Meze 99 Neo

Rating:
4.2/5,
Tags:
  1. ryanjsoo
    Meze 99 Neo Review – Modern Classic
    Written by ryanjsoo
    Published Apr 21, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Fantastic Earpads and Headband Mechanism, Comfortable, Linear, natural tuning, Soundstage, Great design, Case
    Cons - Midrange a little thick, More laid-back high-end not for everyone, Omnipresent bass
    Introduction –

    Meze has made quite the entrance into the audio field with a great reception to both their in-ear and over-ear headphone line-ups. I know a lot of readers are familiar with Meze’s 99 Classics, it was a great contender within the $400 portable headphone range that brought some unique features, a very appealing design along with highly competitive sound quality wrapped within lush tuning; immediately rocketing to the front pages of Head-fi. So I was immediately excited to hear that Meze had released a new headphone, the 99 Neo, bringing that same iconic design and sound within a slightly cheaper ($60 cheaper), more contemporary package.

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    Though personal experience with all of Meze’s products, I have found much to love within their warm, smooth house sound and keen eye for both attractive and pragmatic designs. But I also have extensive experience with a lot of the top performing portable headphones around this price, either through long-term loan or ownership, so I’m not too quick to fawn over the latest models. With that said, let’s see how the 99 Neo stands up to the best headphones in the business.

     

    Disclaimer –

    I received the Meze 99 Neo from Meze’s review tour. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

     

    About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases

    I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.

    Read More

     

    Accessories –

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    The 99 Neo comes within a nice box that thankfully bucks the low-key all black trend instead, with a tasteful white/grey scheme. The box magnetically latches open to reveal the headphones and accessories within a very nice hard case, the same included with the 99 Classics.

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    It’s one of nicest included cases I’ve seen in a while, perfectly fitting the headphones with a small zippered pouch for accessories/cables and a nice embossed metal meze logo up front. I would like a little more room to keep the cable attached to the headphones while in the case though the design of the 99 Neo’s does not permit the cable to be easily wrapped up anyway.

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    In addition to the case, the 99 Neo comes equipped with a 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter, gold-plated aeroplane adapter and two cables like the Oppo PM3. One is a 3M audio-only cable and the other is a 1.2M cable with single-button remote and mic for use with smartphones. Both are OFC with the same diameter, they were sonically identical in my testing and it’s great to see Meze including both cables from factory.

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    The 99 Neo really provide a nice unboxing experience. While the packaging might not be as lavish as something from Bower and Wilkins for example, the included accessories and the quality of those accessories are far more impressive. In particular, I believe that every portable headphone like this should come with a solid hard case and the one included with the 99 Neo’s is sturdy and pragmatic, unlike the fabric pouches that come with the Denon-MM400’s, B&W P7’s and Sony MDR-1A’s.

     

    Design –

    Those familiar with the 99 Classics will find solace in the 99 Neo’s almost identical design, carrying the same iconic looks and comfortable, ergonomic fit. Of note, they do have the larger, plusher earpads found on later 99 Classics revisions and I did find the Neo to be that much more comfortable than early 99 Classics that felt a bit cramped.

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    Visually, the 99 Neo compounds upon Meze’s fantastic craftsmanship and design with the 99 Classics; they are an evolution of the retro design popularised by the Sennheiser Momentum. The 99 Neo’s aren’t a compact headphone, but their tapered earcups and unique headband enable a surprisingly low profile fit on the head when compared to similar models despite having especially spacious earcups.

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    The 99 Neo might look frail due to those thin headband rails and small earcup adjustment mechanisms, though in the hand, the headphones are very solid with a reassuring rigidity to every component. The unique headband mechanism also grants the headphones with a very low centre of gravity, making them far more stable on the head than even the Oppo PM3 and strongly clamping Denon MM-400; they are one of the only headphones that have stayed put on my head when lying down. But coming back to comparison with the Classics, while the leather textured PVA earcups on the 99 Neo do look great, they still fail to match the in-hand feel of the wooden Classics and feel inauthentic compared to the lambskin encased B&W and Bang and Olfusens. That being said, they don’t seem prone to scratches nor smudges and are perfectly well-finished.

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    When it comes to fitment, portable headphones have always struggled to find the balance between comfort, convenience and portability. The Oppo PM3 and B&O H6 are, to my ear, the best fitting portable headphones on the market, though the 99 Neo might just match them in overall fit, making them superior to headphones such as B&W P7 which had a stiff, thin headband and Denon MM-400 which had thin, shallow earpads. In fact, the 99 Neo is almost a combination between an at-home and portable headphone, working well for both due to their great long term comfort and isolation/tuning.

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    This outstanding comfort begins with those swivelling earcups and absolutely fantastic earpads that are roomy even for those with large ears such as myself and stuffed with extremely plush memory foam. They’re coated in a soft, slightly grippy pleather that provides some extra fit stability but doesn’t feel as rubbery as that employed on the Denon MM-400’s nor as fragile as that used on the Sony MDR-1A’s (though I would assume that they wouldn’t age as well as real leather in the long term). The pads completely engulf my ears unlike the MM-400’s and ATH-MSR-7’s, forming a perfect seal with nice passive noise isolation comparable, if not slightly superior to other sealed headphones like the Denon MM-400 and B&W P7, but still a little less than class leaders like the Oppo PM3 and B&O H6. Comfort still isn’t perfect, the drivers protrude a little, just contacting my outer ear though I didn’t find this to be an issue unless I wore the headphones for days on end. Still, this isn’t something that affect the PM3’s nor the H6’s though they are far more comfortable than the Sennheiser Momentums and B&W P7’s.

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    This positive impression continues onto the exemplary headband which is by far one of the best I have used among the usual thin, stiff or inadequately padded units; portable headphones just have bad headbands in general. The 99 Neo differs in that regard, by employing a suspension system identical to that on the 99 Classics; it’s the type of basic convenience that makes a world of difference in daily use. While headbands like this are not unique in general, it’s still a very rare feature among portable headphones and Meze’s implementation works especially well. The headband itself is a thick, soft and slightly padded leather strap that conforms perfectly to every head shape. The suspension system automatically adjusts every time though elastic tension, guaranteeing a reliable fit without the need for a clicking or sliding headband adjustment mechanism. I found the headband tension to be just slightly higher than I would prefer though the large surface area of the band evenly distributes pressure and the elastic is sure to loosen up slightly over time. Clamp force was also well-judged but, being a portable headphone, they still clamp quite firmly. That being said, the thick, plush earpads disperse the pressure and clamp force is quite even throughout its range so they won’t clamp too hard on those with larger head sizes.

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    The cable is dual entry, unlike most other portable headphones that use a single side cable though it is removable, connecting via two regular 2.5mm mono connectors. Of note, the headphones are perfectly symmetrical which makes swapping the cable just a little easier. Both the 3M and 1.2M cables carry the same design with a tapered aluminium straight jack, braided lower segment with basic rubber sheathing above the y-split. The cables are Kevlar braided for longevity though they could still do with more strain relief near the jack. Thickness is well-considered for portable usage though the rubbery texture above the y-split does tend to catch on clothes should you want to route the cable through your jumper. Being a dual entry headphone, the 99 Neo also isn’t compatible with any kind of Bluetooth adaptor meaning that the headphone is not viable for usage with the iPhone 7 or other jack-less smartphones unless you can find a third party lightning cable.

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    So ultimately, the 99 Neo is a rather exemplary headphone in terms of fitment. Every aspect is incredibly well thought out and far more pragmatic than the vast majority of portable headphones that struggle with at-home usage due to over-emphasis on portability. The headband mechanism is unorthodox but finds great usability in simplicity while the super plush earpads and low COG enable both long-term comfort and stability when out and about. The headphones look the part too, with a design that is no less intriguing if less relentlessly opulent than models from B&W, B&O and Oppo. The plastic earcups do feel a little cheap but every other aspect of the headphone is solid.

     

    Sound –

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    Though Meze’s website states a different impedance of 26ohms on the 99N vs 32ohms on the 99C, to my knowledge, the Neo’s employ the same 40mm dynamic driver as the 99 Classics that came before. As such, they pursue a very similar sound, if not one that is identical due to differences in housing materials affecting acoustics; perhaps the difference in impedance is an attempt to compensate for these changes. But for the most part, the 99 Neo performs quite predictably with a sound that is laid-back, warm and mostly familiar. They aren’t nearly as balanced as the Oppo PM3 nor are they quite as sculpted as the B&W P7, sounding more linear throughout their midrange. They are a very natural, dare I say analogue sounding headphones that retain the organic characters of the wooden 99 Classics despite employing ABS earcups. In fact, they are perhaps even more laid-back and warm to my ear.

     

    Tonality –

    The Meze 99 Neo’s carry a tasteful L-shaped sound similar to that employed on earphones such as the Klipsch X10’s. However, the 99 Neo’s have no issue with end to end extension and treble prominence imbues the sound with a little extra crispness over smoother portable headphones like the Oppo PM3. The 99 Neo’s actually sound quite similar to the Denon MM-400 overall though they assume a slightly warmer, more laid-back tone with the Denon’s having a little more unevenness in the treble that creates a more aggressive sense of detail. As such, the 99 Neo’s can be described as having a darker tonal tilt with bass possessing the most emphasis.

     

    Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –

    When I first heard the 99 Classics, the first thing that stood out to me among the closed back portable headphones I had heard, was the exceptionally wide soundstage. The 99 Neo, perhaps due to the differing housing materials, doesn’t quite possess the same level of space though it remains one of the better performers in this price range, more akin to the B&W P7 over the more intimate Oppo PM3 and to a lesser extent, Denon MM-400. And despite having quite a warm, thick sound, the 99 Neo never sounds congested; it’s a nice presentation that flatters almost every genre of music from pop to rock to classical. That being said, while the 99 Neo does sound large, this thicker tuning does prevent the headphones from sounding particularly open or airy, something the B&W P7 and B&O H6’s excel with.

    I also found the Neo to have quite a well-rounded soundstage, better rounded than the 99C due to their reduced width, resulting in impressive imaging performance. Though neither the 99C nor the 99 Neo has any issue with instrument placement and imaging, the Neo sounded slightly more coherent to me with precise instrument placement that made the B&W P7 and Sony MDR-1A’s sound vaguer. So overall, the 99 Neo’s are a warm headphone, though their large soundstage prevents congestion and separation remain quite commendable even when compared directly to some of the best headphones within this class.

     

    Drivability –

    The 99 Neo’s were designed for portable use with a sensitivity of 103dB and an impedance of 26ohm, making them very easy to drive. They aren’t the most sensitive headphone I’ve tested but achieved similar volume to the Denon MM-400’s and Sony MDR-1A’s at the same level. They were also more sensitive than the planar magnetic Oppo PM3’s which I found to be one of the pickiest headphones among those I had on hand. They actually pick up a surprising amount of hiss from my noisier sources but even modestly noisy sources such as my Oppo HA-2 had no issue. The 99 Neo’s didn’t scale spectacularly with the sources I had on hand, sounding relatively similar from my iPod Nano, HTC 10 and Oppo HA-2, where the B&W P7 and Oppo PM3 scaled up considerably with my better sources. They did achieve some improvements with a slightly tauter bass performance and clearer midrange from my HA-2 though they will play happily from any decent smartphone or standalone DAP.

     

    Bass –

    The 99 Neo’s are one of the bassier audiophile orientated portable headphones, beating out the PM3, H6 and Denon MM-400 in terms of quantity. Luckily, they aren’t nearly as bombastic as the sub-bass boosted B&W P7’s nor are they bloated like the Sony MDR-1A. They are closest to the MM-400 in tuning, with a more linear bass boost that retains pleasing quality and definition with a slight bump in the mid-bass that provides a little extra fullness and punch. There is some midrange spill though lower-mids are never overwhelmed by bass and remain quite clear considering the extent of the bass boost. They also have really great sub-bass extension with rather outstanding definition of sub and lower-bass notes. Rumble is visceral and electronic genres of music have satisfying impact and slam without inducing a bass headache. While I would still prefer slightly more balance, the 99 Neo’s provide a very organic, natural listen that is adequately full when in a noisy environment but remains tasteful enough at home to maintain an enjoyable listen.

    Of course, bass isn’t perfect and due to the boosted tuning, the 99 Neo’s do miss out on a bit of texture and definition when compared to more linear sets like the PM3 and MM-400. Bass also suffers from slight bloat and tubbiness, notes aren’t as taught as I would prefer though I’m sure many will enjoy the extra punchiness and fullness provided by the Neo’s bass response. When listening to music with rapidly transitioning basslines like Steve Conti’s “Call Me Call Me” or Toto’s “Roasanna”, the 99 Neo did well to keep up with complex passages without becoming overwhelmed like the looser P7. While bass drums didn’t quite possess the same PRAT as the super snappy PM3 and MM-400, the 99 Neo’s provide a great balance between quantity and quality, sub-bass notes didn’t get too muddy and mid and upper-bass provided a sense of fullness without imbuing a veiling character. So while bass is rather omnipresent due to the headphones accentuated tuning, notes don’t drone and remain articulate. They are an engaging headphone that values dynamics over transparency though they never overstep their boundaries in regards to bass quantity and bass quality will be sure to impress.

     

    Midrange –

    With a slightly darker tone, the 99 Neo’s aren’t the clearest sounding headphone though they don’t lack clarity per say. On poorly mastered or low bitrate songs, the 99 Neo does tend to sound a little muffled throughout its midrange, especially with genres such as hip-hop. That being said, the headphones also sound surprisingly clear when the track calls for it. For instance, the vocals in Vance Joy’s “Riptide” were appropriately forward and didn’t sound chesty or veiled at all. So rather than veiled, I would argue that the midrange is simply full-bodied, making vocals sound a little thicker. Instruments such as acoustic guitar really benefit from this, sounding rich and lush without coming across as bloated and the headphones retain enough resolution to flatter piano and string instruments. They actually had more clarity than the Denon MM-400’s but still fell short of the Oppo PM3’s and B&O H6’s which are both cleaner and more linear. That being said, the Neo’s had no dips or spikes in their midrange and all notes and vocals sounded natural if more full-bodied than neutral as opposed to the brighter B&W P7’s which had plenty of clarity and detail but also sounded unnatural and uneven with some vocals and instruments such as piano. Meanwhile, the Denon MM-400’s are still more balance throughout their midrange though, as aforementioned, they also had less clarity.

    The 99 Neo’s also have pretty great detail retrieval even if their more natural, darker sound favours smoothness over aggressive detail and clarity. This was highlighted during The Cranberries’ “Linger”, where the Neo’s did a fine job picking up the subtle clicking of picks on strings that are easily lost among portable headphones. So while resolution is actually quite impressive overall, they don’t bring details to the fore like the B&W P7 and especially Oppo PM3. I think the Denon’s are probably the closest competitor to the Meze’s, and in terms of midrange performance, it’s a pretty fair trade-off with both being equally enjoyable and tasteful to my ear. These are simply different manufacturer’s twists on the same kind of sound.

     

    Treble –

    With a somewhat L-shaped tuning, the 99 Neo’s do produce a more laid-back treble response, though they have very good extension for a portable and don’t miss out on the higher details. Listening to my usual treble test songs, Radiohead’s “Creep”, “Paranoid Android” and “No Surprises” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, and the 99 Neo’s produced one of the better performances among my portable headphone collection. The B&W P7’s have a really nice treble response with air, sparkle and extension, for lovers of a brighter sound it is one of the strongest performers within this price range. On the opposite end of the scale, the PM3 and MM-400 are more natural and also more in-line with the 99 Neo. High-hats had nice sparkle without sounding overly thin while cymbals had shimmer and realistic texture. High notes were missing that last bit of air and openness that the P7’s provided though treble notes sounded less rolled off than both the PM3 and MM-400’s. Treble notes were actually quite clear despite the thicker nature of the 99 Neo’s sound and the slightly boosted treble crispness does well to balance out the more relaxed nature of the headphones. Again, in terms of tuning, natural is the word I would use to describe the 99 Neo’s treble performance. And though high-notes are still not forward in any way, they are quite even throughout; portable headphones usually have a lower treble spike to add the impression of detail making the 99 Neo quite a rarity. While I still would have preferred slightly more air and quantity, the treble tuning is really well done on the Meze’s with great extension, linearity and texture.

     

    Verdict –

    I went into this review quite the sceptic. The 99 Classics were simply too well-reviewed, I was suspicious and my expectations were too high, making them seem inadequate upon real-life testing. And as with anything, a true testament to greatness is retained quality under scrutiny, something one could argue that a one week review tour cannot offer. But I’ve maximised my time with the 99 Neo’s, they are an important product in an ever increasing market, and I’ve found that the Meze’s are too laid-back to be immediately impressive anyway; especially when compared to the gorgeous B&W P7’s or B&O H6’s and even the very revealing Oppo PM3. But strip away the initial “wow factor” of these headphones and the 99 Neo retains its charm through its well-rounded sound while the P7 and H6 come off as somewhat unnatural. That’s not to say that the P7 or H6 are bad headphones, not at all, but they are no longer the best around; that title goes to the next generation of innovative portables, the PM3, MM-400 and now, the 99 Neo.

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    And I do feel that all of these headphones are quite mature in their sounds. All of their respective manufacturers set out with intent actualised through different styles of tuning which will no doubt match different buyer’s preferences; the H6 and P7 for those who love clarity and the MM-400 and 99 Neo for lovers of a more organic, natural sound. However, the fit on these headphones is not nearly so developed and a lot of these manufacturers have struggled to adopt an over-ear form factor, many coming from a rich heritage of speaker design over portable gear. And again, long term usage reveals the shortcomings in design that a brief listen may not. Luckily, the 99 Neo is quite exemplary here too. While it lacks the unrelenting rigidity of the P7, H6 and PM3, the Neo is more ergonomic, has the best headband and forms no hotspots. It’s also a very unique looking headphone that bucks the usual design trends that tend to homogenize “fashion” headphones into minimalist leather clad omegas, with a retro inspired design that’s an instant modern classic.

