With the Empyrean and Elite, Meze has already spoiled lovers of luxury and high-end head-fi. Time for people with a smaller budget, isn’t it? And there’s the 109 Pro. It is a completely different pair of headphones, at first sight a further evolution of the budget-friendly and super-popular Classic 99.
However, the 109 Pro is an open headphone equipped with an improved dynamic driver. The dainty headband and the use of luscious wood? Yup, they’re back.
Do we still need to introduce Meze? Maybe to some. After all, this dedicated headfi brand from Romania was completely unknown not so long ago. That has now changed completely, because in the head-fi world and far beyond, Meze has become an appreciated name.
A preference for elegant designs that are also technically strong – have contributed to that success. As a result, the Elite top model snagged an EISA Award for best high-end headphones last year, in addition to many other awards from other media.
The 109 Pro we’re looking at here was presented at the High End trade show in Munich. Although these open headphones do not mean a completely new course for Meze, it does take a slightly different direction than what we have seen in recent years. Although with the Pro label you should not immediately think of purely functional headphones that have to survive many late nights in a studio. This is still a real Meze, with the necessary attention to quirky design and with a high level of comfort.
The packaging of the 109 Pro is functional, as is often the case at this price point. But you can’t call the headphones you lift out of the box low-key. Or rather: from the sturdy case that comes in the box. A fusion of wood and metal, with some copper-colored touches, that’s how we know Meze. There are still some builders who manufacture the cups or driver housings in a similar way from wood. But in terms of finish and build quality, this Meze is slightly higher.
Refined? That’s not quite the right word. It is certainly very neat, but the 109 Pro also shows a robust side. Perhaps that is the ‘Pro’ aspect, in any case the device seems to be built to last. The first 109 Pro we tested was a sample that had served at an audio show in Brussels. Products are not always treated well, but the headphones still showed flawless. A second copy, which we bought from a dealer because the headphones were popular, has remained scratch-free after many weeks of use.
Walnut and vegan leather
But back to the design. While Meze stands out with its eye-catching creations in the high-end, these headphones are reminiscent of the product that started it all: the 99 Classic . It is mainly the headband that brings us back to that device from 2015. With those headphones, Meze Audio immediately really broke through, thanks to the winning combination of a competitive price, beautiful finish in wood and excellent sound quality. The model is still for sale, by the way.
Just like that closed loafer, the headband of the 109 Pro consists of three parts: two metal arches that make it sturdy and a smaller (vegan) leather band that rests on your head. With the 99 Classic, this construction caused a little more ear pressure – to be solved by brutally applying some counterforce. However, that is not here. We think the fit is just right on our head and the fabric ear cushions cause little heat development.
Having a real eye for detail is Meze’s thing, and you can see that here. For example, the bridge between the leather strap and the outer bow is very elegant. A copper-colored connecting piece that gracefully curves into a kind of V-shape nicely complements the connection between belt and driver housing. Of course in the same metal color. It also ties in nicely with the spider-shaped bridge that protects the back of the driver. There are few headphones that are so aesthetically pleasing. Or it must be those more expensive Empyrean models, of which different editions are (were) available.
Open and dynamic driver
The open nature of the 109 Pro is not exactly disguised. Looking down the side on the headphones, along that cobweb construction you’ll see a fine metal grille that protects the back of the driver. Also very typical Meze: if you look into the headphones, you don’t just see a plastic, black grid. Very true to itself, the manufacturer opted for a head-coloured grille made of metal, in which triangles have been cut out in a geometric pattern. That’s the attention to detail we talked about earlier. Although you don’t see it when wearing it, it does catch your eye every time you pick up or put away the 109 Pro. And then you always think: handsome.
With the more expensive models, Meze uses a special driver from the Ukrainian Rinaro, which is not possible here due to the price. Instead, a new, large 50mm driver with what Meze calls a dual-composite diaphragm is used. The list of materials the manufacturer combines here includes carbon fiber and a polymer coated with beryllium, in a metal frame that mounts in those walnut housings. It’s quite a sophisticated build for a pair of headphones at this price point; although you can of course also have some expectations if you spend around 800 euros. But there are certainly other headphones at similar price points that are more conventional.
Control is no problem
With the 109 Pro you get a hard case that will protect the headphones well. There is also a separate bag in which you can store the two supplied cables. Both terminate in a 3.5mm jack that you can convert to 6.3mm with an adapter out of the box. The difference is in the length of the cable. A balanced cable is not included, but the 109 Pro can be connected.
