The 109 PRO top side is energizing. Again, this is a fun-sounding headphone even in stock form without any EQ introduced into the mix. On a flat EQ (disabled), the 109 PRO feels sparkled and plentiful on the top side, but thankfully never painful or wince-worthy.
We’ve hit a point in designs where we can get that treble we want in quantity, but not feel like it is wincing and highly aggressive on your ear. I enjoy this, it is plentiful, fun, bright, and sparkling. Very interesting top side, no doubt.
Also interesting is the 109 PRO’s ability to reduce itself with a down toggle on your high-end EQ bands. The opposite side isn’t true, where adding more in does almost nothing and the headphone doesn’t respond much at all to it.
The 109 PRO does respond to dropping out the treble a bit and making it less bright. It is also always fun to hear and keep hearing that sparkling tonality throughout the experience and not feel pain or get annoyed by it.
Not many headphones can do that and not many companies want to design a brighter-than-usual treble in tone, but one that doesn’t slam hard on physicality and impact level. So yes, you can listen for a while and not get fatigued, while enjoying plentiful topside throughout that entire time. Rare.
The Meze 109 PRO feels like a scaled-up Beyerdynamic T1, where coherency and roundedness is the prime imaging factor in the experience. It doesn’t extend far left and right, nor deep.
What is there is a fair bit above average, but not anything grand in that regard despite it being an open back. I think the Hifiman R9 (a closed back) feels much more spacious to my ear in that regard.
The depth of field and realism is the defining feature of the imaging experience of this headphone, as well as just a natural flare in shape and tactility that I find very enjoyable and well-tailored for usage with vocalist Jazz tracks.
I think they did that on purpose, and if they did, they would get extra respect points. Stage depth and air are relatively good, but again, I think the designers wanted a coherent feeling imaging experience and not an overly vast and stretched one.
So, don’t expect a massively wide stereo field but do expect good amounts of realistic stage depth and air factor between instruments regarding depth.
At 40Ω, the Meze 109 PRO seems like it is easily driven on paper and may not benefit from copious amounts of extra power, but you’d be wrong in assuming that.
While the headphone sounds nice from a standard DAP or cell phone, they highly benefit from high amounts of extra power.
For example, the CEntrance HiFi-M8 V2 pumps out about 1W of power, and my home Burson amplifier dishes out something more like 3.5W. One can immediately hear and feel the 109 PRO bass texture smooth out with higher voltage imparted into the headphones.
Yes, these are headphones I would want to only use with a home-based desktop setup and nothing portable.
Tone and texture in source pairing don’t seem to matter, you can use a neutral source and EQ it to feel a bit warmer, or you can use a warm source and EQ it to feel more neutral. The only thing you can’t do is add more treble via EQ without it sounding a bit warped. You can reduce it plenty well without a problem though.
So, with that in mind, sources do not matter so much. Grab a nice source or DAP, and pair it with a great amplifier and you’ll get the best out of the 109 PRO. Without that extra voltage, you are going to miss the slick bass experience that suddenly appears if you pipe in more than 1w of power.
Of a standard portable player, I missed it entirely. With a 1W portable, I could just hardly hear that extra smoothness factor. But with more like 3.5w output, that slick and creamy 109 PRO bass pops out and says hello.
My Sony Xperia 1iii’s DAC is excellent, but it doesn’t have the watt output anywhere near the new V6 from TempoTec, and the V6 doesn’t have anywhere near the M8 V2 from CEntrance. All of the above pales to the Conductor 3 home desktop rig from Burson that I favor. Each variant setup and rig pairing sounds different with the 109 PRO.
The Sony phone sounds thin, veiled, and underfed, but still enjoyable and plentiful enough to have fun with. The V6 DAP is more powerful but also lacks the warmth that goes well with this headphone’s appeal on the fun factor.
The CEntrance severely lacks a musicality factor and opts for a more neutral signature with a lot of portable power. But the home Burson rig is where the magic happened in testing the 109 PRO.
I was shocked that this extra power reflected that much of an improved bass texture. Quality and quantity did not change with any of these pairings, but the higher voltage led to a silkier, creamer, more noticeably “of a higher fidelity” texture on the low end of this Meze 109 PRO.
So, my recommendation is lots of power in a warmer than usual source, or an amplifier for the 109 PRO will suit you the best of the crop.
Little Dot GFYU
The GYFU is close to the price of the 109 PRO at roughly $600, also open back, also warm, and also woodie in design. The Little Dot is significantly darker sounding, more veiled feeling, and is much more densely packed in imaging.
The 109 PRO is wider sounding, more aired out, lighter in tone and texture, and far less veiled. The best parallel I can draw is the Sennheiser HD650 (Little Dot) and the HD600 (Meze), where one is dark and veiled, and the other is brighter in texture and tone.
Yep, the Koss ESP95X is an Electrostatic system, but also one that sells often for $500-600 or so depending on where you get it.
Interestingly, I found the ESP-95X to feel much more linear, more pure sounding. And the 109 PRO to feel more fun, warm, and bright. The ESP-95X is an effortless feeling, while the 109 PRO is more in-your-face and denser sounding.
Electrostatics just have a sublime smooth feel to them that cannot be replicated by dynamic drivers (so far). However, the ESP-95X can’t be used on the go and also has horrible build quality vs the 109’s magnificent build quality.
Both headphones are immensely smooth feeling, which is why I felt this comparison was important. For the price, you almost can’t beat the ESP-95X for the smooth factor, but on the dynamic side of the spectrum, you might be getting very close to comparing the low-end smoothness factor at long last to the ESP-95X.
Yes, the Thinksound ov21 is a closed-back that sells for $400, somewhat half the price, but the sound traits are paralleled between both sets.
I feel like if the fidelity factor were improved and the earcups cut to open a hole in them, the ov21 would become the Meze 109 PRO.
Both headphones have a fun quantity set, both are woodies with some great build quality, both have better stage depth than width, and both have an oddly great sense of musicality on the treble side. Of course, the 109 PRO sounds purer across the board.
With the Meze 109 PRO, I hope that the company continues on this path and tosses another warm, fun, and bassy sound for us who enjoy musicality over neutrality. This is a great option for those who enjoy anything vocalist-centered.
It is extremely well made and will justify your home rig that has a nice and powerful source or amplifier.
I feel like this is becoming a lost art, as more and more headphones get easier to drive, our home rigs are being forgotten entirely. I was happy to relax and sit down with that Burson rig and use the Meze 109 PRO with it.