A headphone you can’t keep down!
PROS: Benchmark boutique build quality for the price, highly attractive design, extremely comfortable ear pads and headband design, ideal clamp force, revealing tonality, exciting and highly engaging, airy and resolving treble tuning, excellent technical performance for the price – very open sounding soundstage, micro-detail retrieval, L-R separation and layering.
CONS: Extra airy upper-treble boosts can come off bright. Would’ve preferred if it didn’t have the 1-2.8kHz dip in upper-midrange.
About Meze Audio.
Meze Audio started with Antonio, their founder, searching for a pair of headphones that he could relate to, in the same way he felt connected to his Fender Stratocaster guitar – an object to pour his passion for music in. An object full of personality and life, which also incorporates the attributes of high-end technology. Meze Audio was founded in 2011 in Baia Mare, Romania. They started small, acquiring knowledge by experimenting with parts already on the market, searching and researching for the right materials and engineering solutions in the quest for the perfect sound and feel. Their breakthrough year was 2015, when, after many years of development, they launched the 99 Classics, which won them awards and nominations that were beyond their expectations. Today all Meze’s models – headphones and earphones, are developed in-house from the ground up, in the spirit of their original ‘no-compromise’ vision.
Official Website – Meze 109 Pro
- Transducer Size: 50mm
- Frequency Response: 5Hz – 30KHz
- Sensitivity: 112dB SPL at 1KHz, 1mW
- Impedance: 40 Ω
- Weight: 375g (13 oz) without cables
- Warranty period: 2 years
In the box.
- Meze 109 Pro headphones.
- Hard EVA pouch.
- Included cables: 1.5m soft TPE cable with black Aluminium casings and 3.5 mm jack + 3m soft TPE cable, with black Aluminium casings and 3.5 mm jack.
- 3.5mm to 1/4″ gold-plated adapter.
Meze 109 Pro’s Driver Technology.
As per Meze, their research led to developing the 109 series Dual-Composite Diaphragm – a combination of Beryllium-coated polymer and cellulose-carbon fibre composite. Tasked with improving the absorption of the vibrations is the copper-zinc alloy stabiliser ring, where the choice of materials contributes to significant reductions in distortion. Alongside the two, lies the light and efficient neodymium magnet and copper coil, and together, they are encased in a CNC machined, high precision Aluminium frame, which is proven to be exceptionally reliable.
Made of a carbon fibre enforced cellulose composite, the W-shaped dome is able to reproduce high-frequencies with incredible detail, clarity and definition. More durable than conventional alternatives used in dynamic drivers, yet lightweight, this composite helps reduce resonances that may lead to harmonic distortion.
The ultra-thin torus surrounding the dome is composed of Beryllium-coated semicrystalline polymer, measuring 22 microns in thickness. By applying the Beryllium coating through Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD), we aimed to increase the stiffness and durability of the driver, while still keeping it light enough to achieve a fast transient response. These qualities are also enhanced through the corrugations on the torus, which are precisely carved at a 45.5° angle. Beryllium’s high damping qualities also help suppress unwanted resonances, giving the 109 PRO its neutral, vivid and transparent character.
Build Quality and Design.
Meze Audio’s build aesthetics and quality are right up there at the top, one of the best in the industry! What I like even more is Meze’s attention to sustainability and serviceability. 109 Pro uses sustainably harvested black walnut wood which comes strictly from sources with a certificate of origin, harvested from mature trees that have reached the end of their life cycle. Coming to serviceability, the 109 PRO can be taken apart and serviced endlessly if ever needed, which greatly extends the life of the product.
Earcup – The Earcups are made out of black walnut wood. The spider-shaped structure and the acoustically transparent grill inside the earcups expose the driver from both sides, creating Meze’s most open pattern to date.
Driver Angle – Following the principles of anthropometrics, Meze positioned the driver at a precise angle and distance from the ear to achieve the ideal anatomical fit.
Earpads – 109 Pro’s Velour cushions comfortably surround the ears, providing the optimal seal. As velour is far softer and more breathable than leather, it also prevents sweat and overheating during lengthy listening sessions.
Headband – The self-adjusting headband spreads the weight out to deliver even pressure for any head shape and size.
Cable – 109 Pro comes with two soft 3.5mm TPE cables – one 1.5m and the other 3m long. They look and feel more premium than regular cables from brands like Sennheiser, AKG, HifiMan, etc and are quite soft and supple for TPE cables but I personally would’ve loved it if they would’ve included one of their premium Furukawa PCUHD balanced cables with a 3.5mm adapter in the package instead or at least offered it as a choice in a combo. Otherwise, the PCUHD cables start from $249 and are available for purchase in Meze’s store here.
Case – I love that the 109 Pro comes with a nice hard case because some brands cut the hard case out to save costs even in this price range. 109 Pro’s case is roomy on the inside and comfortably fits the 109 Pro along with the cable.
Fit and Comfort.
