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Meze Audio Liric
For those in the high-end headphone hobby space, there are few who have yet to hear about Meze Audio. Founded in 2011, the company initially made its name on the back of the Meze Audio Classics 99. Now, it’s back with the release of the Liric headphones, both sporting a new type of driver called the isodynamic hybrid array. Is it any good? Let’s take a listen.
Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
What’s it like to use the Meze Audio Liric?
Because the Meze Audio Liric is designed for audio quality and little else, you’re not going to find smart features like an app, voice assistant, or any other sort of digital integration. A set of closed-back headphones, it sports an interesting leather and matte black finish on an aluminum chassis, very much leaning into the idea that this is a set of $2000+USD headphones.
Build quality seems to be top notch, with solid materials and few expenses spared on construction. Of course, for the price that’s something you expect—especially after working your way through both the leather case and hardshell case the headphones come packaged in.
The Meze Audio Liric is a rather chunky set of headphones, weighing in at 390g. However, the large ear cups and firm band do a commendable job of making sure its heft is well distributed on your head. That doesn’t do much to help your neck though, so pay close attention to how your shoulders and neck feel after extended use. It’s fine for a couple hours at a time, but I also have the benefit of a reclining chair to take the strain off.
Unlike typical headphones, the ear cups use friction rods to keep the spring steel band at a comfortable tension, but don’t be surprised if you need to adjust every now and again, as moving your head enough can force the rods to slip a little. If you’re just sitting at the desk it shouldn’t be an issue.
Inside the ostentatious gold-embossed leather packaging for the headphones is an extra set of velour ear pads if you prefer that feel to the leatherette. If you are a specs-wearer like myself and have issues with grippier material catching your glasses arms, this is a great option. Fabric is also better at preventing heat buildup, so if you’re hoping to use the Meze Audio Liric for longer sessions, consider making the switch.
While these headphones seem to be designed to be more portable, it’s probably not a great idea to take the Meze Audio Liric out of the house. Sure, the closed backs mean isolation shouldn’t be an issue, and the standard cable connector means you can use the Meze Audio Liric with just about any source with a headphone jack, but this thing is big. Additionally, that “carrying case” should probably come with its own shoulder strap—it isn’t going to fit in a typical bag. While it’s definitely a good call for headphones this expensive, it’s still enormous. Finally, anything this expensive makes it an attractive target to lift, so it’s probably best to avoid walking around downtown with the Liric atop your head.
How does the Meze Audio Liric connect?
As most other high-end audiophile headphones do, the Meze Audio Liric connects to your sources with a Y-shaped cable (1.5m) terminating in a 3.5mm TRS plug, with single-channel TS plugs to each ear cup. Included in the packaging is a supplementary cable that’s double the length (3 meters) of the default cable, and with the same terminations. Additionally, there’s an included airplane adapter and a single 1/4-inch TRS adapter for use with older or more powerful systems. Luckily, there’s no dongles to speak of.
The jacks on the ear cups are angled forward, not only giving you a clear indication of how each termination should plug in, but fewer worries about catching something and tearing a connection out. Truth be told, removable cables are probably the single most important durability feature for high-end headphones, and they’re quite common on models over $100 because they are the single most common point of failure. You should be able to replace these cables with aftermarket options given how standard they are, just don’t overpay for them because you just don’t need anything too expensive.
Though you might be tempted to get an amp for the Meze Audio Liric, you don’t actually need one. These headphones have a very low impedance and a high sensitivity, so pretty much any modern source is going to be able to drive the Liric just fine.
100dB / mW
How well does the Meze Audio Liric block out noise?
The Meze Audio Liric is able to physically block out more noise than some of its closest competitors by virtue of having a closed versus an open back. Though the open back is prized for a tendency to mean more “natural” sounding audio, it comes with a lot of tradeoffs in actual use simply because very few of us will ever be able to listen in a truly noise-free environment. Meze Audio addressed this in a few clever ways, while offering attenuation typical of a closed-back design.
First, there are vents in the Meze Audio Liric that port out into the ear pads, and another at the back of the ear cups. Though anything that could break the seal around your ears theoretically could impact how well the headphones isolate at all, it definitely isn’t the case here. I’ve got to hand it to Meze Audio—the design is top notch.
