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Over-Ear item created by MezeTeam, Apr 12, 2017
Pros - Quality Build, Fun & Honest Sound, Amazing Treble
Cons - Still Tight On Large Heads, Ears Can Touch Drivers
Meze 99 Neo
I've reviewed their Classic, and appreciate Meze letting me review this model. Stay tuned for comparisons.
I'm a lifelong musician, live and studio sound engineer, always with heavy duty earplugs. Often the only one in my band wearing them, but then, I've retained my unusually sensitive hearing because of it. I've tried too many headphones and in-ears to list. I'll refer to what I've tried where it's relevant in the review, to keep it simple. I've got some I'm happy with now, but I'm never tired of trying new things, so it brought me to these headphones.
What I Look For
I prefer warmer headphones, full lower mids, flat mids, reduced high mids. More than a moderate mid bass bump bothers me, and sub bass rarely extends low enough in most quality cans I'll try. I'll say "quality" since there are plenty that are explosive down there, but often at the expense of everything else. Some have said you can't have all frequencies well represented, but enough come close to this, so I know this can be done.
Fit has had me reject 80% of what I've tried. I much prefer over-ear. It's hard enough to get an over-ear to go over your ears (Senn. Momentum 1 for example and Momentum 2 isn't much better). My ears are fairly flat but learger around, proportional to being 6'5". My head is also, triple X hat size. Most companies could fit larger heads, with just an inch more band extension, but only some seem to take that into consideration.
Design and Comfort
These arrived well package and designed. Nice solid case and aesthetics. Very light yet sturdy. The plastic replacing the Classic's wood is sturdy, and not inclined to fingerprints. Still, I'm more into the sound aspect (and the fit, naturally). The band auto-fits easily, though like many w/ this style on me, they tend to contract when worn and have to be pulled back down sometimes. The design seems to allow some flex to fit better.
Fully extended they reach my ears but press on the top of my head. The pressure at the top of the cups that I had with the Classic is not there now. You'll see in pictures I slipped the band on top of the metal hoops to make more room. Pads are better, still not quite deep enough. As pictured, I'd put on Audio Technica MSR7 pads, perfect fit perfect, more space for ears, and sound. I'll go into that in more detail further into my review.
Sound Quality and Ideas
A bit warmer the Classic and I prefer that. That Meze treble magic that no other company has pulled off. Clarity without any lack of detail, yet no audible peaks and no fatigue, even for one as sensitive to treble as me. This is their strongest point. There is still a bit of mid-fi quality, but that's not a bad thing. For their price, they are among the best. Many long for a "closed HD650 (now 660s) with more bass and air" and these are that.
The high mids are just right, blending with the highs perfectly. Another big win. The true mids (roughly 500 hz to 2 khz) are close to flat but with a pleasing bit of low mid warmth the Classic didn't quite have making them enjoyable, without a hard sound, yet you feel like you are missing nothing. Like the highs, they do this better than almost everyone else I've heard. A sound you can trust for accuracy, but is easy on the ears. Nice work.
The lower mids are not lacking, the Classic did a bit. There is a bit of a buildup here, and in the higher bass, evident on some recordings. That bugs me. My headphone earpad swap (to AT MSR7 pads) got rid of that as they added spaciousness, treble detail (without fatigue) and no loss of bass (rare with a pad swap) or maybe even a touch more sub bass. Low mids are a 6-7 stock, and a 9-10 with the MSR7 pads. Yes, it's that good.
Mid bass is nice with the right amount of boost. It has a bit more than the Classic, but till within an ideal range. Not for purists and not the "fastest" thing, but very pleasing. The fun goes lower (to my ear at least) than the Classic that rolled off under 40 hz. These don't roll off until under 30 hz with useful sub info at / below 20 hz. Graphs don't show this improvement though, in fact they show the Classic with the same or more extension.
How They Make This Better
Consider an easily removable pleather padded band vs. what is clamped on, as larger head folk like me can get by with just the outer metal hoop wires. They can be gently bent to fit even better. Their light weight, even lighter without that band, means no padding is no problem when the weight is spread out, with those two flat bands, which could always be wrapped in some thin padding, if needed. That would not be any issue for me.
Meze, please consider buying Audio Technica MSR7 pads. Test them, and develop your next pad based on that. They slip into the groove and fit perfectly. Images show the same depth - but the less rolled off interior means it helps the cups sit a bit farther out to fit ears better. The better stereo depth and width, cleaning up low mids / mid bass, no loss of subs and better treble clarity (with no extra treble level) is a worthwhile goal.
A word on the Audio Technica MSR7 ear pads. These are not as comfortable as the Meze stock pads which are amazingly soft. That firmness allows them to stay a bit farther out, giving you that space. The MSR7 pads ARE still very comfortable, it's just that the stock pads can spoil you, as they are among the most soft and compliant pads I've felt. So you won't feel uncomfortable, you just won't have the super pillow stock pads on them.
Additionally, that firmness can cause the clamp to increase, if you have a large head and the clamp bothers you, you will find it increases with these pads since they don't compress as much. I'm already to where they are a little too small for my head so that did make it worse. If I did a "big head mod" and removed the band to just leave the outer rings, this will not be an issue and I'm considering buying these and doing just that with these.
