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The Meze Audio Headphone Guide

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Amazing Quality At Every Price Point

Brand. What makes a brand? Something that you know the company will deliver time and time again, to all their products. For Meze Audio that is quality. Quality in materials, quality in design, and most importantly quality in sound. In just a little over a decade, it's truly amazing what a name Meze has made for itself with both affordable consumer audio headphones and some of the top flagship contenders of the audiophile world. That's right, you can spend less than a hundred dollars and you'll know those earbuds are made with the same care and quality as their Empyrean or Elite headphones. Of course, they're not going to sound as good, but quality goes a long way, and bringing that quality to consumers and enthusiasts of all price ranges says a lot about the brand and what they stand for.

Meze Audio is a company that does things their way. They don't follow trends or sacrifice quality for quantity. It all comes down to a perfect marriage of amazing sound and stunning design. As they say, "Style must always be a by-product of high functionality and ergonomics." It'll be one of the first things you'll notice too about Meze, and catching your eye is half the battle when it comes to the myriad of headphone and earphone designs in the audio market.

Meze Audio purposefully stands out from the crowd and you'll find some driver technology found nowhere else on the audiophile scene incorporated into their award-winning headphones. So no matter your budget, you'll be sure to get Amazing Quality At Every Price Point.


Table of Contents


Romanian Rhapsodies

Meze Audio was founded by Antonio Meze in 2011 in Baia Mare, Romania. Legend has it that Antonio was searching for a pair of headphones that he would relate to, in the same way, he felt connected to his Fender Stratocaster guitar. He wanted a headphone that would fulfill his passion for music. He wanted a headphone that was full of personality and life, while at the same time exuding the latest top-of-the-line technology. It was this search that led Antonio to create his own headphone.

Meze Audio started small, using parts that were already available on the market. Experimenting with parts, searching and researching for the right materials, and engineering solutions for the perfect sound became their task at creating the ultimate headphone. In 2015 they finally released the 99 Classics: a perfect marriage of amazing sound and comfort.

Meze Audio headphones and IEMs continue to receive awards and nominations from all over the world for their cutting-edge technology, designs, and excellent sound. Meze Audio continues to push the envelope on how design and comfort are just as important as sound.

Everything about Meze Audio is quality. Meze likes to state that their headphones "embody the classical values of clarity, balance, and harmony." If it's one thing that sets them apart from other brands it's try passion for what they do. From the mere conception of the headphone, they design it from the ground up making sure that everything about that product is premium from start to finish. It is this standard of quality that drives them to make some of the best headphones on the market. It's no surprise that they aren't cranking out different versions of the same headphone year after year like some brands do, because they can rely on the award-winning technology and design in their existing headphones to beat obsolescence for years.

At the same time, they never stop innovating as well. Meze's development process takes as long as is necessary to get the right result. Their headphones undergo a meticulous development process whereby every possible aspect of the product is refined. lots of iterations are produced with various tunings in sound until a balance is achieved. It is a process that is born out of a desire for great sound which is only matched by an incredible passion for music.  

"Vivid and immersive. The sound signature is tuned for long listening sessions same as the ergonomics: clarity without harshness, freshness without fatigue. We know a headphone is complete when it makes you forget about the outside world and takes you for a dive into the universe of your own feelings."

-Meze Audio


The Meze Audio Timeline

The 99 Classics

The Meze 99 Classics delivers perfect natural sound even to the pickiest of audio lovers. The walnut wood earcups, soft earpads, and the spring steel headband will make the 99 Classics an heirloom rather than just a pair of headphones. Just like fingerprints, wood grain is unique, thus making each pair of Meze Headphones one of a kind. You will love how they feel in your hands. Sturdy built and precise assembly. The ear cups are made with a satin-finished wood grain. Put them on, sit back, and enjoy your favorite sound of plucked strings, upbeat grooves, or thumping beats while still looking classy. We're taking headphone design to a new level by combining modern with hand-crafted design, using natural materials, and focusing on delivering the best premium sound. Our aim is to change the perception of headphones as technical devices or as cheap plastic accessories and create a mature product to fall in love with. The choice of wood is an inherently difficult one. The rich colors of walnut require the use of air drying, a long and expensive procedure. The process of shaping just a single pair of earcups takes up to 8 hours. The whole process of sanding, lacquering, and finishing lasts 45 days. The wooden components are carefully inspected and no flaws are permitted to reach the final assembly.

