Excellent Meze Sound On the Go
I feel like I've been waiting for this moment all my life. One of my favorite brands is making my favorite type of headphone: a closed-back planar magnetic headphone. I can hardly contain myself. The Liric headphone at least from the box looks like everything I want in a headphone: amazing Meze Audio planar sound, closed-back energy, portable, sexy aesthetics. Let's see if this headphone is the real deal or just another forgotten lyric...
"We've been wanting to do a portable planar for a while, and following two successful collaborations with Rinaro, it was a natural next step. Naming it 'LIRIC' was not a game of chance. It was an ideal metaphor to plant the authentic, vivid, and poetic sound disguised behind its ethereal silhouette In our folklore, lyricism is found in the smallest of details, from odes to poems, from flute songs to the melismatic tunes of the 'doina' (a style of voice singing specific to Romania). Our first portable planar-magnetic headphone was born from our love for music, poetry, and the indisputable attachment we have to our home country's culture."Antonio Meze, Lead Designer & Founder Meze Audio
- Excellent clean and clear sound
- Design is sleek and sexy
- Portable and easy to drive
- Might fall in love with the design and style
- Extended burn-in time suggested: improvements worthwhile
Materials, Quality, & Comfort
The unboxing of a Meze Audio headphone is an experience that never disappoints. The Liric is no different, but this time Meze went for a more luxurious aesthetic than an executive one. I was having flashbacks to the Focal Stellia especially with the bronze coloration and clam-shell hard case design. Opening up the thin cardboard outer box, the black inner box is a textured hard cardboard and hinged at the top side. The entire topside of this box is actually a cushioned leather with the Liric logo stenciled in gold in the center. It's niceeeee. Lifting the top part up, you'll see the inside is lined with foam and front and center is the hard shell case with the Meze logo. It's a similar presentation as the Focal Stellia, and it's just as high-end. Inside the clam-shell case you'll find the headphones, a leather bag with the 2 cables, an airplane adapter (why?), and a quarter-inch adapter. Under the case is the high-quality glossy-page manual giving some lovely stats and specs about the Liric headphone. I have to say, these headphones look amazing. I love the matte black design, but it retains enough features and build design that you can still very much tell it's a Meze headphone. The headband design is reminiscent of the pressure distribution wings of the Empyrean and Elite headphones. It's wide on the top which in the same way relieves pressure points, but the Liric includes padding as well underneath the leather band in a breathable mesh fabric. On the top of the headband you'll find the branding of the headphones like all other full-size Meze Audio models, with "Liric."
The swivel design of the cup also remains similar to that of the Empyrean, with the stem of the ear cup being the mechanism that adjusts the fit of the headphone. The Bronze accent on this part is one of the few colored accents on the headphone as a whole. Also, the fit mechanism and outer ear cup ring is the only part of the headphone with exposed metal/aluminum. The bronze-colored stem protruding from the ear cup is aluminum, while the black metal on the hinge, outer ear cup ring, and the headband brace is made from magnesium. Magnesium is also great for shock resistance and oxidation. The Magnesium part of the ear cup is mirrored by a plastic section that actually holds the driver (you can see the dividing line of these two materials intersecting the headphone cable jacks). The outside of the ear cups are a soft-touch, leather that blends in well with the texture of the entire cup and pad design. The most impressive thing about this design as a whole is how Meze achieved such a uniform looking and cohesively-textured headphone while using all these different materials. Each ear cup has a small bronze vent, which is for pressure equalization inside the ear cup - the Rai Penta IEM also had the same vent design.
Pressure Equalization System: A precisely tuned air vent hole can make a world of difference in how you perceive the sound around you. The result of Meze adding this to the Liric headphone is better controlled airflow, improved ear cup chamber pressure, and a sound that is more airy, transparent, and detailed.
