Today we are talking about another Meze Audio headphone. The recently released LIRIC closed back model. After my positive experience with the Empyrean and especially the ELITE, I was curious what sort of headphone Meze would go for in terms of a closed back model, and what sort tuning it would have. The LIRIC was released a short while ago at an MSRP of $2000USD, so it is not an insignificant purchase. Let’s find out how it fared against its open backed siblings.
The LIRIC is designed to be a more portable headphone than the ELITE and Empyrean, therefore it is physically smaller, and uses a different, non suspension based headband. Also in terms of portability, it comes in a portable style case, which will fit easily in a backpack or similar type of bag. The LIRIC comes bundled with two 3.5mm terminated cables, one shorter, one longer. I would have liked to see Meze include at least a 4.4mm cable in the package, but they do have very affordable aftermarket 4.4mm cables available from their 99 series headphones, which work very well. You can also buy upgraded cables for the LIRIC from the 99 series, and I have read those will be offered in 4pin XLR shortly also.
Obviously, targeting a price point which is half of the ELITE’s, there are concessions in terms of materials and overall build quality. The LIRIC just feels a bit less “premium” than the ELITE and Empyrean. With that being said, it is still one of the best built headphones I have come across. Meze Audio really nails this aspect. Although the physical size is a bit smaller, they are still an over ear headphone, and extremely comfortable. The pads feel deep and sumptuous. They are also a light headphone at around about 400g, and not at all uncomfortable for long listening sessions. The overall isolation level is good for a closed back, but if you need ultimate isolation, I would definitely recommend something with active noise cancelling, or earphones. In terms of aesthetics, I think the LIRIC is one of the best looking headphone on the market. The understated slightly textured black with copper accents is right up my alley, and I absolutely love how they look. I mean, ultimately I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but hey, it can’t hurt either.
The LIRICs pads do not share the same magnetic attachment system as the Empyrean and ELITE, and whilst this is a shame, as its the best system I have come across, I also think Meze may have done this to achieve the sound quality and isolation the LIRIC provide. I will include a screenshot of the earpad airflow system Meze has come up with, as the website explains it better than I am able to. It is an interesting idea, and lends itself well to a spacious sounding soundstage, for a closed back. The LIRIC are not as wide and spacious sounding as most open backs, that still remains an elusive, if not impossible quality for a closed back headphone to achieve, but they are also a lot more spacious sounding than the Focal headphones, both closed and open. I think that what Meze has achieved in terms of soundstage with the LIRIC is impressive, and am curious what they might manage in the future if they continue to develop the technology.
The driver of the LIRIC is essentially a scaled down version of the Rinaro ISODYNAMIC planar driver found in the ELITE and Empyrean. I would recommend reading my ELITE review for an idea of how this driver works if you have never come across it before, or head over to Mezes website. It Is an interesting approach to planar magnetic driver design, and worth understanding if you are going to purchase these headphones.
In terms of the drivers capability, at half the price of the ELITE whilst also being physically smaller, you obviously cannot expect the same performance. And that certainly holds true. The LIRIC does not have the same technical performance as the ELITE, and even the Empyrean. It sounds smaller, less detailed, less dynamically capable. With that being said, its tuning and frequency response are better than the Empyrean, for my personal taste. The bass of the LIRIC is slightly elevated, but I never found it to be overbearing, and it is less in level than the Empyrean. They have a bit more sub bass than the ELITE. The mids sound less thick than the Empyrean also, but perhaps a bit more upper mids and lower treble than the ELITE. I didn’t find the treble too hot at any point, especially the upper treble. With that being said, I did find it the tiniest bit shouty at times, but not at the level where it was close to being a deal breaker. I suppose you could tweak this slightly with EQ, but for the vast majority of my listening, I enjoyed the LIRIC without any EQ.
I’m fortunate to be used to the sound of what are pretty much the top of the line in terms of headphones (barring Sennheiser HE1 type esoterica.) Therefore, it has to be expected that a pair which costs less than half of those headphones, will give up certain areas of performance ability. In that sense, I found the timbre of the LIRIC a bit plasticky at times, and as mentioned, a bit shouty and “boxy” sounding, especially with snare drums. The soundstage, as I mentioned earlier, is very well done for a closed back. Not the widest, but also not small. The imaging, detail, and and dynamics remind me of the Empyrean, in that they do the “macro” stuff well, but aren’t as strong at the “micro” stuff. Increasing the volume seemed to help this aspect somewhat, which was interesting.
I very much feel that the overall package however, combined with very competent tuning is entirely worth the asking price. If you need a closed back headphone, and don’t want to spend $4000 on the DCA stealth, or $5500 on the Hifiman HE-R10p, then the LIRIC makes a serious case for itself. Also, if you need a physically smaller, and more portable headphone, the LIRIC makes a very serious case for itself there as well. It is built wonderfully, with great materials, and has a more enjoyable tuning than the Empyrean. It’s a punchy, slightly “fun” sounding headphone. I see what Meze Audio was trying to achieve with the LIRIC, and I think they have managed it very well. I’m not as experienced with closed back headphones as I am with open backs, but I can’t think of a closed back that I have tried that I enjoyed as much as the LIRIC. I think that if you take note of your use case, and feel that the LIRIC fits it, its is very much worth consideration. Whilst the LIRIC doesn’t match up to the performance of its open backed Rinaro driver based siblings, it also costs half as much, and brings a lot of their good qualities to the table, whilst also being isolating, and portable. That makes for a very interesting and compelling package.
I’d love to see Meze make an ELITE/Empyrean full sized closed back, with the driver and tuning from the ELITE. I think that would be up there for the best closed back, regardless of price. Until then though? The LIRIC does the job, and does it well.
Here is a link to Mezes website they asked me if I would mind including in my review. Please note this is not an affiliate link in any way shape or form. Just a link to their for their company info, products etc….