Meze 99 Neo

Rating:
4.21212/5,
  1. Johnny Mac
    Meze 99 Neo, new yet lasting.
    Written by Johnny Mac
    Published Oct 13, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Superb build quality, looks gorgeous, balanced sound.
    Cons - Non-foldable, earpad outline for earpad rolling could be better.
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    Hot off my rendezvous with the Meze Audio 11 Neo, the exquisite house of Meze in Romania has managed to delight me with another guest and although I am yet to be a full-on convert for the cult following surrounding how Meze has managed to be a company associated with meticulous standards both in form and function. I am yet put again tempted by them to try and prove such standards do exist with their interpretation of what a headphone should look and sound in the form of the Meze 99 Neo. Provided directly by Meze Audio in exchange for an honest realview. You can visit their castle, I mean website at Meze Audio. The Meze 99 Neo, released in 2017 and is priced at $249, it sits smack on a headphone market swarming with audiophile grade options. The Meze 99 Neo Headphones houses a 40mm dynamic transducers on a black ABS plastic earcups, 15Hz - 25 KHz Frequency Response, 103dB Sensitivity, 26 Ohm Impedance. The 99 Neo features detachable Kevlar OFC cable which bodes well for those worried of cable breakage as well as an in-house subdued yet contemporary design conceptualized over long hours of sketches and outlines and with all these specifications, is the Meze Audio 99 Neo worthy of a fan base?

    Packaging and Build Quality

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

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

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

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

    Tonality

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

    Lows

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

    Midrange

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

    Highs

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

    Soundstage and Imaging

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

    Yaxi Pads on the 99 Neo’s

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

    Conclusion

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

    More reviews on my site, http://audiorealviews.site/
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  2. My Little Phony
    Promising start into the headphone business
    Written by My Little Phony
    Published Aug 15, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - - lightweight
    - attractive appearance
    - good soundquality
    - non-fatiguing sound presentation for long listening sessions
    Cons - - bass a bit loose
    - crackling memory foam
    - earpads not comfortable with every earsize
    Unboxing / Inside the box:

    The headphone comes in a sturdy carton box wrapped into transparent foil. One side of the box is closed by two magnets and it nicely folds open.

    Now something i have to mention because of my experience with another headphone. The new box & headphone fragrance. The new scent your nose will notice after opening the box the first time is there but vanishes quickly.

    Next you will see a well made pouch containing the headphone itself and the cable. It is a very solid case you can use for save transportation and storage of your headphone and cable and some other small accessories. The pouch can easily be opened and closed using the two smooth running zippers.

    In the middle of the pouch, there is a round shaped small pouch hosting the detachable headphone cable and two adapters. The headphone cable is nicely braided with a soft kevlar thread beginning from the 3.5mm TRRS connector going up to the y-splitter of the cable. Outgoing from the cable-splitter the two cables for (L)eft and (R)ight are now covered by soft rubber. Between the splitter and the headphone-plugs there is also a remote with a play/pause function for mobile devices and a build in mic. I really like the slim and well done connectors of the headphone cable. They fit very well. Small thing but worth to mention.

    Cable length including connectors is close to 1,45 m. Plugs of the cable are marked L & R.

    You will not receive much microphonics while scratching the kevlar braided part of the cable with your fingers and the microphonics when touching the upper rubber part of the cable are also more than acceptable.

    Enclosed to the small pouch you will get a 3.5 mm to 6.4 mm adapter and an aeroplane adapter.


    Optics & Build Quality:

    After opening the carrying pouch i just said „Wow“. Its black and beautiful and there is metal and screws. The Meze Neo just looks desirable in the box. Lets get it out of the box to throw an eye on the details.

    Grabbing the cans out of the pouch you will notice how light they are. These phones are showing quality and provide good haptic out of the box. The metal detailes and screws are giving the phones a very reliable touch.

    *** Important Note: The headphone is fully servicable in the case any part has to be replaced. ***


    Wearing & Comfort:

    Lets put the cans on and feel them. But first i have to find out whats the (L)eft and whats the (R)ight earcup. After a couple of minutes i still didn't get it and just plugged in the headphone-cable and played a left and right channel test file. Theres no marking for the (L)eft and (R)ight channel on the headphone.

    The 99 NEO is a very lightweight headphone at 260gr.

    Earcup size may not fit the larger kinds of ears. I think my ears are about average. After about an hour of wearing the NEOs i felt the earpads pressing unpleasantly against the lower part of my ears. Nevertheless they felt comfortable to wear at first.

    The fit of the headphone is self-adjusting and similar to the one used on the Philips Fidelio X2. The clamping force of the headband is ok but a bit too soft for my taste.

    If you make funny faces you wont hear any sound coming from the headphone-structure. Only if you nod your head heavily you can hear the headband doing spongy sounds while readjusting. You wont hear it while listening to music at all but i definitely prefer a step by step clickable headphone adjustment without elastic bands.

    Overall comfort while wearing the phones it really good. Probably the headphones are wearable for hours without getting annoying if you dont have big ears.

    The pleather earpads and inner memory foam are soft and comfy. But the foam material Meze is using for the cutions of the earpads is not a good choice. It makes a light crackling sound when you move your head. I first thought it was some kind of distortion noise (like rustling foil) coming from my player.


    Sound:

    Testequipment:

    - Lake People G100 FE (technically close to Violectric HPA V100)
    - JDSL Labs Dac
    - Astell & Kern AK70 MK II
    - Flac & MP3 files

    Highs:

    Detailed and not harsh or fatiguing. Not thin or edgy sounding. Highs and Mids play well together.

    Mids:

    The mids have a good body while being detailed.

    Bass:

    The bass is elevated. I tested the bass of a Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 32 ohm these days too. That was a no-go experience. Boomy and overshadowing the other frequencies. The bass of the Neo 99 does not bleed too much into the mids and highs. Its a warm presentation. Sometimes it can be a bit too soft and lose sounding. But i found this to be rare. Layered presentation is there but sometimes gets lost a bit.