Released: 2015

99 Neo

The 99 NEO

The NEO is a cosmetic variation of the 99 Classics featuring an all-black with chrome design. Take a moment with 99 Neo. Feast your eyes on coal black textured earcups. Caress the butter soft earpads. Enjoy crisp, clean sound – natural, balanced, undistorted. This is the contemporary hi-fi headphone to fall in love with. The stamped manganese spring steel headband delivers even pressure across your head. The earpads are crafted of medium-density memory foam. So you can get lost in your music for hours. Find your bliss in warm, natural/balanced sound. With hardware of cast zinc alloy with electroplated coating, 99 Neo is a classic for every day. And should you ever need to replace a part, it’s fully serviceable. 99 Neo will stand the test of time, so generations beyond you can fall in love with it too.

Released: 2017

The Empyrean

The Meze Empyrean headphones are in a new class of reference headphones as the first Isodynamic Hybrid Array headphones on the market. It can't be overstated how important the ISODYNAMIC® HYBRID ARRAY DRIVER is to the sound dispersion of this headphone. By combining a directional sound with an immersible sound from the 2 different geometric patterns of the planar driver leads to the wonderful sound staging of these headphones. These headphones are truly ear candy at their finest. A blend of premium materials, exquisite craftsmanship, and detailing that’s unmistakably Meze, Empyrean is one of the most technologically innovative planar magnetic headphones in the world. Empyrean is the product of two passionate companies coming together to explore what is possible beyond their individual capabilities. The result is a no-compromise headphone embodying Meze’s daring aesthetic and user-centered design approach and Rinaro’s experience in research and development within the field of planar magnetics.

Released: 2018

The Rai Penta

The Rai Penta is the culmination of 3 years of researching the most ergonomic shape and most vivid sound for a Universal IEM. With 5 drivers harmoniously completing each other and ingeniously modeled ergonomic housing, the Rai Penta is all about detail, organic tonality, and seamless fit. The Penta Hybrid technology delivers harmonized sound frequencies without the overlay of phase issues. For sound from the drivers to reach your eardrums it has to pass through the housing / nozzle / ear tip assembly. The seamless functioning of 5 drivers is enabled by the very specific and precise length of each sound tube which basically determines the air volume in front of each driver in particular. The comfier the IEM, the better the listening experience, this is a fact. Serious audiophiles will spend hours on end engaged in their music. RAI In-Ear Monitors are designed to deliver comfort and prolonged listening sessions allowing for a truly immersive experience for you and your music. Attention to details to an extreme: round, soft edges designed to embrace the natural curves from one’s ear and to fit perfectly. Airflow control helps regulate internal chamber pressure through Meze's finely tuned PES design in front and behind the driver assembly.

Released: 2018

The Rai Solo

Based on the popular Rai Penta design, the Meze Rai Solo features a single-driver design for premium audio at a lower price point. It features a refined electrodynamic driver with UPM balanced piston membrane motion encased in a durable and ergonomic stainless steel shell. Rai Solo has been born from our vision to offer entry-level audiophiles a solid built and great value IEM. Ergonomic design, sturdy stainless-steel shell, refined dynamic driver, all for one purpose: enchanting your senses through a pure listening experience. In developing the Rai Solo, we looked for a fun-neutral but well refined and controlled sound signature. The strongest correlation between the Rai Solo and the Rai Penta is the similar shape of the IEM. The use of Metal Injection Molding technology for the body of the Solo made it possible to have a very complex inner shape made in mass production with great accuracy. Stainless steel is an extremely rigid material, has low resonance, and therefore delivers minimum interference to the vibration created by the driver unit. In terms of audio performance, these advantages contribute to a clean and dark background with well-defined imaging.

