Pros: very fluid and listenable signature, well made, good kit
Cons: non-detachable cable, some detail smoothed over
Pros: very fluid and listenable signature, well made, good kit
Cons: non-detachable cable, some detail smoothed over
disclaimer: I borrowed the Meze 12 Classic V2 from The Contraptionist since I have owned and enjoyed the V1. If you haven’t checked out the Contraptionist’s blog, be sure to check it out. He’s got a ton of good content and a lot of models that complement what can be found here. Well worth a look. I have no financial interest in Meze Audio, nor have I received any advice or incentive for this review. I returned the product at completion so had the 12 Classics for a span of roughly 3 weeks.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The packaging for the 12 Classics makes a lot of use of the Lyrebird that is the Meze Mascot/Logo. From the positioning of the earpiece and cable graphic on the front cover to the positioning of the actual earpieces, cable and case in the foam surround, the theme is evident. The package front displays the earpieces while the sides and reverse display the specs in both text and graphics. In addition to the earphones and case, four sets of tips (3 single flange and 1 dual flange set) are provided with the 12Cs. The box has a hanger for wall display and looks the part for a premium maker even if this is their entry level option.
The 12Cs are a barrel shaped, straight into the ear design with a central shell made of walnut and a copper anodized aluminum nose and tail. Nozzles are fairly short with no rake and a fairly large lip for tip retention. The single vent sits at the base of the nozzle and is fairly small (pin-head sized) and I found that use of some tip styles can block the vent so be careful when tip rolling to be sure no obstruction occurs. Cables exit the bottom of the walnut portion of the shell with good strain reliefs and a cloth casing for durability. Finally the outer cap is a concave with a white lyrebird logo in the center giving the earphone a nice classy, understated style. All the cable fixtures match the copper anodizing on the earpieces and continue the theme with the lyrebird and Meze shown in white on the splitter as well. I found the 12Cs to be quite comfortable when paired with medium sized tips and ended up settling on the Shure olives that have worked well for me on so many other models. (With this being a borrowed in-ear, I didn’t use the stock tips other than to photograph them). The Shure tip is fairly close in both bore diameter and exterior dimensions to the stock tips so I’d expect listening notes to be fairly accurate comparatively.
The heart of the Meze 12 remains an 8mm dynamic driver utilizing a titanium coated Mylar diaphragm and a copper clad aluminum voice coil. The specs also remain the same from the original version with an impedance of 16Ω and a sensitivity of 101 dB/mW (±3dB) at 1kHz. The previous generation was easy to drive from a phone or tablet and the new version is equally at home paired with a smart phone dongle or tablet but does scale some both qualitatively and quantitatively with better sources. I found the bass a little loose when using a tablet but tightened up with dongles or more potency. One thing to note here too is the only vent is on the face just below the nozzle and large tips can overlap it and will impact the bass as well so if you find yourself not liking the clarity of the lows, make sure your tips aren’t blocking the vent when inserted into the ear. I found that spinfits did this with their large as did Azla tips.
The one spec I did find that varied from v1 to v2 is the cable. V1 offered an mic and remote that is no longer an option on v2, and the cable itself is listed as 6N OFC for v2 and was listed as 7N OFC for the first generation version. Other than that the two remain quite similar with the same jack (3.5mm straight), same casing (Cloth covered rubber – single strand), same splitter (barrel), same lack of chin-slider, and same direct attachment to the earpieces. Strain reliefs are quite good at all junctions which is a plus for an earphone with a non-removable cable. Unfortunately, the same complaint I have with the 1st generation cable still holds true and that is it has a bad habit of passing any movement of the cable directly into the earpiece. There is enough distance to wear these tip-up, and if exercising or doing anything particularly strenuous, it is advisable to mitigate microphonics.
Sub-bass is elevated with a center around 70Hz and roll-off becoming notable below about 35Hz where it starts to be more a rumble than individual tones. Mid-bass begins a gradual decline but is still elevated for most of its range. Overall rumble and slam have good quantity and moderately good quality although the bass is a little thick and does bleed into the lower mids enough to color them. The low end adds some needed warmth and helps the 12C mimic its bigger brother the 99C in overall tonality if not in absolute performance. Attack is slightly faster than decay which gives the 12c a realistic tone but is subject to some compression as tracks get faster.