    Soundstage:

    Soundstage is good. I could easily hear where the sound of an instrument is coming from.

    3d-effekt / Spaciness:

    Music tends to sound more 2D than 3D. Average spaciness presentation. I havent heared a closed headphone yet that takes you into mindblowing wide spacious landscapes. The NEO performs good here.

    Voices:

    Voices are pleasant to the ears and non-fatiguing or thin sounding. High female voices dont let your ears bleed.

    Overall presentation:

    Non-fatiguing and warm presentation that is predestinated for long listening sessions. High, mid and lower frequencies complement each other well but for my taste the sound could use a bit more refinement of the presented frequencies. I red that there are differences between the classic and the NEO model of the Meze 99.


    Support Impressions:

    Friendly, helpful and quick answering customer service. I think good support is very important and also a part of the produkt.


    Conclusion:

    The Neo 99 is a good looking and well crafted headphone. You can easily say its a piece of art.

    The fact that its fully servicable is a great thing. The cans are made for long not fatiguing listening sessions. Comfortable and lightweight headphones for people with small ears.

    Being realistic and keeping the price range in mind the sound presentation is good. Let your ears decide.

    But for me the NEO is missing some of the magic that makes me foot-tapping and enjoying every part of the music plus i always hear the crackling memory foam of the earcups when theres no sound playing. For the next cans Meze should consider using other foam.

    In another review someone said:“ I really wanted to love these headphones...“ but they're just not for me. I second this and have to say that I expected more. But i know that Meze got new hardware in progress and maybe there will be something for me in the future.

    The Meze 99 series are good debut headphones doing many things right but also some things wrong. If the next models get refinement we will get really awesome headphones.


    Visuals:

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  3. Squeaky Duck
    Well made headphones with good sound & good value
    Written by Squeaky Duck
    Published Jan 14, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - VERY efficient
    Left cable connector marked for easy ID
    Comfortable for extended listening time
    Complete with everything you need for home or on-the-go use
    Cons - Heavy mid-bass
    by Tom Lewis
    aka Squeaky Duck
    13 Jan 2018

    Recently I had the pleasure of being included in a worldwide tour posted here on Head-fi.org of the Meze Audio 99 Neo headphones. This is my personal opinion of these headphones.

    Disclaimer - I am by no means an audio professional. I am an audio enthusiast & hobbyist who likes to tinker, so this is my experience with the NEO 99 headphones pertaining to their sound quality, comfort, price and construction merits. My regularly used headphones are the KRK KNS-8400.

    The music I had chosen is what I am very familiar with and have had the pleasure of actually listening to live. My personal preference is jazz, 80's rock, classical, and some opera.


    My primary sound source is a digital audio workstation with Samplitude 2496 Recording & Editing Suite and VU Player running through an ASUS Xonar DS DTS sound card locked at 24bit/192k 2ch with Burr Brown op-amps, Monster interlink II cable feeding my Kenwood KA-5700 integrated amplifier. All of my electronics are powered from a 1kW APC Smart UPS which has good AC power filtering, and yes, it does make a difference and the noise floor is exceptionally low. All of my digital sourced music used here is FLAC or uncompressed PCM format.

    The Meze 99 Neo showed up in a nice storage box detailing some of the headphone's specs and features. Inside was a felt lined ballistic nylon hard case that provided excellent protection to what was inside, something many headphones should include but do not. I would love to get a case like this for my KRK headphones too. Nestled inside was a small round soft case with the full length 10 foot cable, a 4.5 foot cable with microphone for your smart phone, 1/4 inch adapter and an airline adapter. All bases covered here for use pretty much anywhere.

    Looking them over I was impressed with the attention to detail in the build quality. The main part of the headband is all black spring steel with silver colored die cast zinc mounts for the adjustable padded comfort band. The ear cups are ABS which seem inert and the ear pads are soft leather which was a nice touch and reflect the quality & workmanship. The cable connected to each ear with a 1/8 inch plug on the bottom of each ear. I liked this since it made it easy to store them and if your cables were to get damaged it would be a simple swap for new ones. The left plug has a ring crimped into the shell to identify it from the right. The headphone cable itself is wrapped in Kevlar weave to protect the wire and the connectors are metal, not cheap molded plastic.

    Meze Audio did their homework on the fit and comfort of these headphones. The ear cups are attached to the band to allow them to fit comfortably and secure without the proverbial "C-clamp" feel. The soft leather ear pads provided a good seal around the ears without the sweaty feel other leather pads may have. Their softness allowed me to wear my glasses with minimal discomfort. As for weight, they are very light, weighing in at only 9 ounces. I felt no big addition of weight even of an hour or two of use each night. The Kevlar jacket on the cable reduced the typical headphone microphonic rumble from moving around which is very good.

    Now as for the sound, this is subjective and merely what my impressions of this set can do.

    The mids and highs were smooth and balanced. vocals have a fairly neutral sound. The bass was more than I expected. These headphones will go as low as human hearing will allow, but with a pronounced hump in the mid-bass region that on some of my older recordings was a blessing, yet on well recorded music it was admittedly annoying and a bit muddy. I played around with the equalizer a bit to smooth it out which made a huge difference in long term listening. The settings I used were:
    80Hz, -3dB
    150Hz, -4.5dB
    300 Hz, -3.5dB
    Filter Q 1.4

    99 NEO 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

    Audio Playlist:
    Dawn Upshaw - World So Wide
    Lee Ritenour - 6 String Theory
    Michael Murray - Bach - Great Organ at Methuen
    Victims Family - Voltage and Violets
    Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab - The Power and the Majesty
    Tappi Tíkarrass - Miranda (vinyl)

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    Listening Impressions

    Dawn Upshaw's - World So Wide
    This album was a good test of female vocals as Dawn's vocal range can and does reveal breakup on a lot of headsets & speakers making her sound a bit screechy if there is any breakup happening. In this case vocals came through in full detail with no detectable screechiness or sibilance. The vocals sounded neutral. Strings, woodwind instruments and percussion were well defined and clean. The only oddity I heard sticking out was tympani drums sounds a bit bloated despite the EQ curve I listed in this review.