    Overall – 9/10, Meze have proven that you don’t need lambskin leather, stainless steel accents or chromed chamfers to create an appealing design, nor do you need complex folding mechanisms to achieve portability and a reliable fit. But perhaps, most pertinent to this review, Meze have provided us with a great, natural, organic sound that demonstrates how linearity is just as impressive as neutrality. Meze set out to recapture the magic of the 99 Classics at a cheaper price, within a more contemporary shell and that’s just what they’ve achieved with the 99 Neo.

    Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please have a look at my website for more articles just like it:

    https://everydaylisteningblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/meze-99-neo-review-modern-classic/

    1. View previous replies...
    2. Satir
      Inner Fidelity 99 Neo review and yours have me scratching my head :) That said your review is one of the better ones I've read on head-fi lately. As have not heard 99 Neo myself, cannot say I share your observations about sound quality, however I sure appreciate your efforts. Meze surely is pleased with your review and that you were part of their tour. 
      Satir, Apr 22, 2017
    3. ryanjsoo
      @Satir Thanks Satir, I actually think Tyll and I had pretty similar impressions when he achieved a good fit, and I didn't struggle to find a strong seal so they were always quite bassy to me. The 99 Neo's midrange/high-end also isn't super clear but both are very natural. I did also find the 99 Classics to be more balanced, but I didn't have it on hand at the time of review. Had I confided more in my memory, comparisons probably would have looked a lot like Tyll's review on Innerfidelity. But then sound is subjective with things like fit, seal and even ear canal shape affecting everyone's impressions.
      ryanjsoo, Apr 22, 2017
    4. Dobrescu George
      @ryanjsoo  The fit thing is totally true! There are days when even I don't get a perfect fit and there are days when they fit so well that I can't convince myself to stop listening (99 Classics). I'm really enthused by the job you did with your photos! 
      Dobrescu George, Apr 23, 2017
  2. BloodyPenguin
    Welcome to the Dark Side of Meze: The 99 Neo
    Written by BloodyPenguin
    Published May 1, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great Design, Smooth Sound, Comfortable Fit, Non-Fatiguing
    Cons - Plastic Driver Cups Feel a Bit Cheap, Bass Creeps Up to the Mids
    --
    *Pre-Review*

    Before I start my review. I have a treasure hunt for all of you.

    Back when the 99 Classics came out, I believe I mentioned that it would be awesome if Meze came out with a Black and Silver version. I've searched for this post, but I have yet to find it (maybe it was a figment of my imagination). However, if it is out there and you do find it, I will give you 10,000 Head-Fi points that can't be used anywhere.


    ...On to the actual review...

    P1090062.jpg

    - All Photos Taken by Me-

    [Product Link]: Meze 99 Neo
    [Current Price]: $249.00

    **Disclaimer, I'd like to thank Meze for the 99 Neo sample unit, so as to complete this honest review**


    *Specifications*

    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


    *Packaging*

    Meze does a great balancing act of Form and Function with all of their products. That is quickly made clear with just the box the 99 Neo comes in. It is well thought out design and makes the un-boxing experience special.

    P1090091.jpg


    *Contents*

    - Meze 99 Neo Heaphone
    - Carrying Headphone Case
    - Case for accessories (cables)
    - Longer Non-Microphone Detachable Cable
    - Shorter Microphone Detachable Cable
    - Airplane Adapter
    - 3.5mm to 1/4 Adapter

    P1090058.jpg

    *Design/Build*

    Carried over from the original 99 Classics, the Neo shares the same basic layout. They share so much, that even the headband of the 99 Neo says: "99 Classics", not sure if this was done on purpose or by mistake. One difference to be seen is the use of black ABS plastic for the housings of the 99 Neo, while the 99 Classics opts for beautiful wood cups. The ABS plastic on the 99 Neo looks nice, though feels a bit on the cheaper side. Though this material difference seems to have allowed Meze to drop $50 off the price of the 99 Classics which is always good for an audiophiles wallet.

    The detachable cables got an improvement from the 99 Classic versions. They now have less microphonics due to the braided cable only extending downward from the Y splitter. Above the split, the cable is now a smoother material that is much less noisy. Meze was smart to listen to its users to upgrade the cable with this new design.

    Continuing the evolution of the 99 Classics, Meze also read about increasing concerns about the small radius of the ear pads. While they did release a set of new, larger internal diameter pads later, these come standard on the 99 Neo. The reviews of these new pads seem mixed. For me, I like them. Not that I have big ears, but I still find them to be more comfortable and less warming. Sound wise I am not finding them to change the signature much as some others do.

    One of the best tweaked designs from the 99 Classics does not even have to do with the headphones at all, instead it is the carrying case. I love the look and tactile feel of the material used. Plus, with the slightly raised surface, it makes it much easier to grip as well.

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    *Sound*

    - I will note here that I made it a point not to read any of the other 99 Neo reviews that came before mine, as not to influence my own testing. I will be curious to check out other members thoughts on the signature after I have posted this review. It will be interesting to see if they match my own findings or not. -

    Lows - Bass comes through as smooth, though a bit on the slower side. Not exactly muddy, but not super controlled either. I wish there was just a little more sub-bass, as there is more of a focus on the mid-bass that creeps up into the mids.

    Mids - The smoothness continues in the middle frequencies. Vocals are laid back and lack some energy. Though it must be said that there is something magical about the ease of how the mids are presented, that I have yet to hear in any other headphone. This special sound can only be described as fun and musical, a big reason why these headphones are so popular.

    Highs - Roll off comes quick, but not at the expense of details. If anything, this has got to be one of the best headphones for extending listening as the 99 Neo is so easy on the ears. The upper regions are a highlight of the overall sound and tops off the smooth nature of this headphone.

    Soundstage - While there is a perception of depth, there is also a feel of reverb as well. This does leave a slightly congested feeling at times when the music speeds up.

    P1090057.jpg


    *Driving/Pairing*


    With an Impedance: of 26 Ohm, the 99 Neo itself is easy to drive. Though, lower level sources, such as the Benjie S5 or FiiO M3 only seem to add to the almost veiled sound.

    My best results came when I used my most powerful and clean desktop setup of the Orb Jade Casa DAC/Amp pairing. This allowed the most detail and best possible sound of the 99 Neo to come through. Though, even with the big guns blazing, the sound was as described above, with a tendency for extended mid-bass and a smoother playback.

    P1090082.jpg

    *Overall Thoughts*

    Despite a few of my less than enthusiastic descriptions of the sound signature, the 99 Neo is still a fun headphone to use. I'm always very relaxed after long sessions of use. The ease of playback allows there to be little fatigue and that does allow the 99 Neo to be very useful. While not the most analytical headphone out there, it does succeed in putting a smile on your face, as is presentation of music is fun and engaging.

    Build and design are matched well, though I would like to see a slightly thicker and less plasticy feel to the cup housings. If I could convay anything to Meze, it would be while I understood why they kept with the same layout as the 99 Classics, though with a smaller price tag, would have been to make the 99 Neo a bit different than its older brother. My advise would be, to build the Neo as a open-backed headphone with velour pads. I think this would allow the sound to be more airy and maybe help with a little of the congestion. Plus, velour pads would add more to the already comfortable fit.

    All and all, while I still see improvements to be made in future generations, the 99 Neo is a good headphone that deserves extensive listening time. Those looking for a smooth and engaging sound, look no further than the 99 Neo

    P1090085.JPG
    --
  3. Hisoundfi
    A modern take on the Classics... The Meze 99 Neo
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Jun 2, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Classics-like performance at a cheaper asking price, Black and chrome aesthetic looks sharp, Nice cable options and travel case, musical sound signature works with many genres
    Cons - Not for those who want neutral and airy sound, Mid-bass can be overwhelming depending on the track that's playing, Headband microphonics

    At the time of the review, the Meze 99 Neo were listed for pre-sale on their website. Here is a link for information and purchase:

    http://bit.ly/2n6YzEx
    20170602_022115.jpg

    Introduction

    Meze is a relatively newer headphone company. Last year they released their inaugural headphone, the 99 Classics. It seemed as though there was a new review of the product on the Head-Fi front page once or twice a week for a long period of time, with most reviews being very positive. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to review the 99 Classics, and was pleased with their price to performance ratio. Here is a link to the review:

    https://www.head-fi.org/f/showcase/meze-99-classics.21066/reviews?page=2#review-16685

    The more I listen to the Classics, the more I can appreciate what Meze has done. They aren’t necessarily an audiophile or consumer friendly tuning. Their sound falls somewhere between the two and gives owners a pair of full-size headphones that are sensitive enough to be used with their smartphones and can also paired with a high end desktop rig. Considering the price to performance and unique tuning and sharp looks, their headphones appeal to a diverse crowd.

    The Meze team is a group of nice guys from Romania who found a niche in the headphone market with the 99 Classics. Their success has led them to release a reasonably priced and similarly tuned line of in-ear monitors, the 11 Neo and 12 Classics. I have a pair of 11 Neo and they sound excellent in their own right. Having heard their entire lineup, it seems that Meze is sticking to a highly enjoyable “house sound” that many can appreciate.

    When Meze contacted me to see if I was interested in reviewing a new headphone called the 99 Neo, there was no hesitation in accepting their offer. From how it was explained the 99 Neo was basically a new spin on the Classics, using ABS (high quality plastic) cups instead of wood. The more cost effective material would also help drop their asking price as compared to the 99 Classics. Let’s take a look and listen to the Neo.

    REVIEW
    20170602_021457.jpg
    The 99 Neo comes in a black and gray box with black lettering and glossy photos of the product. If you own a pair of Classics you will see almost identical information on both sides of the box, with the only difference being six Ohms variance in the headphone’s impedance.

    20170602_021601.jpg
    Opening the box, I’m greeted with a travel case a-la the 99 Classics, but with a cloth jacketing as opposed to the synthetic leather material used in the previous model. Functionally speaking, they both are identical in shape and do the same job.

    Specifications and Accessories
    20170602_021913.jpg
    Specifications:

    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

    Accessories:
    1X Pair Meze 99 Neo headphones
    1X Cloth hard-shell zipper travel case
    1X Cloth zipper accessories pouch
    1X 1.2 Meter cable with mic/remote for Android and Iphone (version 6 and lower)
    1X 10 Foot stereo cable
    1X 1/4 Inch stereo adapter
    1X Airline adapter


    Overall Build
    20170602_022105.jpg
    The build is identical to the 99 Classics but with one exception, the cups are made of black ABS plastic. Holding them in my hand, they have the same weight, and almost identical build quality. The ABS cups look more modern than the wood cups of the 99 Classics. If you are familiar with the build and fit of the 99 Classics you might want to skip ahead to the sound portion of this review.

    20170602_022004.jpg
    The build quality of the 99 Neo is great in comparison to many headphones in its price range. They have a spring steel headband with a synthetic leather band that attaches via an elastic band on each side of the frame. Those who own AKG headphones, it's basically the same concept.

    The frame of the 99 Neo attaches to a ball and socket design which connects to the ABS cups. The cups have ample oscillation which helps create a comfortable fit. Memory foam pads stretch around a ABS plate which holds the 99 Neo’s 40mm mylar drivers.

    20170602_021942.jpg
    Each side has a 3.5mm mono terminal, meaning each channel runs separately without sharing any wiring in the headband. You can easily order an aftermarket balanced cable without having to do any modification to the headphone itself.

    All in all (and just like the 99 Classics) I’m very happy with the build quality of these headphones and don’t see them breaking any time soon (if handled with a reasonable amount of care). I personally prefer the more modern black and chrome look of the 99 Neo over the wood cups of the Classics.

    Cable, Cable Jacks, Strain Reliefs
    20170602_022516.jpg
    Meze gives you all the cables you need to get started. The 1.2 meter mic/remote cable is Kevlar coated and has high quality and durable connections. The mic/remote is a single button variation (no volume control) that's made of metal and has a high quality rubber button. Strain reliefs are adequate. Also included is a ten foot cable that comes in handy when using them at home.


    Comfort, Isolation, Microphonics

    20170602_022726.jpg
    Between the stretchable PU leather headband and memory foam pads, the 99 Neo is better than average in terms of comfort. The 99 Neo is easy to wear and no adjustments are needed to achieve a secure and comfortable fit. Simply set the headphones on your head and stretch the cups down and over your ears. For a closed headphone, the 99 Neo works great for long listening sessions. They will get warm on the ears, but not excessively hot (unless used in hot weather). Under normal indoor conditions I was able to wear the 99 Neo for extended listening sessions without breaking a sweat or needing to take a break.

    20170602_022050.jpg
    Meze has made a positive change in comparison to their older models of 99 Classics by making the circumference of the ear pads a bit larger. Just for the record, newer versions of the 99 Classics also uses a larger circumference pair of pads as well.

    Isolation is better than a semi open design, but a bit below average as compared to other pairs of closed headphones. External noise is easily hears when music is not playing, but eliminated when it is.

    Just like the 99 Classics, one of my biggest gripes about the 99 Neo is the amount of microphonics. Simply put, the spring steel frame creates a lot of of microphonics and noise inside the cups when they rub against or make contact with any other surface. Avoid making contact with other materials and you won’t have a problem. Give them a tap on the spring steel frame while wearing them and you’ll see what I mean. There is also noise from the headband when the amount of stretch on the headband is changed. I don’t consider this to be a deal breaker, but definitely something that can get annoying if you’re trying to rest your head against the back of a chair or wall while listening to them.


    Sound Review
    20170602_030312.jpg
    I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-V20 for smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3, Fiio X7/AM3 combo, or iBasso DX80 DAP/Bushmaster D14 DAC/Amp for high fidelity portable use. For desktop use, I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with my Aune S6/S7, or ifi micro iDSD playing at 32/192 kHz. I tested them with several other sources as well. I used Google Music in its highest download quality (320 KBPS), and also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.

    I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
    “Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
    “Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
    “Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
    “Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
    “Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
    “The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
    “Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
    “Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
    “One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
    “Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
    “Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
    “And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
    “Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)


    Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.



    Source Selection
    Coming in at 26 Ohms, the 99 Neo is easy to drive for a full sized headphone and can be used with a smartphone. It will sound decent with low power sources, but gets a boost in fidelity when used with added amplification.


    The 99 Neo sounds best to my ears with a powerful and neutral source. My favorite sources used where the iFi micro iDSD in medium gain setting and Fiio X7/AM3. A lean and powerful source seemed to compliment the 99 Neo tuning and seemed to make them sound more responsive and natural than colored sources. The Meze tuning is very forgiving, and will sound great with any recording and genre of music you throw at it.



    Sound Signature
    Have you heard the 99 Classics? If you have, they sound nearly identical to my ears. Meze uses the same drivers, pads, and cup shape. The only different effects on the sonics is the ABS housings. I did extensive A-B comparisons and found some very subtle differences. The differences are so subtle that it could be a matter of burn-in hours on the drivers, or variances in production models. I will however report this in the sound review and comparison sections.



    The 99 Neo falls somewhere between audiophile and consumer friendly. They are slightly bass forward, have a slightly emphasized mid-bass and lower mid-range, warm tilted mid-range, and polite yet adequate higher frequency response. They sound good at low or high volumes and don’t discriminate any genre of music. These are a headphone that will work fantastic for those who enjoy an eclectic music library.



    Bass
    Bass on the 99 Neo is somewhat forward. The low frequency emphasis doesn’t venture into “basshead” territory, but brings enough thump and rumble to give listeners all the slam they need to enjoy almost any music genre. At the same time the 99 Neo has the refrain to not butcher stuff meant to sound natural and organic.

    Sub bass is present but takes a small step back from mid-bass frequencies. I’m not sure if the ABS housings (or larger circumference pads) make the difference, but the sub bass of the 99 Neo seems a bit tighter and slightly more responsive than the Classics (this is a good thing). Even still, this isn’t the tightest and most responsive sub-bass you’ll hear. It’s better than your average pair of headphones, but not on the same level as the more elite planar or high end dynamic headphones I’ve heard.

    Mid bass is somewhat bold and has a nice impactful punch. The forward nature does impact lower mid-range a bit but doesn’t make it sound overwhelmingly distorted or sloppy. It’s big and bold, with a slight veil that doesn’t seem to ruin the listening experience.

    If the Neo had more bass I might be calling these things bloated or terribly veiled, but that’s not really the case. These headphones have a bold and robust lower frequency range, period. Bass heavy music will sound, well, bassy. Those looking for a neutral, linear and fast response, you’re not going to find it here. Those who like a splash of added dynamics and color will like what’s going on with these cans.

    Mid-Range
    Mids are dynamic in lower registers, soft at upper mid tones and somewhat soft in attack. Overall the mid response is pleasant and easy on the ears. I would say that it is overall neutral with a bit of warmth and impact in the lower half.

    Male vocals and lower midrange instruments take a step down from mid-bass frequencies and are still a touch forward. Mid bass does impact the lower midrange sounds, especially with bass heavy modern genres and complex music passages. Female vocals for the most part are natural. Higher pitches female vocals come across a bit soft and slightly distant.

    All vocals finish smooth to my ears. Upper mid-range has a somewhat soft attack that isn’t significant, but noticeable during critical listening. Overall, I like the balance Meze provides. I can see some not caring for the lower mid-range and consider it to have unwelcomed and thick resonance while others will love it for the same reason and state that it has nice texture, color and warmth.

    Treble
    Treble is forward enough to prevent listeners from calling them dark, and has a clean delivery. Of all frequency ranges this is the clearest sounding. I’m not going to say it’s the farthest back in the mix, but the Meze 99 Neo avoids sibilance in recordings and still maintains an adequate and snappy presentation.

    99 Neo’s treble isn’t the most extended thing you’ll ever listen to but won’t take away from your listening experience at all. Cymbal crashes are audible and clean, but a bit in back of the mix and don’t have a lot of energy or shimmer.

    Overall I enjoy the the treble tuning of the 99 Neo and feel it’s one of their best attributes. PRAT is good with the 99 Neo, and at the same time they avoid harsh frequencies that would take away from the overall listening experience.



    Soundstage and Imaging
    This is the criteria where source and music genre matters most. With modern genres, synthesized bass lines and colored sources, the 99 Neo soundstage suffers a bit. With a leaner and more neutral sources and less bassy recordings, the soundstage is perceptually large and vocals will pop. The somewhat L-shape tuning and forward bass response doesn’t create a very good sense of instrument placement. To be honest, the less bass a track had, the more out of head the headphones sound. The more bass, the more “in-head” they became.



