Meze Audio ADVAR

Forever8895

100+ Head-Fier
A sweet blessing from Romania
Pros: Well-built
Balanced tuning
Decent technicalities
Lots of accessories
Affordable
Cons: Controversial treble
Weak cable
Included tips are not the best pairing
FTYzshO.jpg


Disclaimer

I received the Advar as part of the review tour. I'm not sponsored by Meze Audio or received any compensation for my review, or under any influence. I'm required to return the unit after I finish the review.
Thank you Andy Kong and Meze Audio for sending it.
The review is purely based on my own biased music taste.


About me

I'm an Asian guy living in Europe. I'm not a specialist in audio or anything. Music is my hobby. 95% of my library contains Japanese music. The rest are some western pop/rock.


About the IEM

Meze Audio was founded in 2011 in Romania. The Advar is their latest single-DD offering. At the time of writing, its retailed price is 699$/699€. I haven't had the chance to try any Meze products before, but from what I learned, Meze's IEMs and headphones are always built with a very high standard. The Advar is no exception - it is one of the most beautiful IEMs I have ever seen!


Unboxing

u4Os0Qr.jpg


The Advar arrived with a compact but premium package. The outer sleeve with golden printing emits a premium feel to the box. After sliding it over, I was greeted with a simple and compact cardboard box. Lifting the lit and the IEM is positioned nicely in the foam cut out.

The rest of the box includes:
  • User manual/marketing booklet
  • A leather pouch big enough to carry all accessories inside
  • 3.5mm SPC cable with MMCX connectors
  • Final E tips
  • Cleaning brush
  • And a very nice MMCX removal tool
Of all the accessories, I'm very impressed with the MMCX removal tool. I wish Meze would sell it separately! It is built to last and very solid.
m993A5y.jpg



Fit, comfort and isolation

5qAtg9t.jpg


The outer shell of the IEM is made of stainless steel, which makes it feel quite heavy on the hand, considering how small it is. However, it is very comfortable once I put them on my ears. The contour of the shell fills the contra nicely, and creates no fatigue or pain with long hours of listening - I could wear them for the whole day. The nozzles are on the short side though, so YMMV. The IEM is painted with a deep glossy black/brown finish, which is prone to scratches and fingerprints. Nevertheless, the finish somehow hides any blemishes pretty well - I won't be able to see them if I don't inspect them very closely at a bright light source, which is uncommon anyway.

The included cable is very soft, but sometimes I feel like it is too soft and fragile - I can't comment on long-term durability. It is also very easy to get tangled. The hardware is all plastic, but at 699$, I can't complain much. The upside is that there is 0 microphonic coming from the cable while I walk around with it.

Isolation is above average. Despite being a vented IEM, passive noise blocking is quite good once I get the tips fully sealed.


Technology
  • Driver: 10.2mm Dynamic driver
  • Frequency Range: 10 Hz - 30 kHz
  • Impedance: 31 Ω
  • SPL: 111dB/mW
  • Distortion: <1% at 1kHz
53lVb0H.jpg

Upon closer inspection, there is a vent at each nozzle. Due to the short nozzles, the tips can potentially block this vent. I'm not quite sure if the vent on the front of the shell is for acoustical reasons or only for decoration, but it looks cool nonetheless.

I hear no hish or noise coming from the IEMs, regardless of the sources. The Advar is not a difficult one to drive, so source pairing usually comes down to the sound signature that creates the best synergy.


Sound
The Advar has a mild V-shape sound signature, with slightly greater emphasis on both ends of the sound spectrum. Overall tuning leans toward the warm and rich side. There is a very huge peak at 8kHz that can make-or-break the tuning. As long as you are fine with this peak, or have a way to tame it, the Advar's tuning is very easy to like.

Treble
Let's start with the most controversial part of Advar's tuning, the treble region. The massive peak at 8kHz gives the IEM lots of clarity for bells/chimes or string instruments, but at the same time, this peak aggressively pushes cymbals and vocal air to the front of the mix, masking other parts of the sound spectrum. At the default configuration (Final E tips and no EQ), this peak really ruins the experience for me.

Luckily, the Advar is very easy to EQ. Simply drag the 8k region down a few notches from the EQ of my Sony ZX300, it fixes the problem. The Final E tips also partly contribute to the annoying peak here. Frankly, I couldn't find any sets of silicon tips that fixes the problem. In the end, I used a set of unknown foam tips with additional filter inside the nozzle, which has (more or less) the same effect as EQ-ing.

Thankfully, from that moment on, I can enjoy the Advar on almost any device. Its treble region really brings out the smallest bits of details that I never heard before in an orchestra. With the 8kHz tamed down, I found myself pushing the volume higher just to enjoy the addictive and vibrant sound. Advar sounds best with soundtracks, symphonies, and orchestras. I listened through my whole discography of Joe Hisaishi during the test, but keep coming back for more!

Mid
Out of the 3 regions, the midrange was not the one grabbing my attention at first, but it is what tied the treble and the bass together in a natural way. There was a slight warmth coming from the lower mid that provide enough body for instrument and vocal to sound "right". Detail is not on the same level as the treble, however, I appreciate its characteristic during long listening sessions. Its timbre is also excellent. Vocal-wise, the Advar gives a slight edge for male vocal, nevertheless, female vocal sounds sweet and upfront, lacking just a tiny bit of the last octave (as my library contains mostly Japanese music, I would appreciate a bit more energy here, but that's just me).

Bass
At first, I have a false memory of Meze's house sound being warm with abundant amount of bass. I have never listened to any of Meze's headphones or IEMs before, but the amount of bass in Advar is just in the sweet spot for me. Subbass is tastefully lifted to provide some thumping beats, whereas the midbass stays just right to avoid bloating. The result is a clean but pronounced bass to create a firm and big foundation for the rest of the mix. Electronic genre would greatly benefit from the bass of Advar.
Combined with the emphasized treble, my personal favorite is SEKAI NO OWARI. Their music combines deep electronic beat mix with beautiful instrumental melody, which is rendered perfectly through the Advar.


Technicalities

The soundstage is wide with more height than depth, leaning toward an ellipsoid shape rather than a sphere. Although the soundstage is on the intimate side, but it never felt congested. Layering-wise, it's pretty accurate and nicely separated. Incoherency is non-existent here.

The position of the mix is always slightly above my eyes, which makes me feel like sitting in the front row of the concert hall.
In terms of resolution and detail, I never feel like missing anything. The Advar is also a very dynamic IEM, being able to render the slightest sound all the way to the explosion in an orchestra.


Pairing

Tips
As mentioned previously, Advar is quite sensitive to tips-rolling. I used a pair of foam tips with filter to tame down the 8kHz peak, but YMMV

Source
Being a fairly efficient IEM and very low (almost 0) hiss, I could pair it with many different sources. My favorite combination is pairing with the Sony ZX300 to add a bit more flavor to the signature. With the QLS QA361, the sound turns toward analytical, but is still very natural.


Comparison

FAudio Dark Sky (1150$)
A single dynamic driver IEM. Despite the price difference, both IEMs share a lot of similarities in terms of sound tuning. The Dark Sky has a brighter but more agreeable treble, a tad more aggressive upper mid, and a lot more bass (which can be overwhelming with certain tracks). Between the two, Advar is a more musical tuning. Technicalities are about the same, with the Dark Sky having more depth but with less height. Considering sound alone, Advar offers a very good value at 699$. But I would say the Dark Sky offer a more complete package, with a better (balanced) cable, more tips selection. But if this is not your priority, I will pick Advar over the Dark Sky.


Conclusion

If you're fine with the treble out of the box or willing to tame it with EQ or tips, and you're looking for a coherence single dynamic driver without breaking the bank, not to mention a solid build quality, look no further. The Advar punches way above its class. If I don't have the Dark Sky already, I must confess that I am very tempted to add the Advar into my collection. In a world multi-driver IEMs taking the spotlight, it's always refreshing to return to a simple, well-built single dynamic driver IEM.
Last edited:
o0genesis0o
o0genesis0o
Well done review and photo!

ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
Meze Advar ($699): Will this bring Meze continued good luck?
Pros: Meze Build
Meze Sound
Meze Innovation
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?

Advar


h3dYcNl.jpg


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.

ZbifrGB.jpg


Specs:
  • 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

Gears Used:

A&K Kann Max
Shanling M6 Pro
iFi Zen Signature Series DAC/Amp


Vv9mw2A.jpg


Songs:

Art Blakey
Donald Byrd
Santana
Jeff Beck/Johnny Depp
Phish
Kenny Burrell
Green Day
Billie Eilish
2Cellos
Peter Frampton
Lynyrd Skynyrd


Unboxing:

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.

fS70A4F.jpg


Build/Fit:

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.

r1EY3PC.jpg



Technology:

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.


Sound:

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.

Moar:

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.

whHEQGF.jpg


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.

qszyueA.jpg


Finale:

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.


GhqAML3.jpg

o0genesis0o

100+ Head-Fier
Meze Advar - Smooth and engaging, but watch out for the treble
Pros: Warm and relaxed tuning
(Mostly) correct tonality and timbre
Deep and textured bass
Engaging and well layered soundstage
High resolution
Good reproduction of dynamic contrast and variations
Great comfort
Excellent packaging and accessories
Cons: Treble peak at around 6kHz to 8kHz can lead to sibilance
The supplied Final Type E ear tips are not suitable because they exaggerate the treble peaks
IMG_2231.jpeg

tl;dr: The overall tonality of Advar is surprisingly similar to Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020. However, it has a 8kHz peak that can become piercing with harsh genres. Advar is competitively resolving, very dynamic, and has a 3D soundstage.

Do you feel jaded after climbing the "audiophile" hill for a while?

I sometimes recall the feeling of the early days when every incoming IEM was magical, and I couldn't wait to climb on the next hype train. Nowadays, my default reaction to most (sometimes shockingly expensive) IEMs is: "Yup. It's an IEM. Let's measure and do some A/B tests".

That was my starting point when I picked up the Meze Advar from the post office as a part of a review tour arranged by @Andykong on behalf of Meze.

Of course, I measured, and A/B tested Advar. However, I also rediscovered some of that early days' magic in one week I spent with Advar. Let me tell you about this IEM.

Disclaimer: this unit is on loan from Meze in a review tour. It would be shipped to the next reviewer. I have no monetary compensation or any other benefits from Meze, besides being able to test this IEM for 10 days in my environments.



Non-sound Aspects


Advar is Meze's latest single dynamic driver IEM. By the time I write this article, Advar retails for $700, putting it in direct competition with Dunu Vulkan, Fiio FH9 and FD7, the lower-end of Westone MACH series, and, of course, the Blessing 2 family of Moondrop.

IMG_2228.jpeg


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must say that Advar looks and feels better in real life than in photos. Based on the official marketing materials, I thought Advar was a plastic IEM. However, Advar is made of a glossy and heavy material that feels similar to the ceramic used by Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 and Dorado. All of the golden components are metal. As a result, both earpieces feel like shiny and expensive pieces of marble.

Despite the weight, Advar is very comfortable. The ear pieces lock into my ear conchas securely. The comfort is excellent even in long listening sessions because the earpieces have no sharp edge (perhaps except for the sound. We will talk about that later).

IMG_2230.jpeg


Meze accompanies Advar with a generous set of accessories. You have
- Full set of Type E ear tips,
- 1.2m MMCX cable terminated with a 3.5mm connector,
- Fancy MMCX removal tool,
- Cleaning tool
- Carrying case.

Noted that the 4.4mm cable is not included in the retail package. It is an optional accessories from Meze.

The cable is soft and well-behaved. The case is the most luxurious-looking one I have ever seen. The unboxing experience makes me think of Advar as a luxurious consumer product rather than "made by audio geeks for audio geeks". With that in mind, how does Advar sound?