Lower mids have a bit of an elevation compared to the true mid range which helps lift male vocals and gives them a bit more fullness as well. Here again, there is a nice natural if a bit relaxed tone with a very smooth delivery. These aren’t going to extract every last minute bit of detail, but what is presented flows without any jagged edges or harshness to the sound. Guitar growl is good if a little smooth and strings have good tone but could use a touch more energy to sound entirely correct. Upper mids climb back up from the trough of the true mids and female vocals do cut through the rest of the mix to stand out in front as a result. Again, no tendency toward sibilance, and a smooth delivery, but perhaps a bit more energy than realistic as it does pull some vocals and instruments forward in the mix.
The treble tuning is well done in my opinion as lower and true treble are pushed forward to match the bass emphasis but then fall back starting at about 7kHz to keep the tuning from getting too bright or fatiguing. Final roll-off is above 14kHz but really the range between about 8kHz and 14kHz can be thought of as mildly de-emphasized compared to the rest of the signature. Treble detail is good with snare rattle being well defined if a little less crisp than perfect, but cymbals so need a touch more energy to be realistic. The nice thing here again is a smooth delivery with very little grain in its delivery.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage is about what one should expect from an in ear in this price bracket. It has moderate dimensions with more width than depth and some height albeit not quite as much as needed for total realism. The good news is instrument separation is above average and layering is also fairly good so seating the orchestra leaves no huge gaps or overlaps even in spite a of a wider than deep stage. Imaging is good as well with movements easily tracked, but here again that smoothness of deliver means that at times positions in space are not as tightly defined as some models. There is some compression as tracks get busier and some thickening particularly of the low end.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The original model 12 Classic was aimed at reproducing the 99 Classic in an earphone and it succeeded in some respects and left some room for improvement in others. The v2 is an iterative step forward as the driver has been updated while leaving the aesthetic intact. I do like the Copper anodizing as I think the newer version looks a little more high end and the copper helps accentuate the walnut in the barrels better than the previous version. Sound wise, the two are again largely alike with only iterative differences in the signature. I find the bass a little cleaner on the V2 and slightly less exaggerated in the mid-bass while the true mids and upper mids have a little more realistic timbre than the previous generation. Those with an original V12 or V11 Neo will appreciated the upgrades to the v2 and those who haven’t had the opportunity to try the series yet will enjoy an easy-going listen that is more musical than technical most of the time, but offers a very engaging signature that is easy to get lost in while relaxing.
Cons: Non detachable Cable, Hard to see L/R indications. (MIc Is always Right)
Some background before getting in to the review. My friend Jay who runs the Youtube Channel NBT Studio asked me if I was interested in doing reviews, I said sure I'll take a stab at it. So here we are with my first written and video review. My writing, video, and photography skills (the images look worse as thumbnails) are still a work in progress so there should be an improvement over time. Please let me know what you think.
Disclaimer: The Meze 12 Classics were provided by Meze for the purpose of this review.
The Meze can be Purchased here from https://www.mezeaudio.com/ for ~79USD
The following are the Technically Specifications of the 12 Classic
Frequency response: 16Hz – 24KHz
Sensitivity: 101dB (+/- 3db)
Total harmonic distortion: < 0.5%
Noise attenuation: up to 26dB
Titanium coated 8mm mylar driver
Copper-clad aluminum voice coil
3.5mm gold-plated jack plug
7N OFC cable, length: 1.2m
For the purpose of the review most of my listening was done through my Sony Zx300, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and Macbook Pro 2015 to see how easy they were to drive. The volume on the Zx300 was always in the 45-55 range SE and High Gain. The Meze 12 Classic were compared to some of the other iems I had on hand such as the KZ ZS6(~35-45USD), and Creative Aurvana Trio(~99USD).
The Songs I Listened to Were:
Shiver by Lucy Rose
On & On by Joey BadA$$
Righteous Minds by Joey BadA$$
Time Lapse by Ludovico Einauldi
Labyrinth by Mondo Grosso
For Now I am Winter by Olafur Arnalds
Visions by Vanilla
Ambitionz az a Ridah by Tupac
Thriller by Michael Jackson
Second Hand News by FleetWood Mac
These songs were 320kps, Flac, and the last 2 DSD just to cover all of my basses, though the zx300 does not fully convert dsd unless you are using the Balanced output.
