Meze 99 Neo

General Information

Using the same driver as the award winning 99 Classics, the Meze 99 Neo strives for precision in every component just as much as its counterpart. Cast zinc alloy hardware with electroplated coating, stamped manganese spring steel headband, memory foam and soft PU leather are the premium materials to be found here as well. A full bodied textured sound, this is all part of the Meze 99 Neo experience. Musicality and high quality materials, created with passion.

Latest reviews

Pros: Natural yet energic soundsignature, wide holographic soundstage, beautifull design, good construction, light and very comfortable, detachable cable, easy to drive
Cons: Slight bass bleed with bass heavy tracks, some sound leakage
MEZE 99 NEO (Enthusiast but Late) REVIEW:

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SOUND: 8.5/10
CONSTRUCTION: 9/10
COMFORT: 9.5/10
ACCESSORIES: 9/10
VALUE: 8.5/10


How much headphone do I have really?? Well, at least 20 pairs ranging from 20$ to 1000$, some go, some take dust, other are sure keeper like this Meze 99 Neo, and it isn’t for perfection of tuning but for the flavor it give. I like musicality way more than technicality in the sens that if it sound too monitor like, well, I just need one pair of those not 20 and as an amateur music producer I use the Sony MDR-7509 for this, wich I don’t use to enjoy music tough. I like different flavor as I enjoy different music style, and it was time that I test this incredibly sexy closed headphones and understand if the good words I read about them was as real as the less enthusiast impression. Yes, I was more aroused by the look than sound description, I wanna touch them, caress them, kiss them , and now I can do it and can tell you that even ifthe body is sexy, it have a sexy soul too.

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CONSTRUCTION, ACCESSORIES & DESIGN :

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Unboxing Meze products is a very exciting experience, like opening a glossy pharon tomb to find that cleopatra is finally alive. What hit your eyes first is the quality protective case you have, it is made of hard material that take perfectly the shape of Meze headphone, with not extra space.

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In the middle, another tissue poaching case hiding your nice cable and extra connector. The presentation is sure well thinked, and I think Antonio Meze is really meticulous about every esthetical aspect of Meze brand.

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Look at this perfect black metal headband curve, this shiny metal holding, all this little details that just wow they eyes and hold attention without forcing an over luxurious esthetical approach : its call elegance. Sobre but eye catchy, mature but not boring looking, something that AKG would dream to achieve with there similar but cheaper headband find in model like the 701. Here, Meze make a statement : it can be as beautifull as comfortable, and durable. This type of construction design for 250$ is something I respect.

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Even if the earcups are made of plastic, it isn’t a cheap looking one, it have a grainy texture and mate black color that is a pleasure to watch and touch, we will not get overly sensual here but yeah, this type of details even if superficial for sound rendering is very appreciate for headphones collector.

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But must of all, its the comfort, i’m sure any head size will fit between these 2 cups, and even if you can’t sleep with them its as comfortable as having 2 pillows pressing gently but firmly your head. The earcups plastic use make them very ligh even if they have solid metal bands. As well, because I own the AKG K-400 in the past, I know what it is to not being free to shake your head when a song posess you, beleive me these 99 NEO will never fall from your head even if you are a headbanger listening to death metal, they are THAT well soldered to you.

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And it have a detachable cable too, a kevlar one sir, with a mic...why? Well, I guess because they are adequate to be drive by smarthphone as they are 26ohm and easy to drive, forgive me to never even care to plug it into a phone, i mean, i’m on headfi aren’t I? Anyway, I plug it into the Radstone ES100 so perhaps I would like a mini cable to make them became some kind of BT headphones.

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Sturdy, sexy, curvy, not cheapy, ultimately comfy and...if something really bad happen like you fall from a cliff and survive but they don’t : part changeable, just give Meze a call.



SOUND IMPRESSIONS :


The Meze 99 Neo is all about musicality, it offer a wide warm and well layered sound that enjoy as much playing contemplative modern Jazz or Classical quartet than muscular bassy electronic or pop music. Neo do not try to be a perfect student that know every answer of acoustic laws but in they end is too serious and utterly boring for music enthousiast, no, he got plenty of personality to share and some artistical imperfection that come with its soul spontaneity. It sound as much natural than excitingly musical and all that with some tenderness to it.

At first, for the purist or critical listener, depending of music style, it can be a hit or miss, but if you pair the Neo with right clear source like the Xduoo X20 or any clean DAP , Dac or (in lesser extend) phone, it will shine and make you think you have very big open back headphones over your ears or even a pair of well placed hifi speakers from each side of it.

The bass have great body and weight even if it slighlty decay on mids on bass heavy tracks, mid bass being pumped up and ultra energic giving an exciting turn to acoustic drum used in jazz or rock, mids being lively with impressive presence and timbre that can deal so well with vocal, piano or violin, and treble having just enough extension to give you the details you need without the harshness or peaks that can make long listening fatiguing : Neo is a rebel maestro that know how to read a partition and give it all layers it need but with an expressive twist that will sure polarize audiophile.

