You may not have heard of Meze Audio, but the Romanian headphone manufacturer has won numerous awards for some excellent headphones. Last month the company announced its first pair of dynamic and open-back headphones designed for discerning audiophiles who want the best sound for serious listening with proper audio systems rather than a smartphone.
The new Meze Audio 109 Pro are a stunningly beautiful pair of headphones with earcups made from responsibly sourced walnut wood that looks incredible. The earcups are upholstered with comfy velour ear cushions and the yoke that holds the earcups together is wrought from zinc, manganese steel and a vegan leather headband. The clever headband self-adjusts to fit most head sizes, and the comfort level is luxuriously soft and light.
These innovative headphones are the brainchild of Antonio Meze, the brand’s chief designer and founder of the company. Meze says: “Our obsession with art, exceptional sound and timeless design is what drives us. We only create what we love and the 109 Pro headphones are no exception. We’ve poured our soul into every design aspect, including premium materials. And because we don’t follow trends, the 109 Pro are built to sound great, look good and feel comfortable for years to come.”
So, what makes the Meze Audio 109 Pro headphones so unique? I’ve now managed to get my hands on a pair to see if they are as well built as the press release suggested. I also took time to listen extensively to the 109 Pros with a wide range of music to see if these headphones are as tonally open and well-balanced as their design suggests.
At the heart of the 109 Pro headphones are dual-composites diaphragms made from a semicrystalline polymer torus coated with Beryllium. The diaphragm has a cellulose-carbon fiber composite dome and a copper-zinc alloy ring stabilizer. A glance through the delicate filigree grille protecting the diaphragms reveals an exquisitely constructed driver.
The stiff cellulose composite of the diaphragm has been reinforced with carbon fiber. This rigid construction has made it possible for Meze to give the diaphragm dome a W shape which is far more adept at reproducing higher frequencies with exceptional detail and finesse. Meze claims the composite is superior to conventional materials used in the dynamic drivers of many headphones. The low mass and excellent stiffness reduce resonances that could lead to harmonic distortion. And it’s the low level of distortion that marks the 109 Pro out as something extraordinary.
The ultra-thin torus of the diaphragm is just 22 microns thick and surrounds the Beryllium-coated, semicrystalline polymer dome. Meze says the construction has extra clarity and faster transient response that can put more attack into music by reacting to the transient highs in a piece of music. Beryllium has high dampening qualities that help to suppress unwanted resonances, enabling the listener to hear a more neutral – yet still vivid – open and transparent sound.
Tracing the circumference of the driver membrane is a ring-shaped stabilizer made from a copper-zinc alloy used to absorb vibrations and reduce distortion. The diaphragm is encased in a precision-machined aluminum frame offering more rigidity than the conventional plastic frames used by many headphone manufacturers. Meze claims it retains a perfectly flat surface that’s essential for the precision assembly of the diaphragm.
The spider-shaped structure and acoustically transparent grille inside the earcup expose the drivers from both the front and back, producing an open sound. The driver is raked forward at a precise angle and distance from the ear, creating a fit that makes for a more natural listening experience. Even after a couple of hours of listening to the 109 Pro, my ears felt as fresh as the proverbial daisy and the comfort levels remained, whether sitting or reclining.
The earpads used on the 109 Pro are covered with soft and breathable velour over plump memory foam cushions that cover the ears completely. The effect produces an optimal acoustic seal without making the listener uncomfortable.
Like most brands these days, Meze realizes that sustainability is an essential ingredient in the consumer electronics industry and the 109 Pro have been designed to deliver a long service life. Even the aesthetic of these remarkable headphones has a timeless and classic feel. With an evergreen design, these are headphones that won’t date or age quickly. The 109 Pro are also fully serviceable by the user, meaning the headphones’ lifespan can be extended almost without limit.
The Meze 109 Pro are supplied with short and long cables depending on whether you are listening to a smartphone, digital music player, or a proper audio system at home. Because these are open-back headphones, I wouldn’t recommend using them on the move. Open-back headphones leak sound like a sieve and allow sounds from outside to reach the ear.
In my opinion, these are headphones designed for serious listening in a quiet room where it’s possible to concentrate solely on the music. The cables have a Y-configuration with mono 3.5mm jack plugs connecting to each earcup. Opinions vary on whether single-sided or Y-connections are preferable, but I don’t have an opinion either way. The benefit of replaceable cables is the ability to replace worn or frayed cables in the future.
When it comes to the sound that the Meze 109 Pro produce, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that these are some of the most detailed and well-balanced headphones I’ve ever reviewed. The open aspect of the sound is simply sublime. There is virtually no distortion and I could listen to the 109 Pro for hours without fatigue. The sound is superbly dynamic but laid back and relaxed simultaneously. These are exciting headphones that won’t tire your ears and keep you engaged with the music to the point that you’ll want to listen to all your favorite music again and again.
To test the clarity of the Meze 109 Pro, I listened to the superb new album Two Violins, by John Matthias and Declan Daly. This exquisitely recorded album featuring the two violins of Matthias and Daly is the ultimate test for the clarity and controlled resonance of the Meze 109 Pro. The track “She Moves Through The Fair” sounded haunting to the point all the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. The level of detail was superb, but the 109s never stray near being harsh or demanding.
With music with more rhythm, such as Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins album from Verve that I’ve been listening to, there is a powerful bass, but instead of the 109 Pros blending the bass into the midrange, Meze has managed to decouple the bass line and put it on an acoustic stave of its own where it won’t muddy or crunch the midrange. Meanwhile, the treble frequencies are controlled by that copper ring that tames the harsher frequencies.
Verdict: The new Meze 109 Pro open-back headphones are a triumph, in every respect. Not only do they showcase the excellent design capabilities of Antonio Meze and his team with the use of walnut, zinc and manganese steel, but the design makes the 109 Pro one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones you’ll use ever put on your head. The sound quality is pitch-perfect. The openness of the soundstage and the sheet level of detail is astonishing. Listening to music with these unique headphones will have you falling in love with your favorite albums all over again. If you can audition them, then please do. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Highly Recommended.
Pricing & Availability: The Meze Audio 109 Pro open-back headphones are available now and cost $799 / £799 / €799.
More info: www.MezeAudio.com
- Driver diameter: 50mm.
- Frequency response: 5 – 30,000Hz.
- Sensitivity: 112dB SPL @ 1kHz 1mW.
- Impedance: 40Ω.
- Weight: 375g / 13oz (without cables).
- Earcups: Black walnut wood.
- Accessories: 1.5m and 3m TPE cables with 3.5mm black terminations, 6.35mm adapter.