The cups are an ovoid shape and are a special design to Meze full-size headphones the Empyrean, the Elite, and now the Liric. Most headphones either have a circular, elliptical, or even a rectangle design. However, Meze designed their ear cup in an ovoid shape, understanding the more natural shape of the ear should be mirrored by the ear pad - and even the driver too. Since the ear pad fits the shape of the ear itself, it allows for less "room" within the ear cup for sound to bounce around and get lost in. In other words, you have a more direct channel to the music. The ovoid shape also allows for a smaller driver size compared to other planar magnetic headphones, resulting in reduced weight and longer listening sessions without ear fatigue. Meze doubled down on this especially with the Liric, developing an even smaller version of the MZ4 driver which we'll get into more below.
One interesting omission for the Liric is the lack of any Meze Audio text branding, instead choosing to only show the Meze symbol on the stem of the ear cup. It creates a sleeker look and a more "stealth" aesthetic which is apparently in right now, with a billion stealth-named headphones coming out.
One thing I've always praised Meze for was not just the sound of their headphones, but the overall comfort too. The only thing I could somewhat be picky about was the larger size of the ear cups combined with the adjustment method would sometimes not provide a strong enough clamp or seal around my ears/head. Well, the Liric fixes this, with the updated adjustment mechanism and the smaller cup and driver design - this is the most comfortable Meze Audio headphone to date.
Design: perfected. 10/10.
This might be one of the most nuanced sections I'm going to write here about a pair of headphones, because there's just so much to say. Let's start with the good. It's the Meze sound: clear, clean, detailed, and bodied. The Isodynamic Hybrid Array is phenomenal and performs above and beyond. For example, Radiohead's Kid A is a trip through time and space. There's a lot to take in from the decay on the synth beats in the beginning minute of the song to the filtered vocals and harmonies coming in later - everything has a pocket it falls into, not taking away or diminishing the other performances in the track. The pad synth at the end swells in, showing off the soundstage of the Liric. It's not an Empyrean or Elite - you're not going to find an expansive sonic playground like those flagship-level headphones. The Liric isn't trying to, either. This is the first time the world has heard the Isodynamic Hybrid Array contained in a closed-back design. It's different. The separation and imaging are what really make the Liric stand out - they're amazingly precise. I would happily sacrifice some soundstage for superb imaging, and although these aren't an Empyrean, I don't mind. For me, closed-back planar magnetic headphones aren't so much about the smaller soundstage as they are about retaining the energy that is lost in an open-back. It's the better balance in my opinion.
One thing out of the gate that you'll notice when putting on the Liric is the amazing isolation. Clamping and noise iso is top notch. Even in my office where I have a desk fan constantly blowing white noise in my face, the Liric turns that into a soft rumble with ease, and near-inaudible when playing music. In his Russian Rhapsody for Two Pianos, Rachmaninoff shows a more playful side of his composing, with a myriad of tickling and emotion that I always enjoy listening to. Both pianists play off each other as if watching a pair of ballerinas sway and flip across a stage. It's a strikingly visual piece when you hear it, and the big takeaway here is not the playing, but the moments of silence. Rather than selecting a classical piece with a large orchestra, it's nice to hear staccato parts with very precise moments of silence. The Liric is a quiet headphone, and those pockets of silence combined with the excellent isolation of the ear pads and cups make for a dynamic performance. This will translate well with any other genre too, so keep in mind that if you like dynamics and great noise isolation then the Liric should be a serious consideration.