Sound Analysis


graph.png

Frequency response of Advar comparing to Andromeda 2020 and my preference target. Measurements were done with an IEC-711 compliant coupler and might only be compared with other measurements from this same coupler. Resonance peak was aligned at around 8kHz. Such peak appear higher on the graph than real life. Results above the resonance peak might not be accuracy. Visit my graph database for more comparisons.

The overall tonality of Advar is surprisingly similar to Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020. It has a warm and laid-back midrange, accompanied by sparkly and airy treble.

The bass is not detached from the rest of the tuning because there is no distinct bass shelf. However, Advar is not muddy or boxy. Instead, it has a natural and "large" bass response that fills the soundstage. The bass is well controlled and full of texture. Despite lacking a bass shelf, the bass still reaches deep with Advar. Personally, I still want a bit more bass.

The tonality of Advar is generally correct, but high notes can sound brighter than natural because of the lively treble. The treble of Advar is somewhat "old school", focusing on the mid-treble region around 8kHz (sparkle, body of cymbals, chimes and hi-hats) rather than the lower-treble region around 5kHz (presence, note attack). The drawback is that the 8kHz peak can become piercing with harsh genres.

The part of the treble response that excites me the most is the dip from 10kHz, followed by a massive boost around 15kHz. The 10k drop creates the illusion of sound fading into the surrounding environment. The 15k gain highlights the outermost layer of the soundstage where background vocal, far-away details, room reverbs and decays exist. This excellent tuning, combined with the warm and laid-back midrange, helps Advar create a broad and deep soundstage without resorting to tuning tricks such as dips at 1k and 3k (64 Audio Trio and Fourte). However, Advar's centre image still tends to locate inside my head rather than before me, like Andromeda and 64 Audio IEMs. The very energetic 8kHz region also makes the soundstage unrealistically tall sometimes.

The excellent treble also helps Advar achieves a resolving sound. I did not expect such performance from a single dynamic driver without any fancy material. It is not quite Andromeda level, but close enough to surpass many mid-fi competitors.

Finally, perhaps because of the dynamic driver, Advar successfully reproduces subtle variations and contrasts in dynamic (loudness levels from piano to forte).

Anyhow, enough with abstract descriptions. Let's listen to some albums, and I will point out the strengths and weaknesses of Advar along the way.

Bach: Goldberg Variations by Lang Lang


IMG_2233.jpeg


- Apple Music
- Spotify
- YouTube Music

I wouldn't pretend I understand this piece of music more than "beautiful piano music that Hannibal Lecter likes." However, I liked it enough that I went to a concert to hear it live. It turns out Goldberg Variations are also excellent for testing IEMs.

To put it bluntly, a poor IEM turns this hour-long piano piece into a chore rather than a pleasure. Successful rendering of this piece requires an IEM to reproduce dynamic variations and nuances in music. By dynamic variations, I mean the ability to play music at and smooth transition between different loudness levels, from very loud to very soft, without losing fidelity. "Nuances" or "details" here mean the subtle reverb and ringing sound hanging in the air after a piano key has been released.

Let's listen to the variation 13 as a concrete example. Whilst the whole variation is already soft, there are frequent drops of dynamic to a very quiet level, such as around 0:50. Advar manages to reproduce these slight contrast well. Moreover, it successfully renders the subtle ringing sound of the piano when the keys are released at the softest moments, such as around 6:00.

Of course, when the dynamic raises to a higher level in the following variation, Advar gets loud. Following these subtle fluctuations and ringing sounds made the listening experience so engaging that the entire 30 variations passed me in a flash.

Shall We Dance by Andre Rieu and Johann Strauss Orchestra


- Spotify

Shall We Dance is the latest compilation of music by Andre Rieu and his orchestra, currently sold in music stores across Australia. I was so excited to see some of my favourite pieces on the tracklist that I didn't realise they were just copies from previous albums. Anyhow, this compilation is excellent for testing the soundstage reproduction of an IEM.

Let's listen to The Second Waltz as an example. This piece sounds similar to some classical CDs back in the 1990s, which place the orchestra in front of rather than around you. Therefore, headphones and IEMs tend to struggle with this piece. For example, my Blessing 2 tends to place the whole orchestra on a flat but wide plane in my head rather than projecting the sound forward.

How does Advar sound?

In the first 30 seconds, I can hear the snare near the centre, but a bit further to the background, whilst the cello and bass it near me, just a bit to the right. And then the saxophone comes, located right between the nearer bassline and the snare at the back, slightly to the left of the stage. The woodwind section comes after the saxophone, roughly at the same distance but tilted to the right of the stage.

Around 0:45, the string section comes, creating a dome of sound near the left back and covering a large part of the stage. Meanwhile, the bassline is always clear, allowing you to follow and, you know, waltz. The rest of the piece is also interesting because Advar can fully utilise its large stage to layer instruments from closer to further away.


Gundam Build Fighter OST


- YouTube
- Apple Music

Let's continue our listening with something more modern, shall we? This album explores Advar's ability to render artificial soundstages in electronic music.

Battle bar (Apple Music, YouTube) is a great demonstration of Advar's soundstage. The piece has a loop of two closer drum hits followed by a distant drum hit. Advar places the first two drum hits behind my neck and the distant one far in front of me, slightly to the right. The distant drum hit seems to decay across the whole stage rather than being limited to a single spot.

When the guitar comes, the whole stage becomes even more interesting. The sliding, high-pitched guitar float somewhere slightly above on the left side. The lower-pitched guitar is right at the centre (which is, unfortunately, in my head). And at the lower right, somewhere around my throat level, is the bass. The snares continue hitting on both sides, around the shoulder distance. The whole audio image is tack sharp. The bass is not loud but textured and deep.

Ed Sheeran Tiny Desk Performance


- YouTube

This performance is excellent for checking the detail retrieval capability of an IEM because you can see the band. It is also where Advar's weakness is revealed: the peak at mid-treble. To put it bluntly, I have shivers whenever Ed hits high notes in Shivers, not because Advar sounds so good but because of the sibilances. The harshness here differs from the usual shoutiness of Harman and VDSF tuning, where the vocal is a bit too loud. No, the sharpness here comes from the "S" and "Sh" sounds. This problem is not unbearable and easily fixed, but I wish it does not exist.

Alright, back to the good part. This performance shows off Advar's airy treble well. For example, it reveals the background vocal in Make it rain (from 3:45) with clarity and detail, not just a blob of sound. You can actually follow the vocalists' hums. The chimes sound at the beginning of Visiting Hours (from 14:15) is also excellent. I can hear individual sounds distinctively rather than a blob of high-pitched sounds.



Comparisons and Rating


IMG_2229.jpeg


Resolution, Detail, Separation: 4.5/5 - Very Good


Resolution, detail retrieval, or "technical performance" denotes how finely and crisp an IEM or headphone can reproduce audio information. Resolution manifests itself in various aspects: (1) how clear and precise the attack of musical notes are, (2) how pinpoint musical notes are in the soundstage, (3) how detailed and nuanced the decay and reverb of musical notes are, (4) how clear can you hear background elements of a mix, (5) how separated similar sounding instruments are, and (6) can you hear the whole band or orchestra.

Advar is more resolving than I expected. It beats Blessing 2 (4/5 - Good) in all my test tracks and seems equal to my Andromeda (5/5 - Outstanding). However, Andromeda is still more resolving than Advar in the chaotic Presto movement of Summer. Therefore, I rate Advar 4.5/5 for resolution.

Percussion Rendering: 4.5/5 - Very Good


Percussion rendering reflects how well the tuning and technical performance of an IEM work together to recreate realistic sound of a drum set. Good drum hits have clear attacks (controlled by frequencies from 4kHz to 6kHz), full body (midbass frequencies around 200Hz), and physical sensation (sub-bass frequencies around 50Hz). Good technical performance ("fast" driver) ensures that bass notes can be loud yet detailed. IEMs that cannot control bass very well tend to reduce the bass' loudness to prevent muddiness.

Advar has high-quality dynamic driver bass. Drums and bass instruments have a physical sensation (good sub-bass), a full and detailed body (good midbass), and snappy stick impacts. Across my test tracks, percussion sound better on Advar than on Blessing 2 (3/5 - Average) and A4000 (4/5 - Good, with excellent sub-bass but subdued midbass). However, it cannot challenge the realistic yet thunderous bass of a properly driven E5000 (5/5 - Outstanding). Therefore, I rate Advar 4.5/5 for percussion rendering.


Stereo Imaging (Soundstage): 4.5/5 - Very Good


Stereo imaging or "soundstage" is a psychoacoustic illusion that different recording elements appear at various locations inside and around your head. Your brain creates based on the cues such as the loudness and phase differences between left and right channels. Most IEMs do not differ significantly, nor can they compete with headphones or loudspeakers. However, some IEMs offer a more spacious soundstage than others. Best IEMs can create multiple layers of sound from closer to further away and make some instruments float slightly above your head.

Advar's soundstage is outstanding, without a doubt, thanks to its excellent layering, depth, and the ability to highlight the outermost layer of the soundstage.

If I have to nitpick, I would say its centre image tends to locate inside my head rather than in front of me, perhaps because its ear-gain boost peaks at 3kHz rather than 2kHz. Combining this with a louder listening volume, you might feel the stage is rather near or "intimate". This presentation is a crucial distinction between Advar's soundstage and Andromeda's or 64 Audio Trio's. Both other IEMs tend to put the centre image slight in front of you at the normal listening volume.

In other words, Advar has a wide and engaging soundstage but does not try to mimic speakers.

I would also say the stage can sound artificial at times. For example, in some piano pieces, I can hear the lower notes at the bottom of the soundstage whilst higher notes float above my head. I don't think such a piano exists.

Realistic or not, I don't feel Advar is lacking compared to my Andromeda (5/5 - Outstanding), and its layering is more engaging than my A4000 (4/5 - Good). Therefore, I rate Advar 4.5/5 for soundstage.

Tonality: 3/5 - Average


My original rating for the tonality of Advar was 2.5/5 due to the 8kHz peak. However, during my final listening before writing this review, I found that the mid-treble peak is not that bad, perhaps because of replacing ear tips. Still, I think Advar is only average in tonality in the grand scheme. 3/5.


Source and Tips Pairing


IMG_2232.jpeg


I tested Advar on the following source:
- Xiaomi Mi A1 (very low quality, hissy onboard audio): Advar picks up a lot of noise. If you pick up an Advar, you can at least get an Apple dongle instead of using onboard DAC.
- Apple dongle: The noise floor is completely gone. However, I hear an unusual upward tilt to the sound signature, making Advar thinner and harsher than usual. I'm a bit puzzled because Advar is not a hard-to-drive IEM.
- Hidizs AP80 Pro X: Excellent. The sound is clear and correct, even on low gain.
- Fiio BTR5: Exactly the same as the Hidizs DAP.
- Fiio KA3: Exactly the same as the Hidizs DAP and BTR5.
- Fiio KA3 balanced via 4.4mm cable (optional accessory from Meze): The sound seems to be a bit "tighter". However, this difference might be a placebo or volume difference because of the difficulty of rapidly switching cable and volume matching. If you get the 4.4 cable, it should be because you want to use your balanced source, not because you want sound quality improvement.

Advar is more sensitive to ear tips than expected. Despite Meze's belief in Final Type E ear tips, I don't think they are the right choice for Advar because they tend to intensify treble peaks, at least to my ears. I have more success with ear tips with wide-bore (to preserve treble) and stiff-core (to keep bass). I did most of my listening with some tips from Whizzer.

Real World Usage


I have used Advar for critical listening at home, for commuting, for outdoor walks, and work. Critical listening at home is the best use case for this IEM, given its sound quality.

Advar is usable but not ideal for commuting because its isolation is surprisingly low. It does reduce the noise a bit, but you can still hear the outside world. If you sit near a bus's engine, all of the lower frequencies of Advar would be gone. Turning up the volume to compensate is not a good idea because the treble peak at 8k would get piercing.

