Meze Audio Advar is equipped with single dynamic drivers with a diameter of 10.2 mm, enclosed in impressive steel housings. Headphones are designed to provide musical sound in high resolution.
Previously, I described the Meze Audio Rai Penta five-driver hybrid headphones (Euro 1025), which I appreciated for their natural, warm, and massive sound. There was no sharpness or aggressiveness in it, which is not so obvious in the case of headphones with dominant armature drivers. I also liked the elegant minimalist design, which translated into high ergonomics.
The Meze Audio Advar Earphone (EURO 750) is less advanced in construction because they are based on single dynamics. Until recently, hybrids or multi-fittings were in the lead, but manufacturers are increasingly reaching for dynamics today. It turns out that headphones of this type can confidently compete with them. Good examples are the recently tested Sennheiser IE 900 and IE 600, which I compared, for example, with FiiO FH9 or Campfire Audio Solaris 2020. Is Meze Audio Advar also a strong alternative to multi-driver designs?
A solid box with a beautiful rosette pattern hides a lot of accessories:
- 5 pairs of silicone tips (sizes XS, S, M, L, XL);
- MMCX cable > 3.5 mm (length 125 cm);
- Velcro band;
- cleaning tool;
- manual user instructions.
The overlays from the set are well-known Final Type E tips used by various manufacturers. The case is also familiar because it does not differ much from other Meze in-ears, e.g. Rai Solo or Rai Penta models. However, this time it was decorated with a dark gray emblem instead of a silver one. The multifunctional “cleaner” for headphones also makes a good impression, and an interesting addition is a keychain with pliers for removing the MMCX plugs.
Unfortunately, the set again lacks a balanced cable, which is optional and costs $ 149. On the other hand, the more expensive Meze Rai Penta also initially only came with an unbalanced cable, so I shouldn’t have expected it in the kit of the cheaper model. It is a pity because it is worth noting that other manufacturers of in-ear headphones have been more generous lately – FiiO offers cables with a set of modular plugs. The competing Sennheisers IE 600 set includes a cable with a Pentaconn plug.
It is immediately obvious that Advar is the work of Meze Audio. Again, you can see some classicist and maybe even baroque inspirations – there is something retro in the headphones but in a luxurious edition. Surprisingly, the black and gold colors also catch the eye because the accents have a rather brass shade, so they are not associated with gold in the jewelry edition. I still consider the Rai Penta prettier headphones, but the Advars cannot be denied charm.
This is also due to the rounded and bulbous housings made of stainless steel by Metal Injection Molding and finished with a chrome plating method, which gives a high gloss black. Ventilation holes, located in recesses and surrounded by precisely applied prints, also attract the eye. They can also be found around the MMCX sockets, distinguished by colors – the left earphone is decorated with black, the right one with dark red. There are only sleeves with metal meshes from the inside, next to which there are no channel letters.
The four-wire cable in the kit looks the same as the one supplied with the Rai Penta. Again, silver-plated copper is used, protected by smooth insulation, and the 3.5 mm plug is again straight. The plug housing and the cable splitter are metal, with a flat slider next to the latter. The MMCX plugs, on the other hand, are transparent and are accompanied by temples, pre-bent and corrugated. In addition to the embossed channel markings, a red insert is on the right MMCX plug.
I have no complaints about the build quality. Steel is pleasant to the touch and massive, so the headphones seem to be completely uniform inside, and I did not notice any flaws or problems with the finish and fitting of the structure. I believe that there is no doubt that Advar are premium headphones.
Ergonomics and use
I had some concerns about the weight of the Advar model because a single handset weighs almost 11 g, i.e. the manufacturer did not save on steel. For comparison, the Sennheiser IE 600 is half the weight, and the seven-sensor FiiO FH9 is only one gram heavier. In practice, however, this is not a problem because Advar is deeply hidden in the auricles; they practically do not stick out of them and are additionally stabilized with earlobes. During the tests, the headphones did not fall out of the ears.
The round shape of the Advar translates into high ergonomics. The housings properly fill the insides of the auricles and do not compress or irritate the skin. In my case, the headphones themselves did not cause any discomfort, even during hours of listening. I also did not complain about expanding the ear canals due to the optimally wide sleeves. However, it may be necessary to warm the headphones before wearing them in autumn or winter – steel housings are cool to the touch.
I can’t fault the Final Audio tips, which seal the ear canals properly. Advar does not isolate perfectly; they let sounds from the outside in, but they mute them enough that the noise is not noticeable during listening sessions. However, you should not expect perfect sound insulation – loud surroundings can be disturbing when listening to quieter tracks with high dynamics. Nevertheless, I was happy every day. The sound also slightly “leaks,” i.e. from the outside, you can hear music from the headphones, but quietly enough that it will not disturb bystanders.
The cable failed me in one respect. Its length is optimal (125 cm), as is its flexibility. There is no microphone effect, and the slider for shortening the earbuds does its job, i.e., maintains the selected position. I’m not too fond of the temples, which are optimally bent, but, unfortunately, a bit too stiff so that they can put pressure on the upper part of the auricle (labrum). After longer listening sessions, I felt slight pain; I had to bend my temples to eliminate it. It is a pity that no wires in the temples would allow you to adjust their shape freely.
