Since the release of Roon ARC, the mobile app that transforms your personal Roon library into a bespoke streaming service, many of you have asked the Roon Store what you need to get the most out of the surprise bonus bundled with Roon 2.0.
As a result, there are many more Roon customers with AudioQuest DragonFlys and Meze 99 series headphones than there were in the summer! Nothing compares to the intimate listening space created by pairing quality headphones with a worthy DAC/Amp. They reconnect us with our most loved artists, albums, and recordings and make recent musical discoveries more engaging.
The 99 Classics are affordable entry points into primo portable audio that gained Meze troves of admirers. Immediately upon their release seven years ago, requests for an open-back version began pouring in. So when early prototypes of a new open-back, walnut-trimmed Meze headphone were spotted at audio shows, feverish excitement and anticipation broke out among the open-back Classics petitioners and headphone intelligentsia.
But there’s just one thing…
The 109 PRO isn’t simply a 99 Classic in disguise
And that’s great news! Yes, an open-back 99 would have been cool. But we know it’s not Meze’s style to rest on prior success; they weren’t going to repeat themselves – no matter how much people would have loved them for it. I mean, we’re talking about the same folks that released the revolutionary closed-back Liric model right on the heels of their incredible new flagship Elite. They’re not going to follow trends or do what’s expected.
The only thing anyone can reliably predict from Meze is that during waking hours in Romania, they’re busy figuring out new ways to make music listening more engaging and emotionally resonant. The rest will be a surprise and delight – just like the 109 PRO.
Technical engineering for 109 PRO began by returning to the basics: carefully selected materials, exacting craftsmanship, and precision assembly. The result is an in-house designed and produced 50mm dynamic driver assembly featuring a dual membrane diaphragm made from a cellulose-carbon fiber composite dome surrounded by a Beryllium-coated polymer torus. Circling that is a copper-zinc stabilizer ring alongside an efficient neodymium magnet encased inside a precision machined aluminum frame.
That tech translates to music like so… the cellulose composite W-shaped dome produces highs with incredible detail, clarity, and definition, while the Beryllium-coated torus contributes to faster transient response and greater dynamic range. It pairs with the ring-shaped stabilizer to suppress unwanted resonance and vibration, reducing harmonic distortion. The precision-machined aluminum frame guarantees a perfectly flat surface to affix the magnet and diaphragm assembly improving stability and performance. The completed transducer is placed at a precise angle and distance from the ear inside the open earcup housing.
It’s an entirely different headphone with innovative technology and engineering that sets it apart from other Meze offerings. And even more impressively, its 40 Ω impedance rating and high sensitivity mean it can be driven using the headphone out of most devices.
At first glance, the 109 PRO exudes a strong visual resemblance to the 99 Classics. That similarity undoubtedly contributed to the notion that the headphone gods had smiled on us and an open-back 99 series headphone had descended from the clouds. But upon closer inspection, the 109 PRO’s unique traits, technical characteristics, and singular beauty are revealed.
Old-growth black walnut reappears for an elegant second life as Meze earcups. The 109’s are scaled up to accommodate and reveal the larger dynamic driver, producing one of Meze’s most open patterns. The ornate grill design inside the earcup and matching rose gold hardware create a striking contrast against the jet-black lightweight spring steel frame, earcup grill insert, and accompanying noir appointments. The self-adjusting vegan leather headband distributes weight evenly to relieve pressure for a better fit. Memory foam and soft, breathable velour earpads envelop the ears, creating a luxurious listening space.
Comfort is exactly what you’d expect from Meze, which is to say the 109 PRO is absurdly comfy. In fact, it’s even more comfortable than the 99 Classics – that’s something I didn’t expect to say about any headphones. They feel nearly weightless, are pleasantly snug, and hug the head perfectly, requiring no adjustment. Meze should think about branching out into making earmuffs for fans of their headphones that live in cold environments. It doesn’t even get that cold where I live, but I don’t think I could resist them.
The 109 PRO continues Meze Audio’s unmistakable artistic expression with stunning visual appeal that’s equaled only by its musical voice.
When Meze sets out to produce a new headphone, they focus on what they’d like the wearer to experience when listening to music and proceed with a tuning informed by the heart, emotion, and immersive musical connection. It’s one of the things that set Meze apart. The 109 PRO nails that sonically; it’s tastefully tuned for enjoyable engaged listening over strict technical neutrality.
Lower bass frequencies offer excellent extension with a slight shelf in the low and mid-bass range. That tuning adds nice fullness and warmth to the lows and compensates wonderfully for the typical thinner bass response of open-back designs. The dynamic driver produces great punch and adds a muscular body to the lows, while the open-back design eliminates any possibility of bass loading.
