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Over-Ear item created by MezeTeam, Nov 3, 2015
Pros - Wooden cups. Sound. Build. Less clamping force
Cons - Not that different from the neo. debatable if its worth an extra 100.
Previously, I reviewed the Meze 99 neo, a great headphone that everyone on my team loved. I even put it as “all in one solution” for both home and portable usage. Now we review its bigger brother, the Meze 99 classic. With minimal differences, I was doubtful that there would be any sound differences. However, to my surprise there were few notable differences aside from the “looks.” Read on to find out more.
Meze is a Romanian audio company that has their values set right.
Meze Headphones had stood by its values since the beginning of the company, we did not follow trends and let them influence the audio quality and design of our headphones. They are timeless objects that will not go out of style the next season. We achieved this through patience and dedication.
And where there is values lies passion:
Our passion for music and art is the drive behind Meze headphones. We created our range of headphones and earphones with this aspect in mind. We created them as if for ourselves.
and their wood craftsman ship set above normal standards:
The choice of wood is an inherently difficult one. Obtaining the desired qualities for wooden parts is a long and hard path. The rich colors of walnut require the use of air drying, the longer and more expensive process. Steam or kiln drying are cheaper techniques, but the colors tend to be washed out and there are also structural risks. It takes eighteen months for the wood to dry properly. This is the timeframe needed only for curing and drying the lumber before any further processing can begin. We are patient: we know that the result is worth the wait.
Then, the process of shaping just a single pair of earcups takes up to 8 hours. The whole process of sanding, lacquering, and finishing lasts 45 days. We could cut corners, but we don’t sell ice cream. We fight time: this is the pride of the creator.
The craftsmanship of our designs is paramount. It allows us to show the world our products almost exactly as imagined. The wooden components are carefully inspected and no flaws are permitted to reach the final assembly. Aesthetics are as important for us as they are for you. We want you to wear a pair of Meze Headphones and know that you are enjoying a timeless art piece.
It is worth mentioning that all the wood that we use in our headphones is strictly harvested from sources with certificate of origin. That is, mature trees that have reached the end of their life cycle. This way, we are helping the environment and we’re giving the old trees a chance to shine one more time in the shape of Meze Headphones.
This review unit was sent to me by Meze for this review. As usual, all my reviews will stay honest and unbiased
Transducer size: 40mm
Frequency response: 15Hz – 25KHz
Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
Impedance: 32 Ohm
Rated input power: 30mW
Maximum input power: 50mW
Detachable Kevlar OFC cable
Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
Weight: 260 gr (9.2 ounces) without cables
Ear-cups: walnut wood
THE BUILD QUALITY
The build quality is incredible for the price and I have no complaints. Might as well skip this section if you are looking for anything but praise.
The headphone is asymmetrical, allowing you to plug in the connectors any way you like it. Left & Right is irrelevant. This might seem like a small thing but it is extremely convenient in the long run. – same as the 99 neo
Meze also decided to magically make the headphones more comfortable and fit large types of head sizes be making the headphone adjustments “auto-adjustable,” with it stretching mechanism. There is nothing you need to do to get the perfect fit, Meze says “this is our job.” The headphone fit perfectly with great comfort and isolation. I felt like the headphones were customized for my head. – same as the 99 neo
Unlike its little brother, the classic comes in nice walnut wooden cups, which in my opinion looks incredible and contributed to the sonic characteristics of this unit.
I do not understand how Meze can automatically find a way to make great stock cables when most companies out there cannot. With that being said, they do come with two cables, one longer cable for home use and one shorter one with control buttons for travel. The cables are braided up to the point of the splitters and then splits into a plastic/rubbery material that also do not feel cheap. I prefer this kind of mechanism (as long as it does not feel like cheap plastic/rubber) because it reduces the microphonic. – Same as the neo
The connectors are 3.5mm and terminates in a 3.5mm with a ¼ inch adaptor.
The case that comes with the headphones is very nice and sturdy however, the headphones do not fit unless you unplug the connectors. They do include a separate case just for the cables but this is very inconvenient on the go and I would like to see a case where you do not need to unplug the connectors. – same as the neo
The clamping force is less than the neo, which I believe contributes to the sound differences.
The metal suspension seems sturdy and very solid. Although I felt like it was a little bit thin, I understand that the headphone needed to lose all the weight it can, for transportation use. – same as the neo
The pads are also very soft and surprisingly comfortable despite its small size. I did find that the cups were a little bit too small and may not fit everyone’s ears perfectly “inside the cups” – same as the neo
You want to talk about style. Let us talk about style. Hands down, my favorite looking headphones. I personally like the wooden design more than the 99 neo.
Overall, the sound signature is like that of the neo, so go check out that review for more “how it sounds like,” here, I will be talking about the differences.
What I believe changes the sound: different clamping force & wooden cups.
There is not much sound difference unless you really sit down and go back and forth numerous time on the same track. If you want a great all in one solution at a cheaper value, you go with the neo. If you have a big head or really like wood then you go with the classic.
Pros - Very musical, well built, stylish
Cons - Tends to get uncomfortable if worn for longer periods of time.
A lot has been said about these headphones so I will try not to focus on how awesome they are, revealing some aspects a potential customer should take into account before spending his or her hard earned money.
Construction: These babies are built to last. The wood is prone to scratching of course but other than they will not break so easily. And don't forget you can always replace almost every single part in case it breaks. 5 stars.
Design and fit: Best for casual or classic style. I would not recommend taking these headphones for a hike or in the gym. The band tends to stretch on every abrupt move and you'll get quite a lot of microphonics. Especially from the metal parts. Also the pads will get hot over time so you'll need to literally cool your head once in a while. The clamping force is very well managed and you can even wear glasses with the headphones (which is big plus in my case). Even so, a few minutes of rest every hour or two would be welcome for your ears and jaw muscles. 4 stars for comfort.
Bass: coming from an open back DT-880 Vintage (where the bass is like a whisper), I was literally blown away by M99C. The bass is punchy, well defined and controlled. It feels too much at times, especially in quiet environments but that is normal for a closed back. 4.5 stars.
Mids: The main reason why I bought these and I was right. A very natural reproduction of piano and guitar sound. Vocals are a bit forward, "in front of the orchestra", you can hear every whisper, every drop of saliva in the mouth of the vocalist. That is truly something. 5 stars.
Highs: I'm a spoiled child here. I own a pair of Sony XBA-H3 and their armature drivers create a tremble that is hard to beat. Meze's dinamic driver is simply not in the same league. Highs are played accurately and only on very complicated compositions a slight loss of detail can be observed. Still, they are not sparkling like on XBA. If you are into jazz or trap, Meze may not be for you. 4 stars.
Soundstage: It is OK. No praise, no complains here. The average soundstage of a closed back. The separation is good, though and that is enough. 4.5 stars
Overall: a mature sound signature, very natural and pleasant, with an engulfing bass and forward mids. I don't think these headphones have a "warm " sound. That is an epitet reserved for Senns. That makes M99C your best bet for live music, rock and classical music. In fact, Meze are quite omnivore and I am almost sure that every genre could be enjoyed with these cans. 4.5 stars
Requirements to source:
They work well straight from my iPod touch but will scale significantly with a good DAC (I use them with a Pegasus II HP). 5 stars
Pros - Light, comfortable, musical, dynamic and warm sound
Cons - Earpads can get a bit warm, bass can be over emphasised
My route to headphone bliss!
My story wouldn't have started at all if it wasn't for the crappy headband quality of my previous pair of headphones, the Focal Spirit Professional. After a 2nd pair cracked-up on me, believe me when I say I wasn't! Pity, because the sound was all I wanted in a headphone, or at least I thought that to be the case at the time. Comfort, on the other hand was bearable, certainly not in the same league as my Sennheiser HD558's but noticeably better than my Grado SR80's. I have to start by saying that my headphone requirements have somewhat changed since my early foray into head gear. I used to be of the opinion that closed back headphones were boxy sounding and lacking in "air" and soundstage qualities. That was largely true at the time(early 90's) and I went for the highly-rated and reasonably priced Grado SR-80's, which to my ears were dynamic and free-flowing in sound but also quite harsh sounding as well. About 4 or 5 years ago I picked-up the Sennheiser HD-558's for a bargain price(about £90 if remember correctly). These were so comfortable, very smooth sounding and their soundstage was excellent. Quite the opposite of the Grado's in fact but lacking dynamic expression. However, I was able to listen to them for hours on end in comfort, without my ears getting fatigued as they did with the Grado's.
So coming more up to date, a couple of years ago I decided that in a busy household I needed sealed headphones to keep sound both in and out for everyone's sanity. I had listened to the Bose QC25's, which were amazing for keeping out sound, but made me feel like I was on a train going through a tunnel at times. They also lacked clarity and refinement, so were out of the running. I went into a branch of GAK and checked out the Shure SR840(good value but harsh), Shure 940(very bright and lacking bass - these were on special offer and I could see why based on what I'd heard), Beyer Dynamic DT770(comfy but closed and muffled sounding to me), Audio Technica M50's(boomy bass and harsh treble). I also listened to the Sennheiser HD650's as a reference, just in case there is, in fact, something wrong with my hearing. Fortunately for me, these sounded great, even on an iphone, but being open cans, they were contrary to my headphone objectives. Onwards to Richer Sounds. I listened to the AKG 550's, which are highly rated by many publications. Good open sound for closed cans, but they were harsh in the upper midband and treble. Onto the Shure SR1540's. Incredibly well made and comfortable. Very smooth sounding(too smooth and a bit boring really), but with an elevated upper bass and treble in a "loudness button" fashion. Expensive too! The Oppo PM3's were very neutral and clean but unexciting to my ears. Probably didn't give these enough of a chance, but none of these cans compared to the Focal Spirit Pros! So after 2 years of headphone contentment from a sound point of view, if not comfort and build quality, I found myself in the market for headphones once again. Step forward the Meze 99 Classics! As I had done with the FSP's, I read many reviews to gauge the quality of sound and comfort, especially as there were no dealers within a sensible distance to audition. It would cost me almost as much in travel costs to audition as to buy, so I took a punt based on reviewers I have come to know and trust as having sound preferences similar to my own and ordered a Walnut/Silver pair of 99 Classics.
As soon as I put these onto my head I knew the comfort concerns were not going to be a problem. My main concern would be with the earpads getting warm and they do a bit. However providing the ambient temperature isn't too high and you are not doing anything too strenuous they're not too bad. Head clamp force seems fine to me, although after the FSP's I was used to this and the 99C's are much nicer to wear. Not Sennheiser 558 comfort, but close enough. They are nice and light too!
After the Focal Spirit Pros, I could not bring myself to trust Focal's quality of construction again. So when I was looking into the 99 Classic's, the metal headband(even if it does ring occasionally when you go to scratch your head, it won’t snap in a hurry), wooden ear-cups(look and feel quality), kevlar cables(cable microphony isn’t a big deal to me) et al definitely had an influence on my purchase decision. Opening the box, surveying the walnut and silver finish, quality of fit and finish is first class. They are stunning to behold and every pair is unique to boot!
Straight out of the box, the bass bloats a bit and the treble is wispy and lacking in detail - all the usual qualities of a brand new set of cans really.
After a few hours things improved noticeably in the areas mentioned and I could clearly hear the potential of these cans.