Pros - Well priced, comfy, durable, inline control, nice case
Cons - Does not fold flat
Firstly, thanks to Meze for allowing me to participate in the loaner program. Lots of great reviews and photos of the Neo. I will provide a review based on my 40 something year-old ears whose favorite headphones currently are the Audeze LCD-XC and Hifiman HE-6. For a fairer comparison, for mid-fi closed headphones, I have the Denon D600 and Oppo PM-3.
For its price, the Neo is really great value if you are looking for a durable, handsome, very comfy, darker, dynamic driver, bass heavy headphone with in-line controls. Compared to the planar PM-3, it is more comfortable and more bass-tilted. However, it does not fold flat and therefore is a little bit more bulky to transport…however, the case is very nice and like most headphones, you do need to unplug the cable to store it in the case. It works well out of my iphone 6 and to be honest, it sounds the same out of my Fiio X5 3rd gen. The Denon D600 is more V-shaped if you enjoy that, while the Neo is more balanced comparatively. I have also tried it out on my desktop amps, and again to be honest, I don’t think it scales up too much….perhaps, I don’t have golden ears.
The fit is fantastic, as it is a self-adjusting mechanism and I figure it would fit most heads, and the headphones themselves are extremely light. I can wear them all day without any discomfort.
So, what is the downside…none really, especially if you enjoy the bass-tilted sound. If you get a chance to try it and you like the sound, the value is unbeatable. If you are not sure, because it is not too pricey, it would be worth a gamble to purchase them and give them a go. If it does not work out, resell them later without much monetary loss.
Pros - Very comfortable and stylish with an instant, easy fit. Easy to drive. Very good sound for relaxing listening or modern music.
Cons - Less great with acoustic and classical. Non-folding cups make them bulky for portable use. Cable is a bit noisy. Earpads can get a bit sweaty.
A few years ago a company from Romania caught my attention with some wood headphones that had attracted a few members. They quickly spotted that they were a rebrand of some Chinese wood headphones and nothing much came from it. However in the intervening few years after that initial bad start, Antonio Meze was hard at work on making a pair of well-designed, good sounding, and most of all, unique headphones. The result of his toil were the Meze 99 Classics, which are now joined by the black 99 Neo being reviewed here.
The down-side to the design is that the cups don't fold flat, so along with the large arcs, once cased in the simple, but suitably solid included case, they aren't as portable as might be ideal and they are really going to stick out if used on public transport.
The cables for the headphones are dual-entry using very thin 3.5mm TS plugs.. The standard cable, which is very long, terminates in a 3.5mm plug which can be adapted to 6.5mm with the included adaptor. A 3.5mm 3.5mm TRRS cable with an inline mic and play/pause buttons for smart phones is also included.
Uniquely the headphones themselves don't have left and right cups, but are entirely symmetrical, so it doesn't matter which cup which plug is inserted. To determine left and right, the plugs themselves are marked, the left plug also having a protruding ring, making it easy to feel which side is left simply by touching the plug. This cable, due to the un-damped wooden cups can transmit some noise when rubbed, though I didn't find it a serious problem. Some people with noisy clothes might find it a bit of an issue, however.
Overall, the simplicity of the design has resulted in great ergonomics and a light and comfortable pair of headphones that are also very attractive.
Compared to the 99 Classics, the 99 Neo supports black plastic cups with a leather-like pattern, and silver-colored metal parts in place of those which were gold-colored on the 99 Classics. This naturally makes for a very attractive pair of headphones.
The result of using plastic cups has two consequences: The first is that the 99 Neo are cheaper, Amazon.com showing $249 versus $309 for the 99 Classics. That's a 20% saving.
The second is that a different cup material means different resonances and a possible change in sound. It was this which I wished to investigate.
By default, both pairs of headphones have something of a warm-of-neutral sound, with a slightly, but not too forgiving treble, and moderately boosted bass. This is something I call a "consumer" tuning, as it mates well with modern, popular music.
It also works well with older pop music that has been mastered in a way that lacks bass somewhat, as it boosts that region. Where it doesn't work as well is with classical and similar acoustic recordings, where the greater "air" of brighter headphones makes for a better match.
While I wouldn't call the 99 Neo detailed, I wouldn't call it congested either, as the bass through to the treble is reasonably precise, with enough detail, even directly out of my iPhone 6, that I was capable of enjoying listening with them using some of the more modern music that I like.
The sense of soundstage and instrument separation is also quite good for this price bracket, with again, only the slightly muted treble taking away from that on acoustic recordings.
That being said, for fun I tried them out of Chord's Hugo 2 after using them out of my iPhone, and while the Hugo 2 sounded more natural, the 99 Neo wasn't going to show anything like how much of a jump in resolution the better hardware was capable of delivering.
Comparing to the original 99 Classic was a bit trickier. For the most part, they were more similar than different, the sound of the original having a slightly nicer presentation, as sound reverberating off wood does. It wasn't, however, a big difference, and one I don't feel the need to go into detail over.
The biggest difference is that the 99 Neo is cheaper, with Amazon.com showing a price of $249 versus $309 for the Classic. That means for a 20% saving, if you don't mind forgoing the wood, you can get pretty much the same pair of headphones.
I wish these had been available back in 2007 when I started in the hobby, as these would have been the perfect pair of headphones for me at the time. Once again I reckon Antonio Meze has made a good pair of headphones for the average listener who wants something stylish and good-sounding.
Pros - Good build quality.
