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TSAV Product Review: Meze LIRIC Planar Magnetic Closed Back Headphones

Today, we will look at the Meze LIRIC Closed-Back Headphones.  This article will discuss some design features, build quality, and some of my sound impressions.  The Meze LIRIC is the first closed-back headphone to utilize Rinaro’s Isodynamic Hybrid Array Driver, made exclusively for Meze Audio.  

Meze LIRIC Design & Build Quality

You can check out ourMeze Elite video here, where we discuss the benefits of the dual-driver system.  If you haven't heard of a dual-driver system before, the short of it is that one driver is positioned at the top of the driver array called the switchback coil, which is designed to reproduce the lower frequencies, and the spiral coil is designed to reproduce the middle-high frequencies positioned directly over the ear canal.

 

Meze Audio Empyrean Over-Ear Headphones


The re-engineered MZ4 driver, which is 92mm x 63mm and weighs only 71grams offers the same dual-shaped voice coil array in the Empyrean with a new innovation developed by Rinaro called the Phase-X system, which according to Meze, improves ambiance and spatial sound imaging most noticeable with binaural recordings.  The diaphragm weight of the MZ4 driver is only .08 grams.


Being a closed-back, the LIRIC has good sound isolation allowing most of the music to be isolated from the exterior world of the listener and the outside world to be well isolated.  Add the benefit of the included hard EVA pouch with velvet lining, two 3.5mm cables, one 1.5 meters long, one 3 meters long with included 6.3mm jack adapter, an airplane jack adapter, a cables pouch, their light weight of 391 grams, and their highly comfortable design; the LIRIC has an excellent use case for on-the-go, travel, or office use.


According to Meze Audio, The LIRIC sports an Ultra-Low THD of .15% in the entire FR.  The FR of the LIRIC is 4-92,000 Hz, with an impedance of 30ohms, with the nominal SPL coming in at 100dB per 1mW.


A new design feature for the LIRIC is the Ear pad Air Flow system, again developed by Rinaro, which reduces the weight and size of the LIRIC headphone.  Using precision-cut air vents and an ear cup chamber built into the cups allows Meze to not compromise on acoustic performance, keeping the cups much smaller than most traditional closed-back headphones allowing for greater portability.


Along with the smaller cups, the skeleton of the headphones is made of lightweight magnesium, known to be flexible, shock-resistant, and oxidation free.  The padded headband uses cushions that allow superb airflow, reducing heat and humidity buildup. 


The spring steel headband, covered in genuine leather and ample padding, is perfectly designed for superb pressure distribution with easy-to-adjust rods like the Elite and Empyrean headphones.


Even great thought was given to the ovoid shape of the ear cups, allowing my ears to be surrounded closely without any significant pressure or clamp force.  For the size of my head and ears, the LIRIC is designed exceptionally well.  If you have huge ears, you may run into them touching the pads.  


A few more critical points about the design and build quality before I get into my sound impressions.  As with many closed-back headphones, pressure and the build-up of pressure can be a real issue causing discomfort for me and listening fatigue.  The LIRIC uses a pressure equalization system with a visible air-vent hole which can be seen on the exterior of the beautiful black leather-wrapped cups.


Ok, I will get this out of the way right now. The build quality, design, and looks of the LIRIC are all exceptional for me.  I love the low-key black. While looking less flashy, there is some beautiful black gloss-matte texture on the magnesium of the black metal parts, and the metallic copper accents are gorgeous.


I find these headphones exceptional in the looks department for a closed-back set of headphones that you may take to work and don’t want to be too bold, yet know that when you hold and wear them, you purchased headphones of true quality and impeccable design.  


Meze LIRIC Sound Impressions


So with my impressions being so positive so far, let’s get into the quality of sound of the LIRIC.  At their current asking price, the LIRIC sits about $1000 less than my current reference closed-back set of headphones, the Focal Stellia, which I have been a longtime owner of.  So naturally, I will offer up some brief comparisons at the end of the article between the two, even though there is a significant gap in the price.  


I utilized several amps, tube, and solid-state to build my sound impressions of the headphones.  For solid-state integrated amplifier Dacs, I used the Marantz 40n, Michi X3, Chord Hugo 2, and the Chord TT2.  Using all of these integrated amps allowed me to formulate my opinions with three different DAC types.  


The tube amplifiers I used in the house were the Audio Research I/50, OG iFi Pro iCan, and the ampsandsound pendant.


Listening to Riders on the Storm from the Doors off their L.A. Woman Album, I am very impressed with the LIRIC’s soundstage for closed-back headphones brilliantly imaging and separating vocals from the drums, cymbals, guitars, and keys.  


The soundstage width presents a little wider than the headphone cups, with a decent depth for a closed-back headphone.  The soundstage depth presents even better off my tube amplifiers in the house.  


The upper midrange and lower treble have a healthy amount of energy which doesn’t give the headphones a darker or overly warm sound quality.  Their signature leans towards the brighter side of things, with more energy in the treble regions.  For those that appreciate more treble energy, these could be a closed-back set of headphones to consider as these are not warm or lush-sounding headphones.   


Listening next to Black Magic Woman from Santana, the keys in the opening have a brighter-than-neutral tone.  The electric guitar sounds extremely well-defined and floats on the sound stage above my head.  The drums and congas are positioned on the left and right of the stage and are easily identifiable.  Again, I am impressed how these closed-back headphones don’t sound as congested as many closed-back headphones can.