Outdoor walks are more suitable for Advar. You can hear the surroundings, so you have less risk of being run over by a bicycle or an E-scooter. The lack of isolation further intensifies the soundstage illusion of Advar.

Whilst Advar can be used at your desk without any problem; I don't think it is suitable for deep, focused work. The reason is simple: it is too engaging. It's hard to focus if exaggerated 3D stereo images constantly bombard you. The other reason is less glamorous: the treble peak at 8kHz.

Conclusion


review-advar.jpg

I have been on the hunt for something warm and laid-back but does not sacrifice tonality, resolution, dynamic, and soundstage. Meze Advar is one of the most cost-effective IEMs to reach that ideal sound. Beside the mid-treble peak at 8kHz, there is not much for me to complain about. Advar gets a high recommendation from this reviewer.
Last edited:

ThanatosVI

Headphoneus Supremus
A Gem among InEars
Pros: - warm thick sound
- extremely comfortable
- great Bass
- AMAZING mids
- true Meze
Cons: - slightly harsh treble if the fit isn't perfect
- very fit reliant
Today I want to review the Meze Advar, the latest IEM of the masterminds from Baia Mare.

This review sample was sent to me at no charge for the purpose to write a review representing my honest opinion.
In the scope of this review tour I am only obligated to send it to the next reviewer in the queue at my own expense.
I am not allowed to keep the sample, nor does Meze in any other way shape or form try to influence my opinion, all impressions written here are my own.

Background:
I am an audiophile with several flagship over ear headphones and IEMs like the Meze Elite, Rai Penta or T+A Solitair P.
The Advar is in a more affordable price category than what I am used to, so any comparative attributes should be seen within that context.

The Setups:
During this review I utilized 4 different setups which I will describe briefly.
All setups use Tidal Master quality or local Flac files as source material.

Setup 1: Samsung Galaxy S10
As an IEM, I tried the performance on my most basic setup - directly from my daily use Smartphone.
The Advar is easy to drive and from a power perspective the Galaxy S10 is already sufficient to generate ear bleeding volume.
For on the go music listening, this works, but I prefer all of my other setups and therefore won't go into further detail driven directly from a Smartphone.

Setup 2: Samsung Galaxy S10 USB (via UAPP) -> Shure SHA900 DAC/AMP
The Shure SHA900 DAC/AMP is already a rather old device, but was a flagship in its time. Based on a Cirrus Logic DAC chip and with parametric EQ capabilities it still offers excellent sound quality and functionality.
This is my main IEM Setup and works very well with the Advar.

Setup 3: T+A MP2000R -> T+A PA2000R
As a comparative test I also tried the Advar on my main listening setup(s) for over Ear headphones. To my surprise the Advar scales really well with better source and amplification but I am unsure for how many IEM usage at such a rig is of importance.

Setup 4: T+A MP2000R -> Octave V16 Single Ended
As last setup I also tried it with my Octave V16 tube amp. Due to the high sensitivity of the IEMs the background wasn't 100% black, but when the music started to play it was magical.
The refined soundstage and midrange sweetness of the tubes had great synergy with the Advar.
I really need to look for a DAP with tubes, this seems to be an excellent combination.

20220718_142322.jpg


The unpacking Experience:
The Meze Advar comes in a nice package with artful design. It sure feels like an audiophile gem and you can feel that, the manufacturer put thought into the unpacking experience.

Look and feel of the Advar also scream premium all the way. Meze always understands to find a nice combination of aesthetics and functionality. The Advar is heavier than the Rai Penta or Shure Se846 which will be used for comparisons later on. Certainly has a nice feel to it, from look and feel it actually feels "more premium" than the Rai Penta which is the current IEM Flagship from Meze.

It comes with a simple but nice 3.5mm terminated cable, tooling to change the cable, a cleaning tool and several eartips. The Eartips are the Type E from Final Audio, imo great fitting eartips, I even use them on the Shure Se846 because they have a good seal on my ear canal. Seal and fit of the eartips is something very subjective. The Advar is very seal dependant, therefore it is important to find a pair that fits for you.
A travel and storage case with enough space for all the tools is also part of the accessoires.

The comfort:
Meze is known for the pinnacle of comfort in the realm of over ear headphones. The Advar certainly doesn't change that image in any way. To me the Advar is extremely comfortable even when wearing them for 8h+
They are heavier thant my other IEMs, but not heavy enough to have a negative effect on long term comfort. I imagine that this is also earshape and size dependant but for me the Advar gets full marks in terms of comfort.

20220718_085445.jpg


With all the setup, accessory, build quality and comfort topics out of the way lets' finally get to the Sound:
From the very first moments it's clear that this is a true Meze. This time in a thick, full bodied and warm iteration of their house sound, that most listeners either love or hate.
Very addictive and certainly toe tap inducing.

Bass:
The Advar has tastefully elevated Bass. The thick base tone puts focus on midbass albeit there is no rolloff into the subbass and the Advar features excellent extension down to 10Hz. It is a very dynamic and thumping type of Bass.
Excellently tuned quantity and good quality. In terms of Bass texture it is bested by its bigger brother though.

Mids:
Imo THE reason to get an Advar. The mids have excellent timbre and sound extremely natural. String instruments in particular sound very lifelike and real, but also vocals have an undeniable realistic quality!
Especially with some tube flavor in the mix this is an incredible strength of the Advar.

Highs:
The highs are the hardest to describe part on the Advar. The Advar certainly has sparkle, even though imo the great strengths of the Advar are the Bass and Mid sections.
The treble region is very seal dependant, and also source dependant to some degree. On my first listening sessions, directly from the Galaxy S10 I had some harshness in the Treble.
In later sessions when I was relaxing at my listening station and got the fit and seal perfectly, the treble smoothed out and the harschness was gone. However for someone that wants to use them on the go and can't fiddle around to get the perfect seal every time, this might become an issue.
My stationary listening stations also have a very analogue presentation and I didn't experience any harshness there.

Soundstage and Imaging:
The Advar has a rather intimate soundstage, it is certainly narrower than all my available headphones and IEMs. Together with the thick tone, the imaging is also a step behind the (a lot higher priced) competition in my collection.
However it is never muddy, just not on the level of my alternatives. In audio there are several tradeoffs a manufacturer has to decide on for the final sound, and this was certainly one of those.

Detail retrieval:
In terms of detail retrieval the Advar is really good, even though I am used to flagships day in day out, I never had the feeling that I miss detail when listening to the Advar.
Especially in terms of microdetail my other headphones are superior, but this is expected given the huge price difference. The Advar is a perfect example of "detailed enough"
It certainly fits the description of audiophile levels of detail. Detailheads might want to look at the Rai Penta instead.

20220718_085311.jpg


Comparisons
with Meze Rai Penta:
So how does it compare to the bigger brother Rai Penta?

There is a striking similarity on how Meze sees their "flagship tuning" and their "high end flagship tuning" in both their Over Ear and IEM lineup. Comparing the Advar to the Rai Penta is very similar to comparing an Empyrean to an Elite.
The Rai Penta has a noteably wider Soundstage, increased detail retrieval and imaging capabilities and a thinner tone. The Advar is bassier, especially in the midbass region and has the better timbre in the midrange for my taste.

with Shure SE846:
The Shure SE846 has a terrible stock cable but uses the same MMCX Connector than the Advar and Rai Penta, therefore I used the cable of the Meze with the Shure for this comparison.
For Eartips I like the Final Type E and ordered a separate pair for the Shure as well. In the end I could compare the SE 846 with the Advar, both using the same cable and eartips.

The Shure features a more V shaped sound signature. It also offers elevated Bass but more focused on the subbass region. The treble is more pronounced and the soundstage is wider than on the Meze.
The Meze has overall a thicker tone and better timbre. All in all these are very different presentations for different tastes.

Pairings and Synergy:
The Advar can be used on a wide range of devices, from a Smartphone up to a high end stationary rig.
They scale quite spectacularly for an IEM. In terms of synergy they benefit from an analogue and smooth presentation to counter the treble peak. However since they already have a thick tone, they might benefit from a detailed well controlled amp unless one wants to really lock in on the thick sound.

Conclusion:
The Advar is an excellent addition to the Meze Family. Featuring their house sound, their aesthetics and comfort.

20220718_090114.jpg


PS: I ordered an Advar for myself after sending off the review sample to the next reviewer of the tour.
Last edited:
Newsee
Newsee
Well structured review, concentrating on the important points. Thank you.
If you are interested in a tube DAP, look at the Cayin N8ii. With the Elite it sounded... irresistible

godmax

100+ Head-Fier
Jack of all-trades on the go
Pros: balanced sound signature
tastefully elevated bass
perfect fit and sleek look
engaging sound
build quality
isolation
Cons: balanced cable not included
holographic presentation a little limited
Meze.Advar.Review.01.jpg

  • very balanced sound signature with tastefully boosted bass, that never overshadows other frequencies
  • vocals are clear and not recessed
  • great build quality and feel
  • good detail and not always forgiving with badly mastered tracks
  • very good fit and sleek look
  • stock tips do fit for me well, but might be possible thar 3rd party tips could improve seal on certain jaw/skull movements
  • ... if the seal is broken, bass gets impacted/reduced (depends of tips and ear)
  • above average passive isolation
  • also very good at lower listening volume
  • included cable is not microphonic
  • not full 360° holgraphic presentation, but dependend on track
  • would have been nice to include a balanced cable
Meze.Advar.Review.02.jpg
Meze.Advar.Review.03.jpg


Like the other Meze offerings I personally know (Empyrean and Liric), the Advar offers a great all-rounder approach tuned for fun listening.
I was not really into IEMs so far, but that changed with the Meze Advar, they can be a great alternative to closed full-size headphones with the plus of portability.
The tuning needs no additional EQ for me to enjoy listening (e.g. the Liric needed that for my liking) right out of the box.
Seems like I already turned into a Meze fanboy, since it seems their aim for pure music listening enjoyment without compromises is one of their key success factors.

Meze.Advar.Pinhead.jpg

D#mn you Meze, I am already considering to buy Advar for myself - once again!


used gear for evaluation:
  • Hiby R3 Pro Saber
  • Hiby R5
  • Questyle CMA 400i
  • Violectric V226 (Gustard X26 Pro/Ares II)
Hint: the Meze Advar was temporary offered for review as part of the EU review tour

Update #01: I did order my own Advar after the review was posted and the review unit passed to next reviewer
Last edited:

xenithon

Headphoneus Supremus
Balanced Musicality
Pros: I really enjoyed the....
- Incredible build quality and gorgeous design
- Comfortable, contoured shape and fit
- Resolving while being appreciably forgiving of poor material
- Excellent bass weight and sub-bass / mid-bass balance
- Musically engaging and smooth tonality
- Composed, dynamic, and non-fatiguing
Cons: Things that could be better were....
- The thin-gauge 3.5mm stock cable is limiting and could be improved
- Highly sensitive to tip rolling (and stock tips are not ideal)
- Modest stage size presents more of an in-head experience
- Not the most holographic nor the last word in airiness or transparency


Note: The review used the sample Advar that is as part of a global organised by the one and only @Andykong. I was second to receive the IEM so took it as having been adequately burned in. I used the 4.4mm cable that Meze included with the review sample (an optional accessory that can be purchased separately) . Listening impressions were with my HiBy R8, as well as my Cayin C9. The opinions are my own and as unbiased as possible – no freebies or discounts were associated with the opportunity to review these.



Take me back to Romania


Preamble

A few years ago, before the world went bonkers and lockdown ensued, I had the pleasure and privilege of visiting Romania for a close friend’s wedding. Many fond memories were made, and the trip left a unique imprint on me. It is a country of contrasts – from the grey and rather tired looking capital city of Bucharest to the lush, immense mountains and greenery of Sighișoara. Culturally too, it has gone through many hardships, yet a sense of perseverance and openness permeates through the land and its people.