Released: 2019

The Elite

Meze Audio and Rinaro Isodynamics continue their collaboration for the release of the new ELITE Isodynamic Hybrid Array headphone. Combining the outstanding mechanical design and ergonomics from Meze Audio with the signature technology and acoustic engineering of Rinaro, ELITE is here to set a new standard in top-of-the-line headphone performance. For the past 10 years, Meze Audio has been developing audiophile headphones and earphones renowned for their timeless design, pure comfort, and engaging, vivid sound. From looks to technology, Meze Audio products are designed to surpass all short-living trends and become heirlooms, rather than just headphones. Today, founder Antonio Meze and his skilled team design and develop their products in Baia Mare, Romania, in the spirit of their original ‘no-compromise’ vision. Combining an exclusive aesthetic with state-of-the-art engineering, ELITE delivers an accurate, authentic listening experience ready to meet the highest expectations of the proficient audiophile. With a no-compromise mindset, driven by our love for art and sound, we built a one-of-a-kind headphone using innovative designs and technologies that perfectly complete each other to create pure emotion.

Released: 2021

The Liric

The Meze Liric headphones are the first closed-back reference headphone from the award-winning developers of the Empyrean and the Elite headphones. The Liric closed-back headphones will disappear on your head while using it as a desktop system. I could see myself enjoying these for many hours in front of a computer. The fit of the headband has a snug fit on your head which is not fatiguing and does not clamp at all. Meze has always done a remarkable job with the mechanical engineering of their headphones as they are all very comfortable, which can be a rare thing with headphones. We describe the Liric on the neutral balanced side of the sound spectrum. The very interesting thing about the Hybrid Magnet Array on the Isoplanar Diaphragm of all the Meze headphones is it truly gives you the feel of a dual-driver implementation. In the Liric's case, I find the bottom frequencies to be on the warm side and the high frequencies prominent and well defined. With regular magnet arrays or with dynamic drivers, the coloration is consistent all the way through the frequency band. This is a very unique sound. Because of the bottom end warmth, I will just call this on the warm side of neutral but they are not as warm as the Empyrean.

Released: 2021


Note that these are the headphones currently available from Meze Audio (*as of March 2022 the Rai Solo has also been discontinued). Meze has spent a lot of time behind the scenes before hitting their big stride in 2015 with the 99 Classics. You'll see from the chart below, that many of their earlier headphones and iterations were just practical steps along the way that were integral to achieving that award-winning sound. Most of these products had a shortened lifespan and were eventually discontinued due to a new iteration.

Product Type Year Released Year Discontinued

55 Classics

Headphones

2010

Discontinued in 2013

88 Classics

Headphones

2011

Discontinued in 2014

73 Classics

Headphones

2011

Discontinued in 2015

66 Classics

Headphones

2012

Discontinued in 2015

11 Classics

Earphones

2013

Discontinued in 2015

11 Deco

Earphones

2013

Discontinued in 2015

99 Classics (Maple Silver)

Closed Back Headphones

2015

Discontinued in 2016

11 NEO (Gun Metal)

Earphones

2016

Discontinued in 2019

11 NEO (Iridium)

Earphones

2016

Discontinued in 2019

12 Classics (Gun Metal)

Earphones

2016

Discontinued in 2019

12 Classics (Iridium)

Earphones

2016

Discontinued in 2019

Empyrean (Phoenix)

Open Back Planar Headphones

2021

Limited Edition - Discontinued


The Rai Solo IEM

Why Do You Need Better Headphones?

Why would you settle for ordinary? People invest in what they love.

The question of why you need better headphones is one of the most important things you can ask yourself in the quest for your perfect sound in the world of audiophilia. Everything has room for improvement; it's in our very nature to seek perfection and at the same time our lot in life to never be able to achieve it. But the beautiful thing about headphones is that although improvement never leads to perfection, it always leads to more enjoyment. Your enjoyment is your investment when it comes to getting better headphones. Better headphones mean better sound, and better sound means listening to your music like never before and falling in love with it all over again. So why would you NOT want to get better headphones?