Packaging, Build and Fit
The packaging of the 12 Classic is very simple, straight forward and come with a good choice of tips which include some comply Foam tips. The carry is nothing specatular but at this price point I would not expect a hard shell or some thing fancy you would see with likes of the Campfire Lineup. It does it's job. Build of these Iems is great made up of a solid mix of wood and aluminum, mine were in the Silver iridium variant which looks great. These as shown in the picture come with a wired that is not detachable, which is my biggest gripe as many of the competitors at or below this price offer a detachable cable like the KZ ZS6 and Mee audio m6pro. Though wired the quality is good made of 7N OFC Copper, and has a nice feel to it. The Fit is okay nothing great similar to many iems with this design not my favourite but with the MandarinES tips they fit well and provided decent isolation.
Sound And Comparisons
Instead of describing the sound of the 12 Classic independently I would just start off with the comparisons.
None of these iems need a Digital Audio player to sound Great and I was fine using my phone.
To start is the KZ ZS6 (79 USD vs 35-45USD):
The most immediate thing you here when you start comparing the two on tracks such as On & On and Righteous Minds is that the ZS6 have slightly better bass extension and that they have a greater quantity in the bass region overall, where as the 12 Classic have to me better bass quality where you hear more definition in the bass and overall clean sound. Next the Mids, these are striking and probably the most important aspect of sound to me and the ZS6 just sound off, on Labyrinth by Mondo Grosso the vocals are distant and sharp and somewhat of a shouty nature to them, where as the mids are more forward, smooth, and enjoyable to listen to. The treble was very prominent on the ZS6 had and aggressiveness, sharpness and edge to them that I did not find enjoyable. The treble was not as prominent and did not have the same edge it provided more clarity and a cleaner sound on the whole. Lastly, in terms of imaging and soundstage both are just okay for their price range with the Meze being better in both regards the first minute of Thriller helped in determining this. The Foot steps were going write to left were the marker I used for this.
Next is the Creative Aurvana Trio (79USD vs 99 USD):
The Bass quantity and impact were much greater in the Trio, using the same Joey BadA$$ songs, to listen for this, they extended a smidge more but nothing really noticeable, where the meze was better was once again the quality, the third hit of the drum was more discernible and decayed better in Righteous Minds. The mids were once Again best on the Meze, When listening to Shiver by Lucy Rose from 20 seconds to 1 minute, her voice carriers more body, weight, and clarity. The guitar sounds great as well and how i expect it to. In the Trio the mids are further back and not as prominent, along with the guitar that plays through out the song sounds thin and hollow, her voice is also the same, I do not get the same clarity and body I got with the Meze. The Treble was much smoother then on the Trio, especially when listening to something like righteous minds. The piano and cymbals do not sound sharp.
Once again the first minute of Thriller was used listen for soundstage and clarity. In terms of these two aspects both of these Iem do well but the Trio edge out by a tiny and almost indiscernible amount.
I Prefer the Meze over both the Iems listed, though they might not be the best comparison it is just what i had on hand in a close price range. The Meze provide good bass quality and as someone who uses the Campfire Orions as his daily driver am not bothered by the some what lacking extension. The mids were great on the Classic 12, along with their smooth and easy to listen to treble there is nothing more I can ask for in this price range, except for detachable cable preferably mmcx. If anything I mentioned is intriguing to you give them a listen.
Here is a short Video Review by me (much easier to write then to speak in full length at the moment) The video review was done prior to the written one.
Pros: A good balanced signature, smooth sound, good detail retrieval, fatigue free listening, great build quality, beautiful wooden shell and overall aesthetics, has a microphone for mobile/internet calls.
Cons: Cable microphonics
Introduction:Meze Audio, is a company that is well known, even in the Asian markets that are far from their native land of Baia Mare, Romania. It is here, amongst the scenic and medieval touched landscape that Antonio Meze, through his love for music, started Meze Audio in 2009. Starting small and gaining experience through the years, they were able to break through in 2015 with their 99 Classics which garnered them much accolades, awards and a lot of smiling happy customers. Following the success of their headphones, they came out with the Meze 11 Neo and 12 classics, like miniature versions of their 99 Neo and 99 classics, they were developed in house, and designed with their own aesthetic of timelessness, functionality, ergonomics and of course a flair for style while maintaining a high standard for quality and a sound that should be vivid and immersive.