- drivers: dynamic 10.2 mm
- frequency response: 10Hz-20kHz
- impedance: 31 ohms
- THD+N: <1%
- sensitivity: 111 dB
- cable: MMCX > 3.5 mm, silver-plated copper, 125 cm
- weight: 10.7g (single earbud); 38.3 g (both headphones with cable and tips)
- Headphones: Campfire Audio Ara, Dorado 2020 and Solaris 2020, FiiO FD5, FD7, FH5s, FH7 and FH9, Meze Rai Solo
- Sources: FiiO M17, M11 Plus ESS, Astell&Kern AK70 MKII, Cayin N3Pro, FiiO BTR5 2021, Qudelix-5K, Cayin RU-6
The manufacturer states the sound signature – the Meze Audio Advar is musical, smooth throughout the range, and extremely versatile. You can count on deep low tones, a natural midrange, and freely extended treble, just like a full-range dynamic converter. I think the band’s extremes were slightly accentuated, but rather U-shaped than V-shaped, because the midrange does not disappear in the background. In general, the Advar resembles the Sennheisers IE 600 or even IE 900, but in a more balanced, velvety, and mild version. Comparisons in a moment.
Meze Audio Advar – sound signature
The low tones are in the front but are not extremely boosted and do not flood the other instruments. The mid-bass has the most to say, but it does not yet dominate the sub-bass or the upper range of the bass, so you can still count on a deep and vibrant descent and a more punctual and sketchy presentation. The detail is good, but it does not knock you to your knees – the bass is not very differentiated because musicality takes precedence. For this reason, the bass is smooth rather than contoured or hard. No worries, the texture of the bass is still well differentiated, and the bass is not a shapeless mass. It’s just that colorfulness and accessibility are the priority here, not absolute technicality. The dynamics are satisfying – the bass hits energetically, is properly sustained, and decays smoothly. Maybe the low ones could be slightly faster or more compact,
The midrange is a step back but continues the warm-smooth character of the bass. I did not find a strong favoring of the lower midrange at the expense of the upper one, thanks to which the sound is not bland or fuzzy yet – the midrange is not muddy but decently outlined. However, there is no question of aggression – the midrange is colorful, velvety, and accessible. I have to admit that I liked the range because the midrange is clear and expressive at the same time, but it does not tire or irritate at all. This range is also surprisingly flexible – electronics sound modern and digital, metal is massive and dense, and jazz is natural and colorful. The midrange resolution fully satisfied me, but the details were not forced out of line. Again, the first violin is played by musicality – those who want to relax with music or look for energy in it will be satisfied.
The treble is also accentuated but within reason. The range is clear, free, clean, and expressive because it has been specifically stretched. You should not be afraid of dimming or dimming because the Advar presents music as if it were in the palm of your hand. At the same time, the headphones are not sharp or cold; they do not hiss and do not increase sibilation, which enhances the mentioned musicality. The treble is a positive surprise because it is fast, clear, and selective, and at the same time, it does not rustle at all, sparkle, or digital. The band perfectly illuminates the other ranges, hence the direct nature of the headphones. During the listening sessions, I realized that I rarely deal with this treble – the Advar sounds clear and gentle in the soprano simultaneously, but you should not be afraid of hissing or veiling.
The soundstage is spherical, and its size is optimal. The foreground is close to the listener. Hence the message is rather intimate and direct than the concert. The separation of the channels is decent, and the depth is not inferior, so a lot is happening in the front-to-back plane, and not only sideways. The separation of the instruments is also satisfactory, but the bass likes to fill the nooks and crannies, which limits aeration. The holography draws attention because the instruments are quite shapely and three-dimensional, as for in-ear headphones with single dynamic drivers. Although the cable from the set is not sonic, it can be heard that the balanced cable brings progress. For example, the FiiO LC-RC with a 4.4 mm plug improved channel separation, slightly moved the foreground, and thus gave the stage a more ellipsoidal shape.
Meze Audio Advar – comparisons with FiiO FH9, Sennheiser IE 600, and other headphones
The assumptions of the FH9 model seem to be similar – FiiO headphones are also quite musical, they impress with strong bass and clear treble, but they are not as accessible as Advar. The sound of the in-ear headphones from Meze is smoother, calmer, and slightly more colorful. In direct comparison, the FiiO FH9 sounds harder, with more defined bass, closer and more contoured midrange, and a bit stronger treble, at least with balanced filters. I think that the FiiO in-ears also generate a larger soundstage but are also bigger; they protrude more from the ears than the Advars.
I had a great time listening to both the FH9 and the Advar models. I appreciated the former’s more contoured and controlled presentation and the latter’s colorfulness, gentleness, and smoothness. Again, a single dynamic can compete with advanced hybrids, but the FH9 is profitable because it is cheaper (Euro 750 vs Euro 625), and equipped with replaceable filters and a modular cable. On the other hand, those who prefer a smooth, saturated, and colorful sound may disagree with me – the Advar really “charms” are more pleasant to listen to and more relaxing. So the verdict will largely depend on your preferences.