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SOUNDSTAGE have something special for a closed back, its very wide and around your head with great imaging capabilities that have extra realist decay to it depending of number of instruments. So deepness is good too, as if you have your head stock in the middle of intimate hall, not a cathedral, but this effect as said is even more phenomenal with music that isn’t overcrowned or extremely bassy, wich give you alot of choice appart from power rock, classical symphony or heavy metal, it will give this beautifull vastly musical and enjoyable immersivity.



PrAT is above average, but its more about impact and attack, wich without being ultra fast is very agile and spot on, but the pace can be too slow and create unwanted reverberation especially with heavy bass impact.



AMPING power need is just non benificial with this 26ohm headphone, they are extremely easy to drive wich is a very welcome aspect and underline the fact that Meze make the Neo for portable use. It can be drive properly by anything, but it do not mean it will sound the best with any audio source, cleaner it is, better will sound the Neo.



BASS is there Alot, its muscular, weighty and very punchy with just the right hint of textured needed to have good grip in soundstage. Lower end dig very deep, so you will have no difficulties hearing clearly sub bass line and it will be well separated from pumped up mid bass, this type of presentation make it as nicely enjoyable for cello centered classical music than synth bass plus digital kick in electronic, but here, better will be the mastering better will be the final result. I really enjoy Vivaldi sonata for Cello and Basso duo, its full bodied and quite clear with wide airy presentation, never feel bloated or artificial sounding, as if we really are in the intimate concert hall with the two musicians, cello being more fowards as it should and lower registry basso being backward but lively with right note weight and presence, Then I put some complex and fast Aphex twin and man, it make my skull shake at high volume, causing more mid punch reverberance than expected and sometime distracting me from rest of audio spectrum due to overly authoritative punch energy. I can imagine basshead banger really enjoying this approach, for me, its the only drawback of the Neo, and its perhaps due to the plastic material used for earcups. So, let’s conclude that the Neo are as much enjoyable for basshead than audiophile, if we choose right music to pair it with.



MIDS are extremely charming but have dualist approach in some sens, because it will sound phenomenal with bass light music like Meredith Monk albums, in wich her voice it will be full of presence and wideness, with great timbre, enough decay and righly layered from other instrument when it occur. The same lush musicality will happen with Madeleine Peroux if there not too foward sacoustic bass line, as it will sound more full bodied because of this perfect upper mid bass emphasis, but the bipolarity begin when you put boomy electronic or bass heavy pop, wich will stole some of resolution to lower mids. For violin or piano, this will sound perfect, it will had impact in note and extra body, wich is something I crave for as piano can feel thinely rendered sometime, decay will be good too and realist, but if its bass heavy jazz with authoritative bass and toms, again, well, it can warm it a little too much. Anyway, for a U shape headphone, I really find the vocal not recessed, just slightly veiled or coloured in lower mids by bass wich can even be benificial for some song like ‘’Comet Out your House’’ from Lali Puna that have synth bass and heavy electro kick well layered and a timbre registre of the signer that pair perfectly with Neo bassy soundsignature.



HIGHS aren’t super emphased, but neither veiled or dulls sounding. We are in a warm, musical, permissive world with the Meze, everything is quite balanced with the exception of bass kick. Because of the great imaging and impressive soundstage, instruments do not struggle to show there presence, its there without being overly textured, wich make the Neo so uniquely addictive. Percussion have great texture and extend, but aren’t sharp or too bright, it feel natural and inviting. Listening to Jakob Bro ‘’Welcome’’ song of bass, guitar, sax, drums quartet, all instrument are easily hearable and well placed, and percussion are spot on, classical guitar sounding smoothly behind the center stage wide sounding saxophone, recording was meant to be heard like this and it is a joy to listen with the Meze even if I would have love a little more sparkle and decay in lower highs. If there any colouration in treble, it will be to push some micro details just a hing fowards, wich will help with instrument separation. No harsh peak whatsoever with the Neo, its a reconforting sound, like a hot chocolate in front of a fire, you make yourself comfortable and enjoy a cozy rewarding musicality.


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COMPARAISONS :



VS TAKSTAR PRO82 (100$) :

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Even if the price range isn’t the same, I find it interesting to compare these two because both are closed headphones and offer competetive price.

CONSTRUCTION of Takstar PRO82 is more targeted for worryfree outside portability, while the Meze even if ligh enough as well as beautifull to wear, is more adequate for small walk or inside portability, like school, work or train. As Meze arent foldable, they take lot of space in your bag with there protecteive case that you sure want to use to portect there precious look, so its the type of headphone you care about while the PRO82 in other hand are more a all terrain and careless (to some extend) type of headphone and do not really need protective case as they are quite hard to scratch or break.

Takstar is all metal including the cups and look very similar to Audio technica ATH50, we can neither say they are beautifull or ugly, and overall sturdiness is excellent.

For the look, Meze win beauty contest with its stylish luxurious classy look, not doubt about it and that even if compared to PRO82 the cups are made of textured plastic. Its just from another class here and surely biggest aspect that justify price difference.

Kevlar cable of the NEO is of better quality than the basic one side cable ofPro82.

Both headphones are extremely comfortable, I cannot decide for a better one here as we just don’t feel pression on head or ears from both and they have about same weight too.