The wedding itself was a whole day affair, and we didn’t stop partying until way past sunrise the next day. Much of that included copious amounts of the traditional tipple pálinka, and dancing in large groups of friends, families, and strangers alike – linked up and circling in the traditional Romanian hora. Which, quite befittingly, brings us to the Advar IEM from Meze, which features a hora-inspired insignia on its packaging.

Origins

Much has been said about Meze’s history so this will be a light-touch overview. Founded in 2011, Meze Audio is a company that take a slightly different approach to others in the headphone world. Firstly, they have a borderline obsession with build quality and aesthetics. And I mean that in the best possible way. Secondly, they don’t churn through dozens of iterations and releases – they design and create long-lasting products that stand the test of time, while also avoiding overlap across their range.

Packaging

The Advar’s box has an outer sleeve which is tastefully adorned with a black and gold geometric pattern (the hora motif). The same pattern is embossed on the box itself in a stealthy gloss black. Opening the lid reveals the two petite, shiny jewel-like earpieces nestled in a foam insert, like black pearls inside an oyster.

IMG-1870.jpg

Underneath you’ll find the beautifully printed manual / booklet, and the protective travel case which holds the remaining accessories. This includes the stock SPC cable (MMCX to gold plated 3.5mm), 5 pairs of Final Audio Type E tips, an IEM cleaning tool, and the handy MMCX removal tool – built like the key to an exotic, luxury car.

Overall, a great unboxing experience – I can really appreciate the thought that went creating something both so elegant and so modest.

IMG-1882.jpg

In the box
The cable is…decent. It is not the best I’ve seen as a stock cable, nor is it the worst. It’s soft, supple, and mostly tangle free (though tends to coil and twist when no earpieces are attached). It sounds fine too really. But it is quite a thin gauge, and it’s a pity the only option is 3.5mm. Meze do offer the cable in 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced but as a separate accessory that can be purchased at additional cost. Fortunately, the latter was provided with the review sample.

As for the tips – I did not use those included in the sample, and as other reviewers have pointed out, the Advar is incredibly sensitive to tip rolling. I’ll get to this later in the review.

In the hands

The shells of the Advar are “understated statement pieces” if there is such a thing. Forged from stainless-steel, they have a piano black finish, and look and feel unquestionably solid. They have an organic nature to them – with an alluring contoured shape, which contributes to their ergonomics and isolation.

IMG-1907.JPG

Attention to detail is terrific too, such as the finely printed “Made in Romania” around the MMCX sockets, which are also colour coded black and red for left and right earpieces respectively. A similar printing can be found on the faceplate – which features a circular bronze depression, and what looks like a tiny vent for the driver in the middle.

Speaking of drivers, the Advar utilises a single 10.2mm dynamic driver per earpiece – in line with the “single DD” resurgence we have seen of late.

In the ears

As we know, everyone’s ears are different, and the fit and comfort of an IEM play a crucial rule in both the sound and their long term usability. My ears are generally fine with universals, but I have relatively sensitive ear canals which can become uncomfortable with the wrong shape or with IEMs that need a really deep fit.

IMG-1905.JPG

Fortunately, the modest size of the Advar earpieces and relatively short nozzle allow for quite a shallow fit. While this can have caveats of its own, I found it easy to get a solid and stable seal, remaining intact while moving around or bobbing my head. And best of all, it didn’t trigger any pain in my concha or ear canals.

Onto the Sound

At this juncture, let’s talk about a recurring them you’ll likely read about in other reviews. The Advar is highly sensitive to different tips. In some IEMs, tips are a useful tool to tweak nuances in sound. In this case, they can make or break your experience. With the wrong tips, I found bass to either be meek or sound boxy. Upper mid instruments and vocals could also come across as “dirty”, as if compressed, and at times could also be brighter and more anemic than they should be (though never etched or harsh).

Handily, I have a tackle-box full of tips, and eventually settled on two which worked the best (for me). These were the Elecom CAP10, and the Acoustune AET07. In both, I used the same size I’ve used in other IEMs. I strongly recommend trial and error to find what works best for you.

As a general rule, I found the Advar to work best with tips that have a soft stem, are relatively short, and have a wide rather than narrow bore. I also found slightly “fatter” or more bulbous shapes were more comfortable than more pointed bullet-shaped tips

All testing was done using my HiBy R8 and the 4.4mm cable supplied. I also tested the Advar through the Cayin C9 and have included some impressions on this pairing.

Bass

Excellent. I could stop there really, but let’s flesh it out a bit.

The bass is wonderfully balanced between sub-bass rumble and mid-bass kick. It exhibits good texture and has a natural decay. It’s not BA quick nor is it huge-woofer slow. It is well controlled and really punchy when needed. I found it especially good with big drums and acoustic bass. Perhaps excels a little less with electronic / EDM, in particular when there are both warbling electronic tones and thumping beats.

IMG-1901.JPG

My listening notes for bass include:
  • “oh my, those drums” in Heidi Talbot’s Cathedrals
  • “great intro rumble and excellent mid-bass thwack” in Lucy Rose’s Middle of the Bed
  • “massive” in Missincat’s La Pistola
  • “these IEMs are made for these large ominous thumps” on Danheim’s Valhal

As a side note, this was all with the CAP10 tips. Using the AET07, the bass shifts a gear down across the spectrum – sub-bass rolls off a little earlier, with mid-bass having less body and impact, noticeably so with pop like Dua Lipa and Alessia Cara. But, still admirable, and more than what I recall hearing on the lighter-weight sound of the Oriolus Isabellae that I used to own.

Midrange

On the whole, I would describe the Advar’s midrange as well balanced, with a hint of wetness to sound. This is really the kind of sound I enjoy – having abundant detail and reasonably good energy while avoiding any semblance of being dry or clinical. Nothing feels recessed or hollow, and harshness is rare other than on really poor recordings.

Harmonics are natural and rich. Female vocals in particular are beautifully rendered, sounding organic and smooth while not being blunted or blurred. Melisma and breath are tangible and nuanced. Most importantly, they convey emotion and soul. Male vocals (which admittedly I don’t listen to much) are done well. They have solidity and weight to them, though if I nitpick, may be missing a hint of lower midrange body.

Reproduction of instruments suit my taste well – strings are splendid, especially violin and cellos, though they may not be as energetic or lively as one may expect in a live performance. Similarly, I find piano really good on these IEMs. Great body and depth, and devoid of any ringing or sharpness in the upper registers. As noted in the bass section, drums have terrific size and punch; but may lack a little bite when drumsticks hit the drumskin like you’d get in grunge, hard rock, or metal.

IMG-1904.JPG

If you like your music in-your-face, with more sharpness and precision, it may not meet your preferences. Midrange dynamics are good, but perhaps sacrificed a little for the sake of fatigue-free listening – a tradeoff that is not easy to get right, and which Meze executed brilliantly to my ears.

My listening notes for midrange include:
  • “gorgeous violin rendition, love the texture and control – quite precise but never sharp or edgy” in Winter 1 from Max Richter’s Reimagined: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
  • “shakers sound so real and love that drum intro” in Bon Jovi’s Keep The Faith
  • “falling in love again with her dreamy voice and the plucking of her acoustic guitar” in Meiko’s Stuck On You
  • “her sultry hoarseness is spot on; awesome interplay between vocals and guitars” for Carla Bruni’s L’excessive

Treble

The theme of balance continues in the treble capabilities of the Advar. I was pleasantly surprised actually – I was expecting more of a muted, rounded, mellow top end; instead I found it exhibited respectable levels of resolution and transparency, probably more than warranted at the price point. There’s no piercing brightness and yet the upper registers were well defined, with a sweet crispness.

With the wrong tips, I could pick up some thinness to the treble, which together with a forward vocal presentation could very occasionally get a smidge shouty - but never zingy or harsh. Granted, I did not try the stock Final Type E tips, but tried similar narrow bore tips and these normally suffered from the brighter presentation.

With the right tips, however (soft, wide bore, umbrella rather than bullet shaped), treble was well articulated with a natural tonality. It was well extended and resolving. While perhaps not the last word in air, there was enough sparkle to be distinct from the mids while maintaining a smooth transition to remain beautifully cohesive.

IMG-1906.JPG

It came across as an area Meze spent of lot of time tuning to create listenable, realistic detail, with no intention of being a microdetail monster or analytic instrument. And rather impressively, the treble detail sounded refined and realistic. It really engaged me as a listener without anything feeling forced.

Some notes for treble included:
  • “it may be missing some edge in the electronic effects but thoroughly enjoying all the elements across the stage” in Queen’s Killer Queen
  • “the snap and decay of these claps are excellent” in both Ingrid Michaelson’s The Way I Am and on Catt’s Patterns
  • “great speed and agility – neither aggressive nor slow” in Love Letter To Japan from The Bird and The Bee
  • “achieves great clarity without the sizzle I normally hear” in Sarah Blasko’s Lost and Defeated

Technicalities

I found Advar decently wide, though closer to an intimate sound – head stage rather than soundstage. It’s not narrow, to be fair, and when a recording has sounds stretched out, they are portrayed as such, but I’d summarise it as still being “in the head”. Admirable height – in fact really good height, with various sounds often emanating from well above the foundational elements.

That said, it’s not the last word in depth. This would probably be my own real negative across the review – as it results in not really excelling at layering, or at least proportionately not as good as other staging capabilities. And interestingly, for this reason I also felt the Advar could start to lose a little composure at really loud volumes.

There are pros and cons at play – on a sparse stage, everything is so well delineated. When a lot more is added to the mix, some elements can feel a little masked. They’re not entirely drowned out, but one needs to concentrate more to pick them out.

The Advar is capable of handling busy songs, demonstrate interplay between various components such as drums, high hats, vocals, pianos, guitar riffs, and so forth – but is not the most holographic. Bear in mind my reference points are IEMs costing multiples that of the Advar.

IMG-1903.JPG

Imaging, fortunately, is not adversely affected by this. I found the Meze terrific in terms of instrument placement. Even in classical and orchestral pieces, the Advar holds its own, and I thoroughly enjoyed binaural recordings which really show off its imaging strengths.

The Advar has great macrodynamics, and perhaps gives in a little in terms of the intricacies of microdynamics. But that does not encroach on its rhythm and timing. Simply put, I found the Advar to be unwaveringly toe-tapping.

Scalability and Amping

It may be exaggerated to say the Advar scales like crazy…but the Advar scales like crazy. I started off listening off my iPhone using the lightning adapter and 3.5mm cable. It was alright but nothing to get really excited about (granted the source wasn’t ideal).

Moving up to the R8 yielded a night and day transformation – power, control, precision, clarity, all while maintaining its inherently musical character.

I then added the C9 into the chain there was a notable improvement in technical performance – more spatial cues, more separation on the sage. The sound was a little more forward, lively, and energetic.

In solid state mode, compared to the R8 alone, music seemed to gain a degree of precision – it was cleaner yet and purer, especially vocals. Banjo and ukulele were more delicate. Bass drums and electronic beats had additional power, and sustained bass notes held themselves better.

Tube mode added some warmth and body. Bass was more rounded and drums hit with a little less punch. Vocals became smoother, and male vocals seemed to gain that little bit of lower midrange body I felt was missing before.

It gave back some of the technicalities, with busier songs sounding more compressed than in solid state. Vocals, while smoother, didn’t have as much air, and strings did not have as much sparkle. While these sound like downsides…in return, music was infused with an ethereal, euphonic character. It’s a case of pleasure over purity.

Comparisons

My reference transducers cost anywhere from five to ten times that of the Advar. It may not be fair to compare them, but I actually think it showcases just how good the Advar are at their price point.

Oriolus Traillii

I found the Traillii’s vocals to have a lighter body and are smoother. To me, vocals sounded more natural on the Traillii because they were less forward and had more room to breathe. But I can see how some may feel the Advar’s vocals are more natural given their body and comparatively romantic tone.