    Comparisons

    Meze 99 Classics ($309 USD on Meze’s website)

    The 99 Classics are the original Meze headphone and the 99 Neo is it’s offspring. The Classics differ in terms of materials used on the cups (Classics=wood, Neo=ABS plastic). Both headphones have the same drivers, housing shape, ear pads, design and build (aside from cup materials).

    In terms of sound there are subtle differences between the two. As I said earlier I can’t guarantee the difference is consistent because my pair of 99 Classics is older, so age of the product could be an issue.

    Comparing my pairs, the 99 Neo bass seems a bit cleaner, punchier, and a tiny bit more mid-bass forward than the 99 Classics. The attack and decay of bass notes with the 99 Neo (primarily sub-bass tones) seems to be a bit more clean and responsive. Midrange of the 99 Classics is a bit more spacious sounding (partly due to the softer and slower mid-bass response). Treble is pretty much identical to my ears.

    At the end of the day, I could easily confuse the two. The cup material may be whats causing a slight difference in impressions when comparing them, but it’s a small difference. I don’t prefer the sound of one of them over the other. The Neo has an improved bass response over the Classic, but loses a little bit of magic in the midrange as a result. To my ears it’s a draw. They both accomplish the same level of listening experience in my opinion. Those of you who found the Meze 99 Classic’s bass to be a little sloppy (especially at sub-bass levels) the Neo is the upgrade in this regard.

    In terms of build quality, I guess I would have to give the 99 Classics a slight advantage because of the more premium material used for the cups. However, I find the black ABS cups of the 99 Neo to be a little more modern and visually appealing. The Neo cups don’t look or feel cheap whatsoever, and the finish gels well with the rest of the parts. Accessories are virtually identical.

    There are a couple reasons why I think these will appeal to the headphone market. First of all, the 99 Classics have a mature look to them. Hold them next to a pair of Beats and it’s almost laughable how different they are in terms of style. The Neo however sits somewhere between the two. I think the appearance of the Neo will appeal more to a younger audience. Secondly, They perform on the same level as the Classics and come in at sixty dollars cheaper. I have to mention the increased price to performance ratio thanks to the drop in price.

    Soundmagic HP150 ($130 to $150 USD on many sites)

    The HP150 is a somewhat V-shaped tuning with a large soundstage for a closed headphone.

    Comparing the two, the sound of these headphones are substantially different. The HP150 has a responsive sub bass focused tuning while the 99 Neo has a mid-bass forward lower frequency response. Midrange on the HP150 is thinner, drier and a bit more recessed on the HP150 while the 99 Neo mids are fuller, warmer and more fluid sounding. Treble on the HP150 is crisper and more extended as compared to the more relaxed and controlled highs of the 99 Neo. Soundstage on the HP150 is larger thanks to the V-signature. Meze’s 99 Neo has a smaller but more natural sounding stage. The HP150 sounds better at low volumes and the highs are harsh at louder volumes. The 99 Neo sounds better at louder volumes (with leaner and cleaner sounding sources).



    Design and build goes to the 99 Neo. They are a more stylish and better built pair of headphones that is also more comfortable to wear. The HP150 does a much better job with isolation and handling of microphonics. I give a slight edge to the 99 Neo in terms of accessories. Their case is more sleek and stylish, and the cables Meze provides is superior to the what you get with the HP150.


    Conclusion (TLDR)
    Meze has brought to market a more affordable version of the Meze 99 Classics. The cups are ABS this time around instead of wood. The cup change appears to make a very subtle difference to the sound, but other than that they are a more affordable version of the classics. The Bass response appears to be a touch more responsive. The black ABS cups look pretty stylish as well.

    Just like the last offering, the 99 Neo is a headphone that is easy to drive and works decently with almost all genres of music. Meze’s mid-bass and lower mid-range forward sound will probably be too emphasized for those who are looking for a linear and neutral sounding headphone. Those who like a little oomph and color at this range will like what’s going on here. Lows and highs are pleasant to listen to and don’t get in the way of enjoying them.

    When rating a product I have to take all criteria into account (including price). I’ll cut to the chase with this one. I gave the 99 Classics four stars and the Neo gets the same score. They have almost identical strengths and weaknesses. However, I give the Neo a thumbs up for the sleek black and chrome look to go along with the drop in price. If you have been on the fence, deciding whether or not you want to buy the Classics and prefer the look of the Neo, the price drop and updated aesthetic might be the factors that push you over the edge.

    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
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  4. ngoshawk
    Little Brother Butts into the Party..A conundrum..
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Apr 30, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Solid deep bass, warm signature, good sound stage. Decent isolation.
    Cons - Bass bleed into the mids mixed feelings on new pads, rough around the edges, not much else.
    Meze 99 Neo- A conundrum of listening proportions…

    [​IMG]

    First Impressions:



    Playing Trees from twenty one pilots, through my MacBook Pro and iFi iDSD Micro Black Label…oh my…what a sound…such a huge sound stage! No tone fighting, it is as if I am mid-center at a twenty pilots concert, jumping with 5,000 other diehard fans, all in unison while Josh bangs and Tyler souls. Highly impressed…



    There is a whole lot of hype going on around the Neo’s. And a couple of early reviews espouse the virtues of this closed-back headphone versus the “original,” the 99 Classic. We shall see how it stacks up against the competition…a little later.

    [​IMG]

    @B9Scrambler made a comment on another review thread about how he does not like giving a review after only a week, because he feels like he has not had sufficient time to audition properly the device in question. He almost considers it a disservice to the manufacturer in question. I would wholeheartedly agree, but I will add that after about two days, I have a pretty good idea of what the critter sounds like, unless it is a brand new item. Then Brain-Burn or actual burn in is required (aka Audioquest and the Nighthawk/Owl headphones) like some manufacturers ask. I usually use the first two full days to listen exclusively to the device in question. I don’t even vary sources. I like the repetitive nature of the same songs, on the same devices. This gives me a baseline of comparison for the rest of the week. And it is damn fun to hear Trees 21 times in a row, listening for that subtle nuance of difference in tone…difference in stage, or separation that I may have missed the other 20 times (!).

    [​IMG]

    After about 3 hours, I have determined, that this is one rocking pair of headphones. A completely different character to the one I just left behind. I find myself dancing uncontrollably as I type, so please excuse the missstttakeesss…

    [​IMG]

    Coming off another review, where I considered the simplicity of the item to be one of the truest measures of that particular item, I am pleasantly surprised that the Neo follows in that same suit. While the music fairly shouts through the Neo’s, it does so without drawing attention to itself. Those of the old Magnepan speaker days will understand. A simple panel cannot possibly provide such musical quality that it does! It cannot be! But alas, yes it does. So far, the Neo’s are of similar vein. Albeit with the pomp and glitter of the 99 Classics leading the way. This would be the little brother who mimics everything the older does on the futbol pitch, but no one notices. That is until the younger becomes the better player, and simply lets his play show what he can do. So far, the Neo is the quiet little brother, quite happy to watch big brother lead the team, and happily run onto the pitch at halftime dribbling silly and scoring improbable goals. Ones he thinks no one sees or watches. But that proud Papa and Mama see, and they understand what is coming. That there is something to be cherished, something to behold in their second offspring. Both will be great, but in their own different ways. Both understated, letting their play show the way, speaking in reverent tones, not wanting to draw attention to themselves, but once the world sees; there is no taking back the fame.

    [​IMG]

    This is how I look at Meze. You produced a near-cult-classic in the 99Classic; and knew you had to follow in that same vein. Gladly you did in the Neo. Both are worthy of your moniker. Both are worthy of that high regard, but in very different ways.



    I want to thank @MezeTeam for the Neo review tour, and taking me on as part of it. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the unit. The Neo is a very good headphone.


    [​IMG]


    Specs, from the Meze website https://mezeaudio.eu/products/99-neo:



    • 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
    [​IMG]


    A near-flat frequency curve shows a slight bump at about 120htz. This may account for the added bass heard by most.





    Fit & Finish:



    The build quality of the Neo is quite good, with even seams, good finish and a generally very good overall fit. I can comfortably wear them for a couple of hours, with minimal adjusting. After that, I have to adjust fairly regularly. And to me, the clamp pressure is a bit tight. Compared the Audioquest Nightowl, all else falls behind, so this isn’t really that bad. Everything fits well, and evenly. The rivets holding the drivers to the twin-metal frame are finished evenly, and tastefully. Overall, I would call the Neo an extremely attractive package, with no real failings in the “looker” department. Quite nice.



    See my description of the pads later, for how I feel, suffice to say, that they are faux leather, and pretty decent in quality. No qualms here. And, since this is a pre-production model, it came labeled with the “Classic” headband as well as cables. One with mic (which works well), and one without. A smidge short for desktop use to me but, since this is aimed at the portable market, adequate in length.


    [​IMG]


    The Loaner…



    I want to thank @PinkyPowers too, for the “borrowing” of his Meze 99 Classics. It was my initial understanding that he was GIVING me the pair (he led me to believe this, no really…)…until he yelled at me. I cannot repeat what he said, either…for it matches the area of town where we meet to “exchange gear.” There is a fair amount of “miscreant” behavior, which goes on at the McDonalds where we meet, and I always feel kind of shady when we meet, like we should be doing something illegal, to fit in…. Even though we were doing nothing illegal (unlike others at the locale), it feels like we are…really we aren’t…no, really…



    As we were parting, I asked his opinion and for a quick comparison of the Neo against the Classics, to which he semi-politely refused (probably still agitated, thinking I was going to run away with his Classics…). I offered to buy him a Happy Meal if he would give me tidbits of a comparison, and he scoffed at me stating fairly agitatedly that, “only if it was a McRib Meal, with extra fries, SUPER-SIZE would I even THINK about doing that!!” It was then I, who politely refused the awful McRib counter, and begged his leave, not turning my back on him. It was an odd encounter, what with the “deals” going down, and the flat refusal of a free meal by both of us, essentially. I don’t like McDonalds anyway, and I’m pretty sure Pinky does not either…It made me hungry.

    [​IMG]

    In my week, I ran many songs, and many combinations of gear. From Lindsey Stirling to twenty one pilots to Bob Marley to Dave Matthews, Los Lonely Boys, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I pretty much ran the gamut of music through my devices. I played some Ella Fitzgerald on what would have been her 100th birthday, and it really was a treat having that special voice chorus through my gray matter. If I had to choose two females to represent my musical repertoire, it would be Ella and Billy Holiday…wow…Happily the Neo took all in with the tenacity of a teenager, and the wisdom wrought by its elder, the 99 Classic.

    [​IMG]

    I thoroughly enjoyed not only the comparisons of driving units, but also headphones. All four listed below (including the Neo) are worthy additions to your stable, and all should be considered for their respective strengths. It may seem like I was not happy with the Neo after you read further, but that would be an erroneous assumption. Taken alone, it is an outstanding example of trickle-down technology. Something that Meze should be quite proud of. Only when compared to big brother, and a much more expensive unit does it fall behind. As for the thinksound ON2? Well I will admit, that I fell in love with that the moment I heard it. I actually took a flyer on it, based upon a couple of reviews, and I could not be happier. That said, if I did not have the ON2 I would seriously consider the Neo for its qualities.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Comparisons:

    thinksound ON2 ($199) v Neo ($250):

    My initial reaction is that the ON2 is harder to drive, has better top end, and a more open sound. Bass is superb…controlled, and deep. Fast decay allows for a good portion of the control, and does not bleed into the excellent mids. Vocals are more forward than the Neo. Better treble, too. While it is an over-ear, fit can be tricky. They are eminently comfortable, but with more pressure applied. I do have trouble when I have my glasses on, but this is alleviated, mostly when I wear a hat.

    Vocals are more laid back on the Neo’s, but it does seem to have a more open sound than the ON2, which is a positive. Bass is still good, but less controlled. A more rounded sound, if you will. Of the four, the thinksounds have the most bass punch. It is somewhat untidy. A wonderful sound, though. The Neo would come in second in the bass department, and that is not a bad result for the second least expensive model, here. Good reach with that bass, but it tends to bleed a bit into the mids (to me), and because of the slower decay can be a bit boomy. Still quite a pleasant sound, though.


    99 Classics ($309) v Neo ($250):

    A clear, clean, precise sound from the Classics is hard to beat, here. The Neo’s win the bass “war,” but it is a less-tamed bass than the Classics. Where the Neo would be perfectly at home listening to a beat-heavy sound, or EDM for instance; the Classic is a much more refined solution. I hate to say, “mature” because that would be almost an insult to both. But that is a close comparison. Consider the Neo the semi-wild teenager, to the Classic’s college-aged student. They are similar, but arrive at the end in different manners.

    That untamed bass is what can draw you into the Neo. It can be an intoxicating listen indeed. But sooner or later, that untamed nature will make you reach for either the EQ, or a different set. No, that is probably too harsh. I would gladly listen to the Neo all day, and be happy. Very happy. But when you compare that to the Classic, especially with the old pads (to me…), then a rotation would be in order. I could see using the Neo at the office, or on the commute, and come home to the Classics. That combination would be a very good rotation. That added bass on the commute would come in handy on a noisy commute.

    Speaking of noise, to me the new pad does isolate much better, so that is a positive. I’m not sure if the wood has something to do with that, but I doubt it, as my ON2’s isolate VERY well from the outside world as well as leakage. So another benefit of the Neo is overall isolation. My wife rightly pointed out that she could hear my music from across the room just now (not happy, she was!), and I did not have the Classics at that high of a volume, either. So score another for the Neo.

    Tyll thinks they quite possibly took a step backwards, with both the Neo and the “new” ear pads, according to his review, and after hearing both I would agree somewhat…As I mentioned above, to me the Neo is a very good headphone, in isolation. It is only when you consider others does it fall a bit behind. The Classic led the pack, the Neo tries very hard.

    [​IMG]


    Audioquest NightOwl ($799) v Neo ($250):

    The NO’s are simply put, a superb over ear, closed back with a fantastic laid-back signature. While the trebles are a bit too laid back (yes, even for me), the clear and concise mids hold up the quite adequate bass line. I fall for the NO more each time I hear them. And when AQ means 150hrs burn in, they mean it. They are the hardest to drive of the four, but that doesn’t really mean much, really. Just a stunning example of one company’s vision, they are. The Neo tries very hard to compete, but just cannot. One would not fault writing the Neo off, because of the price difference; but that would be unjust for what the Neo does really well. The Neo excels at providing an “edgy” sound as @DobrescuGeorge states in his review. I would agree, there is definitely some attitude there, calling it “street-wise” in sound. A bass growl, kind of overrides the rest of the signature. But not so much that it overwhelms the sound. The bass provides that foundation, which the mids and treble rest upon. Not bad mind you, just not up to the AQ’s sound. The NO provides that full, endless texture, which many try to pull off and many fail. The NO does it and does it well.


    Source comparisons, Neo with: MacBook Pro/iFi iDSD BL & Shanling M1/M5:



    My favorite combo was with the MBP/BL. The trio just oozed synergy. Especially what with the multi-abilities of the BL. If one cannot find a decent combination with all of the adjustments, then we have very different tastes. I would wholeheartedly concur with @DobrescuGeorge here, quite a good listen, this is…wow. I found that Normal power and Bass Boost on were where I spent most of my time. I did enjoy the 3D sound as well, but not as much as Bass boost alone. With more than enough power on Normal, I rarely ran the BL above 0930.



    The big brother M5 is an outstanding mid-fi portable DAP, which I like very much. There is simply a plethora of choices here, and I think I have a pretty decent one at that. In many ways I prefer this to the Opus #1, which many espouse as THE mid-fi DAP to have. I like both…I like the M5 more…and paired with the Neo, the sound makes up for the harshness that can pervade the other combinations. I can really enjoy the full sound, deep bass (still takes charge, mind you), and the excellent sound stage. This would be a fabulous office/commute combo. And all for less than $600 US. An excellent compliment, where the Neo wants to take charge, but the M5 reigns the youngster in…just enough so that you enjoy the compliments of both. Lush slightly warm from the M5, and that wonderful bass brought back just enough to enjoy without trouble. A grand combo.



    Listening the the M1/Neo combination, one would think this would certainly favor the other two more expensive combos…well….you would be mostly wrong. I think the most fun sound came from this combo. The two seem to frolic along swinging side-by-side on the swings, going ever higher, daring the other to go even higher. Not unbridled untamed sound, but a fun, warm bass-rich sound. Los Lonely Boys Nobody Else is an excellent example of that side-by-side cooperation. Soundstage is as good as the other two combos, and this could be my go-to commuter set up…If my commute was longer than the 6 minutes it takes to get to my school…All that does is leave more time in the morning (daughter-unit & I arrive VERY early so that I can work) to listen to all of this fine kit. And I have used the Neo’s with both Shanlings this week, with much enjoyment.

    In other words, the Neo pretty much works with all I tried. And I like that versatility.

    [​IMG]

    Comparison conclusion:


    Running all four headphones through a headphone splitter allowed me to switch quite quickly while the same songs were playing. All four should be commended for what they do well. And all four do have their positives. All also have their negatives, albeit few. I would be happy with any of the four, and own two of them. I am thinking one of the other two may join my stable…I will not tell you which, just yet.

    From the soothing solid sound of the Nightowl, to the mature full sound of the Classics, to the overwhelmingly excellent bass the ON2 provides, the Neo has a tough battle from the start. That street-wise edge does well to hold it’s own, but to me ultimately falls shy of the other three. I’m not sure if it is the new pad design, or simply the sound, but it does fall slightly behind the other three.

    Now that may seem like a dig at a pretty decent headphone…it isn’t meant to be. It is a testament to how excellent, and congested the mid-fi market really is. And the Neo comes into the market with a chip on its shoulder from the get go. It takes that chip and presents itself really well. Darn well, to be honest. Shoving other headphones out of the way, the Neo states rather boldly that it is here, and should be reckoned with…and it means business. But, when one takes a closer look, this is when the rough edges start to show. That good thump of bass, which is slightly untidy. The pushed forward mids (compared to the other three, to me) tend to state rather loudly that the Neo is on the scene. If one is looking for a very good EDM headphone, then the Neo may just be your ticket, and an affordable one, too. What I would suggest is find a pair of Classics, which have the old pads. Or find a set on eBay or Amazon. Purchase those, then switch back and forth (CAREFULLY), until you decide which you like better. I did that, and can say I like the old pads (which are on the borrowed Classics) more. To me, they are more comfortable, and fit my head better. They also provide a really nice listening chamber, and a good tight fit. Trying the new pads on the Classics, had the reverse effect. I did not like the effect. So run both pads, and then decide.