The midrange is very smooth and linear, up to around 3-5kHz. Precisely tuned presence provides shimmer to vocals and instruments, plus a wonderful sense of space and headroom. I’m unsure if it’s a light boost or a subtle cut to the preceding frequencies – but it’s very tastefully done. I didn’t detect any resulting vocal sibilance or sharpness to instrumentation.
Highs also have some air adjustment around 10-12kHz, adding a brilliant, lively top-end. How well the 109’s upper mid and treble tuning works will vary depending on what you’re listening to. Early 60s pop mixed for transistor and car speakers, thinner lively mixes of the 80s, and lo-fi punk or indie tracks may feel slightly aggressive depending on their individual production traits.
We poured our soul into every aspect of its design, and it always brings a smile to my face. I think right now this is, of all our headphones, the one I listen to most.Antonio Meze on the 109 PRO
However, after letting the 109 PROs play for about 10 hours over three consecutive nights, the top end became silky smooth and vivid. Buyers who feel tentative about the 109’s highs should give them about 40 hours of playtime before judging the tuning. After that, you’ll be hooked and won’t dream of letting them go.
Meze’s tuning decisions have a proven track record and are well-received; the same holds true here. Overall, the 109 PRO exhibits a wonderfully pleasant and smooth voice with lush, tastefully warm lows and linear mids, giving way to lovely presence and shimmer in the upper mids and treble for incredible detail, clarity, and definition. They deliver great punch and astounding dynamics, the soundstage is spacious, even three-dimensional on some tracks, the resolution is top-notch, and the imaging is genuinely mesmerizing.
To my ears, the 109 PRO blends traits of the 99 Classics, Liric, and Elite – which packs a lot of character and performance into a single set of cans and makes their price point tremendously appealing.
Meze’s passion-driven approach to design and conception underpins everything they do; over 30 different prototypes of the 109 PRO were produced before they felt they’d achieved the perfect harmony of sound, comfort, and materials. That dedication shines through in the final version.
At The Munich High-End show, Antonio Meze said, “We poured our soul into every aspect of its design, and it always brings a smile to my face. I think right now this is, of all our headphones, the one I listen to most.”
For focused listening, I drove the 109 PROs with the headphone output of MacBook Air, then added the DragonFly Black and later Mytek’s exquisite Liberty DAC II to get a sense of how well 109 played with a range of devices. Their 40 Ω impedance rating and high sensitivity delivered engaging listening across everything I used for testing.
Brian Eno – Apollo/FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE (MacBook Air laptop out, DragonFly Black, Mytek Liberty DAC II)
I was thoroughly stunned by the detail retrieval and soundstage I experienced when I queued up Under Stars from Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks using the headphone out of my MacBook Air. The 109’s presentation captured the vastness and sensation of drifting weightlessly through space much more convincingly than I expected and proved how easy the 109s are to drive.
Then Roon served up Eno’s new record FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE as a follow-up. Even with this simple setup, the results were captivating, drawing me into the atmospheric performances. Vocals exhibited fabulous presence and clarity.
Eager to entice even more detail from the 109s, I plugged into the Dragonfly Black and found a quiet space to pull up ARC for a second listening. The soundstage shifted to an immense dark background that completely enveloped me in sound. The music formed a dome above and even slightly behind my head. The 109s skillful enhancement in the upper mids and treble worked exceptionally well with these selections. If I had been in a blind listening test, I would have easily believed I was plugged into a high-end tube DAC/amp rather than the entry-level offering of the DragonFly line.
After the DragonFly Black, I excitedly plugged the 109s into the Mytek Liberty DAC II. I eagerly pulled and reconnected connections like an over-caffeinated switchboard operator. Listening through the Mytek is as close as I’ll ever come to being inside the lunar modules in the documentary. The jump in detail, imaging, resolution, soundstage, and character of Under Stars was positively revelatory. The extra amperage the Mytek provided revealed a landscape of subtleties. I’ve listened to Apollo numerous times; it’s a go-to ambient favorite. But hearing it this way provided a fresh perspective that was immensely enjoyable.
On I’m Hardly Me from FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE, Darla Eno‘s delicate vocals were layered with effects. The instrumental separation was so transparent that the brief pause between the clean vocal and its drapery was clearly detectable. The free-flowing synthesizer bed was as organic as wind through trees. Brian Eno’s vocals oozed like warmed honey in a cup of tea. It felt telepathic, a voice painting images in the mind as exotic electronic birds sailed through the space behind the listener. I can’t imagine a better way to experience this album for the first time.
Jackie McLean – Love and Hate from Destination Out (DragonFly Black)
Destination Out is a stand-out favorite among several stellar albums by Jackie McLean. I often played this lead-off track, Love and Hate, when I hosted a jazz radio show years ago. Like nearly all Blue Note albums, the lineup is perfectly honed to the vibe of the material.
