The Perfect Marriage of Design and Great Sound
I'm in my happy place again: sitting down and listening to a new product from Meze Audio. I'm not gonna lie, I have yet to review a product from Meze that has disappointed me. Does that make me partial to the manufacturer? No. Does that make me a big fan of Meze? Yes. They undeniably make some amazing-looking and sounding products, and even if it wasn't for the design aesthetics, they'd still win awards for the quality in sound engineering. Recently, Meze announced that they were discontinuing the Rai Solo - this was one of their most affordable IEMs and one that we called an absolute steal for the price. So apart from the 12 Classics V2, there wasn't anything in-between price-wise until the Rai Penta at $1,099. Well, luckily the Advar has taken over the middle ground.
But like they say, too much of a good thing and you get to a point where you're just waiting to be let down. At some point, even Rome fell. Will the Advar be the fall of Meze Audio? Let's find out.
Antique aesthetic, great weight
Lovely tight bass and midrange response
Revered Meze Audio Soundstage
Finish easily scratches
MMCX connectors not our favorite
Materials, Quality, & Comfort
Okay, let's just go ahead and talk about this aesthetic. They look like I would find them thrifting in an antique store in a near-future steampunk post-apocalyptic world. And I LOVE them. Apart from the steampunk comment I just made, the styling is absolutely beautiful with the glossy dark metallic casings and the bronze/gold accents. Meze Audio is all about stunning designs for their products and the Advar is no different. Their Rai Penta is one of my favorite IEMs but I dare say this might be one of the best looking IEMs on the market.
I really appreciate the weight of this IEM. The Rai Penta was incredibly light and literally disappeared in your ear. That was phenomenal for long listening sessions, but I also enjoyed the weight of a solid and tight fit like with the Rai Solos. They were made from an all stainless steel shell, and it was shaped much like the Rai Penta for a custom-like fit despite being a universal design. The Advar feels a lot like the Solo, with a stainless steel chassis as well, and the heft is similarly pleasant. Meze also has a high-gloss black chrome plating over the stainless steel chassis, adding some amazing curves to the IEM. It's this plating that provides much of the main shape to the design, and like all things Meze Audio, the molding and CNC finishing make the final product a true piece of art.
For those of you that have read my other IEM reviews, you should know by now that I have stupidly-sized small ear canals which is why I have a love/hate relationship with reviewing IEMs. Meze Audio is the only exception to that rule, primarily because their IEMs are on the small size compared to many others out there. The Rai Penta was just about the most comfortable thing I have ever put in my ears. The Solos were a great fit as well but combined with the weight, I would eventually get some fatigue after some considerable time. The Advar is quite a bit smaller than the Rai series, and I have to say, it might be the perfect combination of weight and comfort (at least for me). The small size of the chassis puts little to no pressure on the ear, thus resulting in ridiculously long listening sessions as I had with the Rai Penta. Color me impressed.
Now when it comes to the fit, Meze includes a multitude of ear tips to assure you get the best seal. Included in the packaging are 5 pairs of tips (SS, S, M, L, LL). These ear tips are developed by FInal Audio, and the Type E model which is paired with the Advar is supposed to "improve bass and reduce harsh tones in the high-frequency range." Now, we have a bottomless pit of ear tips here at Moon Audio of various shapes, sizes, materials, and more. After some time comparing foam tips to silicone, one small size to another, I will say one of the best responses from an ear tip was the Final Audio that came packaged with the IEM. Not only did it provide one of the deepest and most comfortable fits, but the bass response was more pronounced, mids were allowed to fill the space, and the detail still managed to pierce through. We'll talk more about the sound impressions in the next section but be assured that you'll get great sound from the included ear tips.
Inside the chassis, you'll find a 10.2mm single dynamic driver. The Rai Solo's single driver is 9.2mm, but the shell was also larger than that of the Advar. Like other Meze IEMs, the Advar uses MMCX connectors that attach snuggly to the included braided cable.
For those of you that have read my other IEM reviews, you should know by now that I have stupidly-sized small ear canals which is why I have a love/hate relationship with reviewing IEMs. Meze Audio is the only exception to that rule.
Design is only half of the equation of a good audio product. Arguably the most important part is how it sounds, and Meze Audio has a good history of great-sounding products. Luckily the Advar doesn’t go against the formula, and it offers some quality sound that beats out the competition at this price point (in my humble opinion). As of writing this review, the Rai Solo has officially been discontinued, thus leaving out a true entry-level contender for Meze Audio in the IEM category. The Advar in fact offers more performance and better tuning than the Solo (as it should - given the price), but the Advar is a true mid-range IEM for those wanting much more than an entry-level IEM.
You shouldn’t be surprised that the Advar still retains the excellent Meze soundstage that is present in all of their headphones and IEMs. No one does it better - and you should be impressed with the overall imaging and spatial width/depth that they achieve from a single driver. It’s not quite up to the Empyrean or Rai Penta’s level, but the soundstage is one of the best features of the Meze Advar.
