A Talisman Forged with the Powers of Music
Pros: + Plenty of quality bass
+ Sub-bass extension
+ Dynamic and impactful
+ Good technicalities
+ Visceral and full bodied
+ Very fun and musical sounding
+ Organic timbre
+ Warm but not dark
+ Smooth but not subdued treble
+ Coherent and resolving
+ A true all rounded
+ Precious like a jewel
+ Excellent build quality
+ Comfortable fit
+ Luxurious carrying case
+ Good quality cable
Cons: – Bass slightly lacking in control
– Low end not so tonally correct
– Not the best for strict critical listening
– Medium sized soundstage
– Average passive noise attenuation
– Comes with only one cable
– You can’t order the cable with a plug other than the 3.5mm
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for my honest and subjective evaluation.
The ADVAR price is €699 and you can order it from Meze Audio.
(Note – The main review project was arranged for hxosplus printed edition but I have decided to publish my impressions for the fellow members of Head-Fi.
In this review I will be skipping technical and marketing details that are already available in Meze Audio website.)
Meze Audio ADVAR
After two illustrious, full sized flagships, the Elite and the Liric, it was time for Meze Audio to present a more modestly priced IEM, the ADVAR.
The ADVAR is a 10.2 mm single dynamic driver earphone, precisely tuned to offer a presentation that stays true to Meze Audio’s already established signature sound.
Meze Audio haven’t provided any further details regarding various technical innovations about the internal structure of the ADVAR, the only available information is the frequency range: 10 Hz – 30 kHz, the Impedance: 31 Ω
and the sensitivity SPL: 111dB/mW.
Appearance and build quality
Meze Audio is synonymous with top class build quality and innovative design, they make some of the most luxurious, beautiful looking and well made headphones in the market and the new ADVAR is not an exception.
The ADVAR is inspired from the Romanian lore, the ancient ADVAR was similar to a talisman or amulet, believed to be all powerful, it was a symbol of the absolute meant to bring blessing to those who wear it.
Thus, the ADVAR is a uniquely designed earphone that is reminiscent of a precious art piece, a real jewel, one of the most beautiful looking earphones ever seen.
Wearing it is a statement and I wish that I had the photography skills to illustrate how beautiful looking and special it is.
Fit and isolation
On more practical details, the stainless steel shell features an ergonomically contoured design that allows the earphones to be inserted and removed with ease.
The shape was designed after long-term research regarding the optimal fit and as such the housing rests lightly on the ear and together with the over-ear hooks, reduces discomfort during longer listening sessions.
The ADVAR is compact and while it is not very lightweight for its size, the anatomically contoured design offers an absolutely comfortable, stress-free and discreet fit.
Noise isolation is good but not custom like while the venting port in the front face doesn’t help a lot either.
Final Audio Type E ear tips
The ADVAR comes with one type of ear tips in five different sizes.
I have contacted Meze Audio to ask why they don’t provide more options, as other companies do, and replied that the ear tips were carefully selected to provide an optimum, airtight fit and form an essential part of the ADVAR tuning
After extensive testing with various models they have decided on the Final Audio, Type E model, ear tips that when paired with the ADVAR bring an improvement to the bass tones and reduce harsh tones in the high frequency range.
The ADVAR comes with a, 1.25m long, MMCX silver-plated copper cable terminated with a 3.5mm jack.
The cable is of excellent quality, with low microphonic noise but it is a bit stiff and gets a little tangled.
2.5mm or 4.4mm cables of the same material are available separately for an extra €149 but when ordering the ADVAR you are not allowed to choose the cable plug of your liking.
Furthermore, one cable for the price of the ADVAR is not sufficient when most of the competition now comes with a couple of cables or a modular plug cable.
Except for the cable and the five pairs of eartips, the ADVAR is bundled with a, black colored, hard carrying case of premium quality, a unique looking MMCX removal tool and a cleaning brush.