On the third day with my new Meze 99 Classics. Sound-wise, the changes are more subtle now. I think the bass is a bit more solid but it still has a luscious warmth to it, which I am liking for the most part. My Focal Spirit Pros were more controlled throughout the bass region, but burn-in times are not on a par just yet so it's too early to say, although I think the bass warmth of the 99C's is here to stay. I'm not sure if I prefer it to the FSP's but it is a nice change after having got used to a particular sound signature for a couple of years, one that was punchy and extended, albeit slightly drier and more neutral in presentation. One area where I think the 99C's have improved is in what “Naimee's" would call P.R.A.T. which I guess falls into line with my previous comment about improved solidity in the bass region. I imagine this will be where the 40 hour burn in time comes into play - not there yet, but homing in rapidly. Reckon I'm on 25 hours now. The treble seems a little more incisive at this point, with a more natural decay to cymbals. Now I'm only listening via a Macbook Pro headphone output and I haven't hooked up my Firestone Fubar 4 headphone amp at this point, so it'll be interesting to see if this makes any difference at all(it certainly did with my FSP's but I'm not convinced it'll make such a difference with the 99C's).
I think the stand out sound point for me is the sheer sweetness and musicality of the 99C's, they are a lot more of an easy listen than the FSP's, unsurprising really as they are a studio monitoring headphone. Liquid comes to mind and at the moment I am loving it.
Day 4 - things have settled down across the frequency range now. Far less of the errant bass and treble of day 1, but the lovely, musical warmth the 99C's exhibit still shines through like a beacon. Been listening to some more rock today and another thing has struck me about the sound, the 99C's really shine when there is a distorted guitar sound. I guess the effect is akin to that of tube v solid-state amp and you fellow guitarists will know what I mean by that. There is something about the way distortion is rendered, in that it makes the music much creamier and more listenable. I often find the sound of distorted guitars to be a problem for headphones(and hi-fi equipment generally) in that there is often a glare to the sound that is harsh, making certain genres of music unpleasant to listen to. Now the 99C’s certainly aren’t perfect, but my hearing isn't and I'm not sure that ultra high end headphones would do a "better" job than the 99C's in terms of listenability. I am convinced that the slightly elevated bass warmth and possibly the wooden maple tonality may be the reason for this. Again, I have to stress that I am listening through the bare output of a Macbook Pro, so I'm sure the sound will notch up further when a dedicated headphone amp is used.
Something I haven't mentioned yet is the soundstage. Wow, for closed back headphones the 99C's are very good and that along with fairly good sound isolation means they are very practical for all kinds of situations. The sense of space instruments are given is fine indeed, not in a sterile, analytical way, but retaining the feeling of togetherness at all times and the focus on the emotion and performance of a song. Don’t get me wrong here, they are detailed enough, without being overly analytical.
So here we are just over a week in. I reckon I'm just past the 40 hour burn in point and I can speak more clearly about my impressions of the 99C's. The bass seems to be getting better as time goes on. Listening to "Forgotten places" by Alif Tree there is a pronounced double bass line which sounds wonderfully fluid and tactile without being boomy. This track would highlight bass inadequacies quite clearly and I'm happy that the drivers in the 99C's are subtly changing for the better. The bass has P.R.A.T. whilst remaining warm. The treble seems to have smoothed out and become more detailed as well. These headphones are so easy to listen to and yet they are not "easy listening" in their presentation owing to the vivacity and musical pleasure they convey. My first week has been immensely satisfying and I'm glad I didn't splurge on the B&W P7 wireless I'd auditioned in a shop the week before. These headphones are much better than those, sonically speaking, although the bluetooth convenience would have been nice.
Three weeks in and I'm not sure if my ears are deceiving me but I'm still hearing improvements in the bass. The tubbiness has largely gone, although the warmth is still there. Midrange performance seems to be better as well, although I think this may be because the bleed from bass region has reduced, bringing out the midrange qualities. Listening to James Brown’s classic album “In the Jungle Groove”, snare and drum hits seem to have more dynamic expression and those subtle shuffles that Clyde Stubblefield produces on the “Funky drummer” have more impact and separation than before. Charles Sherrell’s bass line is rich and mellifluous. Some people scoff at burn-in time on equipment - I beg to differ!
I am about 6 weeks into ownership of these cans now. I have been listening with my iPhone 5S, MacBook Pro headphone output and finally, my headphone amp, the Firestone Fubar 4 amp/dac.
The sound definitely steps up in definition and clarity through this amp, but the fundamental musicality of the 99C’s remains the same. What is nice is that I don’t really miss not having playback through a higher end source, which I thought might be the case when I finally got around to using a dedicated headphone amp. Having said that, one can definitely appreciate a better source - it doesn’t go un-noticed when it’s there.
Just sounding out my thoughts(pun intended), I’m amazed by how the 99C’s scale up or down without embarrassing the sound source. The quality of the recording matters, of course, but a lot of headphones are barely listenable on poor, compressed recordings - not the case with these. This is good news because I don’t feel the need to seek out the best recordings any more, which makes a lot of music more accessible now. This would not be the case with my Grado SR80’s, which would literally strip the skin off the inside of my ear drum on poor recordings that I can listen to quite comfortably with the 99C’s. Critics might say this is the transparency superiority of the Grado’s - say what you like, but if I can listen to music comfortably for longer, both physically and aurally, that is good news as far as I’m concerned.
At the 2 month point, I would say the 99 Classics have really settled in now, to the point where they are, to my ears, not going to change noticeably any more. They are not perfect sonically, but musically they are divine. I have continued to hear their sound attributes blossom. Whether this is still burn-in or me getting used to their sonic signature, I don’t know anymore. What I can say is that these are extremely enjoyable and sound exceptional for the money. Highly recommended, whatever your choice of music or means of playback, as a long-term investment in head-fi pleasure. Enjoy!
Pros - Design, overall sound quality, soundstage, value for money, easy to drive
Cons - Nothing of importance, see details
The review you are about to read is very personal and contains details some might find boring or unimportant. You have been warned.
My personal search for a great headphone began with a love for music. As my tastes changed over the ears, getting very into jazz and classical, so did the need for a headphone to better express the genres. Though, I remember with great emotion a period from 10-15 years ago, owning a pair of Senns CX95 and a Sony Walkman NW3, strolling through the city, enjoying notes on a fun level. At some point I began to feel the need for a on/over ear headphone, as the earpiece began to feel somewhat uncomfortable.
As my budget started growing I bought and then sold a big number of headphones: Koss Porta Pro, Senns PX100, Grado Sr60, Grado Sr225, Senn HD600, Audio Technica AD900 ... and ultimately The HD800. I just loved the soundstage on the HD800 ... yet the headphone sounded a bit tiring. I switched from a SS Burson to the Wooaudio WA2, then bought too many lamps for it...
In the meantime I also spent a fortune on a Meridian G08 CD player and a large number of CDs. One day I found myself inside the house with a huge headphone over my had, not being able to enjoy the music elsewhere, having to manually change the CDs and, on top of that, with a sound quality impressive yet fatiguing.
Having previously heard a large number of headphones, I decided to sell the combo and buy a pair of fun speakers with an amp, ending up owning the Focal Aria 906... A mature decision.
After a while I began craving for music on the go... the previous experience felt like a rock on my heart, so I wanted nothing of importance. One day, as I was on vacation I saw the PX 100 II, for sale in a store in Paris, 40 euros. Paid the price, got the phones, got another inexpensive piece of equipment, the Sandisk Sansa Clip+ and suddenly I could enjoy music again, of very decent quality and more important, with great soundstage. All that for a little over 100 euros.
Two years later, a friend managed to convince me of the bass on the PXs is a bit enhanced. An idea then started to grow in my head. Months later I managed to listen to the new Sennheiser Orpheus along with the LCD4 and other great stuff. I found superb music quality in headphones I would never buy, not solely because of the price (!), but lack of portability.
Being so interested in soundstage, I would never thought of trying closed headphones. Yet, a few weeks ago I ended up listening to the Sennheiser Momentum M2, and I couldn't believe my ears. I wanted to buy the pair on the spot, but somehow managed to retain myself, pending further investigation.
So I dwelled into the dark depths of the head-fi forums and other internet pages, seeking for the perfect no-amp headphone at a decent price, because I would never want to spend 1000+ dollars on audio equipment, not when I have the PX 100 II for 40 euros.
So did the Meze 99 appear in the picture. I couldn't believe all the good reviews, so I decided to buy a pair. Of course, I was a little afraid that the good marketing of the company would influence those reviews, not to mention the bad experience I previously had with other people's ears (the LCD2? really?). On top of that, the company is romanian, so a state of patriotism began to grow...
Having received the phones yesterday, I can only tell you the following: sell the other **** and get a pair. If you happen to own the Stax SR009 and the BHSE, sell it, get a pair, and travel the world for a month or two with the money, and I guarantee you will enjoy your music and you will forget about equipment, bass, treble, soundstage, amps, etc... It's gonna be just you and Mozart (or Ozzie?).
Do the headphone sound as good as the Focal Utopia or the Audeze LCD4? No, they don't. But if you happen to love music, I urge you to forget about all the technical stuff and to find a phone you will be happy for the rest of your life. Instead of discovering new planar magnetic drivers, discover new recordings of Mahler's 5th, or new albums by Miles (or new death metal?).
The sound of the Mezes? You have the innerfidelity review on that, it's accurate. The bit about the loose bass too . I honestly hope everyone will rediscover the love for music with these headphones, as I did. Because, man, it was really a painful journey!
Pros - Instrument texture, Instrument Separation, Soundstage, Vivid presentation, Great potential for EQ, Price is very good
Cons - Pads are a bit small
Meze Classics 99. The title says it all – great potential and elegant style.
Head-fi banners showing a classy headphone started popping up a while ago and you can’t stop but wonder, how does that sound like?
Meze is a Romanian headphone producer that even though new, made a statement with their headphones and their great customer support. They’re one of the companies that not only offer great support to their customers but actually listen to them, as seen with C99 which was modified after reviewer and market support came in to Meze. Even though very few companies to answer to customer requests, those who do always do a good job as the customer knows best what they wish for.
I didn’t really know about Meze before and I’m actually sad about it. For one thing, I am Romanian, and it is a shame for me to not know that there is a Romanian headphone producer and for the other thing, the headphones themselves sound really interesting.
My name is George and I enjoy music. I listen music while working, listen to music for enjoyment and listen to music while I'm gaming. Music surrounds me and it is part of my life, there are very few moments in the day when there’s no music around me. I also listen to music while working on our games at here https://www.facebook.com/seventh.heart.studios/ and here https://twitter.com/7heartstudios . My love for music has had impact on our games as we hold the music close to our hearts and we are committed to only use ogg -q10 as the encoding format for our music since it offers the best space to sound quality ratio.
I have a pretty good hearing and the higher treble means quite a lot to me (8-18kHz area), and I generally hear even minor changes in equipment but it takes bigger changes to amaze me. I’m also hard to impress since I already own Sennheiser ie800.
First impression with Meze as a whole company is a very good one. They respond very well to customer requests, are very supportive and are ready to walk that extra mile for you.
Meze 99 Classics come with a carry box that slightly reminds one of a biker helmet, but with a unique elegance to it. The zippers were really smooth (appreciable on high end products) and the case did not degrade one bit even after some usage, being thrown in backpack with other supplies.
The headphones themselves sound similar to Oppo PM series or Sennheiser HD5XX series, depending on the music and source that’s being used. Given the price range and looks, the sound was fair upon first listening and they were not necessarily a WOW headphone but rather a good headphone. In the 300$ price range the fight is quite fierce, but then again, no other 300$ headphone received a rather better than good or fair upon first audition.
Another thing that’s related to the first audition is the comfort. While 99C looked a bit small after opening them, with a bit of adjusting, the ears fit well inside the cups and the headphone makes the headphones themselves really comfortable. 99C upon first listen was comfortable and sits well on the head. The weight is low and they don’t cause fatigue.