    Lee Ritenour - 6 String Theory
    This had a nice warm sound listening to 16-year-old Canadian classical guitarist Shon Boublil playing two caprices by 19th Century Italian guitarist/ composer Luigi Legnani. You can hear him breathing and his sleeve moving on the nylon strings of his Martin Blackwell Classical guitar. What was interesting is being able to audibly judge how his fingers were sliding across the guitar frets as he played. The sound is clear with no harshness and the guitar's natural wood sound comes through.

    Michael Murray - Bach - The Great Organ at Methuen Memorial Music Hall
    If you like pipe organ music Michael Murray is an exceptional organist to listen to. Bach's Tocatta in F Major (BVW 540) played on the great organ at Methuen Memorial Music Hall in Methuen, Massachusetts. This used to be one of the largest organs in the world with 6,088 pipes and 84 registers. The biggest one I know of is the Fratelli Rufatti organ in the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco with 9,235 pipes and 147 registers. WOW. If you live in or near San Francisco GO SEE AND HEAR IT. Anyway, without the EQ curve used, the sound was heavy and there was loss of detail throughout. With the EQ curve, you can hear a lot of low end detail and the acoustics of the hall clearly. Listening to Passacaglia & Fugue in C Minor (BVW 582) you can hear just how BIG this organ truly is (and you can hear the mechanics of the valves working in the background if are listening closely for it).

    Victims Family - Voltage and Violets
    Quivering Lip is a tune making fun of movie plots. The recording is very clear on all vocals and the NEOs played them nicely and the sound was actually neutral. You can tell it was recorded in a basement. Son of Church is a snappy and well recorded instrumental. The drums came through with good percussion and were really snappy with punch. When I lived in California they performed often at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma. They are hardcore punk but a lot of fun to listen to.

    Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab - The Power and the Majesty
    Just for fun, I tried Mobile Fidelity's Thunderstorm on CD. The thunder sounded pretty damn real on the NEOs with the volume up. Just listening to the raindrops, wind and water running made me feel cold and wet. That's convincing sound.

    Tappi Tíkarrass - Miranda (vinyl)
    The recording on vinyl is very good but Björk has a natural edginess to her sound on this album. On lesser headphones Skrið has a hard sound that is not enjoyable. Listening to it on the NEOs without the EQ curve was actually good and very listenable. Drek-Lek and Beri Beri had a good sound stage on the NEOs. Vocals were good. Get Ekki Sofið had ambience with a large sound stage. With the EQ curve in play the vocals became more alive with a more defined sound stage which was very apparent with the drums. I've always liked listening to Björk Guðmundsdóttir. She has a unique sound and style to her music. When she was in San Francisco I saw her performance on the stage at pier 32 (great show). Tappi Tíkarrass was her first band in 1983.

    Lastly I tried them out on my Sonim XP5 smart phone with the same music. Now this is where these headphones really shine. Their inherent pronounced mid-bass characteristics and faint drop in the upper mid-band actually made for a really fun time listening to these and made up for the shortcomings of my phone's audio electronics. The sound was very well balanced and quite smooth with no equalization needed at all. I think I found a new add-on to buy for my smart phone here.

    Conclusion
    Overall, I like them. The build quality is there. The included accessories and hard shell case complete the ensemble well. The fact you can change out cables and use them with your cell phone to listen AND talk is a plus. Yes, they have a definite sound signature of their own, but on a lot of music they do the job well. If you are into critical monitoring for recording these are not headphones to get (that's what my KRK's are for). But for general listening at home they do the job well. They are very efficient which is good for portable electronics giving you more run time on batteries.

    Overall at $249 a set I think they are a good deal.

    In a nutshell, these are a good set of headphones I'd like to own for my portable electronics.
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  4. makan
    The Neo is value midfi for the bass-inclined
    Written by makan
    Published Oct 20, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Well priced, comfy, durable, inline control, nice case
    Cons - Does not fold flat
    Firstly, thanks to Meze for allowing me to participate in the loaner program. Lots of great reviews and photos of the Neo. I will provide a review based on my 40 something year-old ears whose favorite headphones currently are the Audeze LCD-XC and Hifiman HE-6. For a fairer comparison, for mid-fi closed headphones, I have the Denon D600 and Oppo PM-3.

    For its price, the Neo is really great value if you are looking for a durable, handsome, very comfy, darker, dynamic driver, bass heavy headphone with in-line controls. Compared to the planar PM-3, it is more comfortable and more bass-tilted. However, it does not fold flat and therefore is a little bit more bulky to transport…however, the case is very nice and like most headphones, you do need to unplug the cable to store it in the case. It works well out of my iphone 6 and to be honest, it sounds the same out of my Fiio X5 3rd gen. The Denon D600 is more V-shaped if you enjoy that, while the Neo is more balanced comparatively. I have also tried it out on my desktop amps, and again to be honest, I don’t think it scales up too much….perhaps, I don’t have golden ears.

    The fit is fantastic, as it is a self-adjusting mechanism and I figure it would fit most heads, and the headphones themselves are extremely light. I can wear them all day without any discomfort.

    So, what is the downside…none really, especially if you enjoy the bass-tilted sound. If you get a chance to try it and you like the sound, the value is unbeatable. If you are not sure, because it is not too pricey, it would be worth a gamble to purchase them and give them a go. If it does not work out, resell them later without much monetary loss.
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  5. darmanastartes
    Closed-back excellence
    Written by darmanastartes
    Published Sep 13, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Fun-sounding, comfortable
    Cons - Small soundstage, might be too bass-heavy for some
    DISCLAIMER:
    This review is based upon a tour sample unit provided to me by the manufacturer in exchange for my honest and unfiltered opinion. I am not being compensated in any way for writing this review. I have shipped the sample unit to the next reviewer.


