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Meze Audio Liric Review – Reframe

Pros –

Gorgeous build and design, Great isolation and comfort, Engaging yet non-fatiguing tuning, Tight and extended bass, Very spacious soundstage for a closed-back, Molded carrying case

Cons –

Cheap feeling cables, Thin midrange irks on certain tracks, Average treble technical performance in-class

Verdict –

The Liric offers sound resolving power with tastefully executed colouration that makes for a fun and engaging listen whilst benefitting from Meze’s legendary comfort and craftsmanship.


Introduction –

Romanian audio company, Meze, made a big entrance with the 99 Classics that remains one of the most highly recommended portable closed-back headphones on the market. With the Liric, the company is returning to its roots and expanding upon innovations first made for their flagship open backs. This is a high-end closed-back headphone that Meze has spent over 3 years developing. It has a focus on but not overt intention for portable use and represents the continuation of Meze’s collaboration with Ukrainian Rinaro. In particular, the Liric implements a similar switchback, dual-motor planar driver as seen on their flagship Empyrean and Elite open backs only shrunken down for its more compact frame. The new driver dubbed MZ4 sports a few new developments such as the Phase-XTM system that has been designed to minimize phase distortion that plays a larger role in closed-back designs. As before, this is a hand-assembled headphone with an emphasis on modularity, quality and a superb usability experience.

The Liric is available for $2000 USD. You can read all about it on Meze Audio’s website here!

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Alexandra from Meze very much for her quick communication and for providing me with the Liric for the purpose of photographing and review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Driver: MZ4 planar magnetic driver
  • Impedance: 30 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB
  • Frequency Response: 4 Hz – 92 kHz
  • Weight: 391g

Behind the Design –

MZ4 Isodynamic Hybrid Array Driver

Images provided by Meze

A derivative of the MZ3 driver seen in the Empyrean, the MKZ4 has been shrunken down and re-tuned for the Liric’s portable form factor. They employ an ultralight iso-planar diaphragm coming in at just 0.08g. As on the MZ4 a hybrid Neodymium magnet array placed symmetrically on either side of the diaphragm exert uniform force across its entire surface. As before, this is also a dual-driven system with twin voice coils with switchback woofer and spiral mid-high motors. The company reasons that having two motor systems allows them to direct a certain frequency range towards a specific region of the outer ear to reduce reflections and issues with phase cancellation. The in-house developed driver sports ultra-low distortion, high-resolution design, is lightweight and also easy to drive.

Phase-X

Closed-back designs come with their set of pros and cons, and few would argue that most fall behind with regards to soundstage and imaging performance. To combat this, Meze has implemented a new technology dubbed Phase-X which is designed to minimize the phase distortion seen on many closed-back designs. The technology aids absolute linear phase resulting in accurate spatial imaging. Moreover, the company argues this is conducive towards a faster transient response decay allowing for a more detailed sound with sharper direction and more accurate distance portrayal.  

Earpad Air Flow System

To further enhance a portable listening experience, Meze are using the airspace within the earpads themselves as part of the acoustic volume. This permits a smaller, lighter and lower-profile earcup design without negatively affecting sound quality or tuning. However, this does also mean the earpads cannot be easily removed as on the Empyrean and Elite, requiring a service kit from Meze.

Lightweight Skeleton

The Liric implements a lightweight magnesium skeleton that ensures the headphones are shock-resistant, oxidation free and comfortable during long-term wear. Aluminium hangers complement this experience alongside a lightweight spring steel headband design. This means the entire structure of the headphone is made from metal, promising to be hard-wearing and attuned to the rigours of daily use.

Pressure Equalization System

The smarts don’t stop there as Meze also introduces a tuned air vent hole on the faceplate of the headphone designed to control airflow and improve ear cup chamber pressure. The company reasons this provides a more natural, spacious sound alongside reducing wearing pressure and fatigue.

Unboxing –

Even coming from the lavish Elite, I was blown away by the opulent unboxing experience offered by the Liric. The headphones come within a large card box with a hard case inside made from faux leather. Opening the case reveals the headphone case containing the Liric and 1.5m portable cable. Above is a leather pouch containing the 3m cable for desk use alongside aeroplane and 6.3mm adaptors. As is a recurring theme with Meze, the included carrying case is of excellent quality with a tough EVA outer and soft velvet interior that provides protection against both drops and scratches.