SOUND quality of both is excellent, but the NEO have a way bigger soundstage that feel airy and around your head compared to the more fowards and wide sounding presentation of PRO82. Bass of MEZE is warmer but have more body and a wider presence, lower region is more accentuated than the more punchy energic presentation of PRO82, wich feel faster than Meze but dryier too. Mids of Takstar are little more recessed even if brighter and more clearly separated from the lows, where the NEO give extra pleasant warmest to vocal or instrument and do not have upper mids harshness like the PRO82. Treble extension is perhaps where the Meze feel less extended, in the sens Pro82 is a very detailed closed headphones for the price even if it lack sparkle or echo like the Meze that have more room in soundstage for instrument placement and decay. All in all, the Meze feel from another league in term of musicality, even if the Pro82 is more energic and (micro)detailed it lack musical finess and lushness of the Meze.



VS HIFIMAN HE-300 (300$) :

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CONSTRUCTION of the HifiMan HE-300 isn’t that bad for durability with its thick industrial compenents, but its quite rough and squeaky too. The metal that hold the big ear cups look like a DIY project, there screws everywhere, and the plastic used for this cups is thick and cheap looking. For the headbands it use real leather but do not have lot of cushion to it and another time : rough. Meze Neo 99 look like a sent from heaven that have been crafted with love compared to this austere depressing Hifiman design. About design and comfort, the NEO is from another planet where audio lover body is respected and well understand, the HE-300 just feel like an insult to human body in fact.

COMFORT of Meze is natural and form to your head while HE-300 is a squeaky torture device that is ultra heavy and uncomfortable with cheap earpads that do not form to your head.

SOUND quality is another time night and day, or let’s say, cold dry night with agressive neon street lamp and colourfull sunny day with fresh air from the Meze ocean.

The Hifiman HE-300 is really a cold sounding analytical headphones wich can sound musical with very specific style, and even with them, it still ahve a dry soul less approach, everytime I take back the Meze after the listen of same track with HE-300 it was a sincere releive, as if all my nerve were attack with the agressive fowards trebly sound of HE-300 wich even for an open back do sound claustrophobic. I need some air! Thanks Meze for this well needed oxygene : music can actualy breathe!

BASS of HE-300 is more textured but its like if it try to compensate the lack of weight, punch and body it do not have, while the Meze even if not the tighest in attack separation have plenty of body and punch, wich give a more energic and alive sound without sounding bloated in they end. Mid punch have more finess with the NEO, HE-300 being open lacking in this region even more than lower end. Overall texture of Meze is more adequate and natural too.

MIDS of HE-300 are overly fowards and agressive and prompt to upper mids harshness, where the Meze is sweet, musical and full bodied even if slighly coloured with bass warmth. Sometime the separation of vocal can be better with HE-300 in bass heavy track….but you don’t want to listen to this too bright shouty fatiguing signing anyway.

TREBLE extension of HE-300 is sure more prononced and without any roll off, I even suspect bats can’t take as much treble fowardness, its skalpel sharp and crave every details it can, to the point of over saturation, this do not give HE-300 more sparkle and brillance strangely, as the Meze have more natural decay and even sound better with harpsichord instrument as the note have more roundness and impact.

All in all, the Meze 99 NEO are made to generously enjoy music while the HE-300 is artificial and overly analytical sounding. This comparaison experiment underline the fact that more details do not equal to more enjoyment as well as richer sound, because the body of everynote give a more realist musical rendering in they end.


VS GRADO SR325i (300$):

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Firstly, perhaps construction look more solid, but its an illusion as the SR325i heavy earcups can slide down for no reason with the time, as well, the cable will undoubtly break one day or another due to twisting earcups. Because of hard on ear pressure and heavyness factor, they became uncomforatble very fast, were the Meze Neo is just pure comfort joy. Overall construction of thick metal cups are perhaps more costy than the plastic of Neo, but as said, it is a design flaw.

Being open back, one would think the Grado have bigger soundstage but that isn’t exactly the case, its just slightly wider but feel less around your head and tall because of a more fowards sound presentation. In they end the Meze feel more airy and spacious.

BASS of Sr325i is more textured and grainy, but lack lower extension of the Meze even if both are quite very punchy headphones, the Meze tough add more colouration to the mids.

MIDS and vocal feel more fowards and present than Neo, but less wide and transparent, as well, it can be harsh in upper mids where the Meze feel smoother.

HIGHS have little more extension with the grado in lower treble and give extra decay to percussion, but make overall sound feel sometime too fowards.

All in all, i find myself using more the Meze 99 Neo because of a more forgiving musicality that can be as smooth without bass and very energic and exciting with bass driven music.



SOUND SOURCE PAIRING :

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With Xduoo D3 :

The D3 is an entry level DAP with good sound but clumsy interface. Its very small but quite powerfull as well. Sound is quite neutral, clear, slightly bright but not extremely well layered or detailed. With the Neo it make a good pairing with plenty of volume. The bass kick very hard but isn’t too out of control, in fact, it earn some extra tighness even if it still can be brain shaking a little, wich is a great experience with very bassy track ‘’Koh-I-Noor’’ from Mr Twin sister as the sub rumbling is delicious and do neither stole kick weight or vocal fowardness. We have a good sens of space for the synth that fly around our head and even if D3 isn’t the clearer or must detailed DAP, I do not feel it lack treble extension. The Meze Neo like bright DAP as it make it sound even more energic and give extra focus to treble but stole some soundstage deepness and resolution potential.



