Its full name is the LIRIC Portable Isodynamic Hybrid Array Headphone. More about the nomenclature later. Selling for a non-inexpensive $2000, I was eager to listen and compare them to headphones in this price range to see what this relatively new company brings to the audiophile world.
I’ve done so many reviews of headphones at all price points and I have a lot of experience to compare sound, drivers, and build quality, so let’s dive in.
High-quality headphones, the Meze Audio LIRIC Headphones among them, do a lot of the same things right. Low distortion, wide frequency response, solid imaging. The LIRIC headphones check all those boxes but add a very lightweight device and very high build quality. They are closed-back headphones, while a lot of the market is going open-back. The sound of the LIRIC Headphones is indisputably excellent, and if a closed-back phone that is light and portable is your headphone of choice, certainly the Meze LIRIC should be high on your list.
As you shop, you’ll find both open and closed-back headphones. Some claim that open-back headphones sound more ‘airy’ and they let in outside sounds and don’t isolate you. Closed-back headphones generally find it a bit easier to produce smooth bass frequencies, and to a degree, they separate you from your outside environment.
Meze Audio LIRIC Headphones
- The Meze Audio LIRIC has a wide frequency response.
- Packaging and the carry case are of high quality fitting the retail price.
- Bass is deep and highs are smooth and not distorted.
- Build quality is excellent.
Meze Audio has not been on my radar and is certainly not the first company that comes to mind when I think of headphones. I’ll think of Sennheiser, Koss, HIFIMan, Focal, and others. The truth is, Meze has been getting noticed by audiophiles increasingly since it was founded in Romania in 2011. Many audiophiles took notice when the company offered its 99 Classic Headphones, which received awards worldwide and accolades from audiophiles who sought the brand out. Now, the company has 5 over-the-ear headphones and 3 in-ear headphones.
Meze Audio LIRIC
Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array® MZ4
100 dB (1 mW / 1 kHz)
> 130 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD):
92mm x 63mm
Fiberglass reinforced polymer
Rinaro Isoplanar® MZ4
Lower Frequency Limit:
Meze Audio LIRIC Headphones MSRP:
Meze Audio, LIRIC Headphones, portable headphones, closed-back, Headphones Review 2022
The LIRIC had a simple design goal, at least simple in principle. That was to design a headset that would please the pickiest audiophile, while still being a headset you could take with you. That means high-quality parts, a good robust case design, and of course something lightweight that could withstand the rigors of travel.
The company has stated: “We wanted it to express the very thing that makes us Meze Audio – cutting-edge technology embodied into an artful, almost sculptural frame. While different than anything w e’vedone before, LIRIC preserves the same design language characteristic to us, with new additions in terms of materials and ergonomic approach.”
“Designed for high-fidelity listening on the go, LIRIC delivers high build quality and excellent comfort, and a life-like, immersive listening experience.”
To get the headphone they hoped for, Meze Audio joined forces with Rinaro Isodynamics, which originated in the USSR (today’s Ukraine) during the Cold War, as part of a state-funded acoustic technology research program. With government backing and access to advanced testing facilities, the team was able to focus all its efforts on planar magnetics. It’s a field they have continued to innovate in for the last 30 years, since the collapse of the USSR. One hopes this will continue with the difficulties resulting from the current Russian invasion.
The drivers of the LIRIC headphones are based on drivers Meze has used in other highly rated products, but this is the first closed-back design Meze has produced. The drivers are planar magnetic, and in this model, Meze claims improvements in ambiance and spatial sound imaging. They are claimed to be easy to drive from any portable source but can fit nicely with a separate dedicated headphone amplifier.
The skeleton frame of the headphones is lightweight magnesium, and padded headband cushions are symmetrically placed in a “+” shape to allow proper airflow and lower the heat and humidity buildup. Covered in genuine leather, the headband is perfectly tuned for optimal pressure distribution. Meze says it follows the structure of the head, creating firm and even contact.
The LIRIC Headphones come with useful accessories, including:
• Case: Hard EVA pouch with velvet lining
• Two cables included:
– 1.5m soft TPE cable with 3.5mm jack
– 3m soft TPE cable with 3.5mm jack
– 6.3mm jack adapter
– Airplane jack adapter
• Cables pouch
Getting the LIRIC Headphones unpacked was a short course on how to properly introduce a customer to a new product. The visual impression was elegant, with an attractive black box with gold lettering. Inside is the travel case, and after unzipping the case you see the headphones and the accessory cables. It was really a matter of plugging in the cables on the headset end and connecting to your source.
When I had the headphones for review, I could not figure out which plug input was left and which was right. The cables themselves are labeled. I mentioned this to Meze after I sent the headphones back and they said there were labels on the lower part of the headband. It’s black on black, lightly embossed, and I have good eyesight but missed it.