The stage size on the bird contributes to instruments being more delicate and layered – the massive soundstage is one of the Traillii’s best features, which gives it a true “out of head” experience more akin to full size headphones or two-channel speakers.

1656260600124.png

Electronic music on the Traillii was more detailed and layered. The precision ESTs are more nimble and crisper and exhibited better microdetail. On songs mainly featuring acoustic instruments, the sound from the bird was larger, wider, airier, and instruments tended to sound more real – such as on Karen Elson’s Green. If I had to describe the difference, in direct comparison, on the Advar the musical was more intimate, and instruments sounded like smaller versions of themselves.

Bass was not as prominent in the bird, mid-bass in particular. Sub-bass had more rumble, possibly due to having a deeper fit which allows it to directly reverberate the ear canal. But the Advar had more warmth and body. The more prominent sub-bass of Traillii worked great on Mind Games by Meggie Lennon as well as Vessel by Accidentals. And in the latter the two vocalists are separated far better. But songs like The Cranberries Wanted, Myrtille’s Murmures, and Runaway from Aurora – are perhaps more enjoyable with the mid-bass weight of Advar.

On both Perfect Crime and O Valencia from the Decemberists, it was as if a layer of haze was removed relative to Advar. Listening to Portion For Foxes from Rilo Kiley or Zombie from The Cranberries, the high hats and triangles and kick drums sounded more real on the Traillii, but the electric guitar had more grunge. Large drums had more size on the bird but were fuller on the Advar.

In terms of comfort, the Advar pips the prize. The birds go in a little deeper due to the shape of the earpiece and length and girth of the stem, which form a seal deeper in the canal. As mentioned earlier, my canals are sensitive, so the Meze’s shallower fit worked really for me.

Meze Elite

One may question comparing diminutive dynamic driver in-ear versus full size isodynamic headphone. But I found this a rather interesting comparison – specifically because these both come from Meze.

Right off the bat, the word that springs to mind when listening to the Elite coming from the Advar is “life-size”. It goes without saying that a headphone experience is usually always going to sound larger, but it goes beyond stage and image dimensions. With the Elite I got a greater sense of the recording space. Slight reverbs and reflections and echo effects in both vocals and instruments were more than just byproducts, rather they were active and integral fragments that filled in voids in spacial cues, and by doing so, transported me deeper into the music.

Tonally, there is a musicality in the Elite which allows them to be exceptionally detailed without being fatiguing. Still, the Advar is warmer and richer. This is tip dependent, and preferences will differ from listener to listener. Fortunately one can tweak the sound of the Advar closer to neutrality or euphony with tip rolling, though the IEM always felt a little more romantic in comparison.

The common thread of smoothness and liquidity in the Meze house sound is apparent in both, but the Elite does run closer to neutral. It’s not bright, but side by side, it can sound brighter and more open than the Advar. The edges of the Elite have more sparkle and energy, adding lifelike realism. Advar in comparison is a little more muted, and perhaps sweeter.

1656261192253.png

Going back to detail, one of the other words that stood out with the Elite was “transparency”. It has incredible speed and articulation, with incredible transient response. Together with the Elite's superior layering capabilities, and its ability to space out elements on the stage, it was more holographic relative to the Advar which was more of a two dimensional experience in comparison.

Attempting an art analogy, the Advar is like a masterful painting – details are clear and precise and beautifully rendered. You can gaze upon the artwork for hours. It uses brushstrokes and gradations of light and dark to simulate a sense of three dimensionality on its flattened surface. The Elite is a marble sculpture that you can circle and view from many angles – you can explore the music and all its elements; you can see and touch them in front, behind, and all around. The three dimensionality is more palpable and believable.

Bass is bolder on the Advar, especially the body in the mid-bass. But this does come at the cost of some speed and kick relative to Elite, which has dexterous bass that can punch like a mule and decay with rapidity if called upon. It is incredibly well controlled, like a Porsche sticking to the road going down Romania's famous Transfăgărășan Highway. Sustained bass is also tighter and better defined, being a little fuzzier on Advar. These traits were evident when listening to Polo & Pan's Cœur Croisé.

All that said, if you like your eardrums being tickled by rumble, the sensation of a dynamic driver inside the ear canal is hard to match by an open over-ear headphone, and the Elite is no exception.

And a final word on scaling – as mentioned earlier in the review, the Advar does incredibly well at lower volumes, and especially well with music that is more on the sparse side. But it can sound a wee bit congested on really busy music as well as when pushing the volume high. The Elite is quite the opposite – it sounds even more dynamic and holographic as you push the volume up, and is eloquent and deft in the way it handles complex material.

Conclusion

Being the middle child in Meze’s in-ear lineup, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d heard several single DD driver IEMs before, and their sound varied wildly from thin and dull to bombastic and thick. But…

…the Advar is simply and purely, a joy. It does many, many things right, and does these with sheer musical delight. While not the most technical, it is certainly no slouch. It is commendably resolving, rather forgiving of poorly mastered material, and – most importantly – it portrays music with a beautiful tone and charming allure.

IMG-1878.jpg

It is well balanced and has a great sense of coherency, no doubt attributed to the use of a single driver. And I really enjoyed the detail rich yet sibilant free sound, while being composed, dynamic, and non-fatiguing. Add to that Meze’s unrivalled build quality and killer good looks, and you have what I would dub as a strong contender for top sub-$1k IEM on the market.

Closing the loop and reminiscing about my trip again, the Advar reminds me of the delightful Romanian dessert papanași – it’s not easy to make and can be made too hard, too thick, too sugary, and one needs to get the balance right between dough, jam, and cream cheese. But done right, it is unxious, sweet, poised, and makes me want to go in for seconds (and thirds).
Last edited:
Ichos
Ichos
Excellent photography among others.
gLer
gLer
Outstanding review, and spot-on accurate too.

twister6

twister6 Reviews
Headphoneus Supremus
Talisman of Sound!
Pros: beautiful design, solid build, balanced sound sig, hi-res sound with a clear revealing tonality, quality accessories.
Cons: the sound is VERY eartips dependent, shorter nozzle with a shallow fit.


The product was sent to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my site, and now I would like to share it with my readers on Head-fi.

Manufacturer/product website: Meze Audio. Available for sale from authorized retailers like Bloom Audio.


Intro.

Back in February when I attended CanJam NYC, Meze team was very excited to let me hear their upcoming new pair of IEMs. I only had a brief listening session with these monitors while using my own eartips, just enough time to form a rather positive opinion about the tuning. A month later when Meze Advar was officially announced and made its debut at CanJam SGP, I was reading people’s impressions and thought to myself, did Meze Audio change the tuning? There was a number of comments talking about enjoying the bass and mids, while treble was too bright. I talked to some of these people and found out they used stock Type-E eartips with Advar during their auditioning.

As many are aware, when dealing with universal IEMs, eartips selection can either make or break the tuning. Obviously, we all have a different ear shape and earcanal anatomy, one size doesn’t fit all. That is why I can’t stress enough how important it is to try different eartips before finalizing the opinion about sound tuning. It’s also one of the reasons I made eartips rolling a permanent feature in all my reviews. And I’m not just talking about trying different eartip types, but also going up and down in size of the same eartips set. That’s exactly what I did when I received Advar for review before I spent the last month testing these new audio nuggets from Meze! Here is what I found.

meze-advar-21.jpg

Unboxing and Accessories.

The packaging box Advar arrived in is rather compact, with an outer sleeve featuring a symmetrical design artwork in gold print which supposed to represent Romanian folklore. Underneath, the top of the box cover features the same artwork but in glossy black. With cover removed, you will find a foam insert with Advar shells, like two glossy pieces of cufflinks jewelry. Below foam insert, there is a protective case with the rest of the accessories inside.

meze-advar-03.jpgmeze-advar-04.jpg

Included were 5 pairs (SS, S, M, L, LL) of Final Audio Type-E brand name ear tips, a cleaning tool with a brush and a long flexible cleaning whisker, MMCX removal tool, hard shell mini-case, and a cable. The custom shaped protective EVA hard case is the same I found with Rai Penta, just slightly modified inside. It’s not a real leather, this is EVA material, but it looks like a real leather and has a protective hard shell with a soft inner lining and mesh pockets on each side. On the outside, you have a metal Meze Audio logo and even a little loop to clip the case.

meze-advar-05.jpgmeze-advar-06.jpg

The idea behind the MMCX assist removal tool is to align it with a joint, wedging it between cable and the connector, and squeeze the claw to disconnect cable from earpieces. Final Audio also included a basic plastic tool with the same functionality, but theirs was flimsy and broke after a few uses. The MMCX removal tool from Meze has a durable built, cool look, and keychain-like design.

meze-advar-07.jpgmeze-advar-09.jpg

The included cable looks great too, and it’s the same one that was included with Rai Penta. According to Meze, this is higher purity silver plated copper (SPC), 4 twisted wire conductors with each having 20 litz strands. The IEM side connector has MMCX plug inside of a clear transparent housing with a red color mark for right side. The cable has a flexible heat-shrink pre-shaped earhook, custom y-split with Meze audio symbol, clear plastic chin-slider, and a matching custom Meze audio branded connector plug. The stock cable comes with 3.5mm gold plated plug, and Meze also offers optional 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced terminated SPC cables. I got 4.4mm cable back when I received Rai Penta and was using it with Advar.

Advar unboxing experience is not over the top, but quite satisfying, and MMCX connector removal tool and cool IEM case add a custom touch to stand out from the crowd.

meze-advar-13.jpgmeze-advar-14.jpgmeze-advar-15.jpgmeze-advar-16.jpg

Design.

Meze calls Advar a “piece of visual and sound art”, and they are absolutely right. Every Meze product is like a work of art, and Advar is no exception. The shells are made of solid stainless-steel, produced by metal injection molding with CNC finishing. They are not lightweight, adding a nice 10g heft to your ears. The nozzle is on a shorter side with a mesh grill over the top. Because of that, Advar shells do have a shallow insertion, thus need a good set of eartips for secure fit. The shape of the shells is very ergonomic, fitting perfectly in concha-cavum area of my ear just outside of the ear canal. The shells itself have a black piano finish, with a large bronze-color “talisman” circle embedded into the faceplate. And I think the pinhole in the middle of that design is not just for decoration, but actually to vent DD driver, just like another pinhole at the base of the nozzle. The isolation was great, like two little earplugs in my ears.

Inside of these small shells, you have a single 10.2mm dynamic driver. I wasn’t able to find much info about the details of the internal design. But regardless, IEMs should be evaluated based on their sound, not necessary what is inside “under the hood”. I will cover all the sound analysis details in the follow up sections of the review.

meze-advar-22.jpgmeze-advar-23.jpgmeze-advar-24.jpg

The fit.

meze-advar-31.jpg

Sound Analysis.

I analyzed Advar sound performance paired up with LPGT and N8ii while playing a variety of test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, Bob Marley “Jamming”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. To make sure DD driver is properly conditioned, I let it burn in for about 100hrs before starting sound analysis.

meze-advar-28.jpg

I found ADVAR to have a balanced sound signature with a clear revealing tonality. The sound has a vivid presentation, but in a natural rather than analytical way. So, with a right selection of eartips, you get a high level of clarity and detail retrieval with a bit colder tonality and overall airy open presentation of the sound which is still surprisingly natural and no-fatigue to my ears.

Bass goes deep with a nicely textured and a bit elevated rumble, mid-bass punch is not as fast but has a tight impact and good control due to a faster decay. Overall, bass has a nice solid weight with a relatively tight articulate presentation; it’s above neutral but not too exaggerated. Lower mids are more neutral, one of the reasons you won't hear as much warmth in the sound, and upper mids have a natural revealing tonality, with lots of clarity and great retrieval of details. Treble is where eartips selection going to play the most crucial part. The lower treble can go from harsh and piercing if you have a poor seal, to vivid and naturally resolving when you hit the sweet spot with the right set of eartips. Once I found the right pair of eartips for my ears, the level of natural clarity and airy extension was just perfect.

