Meze Audio has been making headphones for about 10 years, and while some go for a modern look, Meze instead opts for a timeless design. Take the closed-back 99 Classic, for example, which impressed my colleague John Hvidlykke with its deep, rich bass and warm tonal balance, thanks in part to its wooden ear cups, though partly at the expense of a slightly restrained treble.
Now the 109 Pro is here, with the most obvious difference being an open-back design, as opposed to the 99 Classic’s closed back. The 109 Pro is over 100 grams heavier, tipping the scales at 375 grams. However, in this price range, it’s still on the lighter end, as it’s not uncommon for headphones to weigh 400 or even 500 grams.
In terms of comfort, the Meze 109 Pro are a pleasure to wear. The soft velour pads compensate for the slight pressure on the cheekbones, and the open-back design ensures that your ears don’t get sweaty. In comparison, the 99 Classic can’t compete with the level of comfort offered by the Meze 109 Pro.
They look the same, but the sound of the latest Sennheiser headphones is better than ever.
The open chambers are tuned by Meze’s own engineers, aiming for a tonal structure that engages the listener with detail, clarity and “just the right amount of punch”.
The driver or speaker unit in the 109 Pro has a diameter of 50mm, which is 10mm more than the standard size. To achieve maximum balance between mass and stiffness, Meze Audio chose a composite material of plastic and paper, coated with a layer of super rigid and lightweight beryllium.
The core of the driver is a powerful neodymium magnet, chosen to achieve the best possible control.
The sound of Meze Audio 109 Pro
It’s easy to fall in love with the 109 Pro. Eva Weel Skram’s voice on the ballad Vi Lovar, her Norwegian cover version of Swedish Oscar Danielsson’s Besvärjelse, can easily become a bit harsh and gritty due to the sibilants. This is heavily toned down through the 109 Pro, but without the sound feeling closed off at all. Unlike the 99 Classic, the treble here is both open and airy, but it never becomes intrusive.
Billie Eilish’s The 30th sounds really good, and the guitar body is big and luscious. String instruments emerge with such warmth and grace that when I’m not in awe, I’m trying to guess what type of wood the guitar is made of.
Classical music also sounds inviting, where instruments in the midrange, such as cellos, trombones, and clarinets, stand out with beautiful tonal structures. However, you do feel a bit more distant from the orchestra than with some others, such as the Sennheiser HD660 S2.
And that is both the strength and weakness of the 109 Pro. While one can easily use cliches like “musical” and “organic”, all this warmth and grace comes at the expense of dynamics, which is not an insignificant part of music.
A sufficiently powerful amplifier certainly goes a long way. Such as the FiiO K9 Pro ESS, for example. During the testing period, I mostly used the Sennheiser HDV 820, which really brings out the qualities. However, the transients are not as sharp and lightning-fast as with the more expensive Audeze LCD-X, and the Sennheiser HD 800S also has a more refined reproduction. The aforementioned HD660 S2 also feels more dynamic than 109 Pro, while they both have a lot of the same warmth in the midrange. But there’s something about the buttery smooth reproduction through Meze that just captures me. It doesn’t suit all music equally well, but some songs end up sounding so brilliant, that I’d say it’s worth it.
The Meze Audio 109 Pro is a pair of well-crafted headphones that paint a soundscape so full of glow and warmth that you’re drawn into the music in a way that few others can. Everything seems consistent.
The headphones have ‘Pro’ in their name, but if I were to use them for sound recording or podcasting, I would probably want something more neutral. And as mentioned, the dynamics could have been better. Music tracks with strong bass drums can also come across a bit tame.
I were to only have a singular par of high-end headphones, it probably wouldn’t be these. That said, what they do well, they do so wonderfully that you should at least subject your ears to the experience.