Today, I'll be reviewing the Meze Audio 12 Classics (in gunmetal). and I'd like to thank Doina Ferrent and the people of Meze Audio for the chance to review the 12 Classics in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. You can buy the Meze Audio 12 Classics at the Meze Audio website or locally if you have an official retailer for Meze Audio products.
The 12 Classics are quite easy to drive thanks to its low impedance and can get to loud volumes with its sensitivity. Real world usage on my Xperia XZ Premium is able to drive it to 95db at max volume, which isn't the loudest but adequate enough to silence most ambient noise. The nice thing about the 12 Classics is that it can scale depending on the source, in particular, it can sound a lot better with more power provided, sounding more musical and articulate with better sources and still sound fun and entertaining with just a phone as a source.
Unboxing: The Meze 12 Classics arrives in a nice sturdy white box as seen above and has all the info necessary for an informed purchase if perused at say a store. It has a nice complimentary aesthetic for me and though it's not as minimalist as I'd like, the choice they made was a statement of how they view their products, that being worth the effort and flair and it shows with how the inner layout is made in homage to the Meze Audio logo which also mimics the front cover photo.
Inside are the basic necessities for Meze 12 Classics as well as some goodies:
1 x Meze 12 Classics
1 x Cable clip
1 x Carrying Case
1 x 3 sets of silicone ear-tips (S, M, L)
1 x Set of double flange tips
1 x Set of Comply foam ear tips
1 x Booklet
1 x Circular Meze Audio sticker
1 x Rectangular Meze Audio sticker
The tip selection is standard but the double flange and real Comply tips are a great addition to insure comfort and fit in almost any ear geometry. The clip can be a necessity as I'll explain later and the carrying case can be a godsend if you do not have your own case to use, though the case in itself is pretty awesome it's sturdy and quite compact. I'm not sure if the stickers are a recent addition but I think they are really a nice touch, it gives you the opportunity to show your love for Meze by using it on your favorite things, the refrigerator, a diary, laptops etc..
Cable/Build/Design: The Meze 12 Classics has a non-removable cable that looks reinforced for durability and made of 7N Oxygen Free Copper (OFC), the jacket is a bit on the thick side, this adds to a bit of stiffness and microphonics of the cable but also prevents kinks and tangling. There is adequate strain relief in all places where to expect it (after the plug, before and after splitter and mic, before the drivers), a standard mobile case friendly straight gold plated plug adorns the connection end of the 12 Classics which the cable leads to a nice metallic Y-split with the Meze Audio branding, on the right cable, there is a microphone and button module for mobile use. The microphone has been tested with calls on cellular and internet calls and is quite clear with good and clear sound pickup. The overall build of the cable system inspires confidence in its resilience.
The driver shells of the 12 Classic are a nice mix of aluminum and wood, which is unique for each set, mine has already displayed it's characteristics in that one is lighter than the other. In hand they feel solid and textured but not rough or overly smooth. There is a small embossed letter L and R on the respective side of the strain relief of each shell and an additional dot on the left side, which incidentally isn't really necessary as you can just feel or look at the microphone module and know that side is the right.
There are two vents on the 12 Classics, one at the bottom for diaphragm venting and one near the front/nozzle is for insertion venting (to avoid driver flex). The front vent can be covered by a small piece of Blu Tack (or something similar) so there will be no air escaping the front side, this usually increases the bass of most IEMs with similar vents. The nozzle has a prominent tip lip made of Aluminum that holds any tip used securely. There is a fine mesh cover on the nozzle to prevent naturally occurring cerumen to enter the shell. The strain relief here is thick and flexible, giving it a good level of protection from accidental pulls and general manhandling. Aesthetic wise, the 12 Classics are easy on the eyes, look classy and seem to impart a feeling of inviting warmth and stability.
Sound Analysis: When I first listened to the 12 Classics, it felt like a spacious and enjoyable tuning though bass felt a bit fast and controlled, it didn't overwhelm me with bass, or very forwarded mids and a bright treble, it also felt that the upper mids were a little recessed compared to the mids which struck me as odd. Still it was a fun listen and the lightness of the overall tuning gave me an easy listening vibe. Considering the belief that dynamics need clocked usage for it to reach its best performance, I used the Meze 12 Classics with music for over 200 hours before doing my review. I used Symbio W tips for listening and various sources (calibrated to 85db) though most was done using the Sony WM1a to compare and find the sound of the 12 Classics.