The airy open presentation of Advar tuning results in an excellent layering and separation of the sounds, literally with air between the layers and great expansion of vertical dynamics. Also, the soundstage expansion is big, spreading wide, deep, tall in every direction, creating 3D holographic imaging with a relatively accurate positioning of instruments and vocals in space.

But again, to achieve this level of sound quality you will need to invest time into tip rolling to get a perfect seal and balance between lows, mids, and highs. The short nozzle, shallow insertion, and a bit of heft in a shell weight requires the user to spend extra time going through different eartips to find a sweet spot for a tonal balance.

meze-advar-27.jpg

Cable pair up.

Preamble.

I’m aware that some people don’t believe in cables and have very strong opinion about it. It’s not my intent to change those minds. Instead, I’m just sharing what I hear during my testing. What makes sense to me, a metal wire is a material with physical properties of resistivity, conductivity, purity, and unique geometry, all of which put together act as a filter between your source and headphones. Variations of these physical properties can affect the conductivity of analog signal, resulting in a sound change, from a subtle to a more noticeable level. If the talk about cables upsets you, you are welcome to skip this section.

Also, please keep in mind, I have a very small selection of mmcx cables because most of my cables are 2pin. Furthermore, I do have a number of EA cables with ConX connector to exchange between 2pin and MMCX tips, but I don’t think it makes sense to pair up IEMs with cables that cost 3x-4x more than IEM itself. I mean, I strongly encourage you to cable roll as well, but I can’t suggest with a straight face to buy a cable 4x the price of IEMs just to finetune the tonality.

Stock SPC to Dita OSLO – I hear a very similar tonality as with the stock cable, nearly identical sound.

Stock SPC to DDHiFi Sky – I hear a very similar tonality as with the stock cable, just being a touch brighter in lower treble.

Stock SPC to ALO Super Litz Cu/SPC hybrid – I hear it being not too far off, having a more balanced sound with a deep bass and natural clear mids, but lower treble is a touch smoother, fine-tuning the tonality.

Stock SPC to Linum SuperBax - SuperBax pushes the changes of ALO Super Litz cable even further, the same balanced tonality with a natural clear detailed mids, but lower treble is even more natural, finetuning it to perfection now.

Up to you if you want to upgrade the cable, though I would just get a balanced version of a stock cable as a minimum. Eartips rolling gives you a bigger change in sound finetuning.

Eartips Selection.

The selection of eartips is crucial to any universal in-ear monitors and will affect the sound, especially the bass impact depending on the seal. Due to a large opening of my earcanals, I usually go for the largest size eartips to get a better seal. Also, please keep in mind, eartips impressions are subjective and will be based on anatomy of your ears.

Final Type-E (stock) - the tuning balance is shifted toward upper mids and lower treble with a rather piercing lower treble peak. This is due to a poor seal I get even with LL size eartips because of their soft silicone cap material. It doesn’t mean these are bad eartips, but they were definitely no-go for me. And I spoke with a number of people who attended CanJam SGP and had similar impressions because they only tried it with stock Type-E eartips.

SpinFit CP100 - the tuning is more balanced but lower treble still has too much energy. It gives me a better seal then with Type-E, no longer as piercing, but still sounds rather bright in lower treble to my ears.

Symbio F - the bass gets a little deeper, and I hear a more natural tonality in upper mids/vocals, plus treble has more control.

Azla Crystal - a more balanced sound with a deeper bass and more natural clarity in upper mids, along with a crips and still well controlled treble.

Symbio F and Crystal eartips did the best job and worked better for my ears.

meze-advar-18.jpg

Comparison.

The comparison was done using Advar with stock cable and LPGT source; volume matched in every comparison.

Advar vs Meze Rai Penta - This was a very interesting comparison because of similarities and differences between these two Meze Audio IEMs. First of all, the soundstage expansion is quite similar between these two. Then, from the sub-bass and throughout mid-bass and lower mids they sound very similar. Going into upper mids is where Rai Penta pushes the sound level higher and more forward, scaling up between 1k-3k, giving vocals more forward presentation relative to Advar. But then, Rai Penta scales down and starts to roll off the treble earlier, which makes its treble sound smoother and reduces airiness and layering between the sound. In comparison, Advar brings more energy to lower treble which gives the sound higher resolution and more open airiness. If you want to extract more microdetails from the sound, Advar will be a better choice, while Rai Penta gives you a more natural and smoother tuning at the top.

Advar vs FAudio Dark Sky - Both of these single DD iems have a shallow insertion and require a thorough eartips rolling to find the right pair in order to keep lower treble under control. To start off with soundstage/imaging comparison, it is very similar with both offering a very wide/deep soundstage with 3D holographic imaging. Bass is more elevated in Dark Sky, scaling up the impact and the rumble. But what I found interesting, while the bass is stronger in DS, I don't feel like it has more weight. This is due to Dark Sky mids and lower treble being more forward, and its treble being brighter and a bit more piercing, thus tilting the scale of balance which takes away from Dark Sky bass impact. While there are many similarities, Advar mids and treble do sound more natural, still clear and revealing, but a bit less analytical. That last change is the biggest difference between their tunings.

Advar vs Final Audio A8000 - In this comparison the difference will be more noticeable, though both are following a similar tuning with a vivid presentation of the sound. Starting off with a soundstage, I do hear Advar spreading a little wider left/right, while both have the same depth expansion. Both have a bass with a deep sub-bass rumble, but Advar sub-bass is more elevated. The biggest difference in bass comes from mid-bass where A8k is a lot more neutral and not as elevated in comparison to a stronger punch of Advar. Also, lower mids of A8000 are leaner, below neutral level of Advar. Going into upper mids, tuning is reversed where A8000 has more pinna gain, pushing mids more forward in 2k-3k region which also makes them more analytical while Advar mids/vocals sound more natural in comparison. Lower treble also peaks earlier in A8k which can bring some sibilance to poorly recorded tracks. But in general, both have more energy and presence in lower treble, though Advar keeps it under a tighter control.

Advar vs Sennheiser IE800s - I know many are probably going to ask about the comparison with the latest IE900, but I don't have it, only IE800s, which apparently is still quite popular with many audiophiles (based on the comments and questions I receive). When it comes to a soundstage, both have a similar depth, while Advar has more width, spreading wider left/right. Mids tuning is quite different, with IE800s being more pulled back in comparison to a more forward Advar mids. As a matter of fact, IE800s peaks at around 1.5k and then rolls down, missing the pinna gain of Advar boost around 3k. As a result, Advar vocals have better clarity and higher resolution, while IE800s vocals sound a lot smoother and with a thicker body. Furthermore, IE800s lower treble is also scaled down, just having more emphasis in mid-treble. As a result, Advar sound has more presence and clarity. Coincidentally, when I looked at the FR of IE900, that lower treble area was lifted to give the sound more clarity, which could actually bring it closer to Advar level in treble tuning.

meze-advar-19.jpg

Source pair up.

Advar is easy to drive considering its 111dB sensitivity and 31ohm impedance. No hissing was detected which is typical for single DD iems. For your reference, here are my brief pair up notes. And by brief, I just focus on any changes related to a sound sig and general tonality, without going into too many details of technical performance difference.

Lotoo LPGT – I usually start off with it as my baseline neutral pair up where I found Advar to have a balanced sound, deeper bass, clear detailed mids, and energetic well controlled treble.

Cayin N8ii - I started with my usual P+/Tubes/Class AB setting and got hit with a dose of lower treble energy, was a bit too much for my ears, so I played with settings and found a sweet spot with P/Tubes/Class A. With this new setting, I was able to reach a tuning perfection with a punchy deep bass, natural detailed mids, and natural-revealing treble.

meze-advar-29.jpg

Sony WM1ZM2 (dsp effects on) – I hear a mildly U-shaped signature with a natural detailed tonality. Deep punchy bass, natural detailed mids that are pulled back just a bit, and crisp energetic non-fatigue treble.

Shanling M9 - The sound signature is balanced, but upper mids and lower treble are quite bright in this pair up. Not a good synergy to my ears.

Hiby RS6 (w/Erlkonig preset) - A perfectly balanced sound sig with a natural detailed tonality. Mids/vocals have fuller body with a perfect tonal balance across the entire frequency range. Bass is punchy, and treble sounds quite natural. Liked this pair up a lot.

iBasso DX240 w/amp8ii card - Here the sound is a little more v-shaped due to more lift in sub-bass and extra energy in lower treble. Btw, treble is not harsh, just has a bit of a lift together with more forward upper mids.

Cayin RU6 + Galaxy S22 – I probably saved the best for last. Tonality is similar to LPGT with just a little more body in the lower mids which gives the sound a more natural tonality and makes the treble sound smoother. Great pair up synergy.

meze-advar-30.jpg

Conclusion.

It probably feels like I turned the Intro of this review into the Conclusion with my discussion about eartips. I addressed it in the Intro because some people already made up their mind after auditioning Advar at CanJam SGP, missing out on full potential of what these hi-res audio nuggets can deliver. While having a unique shape, Advar has a shorter nozzle and shallower fit, making the eartips selection crucial not just for comfort and isolation, but also to make sure lower treble is non-fatigue and overall tuning is more balanced.

The included Type-E eartips are high quality, but it might not work for everybody, like it didn’t work for me. But once you invest some time into tip rolling to find that sweet spot, you will be rewarded with a balanced sound signature and clear revealing non-fatigue tonality. The high level of clarity and detail retrieval was impressive, and sound sig was nicely balanced with a deep textured bass extension and natural revealing mids/vocals. If this is a type of tuning you are looking for, you should give Meze Audio Advar a serious consideration!
alota
alota
thank you for review. i wrote in your blog but i ask again. this iem is in my list after tried ca vega 2020. about tips, which is the diameter of the nozzles? the azla crystal is sold only in one diameter? thank you
gadgetgod
gadgetgod
Great Review,

I also got to try this beauty recently at an event in my country. I love the smooth and inoffensive sound of these with an expansive soundstage. Although I am going to prefer IE600 as it sounds more neutral and more suited to my taste.
  • Like
Reactions: alota
The Oath
The Oath
Thank you for this great review. This was one of the ones that helped my decide on the Advar for my first purchase of headphones/IEM. Having them for a week now and can say I am very impressed with them. Did not expect an IEM to be able to have such good captivating sound. Being a home audio enthusiast my whole life that's all I had for reference. Now that I have taken the step into Head-Fi I am kicking myself for not getting into it sooner. The $ to SQ ratio is definitely a huge plus compared to home audio.

darmanastartes

500+ Head-Fier
Explosive
Pros: great bass dynamics, note weight, and texture, realistic timbre, balanced midrange tuning
Cons: MMCX may be a con for some, dynamic driver diaphragms can pop out of alignment and compromise bass response, not as technical as some comparatively priced all-BA monitors, average soundstage, instrument separation, and imaging for price point
_DSC1202-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit (90).jpg

INTRODUCTION AND DISCLAIMER:​

The Meze Audio Advar is an in-ear monitor (IEM) using a single 10.2 mm dynamic driver. The Advar retails for $699. I received the Advar through a review tour organized by Meze Audio. I had the Advar for a little more than a week before writing my review. I am responsible for shipping costs to the next reviewer on the tour, and I am not being otherwise compensated for writing this review.
I previously published brief impressions of the Advar here.

SOURCES:​

I evaluated the Meze Audio Advar with the Hidizs S9, the Xumee dongle, and the Qudelix 5K.