"You'll hear us say this over and over: 'Everyone hears differently.'"


About Meze Audio & Rinaro Isodynamics

Isodynamic Hybrid Array

Meze Audio: For the past 10 years, Meze Audio has been developing audiophile over-ear headphones and earphones renowned for their timeless design, pure comfort, and engaging, vivid sound. From looks to technology, Meze Audio products are designed to surpass all short-living trends and become heirlooms, rather than just headphones. Today, founder Antonio Meze and his skilled team design and develop their products in Baia Mare, Romania, in the spirit of their original ‘no-compromise’ vision.

Rinaro Isodynamics: Rinaro originated in the USSR (today’s Ukraine) during the Cold War as part of a state-funded acoustic technology research program. With government backing and access to advanced testing facilities, the team was able to focus all of its efforts on planar magnetics. A field they have continued to innovate in for the last 30 years, since the collapse of the USSR. In the last decade, Rinaro have expanded their capabilities and capacity with the development of state-of-the-art R&D and manufacturing facilities in Ukraine and Poland. The new facilities have been a driving force in the creation of the revolutionary Isodynamic Hybrid Array technology found in Meze Empyrean and ELITE headphones.


Progression: The Science Of A Unique Driver

Meze teamed up with Rinaro to create a unique planar magnetic driver design called the Isodynamic Hybrid Array Driver. The hybrid design combines two independently shaped voice coils within the same diaphragm which delivers a more selective acoustic performance to the various areas within the structure of the ear. The first part is the hybrid magnet array, placed symmetrically on each side of the diaphragm, neodymium magnets are specifically arranged to create an efficient isodynamic magnetic field. This magnetic field is required for a uniform activation across the whole diaphragm surface. The second part of the driver is the Rinaro isoplanar diaphragm, which is amazingly light with a large active surface area, resulting in a more dynamic auditory experience.

There are a number of benefits to the hybrid driver design. It reduces the overall weight of the driver design and creates very accurately reproduced audio just to name a few. The Empyrean and Elite driver combines individual switchback and spiral-shaped voice coils, their unique shapes allow sound to be targeted with more accuracy around the natural form of the ear. This unique combination generates an increased exposure of direct sound wave frequencies over the 10kHz range and improves imaging and localization by decreasing the impact of shortwave time delays caused by diffused field reflections.

One of the problems with conventional planar magnetic arrays comes from reflected signals entering the ear canal with different time delays, thereby worsening the focus of 3D sound imaging. Combining different voice coil configurations makes it possible to create a better sound intensity distribution across the sound wavefront at high frequencies when directed at the auricle and ear canal. The switchback coil is better at reproducing lower frequencies and the spiral coil is better at the mid-high frequencies.

Driver Focus Diagram

The Flagship Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array Driver - ELITE Improvements

Meze driver design

With a custom, newly designed driver created by Rinaro Isodynamics, the Elite is the result of three years of research and development through which Meze Audio strived to create a powerful, lifelike, and immersive experience that awakens the senses of the listener.

  • Ultra-Low Distortion: Total harmonic distortion (THD) measures under 0.05% in the whole frequency range.
  • Lightweight: 75g combined driver weight designed to create a headphone that offers prolonged listening sessions.
  • Ultra-High Resolution Audio: Upper-frequency limit of audio reproduction is 112,000Hz.
  • Rinaro Parus Diaphragm: An innovative low mass acoustic diaphragm constructed on an ultra-thin biaxially oriented semi-crystalline film.
  • Easy to Drive: 101dB @1mw/1kHz; 32ohm - Can be driven by almost any source without the need for amplification.
  • Patented Isodynamic Hybrid Array Technology: One of the most sophisticated and advanced planar magnetic technologies in the world.

The MZ3SE driver builds on the pioneering technology of the flagship MZ3 driver found in the Empyrean headphone. The innovative Isodynamic Hybrid Array technology delivers a more selective acoustic performance to the various areas within the structure of the ear. Advances in diaphragm materials have opened the doors to even higher resolution and accuracy of the sound reproduction, setting a new benchmark in headphone design.

