Pros: Meze Build
Back where they belong (to me)
Cons: Won’t suit all due to small size
Smooth sig not for everyone
Some will not like sound sig (character) of it
Meze Advar ($699): Will this bring Meze continued good luck?
Intro: As part of yet another excellent Andy Kong tour, the Advar arrived at the same time I had the A&K Kann Max; which will be a review for another publication. In the past, I have lamented that items such as the Rai Penta, while good; did not take the risk that I wish Meze did with items such as the Empyrean. Having also heard the Elite within the last month, I can say that the risk taking is back, and the Advar keeps that innovative streak going. Meze to me has mostly been about setting the curve, and innovating; not following the curve. I am happy to say that the Advar follows the former and not the latter.
Steeped in the heritage of the Maramures Country area of Northern Romania, the Advar pays homage to the people, community and forests of the land, which borders Ukraine. Built on community and a caring of the land for sustainability, the area renders reverence to a part of the homeland, held sacred. This follows Meze spirits and design queues to me, while reminding the company from whence it came as well. Something we should all do, to be honest.
This is not my unit and will be treated as if it were. As in, the unit will leave my humble abode in as good a condition as when it arrived. I again thank Andy for inclusion on the tour.
- Driver: 10.2mm Dynamic driver
- Frequency Range: 10 Hz – 30 kHz
- Impedance: 31 Ω
- SPL: 111dB/mW
- Distortion: <1% at 1kHz
- Stock cable: braided cable made of SPC (silver plated copper) custom wires ending in gold plated 3.5mm
- Upgrade cables (available separately):
- MMCX SPC cable to balanced 2.5 mm gold plated
- MMCX SPC cable to balanced 4.4 mm gold plated
- Materials: Solid stainless-steel chassis produced by metal injection molding, with CNC finishing
- Finish: High-gloss Black Chrome plating on main shell
In The Box:
- 1x Hard case pouch
- 5 pairs (SS, S, M, L, LL sizes) Final Audio Type-E ear tips
- 1x MMCX SPC 1.2 m cable to 3.5 mm gold plated jack
- 1x MMCX removal tool
- 1x Cleaning tool
- 1x User manual
A&K Kann Max
Shanling M6 Pro
iFi Zen Signature Series DAC/Amp
Jeff Beck/Johnny Depp
Meze has always had good unboxing experiences and the Advar is no different. Coming with both a balanced (extra) and regular cable, we had a choice of which to use. I mainly used the 4.4bal cable through the Kann Max for the review.
The sleeve around the box was not thin paperboard, but thicker and more robust, giving a premium offering to sliding it off. Once off, the box was about the size of a decent jewelry box, with a lid, which lifted off. A semi-hard foam piece was attached to the underside, so the Advar IEM’s would only be in contact with foam protection. Taking the foam, which held the Advar in place revealed a slick covered mini-brochure. This has to be one of the best presentations for the “manual” and pictures I have ever seen in the portable market. Highlighting the verbiage found on the website, it is nonetheless excellent at which to look, much like when you go through your home audio brochures or a new car brochure. Much appreciated, it is.
Under that is the typical Meze hardcase in a clamshell shape replete with a silver inlayed Meze logo. Excellent presentation, complete with separate mesh pouches for each IEM, and the inclusion of a very fine brush, for the lower mesh pouch along with extra tips if needed.
Typically, with Meze I have not had a problem with either fit or build. Known for exceptional build quality, I do think Meze had a hand in raising the quality of not only TOTL gear, but mid-fi as well. The Advar is no exception, with perfectly sculpted curves and pieces. Rounded with a small gold vent plate (complete with “Made in Romania,” & “Meze Audio”) along with a gold nozzle; gives the Advar a top-quality look and feel. This is a small IEM, with excellent fit, but I never had the feeling it was too slippery or hard to grasp. The shape helps as well, mimicking the natural shape of most ears. Due to the smaller size, I do believe even users with small ears will find the unit comfortable.
I really liked the darker colors (black chrome), accented by the gold as well. Meze has made some stunningly good-looking headphones and IEM’s in the past, and the Advar continues that trend. Not one for garishness either, the Meze looks the part of subdued grace and excellence here. The included silver cable looks good as well, with a tactility to it, which does not hinder use. I did use the 4.4bal cable most of the time, and once the cable sorted itself out, I had no issues with tangling (once I had it unwound, that is) or microphonics. Put all of this together, and you have Meze excellence in a mid-fi IEM. Good to see, feel and use.