With Xduoo X20 :

The X20 use the famous Sabre ES9018 dac chip, wich give ultimate clarity and black backgroun noise floor. This is what need the Meze 99 Neo to extract full potential of its excellent dynamic driver. I use must of the time high gain with X20, but not for the Meze wich I find sensible to too powerfull amping, so low gain it is and it sound delicious. Now the bass is more controled, have a smooth texture and more transparency, mid bass is less agressive in attact but still weighty, mids are wide with good presence and tranparency, all layer are clearly separated and overall sound have more details and is more linear. The Neo is more U shape even if far from mid centric, with perfectly clear source like X20 the soundstage feel more airy and instrument separation are more natural. This is my favorite pairing for extra sharpness that just complement rightly the warm airy musicality of 99 Neo.



With Ibasso DX90 :

Now, the Ibasso DX90 is my favorite DAP, and it have dual ES9018 dac, delivering powerfull and ultra clear and precisely layered sound. It have 3 gain mode, if you make the error to use the higher gain Neo will sound wrong and boomy, but using lower and clearer gain the miracle happen : its the more neutral balanced pairing I find. Even bassy tracks like ‘’Evensong’’ from Bola sound perfect, as the bass is less emphased but sure still enough punchy. The soundstage potential is take to its paroxysm with synths pads coming from each side of your head, kick and snare in the middle and voice above it in a transparent way, sound presentation being very holographic and dense with all details being push fowards to give extra dynamic to Neo lush presentation. These two was meant to be togheter, DX90 being sharp to the point of sometime making bright headphones sibilant, here the Neo earn from this approach and mix its color with perfect musicality. Even the always hissy background noise of Jessica Pratt recording became smoothed out magicaly, without loosing anything else and even having extra body in vocal presence. Hard to explain, but the Neo love this type of high end audio source, pair them with ultra clear but dynamic and balanced audio source and the Neo black angel take you to heaven. I know that Meze create the 99 Neo for portable use, thinking about phone surely, but to give them full respect, I think they deserve better.





With Earstudio Radsone ES100 bluetooth receiver :


This will not give you as much joy as the DX90 in term of extra clarity but will certainly take to next level Meze potential compared to average phone audio out. Here, its a dynamic approach, energic and well layered sound with a fast tigh presentation that help 99 Neo being even more agile and have extra tigh bass.

CONCLUSION:

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I cannot hide my joy listening to the Meze 99 Neo, and hope it will be contagious, but sometime passion about musicality is something more subjective than about technicalities. I consider the Neo very generous with lot of music style, giving extra body to cello or warming voice of my favorite signer with great presence and wideness. As a listener with diversify taste, I always struggle to find the right all arounder, and that even more with closed back, it will either sound good for classical or electronic, the Neo do the trick for both because of extra mid bass. As well, i never have treble sensitivity problem with them and can listen for long hours without any fatigue. For a closed back, it is simply magical. Other aspect is how comfortable these are, it is by far my must comfortable headphones even if not my must portable. The fact its easy to drive do not make pairing complicate, but I suggest extra clear source to make them shine even more and permit some sparkle that can be shy in the highs. Meze achieve a masterpiece of design here, and it deserve credit for it. Sure, 250$ is a serious amount, but as every parts of this headphones are changeable, I think its a good investement and you will not regret having that type of natural but energicaly punchy headphones in your home.

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Pros: Visual appeal - Material and build quality - Long term comfort - Lush sound signature
Cons: Bass can be bloomy - Headband transmits noise
Greetings!

Today we're checking out another drop dead gorgeous product from Meze, the 99 Neo.

Meze is a Romanian company that stormed their way into the spotlight in 2016 with the 99 Classics. That headphone was (and still is) the perfect example of a marriage between design and performance. The simple but shapely form factor, modular design, and eye-catching walnut cups initially drew you in, then it won you over with a very competent sound signature. The 99 Neo keeps much of the same look and feel of the 99 Classics, but with some material changes that bring the price down, along with a slightly altered tune. A 249 USD, the 99 Neo is an extremely compelling product.

Let's take a closer look!

Disclaimer:

A big thanks to Doina with Meze for the wonderful communication in arranging a complimentary review sample of the 99 Neo. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on over a month of routine use of the 99 Neo. They do not represent Meze or any other entity. If you want to order your own 99 Neo, you can check it out here: https://www.mezeaudio.com/products/99-neo

Source:

For at home use the 99 Neo was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or Radsone EarStudio ES100 with my Asus FX53V laptop sourcing music. For portable use, it was commonly run straight from my LG G6 so I could take advantage of the inline mic, or via the EarStudio ES100 connected over Bluetooth to the G6. Both the M0 and M1 from Shanling were also used. The 99 Neo is very easy to drive and sounds great from any sounrce I tried. Bass is a little tighter out of the TEAC, but I don't think amping is needed.

Personal Preferences:

I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when reading my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.