Excellent bass quantity.
Easy to drive.
Cons - Bass bleeds all over the mids.
Far from neutral.
Lacking detail and nuance.
About 25 years ago, I had this horrible set of Pioneer 4-Way speakers. Not the wonderful ones built in Japan with premium drivers and accurate crossovers. Nope, these were the kind of speakers you find at garage sales with cheap the near peeling off the edges, along with Cerwin Vega and old JBL’s. As much as I can criticize them, I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a stereo as much as I enjoyed ‘em hooked up to an early nineties Yamaha stereo receiver. I have since moved on to much more accurate, expensive, and well-built equipment. But to be totally honest, listening with the Pioneers was just flipping fun.
Nowadays my tastes have matured, and my headphone collection includes the Alpha Primes and the Sennheiser HD-800S’s. My search for neutrality has paid dividends, and my music collection is an eclectic blend of Stoner/Doom, Prog, World Music, Jazz and Classical. I have no complaints about my gear. However, I still remember the headbanging fun of those old speakers, and no matter how good my current headphones are, they don’t scratch that particular itch.
Enter the Meze Neo 99’s.
I tried the Classics when they were part of the tour about a year and a half ago, and reading my notes as well as my review clarified my memory of the experience. I loved those headphones, and gave them a solid four-star rating. I recently decided to reward myself with my first set of new headphones in a long, long time. Reading the reviews and thread comments confirmed my suspicion that the Neo 99’s might bring me even closer to the Pioneer experience. To make this review really, really short: I was right.
You may notice that I am rating these headphones with a rather harsh three-stars. They simply do not have the clarity and detail of the Classics, at least not compared to the notes I took. For instance, the bass bleeds all over the mids, obscuring fine details. The most recent album by Argus is a good example of what I mean...
“From Fields of Fire” is one of the best traditional or classic metal albums I’ve heard in years. The recording is exceptional, and the performance by the musicians is pretty strong. When I listen with the Neo 99’s, all of the emotional impact remains in the recording, but the tonal properties of the guitars, and especially the bass guitar, are severely lacking. Comparing the exact same recording on the exact same equipment with my venerable Grado SR-250i’s, the detail embedded in the recording was nothing short of remarkable. The sonic character of the bass as well as the drums were as if from an entirely different recording, and I heard the same thing with every other headphone that I own.
Returning to the Neo’s, the fine detail, my reason for using headphones in the first place, was all but absent. This was also apparent in the vocals, guitars, and cymbal work of the drummer. Even the bass drum presence was limited to a lively ‘thud’. As a transducer, the Neo 99’s are simply not accurate instruments revealing the subtle, and even not-so-subtle, details of the recording. But for that matter, neither were ancient Pioneer 4-Ways sold at Circuit City and the Good Guys in the 80’s and 90’s. And the more I grow in this hobby, the more convinced I am that we should all have some Pioneer/Cerwin Vega/JBL speakers in our lives. Because the truth is, when I listen to anything heavy with my other cans and IEM’s, I always seem to reach for the Neo’s to hear if they give me that extra something I crave, and they usually do. I’m just not fooling myself into believing they are anything but what they are: good headphones at a competitive price that sacrifice detail for impact.
I’m totally okay with that!
Pros - Good looking
Very good build quality
Clean smooth sound
Cons - Bit bas heavy with some music
Sound stage not quite as wide as with the classics
Limited re cable options
Thank you to Meze for the loan of these headphones.
My ears are 55 years old and so not perfect, I listen to a combination of high res files on portable daps and a high end home system.
I am a Maze Classic owner and was intrigued to see what this cheaper variant had to offer. Comfort is very good and the ear pads are just the right density to give a good fit but keep your ears at the right distance from the speaker. As with all closed back phones your ears will get hot after prolonged use. Isolation is quite good bit loud outside noise can be heard over quite music, there is very little sound leakage.
With classical music they perform well with restrained uppers, clear mids and warm base. With rock music they can be confused by sustained base complex base but vocals work well and treble is sweet with no tinny cymbals. Sound stage is quite wide and has a sense of depth and appears well layered.
With the stock cable on SE out the Fiio x7ii drives them to good volume, switching to balanced adds more volume and a greater sense of depth.
Used with a Schiit Mjolnir 2, they really sing especially with good NOS valves.
In conclusion if you’re looking for a good well-made set of phones for general listening you cannot go far wrong with these. Go out and audition a pair today to see if they suit your hearing and equipment!
Pros - Gorgeous aesthetics. Lightweight and comfortable. Value for money.
Cons - Bass can be a little boisterous.
This sample was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. I'm not affiliated with the company in any way and all observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.
The Meze 99 Neo is currently priced at $249 and can be purchased from the company's website: https://www.mezeaudio.com/
Spoiler: My preferences etc
Like most people on this type of site I'm a lover of music. In my younger days I spent several years as a hip-hop DJ (using real vinyl and turntables) as well as producing a variety of music on computer using a combination of MIDI and live instruments. I did a Home Studio Sound Certificate at the Milton School of Audio Engineering in Brisbane, Queensland which covered the setup of audio for playback and recording in a studio environment along with other basic engineering principles. Nowadays I prefer to simply listen to and enjoy music.