I didn't think I would have as much fun with these in the rock category. I was wrong. D'You Know What I Mean is not Oasis' heaviest song, but it shows off their harmonies and songwriting ability. I've always been a big fan of their guitar tones, and have often been underwhelmed at many headphones' ability to decipher their music. You haven't heard an Oasis song until you've heard it on a Meze headphone. Period. The Liric takes all these layers of tracks - drums, layered guitars, solos, vocals, bass, small dubs and reverse artifacts - and interprets them as if understanding the Rosetta Stone for the first time. I'm getting giddy writing this at the moment - I know I was just talking about the soundstage earlier, but the chorus guitars on this song really show what the Liric is capable of. No, it's not like the Empyrean, but it shouldn't be. The energy of the song is retained in a way that the Empyrean can't - and that's the beauty that I love about closed-back planars. That soundstage is nice for a pair of closed-back, aided by what Meze Audio calls Phase-X which they newly implement on the MZ4 driver. It basically helps with transients and imaging, taking the listener closer to the ambiance and environments of the original source recording. When A/B testing with other closed back planar-magnetic headphones (HIFIMAN HE R10P and Audeze Mobius), there is a definite improvement in imaging and overall clarity, but how much is noticeable varies by the song, source, and a plethora of other factors. In my testing session, I've paired the Meze Liric with a number of different setups:
- Matrix Audio X-Sabre 3 Pro > Mytek Liberty THX AAA
- Matrix Audio Element X
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Astell&Kern SE180 DAP with SEM2 Module
- Direct In to laptop (Sabre DAC)
The biggest takeaway is that, yes, the Liric has its own signature, but it also enhances the source. For instance, my first test was with the X-SABRE 3, and in all honesty, I was initially disappointed with the lack of energy and overall sterilization of the audio. However, this wasn't to say that it didn't sound good (if that makes sense), but the choice of music combined with the signal chain did not make a good pairing for my preferences. This point just drives home one of our biggest goals here at Moon Audio - is to help find the right audio equipment that is right for you. Sometimes, and a lot of times, it's not the most expensive piece on the shelf. The X-SABRE 3 DAC is an excellent DAC that I HIGHLY recommend, but I would probably pair it with a tube amp and a Black Dragon cable to bring more warmth out of the music if you want to use the Liric. There are many RIGHT combinations, it's just a matter of finding one. The Liric headphone had lots more low end when listening to the Element X or even my phone. In fact, the Liric sounded great with each of these setups, bringing out different tonalities for each. Overall, I would classify the Liric as neutral sounding / warm-leaning. I like this signature because it makes for a versatile headphone with many different types of gear. The other major factor to consider here is that the Liric is incredibly easy to drive. I had plenty of headroom to flex the cans in each of these scenarios without issue.
The Liric: Neutral-sounding / warm-leaning. Fast and tight bass response, clear and detailed mids and highs. Soundstage is close, but feels wider with the implementation of Phase-X and the great Isodynamic Hybrid Array driver. Imaging and transients are phenomenal. Great for Rock, Folk, Classical, Jazz, Alternative, Synthwave, Classic Rock, Blues.
1) Kid A by Radiohead (KID A)
2) Russian Rhapsody for Two Pianos by Sergei Rachmaninoff
3) D'You Know What I Mean by Oasis (Be Here Now)
4) Three To Get Ready by Dave Brubeck Quartet (Time Out)
Award-Winning Technology in a Portable Frame- The Liric features the state-of-the-art-technology developed by Rinaro, re-engineered for day-to-day use. The MZ4 Isodynamic Hybrid array driver was purposefully scaled down and tuned to deliver a similar audio experience with its larger counterpart found in the Empyrean. Combined with the closed-back design, it helps preserve the original clarity and emotion of your favorite music through enhanced sound and minimized external noise. Each driver is entirely hand assembled and tested in Rinaro's industrial facility in Ukraine.
MZ4 Isodynamic Hybrid Array Driver- The Liric is the first closed-back headphone to be powered by Rinaro's Isodynamic Hybrid Array driver. Created exclusively for Meze Audio, the MZ4 driver offers the same dual shaped voice coil array seen in the Meze Audio Empyrean. Over 30 years of R&D have gone into developing the technology, resulting in one of the lightest and most advanced planar magnetic drivers on the market. A new innovation to the MZ4 driver developed in-house is the Phase-X system, which improves ambiance and spatial sound imaging, often found to be a problem in closed-back headphone designs.
- Ultra-Low Distortion: Total harmonic distortion (THD) measures under 0.15% in the whole frequency range.
- Lightweight: 71g combined driver weight designed to create a headphone that offers comfortable listening experience on the go.