99C comes in a cardboard box, in which is the carry case. Inside the carry case are the headphones themselves, two cables, a pouch for carrying the cables and an airplane (I think?) adapter. The inside of the carry case is made of a fine material that leaves no scratches on the headphones and the carry case is hard, preventing damage to the headphones, even if they are thrown in a backpack with other objects. The cables must be disconnected for the headphones to be carried inside the carry case, but the connectors are easy to use and the whole experience was nice. HD380Pro for example, has really awkward connectors that are a pain to connect, even after owning them for more than 3 years.
The addition of two cables to 99C is very welcome as they are different lengths and one of the cables includes a remote (and I think microphone). The short cable is ideal for outdoors usage while the longer cable makes a fine computer companion, especially if working as a digital artist and having to move around quite a bit. The cables are braided and look resistant, any damage that’s to be done, will be done to the thing they are plugged in , before the cables will get damaged.
Given the size and shape of the headphones, the only accessory that might be lacking from the box is a second pair of ear pads, as seen with Ultrasone headphones, but 99C pads might hold up better in time, so it seems like a fair trade.
The inside of the cardboard box is made of a hard sponge, this adds to the unpacking experience.
I really appreciate that Meze included a little warning about listening levels in their little book – instructions paper. It is always good to know that prolonged exposure to loud noises can be dangerous. The paper also includes a frequency response graph which shows that 99C is fairly flat in its response.
Rated Input Power
15 Hz – 25kHz
103dB (1kHz, 1mW)
Dynamic transducer, closed back
Power (load rating)
Weight without cable
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
<0.03% (1kHz, 1Vrms)
3.4 N approx.
99C is one of the classiest / most elegant headphones out there. The headband design, while slightly reminding of Autio Tehnica series, feels good and it is sturdy. The headband is made out of leather or pleather, but it is soft and doesn’t seem to take any damage from being worn.
The cups of 99C swivel a bit and this makes the headphones more adjustable. This comes in handy as they need a bit of swiveling around for getting the best fit possible, but I also have big ears.
The cups are made out of wood, and have a smooth design. Since this is a rare feature, Meze must be commended for walking that extra mile for delivering a better experience to their customers by including a real wood.
The cables are braided and come in different lengths, making 99C a good headphone for both indoors usage and outdoors. The jacks with which the cables are connected to the cups are 3.5mm and they feature a tight and secure lock. In the time I had 99C, the cable did not fall once and it didn’t get any scratches either (from plugging and unplugging the cables)
The headband mechanism is actually nice to wear and while I feared that the metal parts will get scratched, they are good and well, even after a considerable amount of usage. There are no scratches on any art of the headphone after extended usage, so the build quality is good. The earpads did not degrade either in the time I spent with 99C.
Aesthetically speaking, 99C would easily fit with a bow and tie costume, but they will fit in with a sport shirt and a pair of jeans as well.
Comfort / Isolation
When asked about the comfort of 99C, the best way to describe them would be comfortable. The cups are a bit small in size for people with larger ears, but will fit most people well. The cups have good depth and provide comfort for many hours of listening.
Being word outside, 99C does not get very hot and can be worn even when jogging or taking a longer walk outside though the weather will play a role in this.
The isolation of 99C is extremely good, to the point where I was able to listen to music very loud and my wife couldn’t hear my music at all, and the headphones isolate very well from the outside noise. It is almost impossible to hear a conversation while wearing the headphones, even louder noises are muted, making 99C a great choice for those in need of a well isolating headphone.
After 8 hours of continuous usage, 99C still feels nice to wear and the headband didn’t get uncomfortable at all. This is even more interesting as I did doubt the system itself before trying them on, but 99C surprises in a good way, making them a very interesting choice even for long nights of work.
Compared to Dj1P and HD380Pro, 99C isolates much better and it is the most comfortable to wear out of the bunch, both because the cable is long enough, the headphones are not heavy and the cups have enough width / height / depth.
This came as a surprise, especially as they are not advertised as this, but 99C are one of the best isolating headphones I tested to date, regardless of price segment or other constraints.
99C offers two different types of sound: One is their natural sound and the other is their Equalized sound. They also respond very well to different sources making source synergy an interesting pursuit, but they will play really good with any source thrown at them.
Because my Equalization algorithm for 99C is very aggressive, I will split every part of the audio spectrum in Natural and Equalized descriptions. All components of the sound change with aggressive Equalization due to the phase change, but certain aspects of the sound will stay the same, regardless of the EQ applied.
99C is a natural sounding headphone, with sweet sounding mids, smooth treble and good extension both ways. They amazed me again in their sound as the presentation is rather wide, and instrument separation is very good, thing which is amazing since they were not advertised as such. The instruments are vivid in general and the texture quality is insane for their price point and very good for any price point. The sound without any EQ can be described as enthusiastic and detailed, well textured, smooth and airy. There is a hump on 250-500 Hz. I tracked this specific sound to the wood in the cups as wood has its own acoustic properties and tends to enhance the 250 – 500Hz area.
I detected no channel imbalance on 99C even though I am sensitive to channel imbalance. Especially when it comes to loud music, even a slight channel imbalance is very easy to detect.
Classics 99 have a solid bass that can hit even down to the lowest octaves, but is also very fast and can respond well to tracks, playing textures with very good agility. On the stock setting, the bass is slightly enhanced, or rather the 250 – 500 Hz area is enhanced due to the wood in the cups. Wood is known for its acoustic properties and for offering this kind of resonance. After hearing 99 Neo which have their cups made of plastic and them not presenting the same bump in this area, but having the same drivers, it is easy to point the small bump in bass to the wood construction.
This bump in bass gives the headphones an euphoric and sweet presentation, the drums in rock songs sound crisp and the snare drum has a very good presence. Regardless of the Equalization applied, the bass is generally well rounded and it is a delight to listen to. Although the bass is enhanced sometimes, it does not take over the mids and the presentation is well balanced.
When put against a much more expensive model, namely ie800, C99 is able to hold its ground and shows a similar presentation in bass quality and detail but a smaller amount of sub-bass. This change is actually for the better as the amount is feels just right.
With the song Gorillaz – El Manana, the bass area is well rounded, clean and albeit the headphones are very solid in general, the bass of this song has a good reverberation and has the fluid feeling of this song. The bass also has good stage for this song, being heard through all the stereo space.
With Infected Mushroom – Becoming Insane, the bass has good hit and impact, it also covers the right amount of space it should. The texture is there and doesn’t lag behind (as seen on some models, where the bass doesn’t keep up with the song). The upper bass also has enough speed to do its part for the mid parts of this song, making all effects sound their best.
The Glitch Mob – Our demons: The bass doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the frequencies, but is strong enough to give the song the impact it needs, the drops having the right amount of strength and presence. The texture of the bass is vivid and it doesn’t lag behind the mids, giving the whole song an overall coherent sound.
This is where the Equalization begins to play a role in the sound. The default midrange is pretty forward, detailed, well textured and all instruments are rendered well. This would be a similar signature when compared with most 300$ headphones, so there is no problem with going for this signature. The soundstage with no EQ is pretty intimate, and 99C are great headphones for metal music since the forward mids will make all voices sound strong and guitars have a sweet / euphoric tint to them. It is pretty important to know what you pair 99C with. Paired with FiiO X5-3, the music sounds happy and even death metal has a friendly tone to guitars. Combined with the rather silky top end in the default presentation, 99C + X5-3 sounds friendly and every single piece thrown at them is returned enjoyable and most mistakes in songs are slightly masked leading to a sound that is well detailed, forward but never dull.
After Equalizing the sound with custom phase and Frequency response tests, the midrange improves to the point where it easily competes with that of Sennheiser ie800, a headphone costing more than twice the price of 99C. The phase of the sound is affected as well, but the negative effects by phase changes are mitigated by a wider soundstage albeit with less depth. The tests are made using mastering and analysis tools, but the results are staggering. Since the EQ applied is quite aggressive, it is possible for 99C to have even better transient response and texturing than Sennheiser ie800 with enough EQ, but it makes the sound a bit excited leading to every single error / bit of noise come as twice as strong.
The higher midrange is slightly recessed in the default signature, making the pianos and violins have a friendlier sound, especially for people who are sensitive to treble. On the other hand, the default signature does not present any loss in detail.
Rammstein – Ich Will: Regardless whether we’re talking about the Equalized or the default signature, I was surprised to notice that the little noise at the first “Ich Will” parts was there. It sounded like it was part of the song on the default signature, while the equalized signature made it clear that it was a noise, and even made it an offending noise. Another really nice effect is that the “Ich Will” that was coming from the monitors worn during the record are easily heard in the mix.
Obscurcis Romancia – Sanctuare Damne: The piano is always heard and every note, regardless of the length is easy to be heard. The voices bear the strength they should and there is a good texture to all guitars and the voices. It is easy to discern all guitars and they don’t smear on each other. The effects / keys are kept in their designated place and don’t come neither too forward nor are lost. The guitars have a really nice transient response and the textures are really crisp resulting in a very well rounded general sound. Cold guitar picks bear the necessary resonance to them in both mids and bass, and the fastest parts of the song have precise attack and don’t lag behind. It is also possible to notice the fingers moving on the frets at times, effect which I greatly appreciate.
Iron Maiden – Dance of the dead: The guitar picks are really crisp and they don’t come too forward but are not erased either. The voice has great presence, but it has a more natural response after EQ albeit it is very good without any EQ. Unique guitar notes are easy to discern and there is no smearing between distinct notes. The guitar solo is tasty and is presented vivid, with enough bite and the background guitars are not erased but rather create the right type of rhythm and company to the song.
Female voices present just the right amount of sweetness and crispness Jill Tracy’s voice sounds fluid and melodic, the prophecies made in her music are received through the entire body and the music works well.
Teddy Loyd w Daoko – Me Me Me : Her voice sounds clear, has the right amount of sweetness and depth. Without EQ, the song is euphoric and has a special type of melody to it. It is a fun experience and the whole song sounds sweet and warm. The song is easy to listen to and will cause no listening fatigue. Even though the song is slightly prone to sibilance, 99C presents no sibilance in either stock form or after applying aggressive EQ.
By now it is time that I explain what EQ I have been applying to them. The treble is changed entirely by EQ and the stock treble and EQ’ed treble have less in common compared to the midrange and bass, which are less affected by the EQ.
The EQ applied is:
31 Hz - 5dB
62 Hz - 3dB
125 Hz - 0 dB
250 Hz - -3 dB
500 Hz - 3 dB
1 kHz - 3 dB
2 kHz - 3 dB
4 kHz - 3 dB
8 kHz - 0 dB
16 kHz - 21 dB
As for more details, the 250 Hz area is where it is a bit strong by default, and if increasing the 16 kHz area, it is a must to decrease the 8kHz area otherwise the treble can come in a bit hot. There is a specific spike that happens in the treble if the 8 kHz area is not decreased when applying such a strong enhancement on the 16 kHz area.
The magic part of Equalizing 99C : Most headphones do not respond very well to aggressive EQ. For example, EQ-ing Ultrasone Dj One Pro with a similarly aggressive EQ results in distortions all across the soundscope and will be unbearable. With 99C, the amount of EQ that can be applied before distortion occurs is incredible. To put it in better words, I didn’t get any distortion regardless of how much EQ I applied – be it a 21 dB enhancement or a over 30 dB of treble enhancement. This is quite exciting as most headphones will distort from as little as 10 dB of EQ.
From this perspective, the drivers found in 99C are a golden grail of headphone drivers and act like a pot of clay which you can model to your liking. If you like sound vivid and sparkly, you can achieve it, if you like your sound bassy and impactful, you can do that and if you like your sound sweet and euphoric – then it is your lucky day as this is their default sound.
I generally don’t get as excited about this since I haven’t been able to apply this much EQ and adaptation to any headphone in the past.