    ABOUT ME
    I listen mostly to heavy metal, hip hop, and electronic music, as well as movie and video game soundtracks. I value detail, clarity, and soundstage above other acoustic qualities. I like V-shaped sound signatures, generally those with more of an emphasis on the treble. Other headphones I own or have owned in the past include the E-MU Teak, Mee Audio P1 Pinnacle, Mee Audio P2 Pinnacle, Fostex TH-X00, V-Moda M-80, V-Moda LP2 Crossfade, Beyerdynamic DT-770 (250 ohm), KZ ATE, Mixcder X5, Mee Audio M6, Hifiman HE-400S, and (very briefly) Phillips Fidelio X2.



    SOURCES

    I have used the Meze 99 Neo with the following sources:

    Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Global > Meze 99 Neo

    Windows 10 PC > JDS Labs The Element > Meze 99 Neo

    I have tested these headphones with Spotify Premium high-quality streaming and local FLAC.

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    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
    The Meze comes in a sleek semi-glossy box. The unit I reviewed came with a high-quality rigid carry case, 2 cables (one longer cable for desktop use and one shorter for use with a mobile source), a cable container, a ¼” to 3.5mm adapter, and a stereo female to 2-prong mono splitter. The texture of the carry case is exquisite, and the cable container fits below the top of the headband inside the case so that every component is easily portable.

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    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN

    The build quality of these headphones is excellent. I had previously thought about purchasing the Neos for myself, but ultimately decided not to based on the promotional images I’d seen. I had thought the luster of the cups was too shiny, but the sheen is much more subdued in person. Though I’m still not the biggest fan of the silver accents on the headband, I would not be embarrassed to wear these in public. The self-adjusting headband is smooth and stays in place perfectly while on my ears. I’d love to see it emulated on other headphones. The one negative point I’d like to make is that I’d occasionally get hairs caught in the silver parts of the headband. This did not happen often but was painful when it did.

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    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

    I’m somewhat sensitive to clamping earpads. I have replaced the stock earpads on the E-MU Teaks and TH-X00s I have owned with Dekoni lambskin earpads, as the stock earpads become uncomfortable after a short period of time. The Neos earpads are more comfortable than the stock Fostex earpads, but not as comfortable as the velour pads on the DT770s. I could wear them for about 3-4 hours before they became uncomfortable. The earpads completely enclose my ears without squashing them, but I have small ears, so YMMV. Isolation is above average, less than the DT770s but more than the semi-open Fostex headphones. I have a fairly noisy keyboard and I couldn’t hear myself typing over music at a moderate volume. The Neos passed the girlfriend noise leakage test with flying colors, for which the threshold for failure is very low. I could listen to my music at high volumes even lying next to her without her complaining. For comparison, she has complained about noise leakage from my TH-X00s at higher volumes while sitting about ten feet away. These are a great option for listeners using public/shared spaces.

    DSC07142.JPG

    SOUND SIGNATURE/QUALITY


    The sound signature of these headphones is very warm, with pronounced bass and mids and rolled off treble. The bass is not as strong as in the TH-X00 and E-MU Teak, and does not slam the way the Fostex variants do. The Neos lend themselves well to distorted electric guitar driven music like heavy metal and hard rock. Bass drums and snares sound great as well. Clarity and separation are good. The Neos are not overly detailed, but are pretty forgiving of poorly recorded music. On the negative side, the soundstage is small, probably smaller than the DT770s and definitely smaller than the semi-open Fostex headphones.

    DSC07175.JPG
    GAMING

    I did not game extensively during the time I had these headphones, but I can say that positional audio works the way it should in first person shooters like Battlefield 1. However as I mentioned in the previous section, soundstage is lacking compared to the semi-open Fostex variants.

    DSC07149.JPG

    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

    The Neos are designed to be driven easily from mobile sources. I usually listened to music on my phone through the Neos at less than 50% volume, and at my desktop at less than a quarter turn from 0 on The Element on low gain. I did not notice a difference in sound quality between the two and did not test the Neos on my phone using an external amplifier.

    DSC07159.JPG

    CLOSING WORDS


    As I mentioned at the start of my review, I generally prefer detailed headphones with pronounced treble. The Neos cannot be described as such. The fact that the Neos impressed me so much in spite of this is a testament to how good these headphones are. They are easily driven, fun-sounding, well-built cans available at a very reasonable price ($200 retail). I cannot recommend these enough. Five stars.
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  6. dmhenley
    The Meze Audio 99 Neo
    Written by dmhenley
    Published Jul 16, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Warm, natural sound. Comfort and a classy style. Fully serviceable!
    Cons - Not as natural and linear as I'd like.
    I signed on for Meze Audio's Head-Fi tour a few months back, and their latest product arrived for a short visit this month. The Meze 99 Neo (US$249) headphones. Thanks so much to Meze for including me in the tour.

    This is my first time sitting down with any of their products, though I did read some reviews of both the Classics and the Neo in advance. I will keep this short, as there are many exhaustive reports already available online. I'll try to get to what I think are the key characteristics before you grow tired of me.

    [​IMG]
    Photo courtesy of Meze Audio

    Design
    I love the look of the 99 Neo. The build quality is impressive, and the design is classy. The electroplated zinc alloy hardware combined with the plastic black cups and memory foam ear pads makes for a sleek look. The fact that all parts are serviceable is outstanding. Not many out there today that can make the same claim.

    The hard shell carrying case for the 'phones, and the smaller accessory case are high quality. Both have a texture that is pleasing to touch. I assume the 99 Neo are aimed at users who are on the go. I did not have an opportunity to step out with the Neo.

    [​IMG]

    Fit
    The 99 Neo are 3oz. lighter than my main comparison for this report - the Audioquest Nighthawks. The Nighthawk's ear cups are slightly larger and shaped differently, so for my large melon, they're more comfortable. I've big ears too, so while the 99 Neo are quite comfortable, I've got more room in the Nighthawks stock pads.

