Meze Audio ALBA Review featured image

Meze Audio ALBA Review

In this feature, Nihal reviews the $159 Meze Audio ALBA, which is a new and elegantly designed entry-level single 10.8mm dynamic driver IEM. 

Disclaimer: This sample was sent to me in exchange for my honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or status. I thank Meze for their support.

You can click here to learn more about Meze Audio products previously reviewed on Headfonics.

Note, that this article follows our current scoring guidelines which you can read in more detail here.

Meze Audio ALBA Review featured image
Meze Audio ALBA Review
Summary
The $159 Meze Audio ALBA boasts one of the most enjoyable bass performances for an entry-level IEMs. It offers a balanced tuning that covers every frequency range well, producing a musical and fun sound. Its design and build quality make it ideal for long-term use.
Sound Quality
8.4
Design
8.8
Comfort & Isolation
8.8
Synergy
8.5
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8.1
Pros
Good low-end with nice texture and layering.
Balanced sound signature with natural midrange
Unique design with comfortable fitting.
Cons
Underwhelming unboxing experience
8.6
Award Score

Meze Audio was established in 2011 in Baia Mare, Romania, and is renowned for its excellent range of class-leading headphones such as the Empyrean II and the 109 Pro. Their products have won numerous international awards, reflecting their widespread acclaim.

While primarily focusing on developing headphones, the company has released a few IEMs in the past.

The last IEM from Meze, the Advar, was reviewed by us nearly two years ago. Now, Meze introduces the ALBA, meaning “The First Light” in Romanian, their most affordable IEM to date with a budget-friendly price of $159.

The IEM was first showcased at CanJam Singapore in April 2024. The ALBA shares design elements with the Advar, featuring sleek aesthetics and high-quality construction, and promises an engaging audio experience at an affordable price.

Let’s see how the ALBA performs in more detail and how it fares against the competition in my full review below.

Meze Audio ALBA shell designs

Features

Meze Audio has been discreet about revealing the material of their dynamic driver’s membrane.

However, I know that the dynamic driver size is 10.8mm, with an impedance of 32Ω and a frequency response of 15Hz-25kHz. The internal chamber is designed to house the driver for optimal venting and distortion control while still maintaining a compact shell size.

The 32Ω @1kHz impedance level combined with a sensitivity rating of 109 dB/Vrms means the ALBA is fairly efficient and sensitive enough to drive well from most sources. However, I would not classify it as super sensitive, and it does respond well to improved power.

Design

The design of these earphones bears a resemblance to the Meze aesthetic, particularly that of the Advar. What we have as a theme of gold and brown for the Advar, the same is presented in a minimalist palette styling of pearl and anodized aluminum on ALBA.

The shells are quite small in size and do not have much weight with a lightweight zinc alloy internal. Arguably, they look like a smaller replica of the Advar shells. With ALBA, Meze Audio offers a resilient yet still high-quality build for the price.

Upon first glance, the standout feature is the nice craftsmanship of the shells. They boast a nice softness to the touch and a shiny, smooth exterior. Crafted from a blend of zinc alloy and anodized aluminum, shells provide a durable and high-quality build at an affordable price.

The shells have a glossy appearance with an opalescent color finish, making ALBA look like a shiny, precious pearl. The Meze logo is stamped on both shells.

The center of the shells has a circular metal insignia with the brand’s name engraved on it, similar to the Advar. The round emblem has a vent in the center with a similar round disc-like enclosure found on the two-pin connector. The nozzles are also made of metal.

Meze Audio ALBA nozzles

Comfort & Isolation

Thanks to its smaller shells and lightweight design, the ALBA offers an excellent fit. The IEM does not protrude from the ear and remains comfortable during movement.

Once you select well-fitting ear tips, the IEMs sit securely and flush inside the ear. The smooth surface and ergonomic design of the shells ensure that the IEMs do not exert any pressure on the ear, making them ideal for long listening sessions.

The ALBA features short nozzles with a standard diameter, each with a vent underneath. Additionally, there is a vent on the round emblem of the shells. Throughout my experience with the ALBA, I noticed no pressure build-up. I also never noticed driver flex when using these IEMs.

The isolation provided by the ALBA is impressive, surpassing many other IEMs in its price range. It effectively blocks a significant amount of noise, even in fairly noisy environments, making it ideal for on-the-go usage.

Meze Audio ALBA ear tips

Ear tips

The selection of ear tips for ALBA is somewhat limited. It comes with four sizes of white ear tips, which are quite flexible and provide a comfortable fit with the IEMs.

These tips have a wider bore and a narrow stem. These ear tips offer excellent isolation when properly inserted. Additionally, the tips do not impact the soundstage, and with a good fit, the bass is quite pronounced.

I paired the IEMs with SpinFit W1 tips and Azla SednaFit Light ear tips. Both options complement the IEMs nicely. The Azla tips, with their wide bore, enhance the soundstage while also providing good isolation whereas the SpinFit W1 tips produce decent bass quantity.