The EQ profile applied above will allow for a much stronger (and questionably harsher) treble, a larger sounstage and a slightly more sibilant sound. The disadvantages are vastly overwhelmed by the advantages in this case, at least for those ears. 99C is able to sound more or less like Sennheiser ie800, a pair of IEMs costing more than 2X their price. The signature of ie800 was the guide to obtaining this EQ as well.
While the stock sound will be loved by a large part of the buyers and 99C does not appeal to exactly the same market as ie800, it is baffling to know that you can obtain the sound of ie800 out of them. The same applies for most signatures as 99C does not distort under heavy EQ.
The treble of 99C in stock form is silky smooth, slightly rolled off and it is extremely forgiving. This means that many songs that would otherwise sound harsh will now sound smooth and happy. With Jazz and Classical, the music keeps its euphoric tonality that is present in 99C in general, leading to a very fun and pleasurable experience.
With metal, the treble can be too smooth and silky at times, resulting in an experience that is more fun and friendlier than it should. Many people prefer this type of signature, where the treble is silky smooth, but I frankly prefer a harsh / sparkly treble.
On the happy side, 99C responds extremely well to EQ and after applying the trick above, the treble extends up to 20kHz and has the right amount of sparkle and fizzle to it, without being sibilant or too harsh. Taste being relative, the EQ I apply might be too aggressive or not aggressive enough for you. The only way to get the best results for you is to play with it until you’re happy with the results.
Royal Repulic – 21[sup]st[/sup] Century Gentleman:
No EQ: The treble is clear and vivid, all instruments are audible, but they are not very loud and the cymbal crashes are very smooth. The sibilance is absolutely zero and there is no trace of listening fatigue. I could get used to this relaxing sound – the bass is smooth, the mids are forward and melodic and the treble is laid back and relaxed.
EQ’ed: The treble is a bit sibilant, it is much louder and it is harsh. The decay of treble is a bit longer than it should. The whole sound is sparkly but there is no trace of distortion or aliasing. The coherency is still very good. Because the treble is increased, the bass to treble ratio changes and this makes the headphones sound less bassy, but there is no loss of impact.
The offspring – Me and my old lady
No EQ: The cymbals are audible, but they are quite quiet and there is a trace of very slight roll-off. There is no sibilance to this song (this song can be quite sibilant). The rhythm of the cymbals is not lost either way and it works well for the whole composition. The bass is strong and has a good presence, but it gets a bit strong in the 200-400 Hz region making the attack strong. It works fairly well with this song and it increases both the musicality and the euphoria of this song. (Me and my old lady is a song that’s supposed to have some Euphoria to it.)
EQ’ed: Each cymbal crash is pretty long and it leaves a trace of tingling. The spark in treble are there and the cymbals sound crash-y as they would sound when a cymbal is hit in the same room as the listener. The song is a bit colder after the EQ is applied, but it sounds very good nevertheless.
Incubus – Summer Romance:
No EQ: The singer’s voice is very deep and it is well separated from the bass. The bass is pretty strong and it is enhanced over the whole song, giving it a warm presentation. Due to the treble being slightly recessed, the song is very smooth but it is not dark. There is no rolloff noticeable in this song and the song is airy but silky smooth. The symbols and special percussion instruments are always heard and are not masked but the smooth nature of the headphones and the strong bass makes them sound like a background instrument. The soundstage of the song is quite good and it extends well on all planes, except for the bass which is forward and which sounds a bit stronger. This also gives the song more impact and considerably increases all low notes attack and decay. The textures are not affected and they sound just right on both guitar and voices and trombone. The bass texture is fluid and fairly precise while it stays forward.
EQ’ed: The singer’s voice is deep and profound, it plays well along the bass notes. The cymbal crashes are harsh and sparkly, the effects are coming from a wide area around the listener and the guitar notes come from where they were recorded. The bass is considerably recessed after the EQ is applied. As the song had some effects applied at certain parts (Like a static noise), this is also enhanced by the EQ while without EQ it is almost not noticed. The sound is arguably harsher and there is less overall bass impact, a very similar mids impact and there is much more treble impact with the EQ applied. Since many people are sensitive to strong treble, the EQ might not work well for everybody. The background guitars are not affected in their texture and details, but are affected in their tonality. There are certain effects that are better exposed this way – some of those effects can be considered noise or distractions from the song so it is a matter of taste whether you prefer hearing every single detail in the song (including the errors) or a relaxed and smooth sound.
The soundstage of 99C is very good for headphones of all types and one of the best soundstages in a closed back headphone. It can easily rival the soundstage of the largest soundstage bearing headphones like Ultrasone Signature Dj or Ultrasone Dj One Pro. Compared with most headphones in the ~300$ range, 99C has a larger and deeper soundstage (With EQ applied). With no EQ applied, the soundstage is still large and will expand well in both width and depth, but the bass will be forward and it will not fill the whole stereo space. Since this is a typical characteristic of wood, Meze 99 Neo will feature a different bass and their soundstage is well expanded in all directions.
Regardless whether there is an EQ applied or not, the soundstage expands very well and will be one of the first things to notice when you first listen to 99C. When coming from ATH – mXX series, 99C will sound considerably less congested, will sound open and airy. In 99C sound, the sound comes from every area in the 3D audio space.
The soundstage and instrument separation are comparable to ie800 and given that ie800 is my current benchmark for both soundstage and instrument separation (in both terms of quality and precision), 99C does a much better job than expected. It is generally easy to tell the voice apart from the bass notes on which certain syllables are sang and it is easy to tell even four guitars apart in one song, even if the guitars are singing at the same time.
Inubus – Calgone: The song has parts that are very hard to render for most headphones, like the bass notes that are overly aggressive or the guitars that are already quite distorted. 99C plays all well and doesn’t add any more distortion so each musical note is easy to tell apart. The voice stays clean although with no EQ added it does a pretty strong impact.
Dope – Addiction: The song has an effect at the start of the song that’s supposed to be played somewhere in the right and to the back of the listener. 99C plays it exactly in that spot and doesn’t bring it forward nor displace the effect. The guitars are easy to tell apart from each other during the solo and there is absolutely no smearing. The scream is sustained very well during the solo and the whole song has a certain enthusiasm / sweetness to it, albeit the screamed part keeps its intended warmth and strength.
Space electro – xxx: The song has a very good width to it and there is no congestion to the voice nor the instruments / effects. The bass has very good presence across the entire sonic scape. The key effects are played at their intended positions (they move around the listener both in the front and in the back of the listener) and there is no trace of smearing between instruments. With Dj1P, there is smearing on certain parts of the song and this causes many of the details / effects to be lost.
Infected Mushroom – Wanted to: The soundstage is really good. The female voice has just the right amount of drive to it and it doesn’t sound try but melodic. The male voices are melodic as well and act to their intended role. All effects are very wide and have a good depth to them. The bass attack is very good and the whole song is clear and vivid. The cymbals are pretty smooth regardless of whether the EQ is added or no, leading to a very fun experience either way. The speed of the song in the very fast segments of it is good and the song doesn’t feel lagging, the decay times are very good and the song has the right amount of speed.
99C has been tested with FiiO X5ii, X5-3, Xiaomi mi max, Custom ESS DAC solution and a few other devices. The overall impression is that 99C is fairly easy to drive, but responds very well to a better source. It is able to pick small changes in the sound caused by different DACs (both Dj1P and ie800 are less sensitive to different DACs). 99C requires very little power to be driven to their maximum potential but won’t distort even at extremely loud, being really good headphones for metal music or loud listeners.
The transient response is affected quite a bit by the source, but it is not affected by the volume at which music is played. This means that a higher volume will not result in worse transients and 99C will keep its qualities across a wide range of volumes.
Listened directly from Xiaomi mi max (smartphone), the sound is pretty fluid and the transient response is nowhere near as good as from the custom ESS solution or FiiO X5-2. With X5-3, the transient reponse gets even better and the textures of each instrument are even better, making X5-3 one of the best DAP s you can pair 99C with. Xiaomi mi max is seriously rolled off in comparison and while X5-3 is a very smooth DAP, there is no trace of roll-off and the music is sweet and euphoric.
I cannot forget the first time I noticed the crisp textures of 99C as I was using them together with the tour unit of FiiO X5-3. I was listening to a song from The Offspring – vultures. This song has quite an interesting texture to all the instruments, especially to the guitars. A lot of this texture is only heard on ie800 and very expensive headphones / IEMs, so I had a shock when I noticed the fine details while I was walking outside with the headphones on my head. It was just a matter of seconds before I synced my steps to the beat of the music and there was no way for me to pause the song until the last second of it.
FiiO X5ii is no slouch either, but its bigger brother offers a much better texture and transient response in comparison. I didn’t have enough time to test 99C with other sources like ifi iDSD or Chord products or Sony 1Z, but as soon as I get a bit of free time, I promise to test and continue this description page.
Ie800 – This is a hard comparison. When it comes to price, ie800 costs about 2 times as much or more new. In their default shape, 99C has a texture that is comparable to ie800, but ie800 has an upper hand when it comes to the crispness of textures. This upper hand is given especially by the different bass to treble ration which causes the bass to have another decay for ie800. After applying the EQ which intended to simulate an ie800 inside 99C, they are about on par, with 99C having the upper hand in instrument textures, but ie800 having a slight upper hand in transient response. All in all, 99C performs way above its price point and can be compared to TOTL headphones after applying the EQ. If you want to walk the extra mile and EQ 99C, you can have an ie800 in headphone form (I was searching for this for a good year before first hearing 99C!!!!!!!). This being said, my FiiO X5ii and X5-3 are not able to apply the said EQ as good as my computer is. This is partially because X5-3 is very smooth and X5ii only has a play range of 12dB and the EQ presented above requires a larger dB sway to work as it is intended and achieve the phase shift.
Dj One Pro – In stock form for both, DJ1P has a considerably less forward bass range and midrange, sounding distant at times. Dj1P has a very good soundstage for a closed back headphone, and 99C has more or less the same width, height but better depth. 99C has a smoother top end. Dj1P has a very recessed snare hit that makes most percussion instruments sound weak. After applying EQ on both, 99C has a better overall soundstage, a considerably better drum impact and general sound and a considerably better texture and instrument separation. The amount of EQ that Dj1P can take is less than what 99C can take, resulting in a signature that isn’t even half through close to the ideal point. Dj1P will distort after too much EQ, while 99c stays crisp and clean. 99C wins in almost all aspects when compared with DJ1P and this stays true when it is compared to most other ~300$ - 500$ headphones.
LCD2 / LCD4 / HD650 – 99c has a similar sound to all of those, but 99C presents a considerably more forward bass and mids. Compared to HD6XX, 99C has a larger soundstage in both width and depth, and comparable textures and instrument separation. HD6XX is an open back headphone so there are sound characteristics that are inherent to the open back design that 99c does not poses. Comfort wise, 99C is actually quite comfortable, and it is comparable with HD6XX even though 99C has a smaller cup size and a different mechanism of adjustment on the head. When compared to LCD series, 99C boasts a similar signature, but LCD series are quite heavy and I couldn’t wear them for more than 20-30 minutes in a row, where 99C is quite light and can safely be worn for hours in a row with no back neck. I do recommend that they are taken at 20-30 minute intervals to let the ears breathe and it is always recommended to take a pause from computer work at 30 minute intervals for best health.
99C will not leave you poor and given their rather sane price point of 300$, I would call 99C one of the best value headphones on the market at this moment. There are very few other headphones that boast a similarly good value. The stock performance of 99C is good, but the potential found in them makes the value be rather crazy good when everything is taken into account.
A cheap headphone? A comfortable headphone? A Romanian headphone? An incredible headphone?