Specifications:
  • Driver: 40mm
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz – 25kHz
  • Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
  • Impedance: 26ohm
  • Rated Input Power: 30mW
  • Maximum Input Power: 50mW
  • Weight: 260g (9.2oz) without cables
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Packaging and Accessories:

The 99 Neo's packaging is clean and elegant in design without much in the way of frills. The front contains a straight on shot of one side of the 99 Neo showing off the smooth curve of the spring steel headbands and new, black plastic, highly textured ear cups. The left side outlines a few features and special qualities, like the self-adjusting PU headband and power efficiency so it can paired with any phone. On the right side of the package you find a frequency response chart along with a comprehensive list of specifications. The back is my favorite part. The coloring changes to matte black with a wire frame image of the 99 Neo printed in a contrasting reflective black. Centred is;

CLASSICS SERIES

MEZE 99 NEO

DESIGNED BY ANTONIO MEZE​

It all comes together beautifully, perfectly exemplifying the subtle beauty of the design of the 99 series of headphones.

Flipping open the magnetically sealed flap, you are immediately greeted by an outstanding hard shell EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) carrying case. The case is curvaceous and form fitted to the 99 Neo, just like it was with the 99 Classics, However, here the exterior is coated in a much more durable material than the faux-leather used on the 99 Classics case variant. Inside you find the 99 Neo surrounding a velour pouch in which the accessories sit. In all you get:
  • 99 Neo
  • Hard shell EVA carrying case
  • 1.5m Kevlar thread OFC cable with mic and remote
  • Gold-plated 1/4” adapter
  • Airplane adapter (though this isn't shown on the website anymore)
  • Velour cable and accessory pouch

It's disappointing that the 99 Neo doesn't comes with a second, mic-free cable as the 99 Classics did, but at least the mobile cable here was improved over the one provided with the 99 Classics. Cloth below the y-split, rubber above means microphonics are no longer an issue.

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Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

The 99 Neo isn't just a pretty face. The construction of this earphone is immaculate. The PU leather ear pads are thick and soft with a uniform ovular shape that wraps around the ear. They attach to matte black plastic ear cups that have an attractive pebbled texture. 99 Classics parts make a visible appearance here, since when you the pads are removed the baffle the driver is attached to is still stamped with the Classics' part details. Other hardware, like the silver ring around the base of the ear cups, the surrounds for the cable port, the hanger connecting the PU head pad to the spring steel headband, and the centre cap that connects the headband to the ear cups, are made from electroplated, die-cast zinc alloy. It's all put together with outstanding attention to detail, and much of it can be user replaced if broken since the 99 Neo, like the Classics before them, are modular.

Comfort is another strength of the 99 Neo. All of it's qualities come together to be something wonderful. The rounded design, spacious ear cups, and the floating pivot design that lets the ear cups swivel and twist to spread what little weight there is evenly across the skull and around your ears. Some headphones create pressure points around the ear that gets extremely uncomfortable after a while. Not a problem here. If you enjoy binging on Netflix shows or listening to albums from to back, the 99 Neo is a good headphone to keep you company.

When it comes to passively blocking out external noise, the 99 Neo is just okay. Without any music playing, outside sounds are still audible but lose definition and become muffled. You could still hold a conversation with someone while wearing the 99 Neo, but you'll struggle to understand what they're saying. Turn on your music, and as expected things improve. You'll likely still need to increase the volume a bit to compensate if in a particularly noisy area, but otherwise they're nice to use out in the world.

Overall, the 99 Neo is a beautiful headphone with outstanding build quality and decent passive isolation. My only qualm is aimed at the spring steel headband which if tapped lets off a ringing noise that easily penetrates your music. I don't recall this being an issue on the 99 Classics. Then again, those were a tour unit and were only used when stationary, so the opportunity to experience that issue never really arose.

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Sound:

Pads: In addition to the stock pads, I gave the 99 Neo a go with Brianwavz's Hybrid PU/Velour pads, as well as their full Velour pads. To my surprise, the Velour pads turned the 99 Neo into a complete bass cannon, the opposite of what I usually experience with that style of pad. It also closed in the sound somewhat, taking away the 'impressive for a closed back' airness the 99 Neo displays with the stock pads. The hybrid PU/Velour pads were the most balanced of the three as it toned down the 99 Neo's mid-bass, gave the treble more voice and sparkle, and improved the sound stage further. I quite liked this combination and would recommend giving these pads a try. They're also slightly larger and deeper than the stock pads and help make the 99 Neo even more comfortable.

Back in February of 2016 when I was given the chance to review the 99 Classics, they were the highest end headphones I had a chance to spend any significant amount of time with. Prior to that, the AKG K553 Pro I picked up from Massdrop held that distinction. The 99 Classics sounded similar to me, but addressed some of the shortcomings of the K553s, namely bass extension and treble peaks. The seven short days spent with the 99 Classics certainly made their mark as a benchmark product for me.

The 99 Neo shares qualities with the Classics but is a warmer, bassier experience and overall has a slightly darker tone that carries it pretty far from the sound of the K553 Pro. Treble extends well with good sparkle but is de-emphasized and rolls off at the top. This gives the 99 Neo a very easygoing, smooth quality to it that makes long term listening sessions a reality. On Steely Dan's “Cuervo Gold”, cymbals hit with a soft, airy 'tsst' but remain detailed and well-textured. Notes are well-defined with a tuned weight that keeps the 99 Neo from sounding lean, yet the amount of air and space between instruments and effects remains open and layered. The effect is the same in the opening moments on King Crimson's live rendition of “Night Watch” from The Great Deceiver with chimes continuously tinkling away in the background behind swelling cymbals. Despite being so laid back, the 99 Neo's treble presentation is pretty phenomenal, though I can definitely see some wanting more emphasis.