Meze 109 Pro is THE most comfortable headphone I’ve had the pleasure of trying till now! The headband adjusts automatically and does not exert much pressure on the top of the head, while the earcups have the absolutely right amount of clamp force for me. The driver assembly is angled strategically and the velour pads are extremely soft and very well cushioned, so my ears never touch the driver assembly. All combined together make for a wearing experience where you almost don’t feel the headphone on your head and no hot spots are created even after hours and hours of using them. IMO, Meze hit it out of the park in this category and the 109 Pro has now become my preferred headphone for long audio sessions.
Drivability – With an impedance of 40Ω and sensitivity rating of 112dB SPL, 109 Pro is extremely easy to drive from most sources. That said, I find it pairing best with powerful warm sources.
Summary – Meze 109 Pro has an exciting, fun tuned, bright leaning W-shaped signature that makes for a very engaging listen with a vivid presentation of instruments and space. What impressed me right off the bat was its ability to create an out of head, open soundstage with a good sense of imaging. It has good bass reach down low with neutral-ish sub-bass rumble, boosted mid-bass, slightly fuller lower-midrange body in the 250-400Hz region, slightly recessed 1-2.8kHz region, forward upper-midrange with about 9dB of ear gain peaking in the 3-4kHz region, fairly neutral lower-treble but much airier than neutral upper-treble post 12kHz with good extension till 20kHz. Regions like boosted mid-bass, slightly fuller lower-midrange, recessed 1-2.8kHz and boosted upper-treble take it away from a reference presentation and more into the fun category. It does have its caveats (which I go into detail below) but is quite a refreshing headphone that stands out strong against the dearth of options in its price range and I’ll tell you why exactly in detail too.
So, let’s dig in deeper…
Bass – 109 Pro’s bass has really good low end reach till 20Hz without any perceivable roll-off but has more mid-bass punch than sub-bass rumble. But what’s really good is that it’s an open back that actually has audible sub-bass rumble even though its overall signature tilts a bit towards the upper-end airiness. With a very controlled bass presentation and a good open and deep soundstage, the bass is extremely well separated in the centre with very good resolution and speed. Sure, I would’ve loved it even more if it was more neutral, flatter in mid-bass and had even more sub-bass rumble but this is just my wishful thinking with my liking of a more reference-ish signature. But you can’t take away from the fact that 109 Pro is a highly enjoyable headphone and bass plays a major but well-controlled part in making that happen.
Midrange – There is slight fullness in the 250-400Hz region which adds in a bit of warmth but also helps greatly in balancing out the thinness that the boosted airy upper-treble brings. It has a dip in the 1-2.8kHz region like a lot of the HifiMans but very good ear gain of around 9dBs after, peaking in the 3-4kHz region. This makes sure 109 Pro has very good instrument tonality with very good definition of vocals and instruments in the soundstage. The boosted mid-bass and lower-midrange does add a chewy warm tinge to instruments and the scoop in the 1-2.8kHz adds very slight hollowness to the signature, which might irk the hardcore reference heads. But to be honest, the overall signature is quite pleasing to the ears and also what adds on to 109 Pro’s coloured, fun and musical character. With that said, 109 Pro is very capable and becomes an excellent monitoring and mixing headphone with slight corrective EQ calibration, much better than a lot of headphones that are marketed as ‘mixing or monitoring headphones’ but are far from it in reality.
Treble – 109 Pro’s lower-treble is quite linear and neutral but the upper-treble is boosted above neutral and also what is responsible for 109 Pro’s energetic W-shaped signature. The boosts are majorly in the 12-17kHz and primarily add extra sparkle and sizzle to an otherwise warm tonality, resulting in a more energetic and engaging listen. This is not a laid back headphone and this is exactly what helps it stand out in a plethora of options in today’s market. It might come across a bit bright and sizzly in the first listen but it’s the kind of treble that isn’t harsh or fatiguing and the ears adapt to its signature fairly quickly, which then becomes the new normal. The treble helps present the whole mix of the song in a fairly lifelike soundscape, with a very vivid presentation of instruments with excellent clarity, separation and detail retrieval for the price. I personally EQ the upper-treble down a bit but I reckon most people would dig the stock signature just as it is.
Technical performance – 109 Pro has a really nice open and deep soundstage with an ability to project the sound out of the head, which a lot of headphones in its price range don’t do. It has fairly good imaging, which is slightly thinner than I like because of scooped out 1-2.kHz and boosted upper-treble but it is still really good. What it does exceptionally well for its asking price is clarity, micro-detail retrieval, left to right separation and layering. All added together, you get an open soundstage with a vivid, forward definition of instruments and very good separation that makes it quite easy to point out the minutest of details in the songs, along with maintaining an exciting and engaging tonal character.
This comparison applies to Focal Clear too as Clear and Elex are very similar sounding headphones in the bigger scheme of things.