There are also some small print instructions, but they are general. I would have liked to know the technical details of this model, and some tips on usage.
I did some of my auditioning on a Schitt tubed headphone amp, and most of my listening on a FiiO M15 portable digital audio player, since the Liric’s are aimed at the listener on the go. On my portable player, I have a large collection of FLAC rips from CDs, plus high-resolution files that have been purchased over the years.
As claimed by Meze, I found the headphones easy to drive by any source I had on hand, including my computer, the already mentioned FiiO, and connecting to both tube-driven and solid-state headphone amplifiers.
Some overall impressions of the LIRIC Headphones are in order before I get to specific program material.
The headphones were, as mentioned, easy to drive. I could not get them to distort at any rational volume level. High frequencies were smooth, both listening to strings and with vocal selections. The Bass was deep, and at the very least comparable to other similarly priced headphones I had on hand. I felt stereo images were a bit more restricted in left to right width but extended a bit more vertically than other headphones I listened to. However, this seemed to depend on what I was listening to and may be down to the way some albums are produced. For example, when listening to the Simon and Garfunkel Sounds of Silence in high-resolution, some tracks were very wide and precisely imaged. Mrs. Robinson was an example. Other tracks, like Bookends, were more centered without an extended soundstage. On some other headphones, reviewing the same narrower tracks, the image was oftenest slightly wider. Hard to say which is more accurate.
The Meze LIRIC comes across as neutral. On tracks I know very well I could not sense any form of frequency shaping toward warmth or coolness. Ideally, that’s what I want in high-quality headphones. Let the music and the recording speak for themselves.
When I compared the headphones to some more expensive products I had, the Liric’s held their own. Headphones at the same or a similar price sounded just a cut below the quality of the Liric’s, and some less expensive headphones, like the Apple EarPods, could not complete either in bass or smooth high frequencies.
None of the headphones I had on hand could compete on comfort due to the light weight of the LIRIC headphones, although I found some of the foam pads on competing headphones a little softer against my ears, exerting less pressure. That’s not to say the Meze LIRIC is uncomfortable. Far from it.
The closed-back design doesn’t really isolate you. I could hear a doorbell easily while listening at moderate levels, but I think they have a better chance of pulling me into the performance than an open-back headphone that lets everything in. Still, longer listening sessions (around 2 hours) were not a challenge, so I think the Lirics would be fine on a lengthy airline trip.
David Chesky“Three Psalms for String Orchestra”
Really moving and beautiful music. I listened to 44/24-bit files. The LIRIC Headphones did a wonderful job on the strings, and the detail of the recording is excellent. The image was stable, and the sound of the recording venue was audible.
Simon and Garfunkel“Sounds of Silence”
As mentioned above, a lovely high-resolution recording when Columbia Records was at their peak of recorded quality. The analog instruments and voices simply sounded real, and depending on the track, the image was wide or narrow, but always sounding ‘live.’ This recording is a great test of headphones and speakers. The Meze LIRIC headphones sounded exemplary.
A wonderful 2L recording available in a variety of formats, including SACD and a Blu-ray audio disc. For the review of the LIRIC headphones, I listened to the MQA version at 352.8 kHz. This choral recording, done in a mausoleum has a unique sound because of the environment. I preferred the 5.1 audio which is transcendent but can’t do that on headphones. Still, the Lirics did a wonderful job of recreating these haunting voices floating in an aural sea of ambiance.
Mike Oldfield“Return to Omnadawn”
This is a modern revisit to Oldfield’s 1975 hit record. It’s a complex, multi-layered composition that can be difficult for headphones that don’t have excellent dynamics and transient response. This 44/16 FLAC sounded fine, with every detail etched sharply.
Virgil Fox“Heavy Organ at Carnegie Hall”
A 1973 recording with organ virtuoso Virgil Fox. He played the best of Bach to an enthusiastic younger audience. The live recording is just fine, even though the organ is electronic. The Lirics captured the sound of the performance very realistically and nicely reproduced the low 32 Hz pedal notes.
The Meze LIRIC is a fine, high-end headphone that meets its design goals and should please audiophiles who want to take a fine-sounding closed-back planar headphone on the road or even across the room.
It’s well built, attractive to look at, and sounds like the high-end transducer that it is. It shined on acoustic music, and it could render complex layered passages of rock and roll or jazz without distortion or strain.
The Meze LIRIC PORTABLE ISODYNAMIC HYBRID ARRAY HEADPHONE is not inexpensive, but it is a formidable offering at its price point.
- Sound quality is excellent.
- Build quality is also first-rate.
- Comfort is very good, and the headphones are lightweight without being flimsy.
- Packaging is of very high quality.
- More documentation and usage tips.
- It’s not immediately clear which ear cup is left or right. They are marked, but it’s not obvious.