MUSIC:​

I have tested these headphones with local FLAC and Spotify Premium. Visit my last.fm page to get an idea of what I listen to:
XenosBroodLord’s Library | Last.fm

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:​

The Meze Audio Advar comes in a tall square black box. In addition to the IEMs and a removable MMCX cable, the package includes a rigid zippered clamshell carry case, an MMCX removal tool, a cleaning tool, a user manual, and 5 pairs (SS, S, M, L, LL sizes) of Final Audio Type-E eartips.
The manual indicates that these tips improve the bass performance and “reduce harsh tones in the high-frequency range,” a claim which is supported by my objective measurements of various eartips in use with the Advar. I recommend sticking with these tips if possible.
_DSC1240-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit.jpg

The carry case is luxurious, with a metal stamp embossed with the Meze Audio logo on the top face. The case has two large mesh pockets on the interior of each half and a fabric loop on the spine for use with a carabiner.

BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN:​

_DSC1224-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit.jpg

The design language of the Meze Audio Advar will be familiar to anyone who has seen any of Meze Audio’s higher-end products. It is a mix of matte gold and polished black that screams “premium.” The form factor is more stylized than ergonomic, but the earpieces are small enough that this does not compromise comfort.
_DSC1219-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit.jpg

There is a circular vent at the bottom of the shallow funnel-shaped faceplate and another at the base of the nozzle. The nozzles have large lips to secure eartips.
_DSC1233-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit.jpg

The included cable uses a quad-braid below the Y-split and a double-helix braid on each strand above the Y-split. There is strain relief above the 3.5mm jack and both above and below the Y-split. The 3.5mm jack and Y-split hardware are dark chrome with white detailing. The cable has pre-formed earguides. The use of MMCX is noteworthy, as most manufacturers have moved to 2-pin connectors, which seem to enjoy better long-term durability.

USABILITY CONCERNS:​

_DSC1223-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit.jpg

Covering the circular vent at the base of the Meze Audio Advar’s nozzle negatively affects bass response. This is an issue with certain aftermarket eartips with long stems, such as the Azla SednaEarFitLight.
In addition, it is possible for the diaphragm of the Advar’s dynamic driver to pop out of place during insertion into the ear canal, which compromises the Advar’s bass response. If this occurs, one has to pop the diaphragm back into place by pushing the Advar deeper into the ear canal, ideally with large or double-flange eartips. This was also an issue with the Dunu Luna, albeit to a lesser extent, and is likely related to just how thin the diaphragm on the Advar is. This thinness is important to the Advar’s technical performance, but manufacturers ought to work to mitigate this issue in future high-end single dynamic driver designs.

COMFORT, FIT, AND ISOLATION:​

_DSC1216-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit.jpg

The Meze Audio Advar is intended to be worn cable-up. It has a moderate insertion depth. Comfort for long-term wear is average. Secureness of fit is above average, and isolation is excellent. The included cable is not very microphonic.

MEASUREMENTS:​

Meze Advar.png

My measurements are conducted with a Dayton iMM-6 microphone using a vinyl tubing coupler and a calibrated USB sound interface. The measurements use a compensation file derived from relating my raw measurements to published measurements from Crinacle and Antdroid. These measurements should not be directly compared to IEC-compliant measurements, particularly above 6 kHz.
Please note that the substantial elevation around 7 kHz is the combination of an actual lower treble peak with the resonance peak created by the coupler.
I will be receiving an IEC-711-compliant microphone soon, but I will no longer have the Advar in my possession by the time it arrives.

SOUND:​

_DSC1218-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit.jpg

The Meze Audio Advar has a bass-heavy tuning offset by a lower-treble emphasis.
Though the bass is most elevated in the sub-bass region, there is a tremendous amount of slam and impact in addition to rumble. This has the potential to be fatiguing but is a good fit for most of the music I listen to. Bass articulation is very good for a dynamic driver, and the presentation is fittingly kinetic. There is very good note weight and bass texture. Bass detail leaves a little to be desired. The bass does not bleed so much as overshadow the lower midrange.
The Advar has moderate pinna gain compensation centered between 2–3 kHz. Vocal intelligibility is generally good, but I would like more separation between vocals and midrange instrumentation. Male vocals have body but could use a little more grit, and I would prefer slightly more presence and midrange clarity overall. In general, though, the tuning works for hard rock and heavy metal. Downtuned and distorted electric guitars have an appropriate degree of bite without taking on the attributes of buzzsaws. Female vocals are vibrant without coming across as strident. Female vocals tiptoe to the edge of sibilance but do not cross over into it. The Advar has a very natural timbre.
The Advar has a distinct lower treble peak which has the effect of counterbalancing the strong sub-bass elevation. The treble presentation is engaging but can be harsh depending on the track. Upper treble extension is moderate. Transient delivery is clear and not too splashy or diffuse. Detail retrieval is adequate but inferior to peers at this price point that specialize in this attribute, such as the Moondrop S8. Soundstage width is above average, but instrument separation and imaging are average.

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS AND SOURCE PAIRING:​

_DSC1222-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit.jpg

The Meze Audio Advar is surprisingly easy to drive. I did not notice hiss with any of my sources.

CLOSING WORDS:​

_DSC1227-ARW_DxO_DeepPRIME-Edit.jpg

The Meze Audio Advar is an IEM that begs to be played loudly. Anyone familiar with the Meze Audio house sound should have a good sense of what the Advar brings to the table. If you’re looking for a fun and physical IEM at the $700 mark, the Advar is a great choice if you can get over the design quirks.

gLer

Headphoneus Supremus
Meze Advar: Smooth Operator
Pros: Class-leading design, build, and ergonomics
Clear, balanced, and powerful sound
Smooth, easy-listening tonality with zero fatigue
Technically excellent performance
Cons: Not the best stock cable
Lacking a balanced cable in the box
Very tip sensitive, including stock tips
Not the most resolving vocal performance
Preface: I was sent a review sample of the Meze Advar as part of the global Tour (thank you @Andykong). Prior to reviewing, I spent two days burning in the drivers, though didn’t make any notes on burn-in changes. I was also sent Meze’s 4.4mm balanced cable for Advar as part of the tour package, which is available separately for $149 direct from Meze. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own, based on my music library and preferences.

Advar_20.jpg

Introduction

Meze is a company that has always impressed me, first and foremost, with outstanding industrial design, build quality, and ergonomics. Founded in 2011 by Antonio Meze in the picturesque town of Baia Mare, Romania, the company came to prominence with the launch of the 99 Classics headphone in 2015. The Classics were starkly different from other mid-priced over-ear headphones at the time, with a striking wood-metal-and-leather design that turned heads, if not ears, to its exemplary craftsmanship.

Since then, Meze has released several iconic products, including its most recent Empyrean and Empyrean Elite headphones that occupy the high ground in headphone styling and comfort. Its smaller-format IEM products have made less of a splash, however. The 12 Classics is rather basic sound-wise but still elegantly made, while the Rai Penta ‘flagship’ received mixed reviews for its laid-back sound, but across-the-board admiration for class-leading build quality and comfort.

Enter Advar, Meze’s new IEM that, at $699, sits between the cheap $69 12 Classics and not-so-cheap $1099 Rai Penta. Unlike Rai Penta’s multi-driver design, Advar is based on a 10.2mm dual-vented dynamic driver, encased in a small, ergonomic stainless steel shell polished to a brilliant black finish, with a distinctive circular brass inlay that doubles as one of the bass vents.

Advar_10.jpg


Single driver designs seem to be enjoying a mini-revival in the higher-end IEM market, and, when well-made and tuned, bring with them the advantage of perfect sonic coherence, light weight, accurate timbre, and easy-on-the-ear ergonomics. The ‘downside’ is that they generally struggle to match the technical ability of higher-end multi-driver IEMs, which employ fast and precise BA, electrostat or planar drivers (and often a combination of these) to bolster an IEM’s ability to resolve more detail, achieve higher speed, or create a larger sense of stage.

Advar embraces all the single driver advantages I listed above, with technical ability that won’t be embarrassed alongside costlier multi-driver IEMs. It also features one of the most unique shell designs – with an exceedingly comfortable universal fit – that I’ve come to expect from the Meze standard. But before I prematurely start singing its praises, let's take a closer look at what you get, how I hear it, and let you be the judge.

Advar_02.jpg

Packaging and presentation

Advar ships in a black hardboard box, adorned with a gold foiled crest of what I presume to be a symbol from Romanian lore. Removing the slip cover reveals a black foiled version of the crest on the box lid. Inside, the first thing you’ll see is the Advar shells, inlaid into a velvet-lined foam block, like two pieces of fine onyx and brass jewelry.

Beneath the shells, Meze has included some quality accessories, though it’s not what I’d call a generous package. This includes a beautifully-printed high-gloss booklet with hi-res images of Advar and some words about Meze’s design philosophy; a superbly made and styled hard-shelled case with faux leather exterior and soft felt interior, with two mesh pockets for storage; a silver-plated copper single-ended (3.5mm) mmcx cable; a cleaning brush, a clever mmcx removal tool that actually works; and a selection of genuine Final E-type silicone tips.

Advar_12.jpg

I would have preferred to see a 4.4mm cable in the box, with either a single-ended adapter or a second single-ended cable as standard. While Meze’s balanced cable – which I got to test as part of the tour – is available for a not-too-hefty $149, neither cable is what I’d call premium, being rather thin, wiry, and prone to tangling.

This doesn’t quite fit with the darker styling and premium build of the IEMs, and ergonomically the weight of the stainless steel earpieces makes them feel unbalanced on the thinner cable, despite the moulded earhooks. I’d personally opt for a higher quality third-party cable in any case, not necessarily for better sonics, but definitely for better ergonomics.

Advar_04.jpg

Design and Fit

Make no mistake, Advar is as beautiful in hand as it photographs. The smooth steel fascias exude quality craftsmanship, as does the distinctive ‘horn-like’ inlay on each earpiece that reminds me of the aspirational Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus. In the ear, the small size and shallow brass nozzles make for an easy fit, the cool metal shells lending themselves to all-day wearing comfort.

This is not the warm, skin-like metal finish of Rai Penta, one of the most comfortable IEMs I’ve used to date, but after a solid three-hour session I don’t feel any discomfort from the tiny Advar shells. You may want to go one-up on your tip size, depending on the size of ear canals, in order to get a tight fit. As with any IEM – but with Advar in particular – a tight seal is crucial for optimal sound, without which the Advar might only appeal to those who love shrill, piercing highs.

Advar_05.jpg

As an aside, I don’t recommend the included Final E-type tips. While I managed to get a decent seal (I have small, narrow ear canals so that’s never a problem for me), I found the E-types played havoc with the midrange and lower treble, letting in too much air and spoiling the midrange balance. Therefore, all my impressions for this review were made using original Spiral Dot tips, which edged out Acoustune AET07 tips for comfort for me, and didn’t lose much to the Acoustunes for sound. I also tried my go-to Sony EP-EX11 tips, but found the treble too sizzly for my liking.

I tried a quick cable swap too, but found little to encourage further rolling from a sound perspective. Regardless of the cable you choose, I suggest you take your time tip rolling extensively, especially if you find Advar’s treble too forward or harsh at first listen.

Advar_09.jpg

Sound Impressions

For an IEM with a fairly sizeable dynamic driver, I found Advar’s overall tuning very balanced. Tonally it’s a slight W-shape to my ears, with bass elevated above neutral (but only slightly), mids – especially upper mids – crisp and clear, and treble confidently forward, detailed and airy, but also smooth and natural. This is not a warm tuning, but it’s not overly bright either. The crystalline treble and articulate bass lend themselves to hours of fatigue-free listening, and I’m yet to hear any hint of sibilance – other than when I wore the ‘wrong’ tips.

Bass. Controlled yet powerful is how I’d describe Advar’s slightly north-of-neutral bass delivery. You can tell there’s a proper dynamic driver inside that steely shell, with a good sense of rumble and weight where the music calls for it, and a neatly-struck balance between sub- and midbass.