My taste in music has changed a great deal over the years. For a long time my only interest was in rap and hip-hop music. Now though I listen to all kinds of music including jazz, classical, rock, psytrance, folk and ambient. I listen to music everyday using portable gear consisting of a DAP and mostly IEMs or simple desktop setup consisting of a laptop and DAC at work and my desktop setup at home which is based around my PC or Shinrico D3S with a DAC, often but not always including a tube amp and full-sized headphones or speakers.
My preferred sound signature is fairly balanced with slightly elevated mid-bass and deep well-extended sub-bass, clear and resolving midrange with a touch of warmth and clean, airy treble. I'm not offended by brighter sounding gear but dislike any sibilance. The majority of my music is 16/44.1 flac files as I stopped using physical media (CD/vinyl) many years ago and prefer the convenience of digital formats.
Packaging and accessories
The Neo arrived in a high quality, light gray cardboard box with a partial image of the headphone on the front. The box is sealed by a magnet and when opened reveals the hard carrying case inside, nestled among some black protective foam.
Opening up the case presents you with the headphone and a hockey puck-shaped zippered case which contains the cable and two adapters (x1 airline, x1 3.5 mm to 6.35 mm). The hard case is a great addition and is perfect for protecting your headphone when not in use or during transport.
The included cable is nice and a perfect length for desktop use while still being practical enough for portability. The lower section has a braided material covering and above the Y-split it changes to a rubberized sheathing. At the top end are the two 3.5 mm plugs that connect to either side of the headphone. A small feature that goes to show Meze really does pay attention to detail is the slight raised ridge on the left cable plug where most manufacturers opt to make both sides identical.
On the left side is the metal in-line microphone and rubberized single button controller. The button has a nice tactile click to it and feels quite durable. Finally the cable terminates in a straight metal, 3.5 mm plug.
Build, comfort and isolation
Onto the headphone itself now and this is where so much of the Neo's appeal comes from, in its sublime form and design. Simplicity is key in this aspect and it lends an effortless elegance to the Neo's appearance. The basis of the frame consists of a double sided manganese spring steel arch which is lightweight yet very sturdy. Connected to this is the self adjusting headband that's screwed in to the lower section. This particular headband is a wide pleather with "99 NEO" embossed on the top side. There's very little down force to it which is a good part of the reason this headphone is so comfortable but the fit feels really secure and sits firmly in place, even when you're moving about.
Meze have cleverly forgone the usual clasp that secures the metal arch and instead connected it directly to the earcups. This time around, gone are the wooden earcups and they've been replaced by charcoal black ABS plastic. The earcups have a slightly textured matte finish, look great and at the same time very robust. Lastly the earpads are a medium density memory foam that softly hug your dome and have enough space inside to accommodate even large ears.
Comfort is excellent with the soft pads and light clamping force and I can easily wear the Neo for hours on end without discomfort. The closed backs mean that your ears might get a bit hot but hey, closed back headphones are always going to be like that. The wide, well padded headband and low down-force add again to the comfort.
Isolation is pretty good too as you'd expect with closed backs and there's really not much more to say about that. While I personally prefer to use in-ears on the go the Neo is also well suited to the task and there's enough isolation given to use it in most scenarios without issue.
Gear used for testing
Acoustic Research AR-M20 > 99 Neo
ATC HDA-DP20 > Phatlab Sassy II > 99 Neo
Foobar2000 > Topping DX7 > 99 Neo
The Neo does not require amplification as it's super easy to drive with an impedance of just 26 Ohm. It can be paired with almost any low powered device but as always, a better DAC will usually provide superior overall sound. Due to the warm nature of the headphone I'd recommend a neutral source to get the best results.
I never had an opportunity to hear the 99 Classic so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the Neo. I was pretty certain they'd be good considering the coverage, awards and hype that had surrounded the Classic. My first listen gave me something very different from what I was anticipating. I thought it was going to be a very "audiophile" tuned sound, rather linear, perhaps even close to neutral with a clean, tight bass, loads of detail and resolution etc. Imagine my surprise when I heard the accentuated, meaty bass and warm overtones. "Wait a second" I thought... This is tuned for fun. It's built to be emotive, to make you forget that you intended to do some critical listening and instead draw you in and lose yourself to the music. These things are designed for pleasure plain and simple.
Bass has a healthy boost taking it way north of neutral. It has a slow attack, giving bass notes a soft edge and similarly the somewhat slow decay adds to the rounded effect. At times it even seems a bit loose but that's not necessarily a bad thing although on occasion it does mean that some detail in the music gets lost. There's a definite mid-bass hump that carries over into the lower mids and adds to the overall warmth. Sub-bass in contrast is quite tame in tonal balance but can still provide a satisfying rumble. It extends fairly well but does roll-off a little and plays second fiddle to the mid-bass dominance.
Midrange is lush and organic, very musical and not in the least bit dry or analytical. In "New Horizon" by The Gentle Storm the mids occasionally struggle for a foothold and are suppressed by the thick drums. In Loreena Mckennitt's "Emmanuel" however, the Neo shines on this vocal and strings based track, its warmth smoothing Loreena's high notes and bringing out the rich resonance of the classical backing strings. An album that's a great match for the Neo's properties is Language of the Ancients by S1gns of L1fe, with it's soothing, ambient sounds and hypnotic bass lines.
