Simple, Natural Beauty | Meze Alba Review

Simple, Natural Beauty | Meze Alba Review

Meze Audio is perhaps best known for the combination of incredible sound quality and craftsmanship that their high end headphones deliver, and they’ve been working to apply the same principles that drive excellence in their headphones to IEMs. With Advar, they created an IEM with the sort of materials and detailed, musical sound that we’ve come to expect from Meze, and now with Alba, they’re taking a similar design and bringing it down to a very accessible $159 price point. Can Alba deliver Meze’s distinctive sound and design for more budget conscious audiophiles?

Build and Design

Alba borrows its basic shape from the Meze Advar, but makes things quite a bit lighter – both in color and weight – replacing Advar’s black stainless steel with white aluminum and zinc. Being lighter takes away some of the premium feeling, but it does provide a better fit. While it has an easy, comfortable insertion, due to Alba’s unique shape, you may need to test out a few different eartips, or go a size up from your usual size to get a firm, secure fit.

Meze Alba Review

In a switch for Meze, Alba features a 2-pin socket rather than MMCX, and the included cable is a similar silver-plated copper design to the Rai Series cable bundled with previous Meze IEMs. Alba also includes a case, a set of silicone eartips, and a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter dongle. The full box and package are nice for the price, but I found that cable to experienced microphonics with some sources, and while the eartips were fine, most people will want to replace them with a more premium option. Cables and eartips are easy to swap out, but how does it sound?


If there’s one defining characteristic of Alba, it’s the highly natural delivery. While there’s a hint of warmth and a touch of smoothness to the sound, the tuning remains largely neutral, and it seems every other part of the sound is aimed at supporting the supremely natural timbre.

Meze Alba Review with Meze Advar

Alba’s bass is largely linear, offering good extension into the subbass, and a physical punch that can be easily coaxed out, but that is never overly emphasized. In the mids, you’ll find good fullness and a slightly forward vocal presentation, which offers a nice emphasis with pop and vocal music without becoming sibilant. The highs extend up with a good amount of air that tastefully rolls off into the upper reaches.

Alba presents a surprisingly three-dimensional image, with a good balance of width and depth to the soundstage. The three-dimensionality and the cohesion are the two strongest elements of the imaging. While instruments are clearly placed in the space, with a lifelike feeling, the image emphasizes the blending in the space between instruments, and Alba lacks truly holographic separation.

Two songs that demonstrate Alba’s strengths are “I Am the Moon” by Tedeschi Trucks Band, and “Alive” by Hiromi. Both capture the highly natural timbre and overall presentation, but offer highlight other key aspects of Alba’s sound. “I Am the Moon” features alternating male and female vocals on the verses, with big harmonies on the chorus. Alba offers an intimate, emotional presentation for both vocalists on the verse, and hits the big dynamics and blended harmonies on the chorus. Along with that the tonal balance and positioning of the band is great, with a nice sized staged, with plenty of space for each member of the twelve piece band to shine.

Meze Alba Review

With its focus on Hiromi's piano playing and the small jazz ensemble that accompanies her, Hiromi’s Alive album demonstrates the natural presentation, clear articulation, and strong dynamics of Alba. In particular, the title track demonstrates Alba’s ability to handle fast, complex passages and offer clear articulation of deft piano work and virtuoso musicianship, while the sense of space and balance in “Wanderer” offers some of the most lifelike timbre and imaging that I heard from Alba in my time with it.

Comparison: Moondrop Kato

For a clean, articulate sound, and above average build quality under $200, Alba is definitely a great pick, but the Moondrop Kato offers an alternative with some interesting innovations. Should you go with the simplicity of Alba or Moondrop’s take on the single Dynamic Driver IEM?

Meze Alba Review with Moondrop Kato

In terms of the build design and accessory package, I’d give Kato a slight edge. The Kato IEMs themselves are a little more substantial and the cable feels more premium. Kato also comes with detachable nozzles, and switching them out can have a subtle impact on the sound. In terms of fit though, I found that the weight of the Kato created some challenges in the fit, and the thicker cable feels nicer in the hand, but combined with the heavy IEM shells, made it harder to get a secure fit.

Kato has a small edge in the technical aspects of the sound, being slightly more resolving and presenting stronger separation in the image, but I found its timbre to lean more on the bright side and for the treble to become fatiguing more quickly than Alba. Alba is more natural and balanced, with the right amount of warmth and smoothness to provide a higher degree of versatility, being notably better for alternative, rock, and metal to my ears.

The Bottom Line

While Alba isn’t about to change the world, or cause a massive shake-up in the budget IEM category, it is an excellent all-around IEM. For $159 you get a design and total package that holds up to the Meze legacy, and a sound that captures a blend of accuracy and musicality that’s going to be perfect for anyone who is just as conscious of price as they are of sound.