    [​IMG]

    While I thoroughly enjoyed the Neo, and I really did, it has a very tough act to follow in its big brother the Classic. And it mostly succeeds. With good reach down low of bass, and a good thump to boot; but one that bleeds into the mids can be overlooked by the pretty decent overall character and a good sound stage. The Neo is that little brother who tags along everywhere, insisting that he can play all the games big brother are playing. And mostly, he does but at a different pace. A pace where big brother (and his friends) get a bit agitated, but accept that little brother is trying hard. They do appreciate that. By and large, Meze is trying to bring the Classic’s sound to a different, more affordable level. And they did succeed. These are a very good over- ear headphone, and worth a good hard listen. Just don’t expect it to replace your Classics.


    I thank the @MezeTeam for the opportunity to review the Neo. I really did thoroughly enjoy my time, and applaud them for a very good effort at bringing the Classic sound into a different price bracket. It was well worth a deep listen.

    [​IMG]
      MezeTeam, rafaelo, Hisoundfi and 2 others like this.
  5. Dobrescu George
    Edgy headphone with a laid back but vivid sound!
    Written by Dobrescu George
    Published Apr 23, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Vivid Instrument Texture, Good Soundstage, Smooth Treble, Bass Punch and Slam, Natural Voices, Detail
    Cons - Pads are still a bit small, Smooth Treble
    IMG_20170409_181037.jpg



    Introduction

    Meze 99 Neo – The new classic headphone from Meze.

    Meze 99 Neo is the new headphone, or rather a headphone with a twist from the Romanian headphone producer Meze. Meze created 99 Neo as a less expensive version of 99 Classics with plastic cups instead of wood that would appeal to those who prefer the black "edgy" looks of the ABS cups over the wooden 99 Classics. 99 Neo uses the same driver as 99 Classics, but there are a few changes here and there, like the cable included with the headphone being different (99 Neo comes with the microphone cable only) and the case is now made of a fabric woven material rather than the leathery smooth case of 99 Classics.

    99 Neo is brought to this reviewer as a part of 99 Neo tour, organized by Meze Audio Romania. This is an honest review and there is no incentive provided, the headphone will be sent forward after the review is completed and this is a review made for fun and for giving an impression.



    About me

    Hey there! My name is George and my friends say that I enjoy music. Some might even say that I live through music! I'd probably say that music is what made me who I am today, part of my DNA already!

    My listening habits can be erratic, but they do include listening to music for hours on a row, listening to music while out and about, and listening to music while working.

    Music has always been my sweet companion and it is always there when I'm working on the games of my company, https://www.facebook.com/seventh.heart.studios/ and https://twitter.com/7heartstudios . We invite you to check our projects and we guarantee that if you like Visual Novels and games, you're going to have a great time!

    My hearing works well in the higher registers, the 8-18kHz area being quite important for me, but recently I noticed that I'm slightly sensitive to harshness in the treble. I am unbiased towards headphones and companies, but I'm considerably hard to impress since I own ie800 which are a formidable pair of End-Game, Top of The Line IEMs.



    First Impression

    IMG_20170409_181745.jpg

    Since 99 Classics, I was actually enthused by Meze's interaction with customers and I had a few requests for them which were fulfilled nice and fast. I would say that Meze as a company is great and their customer support works well. I even needed a cable and it was shipped really fast, was well packaged and arrived really fast!

    99 Neo packaging was thought pretty well as it comes in a cardboard box padded with a sponge to keep the other hard carry box safe. 99 Neo sits comfortably inside the hard carry box, which has a similar interior design to 99 Neo, the only changes seeming to be on the outer layer of the carry box.


    Fast forward things, I was alone in my room with 99 Neo, admiring the great job Meze did with the looks. First time using 99 Neo, it sounds somehow similar to 99C, but somehow different at the same time. There is something about 99 Neo that changed in its sound, but it is pretty hard to name. The bass is strong and hits deep, the treble is clear and smooth and the mids are in their own place with a lush / thick tonality.

    All in all, 99 Neo sounds good at first audition, but, as it is recommended, they were placed in a burn-in session, using pink and white noise to ensure that the results are going to be consistent. Some changes for the better were noticed with burn-in, especially in voice tonality and clarity. The signature is close to HD650 from Sennheiser and somehow to NightHawks with 99 Neo having a better texture and instrument definition. 99 Neo also has a considerably better top end as it is not rolled off and sounds crisp and clean. The soundstage of 99 Neo is similar in size to HD650 and Nighthawks.

    Meze has lowered the price with 99 Neo since there is no more wood included in the build, so 99N goes for around 250$ instead of the 300$ of 99C. Given the difference in price going downwards, 99 Neo will be more accessible to someone looking for a Meze sound but who's on a tight budget, although given the difference, I think that both models are fairly accessible to any enthusiast or casual listener.



    Packaging



    IMG_20170409_180626.jpg IMG_20170409_180645.jpg

    IMG_20170409_180710.jpg IMG_20170409_180725.jpg

    IMG_20170409_181100.jpg IMG_20170409_181152.jpg

    (The packaging is a beauty to behold)

    IMG_20170409_181320.jpg

    99N comes in the cardboard box with a sleek design and a few bits of data about 99 Neo on the outside. Inside the cardboard box, you will find the hard carry case. Inside the hard carry case, you will find the headphones, cables for them, an airplane adapter (I think?), a pouch for the cables and a 3.5mm to 6.3mm golden plug adapter. The addition of the plug adapter is most welcome, but it should be noted that 99 Neo does not come with two cables. Regardless of that, I have been able to enjoy 99 Neo to the fullest with the provided cable. The short cable comes with a rubber termination upwards of the Y split, making things even better for those who complained about cable noise and microphonics, since the rubber termination effectively nullifies the microphonics of the cable. The short cable has a remote with one button that can execute multiple actions (depending on the number of presses) and a microphone to use 99N with your phone. I have been able to carry phone conversation with the provided cable, and the person on the other end actually told me that the voice comes through pretty clear and they could understand me well.

    The fabric woven hard case is pretty sturdy as it didn't get damaged from being in my backpack with various supplies. The material of the case is not scratch prone and it doesn't look like it would get damaged easily, given that I held it in my backpack together with pens and a few sharp tools. The zippers work smooth and leave the impression of a high-end product and the inside of the case is padded with a fine material that will protect 99N against scratches. The case itself is pretty sturdy, so it can safely be thrown in a backpack and even placed under a few lighter things without any damage being done to the headphones. The cables of 99 Neo need to be disconnected before they are placed in the case (Just like 99 Classics).

    Comparing the cases of 99 Neo and 99 Classics:

    99 C comes with a case that has a different texture on the outside, but it seems to be similarly sturdy and provides the same level of protection against scratches on the inside. The main difference seems to be the external material

    The two cases and the differences between them:

    99 Neo:

    IMG_20170409_181416.jpg IMG_20170409_181430.jpg

    99 Classics:

    IMG_20170409_185003.jpg

    Other comparisons

    Ultrasone DJ1P comes with a considerably bulkier case, being bigger than the headphones themselves, but offering a good protection as well. 99N offers better ergonomics of the case, using very little extra space. The woven fabric is slightly different between the two, but the inside works out on both.

    Sennheiser HD380Pro comes with a different storage mechanism entirely, its case being flat but wide. It offers less protection than the case of 99N due to the design, and HD380Pro should never be placed under heavy things and cannot be safely placed in a bag.

    The set of accessories included with 99 Neo are the essentials to use the headphones, although the long cable can be purchased from Meze's site. Seems that Meze will also introduce a balanced cable for 99N and 99C later this year, as they promised a few times.

    This pair of 99N is a pre-production, review tour unit, so the contents of the box might slightly differ. The booklet included with 99 Neo seems to be different from the one included with 99 Classics, the white booklet from 99C being replaced by a colored one that includes a little history of Meze Audio. Since the booklet included that "99 Neo promises to deliver the same audio quality as 99 Classics", I'm going to test this statement on the audio part of the review.



    Technical Specifications

    Impedance
    32 ohm
    Connector
    3.5 mm
    Rated Input Power
    30 mW
    Frequency Response
    15 Hz – 25kHz
    Sensitivity
    103dB (1kHz, 1mW)
    Ear coupling
    Circum-Aural
    Cable length
    1.2m, 3m
    Transducer type
    Dynamic transducer, closed back
    Power (load rating)
    50mW
    Weight without cable
    260g
    Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
    <0.03% (1kHz, 1Vrms)
    Contact pressure
    3.4 N approx.




    Build Quality/Aesthetics

    IMG_20170409_182428.jpg IMG_20170409_183027.jpg

    While 99 Classics were one of the classiest headphones one could find, 99 Neo looks rather Edgy, bringing something new to the table. The fact that Meze headphones cares about the looks of their headphones is great, especially as 99 Classics did hit a sweet spot with me when I got them. With 99 Neo, the fitting mechanism is the same, the biggest difference being the headphone cups being made out of ABS (plastic) instead of wood. Meze Audio quotes the look as being "Edgy" and they do manage to get this feeling right. 99 Neo might work better with a casual style of clothing rather than a costume, but the silvery ring around the headphone cups adds the right amount of class for them to work with a costume as well. The silvery parts that attach the headband to the headphones feature the same smooth construction and flowing angles like 99 Classics, flavoring 99 Neo with a modern look. The plastic on the cups is textured, similar to the texture of an orange, avocado or a leathery texture, further flavoring 99 Neo with a sprinkle of edgy aspect. The headband itself is the same as 99 Classics, and it feels quite sturdy and comfortable. The headband mechanism is actually friendly with long hair since it is not square and the headband is curved. I can shake my hair back in shape easily after wearing both 99 Neo and 99 Classics, but your mileage may vary here.

    Meze advertises their headphone as fully serviceable and while the driver must be replaced as an assembly, the rest of the headphone is connected by bolts and to be indeed easily serviceable. The headphone cups on the review model seem to be slightly different from the cups on 99C, which might further contribute to any changes in sound, but Meze didn't advertise anything about the pads being changed between 99C and 99N so this might be caused by the fact that they are pre-production and the fact that the pads on 99 Classics are not new (I have been enjoying 99 Classics every day for a while now after all).

    As I said before, the cables included with 99 Neo will be braided until the Y split, above which they will feature a rubber texture. This will help alleviate cable noise, and will add a bit of comfort. It seems that recent iterations of 99 Classics also come with this new cable. There is a small pad over the driver of 99 Neo, which might act as a treble attenuator, adding to the smoothness of sound. This little padding is not present on the 99 Classics headphones I own, but seem to be present on the latest 99 Classics as well.



    Comfort / Isolation

    (99 Classics pad left and 99 Neo pad right)

    IMG_20170409_182140.jpg

    99 Neo is similar in comfort to their bigger brother, 99 Classics, but the pads feel ever so slightly different. The headband also feels a tiny bit tense, but it doesn't really change the comfort level of the headphone. The difference in headband tension can be caused by the fact that 99 Neo are brand-new while my 99 Classics are not.

    The isolation is still very good, but 99 Neo are slightly less isolating than 99C. I could still crank the music very high before my wife had to tell me to turn it down, so 99 Neo does a very good job with the isolation as well.

    Compared to Ultrasone Dj1P, 99N isolates far better and same can be said when comparing 99N to Sennheiser HD380Pro. At this moment, there are very few headphones that would provide a better passive isolation from the outside noise or that would leak as little as 99N. None of the headphones I tested to date doesn't provide a better passive isolation, although there are a few that provide a similar passive noise isolation.

    After wearing Meze 99 Neo for a longer period of time, the pads can get a bit hot, and a little pause is required, but the situation is still better than most of the headphones in the same price range. The material of the pads is not bad when it comes to sweating and they can be worn well for long periods of time (for example a 3-hour train ride was no problem for them). Compared to Ultrasone Dj 1 Pro, 99 Neo is far more comfortable, Dj1P having a fatal flaw of placing a screw / bolt in an uncomfortable position, causing pain after one hour, while 99 Neo has no such flaws. There is no driver flex in 99 Neo nor in 99 Classics, and the headphones can be adjusted, taken off, or put on without any issues.



    SOUND QUALITY

    IMG_20170409_183341.jpg


    99 Neo offers two types of sound. One is their natural sound with no enhancements and no tweaks, and the other one is the sound after a little bit of Equalization. The Equalization profile 99 Neo needs is less aggressive than 99 Classics, but like virtually any headphone in this world, they can be helped by adding a few dB in here and taking away a few dB from there. 99 Neo responds well to different sources, but they can easily be driven from a smartphone, a laptop or virtually any source out there – even a Clip+.

    After hearing 99 Neo with iFi iDSD BL, I can say that they respond really well to a better source and adding iDSD BL will surely help you get a better sound. The review of 99 Neo will be slightly different since instead of using FiiO X5ii as the driving component, I will be using iFi iDSD BL which deeply impressed me with its sound this time.

    My Equalization algorithm is not overly aggressive this time, and the magic of iFi iDSD BL is so strong that 99 Neo doesn't really require equalization anymore, flipping the 3D effect on iDSD having incredible effect on both 99 Neo and 99 Classics. The treble is smooth with this setup, but the sound gains more space and better instrument layering, while the instrument textures stay at the same level of crispiness and definition.

    The main sound characteristics of 99 Neo define it as a natural to warm sounding headphone, with sweet and lush mids, smooth treble, pretty good extension both ways and a pretty good soundstage. The treble extension is okay, but the treble itself is pretty smooth and will not offend, even if the song had harsh treble in the original recording.

    Instrument separation is above average and they are able to differentiate a single guitar in a busy composition like those sang by Dance Gavin Dance. I like the enthusiasm the sound has, it can make almost anything sound energetic and happy. There is a hump in the mid bass to the upper bass area that makes the sound interesting, but this is easily solved by a tiny bit of EQ. The sound is fairly airy, but the rather smooth top end makes the sound focus more on the energy, life and fun element of the music.



    Channel imbalance

    There is no channel imbalance in the 99Neo I have in my hands.


    Bass

    99 Neo has a fairly sold bass that can hit as low as the music has it recorded, down to the lowest octaves. The bass is fast and can render bass textures with good agility and precision. Without any EQ, the 250Hz area is enhanced ad there is a certain lushness to the whole tonality of the headphone, but this doesn't affect the speed and precision of the bass one bit.

    The euphoria resulted from the bass hump is similar between 99 Neo and 99 Classics – the drums have a great presence, forward drums are rendered forward and with good impact, while drum patterns that are supposed to play in the back as a support for the rest of the track are played as such. There is no bass bleeding in the mids nor does the bass feel overwhelming albeit 99 Neo could easily pass for a basshead headphone.

    The bass is distortion free and I was able to apply a fair quantity of bass with no distortion making its way into the track. Compared to Dj One Pro, Meze 99 Neo presents more bass by default, and presents considerably less distortion in the lower registers. 99 Neo also has far better texture representation of the bass where the bass of Dj One Pro sounds loose and undefined by direct comparison.

    99 Neo a good amount of sub-bass, to my ears having more sub-bass than 99C, while 99 C seem to have a tiny bit larger enhancement of the mid bass area, which might be caused by the wood cups.


    Akira Yamaoka – One More Soul to The Call – The guitar at the intro of the song is full of texture and emotion, it is heard in the right area of the sound field as it should. It is easy to hear the struggle of the female voice and the breathing in between words as it is quite easy to hear the melodic guitar accompanying her in the left area of the soundscape. The drum crescendo plays with force, but doesn't protrude too forward in the soundscape, the whole arrangement sounding coherent. The top end is crispy and the cymbals pull through very well. The solo guitar is always clean and tidy and there is a good sense of space for the whole song. The emotion of the song is strong enough to give one shivers down their spine and the bass knits things together, creating an addictive involvement for the whole song.

    Attila – Girls don't lie – The song starts strong and the first few bass notes come through with good strength and the whole song feels energetic, and there is enough air for the cymbals to breathe, but enough push in the bass to literally shake the earth around the listener. The lead guitars sound sweet and the flow of the song is as enjoyable as ever. The texture of the guitars is incredible as is the texture of the bass guitar which comes through with extreme clarity. The voices also feature a clear texture and enough air to breathe, the instruments are well separated, and there is no trace of struggling. 99 Neo has no problems in handling multiple layers of guitars, and manages to render the texture of every layer very well. On high volumes, effects like drums that are played in just one ear will have a tactile feeling to it, leading to a whole new level of realism for the songs of Attila.

    Slipknot – Duality – One more metal song. Just one more. Everyone knows this one, no? The intro has the right amount of grain and texture. The guitar in the left ear sings independently from the rest of the song. The voices have enough power to dislocate the song from the listener, the attack and decay of instruments are spot-on as well. The cymbals play somewhere in the back, they are clearly not the highlight of the song, and the forward spot is taken by the solo guitar in the left ear and the drums, both of which play loud and clear. There is no smearing of instruments and every single instrument manages to play in its own layer and to not combine with the others. The scream is true again and I'm glad to say that it feels real.

    Eminem – Space Bound – The guitar at the beginning of the song is clear and has the right tone for an acoustic guitar. Eminem's voice comes through clear and there's no lack of air. The bass notes are very deep and come through with the right strength. The lower notes extend down to the lowest registers and there's a clear feeling of power to the whole song that's easy to grasp. 99 Neo has enough speed to render both the bass and every other instrument without any kind of problems, for example it is possible to identify the bass notes, the guitar, the drum patterns, the voice and the flute / synth in the background.