    Again, the 99 Neo are very comfortable headphones. I had no problem with them over longer sessions. Of course, the closed design is going to be warmer than an open one. Out here in the desert, it is something to consider. Of course, for their target audience, the closed back may not be negotiable.

    Meze provide two cables - the short and the long. I used the longer cable the entire time, and appreciate having enough length to move around my office. My DHC cables are short, and keep me tethered to my source.

    [​IMG]

    Both headphones have similar impedance - 26db (99 Neo) vs 25db (Nighthawks). The Neo is rated at 103db sensitivity. That's 4db higher than the Nighthawk. Wow. I'm sticking with my AQ Dragonfly Red paired with an AQ Jitterbug for power. Streaming cd quality tracks via Tidal the entire session. I listened with both a PC source and Android phone.

    Listening
    These are great sounding headphones. And fun. The bumped mid-bass, or bloom, is readily apparent. That bloom - and, maybe a dip in the upper mid-range - in combination result in a somewhat warm and close presentation. Intimate. Cymbals lack some of the overtones that the Nighthawks present. It's quite subtle, and overall they sound linear and natural. The 99 Neo are an energetic headphone. Dynamic, and driving. Punchy. At times, the shove in the low end brought to mind two channel speakers.

    Based on my short time when them, I feel it's less about high frequency extension, and more about the slightly lifted low frequencies - this warmer, shadier tone. I really enjoy the sound. To my ears they are slightly less linear and natural in comparison to the Nighthawks with my Double Helix cable. You know, I would've have tried the DHC cable with the Neo, but the connectors did not fit. The Nighthawks are more relaxed, being a more open design.

    [​IMG]

    Fiona Apple's voice on "The Idler Wheel..." illustrates my earlier point. Less head, and a tiny bit more throat and chest in vocals. And, cymbals lose some of their overtones. Acoustic drum stick attack and body are highlighted with the overtones slightly diminished. Pianos and other assorted keys on this record reflect this same downward shift of the stage. Again, this is subtle, and not necessarily a mark against the Neo. Just my own observations set down here for your consideration.

    As for isolation - I don't have another closed pair available for a comparison. The 99 Neo seemed to isolate well. I was not able to test this in an office or elsewhere it might be needed.

    The 99 Neo are a great sounding and stylish headphone. They were easily driven by my OnePlus3 phone streaming Tidal HiFi. Likewise with my pc in combo with the Audioquest Dragonfly Red. I wanted more time to test a more powerful amps affect on these sensitive phones. I am currently without my usual tube amps, so have stuck with the portable rig for the entire session. I think this may be more relevant for folks who are considering the Neo, anyway.

    So, they are easy to drive, have a warm, natural voice, and are really comfortable. I think you can't go wrong if you are looking for a closed back and portable headphone in this price range. Add to this that they are stylish and fully serviceable, and they begin to compete outside this range. In a world of primarily recyclable products, one that has a higher probability of outliving me is very attractive.

    In my reading I found that Meze has a devoted following, and I now know why. The 99 Neo are an excellent product.

    Thanks for listening.
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  7. musicday
    Meze 99 Neo stylish headphone
    Written by musicday
    Published Jul 4, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - High build quality, comfortable, package, lightweight
    Cons - average cup size, a bit bulky, they warm up after a while
    Meze 99 Neo headphone review by Musicday



    I would like to say a big thank you to Meze Romania, especially to Mr. Lorand that was kind enough to provide me free of charge a review unit of the relatively new 99 Neo headphone in exchange of my honest written review.



    Introduction:


    Meze Audio is a company from Romania who design and produces high quality headphones and IEMs at affordable prices and they have a great success among audiophiles and anyone who love to listen to music on headphones around the world. Their current flagship Meze 99 Classics was introduced to the market late 2015 and it was a huge success.

    Meze 99 Neo is based on the same philosophy and concept of 99 Classics with great build quality while the price was reduced and that make these headphones more affordable for anyone wants a great headphone and have a limited budget.

    At the time of writing this review Meze 99 Neo price on Amazon.uk is £220.19



    Box and accessories:



    The headphones have arrived in a well packed box and their own box feels smooth and doesn't betray the relative affordable price.

    upload_2017-7-4_13-41-48.jpg


    In the box we find 1.2 m long Kevlar reinforced cable for extra durability. The headphones are very well built and will last you a long time.



    They can also can make a very nice present to your loved ones.

    upload_2017-7-4_13-41-48.jpg


    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)


    upload_2017-7-4_13-41-48.jpg

    For the retail price of 99 Neo what’s included in the box quite nice. The hard case to store your headphones is nice and offer protection. Also there is a small velvet like pouch to store your cable when not in use.
    A 3.5 mm-6.3 mm adaptor is included and an airplane adaptor.



    Comfort and usage :



    Having a low impedance and high sensitivity makes them very easy to drive, straight from your mobile phone or laptop. But i recommend a powerful music player or a DAC for best results. They weight only 260 gr without cable and they are very comfortable to use, but unfortunately after a long listening time my ears got warm and pause was needed. More likely leather earpads had to be sacrificed to keep the cost down.



    upload_2017-7-4_13-41-48.jpg



    Music players used :



    I have used when listening to 99 Neo the Tera Player, Shanling M2s and Chord Hugo 2 DAC paired straight to my laptop.

    upload_2017-7-4_13-41-48.jpg

    upload_2017-7-4_13-41-48.jpg



    Sound impressions:



    Tera Player with 99 Neo paired sounds good with warm and detailed texture, with punchy bass. The soundstage is not as opened semi opened headphones but it does a good job for a closed back headphone at this price point. I suppose the high impedance of the Tera Player didn’t help too much in this test.



    A better pairing was with Shanling M2s. This player has enough power to drive 99 Neo load and clear. Mids are smooth and clear and both male and female vocals are well reproduced. I find this headphone to be a bit bright for my taste but the treble is detailed and extended. From my understanding Meze Audio recommend that the headphones need to be burned in for around 40 hours for the sound to open up and stabilize.