The new driver behind the Elite features Rinaro Parus, in an innovative low mass acoustic diaphragm build on an ultra-thin biaxially oriented semi-crystalline polymer film. This, combined with the signature Isodynamic Hybrid Array Driver technology, allows sound waves to be targets with more accuracy around the shape of the ear, producing natural sound transparency as a wide, articulate soundstage. The polymer is produced with bespoke sequential biaxial lengthening technology, a process that involves stretching the polymer in transverse directions at elevated temperatures to improve structural performance. This results in a complex semi-crystalline micro-structure developing in the material, which exhibits remarkable strength, stiffness, and stability, combined with an extremely low acoustic mass.


Why Do Over-Ear Headphones Sound the Best?

Many audiophiles prefer a "wider" sense of presentation compared to the "narrower" "in-your-head" sense of presentation that on-ear and in-ear monitors can deliver. On-ear and in-ear types lose the extra-dimensional "width" of over-ears due to their smaller form-factor, but focus on better mobility.

...where psychoacoustics are concerned, there are no right or wrong answers. There are only preferences and compromises; advantages vs disadvantages.

On the other hand, a "narrower" sense of presentation that's more "centered" in the forehead is usually achieved best with the smaller and more portable on-ear and in-ear fit-types. However, where psychoacoustics are concerned, there are no right or wrong answers. There are only preferences and compromises; advantages vs disadvantages.

When it comes to Meze Audio IEMs and full-size headphones, one thing they do well is to give you an expansive soundstage. Meze headphones sound much larger than they actually are, and it's this grand sense of presentation that puts them above the competition. Even their Rai Penta IEM has more room to breathe than other IEMs at double or triple the price because Meze Audio tunes their drivers to such precision to achieve that desirable large Meze sound.

Meze Empyrean Phoenix

The Meze Audio Price Point:

(Click the tabs for various price points)

Meze Rai Solo IEMs

$199

Meze 99 Classics Headphones

$309

Meze Rai Penta IEMs

$1,099

Meze Rai Penta IEMs

$2,000

Meze Empyrean Headphones

$2,999

Meze Elite Headphones

$4,000


"OBSESSING WITH QUALITY IN SOUND AND BUILD, We create high-end headphones, so we obsess about sound quality. Every aspect counts. The engineering, choice of materials, the precision of craftsmanship, the reliability are all equally important. We also make parts easily replaceable. All of these to ensure that a feeling of trust will accompany your every interaction with a Meze."

-Meze Audio

Which Meze Audio Headphone is Right for Me?

Meze Elite, Empyrean, and Liric
99 Classics and Rai Penta and Solo
Elite with Rai Solo
99 Classics with Rai IEMs

When it comes to determining what headphone is right for you there is a lot to consider, most importantly ergonomics.

There are some important questions you'll need to ask yourself: What kind of music do I like to listen to? Where will I be listening to music? IEMs or full-size headphones? Open-back or closed-back headphones? What is your price point? Answering these questions will go a long way in determining what headphone is best for you. Although Meze Audio doesn't have the headphone selection of a brand like Audeze, there is still quite a bit of variation for many different ergonomic scenarios.

When it comes to IEMs, you have the Rai Penta (which at the time of writing this in March 2022 the Rai Solo has just been discontinued). IEMs are great for more portable scenarios and pair well with devices that don't have much power output (the Rai Penta's don't need nearly as much power as their larger headphone counterparts). In our review of the Rai Penta, we called them the mini version of the Empyrean due to their expansive soundstage and excellent tuning. It's one of our favorite IEMs at the office, and one we have no problem recommending for just about any occasion without hesitation. The Penta is a resolute and musical IEM - the low frequencies are balanced nicely for a small chassis, and will sound great for just about every genre, especially those with low-end extension.