You might think that I had a bias towards liking them as Meze is a Romanian company, but after hearing every single headphone that I could hear to date, I am quite hard to impress. To be honest I was rather curious what a Romanian headphone producer could make. I did not expect this. I don’t even know what I was expecting to be honest and it doesn’t matter.
99C is one of the best headphones you can get your hands on provided you either like the default tuning or provided you’re ready to play a bit with them and EQ them. Always remember that there is no single headphone that has a perfect tuning and that every single headphone needs some EQ to achieve the best sound for you. Everyone hears differently so there are chances that you will want a different signature from me from the start, but this is even more the reason to play and experiment. 99C is one of the headphones with the highest tolerances to EQ I had ever played with and besides headphones that are really hard to drive and which inherently allow for a large EQ headroom, 99C is the most EQ’able headphone I had. Ie800 cannot accept 4dB of treble to be added as it causes sibilance, and DJ1P will cause distortions after 14dB of treble being added, while 99C safely holds its ground regardless of the EQ added.
You can enjoy 99c even with a smartphone or a laptop, but they will tell you when you feed them from a good source. A FiiO X5-3, FiiO X5-2, FiiO X7, or similar device is able to drive 99C very well and I probably wouldn’t ask for a different DAP than a FiiO one since they also offer the best Price/Performance ratio of the moment.
I hadn’t had the chance of testing the Balanced mode of 99C, but I’ll make sure to let you know if I manage to test it.
In this point in time, I fully recommend 99C as the sweetest deal you can get at this price, and I personally recommend them for a broad range of preferences as you can EQ them to sound as you like, but keeping the advantage of crisp and clear sound, well defined textures and good details. And good soundstage.
Pros - Tuning that shines with every device. Comfort. Detachable Cable. What a looker!
Cons - Needs mods for custom cable, or a Meze proprietary plug.
The goal I set out with—the idea that drove me—was to find a set of portable cans which performed well enough to not make me crawl, desperate and hungry, back to my Top Of The Line IEMs. As much as I like the sound of my Sennheiser Momentums, they are simply not in the same league as the 64Audio ADEL U12 or Rhapsodio Solar CIEM. With options such as these, I rarely ever pull out the Momentum 2.0. I have to really, REALLY crave the over-ear experience to scorn my insanely expensive IEMs. That’s not a feeling I like. I want the option to go IEM or Circumaural, and experience equally good audio no matter which way I turn.
You may be thinking, “$300 Senns vs $1,500 U12s? Of course they aren’t in the same league, you fat, balding jerk!”
First off: Ouch! What’s with the hostility? Words can hurt, you know. Second: It takes a lot less to get a big-@ss dynamic driver to reach a certain level of performance than it does a small, itty bitty driver. That’s why so many of the top of the line in-ear monitors pack 9, 10, 12, 14 Balanced Armatures into those little shells. They’re trying to do what full-size headphones manage so easily. Physics be a cruel mistress. And it costs, jamming all those BAs in each ear.
In the end, it pays off. As I said, I have two IEMs that put the Momentum to shame. Yet there are other headphones in the $300-$400 range that do indeed outperform my IEMs. The Sennheiser HD600 and 650, to name a couple. The thing to remember about large, high impedance cans is they are not designed with the same philosophy of use. My HD6XX is really meant for a powerful desktop amp, like the Audio-GD NFB-28 I own. My primary headphone, the Audeze LCD-2.2 Fazor, takes things even further, and utterly humiliates in-ear monitors. You do not plug those beasts into a mobile device and expect them to sound right.
Low impedance, high efficiency circumaurals, like the Momentum, are designed for mobile use. They should sound “right”, driven from a smartphone. But to accomplish this, sacrifices are made. Metaphorical kittens are severed to the Gods. The Sennheiser Momentum is not as impressive in its audio fidelity as the Sennheiser HD600, even though they both cost around $300. Hence I do not put mobile full-size cans in the same category as desktop full-size cans. They are designed for different things. It’s not a fair fight.
My experience, limited as it is, says TOTL, wildly expensive in-ear monitors can compete with mid-tier headphones, even desktop cans. Yet they fall behind, the closer you get to the likes of the LCD-2.
So the question I posed to myself is, “Can I find a portable, mobile-driven full-size headphone for a reasonable price that matches the performance of my $1K+ IEMs?”
I had my doubts.
There are three categories of transducer I want stocked and on-hand at all times.
Category I: Full-size, high impedance headphone meant for a desktop amp. (These sound the best. LCD-2 is my primary, used only for music. HD6XX is secondary, used for everything else.)
Category II: Full-size, low impedance headphone meant for work/mobile use. (These will never sound quite as good. Being sourced by mobile gear doesn’t help matters. Momentum 2.0 belongs here, making this the weakest of the three classes.)
Category III: In-Ear Monitors meant for work/mobile use. (These sound nearly as good from a quality DAP as they do from a desktop system. They are VERY efficient. U12 and Solar sit at the head of this table.)
For a long time the Oppo PM-3 looked like my next upgrade, meant to bolster the ranks of my Category II gear. I wasn’t thrilled about the price. The sound signature, as described in reviews, gave me pause: Not enough bass, terms like “boring” were dropped. Not to mention, they benefit too much from stacking an Amp to your DAP. I know myself well. This would only lead to feelings of inadequacy for NOT doing so. However, all the reviews agreed, they delivered incredible audio quality.
I held off. As inevitable as buying the Oppo seemed to be, I just wasn’t eager to take that plunge.
Then, a few months ago, I started seeing a lot of talk on Head-Fi about this thing called the Meze 99 Classics. Seemed like a pretentious name for a new product, so I ignored it. The Oppo was going to be my next headphone. All my other bases were covered. I just needed that upgrade to my portable system. Then, a little later, I read the Meze was a portable headphone, easily driven by any mobile device. Then I learned about the Walnut wood cups, metal frame, a design philosophy that precludes cheap materials and glue. When at last intrigue drove me to search for reviews, I beheld the great flood. Meze had taken Head-Fi by storm. There’s an embarrassment of reviews out there, and a very great many of them are overwhelming in positivity.
Pinky’s shield of indifference cracked, and the Meze 99 Classics jumped to the top of my list as a replacement for Sennheiser.
It would still be a few months before I bought a pair. There were other monstrosities devouring my gold. All things in their own time. But as I waited for that perfect moment, lust grew in me.
Finally I could wait no longer and dove into the Head-Fi Classifieds in pursuit of a used pair. There is not an abundance of 99Cs on the second-hand market. Folk are pretty d@mn happy with theirs and aren’t pawning them en masse. When one does show up, it sells fast. To get one at all I had to settle on a color scheme that was not my first-choice. On top of that, the unit I bought was modified with various dampeners and filters. All of which could be reversed. Still, it was a compromise. Beggars can’t be choosers, you know; I bought it for $240, shipped.
Allow me this opportunity to say, Pinky is terribly pleased by the aesthetics. I probably lucked out not getting the black and gold version. This thing is dead gorgeous, with subtler elegance.
After only a few minutes of listening, I brought the screwdriver out and opened her up. If I am going to review this product, I need to know how the REAL 99C sounds. So I removed all the modifications: a bunch of foam sticky’ed along the inside of the cups, and a few layers of dampeners in the pads, in front of the driver.
Weeks have gone by now, listening to the legitimate Meze 99 Classics. I have no desire to reinstall any of the modifications. The original owner said the mods level-out the frequencies. No thanks, mate. To my ears, the sonics are too fabulous to 7*%# with.
The comfort of the Meze is at a high grade. These have the larger pads than what shipped with the first batch. Those garnered many negative comments in reviews found throughout the Net. It is about the only bad thing folk have to say about the 1st edition. The larger pads are very nice, and the overall comfort is a step above the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0. Since I already found the M2 quite pleasant to wear, that is a remarkable achievement. The elastic headband adjusts automatically to the size of your head, making the Meze an effortless thing to put on.
I guess you could say the Meze 99 Classics is big for a portable headphone. But it comes with a nice carry case and fits easily inside my messenger bag, alongside all the villainous paraphernalia stored there. It doesn’t feel prohibitively cumbersome. No worse than the Momentum. In fact, I’d like the case to be a little larger, so I don’t need to detach the cable every time I zip her up. You’d think that might cause trouble down the road.
Wearing these headphones, they don’t feel very large at all. If you’re accustomed to cans like the HD6XX or the LCD-2, these feel low-profile and light. Maybe not as light as the mostly plastic HD6XX, but close, and smaller.
The pads, even the newer, larger pads, are not genuine leather, which dismays Pinky to some extent. They are high quality synthetic, though, and feel very soft and pliable. I even used leather conditioner on them, and they absorbed the milk nicely. So I don’t have any real complaint in that regard. I just like my materials as organic as possible when pressed against my wanton flesh.
In spite of the fact the 99C uses 3.5mm mono for its earcup connection, only Meze’s plugs will fit. Due to how deep they must go, and the angle of insertion, there are currently no 3rd party plugs that work. To satiate my obsession with building custom cables for my gear, I had to order the Double Helix Cables 3D Printed Meze Mod. This allowed me to build a cable for the Astell&Kern AK120II’s 2.5mm Balanced Output. I enjoyed the sound so greatly from the stock cable that I didn’t want to tinker too much with the signature. Instead of using SPC or pure silver, I went fairly traditional. Norne Audio’s basic OCC copper seemed like the right move. With their transparent black jacket, it gave the cable such a lovely visual and made a handsome pairing with the 99 Classics.
Clarity is the first trait which jumps at me each and every time I don the Meze 99 Classics. There is a glass-like clarity. Unlike bright headphones, however, this clearness has a liquid quality, instead of a sharp or detail-oriented one. That isn’t to say these aren’t detailed cans. They very much are. Resolution here is quite sophisticated, and the level of transparency is wonderful. Even driven from a mobile device, my music exploded to life with outstanding dynamics. Meze accomplishes all this under the auspices of smooth, silky rendering.
Soundstage and imaging are above average, and might be wider than the Momentum. I bought the M2 in large part because they had one of the widest stages in the portable closed-back arena. Meze feels wider and much deeper. Imaging and separation are excellent. These headphones make it easy to get lost in the performance when you close your eyes, layering the instruments out with visual accuracy.
There is a wealth of bass that measures north of neutral. It’s not the tightest or most controlled bass, but it sounds very lifelike. It feels good and right. The lows bloom, bleeding a little into the lower mids, but not enough to do harm. It merely gives the 99C its warm characteristic. Her sub frequencies punch with moderate authority. Rather than a high degree of texture, the Meze’s low-end carries the same liquidity found throughout the whole spectrum. They are a delight to bask in.
Her treble has nice extension and casts plenty of light over the presentation. These highs possess a purity and sweetness to them. They remind me most of JHAudio Angie’s treble: delicious honey. Yet there’s more treble than Angie gives you. Meze’s highs add so much air and brightness to the stage, without ever leaving the warm signature. Such sparkly treble is the much-needed counter balance to that serious bass. It keeps things open and airy, never straying into dark territory.
For me, the true star of the show is the midsection. Describing the lows and highs might seem like we’re dealing with a V-Shape signature. But the vocals are FAR too present for that to be true. They are front and center and so very intimate. Nowhere does the clarity play a bigger role than with the vocals. They are naked. So clean, clear, and transparent. Here, too, is where the resolution and detail get to shine, bringing out every nuance the recording contains. Above all this you get a heavenly timbre and the most natural tonality. It’s an enchanting experience.