    Midrange

    The midrange of Meze 99 Neo is clearly similar to the midrange of 99 Classics, but for someone who hasn't heard either, it is complicated to understand what this means. The default midrange feels detailed, a bit forward, while the textures are vivid and well rendered and details are really good. There is also a lushness / thickness to the midrange that will make most music sound more fun and will surely satisfy the need for an intriguing sound. The signature is similar to a few 300$ headphones, but the most notable examples the signature reminds of are Sennheiser HD650 and Nighthawks. The soundstage by default is not the largest out there, but it is not congested nor are the instruments confined or smeared. Each instrument has its own place, but the smooth treble might make the soundstage feel a bit less spacious, this being typical of headphones sporting a smooth top end, like LCD-2. Happily, the tone of the headphone is fairly balanced and while the thick mids might sprinkle a bit of nuance over guitars, Iron Maiden's guitar solos are as crispy and lively as ever.

    Since the main source driving 99 Neo this time is iFi iDSD BL, I should mention that it does make them sound open and natural / relaxed while the soundstage has a certain realism that's characteristic of iFi iDSD BL. FiiO X5ii is still a part of the setup, but this time it acts as either the DAC or the transport for the setup, but the snappiness of X5ii as a device helps a lot with the listening experience even when portable.

    Rammstein – Ich Will – The first "Ich will" that's an error the microphone picked up from the monitors used by the singer is there, and the actual Ich Will (spoken) part doesn’t feel intrusive or offensive at all. This song has a few short segments that were recorded with some harshness to them and 99 Neo's smooth treble manages to iron those parts and render the whole song to a playful and enjoyable song. The whole song has good strength and while the bass isn't overwhelming, it sure has good speed and impact where it has to. The key effects sound fluid and while the cymbals are smooth, they are not lacking. The drum patters sound forward and come through with good strength, feeling real and even tangible at times.

    Electric Six – High Voltage – This song is pretty interesting to hear on the BL + 99N combo since the song itself sounds pretty interesting already. There is a clear tendency for the bass to come forward and give the song a groove / fluid feeling to it. Even so, the bass keeps a very clear sound to it and its texture is easy to distinguish. The voices both have a true-to-life tonality to them and the effects play well in their own intended spaces. The guitars come through honest and undistorted and the right ear guitar plays well in its own space and moment. The cymbals of the song are not the forward point of it, but they're easy to hear and don't get subdued either, leading to a pretty funky and fun feeling to the whole song.

    Om – State of non-return – The song starts with the effects playing in their desired positions and the distorts guitar having a good vivid feeling to it. The cymbals play slowly in the background while the groovy bass lines are flowing right through the headphones. The bass is extremely strong for this song, and I'm glad to report that it is rendered well. The voice is clear and every single word is easy to discern and understand, the whole song being able to create an atmosphere of its own around the listener.

    Female voices sound sweet and crisp and while the fluidity and melodic tones are played well, this doesn't make male voices lag behind either, the vocal tonality of 99 Neo without any kind of EQ being very good. I would even say that 99 Neo and 99 Classics both have a natural voice tonality even when driven from P775 ESS sabre solution, but adding iFi iDSD BL surely enhances things.

    Kathy Perry – I Kissed a Girl – The drums at the start of the song sound crispy and clean. The guitar in the right ear has a nice tremolo and vibration to it without distortion while Kathy Perry's voice is sweet and melodic, but shows that it has been processed to some degree in the recording / mastering phase. The guitar tones playing on each ear come through with clarity and there's not one bit of distortion or lack of dynamism although the song is pretty compressed from a dynamic range point of view. The bass tones are clear and carry a good weight with them, being quite easy to start moving while listening to the song, the whole song feeling fun and easy-to-listen-to. The left – right panning that happens starting with 02:05 is clean and the BL + 99N combo has enough agility to make the effect feel fluid while her voice has good and true-to-life texture during the segment.



    Treble

    In stock form, the treble of 99 Neo is silky smooth and while there is a slight feeling of roll-off, the treble is pretty forgiving and there's not much it will fatigue the listener with. This can be translated to harsh sounding songs feeling silky or happy with 99Neo, with Jazz and classical the effect being interesting and giving the songs a very lean feeling. With metal, the silky smooth treble means that the bass is easier to hear and integrate in every song and with pop it means that both the bass and the special effects pull through and feel forward while the treble takes a second place. The tonality can be called euphoric and enthusiastic, but lean and relaxing at the same time. While this may sound like a bit of a technical impossibility, the euphoric and enthusiastic sound comes into play with songs that heavily rely on bass and mids to happen, while Jazz and slow music feels really lean and relaxed.

    99 Neo feels like a pretty safe headphone to own at this moment, it is surely going to impress and satisfy a lot of customers and while the few who need and want more treble might not be fully satisfied at first, 99Neo can accept a high dose of EQ before even considering any kind of distortion in either mids or treble so it can satisfy anyone with a bit of play here and there.

    For the record, I'm a bit of a treble lover, and I need a lot of treble before I'm happy and while for 99 Classics I used a pretty aggressive EQ profile, with 99 Neo I'm able to find happiness with just 99Neo and iFi iDSD BL + 3D switch turned on. The treble is not the same in this situation, but I like the sound and it feels pretty wholesome and while the treble still needs a few dB here and there, it surely feels energetic enough to satisfy a fun listening session. I have not experienced any kind of listening fatigue with 99Neo regardless of how long I've used them and I can safely say that they're a headphone fun to listen to.

    Royal Repulic – 21st Century Gentleman – The treble is easy to discern from the rest of the sound albeit it is not absolutely forward. The bass guitar is very forward and its texture is very vivid, feeling as if the bass player is closer to the listener than the drums are. The voice is somewhere in between, coming through with a great scream, but being a bit softer than the bass guitar. The drums are pretty clear and well defined, but they're not the forward instrument for this song, being left somewhere in the same line as the guitars and the voice. The spacing of the song is good and the stereo separation and agility of the sounds moving through the 3D space is impressive. The solo guitars have the right tone to them, feeling effortless and having a good drive. It's almost impossible to stop one's head from moving to the beat of the song – very fun to listen to. The song has multiple parts that should come pretty harsh but don't come with iDSD BL + 99 Neo, for example there should be multiple segments at the start of the song, especially on the voice track that should have sound harsh, but again, 99N renders those parts in a friendly way, the whole song sounding fun and lean.

    Ylvis – The Fox – The song starts well and the voice has the right amount of sweetness and texture to it. The cymbals and higher registers information is not very loud and can be perceived as smooth while the bass comes through with great impact and slam. The mids are woven well with the bass and the speed of the headphones is high enough to render the textures of the effects while the cymbals will stay in their own layer, sounding smooth and a bit distant. The one word that would describe the song well is party. The song sounds exactly like it should sound for a happy party, not analytical nor digital, being a rather fun experience for the listener.

    Rings of Saturn – The Heavens Have Fallen – The songs starts with good strength and hits deep enough to give the listener's mind a run of fear. The melodic tremolo is clear in both ears and while the cymbals are subdued, the bass notes and drums are pretty strong and manage to create enough impact for the whole song. The solo guitar is able to enter the song and resonate through the time and space like a beam of pure energy. The acoustic notes don't present the typical metal wire bite, but they present a good thickness and are accompanied by a great level of lower register information.

    Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine? – The song already has a bit of too little higher register information, so it is interesting to notice how it sounds with 99Neo. The song starts with a clear voice, with the bass coming somewhere to a near tangible level, the textures being rendered very well and the cymbals being clearly heard somewhere in the back, but with a very smooth tone. The drums have a clear presence and will take a forward position together with the bass guitar, the song feeling thick and fun. The lyrics are easy to understand and the soundstage is very good, the instruments having a very good space to breathe even though the higher registers are smooth.

    The Fratellis – Got Ma Nuts From A Hippy – The song starts with a good grove and the bass is pretty addicting while the cymbals are pretty clear and have a good bite for this song. The voice doesn't sound sweet nor cold, but has a natural tone to it. The guitars have a great tonality and are resolved very well. The bass and thickness of the song is clearly what makes it so lovely. The solo of the song is clear and the cymbals manage once again to impress and the way they are woven with the solo guitar makes them sound in the same layer. Certain drum hits have a rather tactile feeling to them, the whole song being forward and fun to experience this way. The soundstage of this song is not very large as the recording itself was made to sound forward, and I'm glad to say that 99 Neo manages to sound exactly as it should for this. The solo can be heard in multiple layers and the segment after the solo has a spacious feeling to it.



    Soundstage

    The soundstage of 99 Neo is very good and it is comparable to its bigger brother, 99C. The soundstage can easily rival that of open sounding headphones like Ultrasone Signature DJ or Dj1P, being well rounded and more open sounding than most ~250$ headphones. With a bit of EQ applied, or with 3D enhancement applied from iFi iDSD BL, the soundstage has good size and depth, having an almost spherical shape and expanding pretty far. The soundstage being bigger than most of its direct competitors, 99 Neo also features an airy presentation for its instruments and although the top end has little bite and doesn't offend, the instruments don't feel confined at all. They all feel like there is space, but a warm space where all instruments can safely come into play and where there's enough micro-space as well for textures to extend.

    The instrument separation is easily one of the best in the 250$ price range and comparable with more expensive headphones and while the precision of the instrument separation is great, the signature itself gives a warm and very analogue / smooth feeling to the sound. It is pretty easy to tell the voice apart from the bass, the guitars apart from the synths and the pianos apart from the flues. The most important feature is that with iFi iDSD BL, it is extremely easy to tell guitars apart from one another, giving Meze 99 Neo a clear control over guitars and a space where every guitar can play its own notes.

    Incubus – Calgone – This is one of the songs that's easy to call when you need to describe a soundstage as it features a lot of guitars that expand in more than one directions and a lot of special effect that need a certain space to travel through for the song to have the right immersion and emotion. The aggressive guitars sound aggressive and have great impact while the travel distance of each effect is as good as ever, the whole song being well rendered. The voices come through with great texture and stays vivid all the time, while the screamed parts have the necessary warmth to work well with this song.

    Dope – Addiction – The song starts well and the special effects has the right placing in the 3D field (somewhere in the right – back of the listener), upon audition the effect being rendered precisely at its spot and in a healthy manner. Meze 99 Neo is able to render each guitar with good clarity and depth while the screams are sustained very well and have a natural tone. The song comes through with even more enthusiasm with the 99 Neo + iFi iDSD BL combo, a bit of sweetness being replaced by an enthusiastic bass control and great transient response.

    Space electro – XXX – The song starts well and while the extended effect that relies on the the higher registers at the start doesn't offend at all, the song still has some spark to it, never being dull. The key effects are positioned well in the 3D space and the bass has the right presence, warmth, and control throughout the entire sonic space. The bass needs to envelop the listener and be able to move with agility around the listener for this song, and the BL + 99N combo manages to render this effect very well, the bass managing to move fast enough for the song to feel analogue and get the right amount of life. For the record, I couldn't stop my legs from tipping and my head from moving while listening and had to a great time while listening to it.

    Infected Mushroom – Wanted to – The soundstage expands well, and the female voice has enough drive to sound sweet, fluid and melodic. The male voices also have a certain sweetness to them, the tone being true to the life tone the song should have. The effects play on a wide scale and there's enough depth to differentiate all effects and travel of instruments. While the bass attacks with precisions and has great impact, by default the treble is smooth and the song gets a bit less spark than 99Classics gets with EQ. Regardless of this, 99 Neo can be equalized to get enough spark in the treble and the BL + 99N combo manages to get enough spark with no distortion, the song managing to pull through both the very fast and very slow segments of the song with enough agility.

    Drive factor

    IMG_20170409_183902.jpg IMG_20170413_155709.jpg

    99N has been tested with FiiO X5ii, Xiaomi mi max, iFi iDSD Micro BL, Custom ESS DAC solution, and a few other devices as well. By default, and as the first impression dictates, 99N is fairly easy to drive even from weaker sources and needs little power to reach high volumes and a great sound. But after hearing 99 Neo with a high end DAC/AMP like iDSD BL, the difference in the driving factor is much more obvious. 99 Neo is about as similar to source changes as Dj1P, being slightly less sensitive to source changes than 99 Neo is, but still pretty sensitive.

    99 Neo doesn't have any distortion within listenable levels, and pain will start to set it way before 99 Neo distorts its sound. They work well for both loud and quiet listeners, the music coming through with great detail and force in both cases. There is a slight tendency for average volume to sound the most balanced though, but only slight.

    The transient response and ADSR is affected by the source, and it is slightly affected by the volume the music is played at. A higher volume will not result in worse transients, but the way they are rendered might slightly change.

    The sound when driving 99 Neo from Xiaomi Mi max is pretty balanced, the textures are vivid, and the details are pretty good. The soundstage is not the best but still pretty large.

    When adding FiiO X5ii to the mix, the soundstage instantly opens up to a new resolution and the dynamics of 99 Neo expand much better. There is a considerably better sense of detail and X5ii would be one of the best ways to drive 99 Neo in portable mode.

    If you want to go one step further, you can add iFi iDSD BL, which will give one more step to resolution and soundstage, but the change that is most evident is the increase in authority and control. iDSD BL has a certain sound of its own, but it feels like the bass is considerably tighter and more detailed and it also feels like the whole sound becomes faster.

    All in all, driving Meze 99 Neo can happen from virtually any source, but the sound does improve considerably with better sources. Since I already have 99 Classics, I'm used to the great transient response and textures Meze offers, so the best thing I can say about 99 Neo is that it keeps the same great sound and source scaling.



    Comparisons

    Ie800 – This is a hard comparison. When it comes to price, ie800 costs about 3 times as 99 Neo when new. Out of the box, ie800 sounds radically different from 99 Neo, ie800 having a more energetic presentation in the top end, a similarly deep bass, but less in quantity and a more dynamic sound in general. The 99 Neo versus ie800 debate takes a rather unexpected turn when comparing them both driven from iFi iDSD BL. This DAC / AMP not only impressed me a lot with its crystalline sound, but it makes Sennheiser ie800 sound like Sennheiser HE-1 and it makes 99 Neo sound like a new headphone. The difference in enjoyment, involvement and emotion between 99 Neo and ie800 is smaller this time, and I can say that there is a far bigger difference in the frequency response rather than a difference in the sound characteristics by themselves. Ie800 does have a bit better dynamics, a bit better separation between instruments and a tad cleaner presentation, but 99 Neo is no slouch and considering the price difference. For the record, I'm using both ie800 and 99 Classics (Neo's bigger brother) as my daily headphones, and I love both. They are complementary this time, and when I want to hear a relaxing sound and to forgive all artists for their mistakes I take 99 Classics, while when I want to hear the very cutting edge of sound, I take ie800. Serving different purposes, I can safely name them a great pair to have, if you can own both!

    Ultrasone Dj One Pro – This time, things turned around in favor of 99 Neo. Both driven from ifi iDSD BL, I can now understand why some people criticize Ultrasone for their choices in sound. While I am a bit of a treble addict, I now dislike the shrill and cold presentation of Ultrasone Dj One pro as there is a ton of distortion in the upper registers when compared to Meze 99 Neo or Sennheiser ie800. Seems that this cold metallic distortion wasn't so evident for me before and I actually mistaken it for treble energy, but having heard a better sound, I now regress and call 99 Neo a more enjoyable headphone from every possible angle. For the record, I have not used Dj One pro at all since I got 99 Classics and having both DJ One Pro and 99 Neo would yield the same results. To compare their sounds, 99 Neo has a far more coherent bass, better texture, more precise control and far less bloating where Dj1P sounds loose and distorted in comparison. Comparing the mids, 99 Neo is more lush and has thicker mids, where DJ1P has a tad more vivid mids, which are sadly affected by a metallic shrill / resonance. Comparing the treble, Meze 99 Neo has very smooth treble, that comes through well, but is relaxed and will be smooth even with the harshest recording, while Dj1P has a metallic tint to the treble, having some treble distortion as well, especially after some EQ. 99 Neo + 3D soundstage on iFi iDSD BL has a similarly large soundstage as DJ1P has without the 3D setting activated on iFi iDSD BL.

    Sennheiser HD650 and LCD2 – Meze 99 Neo sports a pretty similar signature to both, with 99 Neo coming on top of both HD650 and LCD2 in terms of soundstage and texture of instruments. The HD650 I've compared Meze 99 Neo to had less bite on the top end, feeling rolled off, where 99 Neo felt smooth but not absolutely rolled off. LCD-2 sports a bit more bite in the treble than 99 Neo, but once again 99 Neo wins on the instrument texture, especially the guitars. Comfort wise, HD650 and 99 Neo are similar, while LCD-2 is not bad, but it is way too heavy leading to fatigue after half of an hour. The bass is a bit tricky to compare because both HD650 and LCD-2 are open back while 99 Neo is closed back. By design, 99 Neo will have better impact and better slam than HD650, but the natural bass of LCD-2 being pretty close. The way bass hits is different between Meze 99 Neo and LCD-2, at this point being pretty complicated to describe (I would need more time with both). The midrange is different between all of them, with 99 Neo having the thick / lush midrange, HD650 being a bit colder and less involved in the mid range (due to the less midbass hump), and LCD-2 having a more neutral midrange. The sole fact that 99C is closed back makes it an amazing fact to say that it has a larger soundstage than LCD-2 and HD650, the air between the instruments feeling similar but the space around the listener being larger on 99 Neo.

    Audio Tehnica ATH A-700X – This comparison is interesting because Meze 99 Neo are in a similar price bracket and it is only natural that Meze 99 should be compared to a similarly priced headphone. The first difference noticed is in the build quality, where although both are made out of Abs – plastic, meze 99 neo feels a bit heavier, more secured and doesn't feel nowhere near as finnicky as A700X feels like. The comfort is pretty bad on A700, not because of the headband but because of the pads which are both small and shallow. The depth of the pads is more important than the size in general. One can live with smaller pads, but it is almost impossible to use shallow pads as they make you touch the driver plate and this usually causes pain. The sound is very different between the two headphones, A700X feeling like a very light headphone, while 99 Neo is a lush headphone with a thick midrange. 99 Neo has considerably more bass in quantity, it is better defined, better layered, better textured and will have considerably better and more realistic hit and slam. By comparison, A700X feels pretty anemic and loose. The midrange is different as A700X as a bit more natural midrange tonality wise, but 99 Neo comes in force with considerably better textures, considerably better details, and a similar soundstage. By direct comparison, A700X feels a bit smeared in the midrange, a clear, natural midrange, but with instrument texture smearing where 99 Neo has a thick and lush midrange with vivid and clear textures and great soundstage. The top end is where A700X has a slight upper hand, having a bit better treble extension and energy, but the bass to treble ratio making the whole sound thin. 99 Neo has less treble by comparison, but a similar amount of detail. Since 99 Neo favors having a strong and imposing bass, the sound comes off as more enjoyable and fun for 99 Neo although I personally like A700X as well. The two headphones feel complementary more than they feel like direct competitors, the sound being quite different between them.