Elex too is a dynamic driver open-back headphone. Build quality wise, I have to give it to 109 Pro as it comes off much more premium in comparison. Elex too is a very comfortable headphone that I can use for hours on the end but 109 Pro is just on another level of comfort with softer velour pads and an easier clamp force. Sound wise, both Elex and 109 Pro are very musical headphones but have starkly different sound signatures. Elex is slightly more neutral whereas 109 Pro has a W-shaped signature. Even though it may seem like the 109 Pro has better low end extension and quantity when comparing FR regions in isolation on a graph, its airy upper-treble steals the focus and it’s the Elex that comes across as the one that has more rumble and punchier bass presentation. Focals in general are very punchy and dynamic, and Elex is no different. 109 Pro has slightly fuller lower-midrange whereas Elex’s is more neutral. Both headphones have a forward upper-midrange but 109 Pro has a dip in the 1-2.8kHz region whereas Elex has a more neutral, natural ear gain. Both are fairly neutral in the lower-treble but 109 Pro is much airier in upper-treble which adds sparkle, tons of clarity but also a thinness to the overall signature. As a result, Elex comes off warmer, more neutral whereas 109 Pro brighter, more W-shaped in comparison. Both headphones have really good detail retrieval for their respective signatures but 109 Pro can come off more revealing of micro-details and having better clarity overall just because of its brighter signature. 109 Pro has better separation and also a more open and deeper soundstage. On the other hand, Elex has slightly stronger imaging whereas 109 Pro’s can come off slightly thin. Both are extremely capable headphones and ideally I’d recommend having both in the collection as they offer two completely different but equally inviting and engaging signatures.
Aiva is a planar magnetic open back headphone. I quite like Aiva’s wooden ear cups and boutique build quality but it again is not match to what Meze has achieved with 109 Pro’s design. Sound wise, Aiva comes across as a neutral-ish bright headphone. In comparison, 109 Pro is a W-shaped headphone with better extension down low, warmer lower-midrange, better ear gain in upper-midrange, more neutral lower-treble but much airier upper-treble. Aiva can come across slightly bright and extra sizzly whereas it’s easier to get used to 109 Pro’s airy upper-treble. 109 Pro has better technical performance with a more open soundstage, better layering and left to right separation. 109 Pro comes across having better resolution and better at micro-detail retrieval too.
HD6XX is a crowd favourite and I reckon a lot of people would like a comparison with it merely because it’s a dynamic driver open back headphone with a cult following. Right off the bat, there is absolutely no competition between build quality wise. HD6XX is a well built headphone, mainly built out of plastic, but 109 Pro’s boutique build quality oozes of premium quality that very few headphones under $1000 can match. Sound wise, HD6XX is a more neutral headphone whereas 109 Pro has a fun tuned W-shaped signature. 109 Pro comes across better extended as well as boosted on both ends whereas HD6XX has a slight sub-bass roll-off with slightly boosted mid-bass region. Because of 109 Pro’s boosted, airy upper-treble, it comes off WAY more resolving of micro-details and layering in the soundstage. 109 Pro also has a much more open, bigger, wider and deeper soundstage with much better imaging. 109 Pro is a more capable headphone but it can’t beat HD6XX in one thing and that is reference tuning with very natural sounding tonality and timbre – which is what it is known for in the industry. Unless of course you like to EQ and calibrate your headphones. EQ’d to the same target curve like the Harman target, I much prefer 109 Pro’s tonal and technical performance.
Late Night Sesh with Meze 109 Pro
Meze 109 Pro is one of the best designed and most comfortable headphones in the market with a sound signature that is equally inviting and engaging. Its W-shaped signature makes for a very fun, energetic and exciting listen – a signature that doesn’t lose its spark even if you keep listening to it for hours, days and weeks on the end. I personally would’ve liked if the upper-treble boosts were a little lower, more neutral – which might need an adaptation period to get used to or something that the treble sensitive might have a problem with. Besides that, everything is extremely well executed, which makes it a headphone that I reckon majority would cherish and enjoying owing and listening to for a long time. Which is why it makes it very easy for me to recommend for most! Highly recommended, definitely check it out if you get the chance!
Gear used for testing and review.
- Desktop setup – Universal Audio Apollo + DROP THX AAA 789 Amp
- DAPs – iBasso DX240 | Shanling M6 Ultra | Lotoo PAW6000
- Phone – OnePlus 7 Pro + iBasso DC05
Artists I like and listen to.
- Rock – Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Switchfoot, Imagine Dragons, Daughtry, Green Day, MuteMath, X Ambassadors, Dave Matthews Band, Vertical Horizon, Our Lady Peace, Lifehouse, Fall Out Boy, Breaking Benjamin, Muse, ACDC, Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine, Biffy Clyro, I Am Giant, Normandie, Paramore, Slash & Guns N Roses, 3 Doors Down.
- Pop Rock – John Mayer, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, James Bay, Hunter Hayes, Niall Horan, Keith Urban, The Bros Landreth, Bryan Adams.
- Progressive Rock/Metal – Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Karnivool, Tool, Dead Letter Circus, Periphery, Lamb of God.
- Pop/Soft Rock – Ed Sheeran, Adele, Taylor Swift, OneRepublic, The Script, Gavin James, Magic Man, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Oasis, Panic! At the Disco, TwentyOne Pilots.
- EDM – Chainsmokers, Zedd.