Treble is unremarkable but only because it plays a lesser role in the overall warm tuning. Timbre is accurate and the extension is there, it's just that the treble doesn't have much prominence. It does make the Neo easy to listen to and should appeal to the treble sensitive. Listening to Utada Hikaru's "Traveling" the track's inherent sibilance can still be heard, so the treble is not artificially smoothed over but rather sits at the back of the mix. Still in Bill Withers' "Soul Shadows" the hi-hats have a great lift and come out to play throughout the whole track.
Soundstage is above average for a closed back headphone. There are plenty of times when it can reach outside of the headspace, generally in music with lighter bass this becomes more evident. Depth though is very good and the imaging is excellent. Positional cues are accurate and defining in the large sized sphere portrayed which provide the added bonus of making the Neo good for some first person gaming as well.
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro 250 Ohm ($179 USD)
The DT990 is well known for its strong V-shaped signature so it has similarly boosted bass levels but also has a lot more treble as well. It's more resolving than the Neo and reveals more small details but can get a little strident or overenthusiastic on the high frequencies. The DT990's bass notes are more defined and controlled bringing more punch where the Neo brings the thump. Both headphones are exceptionally comfortable and well worth their respective prices.
Ultrasone Performance 860 ($362 USD)
The 860 is much more linear across the board so offers a very different sound compared to the Neo. Bass is tighter and faster without any of the same boomy properties found on the Meze. Midrange in comparison is a lot thinner and less lush than the Neo's. The treble is where these two have the most in common, being neutral-ish on both. The 860 reveals more details in music but presents itself in a more clinical and less emotive manner compared to the "fun" tuning of the Neo.
The Meze 99 Neo is more than just a good sounding headphone. The look and feel of it combined with the sound provided all add up to make it an experience that's quite unique. If you're a fan of attention to detail and subtle elegance you'll get a kick out of how well this headphone is designed. However those looking for neutrality should seek other options. Sure it might not provide the best audio quality out there but you have to keep in mind the very affordable $249 price tag which ultimately makes this a very easy recommendation for anyone looking for something comfortable, stylish and downright fun to listen to.
Transducer size: 40mm
Frequency response: 15Hz - 25KHz
Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
Impedance: 26 Ohm
Rated input power: 30mW
Maximum input power: 50mW
Detachable Kevlar OFC cable
Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
Weight: 260 gr (9.2 ounces) without cables
Ear-cups: ABS Plastic
Pros - Fun-sounding, comfortable
Cons - Small soundstage, might be too bass-heavy for some
This review is based upon a tour sample unit provided to me by the manufacturer in exchange for my honest and unfiltered opinion. I am not being compensated in any way for writing this review. I have shipped the sample unit to the next reviewer.
I listen mostly to heavy metal, hip hop, and electronic music, as well as movie and video game soundtracks. I value detail, clarity, and soundstage above other acoustic qualities. I like V-shaped sound signatures, generally those with more of an emphasis on the treble. Other headphones I own or have owned in the past include the E-MU Teak, Mee Audio P1 Pinnacle, Mee Audio P2 Pinnacle, Fostex TH-X00, V-Moda M-80, V-Moda LP2 Crossfade, Beyerdynamic DT-770 (250 ohm), KZ ATE, Mixcder X5, Mee Audio M6, Hifiman HE-400S, and (very briefly) Phillips Fidelio X2.
I have used the Meze 99 Neo with the following sources:
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Global > Meze 99 Neo
Windows 10 PC > JDS Labs The Element > Meze 99 Neo
I have tested these headphones with Spotify Premium high-quality streaming and local FLAC.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The Meze comes in a sleek semi-glossy box. The unit I reviewed came with a high-quality rigid carry case, 2 cables (one longer cable for desktop use and one shorter for use with a mobile source), a cable container, a ¼” to 3.5mm adapter, and a stereo female to 2-prong mono splitter. The texture of the carry case is exquisite, and the cable container fits below the top of the headband inside the case so that every component is easily portable.
BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
The build quality of these headphones is excellent. I had previously thought about purchasing the Neos for myself, but ultimately decided not to based on the promotional images I’d seen. I had thought the luster of the cups was too shiny, but the sheen is much more subdued in person. Though I’m still not the biggest fan of the silver accents on the headband, I would not be embarrassed to wear these in public. The self-adjusting headband is smooth and stays in place perfectly while on my ears. I’d love to see it emulated on other headphones. The one negative point I’d like to make is that I’d occasionally get hairs caught in the silver parts of the headband. This did not happen often but was painful when it did.
FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
I’m somewhat sensitive to clamping earpads. I have replaced the stock earpads on the E-MU Teaks and TH-X00s I have owned with Dekoni lambskin earpads, as the stock earpads become uncomfortable after a short period of time. The Neos earpads are more comfortable than the stock Fostex earpads, but not as comfortable as the velour pads on the DT770s. I could wear them for about 3-4 hours before they became uncomfortable. The earpads completely enclose my ears without squashing them, but I have small ears, so YMMV. Isolation is above average, less than the DT770s but more than the semi-open Fostex headphones. I have a fairly noisy keyboard and I couldn’t hear myself typing over music at a moderate volume. The Neos passed the girlfriend noise leakage test with flying colors, for which the threshold for failure is very low. I could listen to my music at high volumes even lying next to her without her complaining. For comparison, she has complained about noise leakage from my TH-X00s at higher volumes while sitting about ten feet away. These are a great option for listeners using public/shared spaces.