What excites me to no end about the Meze 99 Classics is that they don’t need a desktop amp to sound their best. Driven from a medium-powered DAP, like my AK120II, the dynamics are some of the best I’ve heard from any of my bigger and meaner headphones. Between 75-110/150, I can get them loud enough to satisfy anyone, no matter how quiet the track. My Galaxy S6 has no trouble, either. The same is true for the Momentum 2.0. They are, after all, mobile headphones. But unlike the M2, the Meze sounds truly and honestly complete from my Astell&Kern. The Sennheiser sounds a tiny bit underpowered. When I plugged them into a more powerful device, like the FiiO X5, Cayin i5, or Opus#1, they filled out nicely. The 99C is ready to impress at the drop of a hat, on whatever device you have on hand.
Due to the brilliant balance of frequencies, there is no DAP I would caution against pairing with the Meze. My AK is on the warmer side, while the Opus#1 is an exceptional case of neutral done like a warrior-king. The 99C celebrates the virtues of both devices. I’ve also read great things about the Cayin i5>99C pairing, Cayin being warmer still than my AK. That is Meze’s mastery of tuning at work. This headphone will never sound too dark, nor too bright. It will maintain a balance and sound splendid regardless.
The 99 Classics are of a quality high enough to sit among my desktop phones. The HD6XX, being open-back, has an unfair advantage in some ways, like naturalness. Closed-backs will never sound quite like that. But the 99C matches it in resolution and tonal accuracy. I also hear more sub-bass and greater clarity. Although, the HD6XX has more texture and control over its low-end. The Meze’s treble is not as rolled-off. That lush, smooth, liquid sound is present in both.
All in all, I feel the 99C has more in common with the Audeze LCD-2. Not that it’s closer in performance, but rather closer in character. Quality goes to Audeze by a not insignificant margin. But that transparency and treble puts them closer in nature than the HD6XX, which sounds darker by far.
So what about the only comparison that really matters?
Is there a single area where the Sennheiser Momentum beats the Meze 99 Classics? Well, not really. The M2’s treble is not as sparkly or as organic. The bass is not as memorable or as fulfilling. The vocals lack the clarity and vibrancy of the 99C. Soundstage, width and depth. Imaging. Transparency. Dynamics. On some of these points, the Momentum is only a tad behind the game. On others, like the treble and vocals, Meze exists in a higher realm entirely. The 99 Classics is better in every way.
Did I mention I am a fan of the Momentum? It may sound like I have an axe to grind. I don’t. I’ve enjoyed these cans for over a year. They have a sound I find exceedingly pleasant. Many people in the Help & Introduction forum have suffered my ceaseless recommendation of the Momentum 2.0 Over-Ear.
I’ve simply found a better headphone. If you need portability, closed-back, easy to drive, and high levels of comfort, direct those creepy peepers right here. At $309 you can have a circumaural experience that matches IEMs that cost $1500 or more. When I put on these cans at work, no longer do I feel as though I’m slumming it. They hold their own in a big bad way. No matter what my ears are in the mood for, I have the equipment to immerse myself in transcendent audio.
I can’t tell you how delirious it makes me the 99C are also so easy on the eyes. I love the retro styling of the Sennheiser Momentum, and the Meze have their own throwback elegance. The modern aesthetic of Oppo failed to get my juices flowing. Meze, on the other hand, does me in all the right ways. I’m a slut for wood.
Pros - Warm and immersive sound. Excellent attention to details in build and design.
Cons - Narrow ear pads can cause discomfort
WOOD IS GOOD
“Are those new? They look stylish.” “New headphones? They’re spiffy.” “Ooo, I love those.” I can’t make this stuff up folks. There’s been no shortage of compliments since donning the Meze 99 Classics headphone at my office. Yes, you read that right. Sometimes part of my reviewing process includes testing products from the cubicle of my nine-to-five. Music plays a big part in getting me through the workday—drowning out the chatter of my office mates is also an excellent test. But let’s get back to those compliments. When the look of your headphones catches the eyes of non-audiophiles, as in nearly 60-year-old finance guys and Gen X women, you know you’ve done something unique. That uniqueness is what’s helping put Romania’s Meze Headphones on the audiophile map.
Successfully spurred ahead by an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in late 2015, Meze Headphones has been running at full speed since launching the Meze 99 Classics, a gorgeous closed-back wooden headphone that, simply put, sounds as unique as it looks. First Look
“Silver and gold, silver and gold. Ev'ryone wishes for silver and gold. How do you measure its worth? Just by the pleasure it gives here on earth.” Burl Ives certainly didn’t have headphones in mind when he wrote these lyrics for the 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special (guilty pleasure; it’s a childhood favorite), but that song popped in my head the moment I saw the 99 in its gold and silver variants. Pleasurable indeed. The 99 is a prime example of #audioporn.
Silver and gold. Black and silver. Walnut and maple. With rich, luxurious finishes—and a $309 price tag—there’s nothing subtle about the 99. It’s eye-catching, it’s elegant, and it’s one of the most aesthetically intriguing headphones I’ve used. From the box, to the cast hardware, to the sustainably sourced wood, Meze Headphones founder and designer Antonio Meze clearly aimed to make the 99 a statement piece. The result is a headphone that’s robust and relentlessly refined—and also surprisingly lightweight (260g). Of the wood headphones I’ve owned, including premium Grado and ZMF models, the precision CNC-cut and hand-finished cups of the 99 stand out. Their satin finish and flawless grain is simply lovely. As a former percussionist that once had an affinity for raw maple snare drums, the silver and maple 99 makes my heart skip a beat.
Meze’s attention to detail doesn’t stop at the headphone itself. The 99 comes with a custom hard zippered travel case, gold-plated 6.3mm (1/4”) and airplane jack adapters, and two cables with a zippered felt storage pouch—a 1.2m portable cable with inline mic and remote and a 3m cable for your home listening room. Manufacturers often cut corners on cables, but Meze delivers a color-matched Kevlar-reinforced OFC cable that’s as refined from end to end as the rest of the 99.
All this attention to detail is all well and good, but does the 99 sound good too? First Listen
While the 99’s look is sharp and elegant, its sound is warm and inviting. And did I mention unique?
The 99 positions you as a backstage VIP, center stage, behind the curtain. Behind the curtain? Don’t let that statement be a turn off. What I mean is that the 99 is intimate in its presentation. The closed-back cups make for an up close and personal listening experience that leaves the music floating just a few inches around your head while the 99’s sonic subtleties draw you in, its warmth envelopes your ears, and its dark balance allows for listening well into the night.
The 99 has what I will call “well-rounded sound.” From its deep sub-bass, to its darker than expected treble, the 99 offers a smooth sliding scale of sound that seduces your ears. There’s not a hint of sharpness, sibilance or roughness, well, anywhere. The bass is boastful, perhaps a bit overzealous at times, but not what I would consider boomy. The mid-range is balanced, warm and robust. The healthy highs roll off in a nicely relaxed manner that, somehow, still sounds acoustically realistic. Revealing? Reference? Maybe not so much—the 99 seems too polite for those terms. But when you settle in and start listening to the music instead of listening to the headphone itself, the 99 becomes incredibly immersing.
When I say that the 99 places you behind the curtain, I realize that implies that it sounds veiled. I hesitate to use that term as it’s so often used in a negative or derogatory way in audio reviews. What I mean is that the 99 has a natural softness to it; it has all the instrument details, all the tonality, and all the accuracy that you could ask for, yet it’s all done so… soothingly—the 99 forces nothing on you; it’s never harsh or in your face; it’s well-controlled, almost as if it’s mimicking the recording session in the dampened studio.
For example, I expected the maple cups to give the 99 some bite—maple is usually a brighter sounding and resonant wood—but there’s no aggressiveness in the sonic signature of the 99. Time and time again it’s just smooth, smooth, smooth. The major perk here is that the 99 is a savior of ****ty sound. It easily tames the sizzle of hot recordings and poor playback devices. In fact, it plays well with every music genre I threw at it—Bjork, Lucy Rose, The Cinematic Orchestra, John Butler, Glass Animals, Ambient Jazz Ensemble, etc., etc.—and it plays well with damn near every device, too.
With a rated sensitivity of 103 dB at 1 kHz/1 mW and 32-ohm impedance, the 99’s 40mm dynamic neodymium/Mylar transducers are so easy to drive that even the most basic smartphones, iPods and DAPs will push them to deafening levels. With that said, I found that amping the 99 made minimal differences performance-wise. I’m used to headphones performing vastly different from amp to amp, but that just wasn’t the case this time around, and I think that’ll be a welcomed trait by anyone looking for hi-fi sound without the desire to acquire other hi-fi devices. While there’s simply no denying that better quality amps and DACs produce better sound, the 99 lets you hear the gear for what it is while its own sonic signature stays pretty damn consistent. My only recommendation on gear is to skip pairing it with a high current amp because you will hear some current noise and background hiss.
The most challenging part of reviewing the 99 is comparing it to other headphones. The 99 is so unique to my ears that quick comparisons to other staple headphones simply don’t do it justice. For instance, I commonly switch between headphones multiple times during a single track and replay certain parts with each one to do more critical comparisons. While I tried that with the 99, I found that it really ruined the experience. To really hear what the 99 does you need to spend time with it. But I know that most in this hobby are quick to judge and demand X versus Y comparisons. So here are a few things that I noticed when comparing the 99 to some other popular headphones. The Comparisons
Meze 99 Classics vs. Shure SRH840 and SRH1540: Closed-back. Darkish. Descending highs. I fully expected the 99 to sound very similar to the Shure headphones that I’ve recommended so frequently. I was wrong. The 99 bested my daily drivers in many ways. The 99’s bass extends deeper and hits a bit harder—more oomph if you will. Both the Shure SRH840 (review) and SRH1540 (review), in comparison, seem to be a bit more controlled and punchy, but only at higher frequency ranges. The 99 is clearly fuller sounding when you get into bass-heavy tracks—take Bjork’s “Hyberballad” for instance. The 99’s mids are also smoother and more linear, albeit more relaxed. Mid-range is Shure’s sweet spot, but compared to the 99, both Shure offerings push the mids more aggressively into your ears. This makes vocalists sound more forward and in your face, and while I like this with some tracks, on others I prefer the 99’s subtler approach. While the pushed mids also help with instrument separation and atmospheric space compared to the more intimate and closed-in sounding 99, it introduces some roughness and grain. As for the highs, the 99’s are even more rolled off and relaxed than either of the Shure headphones mentioned. Simply put, the Shures have far more zing in the treble region. I found the SRH840 and SRH1540 to both be more revealing of micro details than the 99, but this comes at the expense of slightly sharper highs, occasional sibilance and increased graininess (mostly with poor recordings). The easiest way to put it is that the 99 sounds far more organic and natural than either Shure. Surprising indeed.
Meze 99 Classics vs. Sennheiser HD650: The HD650 is a staple in the headphone community, so it only makes sense to offer a brief comparison. Much of what I said above about the Shures actually also rings true for the HD650 comparison. Further, the HD650 is simply a very different headphone from the 99; it’s mid-centric, open-back and much more picky with amps. But if you have an amp that’ll drive the HD650 and 99 equally, you’ll find that the HD650 again lacks the smoothness of the 99. The HD650 also can’t touch the 99’s deep bass lines. In fact, the 99 manages to make the “lush” HD650 sound surprisingly thin. What the HD650 offers, however, is more attack, a far wider and more three-dimensional sound stage, and better instrument separation than what the 99’s closed-back design can muster. Overall, the 99 is more versatile; it’s a headphone that anyone can listen to regardless of musical preference whereas the HD650 excels with only certain genres and certain amplifiers. I won’t say that one is better than the other because they’re just too different in all intents and purposes.