When it comes to listening to various genres, there are a couple of things that stand out about the Advar that fans of other Meze headphones will immediately notice. The first thing is that Meze made some excellent tuning to the drivers to really bring out some low-end warmth and texture. Carter Vail’s Love-15 has lots of subtle instrumentation going on in the mix, which given the funky pop tendencies of the song, the bass and kick really ground the song from being “too busy.” The Advar has some fast response and tightness in the bass - never feeling bloated. The mids are wonderfully full, offering some nice bodied sound in the guitars especially. The way Carter mixes some of his songs can be a little treble-heavy given the myriad of instruments he uses, but the Advar has no problem rolling off any harsh frequencies, making for a nice smooth listening experience across the board.
You’re probably familiar with Two Steps From Hell even if you don’t recognize the name. Their music is some of the most iconic trailer music for television and film. Epic scores are their specialty, and if you want to really stretch a new piece of gear from 0 to 60 they are my go-to. Nero starts off with some lovely piano running scales before the staccato strings come in to set the tempo and atmosphere of the piece. The Advar really brings out the lushness of the grand piano and the swells of the strings to really fill out the soundstage on their own. The dynamics are impressive - the timpani rolls building to the fortissimo section provides a good amount of rumble for an IEM. The real test of strength comes in the loudest part of the song. In any unworthy IEM or headphones, this section becomes a jumbled mess of mush and unwanted distortion. The Advar’s imaging helps to break the ensemble up, providing more room than I was expecting, allowing the mix to become impactful without ever becoming overburdensome. Despite only being a 10.2mm single driver, the Advar performs well, offering great sound across the frequency spectrum. Guitars sound great from any genre given the warmth of the wide mid-range. Low frequencies provide a great amount of bass presence and extension, which should appease lovers of Rap and EDM. And true to form as Meze advertises, the higher frequencies were in fact never harsh. The Advar rolls off the highs for a surprisingly smooth listening experience. The overall signature is quite fun, much like the 99 Classics but better - increased soundstage than the over-ear headphones, but energetic in the same way. I would consider them leaning a bit to the warm side, but not at the expense of leaving out any detail.
1) Love-15 by Carter Vail (The Interstellar Tennis Championship)
2) Nero by Two Steps from Hell (Archangel)
3) Space Oddity by David Bowie (Space Oddity)
4) Pinball Wizard by The Who (Tommy)
- PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS:
A precisely tuned 10.2 mm single dynamic driver creates a warm, dynamic presentation that stays true to Meze Audio's signature sound.
- Solid stainless-steel chassis, with high-gloss black chrome plating, produced by metal injection molding, with CNC finishing.
- Easy to drive and pairs well with any device, thanks to high sensitivity and low impedance. The Advar provides accuracy and fidelity from 10hZ to 30kHz, offering a mesmerizing listening experience.
- A silhouette inspired by natural patterns; a rock-solid shape that ensures the highest stability. The housing rests lightly on the ear and, together with the adjustable over-ear hooks, reduces discomfort during longer listening sessions.
- Carefully selected ear tips, providing an optimum and airtight fit. Developed by Final Audio, the Type E model paired with the Advar improves the bass and reduces harsh tones in the high-frequency range.
SOUND THAT TRANSCENDS THE ORDINARY - With an endearing sound quality that matches various listening preferences, the Advar delivers audible finesse that leaves no room for compromise. Inside each shell, a precisely tuned 10.2 mm single dynamic driver creates a warm, dynamic presentation that stays true to Meze Audio’s already established signature sound. The diaphragm offers impressive control all across the frequency range, leaving room for a smooth, velvet-like sound. Detail wasn’t sacrificed – the Advar will unveil particularities with incredible accuracy, giving life to new, surprising notes waiting to be discovered in your favorite songs. The Advar is easy to drive and pairs well with any device, thanks to its high sensitivity and low impedance. It provides accuracy and fidelity from 10Hz to 30kHz, offering a mesmerizing listening experience.
REMINISCENT OF ROMANIAN LORE - For the archaic civilizations of Romania, an advar was similar to a talisman or amulet. Believed to be all-powerful, it was a symbol of the absolute meant to bring blessing to those who wear it. As a Romanian company, the folks at Meze made it their mission to preserve the essence of their culture and pass it on. Capturing that very essence, this IEM is ready to bring balance to the day-to-day life in the form of harmoniously tuned audio. The Advar is a piece of visual and sound art in its own rights, ready to unravel its mysteries piece by piece, with each listening session.
A SILHOUETTE INSPIRED BY NATURAL PATTERNS - With a form inspired by the rounded surface of raw hematite and intricate curves sculpted with care, the stainless-steel shell features an ergonomically contoured design that allows the earphones to be inserted and removed with ease. Our long-term search for the optimal fit has led to a rock-solid shape that ensures the highest stability. The housing rests lightly on the ear and, together with the over-ear hooks, reduces discomfort during longer listening sessions. The sinuous design helps enhance the noise-isolating properties of the earphone. Ear tips were carefully selected to provide an optimum, airtight fit and conform easily to your ear’s shape. Developed by Final Audio, the Type E model paired with the Advar also brings an improvement to bass tones and reduces harsh tones in the high-frequency range.