Larry Ridley and Roy Haynes provide a sparse yet ample rhythmic foundation with plenty of room for Grachan Moncur III’s soulful trombone breaks. The star performance on this piece for me is Bobby Hutcherson’s vibraphone fills. The 109 PRO showcases their resonance and decay lusciously. Each percussive mallet strike is rendered with snappy attack before resolving completely. Jackie’s expressive alto lines are simultaneously soulful and searching, weaving laid-back lines with brisk flurries of cascading notes.
McLean’s playing was always just a touch sharp. Miles Davis once hilariously commented, “Jackie McLean plays like somebody’s standing on his foot!” The presence and air of the 109s walk the line perfectly here, exhibiting great control while showing off the texture in McLean’s tone without becoming strident.
Even more impressive was the overall grandeur the track acquired. Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs is an immense cathedral-like space with open rafters and a 39-foot ceiling built to evoke a spiritual response from artists who recorded there. The DragonFly Black/109 PRO combination thoroughly conveyed the room’s contribution to the recording and performance.
The Beatles – Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows from Love (Mytek Liberty DAC II)
For some Beatles fans, the song mashups of the Love album, crafted to accompany the Cirque du Soleil production of the same name, were a near heretical misuse of the coveted original recordings when the album was released. Now several deluxe edition boxsets and outsourced album remixes later, the versions are far less controversial. Love’s results feel consistent with The Fab Four’s technical curiosity, openness to studio experimentation, and recording innovation. This selection deftly welds John Lennon’s avant-garde Revolver closer to George Harrison’s eastern spirituality, and mysticism informed Sgt. Pepper centerpiece.
The track shows off the finesse of the 109s sub-bass extension as the song plunges to the center of cosmic consciousness at 1:03 in – whisking us into the technicolor spiral as the floor drops out from under us. The originals were an intoxicating blend of exotic instrumentation in their own right; when conjoined, they’re a captivating tapestry of swirling sound layers. The 109s make pursuing them through the mix deliriously fun and exciting. The thundering synergy of bass and drums is thick and rollicking in places, but the 109’s expert low-end tuning contains it well and keeps everything out of the mud.
John’s opening lines from the demo version of Tomorrow Never Knows drift diaphanously toward the listener before George’s ethereal vocals levitate just above the center of the forehead. Tape loops, strings, Indian hand drums, and mellotron weave a sonic kaleidoscope before an array of soft effects and detached elements from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds ushers the dreamy arrangement to a close. The 109 PRO joined the spellbinding dance effortlessly. It was all too groovy, man.
The 109 PRO melds a delightfully pleasant and smooth voice with warm, tasteful lows and linear mids that give way to lovely presence and shimmer in the upper mids. Highs are tuned for incredible detail, clarity, and definition. The revolutionary in-house driver assembly delivers great punch and astounding dynamics with a spacious soundstage, top-notch resolution, and genuinely mesmerizing imaging in an acoustically open design that conveys breathtaking musicality.
Meze’s dedication to achieving the ideal harmony of sound, comfort, and timeless design is embodied fully within the 109 PRO. Like all Meze headphones, it is a beautiful piece of sound art that expertly fuses visual beauty with an equally alluring sound signature and maximum comfort for fully immersive, engaging listening without distractions. Loads of character, performance, and value is packed into the 109 PRO for the price. I encourage anyone looking for high-quality open-back headphones with premium appointments and unmatched sound to give it a close listen.
Additional observations of Note
- Aftermarket cables may not be compatible with the narrow cable input canal of the 109 PRO.
- The 109 PRO’s out-of-box driver tightness dissipates rather quickly. To hasten the process, allow them to play overnight for a few consecutive nights. They’ll sound magnificent.
- If the fit of the spring steel headband is too snug, grasp the earcups and gently pull them outward a few times before putting them on.
- Check out the 109’s included brochure for a closer look at the innovative technology inside the model.
- The 109 PRO is a highly easy-to-drive headphone, but pairing it with a quality DAC/amp will result in even more musical character and enjoyment and bring its full potential to life.
- Driver Type: Meze in-house dynamic
- Diaphragm Type: Dual Membrane Diaphragm – combination of Beryllium-coated polymer and cellulose + carbon fiber composite
- Transducer Size: 50mm
- Frequency Response: 5Hz – 30KHz
- Sensitivity: 112dB SPL at 1KHz, 1mW
- Impedance: 40 Ω
- Weight: 13 oz without cables
- Materials: Black walnut wood, zinc, manganese steel, vegan leather, velour, and memory foam.
- Warranty period: 2 years
What’s in the Box
- Meze 109 PRO open-back headphones
- Case: Hard EVA pouch
- 1.5 m dual mono to single-ended 3.5mm soft TPE cable
- 3 m dual mono to single-ended 3.5mm soft TPE cable
- 3.5mm-to-1/4″ adapter
- Cable pouch
- 109 PRO brochure