When it comes to headphones, the Closed-Back selections come down to the 99 Classics and the Liric. Closed-back headphones are going to be great for being around others since their design incorporates passive noise canceling. The 99 Classics are great headphones for travel since they have incredibly low power requirements - you can plug them into just about anything and they'll sound great. The Lirics need a little more power since they are designed with the isodynamic hybrid array of their more expensive headphones, but the design is sleek and comfortable enough that you could use them for just about every listening scenario imaginable. The Meze Liric is a neutral-sounding and warm-leaning headphone that is great for Rock, Folk, Classical, Jazz, Alternative, and more. We like the Liric because it's a versatile headphone that pairs well with lots of different types of gear. The other point to make here is that the Liric is also incredibly efficient to drive. Meze improved their Isodynamic Hybrid Array design to be easier to drive in both the Liric and Elite headphones.

The top of the line Meze Audio headphones - the Empyrean and the Elite - represent some of the best possible audiophile-quality sound you can get on the headphone market. The Empyrean was the original flagship of the Meze product line, and it was (and is) praised for its expressive and expansive soundstage. Dynamics and the warm and musical sound signature of the headphone made it a pure delight for listening to classical and jazz in particular. However, they are open back and the first iteration of the famous isodynamic hybrid array driver. This driver excels the more power you feed it, and the Empyrean is considered one of the best at-home headphones for personal listening. The Elite is the new flagship of the Meze line. Sporting the exact same design and aesthetics, the Elite simply looks like a chromed-out Empyrean. The biggest difference is the sound. If the Empyrean was the toasty sound of Meze, then the Elite adds more detail, more dynamics, and more resolute sound. It aims to fix what people didn't like about the Empyrean and make it an even better headphone. It retains some warmth of the original Empyrean, but it mostly ups the ante when it comes to the overall fidelity of the headphone. To boot, it's also much easier to drive than the Empyrean. If you want one of the best flagship headphones on the market, then look no further than the Elite. They are pure end-game cans.

Dragon Cables

Recommended Cable: Silver Dragon Premium

Silver Dragon

The Silver Dragon Premium Headphone Cable for Meze Headphones will add enhanced resolution and detail to your headphone. We recommend pairing this cable with Meze headphones that are warmer in sound signature to help bring out additional details that the headphone signature will mask. For mastering engineers, audio engineers or anyone who appreciates listening critically, adding the Silver Dragon headphone cable to the more analytical sound signature headphones in the Meze lineup is the perfect way to add detail and top-end energy to the more neutral soundstage with enhanced room for your music to breath. For example, this is the best option for the Empyrean that has a warmer tonality. The Silver Dragon would also be a good pairing for the Elite and the Liric as well, bringing out further detail and widening the soundstage - especially in the closed-back Liric.



Recommended Cable: Black Dragon Premium

Black Dragon

For the headphones that are on the more analytical side of sound signatures, we suggest using the Black Dragon Premium Headphone Cable for Meze Headphones, to add more warmth and body to the music to help balance out some of the more top-end sizzle the headphone naturally provides. The Black Dragon headphone cable is extremely smooth with an enhanced low-end and voicing. Warm and musical, it's the perfect match for headphones where a broad range of music styles are played. Black Dragon pairs great with Meze's Elite and Liric, which naturally have a forward or detail-oriented signature. The Black Dragon will provide a warmer presentation to the music, and it is a great choice for more bass-heavy genres like EDM, rap, and synthwave.




Silver Dragon Sound Signature: The Silver Dragon is the original cable. Silver strands clarify instrument separation, increase the soundstage, and find previously lost high and mid-frequency sounds. Transients appear more cohesive and the bass tighter for a more controlled sound. The detail and clarity of the Silver Dragon make it a perfect match for classical music and other genres with many nuanced instruments.

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.

Dragon Cable Logo

The Meze Method

So what makes Meze Audio one of the top brands in the audiophile world? Passion and Excellence (in both sound and design). Meze Audio exudes premium, in everything they do, and no matter if you have a budget of $100 or $4000, you know that your Meze Headphone or IEM is made with precision and care with the best materials that produce some of the best sound. The only thing next is figuring out the best headphone option for you. We hope this guide has given you a little insight into Meze Audio and their excellent headphones. As always, if you have any questions feel free to Contact Us and we'll be more than happy to assist you in any way we can.


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