The mid-range is slightly recessed but is thick and full bodied in a way that gives vocals a silky smooth, yet still quite crisp and detailed presentation. I really like how natural everything sounds too, from the out-of-tune violin playing in the opening of Aesop Rock's “Big Bang”, to the intense guitar solo of Funkadelic's “Maggot Brain”. “Big Bang” also shows how nimble these drivers can be, handling Aesop's uncharacteristically speedy delivery with ease. Don't worry, the 99 Neo remains clear and articulate even with true speedsters like K.A.A.N. on “Still (pro. Cashflow)”. It's a really liquid sounding mid-range that flows exceptionally well and in my opinion, really ties together the 99 Neo's sound.

Bass on this earphone is elevated with a mid and upper focus giving the low presentation a very lush feel to it. Extension is good but there is some roll-off present before dipping into those truly visceral regions, as evidenced in the opening moment's of Kavinski's “Solli”. While texturing is good, it's slightly loose and can show bloom on tracks that are already mid-bass skewed, like Infected Mushroom's “Drum n Baasa”. At times the 99 Neo's low end can be slightly overwhelming, though you can lessen it a couple dB by pushing the headphone forward over your ear. Want to maximize the low end, push it back so your ear sits at the front of the cup. Well, that worked for me. Your experience may differ. Alternatively, if you aren't opposed to EQ the 99 Neo is receptive to alterations. For example, with my Shanling M1 I dropped 1dB at 62, 3dB at 125, 2dB at 250 and 1dB at 500. This gave the sub-bass a touch more presence, removed the bloom, and improved clarity in the mids by making them a touch more lean.

When it comes to sound stage I found the 99 Neo quite open and spacious for a closed back set of headphones, with excellent layering and separation. Imaging from channel to channel is clear and direct, but can be vague when it comes to finer movements. Something like the thinksound On2 shows greater precision in those instances. Love it for movies and music, but not as amazing for something requiring pinpoint accuracy, like gaming.

Overall, the 99 Neo is an entertaining set of headphones with a warm, easygoing signature. I really enjoyed it with classic rock and modern pop and EDM where it's smooth presentation truly shined. It was also a joy with vocal focused music since there was zero sibilance I could detect.

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Select Comparisons: All were used with their stock pads

Polk Audio Buckle: The 99 Neo and Buckle have very similar signatures. I'd say the 99 Neo is a direct upgrade though, given on a technical level it is so much better. The 99 Neo's bass for one. It is more articulate and textured with a much more dynamic range. The Buckle comes across very one-note in comparison. The mids on the Neo are slightly more forward and lack the veil of the Buckle, letting fine details shine through that the Buckle masks. Treble in the Neo is slightly more emphasized, shows greater space between instruments, and shows more shimmer in cymbals which have a certain dullness to them through the Buckle.

When it comes to build, the Buckle feels rock solid though it's not a looker and single-sized 2.5mm connector is a clear weak point. The mix of leather and aluminum is representative of the premium price they commanded back in the day. Comfort is good, but the hefty weight isn't spread out quite as well as it could. The 99 Neo is definitely the more comfortable of the two, though passive isolation is better on the Buckle and it's a little more compact and therefore better on the go. Neither fold up or lay flat though.

A-Audio Legacy: My Legacy was a blind buy on Amazon, one I have been thrilled with. It's audio performance greatly exceed my expectations given it has such a loud and boisterous design, clearly aimed at those more worried about style than function. Since it has active noise canceling the alters the signature greatly, this comparison will be with ANC off.

The most notable difference between the two, one that is instantly apparently the second music starts playing, is sound stage. The Legacy is significantly more closed in and intimate, completely lacking the airiness of the 99 Neo. While it's presentation isn't as layered, the Legacy does present more nuanced imaging and separates instruments nearly as well. The 99 Neo has a more forward bass, but the Legacy extends deeper to provide a more visceral feel with slightly improved texture. The 99 Neo's mids are thicker and more detailed with a more natural timbre. Treble on the Legacy has more shimmer and emphasis with similar extension and clarity.

In terms of build and comfort, I'd take the 99 Neo all day, every day. I love the Legacy's design and the fit and finish is excellent, but it's hard to call them attractive. Interesting is more appropriate. The use of heavy metals and a tight clamping force limits comfort long term, as do the pads which warmed up more and in a shorter period than Meze's offering. In the Legacy's favour, they do fold and the cups swivel up to make them more compact. Plus, they passively isolate much more effectively.

Campfire Audio Cascade: The Cascade is Campfire Audio's first headphone. It's a lot more expensive than the 99 Neo and maybe not a fair comparison, but it's always nice to see just how well something competes with more expensive gear.