The big drum salvo in Heidi Talbot’s Cathedrals fills the space with heft and commendable texture, without ever drowning Heidi’s delicate vocals. Sub-bass reaches deep in James Blake’s Limit To Your Love, though it doesn’t quite rattle the skull like some subwoofer-style IEMs, while at the other end of the bass spectrum, the kick drums in the Eagles’ live performance of Hotel California have all the hallmarks of a really well-tuned bass driver behind them.

Overall, I wouldn’t qualify this as basshead bass, but it’s a satisfying bass nonetheless. It doesn’t add much warmth, nor does it add fullness to the notes. Still, it’s cohesive and detailed, with a natural decay that makes bass-driven tracks thoroughly enjoyable.

Advar_06.jpg

Midrange. Lower mids are fairly neutral, male vocals coming across neither overly full nor forward or recessed in any way. This lends itself to the more neutral-leaning tuning, but also makes way for some of the most open and revealing upper mids I’ve heard lately. This is not a forward upper-mid tuning either, but the way vocals (particularly female vocals) tend to sit in front of, or at least level with, most instruments, without ever being shouty or sibilant, is quite an achievement. Those looking for strident upper mids won’t find them here, but I don’t find them lacking either.

If the mids lack anything, it’s probably vocal resolution (I’ll get to that shortly), but it’s not as if Advar is unresolving. Rather, it’s tuned for smoothness over ultimate detail retrieval, and if I had to pick a preference, that’s what I’d go for. It’s also not the fullest sounding IEM I’ve heard, and goes for clarity over warmth. It’s not dry to the point of being sterile, but it’s not what I’d call an overly organic sound either.

Alanis Morisette’s distinctive vocals on Uninvited are delivered with a smoothness I don’t often hear on this powerful track, as is Missy Higgins’ crisp, sibilant-prone voice in Shark Fin Blues. Some would say both tracks are a touch too smooth, even, but I’m hearing enough nuance and clarity to make them stand out from the mix, and I much prefer this type of laid-back presentation to a mid-forward, high-energy sound. I also like how male vocals are presented distinctly and don’t get lost in bass-driven tracks like Peter Gabriel’s Grieve. The same goes for busier tracks like Richard Marx’s Hazard, with his voice rising above the punchy bassline and ever-present tambourine treble.

Overall, there’s much to like in Advar’s midrange delivery. On some tracks, like Ocie Elliott’s Slow Tide, I even hear it as slightly mid-centric, without having to resort to muted bass or stunted treble as is the case with some other mid-centric IEMs I’ve heard of late.

Advar_08.jpg

Treble. This is where impressions might swing wildly, depending on the tips you use. If I couldn’t tip-roll beyond the stock E-Type tips and the Sony EP-EX11s, I’d swear the Advar’s treble was way too hot and sizzly for my liking.

Thankfully, using Spiral Dot and Acoustune tips saved the day, and I have to say Advar’s treble is now one of beauty to my ears. It has the ability to highlight the small, shiny sounds and effects in most tracks, the ripples off guitar strings, and pings of bells and chimes, and almost render them on a separate layer to other sounds. It gives the music a sense of crystalline clarity, with just enough air between vocals and instruments, and plenty of sparkle without ever crossing the line to sibilance.

The medieval flutes and bells in Angels of Venice’s Trotto are pristinely rendered, as are the stick instruments and shakers throughout this lively instrumental track. The striking highlights of the clocks in Pink Floyd’s famous intro to Time are also perfectly pitched without ever getting too spiky, and the strings of Max Richter’s orchestra in his recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Winter 1 are spritely, lively, and lightning-quick, without ever getting too pitchy.

If anything, I’d say Advar’s treble, once tempered with the right tips, could even be a touch too smooth for some listeners, especially those who want extra energy and crunch from their guitars and cymbal crashes. Then again, they can probably get that with a tip swap, although I think the added quantity won’t come with a corresponding jump in quality.

Advar_07.jpg

Stage, to my ears, is above average in all dimensions. It’s not quite as wide and cavernous as some, but I never felt the stage dimensions holding me back or presenting a track more intimately than I’m used to hearing it. Meiko’s Crush, masterfully recorded with a binaural microphone, is presented with a wide, deep sense of stage. It’s not what I’d call holographic, but rather more cohesive and realistic.

Layering and separation are excellent, some of the best I’ve heard from a single dynamic driver. The wide, deep stage lends itself to instruments and vocals occupying their distinct space, and that’s exactly what I hear, on the whole. Midge Ure’s 80s classic, Dear God, is replete with echoes and shimmers, all of which find their own niche on the stage. I’ve always wondered how that’s even possible with a single driver, but Advar is an example of how it’s not only possible, but when done well, can be quite mesmerising too. Imaging on this track is also very good, though in this case, not quite as accurate as you’d expect from a higher-end multi-driver IEM.

Resolution is the one aspect I wouldn’t rate as outstanding. While I still consider Advar a fairly resolving IEM, it’s not really digging into all the details I know are present in some vocal performances, Whitehorse’s Dear Irony and Angel Olsen’s Chance being two that come to mind. It’s only apparent when you know there to be more to a track than you’re hearing, and I mostly notice this in vocals rather than instruments, but if you want the last word in resolving power this isn’t it.

That said, I don’t think Advar is meant to be a detail monster, and I consider the smoother, more relaxed tuning one of its strengths. If you’re looking for a more contrasty, powerful sound, with wild macrodynamic swings, this probably isn’t it.

Advar_11.jpg

Select Comparisons and Pairings

I don’t have many other IEMs on hand to draw meaningful AB comparisons, but I can give you a general idea of where I feel Advar sits on the spectrum compared to IEMs I’ve used before.

For starters, I do have a BLON BL-03 that I keep around just because it’s too good not to. For you BLON fans out there, Advar is unquestionably the better-made IEM, with a more secure fit and significantly higher quality accessories. The BLON has one of my favourite tunings of any IEM at any price, however, which is to say it’s slightly warmer than Advar, with fuller notes and bass that hits harder and bigger too. Advar eclipses the BLON technically: it’s more resolving, more nuanced, and the sound is generally a step up in most metrics and overall quality. Both are excellent all-rounders, and if you’re willing to pair the BLON with better tips and a proper cable, it’s an easy recommendation for not a lot of money.

While I no longer have it with me, Sennheiser’s IE 900 is (and remains) my top pick for a single dynamic driver IEM. It has a similarly open, clear sound to Advar, but ups the bass quality by a notch or two, and is overall more resolving and refined. Advar by comparison is more evenly balanced, without the IE 900’s upper midrange dip and lower treble peaks that prove problematic to some (not me). Vocals are clearer and more forward with Advar, but IE 900 is more dynamic, with a bigger, more life-like sound. IE 900 also ships with better cables (two balanced cables as standard), and a wider selection of tips, and isn’t quite as tip sensitive as Advar for getting great sound out the box. Both IEMs are small enough with shorter nozzles that ‘disappear’ in my ears, with IE 900 just edging Advar for all-day comfort.

At the time of writing, I’m still waiting for my review sample of the newer Sennheiser IE 600, which sound-wise and price-wise should be more directly comparable to Advar.

Advar_17.jpg

Advar is a fairly transparent IEM, and though it doesn’t need much power at all given its easy-to-drive 111dB/31-ohm sensitivity, it still scales upward with source quality.

My favourite pairing was with HiBy’s RS6 R-2R DAP. It has a warmer, fuller tonality that works well with Advar’s slightly cooler tuning. Vocals are clear and natural, with a punchy, extended bass and smooth, crystal-clear treble. This is also the most balanced-sounding pair-up I tried, with no frequency over-dominating, and the technical level of both DAP and IEM are neatly matched.

Advar_18.jpg

A small step down from the RS6 in terms of preference – though not quality or power – is iFi’s xDSD Gryphon. Retailing for around the same price as Advar, this would be my pick if you don’t need a DAP, and prefer to keep tonality fairly neutral and revealing. While Gryphon gives you the option of adding some punch (xBass II) and air (xSpace) to Advar’s sound, I generally didn’t find myself using either. Treble is slightly thinner compared to RS6, and vocals are less full, but detail and extension are improved, so if you’re more of a technical listener, this pairing works better.

I also tried Advar briefly with iFi’s GO Blu dongle (using a wired connection to my LG V60 phone), and direct from the LG too, and while both had more than enough power, I didn’t find the overall sound balance satisfying with the smartphone only. I’d definitely recommend adding the GO Blu over listening directly from a phone, if only for the jump in refinement in sound (and my general dislike for the ESS Sabre DAC in the V60).

Advar_19.jpg

Closing Thoughts

Whenever Meze announce a new product, you just know it’s going to be a work of art. Advar continues the Romanian company’s tradition of creating uniquely styled and impeccably-crafted ear jewelry that satisfies beyond the listening.

There’s something both exciting and rewarding in owning a beautifully-made IEM like Advar. Importantly, though, I feel in Advar, Meze has finally realised the potential of its ‘house sound’ – which is as easy on the ear as it is on the eye – without compromising technical performance.

Advar, to me, is the most accomplished Meze IEM to date. As long as you’re willing to tip roll, it has a balanced, clear sound, with more than enough power in the bass, refinement in the mids, and sparkle in the treble to suit almost any genre without ever sounding harsh, sibilant or dull. It also has all the benefits of a single driver design, with fast, coherent sound, and a wider, deeper stage than other IEMs I’ve heard – especially in its price bracket.

Advar_13.jpg

For some reason, Meze is stubbornly consistent with its omission of a balanced cable as part of the stock package, and even its balanced cable is nowhere near as nice as similarly-priced but far better-made, more robust options from the likes of Effect Audio and PW Audio. But that aside, it’s a small price to pay for an IEM that, to me, is easily the flagship of the range, at least in terms of performance.

It may not be as technically advanced as more expensive options from Sennheiser, and doesn’t quite hit the level of the best multi-driver IEMs, but that’s comparing apples and oranges really. For the cost of entry, it sits alongside the IE 900 as my current top pick for a single dynamic driver IEM, and is big step up from the likes of Sennheiser’s IE 300 and Oriolus Isabellae.

There are few IEMs that can compete with Advar’s combination of world-class design, ergonomics and build quality, rivalling some of the very best multi-kilobuck IEMs in look, feel, finish, and comfort. I highly recommend Meze’s Advar to anyone looking for a well-priced, balanced-sounding, easygoing all-rounder of the highest order.

Advar_16.jpg
Ichos
Ichos
Great review and even greater photography!
yaps66
yaps66
Great review and drool worthy pictures!
  • Like
Reactions: gLer
G
gops2116
Great review. The photography is outstanding! I also agree with your RS6 pairing. The Advar seems to pair really well with the RU6 as well.
  • Like
Reactions: gLer

Ichos

Reviewer at hxosplus
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.)

IMG_20220510_184711.jpg


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.

IMG_20220510_185501.jpg


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.

IMG_20220510_185957.jpg


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.

IMG_20220510_190021.jpg


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.

IMG_20220510_185855.jpg


Cable

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.

IMG_20220510_190158.jpg


Accessories

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.

IMG_20220510_185720.jpg


Associated gear

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)

IMG_20220510_190551.jpg


Listening impressions

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.

R-13985871-1571577097-8283.jpg


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.

1649863626_LPH037.jpg


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.

r-13658685-1577703418-8959-300x300-q80.jpg


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.

IMG_20220510_190919.jpg


Selected comparisons

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.

IMG_20220506_181131.jpg


FiiO FD7(€660)/FDx

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.

IMG_20220510_184322.jpg


There are no winners or losers here, all three earphones are excellent sounding with three unique personalities to cater for different musical tastes.

IMG_20220510_184625.jpg


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.

Test playlist

Copyright - Petros Laskis 2022.
Last edited:
Ichos
Ichos
Thank you so much, glad that you liked it.
Scuba Devils
Scuba Devils
Great review. I'm on the Advar tour in a few weeks, looking forward to trying it... likewise IE600!
  • Like
Reactions: Ichos
Ichos
Ichos
Thanks, you are going to have some great time with both of them.
Single DD rules!
Top