Meze 109pro Open Back Headphones (£769)
IntroductionMeze is a company based in Romania and started in 2011. They carry a rather stellar reputation, with the Meze Empyrean being lusted after by many headphone users, but this is not the apotheosis of their range.
I asked the importers for a suggestion as to which of the Meze range to review and the solid recommendation was the 109pro. This is a relatively new model, and one that they claimed raises the bar in the price range, as well as threatening the quality delivered by older, but more expensive, Meze models. I happily accepted the recommendation.
In due course the rather large box arrived. This contained a rather more modestly sized headphone box with the Meze 109pro therein. The cables and ¾ inch jack adapter were contained in a leatherette bag.
Over the period I have been reviewing these headphones, I have been struck by the tasteful detailing. Such as the Meze sigil in the centre of the headphone, and the same device on the bronze cross-piece which supports the inner headband.
The outer headband is a single metallic inverted U which separates into two narrow arms. As these expand and contract, depending on the size of your cranium, the inner headband is raised or lowered. The whole works very well, and the ear cups are held in position very comfortably.
On opening the pouch I was pleased with the supply of two cables, 1.5 and 3.0 meter soft TPE cables. It was with these that my review was conducted, but Meze supplies uprated cable in both copper and silver.
Test Tracks: The Good, The Bad and the BrightThe tracks were selected to allow:
- Comparison of local and Qobuz sourced versions of the same tracks;
- Comparison of standard and remastered versions of the same track;
- Comparison of older and modern tracks, with their different mastering priorities;
- How problem tracks were presented.
Problem Files: https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/12623970
Technical DetailThe technical specs for the Meze 109pro can be found HERE.
The company wax lyrical about the development that has gone into these headphones, using such terms as: 50mm dynamic driver; balance between mass and stiffness; beryllium coated polymer; absorption of vibrations; and, neodymium magnets.
There are a lot of principles that are shrouded by such terms and that have led to excellent products. How do the Meze 109pro stack up?
The source was Roon, primarily Qobuz, with:
- headroom NOT enabled;
- Sample rate NOT enabled;
- Parametric EQ NOT Enabled.
These are the first pair of Meze headphones I have listened to, and they have impressed me. Not in the detail & dynamics, although they are present and correct, or in their ability to allow you to follow individual instruments and render their resonances as they build and fade, although they too are on point. What I thoroughly enjoy about the Meze 109pro was their ability to render music, and make me just revel in it. They are damned difficult to review! I keep just relaxing and enjoying what is being played.
In putting together a music list for this review I deliberately concentrated on the well recorded, with bass resonance! I had to also cast wider, but I think this is a fun playlist Let’s look at some of the tracks.
Celestial Echo, Malia, Jazz Lounge, UME, Qobuz, 44.1/16
I love this CD and this is the opening barnstormer. It opens lazily with some wonderfully full drums, that expand into the space between your ears. As Malia whispers into the false acoustic detailed percussion sparks left and right. I love that the cymbals, whether or brushed, have that metallic sheen, without at any time becoming sharp. Superb stuff that just sucks you in.
This is a layered recording and the Meze 109pro allows you to listen into it, IF that is what you want to do; or just get carried away by the music.
Act Like You're in Love, Josephine Oniyama, Kindred, Sound of Solar Records, Qobuz, 48/16
Interestingly when I play this track on my main system, I loved its bounce and energy, however I am a tad more aware of the track's engineering shortcomings, as I am through some other headphones I own. For instance, the track suffers from some spitting on the vocals. The Meze 109pro doesn’t negate this effect, but it is minimised. The stronger elements of the music shine.
A Thousand Years (Album Version), Sting, Brand New Day, A&M, Qobuz, 44.1/16
This is a superb track with excellent engineering. Using either Chord Mojo 2 or the Chord Hugo TT the Meze 109pro superbly render the music. A key aspect of these transducers is their ability to allow bass to blossom a fade, they fast without cutting off the resonances of instruments.
Williams: Theme From "Superman", Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Star Tracks, Telarc, Qobuz, 44.1/16
I love the Telarc Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings. They are well recorded and while the bass is once again well represented so too is the acoustic, the metallic sheen on the various percussive instruments and the massed strings.
Horner: Re-Entry and Splashdown (From "Apollo 13") [Arr. J. Price], Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, The Big Picture, Telarc, Qobuz, 44.1/16
Lovely BIG opening phrase, superbly counter-pointed with a rather more pianissimo phrase. Makes you sit up and then draws you in. What a loss Horner was in that tragic plane crash, yet another one! This is a piece that holds a dramatic tension throughout, and here it is well rendered.
Leaving, On a Jet Plane ("Greatest Hits" Version), John Denver, John Denver's Greatest Hits, RCA, Qobuz, 24/192
Denver is a bit like mother’s milk to me, and yet so many of the recordings available through the streaming services are on the poor side. NOT here. The opening guitars introduce John Denver’s voice which is so well recorded. Any decent headphones can reveal any faults in technique, pitch or recording. Not so here, it is so clean, without being in any sense sterile. Yet again the Meze 109pro superbly reproduce the metallic strike or stroke, either percussively or with the accompanying guitars.
Copeland: Fanfare for the Common Man, Fanfare for the Common Man, Minnesota Orchestra, Reference Recordings, Qobuz, 44.1/16
This is a great recording, and the Meze do it full justice. The energy and bravura are captured, if you were a bit sleepy you won’t be after this.
The reverb of the opening kettle drums and gong almost holographically map out the acoustic. Again, the resonances are excellently portrayed and the brass is suitably raspy, without any touch of edge.
Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78, R. 176 "Organ Symphony", I. Adagio - Allegro moderato, Reference Recordings, Qobuz, 44.1/16
I love this symphony, there are so many familiar touches and flourishes, but in a very harmonious and satisfying whole. The build-up of smaller tensions and their release through the first movement, as the strings carry the musical theme and accompanying instruments add support is so invitingly laid out in your mind.
Hans Zimmer: Home to Dragons (Jacob Shea), Planet Earth II (Original Television Soundtrack), Silva Screen Records Ltd, Qobuz, 44.1/16
Hans Zimmer bravura. The bass weight supports the opening theme before percussive elements come to the fore. This is all clearly and musically laid out before you. Superb.
I worked my way through my usual ‘problem files’. Big Love by Fleetwood Mac has hard Ss aplenty. Yes, I could hear the issues, but somehow the Meze 109pro disarmed the problem, I could hear it but it didn’t distract. The Ss within Thunder Child were somewhat tamed, but not quite to the same extent, but I still enjoyed the track more through the Meze’s than through any other headphones I have had at home. All the tracks were at a minimum ameliorated, most were rendered into music.
It has been fascinating to compare the tracks on the playlist used for this review via my main system and the Meze 109pro. Some tracks, such as Celestial Echo are superb via either system; others, such as the album Kindred, are distinctly better via the Meze, in this case demonstrating a greater pressurisation that adds weight to the proceedings. In other cases, the honours can be mixed. However, whatever the result please remember that I am comparing two systems that are in distinctly different price categories.
The Meze 109pro are beautifully designed to my eyes, with detailing that just lifts the whole. The inclusion of two different length cables was most welcome. The case feels almost compact compared to others I have.
Musically these headphones kept me consistently engaged. This does not mean that they are not revealing, but they manage that wonderful trick of allowing you to concentrate on the good without slapping you around the face with the less-tha