It is similar to Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 because they are brighter and more technical headphones than Meze Advar, generating a larger soundstage and impressive resolution. However, the Solaris 2020 are twice as expensive, and the Advar wins with musicality. As a result, headphones from Meze Audio are also a great alternative to Campfire Audio Dorado 2020, two-driver hybrids that generate a smaller stage, bigger bass, and sound less colorful and clear. In such a confrontation, I would choose the Advars, headphones that are closer to balance and more coherent in the transmission due to the single driver. On the other hand, fans of deeper bass and more effective tuning may prefer the Dorado 2020. With them, the Advars sound “more cultured” and calmer.
I also like the Advar better than the FiiO FD7, which are also musical, warm, and colorful, but they soften the treble more, so they do not sound so clear. I perceived the FD7 as slightly bland headphones, subjectively too subdued. Compared to them, the Advar model has more energy and “spark,” sounds more crystalline, and extends the treble more freely. In my opinion, Advar wins over the FD7 because headphones from Romania are also musical but, at the same time, more expressive. However, it must be remembered that the dynamics from FiiO started at Euro 675 but have already become much cheaper – they are currently cheaper than the Meze in-ear headphones (Euro 750 vs Euro 535).
And how does the Advar compare to the Sennheiser IE 900? The flagship headphones of the German manufacturer generate more bass and sharper treble, are more spacious, and, paradoxically, more analytical. In general, the IE 900 sound with more momentum; they seem to imitate circumaural headphones, so they leave behind the Advars in terms of quality, which in this confrontation are clearly … gentler and calmer, which is not surprising. However, the price difference is large because the IE 900 cost as much as Euro 1,345, so the Meze Audio Advar should rather be compared with the Sennheiser IE 600.
It turns out that the Advar can beat them because the IE 600 sounds sharper, again less natural treble, and does not generate such a holographic scene. On the other hand, the IE 600 also outline the bass or midrange better and differentiate the textures of the instruments better because they are not so smooth. The choice is a matter of taste – if we like musical and technical sound, the IE 600 will be better; however, when colorfulness and accessibility count, Advar will take the lead. It is worth remembering that the IE 600 have a 4.4 mm cable as standard, but they make it difficult to replace the cable due to the non-universal MMCX sockets. From me, a point for the Meze, which does not have a “balance” in the set, but alternative cables fit them without any problems.
Meze Audio Advar – synergy
The headphones are not problematic regarding synergy – the proportions between the bass and the treble have been preserved. Hence Advar cooperates with various sources. The efficiency is high (111 dB), and thanks to the impedance of 31 ohms, you don’t have to worry about the signal output parameters and noise.
I bet the headphones will not match with sources of a similar nature, i.e. warm and smooth, but I was wrong. Advar was satisfying in every configuration, but I liked the clearer/more technical sources the most. Hence, for example, in combination with the Cayin N3Pro, I chose the transistor or tube Ultra-Linear mode, although the first one was better because it outlined the bass and midrange more. However, other modes also gave very good results.
Advars sound good from cheaper and more expensive sources, but they scale with hardware. For example, I heard a clear difference between the FiiO M17 and M11 Plus ESS because the first player generated a larger soundstage and emphasized the bass and the second one was more linear in transmission. This does not mean, however, that a more expensive player will automatically be better – the Advar sounded clearer and less smooth with the FiiO M11 Plus ESS, which was beneficial, in my opinion. So synergy is not essential, but the headphones are sensitive to it.
Meze Audio Advar is the most successful dynamic headphone. The equipment is decent, the workmanship is excellent, and the design is attractive. Ergonomics also does not cause major objections, and sound insulation is satisfactory. The cable fits well and does not have a microphone, but it fits the headphones’ character. In my opinion, the sound is excellent – naturally warm, slightly accentuated in the band’s extremes, but still with a fairly close midrange. Smooth, saturated presentation with extended but not intrusive treble are also the advantages of the Advar model.
It is a pity that the set does not include a balanced cable, which competitors offer in the form of Sennheiser IE 600 or FiiO FH9. I also didn’t like the earrings, which slightly cut into my auricles – it’s a pity that they don’t have a wire or are not softer. I believe that the smoothness was achieved with minimal masking of details – I did not lack details, but the Advar may not satisfy those who flick through records in search of microdetails.
Meze Audio Advar cost Euro 750. So these are more expensive headphones for demanding customers, which can fully satisfy music lovers looking for a musical and universal sound. The headphones are also cheaper than the Sennheiser IE 600; they are a strong competitor and have universal MMCX sockets, so for me, the Advar is a material for a recommendation. On the other hand, those who prefer an engaging but more defined sound of armature drivers should also test the FiiO FH9.
+ functional equipment
+ solid workmanship
+ original design
+ high ergonomics
+ satisfactory damping
+ Flexible and strong cable
+ High synergy and versatility
+ naturally warm, smooth, clear, and accessible sound
+ good holography
– no balanced cable in the set
– a bit too stiff temples
– smoothness slightly reduces detail