Meze 12 Classics

General Information

The latest in the Classics series, the Meze 12 doesn’t reveal itself immediately.

The walnut wood housing changes, slightly, over time in tone and contrast. Its mystery isn’t quick to vanish.

The signature sound of a Meze, on the other hand, is and will be unchanged.

Latest reviews

Pros: Great Build, Easy to Drive, Smooth Sound,
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.

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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
  • Impedance: 16Ohm
  • 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
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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.
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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.

Overall:
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.
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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.



Specification:
Driver: 8mm Dynamic, Copper-clad Aluminum voice coil
Diaphragm: Titanium coated Mylar
Sensitivity: 101dB (+/- 3db)
Frequency Response: 16Hz - 24KHz
Impedance: 16Ohm
Total harmonic distortion: < 0.5%
Material: Wood and Aluminum
Cable Material: 7N OFC cable
Cable Length: 1.2m
Plug: 3.5mm gold-plated jack

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.)
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Pros: Great build quality, choice of materials and design
Punchy and quick bass
Fun sound signature
Cons: Fit (Subjective)
Mic sounds a bit muffled
Some specifications (from mezeaudio.com):

  • Frequency response: 16Hz – 24KHz
  • Impedance: 16Ohm
  • 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


Unboxing, fit and first thoughts

If the goodness of a product shines through its presentation, this – judging from the cover – is a wonderful one. It may be obvious for someone, giving the long experience in product design of Antonio Meze, but nothing must be taken for granted.



This box is elegant, while clearly ready for being exposed in the stores. The picture of the earphones on the front face is the real position of them inside the box itself; and the shape of it reprises the Meze logo. This sign of cure is a constant in every way concerning these In-Ears. Every face of the box is smartly used to give us all the information about the earphones themselves as well as the accessories and other useful advertisements. The most interesting thing here, for audiophile people, is the frequency response graphic, which reveals the characteristic tuning of the company.



Inside the box you’ll find a carrying pouch with the Meze logo, a pair of Comply foam ear tips (great to find them!), three silicon tips (S, M, L) and a double-flange pair. Great selection. And there’s a clip to attach the cable on a T-shirt or something: guess… with the Meze logo! The “instruction manual”, which may sound useless, has instead some really useful tips like dangerous volumes ecc.. There’s also a Meze sticker which is good to add to your MacBook with all the others I’m sure you all have out there!



The “Classic” name that Meze gives to some of its products could mean two things: that you’re looking at a classy product (usually with wooden inserts); that it’s perfect for classical music (that is a difficult genre to reproduce, because of the transients and the soundstage it needs). Why did I think that? Because if you try some Neo versions of the same ear/headphones of Meze, you will find punchier basses and a slightly different tuning, more popular and modern. You can read our reviews of the 99s (Classics and Neo) to better understand this. We will see later if that’s the case even with these “12”.

Anyway, when you look at these earphones you immediately realize to hold a product developed with passion (if you saw the interviews with Antonio Meze you can understand what I mean). The wood gives a premium feel to the product and the overall build quality is top notch. The cable is not my favorite, I’d rather a braided style, but it’s well done and the metal inserts with the Meze logo are very high quality. It’s also oxygen-free, which means that the interferences are very low.

There is an issue regarding the fit of the 12 Classics with my ears: I’ve tried every silicon ear tip and everyone can’t help falling off. I now go with the Comply ones (which are much, much better), but I must be very careful when I walk or move because the fit is not the greatest for me anyway. That didn’t happen with my girlfriend, which found them perfect, for example. You can always wrap the cable around your ear like in IEMs and obtain a better fit for you.



Sound

My main source was a FiiO M7 DAP. I’ve also used my 2012 MacBook Pro (also with a Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface), my Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 with default dongle and with Audirect Whistle DAC/Amp.

I generally liked the sound of these 12 Classics. The signature is not so conventional, and you have to like a warm and pretty dark sound to appreciate them. If you are fan of clarity and brilliant treble, these aren’t probably your first choice. The instrument separation is decent, even though I heard everything pretty unbalanced on the lower side; this is a pro for certain kinds of music, because the bass is quick and punchy, and very dense, but it’s a con for other ones. I have to say that initially the soundstage was very limited, so I recommend following the tips of Meze and let them burn in several hours. Now it’s so much better than before, even though it’s not the widest stage you’ll ever find. The most enjoyable experience you can have with these is with certain kinds of modern music that are minimal and dynamic (sounds strange with the name Classics!) like Lorde, Oh Wonder and so on.

With classical music the things are a bit different. The enhanced lower frequencies remain, but the instrument separation is generally better. Still I didn’t find a perfect imaging, you haven’t the feeling to be inside the scene. The treble voices have sometimes too much reverb; the strange thing is that’s something affecting the male voices more than the female ones. Unusual fact, in my opinion. The particular tuning probably affects the sound in that way. I did find however a really enjoyable sound, fast and precise, more on a fun side than a reference one. From the provided frequency response graph, you can effectively see that the higher frequencies (from 10 kHz) are not the best; it’s the same signature as the 11 series, but I believe that they are tuned with some differences. And the wood may give some “naturalness” to the sound, for the ones who believe it in such small earphones.

The sound leak is almost inexistent, which is great.



The mic, unfortunately, isn’t great. It sounds a bit muffled, but I understand the majority of people prefer having it, even for emergency purpose. With this kind of earphones, I’d rather have a better cable with no mic, because they are made for music listening.

So, summing up, the bass is very good, the mid is okay, the treble is not the clearest one. I liked them a lot, because of the punchiness and the quick bass. The sound is embracing, and it surprises: I tried a lot of honest headphones which haven’t some impressive features; these are instead very “warm” in terms of sound, and really convincing. You must know that it’s not the most usual sound signature, however.




Conclusion

Do I recommend the 12 Classics? For sure, because you get a good, non-fatiguing listening experience and a quick and detailed sound, even if a little bit dark, and they are easy to drive even with your smartphone. Consider that you might have some small fit issues, like me, and if you need to make a lot of calls with them you may find the mic not so good. I would take them as my daily drivers, if my ears were matching them better, because the sound is pleasant. And they look amazing.

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