Bass: First off, the Meze 12 Classics are not bass head IEMs, now that is out of the way, with an 8mm dynamic driver, the Meze 12 Classics is able to push out a good amount of bass. The sub-bass is of average reach and is controlled with a faster than average decay which lets Dragonborn's battle drums slam and reach a decent depth before resounding enthusiastically into the next notes, this does reflect well for its responsiveness and ability to resolve details. Bass has good impact, owing to a boost in this part of the frequency, giving the 12 Classics an above average punch that is felt well with Acid Rain's bass slams and bass guitars have that nice grungy crunch, giving Lithium an effervescent quality (aka lively). Overall, the 12 Classics has good bass texture, blending smoothly with the warmth, attack and decay of the music.
Mids: The mids for me can be a make or break situation considering I really like this frequency range, and it's fortunate (for me) that the Meze 12 Classics has good mids that are near balanced in tonality with a leaning towards a little more thickness with a touch of warmth for that rather organic smoothness. This is apparent with Dream a Little Dream of Me (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong) where the music has a good amount of thickness that defines their voices well just as the instruments sound distinct and harmonious. This also displays how balanced the mids are with both voices being on the same level and are a little forward in overall placement.
There is ample space and detail retrieval in the 12 Classics for it to sound clear and uncompressed, Pandemic sounds good with every instrument and voice identifiable and don't meld incoherently with one another in this otherwise wall of sound of a song. Pianos in Do What You have to Do sound a little on the light side in this range and give some crisp as the offset while guitars and synths positively respond on this frequency. Alive's (Pearl Jam) rhythm guitar sound smooth with a grungy bite while the lead has a bit of crisp to its note. Clair Marlo's Till They take my Heart Away is particularly nice for me with the synths sounding crisp, the bass guitars strumming a good beat and sounding melodious while her voice wrapped in a warmth and smoothness sings emotively.
Treble: The Meze 12 has an above average reach for the treble, providing a good amount of air and some sparkle, Silent Lucidity's harmonics sound particularly crisp and clear, inviting with a semblance of brightness that does not induce harshness or fatigue. Hit the Lights' cymbal crashes and high hats arrive well and nicely detailed, sounding quite natural. The 12 Classics provide a needed clarity and separation to avoid congestion as the sounds in Hit the Lights can overlap and merge on gear that has poor tuning and ability. Sibilance is well controlled here and without sounding rolled off or cut off too early, an overall good sounding area for the 12 Classics.
Soundstage: Left and right staging has very good width, moving outward in a natural way, going up to around 4 inches away in distance for some sounds and on most songs a little out of the ear. Front and back staging distance is on the average size, while up and down depth is a little above average. Instrument separation and layering is pretty good as it prevents you from feeling or hearing any congestion in the music no matter how busy it gets. Imaging is accurate for positioning of source sounds.
Conclusion: The Meze 12 Classics is one of the good all arounder IEMs out in the market, it has an overall balanced and organic sound that's fatigue and harshness free, perfect for chilling through your daily routine. With a fast and punctuating bass, smooth and detailed mids, a crisp, airy treble framed in a stage that is both layered and spacious, the Meze 12 Classic is an enjoyable listen for many genres that don't overly rely on very strong bass presence. The overall physical attributes of the 12 Classic are also worth noting, built with sturdy cables and provided with a good control microphone that compliments the well built aluminum and classy wooden shell, a merging of both modern and organic aesthetics.
One other thing to note is the vent a little after the nozzle, if you accidentally smother it with a foam tip or intentionally cover it with some Blu Tack, the bass on the Meze 12 Classic will become stronger, able to hit harder and have more quantity, at this level, the mids are not overwhelmed by the bass but you can say that it could possibly satisfy a basshead. Mids and treble, clarity, separation and layering are largely unaffected though the stage feels a bit smaller overall. Covering the vents can introduce a bit of driver flex which is usually not damaging to the IEMs so use proper insertion methods to avoid this in case you want the basshead version of the Meze 12 Classics.
Sound testing was done using a Sony WM1a (Primarily), a Hiby R6, Zishan Z1(for comparison), Audirect Beam (for computer convenience) and a phone (for checking driveability) volume matched to 90.X db of max volume for safe hearing below 8 hours of use and calibrated using a 1kh tone on a dedicated DB Meter, all sources patched through a switcher. More information will be available on the About Me page (once I find the time to write it up.)