The case is beautifully formed to hug the headphones and has a water-resistant zipper design. In addition, it has an inlet with elastic straps that holds the included cable to keep things organized. The Liric folds flat for storage and one thing that I appreciate is that the case still fits the headphones even if the sliders aren’t fully retracted meaning you don’t have to readjust them every time they’re stored away. While I would have liked to see a balanced cable, the overall unboxing and accessory set cannot be faulted, especially for the headphone’s intended uses.

Design –

This impression of quality and attention to detail is only heightened upon feeling the headphones for the first time. This has always been a strength for Meze and they’ve only continued to raise the bar with each subsequent release. The Liric strikes me as delivering a good balance between portability and long-term comfort for home use. The base design and shape are clearly derived from the Empyrean/Elite though with a new, non-suspension headband and slightly smaller earcup dimensions. Of course, they are closed-back so the metal grill has been replaced by a sealed leather-clad enclosure with a small pressure equalization vent. While the chassis no longer sports the raw CNC finish of the Elite, it employs a lighter magnesium skeleton, hangers and headband brackets. All sport a texture similar to that seen on DSLR’s, giving them a tactile yet hard-wearing feel alongside a substantial overall weight cut.

The slide rails share a metal complexion with an aluminium build, so the overall construction feels rock-solid and ready for the stressors of daily use. They swivel enabling the headphones to fold flat, but they don’t fold down like some portable headphones. I am a huge fan of the aesthetic design here as, not only is the cutout frame design lightweight, it also imbues a high-performance aesthetic. The headband is far lower-profile than the suspension band on the 99-series and Empyrean/Elite and contributes to a far more streamlined aesthetic on the Liric. The headphone uses dual-mono 3.5mm connectors similar to the 99-range. This means a wide range of third-party cables in addition to Meze’s own upgrade cables are compatible, though do watch out for larger plugs that may not clear the housing.

The included cables are of sound if not especially inspiring quality for such a premium headphone. They have a rubbery TPE jacket that’s soft but doesn’t feel nearly as hard-wearing or premium as the headphones themselves. Both the 1.5m and 3m cables share an identical construction. The upside is the bronze machined aluminium connectors that form a delightful complement to the accents on the Liric. They have adequate strain relief and the 3.5m plugs are case-friendly for portable use. Still, I would have liked to see a much nicer cable and potentially a balanced cable included at this asking price.

Fit & Comfort –

Revised Weight & Headband

Though not a small headphone, the Liric is appreciably smaller than your typical full-size open-back making for a socially acceptable hybrid between that and your regular portable design. The thicker pads and slightly larger cups also permit far strong long-term comfort making this a true over-ear design. Moreover, the new design and material selection have net a good weight cut at 391g. Though low-profile and no longer sporting a suspension design, the headband remains wide and offers soft padding that promotes admirable long-term comfort. The leather outer matches the earcups and the inner portion of the band showcases breathable fabric with a cross pattern that further promotes airflow when on the go.

I do personally find suspension bands to take the edge on overall wearing comfort, however, they are also awkward and large for portable use. The Liric’s wide band and reduced weight allow it to remain comfortable for my head over an entire day of listening, it just doesn’t feel quite as effortless to wear. The Liric still upholds a wide range of adjustability for those with a taller head shape. Do note that, while they achieved a perfect low-profile fit for me, those with wider heads may struggle here as the bend is quite aggressive. Otherwise, users can enjoy all-day comfort with lower clamp force, solid breathability and minimal wearing pressure on account of the vented cups.

Earpads

I would posit that the internal aperture of the new earpads will still be very ample for most listeners. The pads are deep and plush, about 30mm thick like the original Empyrean. Do note, that they are now glued onto the headphones rather than attaching magnetically. The drivers are covered by fabric which should provide greater comfort for those with especially wide ears. Altogether, this provides a well-sealing and comfortable fit with impressive passive noise isolation that easily suffices for commute and public transport. The headband sliders operate similarly to the Empyrean, offering a smooth action and good range of stepless adjustment. Perhaps unique to my unit, the adjustment was slightly loose and would require readjustment on each wear. This didn’t affect the actual wearing experience but is something to note. Retail units may have tighter tolerances so take this with a grain of salt.

Next Page: Sound Breakdown

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