With a 10.2mm dynamic driver, Meze has tuned the small chamber to provide excellent sound qualities. Slightly larger than the “normal” 10.0mm dynamic driver, the acoustic chamber allows for the driver inside the Advar to sound larger than it does. Each offering of cable comes with an SPC MMCX connection in any of 2.5bal, 3.5se or 4.4bal. Tuning stays within the to me typical Meze sound, which is a warmer, richer signature without losing detail or clarity.
Summary: As stated in my Rai Penta review, I wish thast Meze had taken a bigger risk with it, much the way they had with the Empyrean. Almost groundbreakingly good, the Empyrean was a fabulous headphone sound-wise, and remains one of my all-time favorites as a result. The Rai Penta fell short to me as it did not do for IEM’s, what the Empyrean had done for headphones. Thankfully, the Advar “returns” to Meze roots in my opinion; with a robust, rich signature, that has plenty of detail. Bass is taut, but not analytically sterile. Mids seem a bit forward, and there is excellent reach in the treble note without becoming harsh or grating. The tuning of the Advar hits near-perfectly into what I like and becomes an easy recommendation at the sub-$750 price point.
Those of you who have read my reviews (thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!) will note that I prefer warmer, richer signatures; which have bass in what some would call “abundance.” That said, one of my current stable and favorites is the excellent UE Live, my first custom. Somewhere in between are others, which while not perfect are perfectly acceptable, because they are good. Really good. And here lies the Advar. The quantity of bass is perfectly adequate for the signature. Playing nicely as the support mechanism in jazz such as Art Blakey’s It’s Only A Paper Moon, the string bass sets the tone before everything else comes in. Yes, the trumpet takes the center, then the tenor sax; but throughout all of that the string bass holds the line. To me, this really is what fine jazz consists of: that foundational aspect, supported by the other instruments when they come forward. And in the Advar, that tonality holds the line with a pervasive bass, which while not that deep reaching, extends of such quality to give the impression of going deeper than it does. Solid, foundational and without hindering the character.
Mids such as that of the piano or trumpet in the song mentioned above come forth with verve and energy. A certain richness pervades my senses throughout the song knowing each aspect is allowed its space in the song as well as the sound signature. Slightly lifted above the rest to me, the mids move well into their element when vocals come out such as Natalie Merchant’s seminal These Are The Day’s from the superb MTV album. Her voice resonates within the mids and upper mids with ease. Se back slightly from instrumentation at this range, her voice sounds as sweet as ever. A nice sweetness comes about, even if I do wish for a bit more distinct energy here. Mind you, that is a minor niggle. Emanating within my head, her voice epitomizes sweetness to me.
With no carryover into the upper reaches of treble note as well; the Advar allows me to raise the volume to high listening levels. Some that do play nicely in the upper reaches become grating or harsh when the volume goes toward 100. Not here. The divine Bette Midler on her Do You Want To Dance shows not only her range, but how easily the Advar allows the sound to be natural and vibrant at the same time. A song from the 70’s, you get the full tilt of background group vocals; which support her range ever so well. Follow that with Big Head Todd & The Monster’s Vincent Of Jersey, and Todd’s voice never sounds artificial or strange. Or strained like some other IEM’s in this price can with either balanced armatures or cheaper electroset’s. Follow that with The Leaving Song, which is quite vibrant, and you get the full sonic picture from the Advar. Vibrant, detailed with very good clarity and a reach, which never tires. I really appreciate that in an IEM at any price.
Soundstage to me lies a bit on the intimate side, but with excellent height and depth. I never felt quizzical about where the instruments were within songs, and only felt like it was a narrower venue. This is somewhat song dependent as well. Layering as a result comes across a distinct without being disconnected. There is a cohesiveness to the Advar, which some in this range would be wise to pay attention to…
Played across many genres from Jazz to Blues to Rock, to Grunge, the Advar worked well, without fussing at the different requirements, or stipulations put upon it.
You will note that I have not done any comparisons here. Others have, and I will leave it at that. Besides, the ones in which I would include cost roughly 2x the price of the Advar, and I do not think that is fair either way.
In the Advar, we get back to what Meze is trying to provide the user. The Audiophile. The listener. For me, they have hit the mark, unlike the Rai Penta. Many like the Rai Penta, and good for them, because it really is good. But I think they missed the mark with that. With the Advar, Meze has wiped that clear and redefined (or gotten back to…) the mission; which is to provide the listener with their interpretation of music the way they see fit. Honest in approach, musical in sound, natural in presentation; the Advar defines smoothness with vibrancy and feelings at this price. Build quality is what we have come to expect from Meze as well, top notch. For $699 (plus $149 for the 4.4bal cable) you get what arguably is the best option under $1k to me.
It’s good to see Meze back to their roots in my opinion, and the Advar defines that character of quality and smoothness while providing an organic, vibrant tone to it as well. This is a stellar option from Meze, and you should really give it a try.