On the headphone side, two 2.5 mm jacks are used, a common format that makes finding after-market cables easy. We do notice that cables with slightly thicker jacks did not fit. Unfortunately, we could therefore not connect the 109 Pro in a balanced way; our cable that ends in a Pentaconn plug just didn’t fit.
Meze itself also provides the necessary, with a wide range of woven upgrade cables that it offers together with Furukawa. For this test we received such a Furakawa from importer Dune Blue. Although cables are not the most important element in a headfi story for us personally, we found this cable to be worth continuing to use during the test period.
With its impedance of 40 Ohm and high sensitivity of 112 dB, the 109 Pro is very easy to control. Although we mainly listened via the powerful EarMen CH_Amp, the headphones were also willing to be driven with an Astell & Kern Kann Alpha (which, admittedly, delivers a lot of power for a DAP) and an iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon . But the tiny Earmen Sparrow was also more than enough. A better DAC is always welcome, but basically you can hang this Meze on almost anything and get a good sound.
We found listening to the Meze a very relaxing experience. Although it doesn’t sound laidback or slower now, like say a Denon AH-D7200, it does have a slightly flatter tuning. We immediately liked it and felt very relaxed. The no-nonsense and holistic sound invited you to keep listening, a good feature for headphones that are your companion during a meandering listening session in Roon.
The marriage with the compact but also very competent Earmen stack probably has something to do with that experience. The CH-Amp in particular offers a powerful, more neutral reproduction that displays things very correctly. And that matches well with the philosophy of this open Meze.
We enjoyed how the 109 Pro delivered ‘Galdra’ and other tracks on ‘Pagan’ by the German heathen Faun in a spatial and above all very engaging way. A grand presentation that doesn’t get stuck in your head, immediately creates a lot of involvement. At the same time, Meze does not aim for a gigantic openness here, something that can be nice in classical music, but can sometimes come across as distant elsewhere. It may depend a bit on the music genre, but thanks to that broader presentation we were really involved in listening to very diverse music.
A track like ‘Aidus’ by the Swiss metal group Eluveitie came in with a lot of power, but also layered and more sophisticated than a pure wall of sound that comes your way. Roon then brought us to the solo work of singer Fabienne Erni, including a quite successful cover of ‘Parasite Eve’, in which her vocal highlights are very tangible and full of energy. A little more emphasis might be allowed to really make it go to the throat, but actually quite well done by the Meze.
It is an all-rounder, we notice that. Nice and creamy too, we discover when we felt like a portion of soul. ‘Colors’ by Black Pumas, ‘I learned the Hard Way’ by Sharon Jones and her band and Son Little’s ‘About Her Again’, they all pass in review, and in the end we stick to the other songs on ‘aloha’ by Little . That raw edge that Son Little’s voice sometimes possesses is served on a plate with ‘Bbbaby’. Not with a sharp edge or exaggerated focus, you hear these things – but remain part of the whole. Very nice.
The Meze also excelled for us on ‘Universal Beings’ by Makaya McCraven. A virtuoso percussionist who has a very seductive flow, and seamlessly transforms from one genre to another. All sessions on this XL-sized album are improvised and recorded in one of four locations, each with different musicians. So very diverse in terms of imagery, and also fascinating.
There is a special atmosphere around this album, something that the Meze knows how to interpret. It feels very live, and in more complex parts (like about the middle of ‘Tall Tales’, with strings and glockenspiel) it doesn’t lose control. Add to that a good bass extension (30 Hz it hits without a problem) and a high speed, and the Meze 109 Pro also handles electronic music and pounding techno, such as ‘ADSR’ on fabric presents Amelie Lens, with great conviction.
The Meze 109 Pro is not only a very handsome pair of headphones, it is above all a very pleasant open speaker that you can easily control and which is a pleasure to listen to. While it doesn’t feature the evolved planar-magnetic drivers of Meze’s top-end models, the new dynamic driver certainly doesn’t disappoint. It possesses a tuning that is quite universal. It does not overstimulate your hearing with a lot of detail, it focuses on a more neutral but also exciting sound on a bed of deep, nuanced basses. That makes the 109 Pro a powerful headphone for musical journeys of discovery, late at night with Roon or a bin full of second-hand vinyl.
- Deep, fast and controlled bass
- Sounds bigger than closed headphones
- Very universal and yet very involved
- Excellent build quality
- A balanced cable would have been nice
- Not extremely spacious