The ADVAR is easy to drive and pairs well with any device but it should be noted that listening tests revealed great scaling potential, so a good quality source is needed to really appreciate the ADVAR.
I had in my disposal the 2.5mm upgrade cable, so I was able to use various balanced and unbalanced sources, like the FiiO M11 Plus ESS, Cayin RU6 and iBasso DX240 among others.
(As per usual practice I left the ADVAR playing music for about 150 hours before listening)
The ADVAR is very reminiscent of the mighty Empyrean, the sound is balanced, natural and organic with plenty of musical expression, it is warm with smooth treble and great bass.
The low end gets extended with good sub-bass depth and a mild mid-bass emphasis that aims for a full bodied and fun tuning that is not short of technicalities.
The bass is slightly prominent as to sound enjoyable with modern music but it is very carefully implemented in order not to cloud the mid range or cover the rest of the frequencies.
Tonal accuracy is pretty good with almost excellent technicalities, the bass is tight and fast with good layering, stellar clarity and natural decay.
Dynamics are thundering, the ADVAR is visceral, muscular and impactful while retaining very good control sans a few instances where certain instruments like double basses or grand timpani can sound a little loose and boomy.
The critical listener will not fail to notice that there is a touch of tonal inconsistency in the low end with the result that some instruments (or registers of them) sound slightly more prominent and out of tune.
As an example, listening to the following Double bass concertos, there is a minimal tonal imbalance in the lower end.
Of course it is not that prominent and after a while you forget about it while getting carried away by the music.
The transition to the mid-range is even and coherent without any audible masking, there is plenty of air, excellent definition and some fine articulation.
The tuning is natural, with a bit of upper mids emphasis, the timbre is realistic and organic, nothing sounds artificial or shouting.
Texture is analogue, harmonic saturation is plentiful, voices and instruments sound so alive, there is a speaker quality to the presentation, the sound is full bodied and weighty, you can visualize the singers and feel the instrumentalists sitting close to you.
This is definitely the Meze house sound where musicality and deep emotional expression are the priorities, like when listening to Monteverdi’s madrigals.
The treble is safely tuned, to keep the timbre under control and not to mess with the analogue character of the ADVAR.
Smooth and inoffensive, yet quite extended and resolving, it pushes the details in the background rather than amplifying them.
The ADVAR is certainly warm but not dark, there is plenty of energy and the sound is not short of vividness although it is not too sparkling or luminous.
But if you prefer more aggressiveness, a brighter and analytical sound signature, then the ADVAR is probably not meant for you.
Whether you like it or not, the ADVAR is a great example of a single dynamic driver earphone with all the benefits regarding frequency coherency and natural decaying properties.
Surely, there are a lot of hybrid earphones that can be more analytical, resolving and clean but then they have the tendency to sound overly thin in the highs, something that is not happening with the ADVAR which stays full bodied from the bottom to the top.
Something that gets noticed when listening to music which combines a single low with a high pitched instrument , like the Theorbo accompanying a soprano recorder.
The soundstage is moderately wide and spacious enough with good horizontal panning but it is not that deep and vertically layered.
On the other hand, the imaging is sharp and accurate while the presentation is grand and imposing, making for a head filling musical experience.
The ADVAR is an all rounder earphone without any serious giveaways, it is very fun and enjoyable with modern music, you can have great party time or rock the hell out of you while at the same time it can handle classical and acoustic music without a lot of compromises.
Single dynamic drivers are in vogue now with great offerings from all the major manufactures.
Let’s examine a couple of them.
Sennheiser IE600 (€700)
With the exact same price as the ADVAR, the Sennheiser IE600 is maybe the closest competitor.
Even more compact and lightweight than the ADVAR, the IE600 is more comfortable and discreet, offering much better noise attenuation.
With a minimalistic and industrial design language, the IE600 comes bundled with two high quality cables, the one with a 3.5mm plug and the other with a 4.4mm, plus a set of memory foam ear tips except for the silicone ones.