    Audio Tehnica ATH M-50X – This should be a fair comparison since the two headphones are priced similarly, and this time they target a similar audience. From the start, both headphones feel fairly well build, although M50x feels a bit heavier. The clamping force is pretty different as M50x has way more clamping force at times, up to the point of feeling uncomfortable while 99 Neo has just the right amount of clamping force to ensure a secured seal. The sound tries to be similar, with the biggest difference being in the soundstage. But until there, both M50X and 99 Neo feature a similar amount of bass, but 99 Neo has better bass quality, and better bass texture. Meze 99 Neo features considerably more natural mids, where the mids of M50x feel rather V-shaped and have an uncomfortable dip that makes them sound shrill / cold / metallic. The top end of the two is a bit different, with m50x having more treble, but rolling off at some point, resulting in a metallic tint to the treble. The big (huge) difference between 99 Neo and M50x lies in their soundstage, where 99 Neo has a natural to large soundstage, airy sound and great instrument positioning / rendering, M50x having a really claustrophobic soundstage and featuring far less air between instrument. The separation between instrument is similar, but M50x has less textures than 99 Neo, making 99 Neo feel vivid, where M50x feels smeared by direct comparison.



    Value

    IMG_20170409_180759.jpg

    99 Neo is even cheaper than their bigger brother, 99 Classics and given the sound quality of 99 Neo and what you get in the box, they are a sweet deal.

    The value is great, but they will always be endangered by a great headphone. Their biggest enemy at a close price range is their own brother, 99C!

    Given the quality of both, I would suggest hearing both before making a purchase and seeing them in person as 99 Classics and their wooden construction is more beautiful than any luxury furniture while 99 Neo comes in as an edgy / modern looking headphone that will leave you in shock with their awesome presentation. I generally prefer to avoid recommending a headphone based on its looks, but 99 Neo and 99 Classics make an exception from this rule as they both sound great, but their looks are more of a difference than their sound. All in all, at the price of 250$, you're getting a very solid package and a very sold headphone. I would gladly call this a sweet deal at this moment and a deal that you don't want to miss!



    Conclusion

    (Edgy look for a conclusion photo?)

    IMG_20170409_181836.jpg

    After hearing every single headphone that I could hear to date, I am quite hard to impress. You can say that headphones don't really impress me anymore, and when I listen to headphones, 1000$ headphones don't have a wow effect anymore, and it is rare that I get enthused about headphones anymore. I was rather curious about the second installment of the 99 Classics made by Meze and I was not expecting them to hold their ground given that the ABS sound is usually perceived as less desirable than the sound of headphones with wood cups. I was quite wrong and it seems that in the end Meze kept their promise and 99 Neo fares very well, especially when compared to their bigger brother, 99 Classics.

    Considering the sound quality of both 99 Neo and 99 Classics, a buyer should make his choice based on his aesthetic preferences instead of going for the sound since Meze managed to keep a great sound for both. The fact that I tested 99 Neo with iDSD BL this time and I didn't feel the need to EQ them anymore tells a lot about how great this combo and be and the fact that a source can make a big difference in how a headphone is perceived.

    At the date of writing this review, 99 Neo is one of the best headphones one can buy for 250$ and in my personal experience, I haven't found a better closed back headphone in the same price bracket. The competition is always strong in this area, and I'm looking forward for what other marvelous things headphone makers will come with and I do hope that Meze will be able to hold their ground in the future as well.

    You can safely enjoy 99 Neo straight from your laptop, your smartphone, or even an ultra-portable DAP. But adding a higher quality source will surely make your day better. FiiO X5-3, FiiO X5ii, FiiO X7, iFi iDSD BL are all great ways of powering your Meze 99 Neo and I'm sure that every one of these sources will make someone fall in love with their sound, you just need to find which has the best sound for you. I can't wait to see what FiiO comes up with next, but right now either FiiO X7 + AM3 or iFi iDSD BL are the best ways possible to drive 99 Neo from pretty much all of my tests.

    I hadn’t had the chance of testing Balanced as I didn’t have any balanced cables yet, but I'm really curious about it and will make sure to test it as soon as Meze releases the balanced version of their cables and return with impressions!

    Once again, I fully recommend giving 99 Neo a chance, especially if you are looking for a headphone in this price bracket, as it is one of the most interesting entries you can find and you might fall in love with the sound! Also, please remember that burn-in does make a difference with 99 Neo and you should let it do its thing to fully enjoy this beauty of a headphone!

    Don't forget to check out our other reviews

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    Stay safe, love life and enjoy music!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Dobrescu George
      @superuser1  Thank you very much! I'm glad to be of help! 
      Dobrescu George, Apr 24, 2017
    3. roy_allan79
      Thanks for another wonderful review. I'm getting my Neo's tomorrow due to this review. I'm gonna hit Summer Romance from SCIENCE when I unbox this beast, "making sure to laugh"!
      roy_allan79, May 1, 2018
      Dobrescu George likes this.
    4. Dobrescu George
      @roy_allan79 I love that song to bits!! I hope you'll find them to your liking!
      Dobrescu George, May 1, 2018
  6. Howlin Fester
    Meze 99 Neo by Howlin’ Fester Everything you want.
    Written by Howlin Fester
    Published Dec 5, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Great bass sound.
    So much fun.
    Comfortable
    Cons - Loses some details in extremely intricate music
    Cable is too long for me
    They are just a review pair. I don't own them yet.
    Meze 99 Neo by Howlin’ Fester
    Everything you want.


    Introduction:
    When Meze launched the 99 Classics, I remember seeing the banner on Head-Fi. The beautiful wood cups and closed back immediately caught my eye. I wanted to check out and see who was producing those beautiful headphones. I’ve been following Meze since that first banner flash, and now I finally get to try out one of the Meze products. I am lucky enough to be selected as part of the Meze Neo tour. It has been a long time coming, but I finally received the 99 Neo from @Jinxy245 the week before Thanksgiving. In short order, I opened the box and threw some music at them.

    Gear and First Impressions:
    Rig of choice is 16/44 FLAC from Cayin N3>USB out>RSA Intruder-medium gain. As soon as I got the Neo, I fell asleep to Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill album. Not going to say too much about that since it was first impression, and I fell asleep within 4 or 5 songs. But the initial impression was very positive. Meze are great looking headphones. They are not heavy, they fit well, and I was able to lay down without them being pushed around by the pillow.

    Physical attributes:
    The feel and fit of the Meze 99 Neo are perfect for me. The circum-aural aspect of the ear pads fit around my ears like a glove. I feel like the clamping force is spot on, and I like the isolation of the cups. With respect to headphones, I guess that I am huge fan of closed back headphones. I have Fostex Th-900, Audeze LCD-XC, Senheiser Momentum V1. With that being said, I really love how the 99 Neo fit and feel.

    The ONLY thing that I am not fond of is the length of the headphone cable. I prefer a mid-length cable of around 4.5 feet. But that is just a niggle, now isn’t it? If I bought the 99 Neo or the 99 Classics, I would either shorten the cable, or buy a replacement cable that is shorter. Otherwise, I do like the cable. Below the Y-split, it is cloth covered and above the Y-split it is rubber. Neither sections of the cable experiences much microphonics, and rolling it up for transportation, doesn’t really induce memory kinks. I don’t use cables with remotes, so I won’t comment on that.

    Edit: 01.29.2018
    With regards to the cables: The Meze 99 Neo only comes with the shorter/microphone cable in the box. The review pair traveled with the shorter/mic cable AND the long/standard/NO-mic cable. The long/standard/NO-mic cable can be purchased separately for $20.

    Sound:

    Over the next few days, I just listened to them while working. I ran through most of the Beatles later works. White Album, Let it Be, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper’s. I wasn’t doing any critical listening, but one of the things that really struck me was how deep, rich, and full the Meze 99 Neo made the Beatles sound. They were really astounding on these older recordings (new remasters). But mostly I just worked and occasionally, I would need to pause, look out the window and listen to part of a song. I think this was the first time I was really able to “hear” Paul’s bass lines. Ringo’s drums were clearly presented, and other percussion instruments were clearly represented. While writing this, I had to pause and listen to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Very nice.

    The Meze 99 Neo seem to be easy to drive. I powered them with the Ray Samuels Audio Intruder amp. On medium gain, I only need about 1/4 of the power or less. This gives me great listening level with good impact, but not being loud. That is one of the things that I tend to find with other headphones, is that I want to turn them up to get the bass impact and slam. I really feel that the 99 Neo do that more safely.

    Musings on Two Beatles Songs and Four Headphones:
    OMG! Listening to the Beatles song “When I’m 64” is a revelation. Such fun bass lines and bass presence without overpowering the rest of the song. Switching over to the THX-900, I feel like I’m getting a more clinical representation of the song. I had to turn the volume up with the THX-900 to get the same kind of fun impact of the 99 Neo. One thing I did notice about the 99 Neo and the old Beatles stuff is that the L-R balance is more distracting and sharp. Meaning that vocals in the right are extremely panned right, etc. With the THX-900, they are more cross centered. This could be a function of the THX-900 being “semi-closed”. While listening to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” on the THX-900, I can definitely hear the bass lines, but is like I have to work harder to find it. The Meze 99 Neo smacks you with it.

    Switching over to LCD-XC, you are immediately hit with the weight. (If anyone ever talks to you about the LCD-XC, it goes something like this… “LCD-XC, huh?” “Yup.” “How heavy are those things?” “Heavy. Oh, so heavy.” “OK. How do they sound?” “Sound great. But man are they heavy.” Anyway, I digress.) Listening to When I’m 64 and Lucy Diamonds, the LCD-XC really present the Beatles well. There is bass heft, and feel. But still find myself reaching for the volume to keep turning them up. The bassline in the chorus of Lucy in the Sky sounds glorious. But at a volume price.

    Trying the Senheiser Momentum (Version 1). When I’m 64 sounds evenly presented and kind of boring. I don’t get that OMG moment that I got with the Neo 99. If I turn them up, I can force myself to have more fun with the increased volume. Definitely good headphones for travelling, but I very rarely reach for the Momentums

    If I had to rank the headphones for these two Beatles songs, it would look like this: 1. LCD-XC (but had to really turn it up). 2. 99 Neo (just represented the songs in a “FUN” way on a lower volume.) 3. THX-900. Great sound across the board, but missing the “FUN” factor on the Beatles songs. (AND I LOVE MY TH-900). 4. Momentum. Just average.

    Comfort:
    Well, the Beatles aren’t my normal evaluation songs, so I should move on to my evaluation music. However, this first half of the review, I am really impressed with the Meze 99 Neo. Putting the Meze back on after testing the Fostex, Audeze, and Sennheiser, the meze really wins for comfort. Let’s do a comfort ranking. 1. Meze 99 Neo. 2. THX-900 (but I would like a little bit tighter clamping). 3. LCD-XC. Comfortable around the ears, but did I mention they are heavy? 4. Momentum. Tight clamping, tight on the ears. Didn’t really bother me, but when I took them off, I was glad they were off.

    Glasses:
    I also have to mention that the Meze 99 Neo are comfortable with glasses. I’m old and I wear reading glasses and computer distance glasses. My spectacles fit just fine under the Meze pads. I don’t feel pressure on the arms/temples.

    Song evaluations:
    Steely Dan - Do it again. This is probably the song I listen to the most when evaluating music. With the 99 Neo, I’m able to hear everything clearly and well presented. There are high hat rides and cabassa throughout the song. I can hear those high frequency instruments clearly and distinctly while getting a good bass thump.

    Porcupine Tree - Hatesong. This is one I’ve really been looking forward to hearing. It naturally has a deep drumming bass line. That was represented well. But the Tom drums after the 6:00 minute mark are where the Meze 99 Neo really shine.

    Fleetwood Mac – Dreams. Soundstage. The Meze 99 Neo don’t have the widest soundstage. When I’m listening to Dreams, the background vocals and acoustic guitar seem a little closer with the Neo than with other headphones and iem I have tried.

    Kansas – Miracles Out of Nowhere. I grew up listening to Kansas on my stereo in my bedroom, and through old Realistic – White – Plastic – Closed back headphones. This takes me back to my childhood. Hearing all of the individual instruments in the band playing off of each other in different locations of the headphone is a real joy.

    Santa Esmeralda – Don’t Let me Be Misunderstood. The definition of a smile. When the song starts off with hand claps, stomping, congas, drums, then the acoustic guitar strums in. Followed by a flamenco solo. This just made me smile very much. Definitely check this out if you have the chance.

    Tool – The Pot. Thought I would throw some recently recorded music at the Neo. This Tool song has lots of bass and guitar. They all seem to blur together. On most tool songs, it is hard to get a distinction between Maynard’s voice, and the other instruments. This follows suit here with the Neo. If I change out the Neo for my Trinity Audio Hunter iem – gunmetal filters & silver litz cable, I can differentiate all the instruments separately and clearly hear Maynard’s voice. Tried the same thing with the TH-900, and the TH-900 can clearly separate all the instruments. Fun factor on this Tool song has to go to the Fostex over the Meze Neo.

    Fleetwood – Rumours album. Moving from Tool over to the Fleetwood Mac, I think this is where the Meze really shine for me. Older recorded music. It gives it the heft, thump and fun factor that is needed. But I can still hear highs to give it some fun. Maybe the harmonics of the guitars aren’t as clear and bright as they could be on the song Second Hand News, but the sound is fun and inviting. In the middle of “The Chain” all the music pauses except for McVie’s bass line. That is rendered wonderfully on the Neo.

    Conclusion:
    In listening to the Meze 99 Neo over the week, I have been really impressed with the build, fit, comfort, sound and thump. Right now the Meze headphones are on a short list of headphones I want. In fact, the Meze 99 Classics or the Meze 99 Neo are the only new headphones that are on that list. I could see myself using these a lot more than some of my other closed back headphones.

    As I’m finalizing this review and proofreading, I’m listening to Steely Dan’s catalog. These sound perfect with Can’t Buy a Thrill and Countdown to Ecstasy. As I mentioned, I believe that the Meze really shine with older classic rock albums. As I was going through my collection, I realized how much of my FLAC music IS the older recorded music. So just for fun, I put on the Virginmarys – King of Conflict. This is a newer recorded album. It sounds very good with the Meze 99 Neo as well. Drums that make you want to get up and move. Check out Portrait of Red for an awesome and fun song.

    I would definitely recommend these headphones for anyone interested in closed back headphones that are simply great sounding and fun. I will be buying a 99 Classic or 99 Neo. I give it 4.5 stars. What more could you want from a headphone?

    EDIT: Update 01.29.2018
    Meze was running a holiday special on the 99Neo for $199. After writing this review and before the end of 2017 holiday season, I purchased a set of Meze 99Neo. I still absolutely love the 99Neo. I was part of the Shanling Hi-res Portable Players Review Tour. I got to experience the 99Neo with the Shanling M2s. I believe that they have tremendous synergy. You can read my review of the M2s here:

    https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/sh...d256-hifi-lossless-music-player.22354/reviews

    The Meze 99 Neo are definitely my “go-to” pair of headphones at this moment. I had been doing a majority of my listening with in-ear-monitors prior to this.
  7. betula
    Great performing closed-back for the price: 99 Neo
    Written by betula
    Published Aug 19, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - great price/performance ratio, built quality, accessories
    Cons - comfort could be better, too much emphasis on bass
    IMG_20170819_110201505.jpg

    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.

    IMG_20170819_110650469_BURST000_COVER_TOP.jpg

    Package:
    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.

    IMG_20170819_110223819_HDR.jpg

    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.

    IMG_20170819_110447580.jpg

    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.

    Comfort:
    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.)

    IMG_20170819_111034535_HDR.jpg

    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.

    IMG_20170819_111113073.jpg

    Sound:
    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.

    IMG_20170819_111124429.jpg

    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).

    IMG_20170819_110944630.jpg

    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.

    IMG_20170819_111137260.jpg

    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.

    IMG_20170819_111202482.jpg

    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.

    Finishing words:
    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.
  8. ExpatinJapan
    99 Neo - there is no spoon
    Written by ExpatinJapan
    Published Jul 11, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Beautiful with a neutral source, good separation, smooth, smexy
    Cons - slight micro phonics with cable and metal head piece
    Meze 99 Neo Headphones Review - Expatinjapan

    Meze 99 Neo review
    [​IMG]
    Meze 99 Neo and Opus#3 dap

    Meze 99 Neo headphones review
    -expatinjapan

    [​IMG]
    https://www.mezeaudio.com/collections/all/products/99-neo

    `A fresh take on the 99 series for the uptown audiophile, 99 Neo brings together Meze Audio’s signature sound quality with cutting edge style.` - Meze website

    Head pie has previously reviewed the Meze 99 Classics:
    http://headpie.blogspot.jp/2016/08/meze-99-classic-headphone-review.html

    A headphone which we love and has a strong fan base.
    let us see how the newer Neo measures up when compared.

    [​IMG]

    Build and unboxing
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    The Meze 99 Neo packaging echoes the 99 Classic packaging.
    The Meze 99 Neo packaging echoes the 99 Classic packaging.
    The Meze 99 Neo packaging echoes the 99 Classic packaging.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Meze 99 Neo and CEntrance Hifi-M8

    [​IMG]
    Some specs for that special someone who likes specs and stuff.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Repeating the name so it gets embedded in your consciousness.
    99 Neo, 99 Neo, 99 Neo...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    99 Neo! By Meze! Designed by Antonio Meze.

    [​IMG]
    Its a box, Jim!

    [​IMG]
    Ooh, nice hard ass case to protect your precious goods whilst commuting or traveling across the world. But we all know you will just hang them around your neck to look cool.

    [​IMG]
    Whats in the soft circular pouch? Is it a tiny cat hat?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Exquisite detailing. Each piece specially designed to be replaceable If the need arises.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Those cups. Smexy styling for the audiophile about town.