Meze Audio Rai Penta IEM
Meze Audio Rai Solo IEM
When it comes to IEMs, Meze Audio certainly knows what they are doing. The Rai Penta and the Rai Solo have been incredibly successful in-ear monitors - but what is most impressive is the fact that one is a high-end IEM (Penta) and the other is an entry-level (Solo). From the perspective of engineering, the Advar is going to be most similar to the Solo, since it is a single driver IEM. The Solo's dynamic range is impressive right out of the gate for a single driver. It's a fun, or V-shaped, sound signature. This produces deeper lows and higher highs. This type of frequency response is consumer-friendly, but lots of times these types of signatures mask the mid frequencies. The tuning of the Solo is surprisingly balanced despite this. They have the nice soundstage Meze is known for, but of course, it's not as pronounced as their headphone models or the Rai Penta. The best thing about the Solo is the price for the sound quality. The worst thing is the fact they've been recently discontinued.
The Advar fits somewhere between the Solo and the Penta. The thing that stands out the most for the Advar is the warmth. They are certainly most boosted in the midrange than the other two IEMs provide, giving off a very similar signature to that of the Empyrean in this regard. Whereas the Empyrean is completely lush sounding, the Advar does provide some nice top end roll-off to smooth out any harsh frequencies. It's a great middle-of-the-road option not just in sound but in price too. I would argue that the Advar is for those who want a full-bodied sound out of their IEMs with plenty of comfort for long listening sessions. Comfort is another key element in a Meze Audio IEM, and the Advar is going to fit a little differently than the Solo and Penta. The latter Rai series has a design that covers most of the internal cavity of the ear and is thus tuned to take into effect the shape of that cavity (especially in the case of the Penta's five drivers). The Advar is designed primarily for the single driver pointed down the ear canal, combined with the specially paired ear tips, you'll expect much more of a bass presence but not at the expense of clarity and detail.
Meze's flagship IEMs - the Rai Penta - is an incredibly resolute in-ear monitor. Music is detailed with nice extension in the bottom end and the higher frequencies are smooth and balanced. These are going to sound great for every genre out there. The spaciousness of the soundstage is going to make classical and jazz much more expressive and expansive. What I really appreciate with a headphone or IEM is its ability to blend the instrumentation. Of course, some of this is determined by the mix itself, but there are times when a headphone has such a wide presentation that the blend, or rather lack thereof, can be distracting and take away from the overall performance. The tuning of the drivers can alleviate this issue, and the Rai Penta does it with flying colors. Of course, the Penta is not tuned for a fun, or bass-heavy sound signature, but the presentation is enjoyable even for these genres. I don’t like to adjust my music with digital EQ, but if you want to push the bass response, know that the Rai Penta is certainly up to the task. It has impeccable micro-detailing providing realism across the wide frequency range of 4Hz to 45 kHz. It really makes a difference with added definition, weight, and separation for such a small package. If you want the best of what Meze has to offer in an IEM, then do not hesitate to get the Rai Penta. It is the superior product of the three IEMs.
Meze Rai Solo IEM
Fun & energetic sound signature
Amazing performance for the price
Meze Advar IEM
Warm-leaning, smooth sound signature
Great design, enjoyable tone
Meze Rai Penta IEM
Balanced & resolute sound signature
Ultimate comfort, ultimate fidelity
Overall the Advar is an impressive IEM - offering much more than the entry-level Solo and coming darn close to the performance of the Rai Penta given the mid-level price point. There's no surprise that the infamous Meze soundstage still manages to wow and amaze with each new product and iteration that they come out with, but it's the low-end presence, mid-level energy, and the high-frequency roll-off of the Advar that makes for a smooth, dynamic, and fun IEM. Lovers of all things Rock, EDM, Folk, Alternative, and even Jazz will find much to love about the Advar, and many other genres will find a way to shine through these IEMs. There are many things to give Meze Audio credit for, but consistency is a big one. They just keep putting out awesome-sounding IEMs and headphones that don't disappoint.
What's in the Box
- Case: Hard eco friendly leather carrying pouch
- Stock cable: MMCX connector ending in gold plated 3.5mm
- 5 pairs (SS, S, M, L, LL) Final Audio Type E ear tips
- 1 x MMCX removal tool
- 1 x cleaning tool
- 1 x user manual
Meze Audio Advar IEM Unboxing Video
Meze Audio Advar IEM Review Video
- Driver: 10.2mm Dynamic driver
- Frequency Range: 10 Hz - 30 kHz
- Impedance: 31 Ω
- SPL: 111dB/mW
- Distortion: <1% at 1kHz