Like the 99 Neo it has a bass-forward signature, but to my surprise came across a bit more balanced. Note that I'm running mine without any of the acoustic filters in place. The Cascade's bass has a better mid-/sub-bass balance with greater extension. It's slightly quicker with a fair bit more control in the mid-bass than the 99 Neo, and as such is completely absent of the bloom and looseness the Neo can display at times. The Cascade's midrange is leaner and more articulate with even more detail.Vocalists sit further back in the mix too, giving a more spacious feel to your music. I personally prefer the 99 Neo's extra warmth and silkiness. I just wish it has the same clarity as the Cascade. The Cascade's treble seems a bit colder and more prominent, while also being sharper and more accurate. At the same volume, it's more fatiguing than the 99 Neo, though I wouldn't call either of these fatiguing.

While the Cascade seems like it's bulletproof, I have some concerns. The arms holding the cups on are aluminum and one was bent slightly out of the box. The headphone is quite heavy so if dropped, I would expect some damage. The Neo is much, much lighter and yet feels more resilient. It also has the benefit of being user repairable, unlike the Cascade. The Cascade's pads are real leather and it shows. They feel much more premium and are magnetically attached. Another plus over the Neo's pads.

Final Thoughts:

Finding a headphone that ticks all the right boxes is a challenge. Maybe they sound amazing but look horrendous. Maybe they're drop dead gorgeous but fail to impress in any regard when it comes to their sonic performance. Maybe they've got everything going for them, but are fragile. Maybe the cost of entry is astronomical. Where does the 99 Neo fall?

At around 250 USD they're affordable. The materials used are durable and put together perfectly, though the steel headband can be noisy. Comfort is second to none, really. These are amazing to wear. The sound, while on the bassy side, is well-tuned with strong technical performance. There are very few headphones that I've come across that do so much right and so little wrong. Someone that's looking to step up their headphone game without spending a bundle would do very well to start with the 99 Neo.

Thanks for reading!

- B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Some Test Tunes:

Aesop Rock - Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John - Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson - Lark's Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp - Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom - Converting Vegetarians (Album)
Infected Mushroom - Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack - Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac - Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy - The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco - F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt - Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)
Pros: Superb build quality, looks gorgeous, balanced sound.
Cons: Non-foldable, earpad outline for earpad rolling could be better.
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Hot off my rendezvous with the Meze Audio 11 Neo, the exquisite house of Meze in Romania has managed to delight me with another guest and although I am yet to be a full-on convert for the cult following surrounding how Meze has managed to be a company associated with meticulous standards both in form and function. I am yet put again tempted by them to try and prove such standards do exist with their interpretation of what a headphone should look and sound in the form of the Meze 99 Neo. Provided directly by Meze Audio in exchange for an honest realview. You can visit their castle, I mean website at Meze Audio. The Meze 99 Neo, released in 2017 and is priced at $249, it sits smack on a headphone market swarming with audiophile grade options. The Meze 99 Neo Headphones houses a 40mm dynamic transducers on a black ABS plastic earcups, 15Hz - 25 KHz Frequency Response, 103dB Sensitivity, 26 Ohm Impedance. The 99 Neo features detachable Kevlar OFC cable which bodes well for those worried of cable breakage as well as an in-house subdued yet contemporary design conceptualized over long hours of sketches and outlines and with all these specifications, is the Meze Audio 99 Neo worthy of a fan base?

Packaging and Build Quality





The Meze 99 Neo barged in into my office sporting its packaging with shades of 2-tone grayscale. All the necessary details and information about the headphones is stated with 3 images of the 99 Neo all highlighting its detailed construction, do note that the back of the package has a security hologram on the lower left portion to guarantee authenticity of the 99 Neo which as they say, it’s all in the details. Opening up the box greeted me with an admirable and sexy black case contoured to the curves of the 99 Neo, the zipper zips smoothly and hanging tab is also present as well as a metal chrome and black Meze logo which I would love to have as a pin to stick on my work backpack. A brochure is also present along with all their current line-up of headphones and earphones and company details which was good for light reading. Inside the box was the 99 Neo’s themselves, comfortably resting on the smooth suede lining interiors of the case. A storage pouch was also present along which contained the detachable Kevlar OFC cable, 6.3mm gold-plated jack and an airline adapter. I tried storing the 99 Neo with cables attached on the case and sadly, it doesn’t work so the case is clearly for portable usage and not for storing it when used at home, I’d recommend getting a dedicated headphone stand because the 99 Neo is damn sensual to look at.



The 99 Neo isn’t foldable in any way which was fine since it has a gorgeous case to begin with, trade-offs my lads. It uses ABS plastic for its earcups which had leather-like grooves and is isn’t a fingerprint magnet, it is sturdy and the cable ports as well as the earcup outline is lined with electroplated precision die-cast zinc alloy, I have seen how this electroplating process takes place and believe me, the 99 Neo metal components won’t be rusting anytime soon. The headband is a chromium-manganese alloy which is if you’re familiar with your alloys, this specific combination provides improved strength and ductility for the times your 99 Neo meets your bad days and so far, none of my bad days have broken the 99 Neo. The support system of the 99 Neo utilized a self-adjusting PU leather headband with 99 Neo embedded on the top portion joined underneath by an elastic rubber garter attached to a thin strip of metal which terminates on a striking zinc alloy(also electroplated) joint for the 2-piece headbands.