- Phase-X System: Improved ambiance and spatial sound imaging through innovative technology.* *Patent Pending
- Ultra-High Resolution Audio: Upper frequency limit of audio reproduction is 92,000 Hz.
- Easy-to-Drive: 100dB @1mW/1khz; 30ohms. Can be driven by almost any portable source without needing additional amplification.
- Scaled Flagship Isodynamic Hybrid Array Technology: One of the most sophisticated and advanced planar magnetic technologies in the world has been scaled down for portable use.
Advantages of a Dual Driver System- The MZ4 driver combines individual switchback and spiral shaped voice coils within the same diaphragm, allowing sound to be targeted with more accuracy around the natural form of the ear, for a more selective acoustic performance. Using this combination allows the headphones to achieve an increased exposure of direct sound wave frequencies over the 10kHz range, as well as improved imaging and localization, by decreasing the impact of short-wave time delays cause of diffused field reflections. The switchback coil is more efficient at reproducing lower frequencies and is positioned in the upper part of the driver. The spiral coil is more efficient at reproducing middle-high frequencies and is positioned directly over the ear canal enabling more direct sound waves to enter the ear without any time delays.
Improved Efficiency at Higher Frequencies- At frequencies above 10kHz, where sound wave length is smaller than the cushions inner cavity, the sound field becomes diffused with an amount of the direct and reflected sound waves within the ear canal. A significant increase of direct sound waves was achieved by positioning the most efficient part of the diaphragm in mid-high frequencies directly over the ear canal, resulting in improved 3D imaging and spatial localization.
Phase-X, A Revolution in Sound Imaging- An innovation to the MZ4 driver is the Phase-X system created by Rinaro as a way to minimize phase distortion issues typically found in closed-back headphone designs. This patent-pending technology helps create an immersive spacial sound imaging. The Phase-X system improves the accuracy of spacial imaging in-line with its open back counterparts, especially noticeable on binaural recordings.
- Original Source Recording: Absolutely linear phasing offers the listener the original spatial image as it was recorded. This includes information from the instrumentation as well as the recording environment itself.
- Nonlinear Phasing: Nonlinearities in phase response noticeably affect the reproduction of the spatial image of the original recording.
- Phase-X Linearization System: With the addition of Phase-X, Liric achieves a more linear phase response and a faster transient response decay. This allows for a more faithful reproduction of transient sounds and improves ambiance and spacial imaging for the listener, taking them closer to the environment of the original source recording.
Meze Audio Empyrean Headphones
Meze Audio Elite Headphones
If you're coming into this thinking the Liric is a cheaper Elite or Empyrean, you're going to be disappointed. You can't compare one against the other really in my book. It's apples and oranges. The Empyrean is the OG, or original, flagship of the Meze line of full-size headphones. It offers a surprising amount of warmth and clarity, but the real star of the show is the soundstage. The imaging and soundstage are truly special; truly Meze Audio. Like standing on the conductor's podium in front of a full orchestra, few headphones have given me the experience of immersiveness and depth that the Empyreans have. At least until the Elite came around. If you're wanting a more neutral and boost on clarity, then the Elite takes the cake. They also made the driver from the Elite much easier to drive than the Empyrean, which is likely the same design they used for the Liric too (concerning power consumption).
The thing about the Elite and Empyrean however is that they are open-back headphones, large, and have much more power needs than the Liric. The Liric is designed to be portable. I actually called the Rai Penta like an almost-tiny-Empyrean you could take with you. Well now you have the Liric. Easier to drive, smaller, same amazing Isodynamic Hybrid Array drivers, and a jaw-dropping design if you ask me. What more could you want?