In particular, the Liric is able to reduce outside noise from 700Hz to 2kHz by about 15-20dB, which is commendable for a set of closed-back headphones. While the Meze Audio Liric don’t do much to attenuate sound in the lower ranges where engine noise, street noise, and other rumbly sounds exist: that’s pretty typical of any non-ANC headphones on the market. If you’re listening indoors, this should be more than enough, but be aware that the Meze Audio Liric may not be as amazing on an airplane, for example.
How does the Meze Audio Liric sound?
Editor’s note: this review makes use of a hover-enabled glossary to describe sound quality, based on a consensus vocabulary. You can read about it here.
The Meze Audio Liric is built around a proprietary type of planar magnetic driver that splits up the task of reproducing low-frequency sounds and higher-frequency sounds into two differently-shaped segments in the driver itself. By doing this, the Meze Audio Liric attempts to meet the physiology of your outer ear with the larger part aimed at your pinna to funnel low-end sound into your ear, and the smaller circular component aimed directly at your ear canal. In ideal conditions the results are pretty nice, though it does mean that in practice getting an exact fit that will sound great is slightly more involved than “place headphones on head.”
I find getting the fit right is more important with the Meze Audio Liric than usual, as even a little back and forth movement can move the circular driver partition away from its position and make the music sound a little different. If you’re stationary at the computer, this isn’t going to be something you notice as much. Similarly, if you’re wearing these on a flight, or out commuting: the outside noise will be great enough that any fit issues will be much more minor than your environment’s impact on perceived sound quality.
Should you buy the Meze Audio Liric?
It’s difficult for me to recommend any personal audio product that’ll set you back about $2000 USD, but for the right person the Meze Audio Liric will be an attractive pair of headphones. Even though this pair of cans isn’t a “halo” product, it’s definitely priced as one—so it’s pretty apparent that Meze Audio’s intended audience is the deep-pocketed audiophile. There’s nothing wrong this, it’s just that if you want something specific that the Liric offers it’s pretty easy to get something a lot cheaper that will get you 90% of the way there.
The Liric is truly a unique product that any enthusiast will want to put in listening time with. But is it your endgame pair of headphones, or just a bit of a curiosity? Tough to say. If cash is no object, the underlying tech that drives these headphones is the same as the more expensive Meze Audio Empyrean, and offers performance close to it.
If you have a HiFi shop near you that sells headphones, make the trip out to kick the proverbial tires on a pair before buying. We like weird headphones here at SoundGuys, especially if they swing for the fences to do something new like split up a planar magnetic driver to improve sound quality somehow. Even if this model doesn’t stand the test of time, taking a risk like this is something to be lauded, and I hope more manufacturers follow suit—creative headphones have a lot more personality than the legions of same-y speakers-on-a-band that you’d find gracing the pages of audiophile sites out there.
What should you get instead of the Meze Audio Liric?
The Meze Audio Liric is $2000 USD, give or take, so if you’re wondering about a better value: of course there is. But the people this product is meant to entice aren’t looking for a value proposition.
When talking about spending multiple thousands of dollars on headphones, the conversation becomes much less “what should you get” and much more “what are you chasing?” In that light, there aren’t a ton of headphones on the market that fit the Liric’s exact set of benefits in this price range that would really scratch the same itch. You’d probably spend a lot of time looking at more niche boutique options from smaller vendors to fit your constellation of needs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean you’re not nearing the end of your journey anytime soon.
Really, the closest model I can think of off the top of my head is the Sennheiser HD 820 closed-back headphones. However, these cans don’t offer the same fit and finish as the Meze Audio Liric, and they definitely don’t have the same low power requirements. You’ll absolutely need an amplifier for those cans, increasing the overall cost of investment despite the similar price tag ($1699 at Amazon). Performance wise, the Sennheisers are every bit as well-tuned as the Meze Audio Liric, but again it’s more reliant on additional equipment that may or may not introduce some unforeseen variables to your signal chain.
Frequently asked questions
Maybe. The situation you’d want a DAC to solve is if you find that there’s added noise to your recordings when you’re listening to headphones. This is usually the result of improper shielding in the computer or elsewhere. By taking the job off of your computer’s metaphorical hands, you can remove that source of potential interference.