite, but let me quote a fragment about Rinaro company from the Meze Liric website:
“Rinaro originated in the USSR (today’s Ukraine) during the Cold War, as part of a state-funded acoustic technology research program. With government backing and access to advanced testing facilities, the team was able to focus all of its efforts on planar magnetics. A field they have continued to innovate in for the last 30 years, since the collapse of the USSR. In the last decade, Rinaro have expanded their capabilities and capacity with the development of state-of-the-art R&D and manufacturing facilities in Ukraine and Poland. The new facilities have been a driving force in the creation of the revolutionary Isodynamic Hybrid Array technology found in Meze Audio EMPYREAN, ELITE, and LIRIC headphones.”
So in the Romanian body lives the Ukrainian heart, and damn, that’s a very interesting heart. In Meze Liric the driver is called MZ4 and it has a similar hybrid design to the previous models, but this time it’s way easier to drive.
But first, let’s focus on the hybrid voice coil design. Most planar-magnetic (or orthodynamic/isodynamic) drivers have a coil-shaped in a repetitive pattern, but Rinaro MZ4, as I mentioned above, has a hybrid coils pattern, this means the driver has a switchback coil that reproduces lower frequencies and a spiral coil that is more efficient in reproducing midrange and trebles. The first coil is positioned in the upper part of the driver and the second one is placed directly over the ear canal entry, enabling more direct sound waves to enter the ear. This results in improved 3D imaging and spatial localization.
Another very interesting thing is the material the diagram is made of. It’s a custom-developed thermally stabilized polymer with a conductive layer. Thanks to this unique processing method, the diagram is rigid and very light as well. The driver has an active area of 3507mm2 and the diagram weighs only 0.08g.
Meze Liric has great design, an amazing look, and a lot of interesting tech inside so I just want to play with it, but at the same time I want to keep it on my head, but at the end of the day what’s most important in the high-end headphones is the sound.
Let’s start with the bass. It’s not too wild, but Liric is the headphone for people who like when the music has solid bass. Its timbre is very natural, and full-bodied, for me it could be slightly faster, but the texture does an amazing job. While listening to “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield I just heard the texture of the bass guitar notes and it was even without any psychedelics. Another great song to benchmark the lowest part of the frequency range is “Life Itself” by Glass Animals. The attack of each drum hit is just great, but the control is very good as well. The bass is very saturated, but not too much, just perfect to sit down, relax and discover new subtleties in the bass of songs you thought you knew. Maybe it’s not the level of Susvara, but if you had the opportunity to listen to the gear in a similar price range, then you will be more than satisfied.
The midrange thanks to the bass characteristics is also very powerful, but unfortunately, it’s not as pushed forward as the bass or treble, but for example, SMSL SU9, can fix that issue and make the Liric sound more evenly, because “flat” isn’t a good description for the signature of this setup. The vocals are realized in a very interesting way, they’re not recessed, but it’s also not too close, so I feel like Imelda May is singing her “11 past the hour” right in front of me, but not directly to my ears creating a very intimate stage, so I could feel like the listener, not the microphone. I’m also very impressed with how the Liric reproduces classical guitars in “Mettavolution” by Rodrigo and Gabriela. If my guitar teacher read this part he would lose all respect for me. He studied flamenco music and to be precise Rodrigo and Gabriela use flamenco guitar, which is a special kind of guitar but for simplicity and because classical guitars sound great as well, I wrote it. The guitars sound very detailed and powerful, I think that Meze Liric is one of the best headphones to listen to acoustic music.
Another very strong part of the Meze Liric sound signature is the treble. It’s fast forward, so it’s very important to find a synergetic source that won’t make the highs will steal the show. That happened when I plugged the headphone into both Chords – Mojo 2 and Hugo 2. The treble became harsh and very unpleasant. Even well-produced songs sounded like the sound engineer forgot to switch on the DeEsser Plugin. But on the other hand, when plugged into Feliks Echo MK2, highs became relaxed and very pleasant to listen to, but without losing details. Maybe I wrote it slightly wrong, writing “without losing details” in the context of the Meze Liric is understating. In terms of details in the treble, it’s one of the best headphones I’ve ever listened to. Maybe it’s not the level of properly driven HiFiMan Susvara, HE1000se, or Final D8000 Pro, but these headphones are way less expensive and power-hungry, so you can enjoy almost the same details without spending tens of thousands of bucks.
Now let’s move to the soundstage because considering that Meze Liric is a closed-back headphone, it’s very impressive – very wide and deep. The imaging is great as well. I could finally play Apex Legends without forcing my girlfriend to listen to the sounds of the game and I heard where my opponents were. Up until the time I received the Liric, this level of 3D imaging from headphones in my collection was available only with HiFiMan Ananda, but to be honest, Liric when I got used to its soundstage does it better but don’t get me wrong, I’m still silver beside headphones I’m using.
If you’re a gamer audiophile now you can finish reading the review, because now it will be something for audiophiles who focus on listening to music. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you will know that my benchmark for the soundstage is “To Be by Your Side” by Nick Cave, sorry, that’s the entry song from Winged Migration – the first movie I’ve watched on my dad’s 5.1 home theater system. So yes, this song is just amazing when played with the reviewed headphones.
The first comparison I would like to do is with HiFiMan HE-R9, it’s a closed-back headphone priced at $749. Maybe I will skip the entry about the maker and the history of the headphone because it was recently reviewed at our site – you can read the full review here.
Let’s move directly to the comparison. At first glance you can see that the compared headphones are from different price ranges, the build quality of HE-R9 is fine but the fitting of the elements is on a completely different level. HiFiMan produces perfectly sounding headphones, but they need to keep up with the competitors in terms of build quality. Fortunately the HE-R9 despite the size is very lightweight, so it’s very comfortable even during long listening sessions.