Meze 99 Classics vs. ZMF Headphones The Omni: I don’t have The Omni (review) currently on-hand to do a direct comparison anymore, but from recent memory, the 99 sounds more like the ZMF Headphones offering than any of the others mentioned. Both the 99 and The Omni excel at being smooth operators. The Omni most definitely moves more air and has harder hitting and more emphasized bass; it also has slightly more upper-mid presence, sounds a touch more spacious due to the semi-open design, and has a bit more treble pop. But tonally, they both favor what I consider to be a thicker and darker sound, a more intimate sound stage, and both stray far, far away from being harsh or sibilant. If you like the ZMF Headphones house sound, the 99 might be a nice choice for your portable headphone needs. The Caveat
If I could change one thing about the 99, it would be the ear pads—they’re simply too damn shallow. Give my ears some room to breathe, Meze! Seriously though, I have an issue with ear pads that touch the lobe and helix of my ears—especially during long listening sessions. I appreciate the sleek styling of the headphone itself, but the slim medium-density foam ear pads compress to the point that my ears press against the liners covering the driver housings. Their circumference also feels a bit cramped, as if they were stuck somewhere between being a large on-ear and narrow around-the-ear design. Are my ears too big? Do they stick out too far? I don’t think so, but your results may vary. The supple synthetic leather can also get a touch toasty, but perhaps that’s nitpicking.
Nevertheless, I have a theory that the 99 could benefit from a roomier, deeper and angled genuine leather ear pad. First, I think comfort would drastically increase. Second, a deep angled pad (think ZMF or Brainwavz ear pads) would move the driver away from the ear, which should help to open up the sound stage and treble clarity just a touch. If that proves true, the 99 would be supremely comfortable and incredibly balanced sounding. In other words, it would be very hard to best, in my opinion.
Ear pads aside, the 99 is incredibly comfortable. I find the elastic suspension strap to be better fitting than similarly designed AKGs or the Audioquest Nighthawk, and the clamping force and weight is comparable to the Sennheiser HD650, which I have no problem wearing for hours at a time. Final Word
Do a quick Google search for audiophile headphones and the top results will include the likes of Audeze and Sennheiser, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Meze Headphones soon sits among the top ranks. The 99 Classics’ organic and natural sound is truly special. It’s admittedly relaxed at first listen, but as soon as you stop thinking about what you might be missing, you’ll start hearing just how immersive it is. The 99 Classics is without a doubt a hi-fi headphone worth experiencing. Meze’s aim is for perfection, and while I won’t claim that the 99 Classics is the be-all and end-all headphone for everyone, its performance most certainly sets you on the path towards Audio Nirvana.
Here’s to hoping Meze Headphones forgets to ask for my review unit back.
Pros - Tight, punchy bass, comfort, solid build, excellent case, no plastic
Cons - Loss of treble resolution in busy songs, cable very long
-Introduction- I’ve reviewed for Meze once before, and gave their new 11 Neo earphone high praise. However, it was the release of the 99 Classics that really gained Meze the notoriety it has today. I’m lucky enough to be able to bring you a review of said headphone. Enjoy.
The 99 Classics can be bought directly from Meze for $309 here.
Disclaimer: This review is based upon a sample unit provided to me by a manufacturer or distributor in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any way from the writing of the review. I would like to thank Lorand at Meze for sending me this review unit.
Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
Source: The 99 Classics was powered like so:
PC optical out-> HifiMe SPDIF 9018 DAC 3.5mm out-> earphones
AP100 or AP60 -> earphones
All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.
As per Meze’s recommendation, I have burned in the 99 Classics for around 50 hours to get them “broken in”. While I intended to do a before-and-after comparison, it turns out my aural memory is too poor to pass judgement on such subtle distinctions between sound. I’ll have to trust Meze on this one.
-Sound Signature- Initial Impressions:
I’m hearing a balanced middle and upper range with a slightly elevated mid and sub-bass. Vocals are pulled out of the mix slightly farther than the bass, making them the most commanding part of the song (at least when present). It’s a very natural presentation that really shines no matter what I throw at it.
Treble: Songs used: White Flag, Midnight City, Outlands
Treble is definitely present, and lends a good amount of clarity to the presentation. It is placed slightly in front of the mids, and is slightly behind the bass. In both White Flag and Midnight City, the treble was able to cut through the mix without sounding overbearing or sharp. When played through poorly or aggressively tuned headphones, White Flag tends to become sibilant, regardless of source. But Meze was able to give the 99 Classics decent extension and treble emphasis without decreasing the overall long-term listenability of the headphone.
The treble is very detailed and able to convey minute differences in the tonality of the violins of Outlands well. The litany of treble-bound background elements also come through the song well enabling a decently symphonic experience.
Mids: Songs used: Flagpole Sitta, Jacked Up, I Am The Highway, Good Life
The attack and decay of the drums and guitars is quite good on the 99 Classics, as are their respective tonalities. A lot of detail comes through, and the instrumental separation is good.
Jacked Up was similarly good. The pianos, while not necessarily hard-edged, sounded pretty lifelike. The guitars in the background weren’t as tight and defined as I would have liked, but that’s simply because I hold Meze’s creations up to a higher standard, as its price should suggest.
The vocals of all my test songs were presented very well, with I Am The Highway and Flagpole Sitta taking the cake as best performers. While not pulled too far forwards, the vocals never loose control of the song, even when they are at their busiest. But my favorite feature of the vocals is their seemingly effortless integration into the dynamics of the song.
Bass: Songs used: Lights, Gold Dust, 99 Problems (Hugo Cover), Leave Me
The 99 Classics emphasizes the bass more than the 11 Neo does, and in my humble opinion, does so rightly. The kick-drum of Lights and 99 Problems resolves with a tight thud, having what I consider to be a near-perfect level of wetness.
Gold Dust and Leave Me’s drops, as described by my roommate, are “filthy”. For those of you unacquainted with such youthful terminology, that’s synonymous to “pretty great”, and I’ll have to agree. The wetness that graces Lights and 99 Problems gives the aggressive bass sculpting in electronic songs a great tonality. However, please don’t confuse my comments on wetness for quantity of bass. While there’s certainly enough bass to go around, the 99 Classics are not a basshead’s pair of earphones, rather, they are somewhere around medium levels of bass.
Clarity: Songs used: Throne, Map of The Problimatique, I’m Not Alright
The 99 Classics performed decently across the board on my clarity test songs. My only point of concern is the articulation and range of the treble when the drivers are busy taking care of a lot of other sounds. In other words, the treble could be more resolving in busy songs.
The sound stage of the 99 Classics is above average, but not large. This puts it at a nice middle-ground for listeners looking for a more energizing and intimate soundstage, but who don’t want to sacrifice the sense of airiness that a large soundstage can produce. Instrumental separation is good.
-Packaging / Unboxing- Please excuse the unsightly sticker residue. I tried my best to get rid of it without damaging the box. Click on the images to expand them.
-Build- Construction Quality
I have to say, the 99 Classics is built rather nicely. The outer frame is made from what appears to be aluminum, while the inner frame holds the cushy leather headband in place. Hidden underneath the stitched leather is a self-adjustment system for the headband’s length, effectively eliminating the need to fiddle with the headphones to find the correct size to wear them at; an annoyance that I’m glad is gone. Then inner frame is secured to the outer frame using what looks like Torx screws. While I personally don’t see why they Meze couldn’t have gone with standard consumer-friendly screws, I still think the mechanism is quite secure, and feels solid. The Meze logo is emblazoned tastefully on the golden frame connector, and doesn’t appear to be wearing off any time soon. The real wood ear cups/driver housings are affixed to the frame via a ball joint that enables free rotation on two axes (not the tool, the plural of axis). Attached to the driver housings are medium-density memory foam ear pads. It’s a very impressive package that screams premium, with almost no real flaws.
If I had to make a single suggestion to Meze, it would be to try and tighten up the ear cups on their rotational joint. While this might not make a functional difference, it would definitely make the 99 Classics feel all the more sturdy.
The 99 Classics does come with a cable that has inline controls on it, which consists of a single pause/play button and a microphone. It works well, and the button has a nice softness to it.
I find the 99 Classics to be very comfortable. This is due mainly to the self-adjusting headband. The new, larger ear pads are just the right size for my ear, which is slightly above average in size. The 99 Classics isn’t very heavy, so expect it to disappear soon after you put it on. Natural, I have to put the disclaimer that my experiences won’t necessarily reflect yours given the fairly large number of possible anatomical differences between our heads.
One thing to note about the new earpads is that they are only found in 99 Classics that have the updated packaging. If you bought an older pair, contact Meze about getting the larger ones, as they really do improve the long-term comfort of the cans. In some cases, they also help solidify the bass a bit.
-Accessories- Meze bequeathed the 99 Classics with a solid set of accessories including:
1 comically long 3.5mm cloth cable
1 well-sized 3.5mm cable with inline controls
1 semi-hard headphone case
1 1/4inch to 3.5mm adapter
Seriously though, one of the cables is waaay too long. I’m not sure what scenarios one might need so much cabling for, but I’m sure I won’t ever end up in one. That being said, the cable does feel very premium, with Meze giving even the Y-splitter special attention.
-Summary- The 99 Classics are the epitome of what Meze has to offer. A fully-serviceable construction, great sound, good comfort, and impeccable style all push me to recommend these headphones, even at their $309 price point. If you’ve got the cash and don’t mind a splash of extra bass, you won’t be disappointed.
Pros - Amazing allrounder, nicely crafted piece of audio equipment setting a new standard for the price, lovely midrange, customer experience with Meze
Cons - Earcups could be a tad larger and the bass a bit tighter with some music genres and recordings, average soundstage, slightly microphonic cables
There already are a lot of reviews available for the Meze 99 Classics. So, why writing another one? Well, I used to buy and sell a respectable amount of headphones since approx. 7 years now - when the fever started - and never reviewed one of them until now. Today, I want to share my impressions on a product that IMHO stands out of the competition regarding the sound and the quality you get for the price.
English not being my first language, I thank you in advance for your comprehension while reading the following review
I bought the 99 Classics in Walnut/Silver directly from Meze’s website and wasn’t asked for a review by that company. What follows is just my honest opinion.
Before starting with the review itself, you maybe would like to know what kind of music has been played and which pieces of equipment have been used for that purpose. So, I mainly am listening to pop/rock/alternative (Elbow, The National, Bruce Springsteen, Sufjan Stevens, i.a.), Vocalists (Amos Lee, Peter Gabriel, Alison Goldfrapp, Kate Bush, Julia Holter, i.a.), french male & female songwriter and, last but not least, dark ambient, electronic, drone and (techno) dub music, which represent a good 50% of « my sound ». Ok, I am also listening to Jazz and movie soundtracks, but these genres are not on my everyday tracklist, so I focused on the music I really can get lost in, but also be very critical with, when having "careful listening" sessions. For this review, I let a bit the instrumental pieces of music aside and concentrated on tracks containing lyrics. Regarding the gears I used for this review, this is where some readers may lose interest in reading it. I only am and will listen to the 99 Classics at home on my desktop setup, which is composed of a Violectric V200 and a Schitt Yggy in balanced mode. I usually use this setup with my reference headphones, that are the LCD-X and the HD 800S. The Yggy adds to the slightly dark V200 the sparkle that is missing just a bit. On the go, I use IEM (Cardas A8) with my iPhone 6S. Nothing like the size of the Meze, it’s a matter of taste and comfort. I mainly used ALAC and FLAC audio-files, from 16/44.1kHz to 24/192 kHz. When the music has been well recorded, I don’t notice any difference between these resolution levels.
Let’s start with the beginning, meaning ordering the headphone directly on the website of Meze. Nice website. Ordering a new pair of headphone is a always a pleasure . Once you’ve made the payment, you get an e-mail from a member of the team thanking you to have placed your order and offering you assistance if you have any question. Tracking number is included. This a service I am awaiting after having ordered a +1000 USD headphone. Not a 309 EUR one. Customer experience is top notch.
