While their claims of portability aren’t the most convincing, Meze Audio’s Liric planar magnetic headphones deliver excellent build quality and high levels of comfort with their articulate and insightful sound.
- Transparent and revealing performers
- Premium construction
- Cosy to wear
- Needs high quality tracks and sources
- Not strictly portable
- Isodynamic hybrid array driverHybrid planar magnetic driver made by Rinaro Isodynamics
- Phase-XSystem for improving ambience and spatial sound imaging
Meze Audio isn’t a hi-fi brand with which I’m familiar. Based in Romania and specialising in high-quality headphones, the company’s Liric headphones are closed-back pair that harbour ambitions of being your favoured travel companions.
But now, with wireless convenience on a seemingly inexorable rise, what dent can a pricey £1799 pair of headphones do? That hasn’t stopped Meze from having a go at answering the question.
- Big for a ‘portable’ set of cans
- Minimalist look, premium materials
- Surprisingly comfortable for the size
Meze Audio is pushing the Liric as a pair of headphones for the commute as well as the home, but I’m not as convinced. The Liric aren’t collapsible (folding flat is the best they can do), they’re wired, and they’re big. None of these traits lend themselves to convenience on public transport, where less is more.
While it’s easy to argue against their portability, it’s more difficult to do so for the quality of the craftmanship on offer. Materials that have gone into their construction include high-grade magnesium, leather and aluminium, with Meze Audio saying each has been chosen to carefully complement the other.
Their appearance isn’t extravagant by any means – these aren’t Focal headphones as a comparison – but the sleek, minimalist look is great, as is the textured finish of the earcups that gives the Liric a tactile feel when touched.
The clamping force is right on the money – tight, but not overbearing – while inside the ovoid shaped earcups is a big space for your ears to rest. The effect is that your ears are enveloped, and perhaps smaller ears will feel swamped (to repeat, these are big headphones). However, even with that in mind, the thick padding on the earcups and the comfort they provide allows for listening sessions with few distractions.
The adjustable headband – made from genuine leather, so vegans need not apply here – features padded cushions on its underside arranged in a ‘+’ shape that Meze says allows for air to flow, reducing the build-up of heat and humidity. In addition, the Liric don’t feel as if they weigh as much as their 391g would indicate, which in this see-sawing movement of whether they’re good for portable use is a tick in the plus column.
But, for me, the case is another reason to be relatively unconvinced by the Liric’s portable ambitions. Placed in a bag, it recalls the Russian doll effect of a rucksack within a rucksack. It is, I should add, fabulously well built. There is a leather pouch to store an airplane connector (a nice thought), 6.3mm adapter, and the two cables (1.5m and 3m).
- 30-ohm impedance
- Planar magnetic drivers
- Phase-X system for spatial imaging
What features are there for a wired, closed-back headphone? Not as many as a wireless pair; but there are a few eyebrow-raising figures to consider with the Meze Audio Liric.
One is a frequency response of 4Hz to 92kHz, which, to put it mildly, is quite wide. Human hearing only really gets on between 20Hz to 20kHz, and while the Liric’s range won’t have you hearing a spectrum of sounds such as a dog or Superman, it implies you’ll get better reproduction of low and high frequencies.
Those frequencies are filtered through Rinaro’s Isodynamic Hybrid Array M24 driver, scaled down from the versions in Meze’s larger Elite and Empyrean headphones and tuned to deliver a similar performance. The M24 planar magnetic driver makes use of Rinaro’s Phase-X system, which it’s claimed improves spatial sound imaging for a more faithful reproduction, bringing the listener closer to the original recording.
The driver layout combines individual switchback and spiral coils to reproduce low, as well as mid- and high frequencies respectively, with more accuracy. The spiral coil is positioned directly over the ear canal to fire mid to high frequencies into the ear without delay.
The Ear pad Air Flow (EAF) system reduces the weight and size of the headphones through optimising their acoustic volume. By utilising air vents that allow air to transfer from the earcup chamber to the ear pads, Meze says this has reduced the size of the earcup chamber for a portable profile without compromising the sound. If you ask me, though, they’re still pretty big.
At 30 ohms, these headphones are easier to drive than the pair of Sivga models reviewed recently, so a smartphone or laptop could easily ‘power’ them. However, you’d be wise to employ a DAC or portable music player to give the Liric an extra push.
- Expansive soundstage
- Detailed and insightful
- Bass levels can be a little tame
The Liric deliver a soundstage that’s impressively large in scale. Conversely, I wouldn’t say the headphones necessarily feature a huge amount of width – voices and instruments can appear within the stereo image quite close to the listener, especially with busier tracks.
But what the Liric are is spacious, with a performance that envelops the listener, providing an expansive body of sound that means instruments can intersect and overlap, without the sense that they’re hemmed-in together.
I’d class the mid-range delivery as on the cool side, not to the point where vocals are robbed of all emotion, but the Liric favour analysis and insight. As such, they’re revealing and transparent where high-fidelity audio recordings are concerned. In a 24-bit/96kHz file of Dove’s I Will Not Hide, Jez Williams’ voice has a crisp, detailed and neutral tone that avoids sibilance.
The headphones also have a way of rendering high frequencies with distinction, sharp and precise, which makes them stand out from the fray. It’s the level of detail and insight that’s the biggest takeaway from the Liric. You can hear every fibre and resolution of Encomium from the If Beale Street Could Talk soundtrack, from the texture of the violin’s strands to the precise ebbs and flows of the piece – these are headphones that draw you into the music almost hypnotically. The pervading sense is one of the Meze’s never overplaying their hand.
And so higher-resolution tracks come off better than lower (but not necessarily low) resolution files. I found they sounded a little tame in describing low-end frequencies, a lack of impact and dynamism. However, with an Astell & Kern A&Futura SE180 in hand, and a high-res track to chew on such as a 24-bit/48kHz file of Rainy Night in Tallinn from Tenet, the Liric deliver snappy, tight and powerful low-frequency playback.
Across the frequency range the Liric are very sure of themselves; Michael Giacchino’s Commitment features soaring highs that are skilfully handled, brass instruments the Liric describes with dynamism, and a rhythmic ability that ensures shifts in tempo are handled with finesse.
The Liric boast a controlled performance that’s expansive, transparent and fluid. Be sure to play around with the volume and add a DAC to your set-up to bring out the best. Once you do, these are a natural-sounding, effortless pair of closed-back headphones.
Should you buy it?
For excellent sound on your travels The Liric headphones deliver terrific audio quality with a transparent, detailed and insightful presentation.
If you prefer convenience They’re big, not particularly portable and lack the convenience of wireless headphones. They’re expensive, too.
A sum of £1799 is a lot to pay for a pair of headphones, and you’d need sources and files of similar quality to get the best from the Meze Audio Liric. However, if that’s your level of spend then these are assured, insightful and natural performers.
I’m not as convinced about their portability as some, but their construction and comfort levels are excellent. If a pair of audiophile cans are what you’re looking for, then I’d recommend adding the Meze Audio Liric to the shortlist. They’re expensive, but certainly impress once you’ve found their groove.
How we test
We test every headphone we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested over two weeks
Tested with different file formats
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No, these are wired headphones only and suitable for use with devices that have a 3.5mm or 6.3mm jack.