The sound signature of these headphones is very warm, with pronounced bass and mids and rolled off treble. The bass is not as strong as in the TH-X00 and E-MU Teak, and does not slam the way the Fostex variants do. The Neos lend themselves well to distorted electric guitar driven music like heavy metal and hard rock. Bass drums and snares sound great as well. Clarity and separation are good. The Neos are not overly detailed, but are pretty forgiving of poorly recorded music. On the negative side, the soundstage is small, probably smaller than the DT770s and definitely smaller than the semi-open Fostex headphones.
I did not game extensively during the time I had these headphones, but I can say that positional audio works the way it should in first person shooters like Battlefield 1. However as I mentioned in the previous section, soundstage is lacking compared to the semi-open Fostex variants.
The Neos are designed to be driven easily from mobile sources. I usually listened to music on my phone through the Neos at less than 50% volume, and at my desktop at less than a quarter turn from 0 on The Element on low gain. I did not notice a difference in sound quality between the two and did not test the Neos on my phone using an external amplifier.
As I mentioned at the start of my review, I generally prefer detailed headphones with pronounced treble. The Neos cannot be described as such. The fact that the Neos impressed me so much in spite of this is a testament to how good these headphones are. They are easily driven, fun-sounding, well-built cans available at a very reasonable price ($200 retail). I cannot recommend these enough. Five stars.
Pros - Attractive styling, good build quality, pleasing non-fatiguing sound, good comfort, and very efficient.
Cons - Sound isn't as smooth and balanced as the Classics. Slight closed-back effect to the sound.
Disclaimer: This is a review of a review unit of the Meze 99 Neo's.
Meze 99 Neo Review
The Meze 99 Neo is quite and attractive looking headphone that actually sounds quite nice as well. It's an excellent choice for a portable headphone and is best suited for electronic, energetic, and modern music genres as it has a slightly v-shaped sound in my honest opinion. I had two other headphones to compare the Neo's with, but not going to directly compare them much sound wise as the other two are open-backs and much more expensive than the Neo's but I will draw some comparisons between them. About my sound preferences, I personally lean towards more neutral headphones or slightly warm headphones overall as I have a very eclectic taste in music and like my headphones to play well with most any genre.
The specs of the headphones:
26 Ohm impedance
Sensitivity of 103dB at 1kHz, 1mw
Rated input power of 30mw
Max input power at 50mw
Weight without cable is 260g
Comfort & Build
The Meze 99 Neo is quite a comfortable headphone to my head, the headband mechanism is an auto-adjustable system similar to what is found on AKG headphones and headphones such as the Audioquest Nighthawk/Nightowl. The earpads have been notably changed from the original earpads found in the early Meze 99 Classics, earpads which I found too small and uncomfortable, the larger earpads are definitely a good design change on the Meze teams part even if it does change the sound signature a bit. I can wear the new earpads for hours without much discomfort, though some readjusting at times is needed for me so the Neo's get an B+ rating from me on comfort.
Build quality is something where the Neo's really shine in just like in the Classics, the heavily modular design, large amounts of metal, robust ABS plastic earcups, and a design that feels like it was made with longevity and durability in mind gives this headphone high marks for me. The cable also feels nice and I didn't really have any complaints with it on my usage of the headphone. This headphones gets an A+ in build for me at it's price range. The feel of quality of the build is closer to my Amiron Home and below the DT 1990 Pro. Next I am going to talk about the sound of the headphone. The ABS plastic earcups while not as pretty as the wooden ones on the Classics to my ears I feel they are more durable and make it honestly a more robust portable option overall than the Classics.
Arguably the most important part of any headphone. So how do the Meze 99 Neo's sound? Quite frankly, they sound very good, they are a slightly more colored and slightly more bassy and sparkly sounding version of the Meze 99 classics which is more smooth sounding. Fidelity between the 99 Neo and 99 Classic's is the same, they seem to use the same transducer so it's more housing differences between the two.
Soundstage & Imaging:
The Meze 99 Neo's soundstage and imaging is honestly quite good, just like with the classics may be the best headphones in their category I have heard in terms of how spacious the soundstage is and how natural the imaging comes across. The 99 Neo's do have a mild chamber effect to their soundstage where you notice it at times but it's not really an notable issue for most tracks. Not sure how much is the new pads and how much is the different housing material compared to the 99 Classics. I'll give the soundstage an imaging a B+ rating overall.
Midrange & Vocals:
The midrange and vocals of the Meze 99 Neo's are overall quite good. There is a bit of a recession in the upper midrange which does take away from the presence of the vocals a bit and part of why I say the headphone is a little v-shaped sounding. The vocals sound natural but do take a bit of a step-back. The midrange overall is quite smooth and without any major issues. I'll give the midrange and vocals a B on the Neo's as I would personally prefer a bit more presence in the vocals and more balance compared to the highs and bass.
The treble on the Neo's is quite non-fatiguing, non overly-sibilant, and overall quite pleasant to listen to, but it does have some extra sparkle to it which I feel does detract from it overall at times, but like any headphone with a slightly v-shaped sound this does lend itself well to to certain tracks and genres. The Classics with the original pads didn't have this extra treble energy and were smoother overall. Treble gets a B overall.