I won’t explain the story or philosophy behind the Meze company, which is situated in Romania. If you’re interested in knowing Meze better, have a look at their website or get some information on Head-Fi or the Internet.
The postman knocked at the door five working days after I ordered the headphones. My « precious » have finally arrived. Inside the box, which looks premium as you can see on the following pictures, you get the 99 Classics, a solid carrying case made of premium plastic with a layer of leather on the surface. You also get a small box made of a nice cloth. Inside it, the cables (1.2 & 3 meters) and adapters are awaiting for you. I looked everywhere but didn’t find any L or R indications on the cups. Actually, this is the cable that defines the left and right channels. Nice feature.
Here are some pictures of the headphone and the packaging:
I usually don’t burn my headphones in. I’ve previously made it with my LCD-X and HD 800S, not with the other ones. Here again, I thought that a 72 hours pink noise program wouldn’t damage the headphone anyway. Moreover, I got them on a Tuesday and knew that I wouldn’t be able to hear them before the weekend.
Alright, Friday night, everyone’s sleeping at home, let’s start. When you put the 99 Classics on your head, you first may wish that the cups are a bit bigger. I have normal sized ears. For me, it remains an over-ear headphone. For people having large ears, it could become an on-ear headphone. This is an important aspect regarding the comfort I think. Otherwise, the 99 Classics are comfortable and the clamping force is quite low. You feel it just a bit, but personally I like to feel the weight of a headphone on my head (I love the 600 grams of my LCD-X). The replaceable pads are made of good quality synthetic leather and the wooden cups are really nice to the touch. I think that no glue has been used to assemble all the parts together. For a product « made in China », I am well surprised. No problem with the cables as well. They are made of good material, just a bit microphonic.
How is the sound? Well, if the customer experience was great and the unboxing a very nice moment, I have to admit that the first minutes spent with the 99 Classics were impressive. I don’t like superlatives. They tend to express emotions that are too immediate, without hindsight, often unable to stand the test of time. Nevertheless, it’s difficult not being immediately pleased by the details retrieval and the slightly warm and rich sound signature that is coming out of the Meze. Some reviewers used the word « fun » to describe the sound. I agree with that statement, but it goes beyond that, I think. Compared to other closed headphones I used to own or spent a few weeks with, the 99 Classics are more balanced, or, if I could say so, equilibrated. The ATH-MSR7 for example has a very pleasant sound and not harsh as usually stated if used with an appropriate setup. I like the sparkle in the treble, the imaging and the slightly forward sound presentation. Details retrieval is very good as well. The comfort, with your ears getting sweaty pretty fast, and the bass lacking impact, are the only issues. Overall, I would say that it can compete with headphones costing a few hundred bucks more, as long as you are looking for its specific sound signature along with a coherent setup. On the other hand, I liked to put the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 over-ear on my head (lend from a friend). Very well assembled and beautiful looking. The rolled-off treble is the main problem here. It has a pleasant warm sound, with a good bass and lovely midrange. But air is lacking in the highs. For me, with such a treble, it’s game over. Finally, the Mr. Speakers Alpha Dog is quite a piece of a headphone. Very comfy and sexy to look at, if I can express myself like that. If the Meze plays in the upper price category, I wasn’t satisfied with the sound of the Alpha Dog, especially at 699 USD. The imaging isn’t that good I think. Soundstage was great, but otherwise I found them pretty boring to listen at. The 99 Classics combines all the strong points of my previous closed cans, without the weaknesses. Okay, the highs of the ATH-MSR7 and the soundstage of the Alpha Dog remain unbeaten for me, but the Meze does a very good score, especially in the treble area. So, what about the sound characteristics?
BASS: At high volume levels or with average quality recordings you will hear some distortion or get an unpleasant boomy effect. Most of the time the bass is powerful, with an impressive reverb effect and goes deep. It sometimes could be better controlled. Bassheads will likely love it. But not only them actually. I am not considering myself as a basshead, but this bass put a smile on my face a few times, when the recording quality was good enough. However, on some recordings, I would have preferred to have a tighter bass. It could be overwhelming at times and it doesn’t suit all music genres. All in all, the bass is good, doing the show it was meant to do, but could have been a tad more precise and tighter for my taste.
MIDRANGE: The midrange is sweet and very good rendered. A nice touch of warmth on male and female vocals tracks easily makes you close your eyes and enjoy your music without analyzing what you’re listening to. A very positive point of that headphone. It makes you forget that you are wearing one, so you just can focus on your music and having fun. Great job Meze!
TREBLE: With a sweet midrange and a powerful bass, you could think that the treble has gone forgotten and then will be rolled-off or damped. I was surprised to notice that I didn’t have to make that compromise with the 99 Classics. The treble is airy enough without being harsh or sibilant on well recorded tracks. Impressive job here as well.
DETAILS RETRIEVAL: Although we are not in presence of a sound surgeon like the HD 800S, I find the details retrieval to be very good, clearly better than what you could expect from a 300 EUR headphone.
IMAGING: The very slight forward presentation is a matter of taste. I like it personally. It’s easy to pinpoint the different instruments and to position the singer on vocal tracks.
SOUNDSTAGE: For a closed headphone, it does quite well. Honestly, it could be a bit wider. The good imaging made me sometimes forget that I was listening to a closed pair of cans. So, nothing bad here, but nothing fantastic either.
ISOLATION: Honestly, I don't care. My reference cans being open and having the opportunity to have a dedicated audio-room, I don't need isolation for my listening sessions. When I cover the inner pads with my hands, I don't hear much sound leaking out. I then assume that isolation should be good or sufficient enough to use the 99 Classics in public transport.
OVERALL: I would say that the SQ of the Meze is better that the sum of every part taken separately. The Meze engineers and the resulting combination of the different sound characteristics gave birth to a great pair of headphones, which is really difficult to dislike IHMO. If someone does, I am very curious to know why. On averagely recorded music, you may hear distortion or being bothered by a slight sibilance and a bass that lacks precision and may get boomy. Please remember that I've done my listening on a desktop setup and that portable devices haven't been used for it.
I am not giving 5 stars although I easily could do it regarding the concurrence at the price. Being firmly convinced that Meze will go even further and better in the months to come, my 5 stars are waiting for the extra mile to be done by an already serious european audio company. For 309 EUR, the 99 Classics is an amazing pair of headphones and a marvelous allrounder, beautifully and carefully crafted with premium materials. It’s difficult to find real weakness at that price point. The bass could be tighter, with more precision and the soundstage a bit wider. That’s all for me. If you’re on the market for a closed headphone that does a lot right and nothing wrong, while not having unusual large ears, I strongly recommend to give the Meze a listen or even to blindly purchase them without an audition as long as you trust all the positive reviews around enough for it. It definitely has the potential to put some headphones belonging to the same price category to shame, depending on what kind of sound signature you are looking for. Bravo Meze for that wonderful 99 Classics!
Pros - Comfortable, well designed, balanced sound
Cons - none
Meze 99 Classic Headphone Review - Expatinjapan Head Pie
Meze 99 Classic with Centrance hifi-skyn Meze 99 Classic review (Silver walnut version) -expatinjapan https://www.mezeheadphones.com/ The MEZE 99 Classics have been getting a lot of air time on the internet and various review sites and forums. Even the most hardened of reviewers have agreed that the Meze 99 Classic is a headphone for the ages, one to add to the revolving roster of headphones that they would use and listen to on a regular basis.
Unboxing and build
The Meze come in an appropriate sized box and comes with a solid traveling case.
The Meze 99 Classic comes with a short cable with a built in microphone and also a long cable.
One for on the move with your choice of portable dap (four foot long) and a longer cable (Ten foot long) for relaxing at home.
Also included is an 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter for your home system and an adapter for when traveling by airplane.
The nice hard cover case protects the Meze 99 Classic whilst on the move.
Its hard to see in this photo but there is also a soft round case for the cables.
The Meze 99 Classics fit me so well I did not even notice that the headband can be adjusted.
It does so by itself automatically. super design.
Transducer size: 40mm
Frequency response: 15Hz - 25KHz
Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
Rated input power: 30mW
Maximum input power: 50mW
Detachable Kevlar OFC cable
Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
Weight: 260 gr (9.2 ounces) without cables
Ear-cups: walnut wood
Exquisite build and solid well thought out design makes the Meze 99 Classic a headphone for the ages.
Each cable is marked with R and L, you can plug into either jack which makes set up easy and stress free.
Fully serviceable! The 99 Classic. Nice reinforced Y cable split. Fit
I find the fit to be very comfortable, they cover over my ears: circum-aural. This would not be the case for people with larger ears or ears that stick out I guess. But for me they slip right in there like a bug in a rug.
I think as usual with most headphones fit and comfortable is dependent on individual head and ear size.
Meze 99 Classic with Centrance Hifi-m8 Value
At around US$300 the Meze 99 Classic comes in at the sub mid fi price tier.
But don`t let the price of the Meze 99 Classic fool you, they could easily up the price and still be within an acceptable asking price.
Well designed, simply beautiful.
Decent well sourced materials
Solid and functional build.
Whats not to like?
Meze 99 Classic with the Opus#1 dap Sound First impressions were positive. The Meze 99 Classic comes across silky smooth and resolving with fabulous instrument placing and separation. As usually I got a considerable number of hours on the 99 Classics before I started the review. I tried them with the Opus#1 dap, Shozy Alien Gold, Centrance Hifi skyn and the Hifi-M8. Vocals: Neither too forward nor recessed the vocals on the Meze 99 Classic hit the sweet spot for me. Bass: A slight slow decay is present, but overall is fast enough to please with most music. Mids: As with most woodies the mids play an important part in the overall presentation, not overly warm as such, more on the liquid side of things rather than a deep lushness. fairly neutral and dynamic with a quick decay. Treble: It is clear and offers the detail one expects, it veers away from being extended to the point of harshness or sibilance and is pleasing to the ears. It reaches far enough for a good balance with the bass and the mids, each not over stepping their individual bounds. Instrument separation: Good separation, not crisp as such with a slight smudging at times. Overall very good. Sound stage: A decent soundstage that feels larger than my head, good instrument placement. So many reviews have already been written on the Meze 99 Classic that the interested consumer now has many to read through to help them in choosing whether the 99 Classic is for them. They all seem to agree that it is a decent product.
If you are after a great sounding, well priced headphone with beautiful design then the Meze 99 Classic could be for you.
The Meze 99 Classic is a headphone I have enjoyed reviewing, comfortable to wear and pleasurable to listen to. It makes my task as a audio review hobbyist that much better when I am really happy to spend time with the product.
I find the fit to be very comfortable, they cover over my ears: circum-aural. This would not be the case for people with larger ears or ears that stick out I guess. But for me they slip right in there like a bug in a rug.
The sound is very relaxing, silky smooth with a softness to it and that ever present gorgeousness that I love so much when it comes to lush wooden headphones.
The pads seem to be made of pleather, I would like to see Meze change them to leather.
The Meze 99 Classic come in a maple or walnut wood, Head pie reviewed the walnut version.
The sound is quite balanced overall. The vocals just above the music and not too far forward, the bass is fast but with a slow decay at times, mids are prominent and fast but not over bearing nor muddy, the treble is clear without harshness or sibilance.
It is an easy to drive headphone and is powered adequately out of a smart phone. My ipod touch 6G was at 55% volume.
Using a dedicated Dap will yield the best results. I prefer a brighter source with the Walnut version.
The sound is a universal one. One I expect would appeal to most listeners as it treads the middle ground, no real emphasis on vocals, bass, mids nor treble but providing a suitable and enjoyable mix between them all whilst retaining that certain woodie signature.
Thank you again to Meze for sending Head pie the Meze 99 Classic headphones for review -expatinjapan
ExpatinJapan, Sep 20, 2016