The bass of HiFiMan is very, but I mean VERY powerful, it takes a leading role. The HE-R9 is definitely more fun biased, while Liric is more balanced sounding. While listening to “bad guy” by Billie Eilish with Meze I felt the bass hitting my eardrums strongly, but with headphones from HiFiMan, I thought my head would explode because of the bass. It’s a very pleasant yet exhausting experience, so for me, it’s great for listening to one or two albums, but I wouldn’t pick it as a daily driver, while Meze Liric has been playing this role for a couple of weeks.
The difference in the midrange is also big, yet again HiFiMan reproduces it in a very smooth and warm way, whilst Meze creates more texture. The vocals from HE-R9 are rich and natural but it’s definitely more recessed when compared to Liric.
The treble distinguishes the compared headphones the most. It’s nearly impossible to find a source that will make the highs of HE-R9 unpleasant but definitely when comparing them in terms of reproduced details Liric is far ahead in front of HiFiMan headphones.
The last thing to compare is the soundstage, HE-R9 does reproduce it finely, it has good 3D imaging, and decent depth and width, but Liric just outperforms it in these terms. The staging of Meze headphones is just amazing and to be honest it would be hard to find closed-backs that would be better than the reviewed cans in that field.
To sum up, HiFiMan HE-R9 is a decent, fun-biased headphone, while Meze Liric is definitely more balanced and all-round gear. It would be nice to have a HE-R9 in a collection, but if I had to pick one headphone, then Liric is way more universal.
Dan Clark Audio Ether C Flow 1.1 is a closed-back headphone priced at $1750. It was the flagship model from the American brand and one of the best closed-back headphones I’ve ever listened to (DCA Stealth is great, but its power requirements are so tremendous that most people won’t be able to drive it properly and hear 100% of its capacities). To be honest this comparison is the toughest one – both headphones are amazingly engaging and if only I could, I would keep both of them. When I wanted to compare them – listen to part of the song and then change to another headphone, I was catching myself, that I was listening to a couple of songs and I didn’t notice it.
But let’s move to the real comparison and let’s start with the build quality. The original cable of DCA headphones is good, the quality is top-notch, and it looks and feels like a high-end headphone cable should. The only issue I found is the proprietary connectors, so if you have some aftermarket cables, they probably won’t be compatible, so in that case the 3.5mm jack from Meze Liric is a way more universal connector. The Ether C Flow ear cups are made of carbon fiber, the rest of the materials are aluminum and titanium, so the construction is lightweight yet very durable. The only thing I don’t like is the headband, made of two wires. The Lirc headband feels more durable and comfortable for me, but a friend of mine who has a much smaller head, has a completely different opinion, the DCA headband is way more comfortable for him. So as always mentioned, the comfort is very subjective, but both headphones can be considered quite comfortable gear.
Now the sound comparison. I would like to add one more side note, the American headphone is way more source demanding, so if you would like to use the Ethers as portable headphone and run it with dap, it’s possible, but it won’t optimally reproduce the sound.
Okay, first I would like to compare, is the soundstage of Ether C Flow is great, with perfect positioning, very wide and deep. I think it’s even better realized than the soundstage of the closed-back variant of the Ether Flow. Meze has a slightly deeper soundstage, but the imaging and positioning of the sound sources are slightly more chaotic. Don’t get me wrong Liric soundstage is awesome even when compared to open-back headphones, but DCA did this even better.
The treble reproduced by both headphones is similar and very detailed and if the source is bright it may become quite exhausting, but if you will find proper synergy, both of them can produce a very pleasant sound in high range.
The mids are the biggest difference between the compared headphones. DCA Ether provides a much closer midrange, but the vocals reproduced by Meze Liric are more vivid and natural.
And the last thing – the bass, both headphones are amazing in that case. Ether’s bass is more precise and stiff (in a very positive way) and there is more sub-bass which keeps in check the whole bottom range. Liric’s bass is more powerful and relaxed, so maybe it’s not the best for techno music, but if you want to feel the bass pleasantly flowing I would pick them.
In this competition there is no clear winner, both headphones have their strengths and weaknesses, so you will need to decide what’s more important for you.
The Meze Liric is an amazing piece of equipment. The build quality is as good as in their flagship headphones, you can see so much leather and you know it’s premium stuff. The sound is relaxed yet very detailed, with very powerful bass and an incredibly good soundstage. I’ve received them some time ago and if I wouldn’t have to write other reviews I would keep listening to music only with this one headphone. And the best part – it’s a very power-efficient headphone, so you can run it even with a portable DAC/Amp or DAP and it will show what it’s got.
Just imagine Meze Elite on the go – wrapped in more portable construction, with slightly amplified edges of the frequency range that are less power-hungry. That’s what Liric’s soul is.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Campfire Audio Vega 2020, Craft Ears 4 CIEM, Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Noire, Dan Clark Audio Ether C Flow 1.1 (closed-back), Dan Clark Ether Flow 1.1 (open-back), Dan Clark Audio Stealth, Focal Elegia, HiFiMan R9, HiFiMan Ananda,, Meze Advar
- Sources– Astell&Kern SP3000, Chord Mojo 2, Chord Hugo 2, Ferrum Audio ERCO + OOR + HYPSOS, Fiio M11 Pro, HiFiMan EF400 (as a DAC) + Feliks Audio Echo MK2, JDS El DAC II + SMSl SP200, SMSL SU9 + Topping A90, MacBook Pro 14
Big thanks to Meze Audio for loaning us the Liric 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.
You can get your Meze Liric here.