    Foreigner: To know what love is being a good example of male vocals, and the higher mids clarity. Isolation is better than average for this type of headphones and there was no sound leakage when playing music next to someone.

    upload_2017-7-4_13-41-48.jpg



    When using Chord Hugo 2 things started to improve dramatically especially the clarity and the micro details that this headphone is capable of when paired with high quality gear. Is a pair that i have enjoyed using, being listening to music or watching a movie. 99 Neo offers more than one can expect at this price point.

    I am glad that Meze Audio came along to decrease the gap between affordable good sounding headphone and expensive headphones.



    Final words and conclusion:



    Meze Audio created another fine headphone in 99 Neo. Is nearly up there with the 99 Classics flagship at a lower price. Once again has been proved that in the low end headphone market you can still get very good headphones, still affordable that sound more then they cost. You need to give them a try and hear yourself but at the retail price IMHO there is not much to ask for.
    Well done Meze Audio !

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    1. DSCN2415.JPG
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  8. SOULSIK
    Meze 99 Neo - All in one solution
    Written by SOULSIK
    Published May 21, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - style, fit, build quality, bass
    Cons - a bit recessed mids and highs
    VIDEO REVIEW :






    INTRODUCTION

    I have always been a fan of headphones with unique sound signature. A lot of you will agree with me on this, but sennheiser has been many’s favorite. I am afraid that changes today as I tried the 99 neo from a company called Meze. I’ve always thought sennheiser had great open back sound signatures but lacked in the closed back design but meze offers a closed back design with unique sound signature that I instantly fell in love with. Also, it is a much more affordable price. The best thing is that you can use these for both home & travel.

    ABOUT MEZE

    Meze is a Romanian audio company that has their values set right.

    Their values:

    Meze Headphones had stood by its values since the beginning of the company, we did not follow trends and let them influence the audio quality and design of our headphones. They are timeless objects that will not go out of style the next season. We achieved this through patience and dedication.

    And where there is values lies passion:

    Our passion for music and art is the drive behind Meze headphones. We created our range of headphones and earphones with this aspect in mind. We created them as if for ourselves.

    and their wood craftsman ship set above normal standards:

    The choice of wood is an inherently difficult one. Obtaining the desired qualities for wooden parts is a long and hard path. The rich colors of walnut require the use of air drying, the longer and more expensive process. Steam or kiln drying are cheaper techniques, but the colors tend to be washed out and there are also structural risks. It takes eighteen months for the wood to dry properly. This is the timeframe needed only for curing and drying the lumber before any further processing can begin. We are patient: we know that the result is worth the wait.

    Then, the process of shaping just a single pair of earcups takes up to 8 hours. The whole process of sanding, lacquering, and finishing lasts 45 days. We could cut corners, but we don’t sell ice cream. We fight time: this is the pride of the creator.
    The craftsmanship of our designs is paramount. It allows us to show the world our products almost exactly as imagined. The wooden components are carefully inspected and no flaws are permitted to reach the final assembly. Aesthetics are as important for us as they are for you. We want you to wear a pair of Meze Headphones and know that you are enjoying a timeless art piece.

    It is worth mentioning that all the wood that we use in our headphones is strictly harvested from sources with certificate of origin. That is, mature trees that have reached the end of their life cycle. This way, we are helping the environment and we're giving the old trees a chance to shine one more time in the shape of Meze Headphones.

    DISCLAIMER

    This review unit was sent to be by Meze as part of the headfi tour. As usual, all my reviews will stay honest and unbiased

    SPECS

    • 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

    THE BUILD QUALITY

    The build quality is incredible for the price and I have no complaints. Might as well skip this section if you are looking for anything but praise.

    The headphone is asymmetrical, allowing you to plug in the connectors any way you like it. Left & Right is irrelevant. This might seem like a small thing but it is extremely convenient in the long run.

    [​IMG]

    Meze also decided to magically make the headphones more comfortable and fit large types of head sizes be making the headphone adjustments “auto-adjustable,” with it stretching mechanism. There is nothing you need to do to get the perfect fit, Meze says “this is our job.” The headphone fit perfectly with great comfort and isolation. I felt like the headphones were customized for my head.

    [​IMG]

    Saying the cups are “plastic” is an understatement. These are high quality plastic that feels premium and rock solid.

    I do not understand how Meze can automatically find a way to make great stock cables when most companies out there cannot. With that being said, they do come with two cables, one longer cable for home use and one shorter one with control buttons for travel. The cables are braided up to the point of the splitters and then splits into a plastic/rubbery material that also do not feel cheap. I prefer this kind of mechanism (as long as it does not feel like cheap plastic/rubber) because it reduces the microphonic.

    The connectors are 3.5mm and terminates in a 3.5mm with a ¼ inch adaptor.
    The case that comes with the headphones is very nice and sturdy however, the headphones do not fit unless you unplug the connectors. They do include a separate case just for the cables but this is very inconvenient on the go and I would like to see a case where you do not need to unplug the connectors.
    The metal suspension seems sturdy and very solid. Although I felt like it was a little bit thin, I understand that the headphone needed to lose all the weight it can, for transportation use.

    [​IMG]

    The pads are also very soft and surprisingly comfortable despite its small size. I did find that the cups were a little bit too small and may not fit everyone’s ears perfectly “inside the cups”

    [​IMG]

    You want to talk about style. Let us talk about style. Hands down, my favorite looking headphones. Look at the picture and decide for yourself.

    [​IMG]

    SOUND QUALITY

    Lower Frequencies: I think the 99 Neo stands out in this frequency the most. Although it seems like the overall intent was for a balanced sound with emphasis on the bass, I found the bass to be not as tight as I wanted it to be, however this was after listening to other headphones that I’ve been reviewing and they are way above this price range. There is also sub-bass present and surprisingly very well presented. I would describe the bass to be punchy and even thumpy

    Mid Frequencies: I found this area to be a little bit recessed, especially the strings and vocals but it is not like it loses much detail. I believe this was also part of the sound signature that Meze was going for. Guitars and vocals are not as much as in your face but still presents itself with detail. Although clarity might be an issue here, I found it to be more and more pleasing as time passed by, listening to these headphones.