The tuning is quite close with some key differences, starting from the bass which has a neutral, reference-like tuning, less mid-bass emphasis, more linear transition to the mids and better tonal accuracy.
Not as fun and warm sounding as the ADVAR, the IE600 has advanced technicalities with better control and timing, the bass is more clear and well defined but in exchange for a leaner presentation.
The IE600 is not short in dynamics but the ADVAR is more impactful and visceral with a grander rumbling effect making it more suitable for bass heavy tunes.
Mid range is slightly more prominent in the IE600, this is the classic Sennheiser tuning, very close to the HD650, it sounds natural and musical with an organic character although slightly drier and not as thick and mellow as the more expressive ADVAR.
Treble is more forward in the IE600, the sound is faster, vivid and airy, more shimmering and not as dark as the ADVAR, with better overall extension, a deeper detail retrieval and elevated clarity.
Still the IE600 is smooth and controlled without being bright to cause listener fatigue but you can’t fail to notice some traces of sibilance.
A key difference lies in the soundstaging properties of the two earphones.
While both share a soundstage that is moderately wide and has plenty of air around the performers, laser sharp imaging and accurate positioning, they differ in scale.
The ADVAR is grand and imposing with larger sized images in contrast to the IE600 that sounds more tiny and diminutive, like comparing a tree with its bonsai version.
In the end it is the more reference-tuned and technically proficient IE600 that is not lacking in overall fun and enjoyment against the more fun and musical sounding ADVAR that is not that far away in tonal accuracy and technicalities.
The FiiO FD7 is another single dynamic driver rival with a somewhat lower price.
The FD7 might be cheaper but you get a premium carrying case, three interchangeable sound tubes for fine tuning the sound, 6 different types of ear tips in various sizes and a pure silver cable with interchangeable plugs.
The ear shells have a cylindrical shape and are slightly heavier than the ADVAR which is more compact and anatomically shaped, as such it is slightly more comfortable and fits tighter.
Sound wise there are some critical differences starting from the bass where the ADVAR has the upper hand in sub – bass extension and overall emphasis in addition to the FD7 which is more neutrally tuned with better tonal accuracy, less mid-bass hump and the upper hand in technicalities regarding clarity, timing, speed, control, definition and layering.
Mid – bass is less emphasized and better layered in the FD7 without lacking in warmth while both earphones are very convincing when it comes to convincing dynamics while they offer a similar kind of impact and the same visceral texture.
The mid range is more or less on the same level but on the FD7 voices and certain instruments like solo violins are placed somewhat upfront to the stage and get highlighted in contrast to the ADVAR which is more intimate and shy on the mid range.
Both earphones share the same kind of emotional depth and musical expression with a likewise natural timbre.
Presence area gets a bit emphasized in the FD7, as a result the sound is more sparkling and alive while higher pitched instruments have greater foundation but still retaining their natural tonality without sounding harsh or bright.
The ADVAR is laid-back and relaxed in contrast to the faster and vivid FD7 while both offer great coherency and intensity with a very homogeneous frequency response.
Soundstage on the FD7 is more wide and airy, freely expanded, with extra space around the performers while the presentation is more atmospheric, with actual depth layering that results in a holographic experience.
Both earphones share an accurate imaging while they sound grand and imposing.
The FD7 is closer to the reference tuning of the IE600 with the same level of excellent technicalities but additionally it sounds considerably more visceral and full bodied, it is organic, musical and holographic.
Still, the slightly more forgiving ADVAR will better appeal to the fun-seeking crowd and people who love an intense bass experience without sacrificing clarity, overall control and musicality.
There are no winners or losers here, all three earphones are excellent sounding with three unique personalities to cater for different musical tastes.
In the end
The Meze ADVAR has plenty of good quality bass, it is fun and musical sounding with natural timbre and deep emotional expression, greatly resembling the mighty Empyrean.
A true all rounder, an IEM that will satisfy both the causal and the critical listener, a magical talisman forged with the powers of music.
Copyright – Petros Laskis 2022.