The bass on the Neo's is quite prominent and strong with good impact, I would say it's a little too accentuated overall. This makes the bass very nice for EDM and some contemporary music but can be a bit of a problem with some other tracks as it can come off as a bit too much and maybe a tad bloated at times. Overall the bass also gets a B rating from me as I personally despite some excess as I found the bass of pretty good quality overall and quite fun with bassier genres.
The Meze 99 Neo is a solid headphone in my books, while I personally would prefer to own the Classics for their more natural and smooth sound and honestly I'm a bit of a sucker for wood, I would be perfectly content with the 99 Neo's as a portable option and I would be less afraid of damaging them as I would be worrying about nicking the wood of the 99 Classics as I can be a little rough on portable headphones. The Neo's are incredibly easy to drive and can be driven with ease and authority out of most portable devices. If one listens to a lot of contemporary music and wants a nice robust portable closed-back the Neo's are on the top of my suggestions. The Classic's are for those who want a more natural and analog experience. The "Neo" name is quite fitting for these headphones. I do recommend these headphones and a must listen to those looking for a very efficient circumaural closed-back. A nice benefit to both the Neo's and Classics is there is no extra cost in buying an amplifier, etc. Whether one likes the Neo's or Classic's sound more simply comes down to preference.
Pros - great price/performance ratio, built quality, accessories
Cons - comfort could be better, too much emphasis on bass
Thank you very much to Meze for letting me have the new 99 Neo for a week as part of their world-wide loaner program. I wanted to hear the ‘Meze’ sound since the 99 Classics came out however I did not have a chance yet to try the original wood-cup version.
My daily driver is a NightHawk these days, connected to Chord Mojo. The 99 Neo was plugged in to Mojo for most of the time, and I will often refer to NightHawk as comparison even though these headphones are rather different, not playing on the same fields.
The 99 Neo is pretty impressive for the price in every sense. Here in the U.K. they cost around £200, and I have to say Meze does deliver for this money. The headphones come with a very nice, semi-hard and good sized carrying case and two non-tangling, good quality cables: a shorter one with built-in play/stop button and a long one for home use.
The headphones are well-built using good quality materials. I am not a big fan of plastic cups, would happily pay a little more for wooden ones, but they look and feel fine.
Interestingly there is no left or right sign on the headphones as they are completely symmetrical. The cable determines which cup will be the left and the right one. Unfortunately the L/R signs are hardly visible on the plugs, but you can decide which side is which if you look at the writing on the top of the headband.
Coming from NightHawk I am pretty spoiled regarding comfort. The 99 Neo are not uncomfortable, but I also wouldn’t say they are very comfortable. They are fine, won’t cause you any discomfort, however I couldn’t forget they are on my head and after 30-40 minutes it was a smaller relief to take them off and let my ears breath. (Or change for the NightHawks.)
I don’t think my head is much bigger than average, however I had to stretch the self-adjusting headband to its maximum. The only other headphones I experienced this small size issue were the HE-400s’s. They are still big enough for me, but someone with a slightly bigger head would struggle. My ears on the other hand are relatively small, and still they were touching the cups inside which I don’t particularly like.
Another small annoyance for me was that occasionally my hair stuck to the small screws on the headband tearing a couple of hairs out as I took the headphones off my head.
The sound of these cans is quite impressive for the money. They sound big, fun and musical with plenty of bass. I have to say, I didn’t expect such a big sound from relatively small plastic cup closed back headphones. They were built for fun listening and probably beat pretty much anything in their category (closed-backs around £200) for this purpose. I definitely like them more than I liked the NAD HP50 or the Momentums.
Bass, especially mid-bass is a bit too much for my taste it is not always in line with mid and treble quantity, more about that later.
Interestingly the sound signature often reminded me for the Fidelio X2s, although those have a much bigger soundstage.
Being closed-back the soundstage of the 99Neo is not very big. It is quite narrow actually, with a pretty upfront presentation, far from being laid back. Spaciousness is ok for a closed-back, but I did experience a little ‘in the box’ feeling with the mids and treble. They are just not as airy as sound can be on semi-closed or open headphones, but that is not really a surprise.
Imaging is ok again for what it is, an affordable closed-back. Nothing really stands out, but also nothing is really lacking.
In my opinion the biggest difference between Meze 99 Neo and NightHawks is sound resolution. NightHawks being a category higher, offer far better resolution which translates to more details and clarity, much closer to a ‘lifelike’ sound presentation. Again, not a big surprise looking at the price difference and different design (closed back vs. semi-opened).
The Meze 99 Neo has a very warm sound signature, which I tend to prefer. It is about music and enjoyment rather than analytical detail hunting. Meze Neo was made for easy-listening. As I mentioned before this warm and musical sound comes with a pretty upfront presentation which can be too much after a while if someone prefers a more laid back sound. Not as aggressively 'in your face' as the Fostex X00s for example, but still very ‘bravely’ in the front line.
Treble is always clear enough, and the 99 Neo being warm sounding headphones are never harsh or piercing.
Mids are slightly recessed and bass is always plenty, occasionally a little bit overshadowing the lower mids. Bass is definitely the strength of these headphones, it is fun and enjoyable, however it is quite far from neutral which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The 99 Neo is not a detail monster, won’t win hearts with extreme resolution and supremely clean and controlled bass. It is an affordable, musical closed-back headphone for music listening, and for the asking price it does its job pretty well. Overall sound is coherent, nothing is really missing. Mid-bass could be tamed down a bit, as it rules the sound too often, not always giving a chance to mids and treble to be present with the same weight.