    High Frequencies: Not sibilant by any means, but also not that detailed. On the go, you wouldn’t here all the details anyways. However, there was nothing like “I hear stuff I never heard before,” it was plain old good treble that does not hurt your ears, it was much like the sennheiser HD6 - - series in this aspect.

    Sound Stage & Imaging: Obviously not the widest since these are a closed back design however, if you hear my demo, these are surprisingly good for a closed back design. I would say it gets close to the AKG 550 but not quite. Imaging is quite good, it is surprising what it can achieve in the small space it has, it is not a imaging of left and right but more towards up, down, left and right BUT in a closer /intimate way.

    Recommended song genres for the 99 Neo: Pop/Rock

    Overall Thoughts

    I’ve never seen a headphone so stylish that fits perfectly with such great sound. The sound signature offered by Meze is something special and something to enjoy for a long time without getting bored. I think for $250 USD, these are a steal and if you are looking for a ALL IN ONE SOLUTION for both home use and on the go, look no further, here it is.

    images

    1. 20170521_122004.jpg
    2. 20170521_122121.jpg
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  9. B9Scrambler
    Meze 99 Neo: Multifaceted Beauty
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Oct 21, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Visual appeal - Material and build quality - Long term comfort - Lush sound signature
    Cons - Bass can be bloomy - Headband transmits noise
    Greetings!

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

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

    Let's take a closer look!

    Disclaimer:

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

    Source:

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

    Personal Preferences:

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

    Specifications:
    • Driver: 40mm
    • Frequency Response: 15Hz – 25kHz
    • Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
    • Impedance: 26ohm
    • Rated Input Power: 30mW
    • Maximum Input Power: 50mW
    • Weight: 260g (9.2oz) without cables
    IMG_4030_Signature.jpg IMG_4031_Signature.jpg IMG_4047_Signature.jpg

    Packaging and Accessories:

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

    CLASSICS SERIES

    MEZE 99 NEO

    DESIGNED BY ANTONIO MEZE​

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

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

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

    IMG_4009_Signature.jpg IMG_4039_Signature.jpg IMG_4040_Signature.jpg

    Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

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

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

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

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

    IMG_4115_Signature.jpg IMG_4010_Signature.jpg IMG_4073_Signature.jpg

    Sound:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    IMG_4172_Signature(1).jpg IMG_4067_Signature.jpg IMG_4083_Signature.jpg

    Select Comparisons: All were used with their stock pads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Final Thoughts:

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

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

    Thanks for reading!

    - B9Scrambler

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

    Some Test Tunes:

    Aesop Rock - Skelethon (Album)
    Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (Album)
    Elton John - Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
    King Crimson - Lark's Tongues in Aspic (Album)
    King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black (Track)
    Supertramp - Crime of the Century (Album)
    Infected Mushroom - Converting Vegetarians (Album)
    Infected Mushroom - Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
    Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (Album)
    Massive Attack - Mezzanine (Album)
    Fleetwood Mac - Rumors (Album)
    Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels (Album)
    The Prodigy - The Day is My Enemy (Album)
    Tobacco - F****d Up Friends (Album)
    Felt - Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)
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  10. jinxy245
    Audio Candy
    Written by jinxy245
    Published Nov 17, 2017
    3.5/5,
    Pros - easily driven by portables; smooth sound signature; forgiving with poor recordings; addictive bass
    Cons - noise prone frame; lack of micro details; mids a bit too thick; overzealous bass
    In early 2016, I had the pleasure of participating in the Meze 99 Classic tour. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. A new release from a relatively unknown company that sounded that good was impressive, not just to me but to many of those who had the pleasure of hearing them. When I heard that Meze had planned to release a less expensive version, ($249 USD MSRP, and an advertised $50 discount for Black Friday 2017) I was excited to sign up for the Neo tour. To see how the 99 Neo stacks up to its more famous older brother, read on.

    upload_2017-11-17_19-1-18.jpeg

    I found the 99 Classics to be a beautifully designed headphone, and the 99 Neo doesn’t fall far from that mark. Where the Classics had wooden earcups (Walnut is all that is offered on their website currently with either silver or gold trim) the Neo is listed as having “coal black textured earcups” made of ABS plastic, but I personally find them to be solidly built and no less attractive.

    upload_2017-11-17_19-1-59.jpeg

    The rest of the build is (from memory) all but identical to the 99 Classics, and the website states “As the Neo shares the DNA of the Classics, we guarantee that the 99's are serviceable if any parts ever need to be replaced.”

    Comfort wise, the Neo feels exactly how I remember the Classics to be, which is to say very comfortable (in fact the larger pads provided are even more so). The weight (260 gr or 9.2 ounces without cables) is very well distributed with no hot spots noted and the clamping pressure never caused me any discomfort (larger heads may have different results).

    There has been much discussion (here and elsewhere) about the earpads, so I’ll put a bit of my 2 cents in here. When the Classics were 1st released, there was much ado about the size of the earpads. Many felt that they were too small and uncomfortable (I and a minority of others had less of a problem with them). Meze, being the responsive company that they are had issued a couple of different pads to counter this, eventually settling on the size that is offered with the 99 Neo here. Since Tyll from Innerfidelity reviewed the Neo, there has been even more of a kerfuffle around how they affect the sound. I’ll leave my sound impressions for the appropriate section, but comfort wise, these earpads certainly fit the bill for me. Plush, fairly roomy, and made from medium density memory foam, I have no real complaints with the comfort these pads provide (of course YMMV, yadda yadda…).