Meze Audio ALBA cable

Stock Cable

The stock cable on the ALBA comes with a 3.5mm termination with a 2-pin connection compared to the MMCX connection in Advar. It’s thin and supple, and its flimsy construction can lead to occasional tangles. I would have preferred a sturdier cable build.

The termination adapter and splitter are made of anodized aluminum and finished with the Meze Audio logos. The brand also offers a 4.4mm termination version of the same cable as an optional purchase.

You also get a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter, making it easy to connect to devices with USB-C outputs. This makes the ALBA compatible with most Android phones and Apple MacBooks. The adapter features a built-in DAC/amp for enhanced audio output.

When in use, the USB-C end emits a pleasant glow, making it convenient to use in low-light conditions. The plugs on this adapter are made of anodized aluminum, and the cable has a four-wire configuration.

Packaging & Accessories

The ALBA packaging is very minimal and not as impressive as the IEMs. The unboxing experience is nothing exceptional but there are some elegant touches.

For example, the small white cardboard box is adorned with a silver, Mandela-like embossed pattern, adding a hint of sophistication.

Upon opening the box, you are greeted with a pair of IEMs securely placed in a cutout, a white eco-leather carry case, the stock cable, and a pack of ear tips.

Additionally, there is a color manual featuring photos of the IEMs and descriptions of their configurations. The custom-designed 3.5mm to USB-C adapter is separately packed in a small box.

While the quality of the accessories is adequate for the price, the case is too small to comfortably fit the IEMs with the cable inside. Moreover, the white color of the case is prone to getting dirty. A slightly larger case would have been more convenient for accommodating the IEMs.

Sound Impressions

The following sound impressions of the Meze Audio ALBA were completed using a mixture of my main source, Lotoo’s Paw Gold Touch, and occasionally the Earmen Angel DAC/amp. I paired the IEMs with stock cable and stock tips. 

Summary

The ALBA delivers a well-balanced sound with a U-shaped signature. The bass is both ample and of decent quality, the mids are neutral with a touch of warmth, and the treble provides a good level of detail.

The timbre is naturally rich, typical of a single dynamic driver IEM. The tuning is safe and avoids any harshness in the upper frequencies.

Bass

One of the standout features of the ALBA is its well-controlled bass, which showcases the goodness of a nicely tuned dynamic driver.

The bass delivers impressive speed, with precise attacks and a pleasing decay. It offers good texture and decent layering, making it easy to distinguish basslines from multiple instruments, even in complex musical passages.

Its performance strikes a fine balance between quantities of sub-bass and mid-bass. The sub-bass has a decent amount and a reverberating character, remaining prominent without being overpowering. It provides a satisfying rumble, typical of more bass-focused sets.

The mid-bass also demonstrates good quantity and control, ensuring that it does not overshadow the higher frequencies. Its emphasis is carefully managed, preventing the presentation from becoming boomy or overly warm.

Midrange

Despite a generous amount of bass, the ALBA midrange remains quite clean. The midrange is nearly neutral, with a pleasing organic timbre and a touch of warmth. While the bass shelf adds some lushness to the lower mids, I would have loved a sweeter midrange.

The midrange offers decent clarity, though the resolution could be improved. Instruments like the piano exhibit a sweet trailing impact, and string instruments exhibit good note weight.

The vocals are excellently rendered, maintaining a rich density without ever sounding thin. Male vocals, in particular, are authentically reproduced, offering a well-textured, natural, and accurate sound.

The vocals are prominent and well-separated, while the midrange instruments remain less pronounced when vocals come into the picture.

The upper midrange is well-tuned, with no sharpness or sibilance detected. The upper midrange is subtly enhanced to provide a more pronounced vocal presence. There is a good amount of energy, and the vocals extend nicely in this region.

Treble

The ALBA demonstrates a respectable amount of energy in the highs. However, the level of micro detail and the air seems to take a hit sometimes leading to a perception of a relatively tamed treble definition.

This presentation may fall short for those who prefer a treble-focused brighter sound. It is more of a balanced or safe tuning suited for people sensitive to ‘peaky’ highs.

The details of the instruments in this region are subtly present, though not very prominent. The notes are well-defined and distinctly perceptible; however, the right amount of sparkle may seem missing.

The decay is natural, but the quick fade somewhat limits the extension. However, one would not miss out on details and information. For me, this treble definition is quite forgiving.

Staging & Dynamics

On the technical front, the ALBA performs reasonably well in most aspects, more so when we consider the price point.

The soundstage offers a moderate width, neither too wide nor too intimate. The depth of staging is just average. The average staging quality makes it less suitable for those seeking an immersive, around-your-head holographic staging experience.

The IEMs provide decent layering, allowing each instrument to be heard distinctly and placed precisely within the soundstage. In terms of instrument separation, the IEM does a decent job.

The vocals sit clearly above the instruments, and the background elements maintain their own space without blending much into each other.

Each instrument has adequate space, and details are well-articulated, avoiding congestion even on busy tracks. The ALBA’s resolution is slightly above average, yet it leaves something to be desired in terms of clarity.

While not significantly lacking, the presentation isn’t razor-sharp despite the decent channel-to-channel imaging.

Click on page 2 below for my recommended pairings and selected comparisons.

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