Meze 109 Pro Review – Feedback Loop

Comparisons –

Focal Clear ($839): The original Clear is a direct competitor seeing as it offers a similar driver type, now comes at a similar price and even has a similar sort of tuning. The 109 Pro is immediately the more comfortable headphone though it is also more coloured with a more vivid, high-contrast sound. Conversely, the Clear comes across as more coherent and a bit more focused. In terms of bass, the 109 Pro has one step greater presence and a slightly different voicing. The Clear has greater sub-bass presence and a cleaner tone. It is more dynamic with a more affirmative slam and a more weighted character. The 109 Pro is slightly punchier with a fuller mid-bass. It offers similar control and slightly better separation with a touch faster decay but lacks the same note weight as the Clear. The midrange is a touch more present on the Clear giving it a more linear character.

The 109 Pro has greater bass/midrange separation giving its vocals a thinner body but also a clearer and more defined quality. The Clear has greater body and room, it sounds more coherent with greater vocal size if lacking the same separation. I find the more balanced Clear to boast a slight advantage with regard to timbre and staging in this regard. The top-end is similar in overall quantity on both headphones. The Clear has more lower-treble bias and has a bit more bite and detail density in this regard. It also offers a more accurate instrument body. The 109 Pro is more energetic with greater upper-harmonic bias. It has more sparkle, air and zing but the Clear has a cleaner background which contributes to its superior layering performance. The Clear has a slightly larger soundstage to my ears and better layering. The 109 Pro has superior separation but isn’t as coherent overall.

Audeze LCD-X 2021 ($1199):  The LCD-X has a distinctly flatter sound profile both with regards to overall balance and transitions between the core frequency bands. Bass is immediately more present on the 109 Pro, it also has greater slam and a more dynamic nature true to the driver type. The LCD-X lacks sub-bass weight and pressure by comparison but has a tighter, more defined mid-bass and a more tonally neutral tuning with better separation. The 109 Pro has a bit more texture and a bolder character while the LCD-X sounds more composed on complex tracks in turn. The midrange on the LCD is a touch more present and has a far more coherent character. It isn’t too boxy or roomy but certainly more filled in than the more revealing and contrasted 109 Pro.

This means it sounds better balanced between male and female vocals and its midrange sounds bigger and more powerful overall. Where the two really differ is the upper midrange which is laid-back and thus, dense on the LCD-X and forward on the 109 Pro yielding increased clarity and forwardness. It naturally gives the two headphones quite a different character despite both being relatively balanced and charming individually. The top-end follows a similar trend being a bit brighter and more aggressive on the 109 Pro and smoother on the LCD-X. The 109 Pro has higher clarity and more air and shimmer. The LCD-X sounds cleaner and more linear. Its lower treble has a hair more definition and it sounds more contrasted with a darker background. At the same time, it lacks the same vibrance and sparkle in its upper treble. The LCD-X has a smaller soundstage but more coherent imaging while the 109 Pro has greater separation and space.

Hifiman Ananda Stealth ($999): Slightly pricier but can often be found discounted for a similar price, the Ananda is a planar magnetic competitor recently updated with Hifiman’s Stealth Magnet technology. The tuning is not too dissimilar between the two with again the Meze being more coloured overall. This was most prevalent to me in the bass range where the Meze offers a bit more warmth and fullness. Neither have the most present sub-bass but the Meze definitely provides a bit more slam and impact in general. It has a more aggressive texture whereas the Hifiman is a bit faster but also smoother. The midrange is more linear on the Hifiman with a more appropriate vocal size and tone. The Meze is higher contrast, it has slightly smaller, thinner vocals but also greater clarity and separation in turn.

The Hifiman’s voicing is relatively similar, its vocals have a touch more body and size, it also has a bit less warmth. Overall, both come across as natural, the Hifiman is a bit more transparent and has better-resolving power of small details. The 109 Pro has slightly more treble presence. The Hifiman evidently has a slight bump in resolution, it is faster and resolves fine details more clearly. However, the note timbre is slightly thinner and tizzier with less focus. The 109 Pro has better note articulation with a more defined leading edge while the Hifiman is a bit more evenly tuned between its lower and mid-treble, delivering a more nuanced presentation. The 109 Pro has a wider stage while the Hifiman has a bit more depth and sharper imaging, with better layering. Separation performs at a high level on both with the Hifiman having a slight advantage.  

Verdict –

The evolution of Meze has been a rewarding process, especially so for me having owned their very first model since release. To date, I’ve enjoyed seeing the company toy with new technologies, form factors and tonalities, eventually settling on their modern house sound. Perhaps the best aspect of Meze is their receptiveness to feedback both from buyers and critics with each release bearing distinct changes in alignment. The 109 Pro is an excellent response from the brand and will easily be their most widely appealing headphone yet. Firstly, it retains the beloved design language from the 99 range alongside its serviceable construction. It also takes a page out of their planar designs with a huge increase in long-term wearing comfort. In fact, these are even more comfortable and among the most comfortable headphones I’ve worn period, owing to similar weight distribution and tension balance alongside a lighter-weight chassis relative to the planar flagships. Even before listening, these facets make the 109 Pro a very easy headphone to like. Returning to a dynamic driver platform, we can see the brand is at home as the 109 Pro definitely punches up in terms of technical quality and overall polish. The headphones won’t be for all as the more contrasted sound is now distinctly thinner and more revealing than before. Those sensitive to high frequencies or accustomed to something like the Empyrean may be averted in turn. The 109 Pro has a little strain in the midrange and lacks background cleanliness relative to many competitors. If you can look past this, the 109 Pro boasts market-leading comfort alongside a vibrant sound signature that doesn’t overstay its welcome but injects music with a joie de vivre that hooks upon first listen and continues to engage thereafter.

The 109 Pro is available from Meze Audio (International) for $799 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Meze and receive no earnings from purchases made through these links.

Track List – 

Billie Eilish – dont smile at me

Bob Seger – Night Moves

Courtney Barnett – Rae Street

Cream – Wheels of Fire

Dire Straits – Communique

Dirty Loops – Next To You

Eagles – Hotel California

Elton John – Honky Chateau

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

H.E.R – I Used To Know Her

Jasen – BYE

John Mayer – Continuum

Kanye West – Ye

Missy Higgins – The Sound of White

Radiohead – OK Computer

TALA – ain’t leavin` without you

The Beatles – Abbey Road

The weeknd – After Hours

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

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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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