    upload_2017-11-17_19-2-42.jpeg

    Accessories are very good for this price range. 1st off, there is a useful & sturdy carry case which is a decent size for throwing into a backpack without taking up too much room. The case could be smaller, but like the Classics, the Neo doesn’t fold flat. My major criticism is that you have to unplug the cable to fit the Neo into the case. Although the review unit came with a 10ft long cable more suited for desktop or living room listening, the Neo is only shipped with a 4’ cable best used portably, but long enough if you sit close to your computer. That cable has an inline button remote which is said to be compatible with Smartphones and Android capable DAPs, but I didn’t get the chance to test this myself. The headphones themselves are symmetrical, so the only way to tell the left from the right is the white on silver writing on the connections, which I found to be difficult to read without glasses.

    upload_2017-11-17_19-7-30.jpeg

    Rounding off the accessories is a 1/8” x ¼” adapter, as well as an airplane adapter.


    upload_2017-11-17_19-3-13.jpeg


    Before I offer my listening impressions, I’ll start with a little about myself. I’m 50 years old and have less than perfect hearing. I’ve been a music lover for as long as I can remember, and I learned to listen a little more critically during the few years I sold audio equipment (and I continue to learn the more I listen). My fascination/infatuation with headphones began about 5 years ago, and has only gotten stronger. The majority of my listening was done listening to FLAC, WAV & various MP3s with my Shanling M2 (1st gen), Fiio x3 (1st gen.) or through my HP all in one PC and Audioquest Dragonfly(V1.2). My tastes are fairly eclectic, but my listening centered on classic rock, folk, jazz, classical and some of the genres of EDM. I didn’t bother with burning in the headphones since this is a review pair and probably already have a few hundred hours on them, nor did I hear any difference throughout my evaluation.

    Isolation is about average for a closed back headphone, muting outside noise but not totally blocking it out. Even with music playing at reasonable volumes, some sound can intrude .The metal frame I found to be highly microphonic, noisily clanging whenever knocked against just about any object. The cable seems to be improved from the Classics in that regard; I experienced less microphonics than I remember with the Neo’s older brother. The Meze is incredibly easy to drive, reaching deafening volumes with any source I tried, but they did scale up with better sources.

    I’d describe the Neo as a lush and warm headphone. It’s not the most resolving headphone by a long shot but it is enjoyable to listen to nonetheless. It throws a fairly wide and deep soundstage for a closed back can, which I find particularly impressive in this price range.

    The bass on the Neo is pretty far north of neutral. Since the emphasis is more on the mid bass, I wouldn’t call these basshead cans. In fact there does deem to be bass roll off starting in the neighborhood of 50Hz. The lowest notes are audible, however they aren’t presented with authority. The quantity of bass can be problematic as it does bleed into the lower midrange, and it’s not the most detailed bass either. While not as crude as ‘one note bass’, upright bass can sound smeared and indistinct if the recording isn’t up to snuff. To spite all that, I found the presentation is pleasant, if not downright addictive. I doubt that the lack of nuances would be noticed by the majority of listeners, and most will enjoy the extra boom the Neo brings.

    The midrange is present and has good clarity overall. The biggest problem here is a slight ‘cupped hands’ resonance with certain voices, which is further evidence of the pumped up bass. It’s most obvious with male vocals, but it’s not a glaring problem and is fairly track dependent. There is little to no problem with sibilance or other upper midrange anomalies, so guitars and such sound natural with a good amount of bite, without glare or fatigue.

    The treble isn’t horribly rolled off, but I wouldn’t call it airy and extended either. There does seem to be a dip between 5 & 8K, but I found that to be pleasant and not ‘sucked out’ but rather smooth. Occasionally some of the more delicate cymbal work and other audio markers can get lost in the mix, but that is track (and age) dependent, I think. If you’re a fan of shimmer and sparkle, these won’t likely scratch your itch, but in the other direction all but the most treble sensitive would likely find these to be a satisfying headphone. The highs can be a tad coarse in ‘texture’ on some recordings, but again it’s never piercing, and it’s not horribly egregious.

    As I alluded to before, I feel any review I did would be incomplete without touching a bit more on how the earpads affect the sound. When Tyll from Innerfidelity reviewed the Neo, he concluded that “the sound is more colored and uneven” with the newer pads and that Meze had “gone backwards with these pads”. Anyone who hears the original 99 Classics & the 99 Neo will notice the difference in the bass right away. Even from memory, the difference was pretty stark. Personally, I’m not nearly as critical of the sound of the Neo. Is it a reference quality headphone? No…no it’s not. Nor was it intended to be, unless I miss my guess. Tyll is absolutely correct (IMO) that the Neo comes off as “colored & uneven”. This is a take on a ‘fun’ sound signature, and fun it is. There are always tradeoffs when designing headphones, and Meze made their choices.

    I couldn’t help but be curious how much the sound would change with a little pad rolling, so I did experiment a little. The closest pads I have on hand to the original Classics pads would be the stock AT M40X pads.

    upload_2017-11-17_19-15-31.jpeg

    The plastic lip on the rear of the pads are a little different in size compared to the Neo, so it was a bit of a PITA to get the pads on properly, but once I did, the Neo did come much closer in sound (from memory) to the original Classics. The Neo retained most of its bass slam, but there was less bass bleed into the mids. Clarity overall was improved, and a bit more air and definition was added to the treble. It didn’t work miracles, no sub bass was gained, and the bass was still on the loose side, but it was very similar from memory to the 99 Classics with the original pads. The other thing it had in common with the original pads was, yes, the comfort. Every complaint lodged against the original pads would apply here as well. It wasn’t unwearable to me, but others with larger (or different shaped) ears would likely have a problem. The newer pads are indeed more plush and roomy, and for many that could be a deal breaker. What a difference a pad makes.

    I have to stress that to spite all its flaws I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the 99 Neo. I was fairly critical of the Neo in my review because if you look (or listen) from a ‘reference sound’ perspective, this headphone falls short on several points. However, if you’re looking for a smooth bass enhanced sound signature that’s definitely more on the ‘fun’ side of the audio equation, The Meze 99 Neo is hard to beat. It is like audio candy for me. It's great every now & then, and satisfies a craving but I wouldn't really want it as a steady diet. Imperfect or not, I smiled many times while using the 99 Neo. In the end, that’s what many of listen to music for anyway
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