Partly this is personal preference, but if someone prefers a more linear and balanced sound which is a bit closer to neutral, they have to look elsewhere.
Bass and treble extension is enough 90% of the time, but if someone is longing for the deepest bass notes to be as audible as the rest of the bass frequencies, they have to spend a little more money for headphones that can deliver that.
Meze 99 Neo is very easy to drive. It can easily be powered by a smartphone, and will deliver a good enough sound for most people however the improvement what an external DAC/amp like Chord Mojo brings to the picture, is quite significant. With other words, the 99 Neo scales well to its limits.
I really enjoyed my time with these headphones. It is good to see that good quality (portable) audio is more and more affordable. The Meze 99 Neo is well worth its price, in case someone is looking for a musical closed back headphone. They are not perfect and for 1.5x or 2x of its price there is better sound available, however if your budget is limited to £200, with a very good chance you won't regret buying these.
Pros - Warm, natural sound. Comfort and a classy style. Fully serviceable!
Cons - Not as natural and linear as I'd like.
I signed on for Meze Audio's Head-Fi tour a few months back, and their latest product arrived for a short visit this month. The Meze 99 Neo (US$249) headphones. Thanks so much to Meze for including me in the tour.
This is my first time sitting down with any of their products, though I did read some reviews of both the Classics and the Neo in advance. I will keep this short, as there are many exhaustive reports already available online. I'll try to get to what I think are the key characteristics before you grow tired of me.
Photo courtesy of Meze Audio
I love the look of the 99 Neo. The build quality is impressive, and the design is classy. The electroplated zinc alloy hardware combined with the plastic black cups and memory foam ear pads makes for a sleek look. The fact that all parts are serviceable is outstanding. Not many out there today that can make the same claim.
The hard shell carrying case for the 'phones, and the smaller accessory case are high quality. Both have a texture that is pleasing to touch. I assume the 99 Neo are aimed at users who are on the go. I did not have an opportunity to step out with the Neo.
The 99 Neo are 3oz. lighter than my main comparison for this report - the Audioquest Nighthawks. The Nighthawk's ear cups are slightly larger and shaped differently, so for my large melon, they're more comfortable. I've big ears too, so while the 99 Neo are quite comfortable, I've got more room in the Nighthawks stock pads.
Again, the 99 Neo are very comfortable headphones. I had no problem with them over longer sessions. Of course, the closed design is going to be warmer than an open one. Out here in the desert, it is something to consider. Of course, for their target audience, the closed back may not be negotiable.
Meze provide two cables - the short and the long. I used the longer cable the entire time, and appreciate having enough length to move around my office. My DHC cables are short, and keep me tethered to my source.
Both headphones have similar impedance - 26db (99 Neo) vs 25db (Nighthawks). The Neo is rated at 103db sensitivity. That's 4db higher than the Nighthawk. Wow. I'm sticking with my AQ Dragonfly Red paired with an AQ Jitterbug for power. Streaming cd quality tracks via Tidal the entire session. I listened with both a PC source and Android phone.
These are great sounding headphones. And fun. The bumped mid-bass, or bloom, is readily apparent. That bloom - and, maybe a dip in the upper mid-range - in combination result in a somewhat warm and close presentation. Intimate. Cymbals lack some of the overtones that the Nighthawks present. It's quite subtle, and overall they sound linear and natural. The 99 Neo are an energetic headphone. Dynamic, and driving. Punchy. At times, the shove in the low end brought to mind two channel speakers.
Based on my short time when them, I feel it's less about high frequency extension, and more about the slightly lifted low frequencies - this warmer, shadier tone. I really enjoy the sound. To my ears they are slightly less linear and natural in comparison to the Nighthawks with my Double Helix cable. You know, I would've have tried the DHC cable with the Neo, but the connectors did not fit. The Nighthawks are more relaxed, being a more open design.
Fiona Apple's voice on "The Idler Wheel..." illustrates my earlier point. Less head, and a tiny bit more throat and chest in vocals. And, cymbals lose some of their overtones. Acoustic drum stick attack and body are highlighted with the overtones slightly diminished. Pianos and other assorted keys on this record reflect this same downward shift of the stage. Again, this is subtle, and not necessarily a mark against the Neo. Just my own observations set down here for your consideration.
As for isolation - I don't have another closed pair available for a comparison. The 99 Neo seemed to isolate well. I was not able to test this in an office or elsewhere it might be needed.
The 99 Neo are a great sounding and stylish headphone. They were easily driven by my OnePlus3 phone streaming Tidal HiFi. Likewise with my pc in combo with the Audioquest Dragonfly Red. I wanted more time to test a more powerful amps affect on these sensitive phones. I am currently without my usual tube amps, so have stuck with the portable rig for the entire session. I think this may be more relevant for folks who are considering the Neo, anyway.
So, they are easy to drive, have a warm, natural voice, and are really comfortable. I think you can't go wrong if you are looking for a closed back and portable headphone in this price range. Add to this that they are stylish and fully serviceable, and they begin to compete outside this range. In a world of primarily recyclable products, one that has a higher probability of outliving me is very attractive.
In my reading I found that Meze has a devoted following, and I now know why. The 99 Neo are an excellent product.
Thanks for listening.