Country of Origin



Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
DAP: Shanling M3 Ultra
IEM: Campfire Audio and HifiMan
Review component retail: €159

Albania. It's two countries over from Romania looking South-West. Between them sits Serbia. Alba is one model over from Meze's €699 Advar. Given its $159 ticket, it's more like two over; arguably more. It's our Romanian's new gateway in-ear so an accessible on-the-go choice. It gets a 3.5mm detachable leash plus USB-C adapter. Here's looking at you, smartphone kid.

Doing the shove is a 10.8mm dynamic driver promising 109dB/1mW at 32Ω.

Doing the fit are S, M, L and XL silicon tips.

Doing the enclosing is a zinc alloy with anodized aluminium bits.

Doing the numbers is claimed bandwidth of 12-25'000Hz.

Doing the voicing is a "neutral profile with added touch of warmth".

Doing the looking is an iridescent finish suggestive of perhaps porcelain or pearls while the name itself is 'first light' in Romanian.

So Alba is first to see the Meze light if one wants ear buds not flagship €4K big over-ear imperious Empyreans.

As real estate would put it, it's how to get on Meze's property ladder. Since we're not in a swanky London zip code but in Eastern Romania facing Moldovia and beyond that, the Ukraine, the ask doesn't mandate a mortgage, just some missed fancy dinners. It's not all gloom, doom and runaway high-end pricing then. But Alba sashays down Antonio Meze's runway. Sleek styling and a fashionable finish still matter. Meze's main man is a bona fide industrial designer after all. Shabby chic would be a contradiction in terms. And who wants to wear an oxy moron?

To keep pressure from trapped air in check, Alba sports that central bleed-off bore in the throat of a shallow depression. Were its centre a driver, we'd call it a miniature horn. This only vents the driver's back side. Once the right silicone tip creates a tight seal required for low bass, there's still pressure build-up in our ear canal. Basically IEM are ear plugs. They simply happen to make sound but still shield us from external noise. Playing plug-bear is intrinsic to today's category. For some, the feel of jammed-up ears just to enjoy music is an unsurmountable bugbear. For them Meze have two affordable over-ear models in the Classic range starting at €199. The great majority of mobile music consumers of course was reared on earbuds. They fancy their virtual invisibility and how easily they stow away when not worn. High sensitivity draws less battery power from mobile devices which run longer. For on the go, transducers like Alba are arguably the ultimate convenience. Like any other category, prices can cover vast terrain. Some IEM can demand more than €2'500 and pack two dozens or more miniature balanced-armature drivers; per channel. Alba's math is far simpler: one ear, one driver, no crossover.

The same simplicity applies to her universal fit. Custom IEM require a visit to the audiologist. He creates a mould of our inner ear from which the manufacturer crafts custom 'nozzles' to guarantee the most comfortable feel and efficient seal for our pair. Alba is a one-size-fits-all proposition; or more accurately, one of her four tips should fit us all. More universality packs with the pincer attack of 3.5mm and USB-C adapter. No matter what smartphone or DAP, it'll have one or the other port. Done. My shipment even bundled an alternate 4.4mm balanced leash. Done². It all speaks to even gift givers who rack their brains for a guaranteed winner that a teenager even 20-to-30-something could love without returning it for cash. To stay on brand, a gorgeous song by another Alba, family name Molina.

Alba plugged into my budget Shanling M3 Ultra DAP exclusively when I don't do smartphones for music. With Shanling's 3.5mm and 4.4mm ports, I could test both paths.

A traffic cop stops an Irish priest for speeding. He notices a strong smell of alcohol on the driver's breath. The clergyman insists that he hasn't had a drop to drink but the officer finds an empty wine bottle on the floor and starts to smell wine. The priest exclaims, "good lord, he's done it again!"

Small miracles. They're everywhere. If we arrive from big stationary hifi, any IEM that reproduces the full audible bandwidth from a driver smaller than a pinkie's nail can seem like a rather big miracle. No joke; not even a lame one like that of the Irishman who walks up to a railway station's ticket counter with a "I'd like a return ticket." "Where to?" "To here of course!" says he.

With Alba, getting there and back should take very little doing indeed.