    [​IMG]
    As an earlier review unit my headband lacks the 99 Neo logo that the final version will have.
    Buuurnn for Head pie *sad face*

    [​IMG]
    Ah there we go, a detachable cable for the 99 Neo.
    When you just want to look cool, hang em around your neck without the cable and tell everyone they`re bluetooth.

    [​IMG]

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    Bits and pieces of my broken heart, mind and soul.
    Oops, my mistake. included bits and bobs of fancy.
    *The retail version will not include the longer cable or airplane adapter. Buuurn for you this time.

    [​IMG]

    Sound.

    As expected there is the obvious question of what is the difference between the two models?
    The 99 Classic and the 99 Neo. Looks, material and sound in a nutshell.
    Some will buy based on looks alone, one crowd preferring the natural and smexy wood finish of the 99 Classic, the others perhaps more cyber urban preferring the sleek black look of the modern commuter or inner city cyber punk.
    Regardless one can`t be disappointed with either of these headphones by Meze. Like their earphones which echo the headphones look on a smaller scale having both would be ideal to match ones mood on any given day.
    As usual I burned in the headphones for a a decent amount of hours before commencing on the review to keep the believers and non believers alike happy.
    I used FLAC tracks of 16/44 mostly, and usually on a random shuffle mode. Daps employed for the purpose were the ipod touch 6G, iBasso DX200, Opus#1, Shozy Alien Gold and Opus#3.

    [​IMG]
    Meze 99 Neo and Opus#1 dap.
    Can`t got wrong with The Ramones!
    Not a fan? GTFO!

    The Meze 99 Neo differs from its predecessor in its cup change, from wood to black ABS plastic.
    The sound differences happily echo the experiences I had with the 12 Classic and 11 Neo earphones.

    Please see the earlier Head pie reviews:
    Meze 12 Classics http://headpie.blogspot.jp/2017/03/meze-12-classics-review-expatinjapan.html
    Meze 11 Neo http://headpie.blogspot.jp/2016/10/meze-neo-11-gun-metal-review.html
    One expects a certain sonic signature difference from wood versus plastic, whilst this is most certainly true with these two headphones the valley between them both isn`t so wide. They share much in common as the general specs reveal.

    [​IMG]
    Meze 99Neo and iBasso DX200. A bit of the sultry Lana del Rey.

    Lets take a look back at the Meze 99 Classics
    http://headpie.blogspot.jp/2016/08/meze-99-classic-headphone-review.html

    `Vocals: Neither too forward nor recessed the vocals on the Meze 99 Classic hit the sweet spot for me.
    Bass: A slight slow decay is present, but overall is fast enough to please with most music.
    Mids: As with most woodies the mids play an important part in the overall presentation, not overly warm as such, more on the liquid side of things rather than a deep lushness. fairly neutral and dynamic with a quick decay.
    Treble: It is clear and offers the detail one expects, it veers away from being extended to the point of harshness or sibilance and is pleasing to the ears. It reaches far enough for a good balance with the bass and the mids, each not over stepping their individual bounds.

    Instrument separation: Good separation, not crisp as such with a slight smudging at times. Overall very good.
    Sound stage: A decent soundstage that feels larger than my head, good instrument placement.`

    [​IMG]
    The Pixies, one of the groups along with The Smiths who redeemed the 80s.

    And now lets look at the Meze 99 Neo
    Vocals: nice and balanced with the music, not too forward nor back overall (mens vocals can be slightly forward at times), very smooth and even.
    Bass. Is tight and fast. At times deep and with a punch to it.
    Mids: Quite lush, present and defined. Very clear and smooth.
    Treble: It is not as stretched as I would imagine it might have been. But is more than satisfactory. It has a nice reach. It balances out the overly dark leaning sound signature and is its saving grace.

    Separation: Is crisp and well defined. Individual instruments are
    are differentiated from each other.
    Sound stage: It is above medium. It is a closed headphone so there are some limitations, but this didnt interfere with any enjoyment. Sound stage is more outside ones head, rather than inside it.

    It has a bit of a xXx signature at times, a bit of a lil something extra in the mids. at other times a XXx signature depending on what music is being fed to them.

    [​IMG]
    Meze 99 Neo and iBasso DX200
    `Laaaana` - ABC Warriors.

    [​IMG]

    Value
    Slipping in at a easy to digest US$249 - US$300 the Meze headphones are certainly an affordable entry point to high end sound, and high street looks.
    Build quality is immaculate. And If not, If per chance any part fails all the parts are replaceable.

    [​IMG]
    99 Classic versus the 99 Neo visually.

    [​IMG]
    A comparison of the packaging between the Meze 99 Classics and 99 Neo.

    [​IMG]
    Meze gave me a woody.

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    Old and new pads.
    The new pads have a larger circumference and fit more comfortably over a more varied size of ears, also they are slightly thicker/higher.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Simply stunningly gorgeous in looks and sound.
    [​IMG]

    The 99 Neo has some a dampener, the newer 99 Classic also have the dampener over the headphone speaker....mine does not `insert sad face emoji`. So whilst my comparisons may be `close enough`, perhaps they aren`t exact due the lack of dampeners.

    [​IMG]

    Overall
    The Meze 99 Neo are a great complement to its older sibling the Meze 99 Classic and both echo the sonics of the earphone series which also match up wood against synthetic materials.

    Isolation is very good, so its handy for about town or commuting.

    Slight micro phonics with the cable, but not really noticeable unless one is jumping about.

    They are very easy to drive at 26ohms which is less than the 99 Classics.

    I found the 99 Neo performed well when fed to the Opus#2 , but very much enjoyed them when paired with the more neutral Opus#1 which tamed some of the low end.

    There isnt much between the Neo 99 and the 99 Classics being fairly near identical in build.

    The 99 Neo has more bass, but not in a bass head sense, and also more mid heavy. Not to mention the obvious cup difference

    It seems to handle most genres well, and my usual shuffle test rendered no complains, its a good all rounder as head phone.

    I recommend a more neutral dap to pair with the 99 Neo to bring out its best.

    I could listen to Mazzy Star for instance for hours with these headphones.

    Smexy, stylish, superb lows and super smooth highs and vocals.

    [​IMG]

    Thank you to Meze for sending Head pie the Neo 99 headphones for review

    [​IMG]
    1. JuanLuis91
      How interesting that the previous 99 classics do not have that damper on the speaker ... Have you tried to remove the 99 Neo damper?
      JuanLuis91, Mar 3, 2018
    2. ExpatinJapan
      No, I havent. Sorry
      ExpatinJapan, Mar 3, 2018
  9. Bansaku
    99 Neo: Meze Smooth!
    Written by Bansaku
    Published May 28, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Design/style, comfort, detailed and smooth sound, value
    Cons - Bass may be too north of neutral for some
    Intro

    Meze Headphones is a company with a simple philosophy; Motivation, Values, People. With a passion for art and music, achieved through patience and dedication, Meze design timeless masterpieces. Ignoring current trends that come and go with the seasons, influenced by none, they create headphones as if for themselves. Consisting of passionate specialists, with backgrounds in sound engineering, design, crafting, and music, the team has stood by their company’s values since the beginning.

    In late 2015 Meze Audio blindsided the headphone community with their release of the 99 Classics, a full sized headphone built from the ground up that combined a stunning and timeless fusion of wood and metal with an incredibly detailed yet smooth sound. The following year Meze introduced us to the 11 Neo, a balanced sounding IEM sporting an all metal construction, and soon after the IEM brother to the 99 Classics in both aesthetics and sound, the 12 Classics. Meze Audio once again showed us that affordability and style doesn’t have to compromise sonic fidelity. While the full sized Classics have the smaller companion Classics, the 11 Neo sat alone, seemingly longing for a kinship of it’s own. Enter the 99 Neo, a full sized headphone who’s design and sound is based around Meze’s current flagship, the 99 Classics!

    99n.jpg

    Disclaimer

    As part of the Canadian leg of the World wide pre-launch tour, I had 7 days to audition the headphones before shipping them off to the next participant. Besides one week of pure listening enjoyment, I received no compensation or incentives for my words. As always, my review will be objective and free of bias.

    About Me

    38 years old, I grew up in a family consisting of musicians, broadcaster/sound engineers, and amateur DJs, I always had a deep appreciation and understanding of both music and sound. I was further educated in this self interest after taking courses in both electronics and sound (Electro-Acousto aka The Path to Golden Ears). While I believe a listener’s preference in sound is subjective, the science behind it is not. I am not swayed by buzzwords, hype, trends, brand recognition, or big numbers on charts; I am the nemesis of the commissioned salesperson. Opinionated as I am, my words are not only objective but honest. I view all criticism as constructive, as long as it is sincere.

    Specifications
    • Transducer size: 40mm
    • Transducer Type: Dynamic Neodymium / Mylar
    • 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
    • Ear-cups: ABS Plastic
    • Weight: 260g (without cable)
    backbox.jpg frontbox.jpg

    Accessories

    • 1.2m OFC cable with 1-button control talk module
    • 3m OFC cable
    • Airplane adapter
    • 6.35mm adapter
    • Cable pouch
    • Headphone travel case
    inside case.jpg
    leaning.jpg
    casefront.jpg
    caselogo.jpg

    For more information and nice eye candy, head over to the 99 Neo website.
    To read up on general discussion and impressions, check out the official thread here.

    Design & Ergonomics


    Made of high quality and durable black textured ABS plastic, the 99 Neo share an identical design to it’s older sibling the 99 Classics. The metal hardware is a cast zinc alloy with electroplated coating, and are fastened to the spring steel headband with screws and nuts; There is zero adhesives and plastics used in their construction! Both the memory foam ear pads and the headband are made of a soft polyurethane leather.

    pair3.jpg

    Due to the use of ABS plastic in the 99 Neo’s design, the headphones are incredibly light, weighing in at 260 grams. Thanks to the extra wide headband and the double-wishbone style of the spring, wearing the 99 Neo feel almost weightless; The headband extends to a perfect fit every time. Clamping force is extremely tolerable, with very little discomfort coming from the ear pads. Included with the 99 Neo are the new 3rd generation ear-pads. Listening to the community, Meze Audio increased the size of the included ear-pads giving the 99 Neo a more universal fit. This combination of design features ensures for long term wearability.

    tiltleft.jpg
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    The detachable cables are of the Y-design, meaning that the left and right channels connectors are separate. With no cable running through the headband, not only is there less microphonic noise, but less potential for channel imbalance due to unequal cable lengths, all while making the 99 Neo more user serviceable. Listened to community feedback, once again, this time around the 99 Neo’s cables are a hybrid of sorts. The included cables with 99 Classics featured a cloth sleeve that ran the full length, where as the 99 Neo’s cable have only rubber after the Y-split. Because of this change, microphonic noise has been greatly reduced after the split, making it virtually silent when rubbed or knocked. All three of the jack plugs (2.5mm and 3.5mm), as well as the Y-split have silver and black metal housings featuring seamless rubber stress reliefs.

    cable.jpg cablesplit.jpg
    remote.jpg

    First Impressions

    Like reuniting with an old friend, I was greeted with the familiar well designed mag-latched embossed black box featuring the outlined portrait of the “Classics”. Inside sat the re-skinned moulded hard carry case containing the 99 Neo, featuring a fibre weave design over the hard leather found with the 99 Classics; An unexpected yet nice touch that helps distinguish the two models from one another! I actually couldn’t help but pet the case as it’s texture is extremely pleasant to the touch. So smooth! Once again, Meze presented me with a quality product that radiated elegance!

    Much like the box, the contents of the travel case was all too familiar but instead of a stunning pair of wood wrapped headphones sat a pair of Classics all dolled up, ready for a night out on the town! Damn the 99 Neo looked sexy staring back at me. Black textured housings highlighted by a subtle silver band, much like the carry case I couldn’t help but run my fingers across the surface. I didn’t think I would like the ABS plastic on the 99 Neo as much as I do the natural walnut wood of the Classics, but that assumption was quickly removed. While I had seen pictures, nothing compares to viewing in person as natural ambient lighting strikes the surface! This seems to have become my normal response to ALL of Meze Audio’s products; Open box, stare in awe, touch the product, drool, come to senses and place on head!

    Since owning the 12 and 99 Classics, I half expected the 99 Neo to have a very similar sound to the 11 Neo, and I wasn’t wrong in my thinking. The 11 Neo offer a very balanced, smooth sound with a slight emphasis on bass whereas the 12 Classics had a little more control and refinement with a warm, crisp, organic sound very reminiscent of the 99 Classics. In other words, the 99 Neo sound like a full sized version of the 11 Neo, and I couldn’t be more pleased! I would have been very disappointed if the 99 Neo were simply a more affordable version of the 99 Classics. In my opinion, from a business point of view it would serve no purpose as it would cannibalize sales of the more expensive model while offering consumers nothing new.

    Sound - The Basics

    Bass - First and foremost, the 99 Neo are bass heavy cans. Not in the realm of bass-head territory, rather the bass can be described as somewhat omni-present. Mid-bass is fairly tight and quick, with excellent punch and the ability to slam with authority. While overall linear with excellent detail, it does poses a slight hump that does at times walk the line of spilling over into the lower midrange. I wouldn’t describe the mid-bass as boomy or sloppy, however it does somewhat lends a hand to the mids giving certain instruments and vocals an added layer of warmth. Gently rolled off, sub-bass is nicely weighted and has a fair amount of detail. Overall the sub-bass is slower and a tad looser than the mid-bass, but in no way does it overpower the rest of the spectrum nor distort.

    Midrange - Warm and detailed with fantastic texture and resolve. The 99 Neo’s midrange ins’t aggressive or hyper-detailed, instead offering a very smooth and relaxed listening experience. Make no mistake, detail and resolution is there it’s simply not in-your-face. Lower mids are slightly elevated over the upper region, accounting for the added warmth to the frequency range. Both male and female vocals sound sublime, possessing excellent body and outstanding resolve, yet at the same time sound incredibly smooth. Likewise instruments sound very natural with great texture and resolve while at the same time posses a velvety smoothness that flows effortlessly within the soundscape.

    Treble - Well detailed and extended with a gentle roll-off, treble does it’s job and nothing more. While the 99 Neo’s ability to render the finer details with just the right amount of sparkle and shine is done so with ease, much like the mid-range it does so with added warmth. In other words the top end does lack a bit of air, slightly tilting the 99 Neo’s overall tonal quality more towards dark from neutral. However this contributes to absolutely zero accentuation or peakiness to the sibilance in recordings, and adds to an absolute fatigue-free listening experience.

    Soundstage - For a closed back headphone, the 99 Neo’s soundstage is far above average. Left/right and up/down have excellent width and height, giving the listener a good sense of hearing the sound “outside of the head”. Front and rear depth is there and can be described as above average, however it’s only so because it takes a back seat to the width and height. 3D and holographic imaging is spot on with excellent instrument separation; I never got the sense of things sounding congested nor cluttered. Overall, despite it’s hugeness, I found the 99 Neo’s soundstage to be natural sounding and not forced.

    Isolation - In terms of passive sound isolation, the 99 Neo are basically average for a headphone of it’s design. Nothing exceptional but nothing garbage either. Wearing the 99 Neo out in public running errands or heading to work on public transit, they fall within the same range as my Sennheiser Momentums; Most sounds were blocked out to a moderate degree (dependant on the track and volume setting) with only the deep rumble of a Diesel engine while riding or passing a city bus being able to really penetrate and annoy my ears. In terms of sound leakage, the 99 Neo has virtually none! Sitting next to my wife while listening to heavy metal at a louder than moderate volume she heard absolutely nothing, which also meant I was not able to hear her! Ha ha, zing!! Of course, wearing glasses/shades and/or a cap of sorts may break the ear pad’s seal, thus causing both sound leakage (in and out) as well as slightly changing the presentation of the sound (i.e. less prominent bass). But like always, this depends on each individual’s head and YMMV.

    Sound - Music

    Listening to the audiophile classic Spanish Harlem - Rebecca Pidgin is a must for all music lovers. I always turn to this song as a test of a headphone’s dynamics, and the 99 Neo handled this track with ease. Rebecca’s voice was well rendered, with a good sense of naturalness. The sibilance of her voice can pose problems for headphones of all quality, including ones that cost numerous times more that the 99 Neo, but not so here! Every note was pitch perfect with a velvety smooth naturalness. The bass, while a touch more prominent over neutral, had excellent definition and weight yet played perfectly, un-obscuring towards the rest of the sound. Each draw of the bow across the violins had great texture with a silky resolve. Every shake of the rattle sounded unique, and could be easily discerned, never sounding lost in the background. The piano was smoothly rendered without glare or congestion.

    Colour to the Moon - Allan Taylor, is another great audiophile classic. Between the deeper octaves of the vocals and the lower registers of the acoustic and electric guitars, this song is a great test of both the male voice as well as separation of bass frequencies. Allan’s voice is beautifully rendered with detail and emotion, trenched with warmth it’s deep sound saturates the sound-space. The delicate picking of the acoustic guitars glistened with great texture and resolve, each pluck sounding clean and distinct. Possessing an almost holographic quality, the bass cleanly resonated from the back with deep, enveloping, and powerful detail, yet never sounding overwhelming nor overshadowing the rest of the spectrum’s sounds. Despite it’s somewhat strong bass, the 99 Neo smoothly rendered this song both truthfully and effortlessly.

    Stravinsky’s The Royal March - Soloist New York is an excellent track to demonstrate a headphones ability to handle transients. Between the brass, strings, and percussion, this song features powerful transients. To fully appreciate the 99 Neo ability, (as always) I turned up the volume to above average listening levels. What I was presented with was an awesome sense of excitement! The drums were tight and taut, never sounding dull, sluggish, or lacking definition despite the 99 Neo’s somewhat omni-present bass. The horns sounded smooth yet crisp and clean, well defined with just enough ear-tickling bite! Cymbals splashed with very fast and accurate attack, sustain, decay, and release albeit lacking just a touch of air. The bass-strings resonated deep with both speed and definition, never overshadowing any of the more delicate sounds heard thought the track. Nothing sounded flat or congested rather I was presented with a large, well defined soundscape.

