Meze 109 Pro Review – Feedback Loop

Sound –

Tonality –

The 109 Pro is a vibrant and relatively high-contrast headphone, but also a mostly balanced to U-shaped one in summary. Though it doesn’t emphasize any of the core frequency bands to my ears, it would be erroneous to assume this is a reference headphone. In Meze fashion, the 109 Pro is coloured, and this is perhaps one of their most widely appealing renditions yet. The 109 Pro retains a bump in warmth in the mid and upper bass without overshadowing the excellent dynamics provided by its high-quality dynamic driver. The midrange is somewhat clarity-focused with more emphasis centred around the 3-4kHz range giving it a slight vocal-forwardness and a revealing character. This counterbalances the uptick of warmth and body in the low-end, contributing heavily to its vibrant yet euphonic character. Up top, the high-end sees a good amount of presence through the low and mid-treble with a notable upper-treble boost. The end result is a sparkly headphone with excellent detail presence that doesn’t grate or tire through the audible range. It is a slightly brighter sound which is atypical for the company, however, I can see this more invigorated yet balanced sound suiting many listeners.

Bass –

The more high-end headphones I listen to, the more I appreciate a good old, well-implemented dynamic driver. They deliver a sense of physicality in the low end that other drivers don’t perfectly emulate, at least to my ears. The 109 Pro exemplifies this for though it is an open-back design and doesn’t pound the head with pressure, it retains excellent dynamics and texture all the same. I also like what Meze has done with the tuning, being notably cleaner than the company’s past designs. While there is a medium mid-bass bias and a little sustain into the upper bass, it doesn’t sound as obviously humped as before. Notes are presented with excellent punch and definition but do sound a little rounded and fuller than neutral. Bloat or muddiness weren’t evident to me, just a little tubbiness relative to headphones with a lower emphasis. The upside here is that bass no longer exceedingly colours the surrounding frequencies with no boxiness around the bass/midrange transition and great separation throughout. Driver quality is excellent too, aiding this impression.

The 109 Pro is immediately a big jump up from the company’s past dynamic driver headphones and far closer in speed to their planar models. Planar headphones do offer a slightly faster decay and better separation, however, the 109 Pro delivers a more affirmative note attack and impact, delivering a bit more definition and dynamism in this sense. This works in tandem with the relative reduction in warmth to provide a good sense of pace. Dynamics perform at a higher level and detail retrieval is impressive too. My personal preference is for a slightly warmer headphone as I find separation is harmed more by excess sub-bass emphasis – albeit I seem to be in the minority here. In this sense, I do consider the 109 Pro to out-resolve something like the Focal Clear, but tuning aside, I would consider the driver quality to achieve relative parity. Overall, I do maintain that the 109 Pro has strong driver quality and a versatile and enjoyable tuning. Though on the warm side, the bass complements the midrange well alongside carrying some of the Meze house sound returning customers will enjoy.

Mids –

The Harman curve is a good reference but not a perfect one so some deviation shouldn’t, in my opinion, be considered a negative. The 109 Pro exemplifies this with a base resemblance and a handful of alterations in subjectively good taste. Its vocals are clear and well present whilst its instruments are rich and upsized. Timbre and voicing are also both mostly natural with evident warmth but hardly an overwhelming amount. In turn, those concerned about the level of warmth and room on Meze’s past headphones will be happy to know the 109 Pro swings, if anything, in the opposite direction. Following a small lower-mid nadir, the headphones climb to 3-4kHz emphasis for head gain. The extra sustain around the 4kHz region brings vocals slightly forward relative to instruments in addition to enhancing clarity. This provides an uptick of brightness and energy that, in culmination with a 2kHz dip, contributes to excellent vocal definition and clarity. Accordingly, vocal body is reduced, however, extension and midrange definition both perform at a high level meaning the midrange doesn’t come across as overtly warm or remotely congested.

As aforementioned, there is a notable 2kHz dip. Indeed, vocal size is a touch on the smaller side and body is thinner than neutral, adding to the impression of greater clarity and definition in addition to increasing separation and tonal transparency. Vocals never sound diminished and there is plenty of added body to be derived from the low-end. Still, do consider that the 109 Pro doesn’t sound as voluminous and rich as Meze’s other headphones if this is a quality you enjoy. Accordingly, the 109 Pro achieves both a natural voicing and strong separation through its midrange with minimal bloom from the bass. Instruments carry a bit more warmth, and the headphones retain a sensible amount of room to avoid sounding metallic or sparse. I find this to add to the sense of atmosphere and soundstage alongside providing more defined background/foreground layers in the midrange. It is, as always, a very delicate balance as companies can easily take colouration too far. Meze has clearly learnt from former complaints and produced a headphone that sounds a more vibrant and genre versatile.