The LIRIC sounds fast, keeping up with the pace of this song as its tempo increases.  Turning up the X-bass on the iFi pro-ican tube amplifier gives a noticeable tasteful increase to the mid-bass and overall body and soul of the instruments and vocals.


Listening next to Hotel California from the Eagles, I find the mid-range is where I want a bit more mid-bass energy and warmth for the strings and vocals that sound highly detailed and well-defined but with not as much character or fullness.  


The lack of warmth in the midrange gives the overall signature to my ears more focus and energy in the treble and the sub-bass regions.  Don’t get me wrong; the midrange sounds highly detailed and fast. Still, it sounds a bit cool for my tastes, especially with the additional emphasis on the treble regions and the highly detailed signature of the headphones.  


The great news is that they take exceptionally well to x-bass or tone control, and adding some warmth is pretty friggin awesome, bringing a better balance and more weight for my preferences.    


Listening to All My Love from London Grammar from Californian Soil and some of the higher notes of Hannah Reid’s vocals present a bit harder with more edge than I am used to hearing with all my solid-state amps in-house; it's only when listening to them with my tube amplifiers or using tone control things begin to sound a bit less hard-edged and smooth up some.


Listening to Dreams from Fleetwood Mac, the soundstage sounds good, well layered, and well separated with the vocals, and the majority of the midrange sounds reasonably neutral.


I would say the width or depth of the LIRIC headphones isn’t huge for a closed-back; I still think the DCA Stealth holds the record for the largest soundstage I have heard from closed-back headphones; the Stealth is twice the price, however, so you are getting good value for performance when it comes to the soundstage of the LIRIC.


When listening to the LIRIC, the cymbals have a bit more energy than I would prefer taking attention away from the rest of the instruments and vocals on Dreams.  However, if you like a more boosted treble region and very energetic cymbals with a bit more than a natural-sounding splash, you may enjoy this. For my tastes again, I felt it could be toned down a bit. 


Wanting to listen to some Yosi-Horikawa to see how the LIRIC stage with this kind of recording, I cued up Wandering, and the separation, imaging, and detail retrieval are of particular note, with the LIRIC truly excelling in this regard.  While the sub-bass sounds decent, the mid-bass from the bass line as it hits lacks a dynamic, punchy quality of sound that other headphones with a bit more emphasis in this range tend to create.  


This was likely a deliberate choice to make the stage appear more expansive and better separated.  The sense of air and sparkle from the bird chirps and the space all around them are exceptionally well done for a pair of closed-back headphones.  So, while the soundstage isn’t massive, it layers sound on the stage magnificently.


Listening to Thriller from Michael Jackson and all the details in the music jump out at you, which I think some critical listeners and audiophiles will appreciate.  The bass line has a decent sub-bass rumble, yet the mid-bass's sense of slam or punch is soft, especially compared to the Focal Stellia. 


Listening next to Bob Dylan’s “Man in the Long Black Coat,” the guitar strings sound very detailed and defined; however, lacking a bit of body.  The harmonica presents a bit too much energy at times, sounding a little brighter in character than I am used to hearing, and Dylan’s vocals also have a bit of a harder edge to them.


In conclusion, I love the build and design of the Meze LIRIC and enjoy the sound with the proper amplifier pairings.  Paired with a warmer, more dynamic-sounding tube amplifier, there is a fantastic synergy in sound that can be created.  Driven directly from my Chord Hugo 2, Chord TT2, MICHI X3, and Marantz 40n, I find there is a bit too much treble energy and not enough warmth in the midrange to balance the treble.  


Compared to my reference Stellia headphones, I still prefer the sound of the Stellia to any other closed-back headphones I have currently heard, even if the sound stage doesn’t sound as airy and layered as the LIRIC, which is a huge compliment to the sound stage of the LIRIC as the Stellia is $1000 more expensive.  


With the additional mid-range warmth and mid-bass, the Stellia presents a more dynamic, richer, sounding signature that I prefer when kicking back and listening to music. Both headphones are very detailed; however, the Stellia presents the details more naturally.  The Stellia also pairs great with all my amps and DACS in-house. In contrast, the LIRIC is better suited to the warmest tube amplifier I have or utilized with tone control bringing down the treble region some and giving them a bit more midrange warmth.


If I were looking to purchase the LIRIC as my closed-back work or travel companion, I would probably want a DAP like the SP2000T with its tube and hybrid tube modes, but I didn’t get the chance to audition them together; but I suspect they could be a good pairing.  Let me know in the comments if you have tried those two together; I am curious.  


For at-home use or at-work desktop use, the use of EQ or tone control, or a warmer-sounding DAC/AMP is the way to go, and if you can sprinkle some of the magic of tubes on top of the LIRIC, I think that is where you may find the sweetest synergy for their sound, at least for my preferences. 


As always, I encourage you to listen to the LIRIC side by side with other headphones from several amplifiers and DACs to formulate your impressions, as we all differ on what we value or prefer in sound quality.  


We have over fifty headphones and a ton of amps and DACS in our TSAV showroom, so if you are in SoCal, stop by and hang out with us and have your own listening party.  


Until next time friends, remember, let the music be your guide! 

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