Drew's Impression - Comparison with the Fostex TH900 MKII
"These are 2 very different headphones. Both have amazing comfort but in different ways. For example either headphone will disappear on your head while using it as a desktop system. I could see you enjoying either of these for many hours in front of a computer. The fit of the headband of the Fostex is a little looser on the head and is a little larger than the Liric so it does not make for a good portable headphone unless you are at Starbucks for example sitting still. I would not use the Fostex as a headphone to go on a walk with. That is where the Liric comes in. It has a better snug fit on your head which is not a fatiguing clamp type feel. Meze has always done a remarkable job with the mechanical engineering of their headphones. All are very comfortable, which can be a rare thing with headphones.
I find the Lirics to have a more immediate sound. The instruments are right there. I feel surrounded by the artist. There is more of a blended mix. Whereas with the Fostex, the depth of sound is a little larger and cohesive. There really on equal footings interms of what I like about them. Just different strokes for different folks.
The Dragon Cable Experience
Recommended Cable: Black Dragon Premium
Going back to our talk about the sound of the Meze Audio Liric, most of my testing session I utilized the stock cables that came packaged with the headphone. Meze makes nice enough cables, with matching bronze connectors with gold plugs, etc. But the overall effect of the cable on the headphone left me wanting. When plugging in a Silver Dragon cable for instance it was like the headphone came to life; like a veil was being lifted. The Silver and Copper conductors in our Silver, Black, and Blue Dragon Cables can add another dimension to your music, depending on what you want to hear. My favorite pairing is with the Black Dragon headphone cable; the warmer signature helps to bring more body to the sound, providing a full and rich presentation combined with the Liric headphone.
Black Dragon Sound Signature
The Black Dragon is warm and smooth with a musical presentation. Copper strands enhance the body, shape, and immediacy of the music. The detail and expansiveness of the Black Dragon make it a flexible fit where a broad range of musical genres are played. It can also improve bass frequencies on bass-light headphones. The smooth, musical quality makes it a perfect fit for headphones that tend to sound a bit edgy or bright. Despite its warmth, the Black Dragon does not have a laid back, lush sound. It is much closer to neutral, making it a very natural sounding cable.
For more information on finding your signature sound, visit our Sound Signature Guide.
The Liric is to the Elite or Empyrean as the Stellia is to the Utopia. If you get it, you get it. The Liric is Meze Audio's answer to the question of what you get when you put the amazing Isodynamic Hybrid Array behind closed doors. Or ear cups. Spoiler alert: it's still amazing. The Liric takes everything you love about the Meze sound, shrinks it and makes it more efficient for a headphone that you can take with you. You could even argue that they improved the design, because this is one of the best-looking headphones in my opinion. The marrying of materials into a perfect design of class, sex appeal, and luxury, it's hard not to think these headphones make you look better just by wearing them.
There's no denying these sound amazing, but I think the more important thing is that you make sure you pair it well for the music you like. That goes with anything really, and the Liric will sound amazing with everything, given the superb imaging, clarity, and sound signature of the headphone. Meze makes some of the best sounding headphones on the market, hands down, and the Liric doesn't fall far from the tree.
Thanks, Meze, for reiterating why I love closed-back planar magnetic headphones.
What's in the Box
- Meze Audio Liric Headphone
- 3ft Cable
- 6ft Cable
- Flight Adapter
- Quarter-inch Adapter
- Hard shell case
Meze Liric Headphone Unboxing Video
Meze Liric headphone Review: Drew's First Impressions
Meze Liric Headphone Review Video (Coming Soon)
- Driver Type: Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array MZ4
- Operating Principle: Closed
- Ear Coupling: Circumaural
- Frequency Response: 04 - 92,000 Hz
- Impedance: 30 Ohm
- Nominal SPL: 100 dB (1mW / 1kHz)
- Maximum SPL: 130 dB
- THD: <0.15%
- Weight: 390g
- Geometrical Shape: Ovoid
- Size: 92mm x 63mm
- Weight: 71g
- Casing: Fiberglass reinforced polymer
- Type: Rinaro Isoplanar MZ4
- Active Area: 3507 mm2
- Weight: 0.08g
- Acoustic Mass: 6.5 kg/m4
- Frequency Limit: 4 - 92,000 Hz (Lower to Upper)