CanJam NYC 2022: Meze Audio and dCS

I'd heard Meze Audio discussed by headphone aficionados for a handful of years. So I was interested to hear some of the Romanian manufacturer’s headphones at CanJam, where Meze presented their new Elite open-back ($4000) and Liric closed-back ($2000) headphones. Both models employ an approach unusual in planar-magnetic drivers: a proprietary Isodynamic Hybrid Array that Rinaro, a Ukrainian company, created for Meze. Meze displayed a few clear-encased examples of these arrays in their demo area so that the curious (including me) could view the diaphragm’s fine, serpentine membrane conductors.


How is it unique? Meze Managing Director Mircea Fanatan explained. The traces, which are printed on a thin, plastic membrane, are arranged in a pattern that enables/allows two points of tension for the magnets on both sides of the membrane. The "minus" magnet is in the middle, the "plus" to the outside. Each "pulls" using magnetic forces from its own point of tension. It’s somewhat akin to a two-way transducer, Fanatan said.

The open-back Elite uses a newly designed Rinaro Parus diaphragm. The Liric is the first closed-back headphone to use this technology; it's a scaled-down version of the Isometric Hybrid Array found in Meze's Empyrean headphones configured to work inside the Liric's enclosure. The Elite's impedance is specified at 32 ohms, sensitivity at 101dB/mW at 1kHz. The Liric is specified at 30 ohms impedance, with 100dB/mW sensitivity.

Meze offers some nifty accessories: assorted cables and adapters (plus a pouch); a hard EVA carrying case for the Liric; an aluminum suitcase for the Elite; earpads made from Alcantara leather or a hybrid of lamb and Alcantara leather, with magnetized attachments and magnetic mesh designed to work with the drivers. Meze focuses on sustainability and is committed to providing service and replacement parts.

I especially enjoyed listening to the Elite headphones driven by the mighty dCS Bartók headphone amplifier/DAC. Tethered to the Bartók's balanced connection, the Elite delivered powerful, detailed, seamless sound.

It felt like an '80s kind of moment. Tears for Fears—who have a new album out by the way—sprung to life on "Shout" from Songs from the Big Chair. On the breakdown almost midway through the track, Curt Smith’s Steinberger L2 bass leapt from the back seat into the foreground, taut yet bouncy under pressure like a mattress spring. The setup revived even such an overplayed track. Not all planars do bass well. "Billie Jean," another big hit from that era, filled the quiet space with solid, funky, crunchy grooves. The keyboard seemed to edge its way further into my earspace. I didn't expect this much space, air, and atmosphere from headphones. I had the same experience with Icelandic pianist Vikingur Ólaffson's exquisite playing of Philip Glass's "Glassworks" opening from Landscapes: Minimalism. Breathtaking.