Today, I’m reviewing the Meze Audio ADVAR. The ADVAR features a 10.2mm dynamic driver and a stainless steel chassis. It’s priced at $699.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Meze Audio for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are based on my experience with the product.
Meze Audio ADVAR
ADVAR is a piece of visual and sound art in its own rights, ready to unravel its mysteries piece by piece, with each listening.Meze Audio
- Driver: 10.2mm Dynamic driver
- Frequency Range: 10 Hz – 30 kHz
- Impedance: 31 Ω
- SPL: 111dB/mW
- Distortion: <1% at 1kHz
What’s in the Box
- Meze Audio ADVAR
- Detachable SPC MMCX cable
- Meze Audio MMCX removal tool
- Cleaning brush
- 5x pairs of final Type-E silicone eartips
- Zipper carrying case
One could say that every Meze Audio product is a work of art but the ADVAR takes things to another level. In my eyes, it’s the most iconic IEM from the brand to date. ADVAR’S combination of glossy black and matte gold colours immediately gets your attention.
Add to that the smooth contours and flawless finish and you have something that looks every bit as good as it feels. The shells have a nice heft to them that gives them a reassuring robust feeling without being heavy.
Descriptive text on a gold funnel surrounds the single vent on the faceplate. This might normally be distracting but in this case, it only enhances the ADVAR’s visual appeal.
A closer look at the rim on the high-quality gold MMCX connectors reveals more text that can only be seen when the cable is detached. This attention to detail is typical of Meze’s products and one of the things that make them stand out from the rest.
ADVAR’s contoured shells fit comfortably in the ears. The shells are small and conform naturally to the inner contours of the ear. They have a low-profile fit and you can comfortably lie down with them in your ears. Despite being so small, they offer a fairly good degree of passive noise isolation.
The included stock cable is silver-plated copper with a 4-core braided build. From memory, I think it’s the same one that comes with the Rai Penta and Rai Solo. It’s a high-quality cable, white in colour and quite supple. It’s quite thin above the Y-splitter. As a result, it tends to get tangled fairly easily but it doesn’t have any noticeable microphonics.
Sources used for testing include the SMSL C200, Cayin RU6 and Soundaware M2Pro.
ADVAR is surprisingly easy to drive. It’s very efficient and therefore doesn’t need any additional amplification. However, it scales well with gear so you’ll be rewarded by giving it a good quality source.
The Meze Audio ADVAR has a balanced presentation with a robust, upfront sound. It’s a style that’s refreshing in the current landscape dominated by anemic mid-bass and hollow lower mids. On the contrary, ADVAR goes out of its way to draw you into the music with its emotive and engaging delivery.
The end result is an alluring, warm yet energetic and spacious sound that perfectly embodies the idea of a musical expression. It also serves to remind us that a well-tuned single dynamic driver is still hard to beat, especially when it comes to air movement (specifically bass) and cohesiveness.
ADVAR’s bass is in a word, exceptional. It represents the best aspects of a dynamic driver such as impact, naturalness and texture. The transition from sub-bass to mid-bass is fairly linear with just a slight roll-off in the sub-bass. As a result, it gives us an authoritative impact throughout and not just heavy undertones. It can rumble with the best of them but is much more multi-faceted and complex than a mere sub-bass cannon.
The bass is rich in tone and tuned for fun. This is where ADVAR gets its sense of rhythm and high level of engagement. Nonetheless, it performs highly in a technical sense with good speed and layering. In short, ADVAR’s bass is not only a joy to hear but is a cornerstone of its overall performance.
The midrange is lush and velvety yet has a fairly neutral tone and note size. It inherits its warmth from the mid-bass but at the same time, it sounds remarkably open and spacious. Rich in dynamics and detail, midrange instruments are full-bodied but never thick.
One of the most impressive aspects of ADVAR’s mids is its accurate timbre. Neither overly romanticized nor clinically dry, everything sounds just as it should. Guitars sounds have a natural mixture of strings and body. Cellos resonate with fullness yet they’re surrounded by large amounts of clean air. Vocals are articulate and clear but never bright or shouty.
ADVAR’s midrange sounds so effortless and natural and that’s a big part of its appeal. It’s lush without being thick and it has excellent resolution without sacrificing body or warmth.
ADVAR’s treble has good extension and ample precision. It’s airy and spacious and it’s responsible for ADVAR’s solid level of detail retrieval. In addition, it’s the treble tuning that brings clarity to the midrange and definition across the spectrum.
It’s a resolving treble and despite being quite energetic it never quite crosses the threshold into sharpness. Without the upper treble lift, the bass would dominate the scene and the midrange would lose its clarity. ADVAR manages to find the perfect balance between forwardness and comfort.
Soundstage and Technicalities
This is the part that surprised me the most. I was relieved to discover the ADVAR’s warm tonality on my first listen. What I wasn’t expecting was the openness of the soundstage and the level of detail that came along with the engaging and meaty lows.
ADVAR’s soundstage is moderate in size and is neither particularly wide or deep. Where it shines is in its ability to separate instruments and vocals on the stage and maintain a black background between them.
As a result of its transparency and resolution, ADVAR’s imaging is excellent. The placement of instruments is easy to determine and track within the music.
Earsonics ONYX (US$533)
The Earsonics ONYX (review here) is a quad-driver IEM with 1DD+3BA. It has a rugged build quality and is assembled by hand. It feels a lot more utilitarian and is much larger and heavier than the ADVAR.
The ONYX’s sound is more V-shaped: it has an extended sub-bass and a slightly recessed lower midrange. Its sub-bass rumble is more powerful but it tapers off quickly to create openness in the mids. The ADVAR has more upper bass presence and body in the lower midrange.
Male vocals are thinner on the ONYX and placed further forward on the ADVAR. However, ONYX favours female vocals, giving them more separation and vibrancy. ONYX’s treble is denser and focused on the lower treble bands. ADVAR’s treble soars into the ether due to its upper treble lift.
ONYX creates a wider soundstage, despite having less upper treble. ADVAR’s stage position is more forward, creating vocal intimacy and extra depth behind the centre image.
DUNU Studio SA6 (US$549)
The DUNU Studio SA6 (review here) has 6 BA drivers per side and pseudo-custom-type resin shells. It’s a very comfortable IEM and provides excellent passive noise isolation; hardly surprising because it’s designed primarily as a studio monitor (hence the name).
SA6’s has a leaner and brighter overall tonality. The most obvious difference is in the bass – the DUNU’s lows sound and feel like a BA bass and lack the authority and impact of the ADVAR’s dynamic driver.
The SA6 midrange is thinner but drier. It’s a spacious and airy midrange that prioritizes accuracy over tone. The ADVAR, in comparison, has richer, more engaging mids but is less articulate and detailed.
The DUNU has drier treble notes while ADVAR’s have a hint of warmth and sparkle. Staging and imaging are more accurate on the SA6 and its stage dimensions are larger. However, things are almost too clinical on the SA6, which is ideal, I guess, for a professional monitor. The ADVAR, in contrast, has a more musical and dynamic approach.
The Meze ADVAR is an exceptional product. It’s an IEM designed purely for enjoying the music but it enlivens its comely presentation with abundant details and clarity. To top it all off, ADVAR is one of the most visually appealing IEMs ever created. Without a doubt, ADVAR is worthy of a place on our best IEMs list and the Prime Audio Reviews recommended award.