Highs –

Meze headphones have been known to lie on the smoother side leading many to want for a more present top end, especially in the context of their otherwise warmer tuning. The Elite and Liric were a response and, to my ears, to good effect. The 109 Pro leans further in this direction delivering a top end that I would even consider to be slightly bright. That said, it isn’t a fatiguing one due to the nature of its tuning. The top end is well-present and relatively linear with only two notable deviations. One is a small 6kHz nadir and the other is a progressive climb through the upper treble. As a result, the leading edge isn’t overly sharpened nor is the midrange sibilant and exceedingly breathy. Yet, due to the upper-treble boost, you still get a high-clarity top-end with good definition and atmosphere. This tuning also takes advantage of the headphone’s strong top-end extension. While it doesn’t quite match higher-end models like the Elite, there is a good amount of background and even micro-detail present, and they are well-represented in the sound due to the increased emphasis relative to other Meze headphones. The note timbre through the audible range is energetic and vibrant, matching the character observed below.

This leads to a consistent profile throughout, contributing further to genre versatility. Conversely, those wanting the darkest background may be left wanting as the 109 Pro lies more on the open and atmospheric side. Due to good linearity through the lower and middle treble besides the 6kHz region, the foreground remains focused and adequately separated from the background. Notes are delivered with a defined leading edge yet also with minimal crunch and brittleness. Treble doesn’t sound splashy or truncated but there is a notable upper-harmonic lift meaning instruments are imbued with extra sizzle and shimmer. Instrument body is also on the thinner side, most noticeable with instruments such as cymbals that lack an iota of texture at times. However, the treble decays naturally for the most part, retaining a nuanced image overall. Like the rest of the sound, the top-end has a vibrant character, impresses with its separating ability and offers fine detail retrieval and presence in-line with the asking price. This combination produces a fun and impressive experience whose lack of excessive colouration means listenability isn’t mired.

Soundstage –

The 109 Pro performs above your average high-end headphone which is no small feat. By the same logic, it isn’t an outlier quite like the higher-end Meze headphones. In terms of raw size, it sounds obviously spacious and a far cry from the 99 headphones. Width extends beyond the head with ease while depth is a bit more intimate, especially with its more forward vocal presentation. Imaging performs at a good level too with excellent localisation and a strong centre image. Layering is also good, as the headphone is easily able to resolve and delineate between layers. The 109 Pro isn’t especially contrasted, however, as the mid-treble means it lacks the inky background blackness of some competitors. This does slightly detract from the sense of stark layers at times, but individual layers remain defined, crafting an involving and nuanced listen. Separation is a high point of this headphone as it generally errs on the thinner side, notes have ample ether around them that puts a spotlight on small details.

Driveability –

With a 40 Ohm impedance and 112 dB sensitivity, the 109 Pro is one of the easier high-end headphones to drive. It has good sensitivity and won’t punish your source too much with regard to either current or voltage demands. In addition, its single dynamic driver design is tolerant of higher output impedances.

Output Impedance Sensitivity

The 109 Pro was barely affected by my in-line 20-ohm adaptor (giving an effective 20-ohm output impedance) suggesting it has a mostly flat impedance curve. This will be a huge pro for listeners with multiple sources wanting a consistent listening experience. It also means the 109 Pro can be happily paired with a tube amp should you want to enjoy a warmer, punchier experience without huge frequency response variation in the mids and highs.

Driving Power

Once again, the 109 Pro is a pretty forgiving headphone when it comes to driving power demands. As always, it will scale nicely with a better source, it just means the performance degradation isn’t as high as many full-size headphones from a less-than-ideal source. Comparing the Shanling M2X to my THX789 desktop stack revealed a very similar experience. The mids and highs sounded very close, while bass enjoyed good extension and definition on the M2X. Under scrutiny, it was apparent that the THX amp delivered a noticeably tighter overall bass and a slightly more affirmative slam at the very bottom. The soundstage was wider and layers more apparent. Besides this, the portable source did a fine job and the 109 Pro sounded good even from smaller dongles making it a very easy headphone to drive in total.

Suggested Pair Ups

The 109 Pro is an energetic headphone in total. I would suggest a neutral amp such as those from Topping and SMSL with the more energetic THX789 sounding a bit too thin and contrasted, losing coherence. It is tolerant of added warmth, but I wouldn’t personally want a brighter top-end so keep in mind that the top-end may step forward more than the surrounding frequencies when pairing with brighter sources. Tube amps are also a fine complement as the headphone offers good resolving power, it benefits from added bass response and assumes a more organic sound profile similar to Meze’s planars but with greater bass focus.

Next Page: Comparisons & Verdict

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Ryan Soo

Ryan Soo

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

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