The earpads uses soft PU leather with medium density memory foam. It is soft and non-irritating to wear and use, I managed to pull off around 3-4 hours of use on it, the clamping force of the headbands is also cozy, I have a relatively small head so the clamping force might be strong for others, depends really. I’m also glad that the Yaxi earpads that I have lying around did fit the 99 Neo and will state the differences in the sound analysis portion of the realview while so far the comfort was relatively similar except that the Yaxi earpads on the 99 Neo gave a encased feeling since it has larger chamber circumference as well as the velour part gave a more movable feel for the earcups.


Changing the earpads on the 99 Neo is easy and doesn’t involve any proprietary molds which I have seen on other headphones making earpads changing a pain. The included detachable Kevlar OFC cable isn’t stiff nor too pliable, it has the right amount of tension to it allowing it easy to store while also being hefty enough to stay in place and not wiggle around when used on the go. All of the cables metal components are machined aluminum with gold-plated plugs. The included mic controls worked flawlessly on both Android and iOS devices as well as the mic itself, the y-split has subtle 99 Neo branding and compliments the headphone aesthetics well. It is slightly microphonic yet unnoticeable most of the time. The overall build of the 99 Neo is indeed a work of art both made for work and art, no clanking and rattling here and there and the design language flows fluidly from each component to another.

Tonality

Upon using the Meze 99 Neo’s, a sense of lax atmosphere envelops the user. Despite switching from multiple sources ranging from the Opus 1, Sony ZX1, Xduoo X3ii, Sony CAS-1 via an MSI laptop and also direct from the said laptop and the OnePlus 3T, the 99 Neo sound was evidently a non-overdoing set of cans, it delivers a smooth and easy sound which leans on the warmer spectrum. I have used it extensively and haven’t found any singular frequency that distinctly outshines any other aside from the low-end giving a more resonating vibe that ever so slightly extends to the midrange.

Lows

Having said that the 99 Neo being a set of warm sounding cans, its low-end performance doesn’t overpower the other frequencies in a manner of great extent. Kicking in Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams in 16/44 Flac showcases its good bass attack capabilities, sub bass drops had good body to it and decays on a slower pace which was surprisingly wasn’t congesting even on consecutive sub bass drops. The bass performance was clean and reverbs effortlessly providing an added zest on the lower frequencies which resulted on its easy sounding warm signature.

Midrange

The 99 Neo’s midrange gives it its strong coherent performance, transitional notes in the lower and upper midrange weaves through the spectrum smoothly. Angela Bofill’s Angel of the Night in 16/44 Flac had good dynamics on them and the female vocals had distinct clarity on them and had good definition which compliments the bass hits well. Vocal timber sounds a tad colored but doesn’t reach unnatural levels. Trying out the male vocals was done with Scorpion’s Wind of Change in 16/44 Flac, upper midrange performance was clear and detailed even showcasing sporadic extension abilities while the male vocals still sounded a tad colored but had more air to it which was extensively highlighted near the 3:33 minute mark.

Highs

I decided to pull out Jerry Cortez’s Around the Globe in 16/44 Flac to focus on checking out the 99 Neo’s higher frequency abilities. There is noticeable lack of bite on this set of cans although it is still able to deliver a lively and musical vibe on the signature. The lack of bite also showed supplemented the fact that the 99 Neo’s doesn’t induce harsh and piercing highs instead gives out a totally non-fatiguing experience.

Soundstage and Imaging

Spandau Ballet’s Code of Love in 16/44 Flac was used to test out the soundstage and imaging which right off the bat gave out a rather intimate feel, studio-like. Imaging was distinct and easy to identify. There is great sense of left to right orientation especially when instrumental hits are made. Detail retrieval is on point. Those who put a premium on a very wide soundstage would need to look elsewhere.

Yaxi Pads on the 99 Neo’s


I was fortunate enough to have the Yaxi Pads for the CD900st’s lying around and from all the other earpads I had the fit the CD900st, it was surprising that only the Yaxi’s managed to fit the 99 Neo. This was all because of the 99 Neo’s very slim earpad lining outline which all the other earpads didn’t managed to fit in, the leather on those were too thick so note that when you are looking forward to trying 3rd party earpads for the 99 Neo’s. The noticeable differences between the stock 99 Neo earpads and the Yaxi’s were the circumference size. The Yaxi’s had a much larger circumference and also had deeper earpad depth giving more area for your ears and the 99 Neo drivers themselves although the cloth lining had the same thickness on both earpads. Sound changes were minimal with the Yaxi giving out more air and soundstage than the stock one’s yet also taking the highs down which wasn’t a good thing. I ended using the stock earpads until now.

Conclusion


There is much to be said for the Meze 99 Neo just from its build quality alone which is unusual for a company who is fairly new to the game. The accessory set checks all the right boxes not to mention the sophistication poured on them. The sound needs no getting used to as it sits right home with it’s easy to love appeal, one not focused on getting critical and clinical with technicalities. Viewing the 99 Neo at $249 on an audiophile perspective familiar with his options wouldn’t entice one much except for the fact that this set of cans would possibly last a long time even with constant use, a result stemming from the confidence you can get just when using it 1st hand which suits its name, 99 Neo, a sign that something new can feel lasting.

More reviews on my site, http://audiorealviews.site/
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