    The trance/electronica track ‘Up On You’ from the Audiophile compilation by Audiomatic features both impressive amounts of elevated mid-bass and sub-bass as well as a plethora of 3D sounds. Thanks to the detailed mids and large soundstage, the 99 Neo rendered the computer generated and digitized effects with both speed and clarity. The electronic sounds filled the soundscape with a fantastic texture and a great sense of 3D imaging! The 99 Neo was able to deliver mid-bass punch with authority, yet still revealing the nuanced low frequency textures of the electronica sounds. Though rolled off in the extreme lows, sub-bass possessed impressive amount of weight and energy and was rendered with decent speed; Never did the bass sound too sloppy or sluggish. Simply put, the 99 Neo is more than capable of supplying ample but appropriate bass when needed, but nothing more. Bass-heads should be satisfied with the output quantity while audiophiles will pleased with the quality.

    Sound - Movies, Games, and General Use

    Movies - Admittedly, I was half expecting the 99 Neo to sound way too bass heavy or perhaps boring given their neutral-warm tonal quality, and thankfully my concerns were short lived! As per usual, 2013’s Pacific Rim, specifically the 15 minute intro, is my go-to movie for critical testing. Nominated and awarded in both audio and visual effects categories, this action packed movie brings to life Guillermo del Toro’s tale of giant robots vs monsters in an against-all-odds rollercoaster ride of humanity’s last chance for survival! Thanks to the slightly elevated bass and exceptional soundstage coupled with their well rendered midrange and detailed yet fatigue free treble, the 99 Neo deliver a theatre-like experience! Both Charlie Hunnam’s narrative overlay as well as general dialogue came across as both well rendered and well centred. From the rain drops pelting the Jaeger’s metal plating, the hydraulics, mechanics, and instrument inside the cockpit, the waves crashing against a massive Godzilla-like Kaiju, every nuance of the background sounds was easily discernible with excellent 3D positioning all while the epic soundtrack pumped excitement into my ears! Normally after the intro and the title credits roll is where I end things, bit I ended up watching the whole movie! From start to finish not only did I have an enjoyable listening experience but did so without any discomfort with either the headband nor ear-pads and I must note, for anything other than music I wear glasses.

    YouTube/Podcasts - Lets face it, next to music streaming media would probably rank a very close #2 in terms of the general public’s use for headphones, myself included. As someone who used both public transit and a good set of runners to get around town I see it everywhere, even at work. Two key factors are a must here; Comfort and balanced sound. Combining both comfort and decent passive noise attenuation, the 99 Neo check off the first with ease. For the 7 days I had the headphones I used them as my daily driver. Sitting in my gaming throne watching various YouTube vloggers, both male and female of various ethnicity, in a room that not only has 2 lovebirds and a parrot but a wife watching TV while babbling on the phone, I was able to do so un-bothered by neither outside noise nor discomfort. Thanks to their smooth and balanced sound, the 99 Neo do a remarkable job rendering the human voice. I was worried that, again, the added bass would make certain presenters, especially the ones who like to add a “broadcaster’s” effect to their voice (you know the ones), would sound way too bass heavy and again, the 99 Neo proved me wrong and held their composure! For use as a pair of desk warriors, the 99 Neo do a fantastic job for daily use.

    Games - Over the years, up until I took interest in true audiophile headphones (albeit mid-fi), I have owned virtually every top-tiered gaming headsets from Corsair to Sennheiser. I even pop in to my local computer centre and demo the latest offerings, and things haven’t changed much at all. Because of the gamer’s need to hear the most minute of detail, by design their sound signature is always very mid centric with rolled off (yet detailed) bass and treble. In other words, unexciting. Fantastic at hearing footsteps, great at hearing both in-game and chat voices, but there is a reason they all come with a software suit of sorts; To add some pizzaz! Well, I don’t believe in any of that jazz (though I do love jazz!) rather a headphone should be able to render what the game designers intended on their own. The 99 Neo absolutely destroy gaming headsets I have heard in their price range! Whether it be the latest Call of Duty or Battlefield, Forza, Tomb Raider, Witcher 3, Diablo 3, Prey, Doom, or Hitman, not only was I able to hear the minute details needed for pin-point accuracy and survivability, there was an excellent sense of natural 3D positioning as the environments came alive within a large soundscape! DolbyHeadphones or SBX be damned, the 99 Neo did a far greater job at rendering the sound engineer’s model than cheap sounding post processing! Because of the 99 Neo’s well extended low and top end, nothing ever sounded dull or uninspiring. Explosions hit hard but never overpowering, bullets sounded like they whizzed past my hears, spells dazzled and sparkled, the music was as clear and concise as it was dynamic, and voices/dialogue was smooth and clean! And of course, comfort wise, while wearing glasses and spending hours in front of my monitor with few breaks, absolutely zero issues what so ever! If the 99 Neo had an option for a boom-mic, I would argue that we’d have a new top contender in the gaming headset market!

    Sound - Summary

    Jack of all trades and master of none! What impressed me about the 99 Neo is their ability to handle every genre flawlessly. From Classical to Heavy Metal, Jazz to Electronica, gaming or watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster, I was never let down by their evenhandedness towards the genres; None were fundamentally better suited for the 99 Neo! I would like to point out that if the track is poorly mastered, or an mp3 of a low bit-rate, you will notice the flaws. While not of the ear-screeching-in-your-face here-I-am sort, the 99 Neo will gently point them out. On the plus side, high bit-rate/High-rez music tracks sound fantastic! While not hyper detailed, the 99 Neo are detailed and resolving enough that one will benefit from the tracks taking up more space on their storage device.

    Amping and Scaleability

    With an impedance of 26 Ohm, the 99 Neo are efficient enough to be driven by virtually any source with a 3.5mm jack. This however doesn’t mean that the 99 Neo will not benefit from a higher end source, quite the opposite in fact. I always say that the quality of a headphone is determined by the user being able to discern the differences between not only higher performing hardware but higher quality recordings. While the 99 Neo sound fantastic straight out of my iPod listening to 256Kbs AAC, they are in a whole different league running out of my iFi stack listening to 24-bit high-res audio! I was easily able to hear a substantial gain in fidelity both in the source file and the hardware, something that simply can not be said about quite a few (over-priced) headphones at this price-point I have owned/heard, even from well established and well regarded competitors.

    Burn-in

    40 hours is what is recommended by Meze, and I highly encourage anyone to give the 99 Neo at least that amount of time before any critical listening. I am not only referring to driver burn-in but the breaking in of the ear-pads as well. Bass becomes more controlled, less loose and bloomy, and treble detail definitely comes up a few notches. Overall, after burn-in of both the drivers and ear-pads, the sound becomes less stiff, more natural, and balanced.

    Value

    Sitting at the sweet spot of $249 USD, like all of Meze Audio’s products, the 99 Neo offer great value for the money that won’t break the bank. High quality hard travel case: √! Two high quality 99.99% pure OFC cables: √! Cutting edge style and construction: √! Incredibly smooth and balanced sound that is detailed yet non-fatiguing: √ √ √! At it’s price point, there is a lot going for the 99 Neo that would warrant it’s purchase over it’s competitors, and I would gladly shut up and give Meze my money!

    Conclusion

    It matters not if you are a headphone junky who wants to add to their ever growing collection, or if you are simply someone in the market looking to find a headphone that offers a detailed, fatigue free, and balanced sound, you can’t go wrong choosing the 99 Neo over the other more established brands. With a price of $249 US, Meze Headphones has another solid contender with the 99 Neo. Combining a smooth and natural listening experience that incorporates a visually striking modern-yet-timeless design while maintaining a comfortable fit, much like the 99 Classics there are few reasons not to fall in love with these headphones! Once again my hat’s off to you, Antonio Meze, and your awesome team; You have made yet another great headphone!

    stack.jpg
  10. PinkyPowers
    From the Depths Came a Broiling Pitch
    Written by PinkyPowers
    Published May 8, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Rich and detailed. Great soundstage. Comfortable.
    Cons - Too much bass, bleeds into the mids.
    Neo 06.jpg

    ~::I first published this review on The Headphone List. Now share it with my Head-Fi fellows::~

    :: Disclaimer ::
    Meze provided the 99 Neo free of charge in exchange for my honest review, for good or ill.

    The Meze 99 Neo sells for $249
    www.MezeAudio.com
    _________________________________

    I received an alert from Joker: Meze had offered The Headphone List a review unit of their newest spawn, the Neo. Did any of us care to tackle it? Quick on the draw, I was. The 99 Classics is currently my preferred portable over-ear. In fact, I wrote such a thorough, flattering review, Meze felt certain I had been part of the original tour. No Meze, I was merely doing what I do, celebrating exceptional equipment. The 99 Classics’ signature resonates perfectly with my tastes, and is one of my favorite things to listen to, at any price range. I simply adore it.

    So I was eager to get my hands on their Neo variant. I expected… well, I don’t know what I expected. On paper, it seemed like Neo was nothing more than a plastic-cupped version of the 99C. But I don’t know of any headphone company which does that. When a manufacturer releases a new unit, and gives it a new name, they almost always retune the thing, if for no other reason than to appeal to a new segment. The broader the range of flavor on offer, the broader the potential customer base.

    I just didn’t know what the Neo would be. It could go either way.

    Everything about the Neo proclaims its new flavor. It isn’t Rocky Road to the 99C’s Neapolitan. Nothing so extreme. Rather, it’s Double Fudge Brownie to 99C’s old-school chocolate. Richer, chewier, and more adolescent.

    You can see this even in the carry case. Meze didn’t have to redesign the case. Why would they? But they did it anyway, as a statement: Neo is not Classic. The case is neither better nor worse than the old one. It’s just different. Both are beautifully crafted and a great way to carry these phones about.

    Neo in Case 02.jpg
    Case Comparison 02.jpg Case Detail Shot.jpg
    Case Comparison micro shot.jpg
    Look at the weaving! That **** gives the geek in me a stiffy!
    The cable has been redesigned. Though, I think that is for the whole 99 line, not just Neo. The lower-portion of the cable is still covered in a nice cloth, but now, after the Y-split, the cord is sheathed in rubber. I think this is meant to reduce microphonic vibrations. Whatever the reason, the cable was well-made before, and it’s well-made now.

    Just as the 99 Classics before it, the Neo is highly comfortable. The clamp force holds them secure, and the pads keep things soft and easy. I have no trouble wearing them for long hours at a time. Due to the plastic cups, Neo is a touch lighter, and will prove even friendlier for those long listening sessions.

    Neo & 99C 01.jpg
    Neo & 99C 02.jpg
    Neo is using new pads. When the 99 Classics first released, they had small pads, which garnered more complaints across the web than anything else… by far. So Meze released new pads to go on their next batch. I have those larger pads, they came with my 99C. Yet Neo’s pads are bigger still. They’re wider, and deeper.

    Certainly, these new pads play a role in what I hear. How much of a role, is hard to say, so we shall take on this challenge now.

    Neo 04.jpg

    Let’s not mince words here. The Meze 99 Neo is warm and profoundly bassy. Folk complain about the Classics’ low-end being too exaggerated. Well, **** just got real. The bass dominates everything else about these headphones. Fortunately, the lows are possessed of lovely tonality. There is a textured, chasmal feel about them. It’s huge, it’s thick, and it colors every goddamn thing.

    Things like the vocals. I would never have called the mids on the 99C “lush”. But they’ve crossed that line with Neo. They aren’t as clear and vibrant anymore. They are thick, extremely smooth, and mighty warm. Yet there is still more than enough detail and articulation to paint a lifelike image. If you’re a fan of the HD650, you may fall in love with Neo’s vocals. They are a deep, soothing bowl of oatmeal on a cold day.

    Neo 05.jpg

    After some proper burn-in, the highs have finally come out to play. I no longer believe they’re rolled off, which was my first impression. Indeed, Neo has some lovely sparkle up top, with delightful extension. It’s not quite on the same level as the 99C, but close. I cannot express how paramount this is for Pinky’s enjoyment of these cans. Not because I’m a Treblehead, but rather that indomitable bass threatens to choke the whole presentation, and the treble brings a much-needed balance. It lets in the sun and the air, clearing out some of the stuffiness.

    Blessedly, Neo is just as capable in the soundstage as the 99C, being one of the widest and deepest closed-back headphones on the market. Ok, it might have taken a little hit, but not much. These things create a grand sense of space. Instruments are well defined and positioned with good accuracy. Resolution is above average, but not jaw-dropping. What impresses me is how much air and layering there is, given the heavy-handed sub frequencies.

    Even though most of this review has been a comparison to the 99 Classics, let’s take a paragraph to condense the differences.

    The Meze 99 Classics are clearer. Greater detail comes through. The treble glistens more, giving superior air to the stage. Things don’t sound so excessively thick, as the bass is not trouncing over everything else. Instead of lush, the vocals are transparent and realistic. The soundstage is a hair bigger, though both are excellent.

    I have marked a few physical differences, which might account for some of the disparity, beyond the wood/plastic of it all.

    Pads Compare 02.jpg
    Neo pads on the left, 99C pads on the right.

    The earpads are deeper, and wider on the Neo. And as I mentioned earlier, I already have the improved 99C pads.

    Pads Compare 01.jpg
    99C pads on the left, Neo pads on the right.

    Driver 99C.jpg Driver Neo.jpg

    While my 99C does not have a damper glued to the front of the driver, it does have thicker material in the pads themselves, which should have much the same effect.

    What does it all mean? F**k if I know. Meze changed so much it’s hard to track. The bottom line is these two headphones don’t sound the same.

    AudioQuest’s NightOwls are nearly three times as much as Neo. But since I don’t have many closed-back headphones, and I’ve really been crushing on these lately, why not do a comparison?

    The NOs are cleaner. More liquid. That low-distortion AQ advertises is indeed audible. It’s weird how little grain or blemishes come through. The bass goes into the deepest registers, and can just hold it there, without pounding or booming. Its sub-bass doesn’t sound like drivers generate it, but rather like it simply exists. It’s the most natural low-end I’ve heard outside of the LCD-2. And it’s not too exaggerated, either. More like the 99C instead of Neo.

    Those lows don’t bleed, either. While the vocals have a lush flavor, they are brilliantly detailed and clear. You get superior separation and layering than either Meze can manage. A level of refinement is conveyed by the NightOwl which elevates it beyond lesser options. Sweet Jesus, these are an elegant set of transducers.

    Even after something like 60-70 hours of burn-in, NO’s treble is not as shimmery as Neo. It takes a little time to adjust to the darker tone. Once you do, the highs show themselves to be well-extended, soft as silk, and without any unnatural peaks. They remind me of the 64Audio U12 in this aspect. You have to sacrifice a little bit of brightness for the magic. If you can accept that, you get to enjoy a special treasure.

    Soundstage is grander on all levels. Imaging and resolution don’t get much better than this. As one might infer from the price, NightOwl is on another level.

    One of the best comparisons to make is the Sennheiser/Massdrop HD6XX (Special edition of the HD650). Neo has more bass, by a not-insignificant gap, yet the tuning has the same warm/lush quality. In spite of one being open-back, and the other closed, they feel cut from the same cloth. The lows on the HD650 are tighter, with superior texture. Meze goes deeper, though, with real sub-bass. Neo’s treble possesses more bite, whereas HD6XX is an easy, laid-back listen. The mids are alike in so many ways, with detail, prominence, and clarity awfully close. I may have to give it to Neo for soundstage, whereas imaging and separation are of a higher quality on the Senn.

    Due to the open nature of the HD6XX, and its balance, you get a sense Sennheiser is a friend who loves you. Neo, on the other hand, is constantly kicking you in the stomach with bass, and flicking your nipples with treble. Only you will know which excites you more. I judge not.

    Because of the Neo’s propensity for bass and warmth, I recommend a player that is as neutral as possible, or at least one that does well in the treble and has strong, clear mids.

    Neo & Opus2 03.jpg

    My Opus#2 makes a great pairing with Neo. On its own, the Opus#2 is just slightly on the warm side. But it has outstanding dynamics and treble presence. There is tremendous body to the notes, and WAY more driving power than you’d ever need for the new Mezes. It’s also the widest sounding DAP I’ve heard, so Neo gets to stretch out to its fullest. You won’t easily find a smoother, more natural renderer than Opus#2, which gives Neo all the ingredients to become its best self. It’s very hard not to fall for these headphones when plugged into this music player.

    Cayin’s i5 is a rather warm, thick DAP, with extreme bass presence. While it’s not a disaster for Neo, it does take it even further in the direction I’m trying to avoid. Nonetheless, I found myself digging this pairing. There’s something about rich, powerful musicality that defies prejudice. Is it my favorite signature? No. But I can’t deny it has its charms. And an ample supply, at that.

    Neo & i5 01.jpg
    Neo & Opus1 01.jpg

    The Opus#1 is my choice for best mid-fi audio player. With Neo, it brings in more air, giving a better sense of space and separation. The highs are nice and glistening, the mids are more vivid, and there’s solid kick down low. The Opus#1 is amazingly neutral, without ever being cold or analytical. It’s the best version of neutral, where everything shines, due to exquisite dynamism. I’ve said it before, this DAP brings out the best in every headphone, no matter the profile, and Neo is no exception. Opus does an admirable job balancing this bottom-heavy gorilla.

    The new Cayin N3 is currently in my possession for testing. It’s only seen around twenty hours of burn-in. So much might change as the days roll by. Right now, however, it gives Neo a thin, weak sound. Warm, but not much going on at either end of the spectrum. It’s quite lifeless right now, with a tiny, boxed-in stage. Let us hope the N3 will open up with time.

    Neo & N3 01.jpg

    Even my pathetic Galaxy S6 gave Neo a FAR better spring in its step. Together they sound… okay. Get well-loud. Plenty of energy. But, this is not a great smartphone for audio quality. I suggest you choose a different one, or better yet, a nice DAP.

    So that’s the Meze 99 Neo. Pinky is fond of these headphones. They are a terribly fun listen. Too much bass! For sure! Give me the 99C any day of the week. Yet Neo is decidedly sweet nonetheless, and knows how to delight a fellow. There’s no way around it, Neo’s got the goods. Coming from Meze, I’d expect nothing less.

    -~::Pinky_Powers::~-