Meze 99 Neo

Rating:
4.19355/5,
Tags:
  1. swspiers
    Solid and fun headphones for casual listening
    Written by swspiers
    Published Sep 22, 2017
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Good build quality.
    Excellent bass quantity.
    Easy to drive.
    Cons - Bass bleeds all over the mids.
    Far from neutral.
    Lacking detail and nuance.
    About 25 years ago, I had this horrible set of Pioneer 4-Way speakers. Not the wonderful ones built in Japan with premium drivers and accurate crossovers. Nope, these were the kind of speakers you find at garage sales with cheap the near peeling off the edges, along with Cerwin Vega and old JBL’s. As much as I can criticize them, I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a stereo as much as I enjoyed ‘em hooked up to an early nineties Yamaha stereo receiver. I have since moved on to much more accurate, expensive, and well-built equipment. But to be totally honest, listening with the Pioneers was just flipping fun.

    Nowadays my tastes have matured, and my headphone collection includes the Alpha Primes and the Sennheiser HD-800S’s. My search for neutrality has paid dividends, and my music collection is an eclectic blend of Stoner/Doom, Prog, World Music, Jazz and Classical. I have no complaints about my gear. However, I still remember the headbanging fun of those old speakers, and no matter how good my current headphones are, they don’t scratch that particular itch.

    Enter the Meze Neo 99’s.

    I tried the Classics when they were part of the tour about a year and a half ago, and reading my notes as well as my review clarified my memory of the experience. I loved those headphones, and gave them a solid four-star rating. I recently decided to reward myself with my first set of new headphones in a long, long time. Reading the reviews and thread comments confirmed my suspicion that the Neo 99’s might bring me even closer to the Pioneer experience. To make this review really, really short: I was right.

    You may notice that I am rating these headphones with a rather harsh three-stars. They simply do not have the clarity and detail of the Classics, at least not compared to the notes I took. For instance, the bass bleeds all over the mids, obscuring fine details. The most recent album by Argus is a good example of what I mean...

    “From Fields of Fire” is one of the best traditional or classic metal albums I’ve heard in years. The recording is exceptional, and the performance by the musicians is pretty strong. When I listen with the Neo 99’s, all of the emotional impact remains in the recording, but the tonal properties of the guitars, and especially the bass guitar, are severely lacking. Comparing the exact same recording on the exact same equipment with my venerable Grado SR-250i’s, the detail embedded in the recording was nothing short of remarkable. The sonic character of the bass as well as the drums were as if from an entirely different recording, and I heard the same thing with every other headphone that I own.

    Returning to the Neo’s, the fine detail, my reason for using headphones in the first place, was all but absent. This was also apparent in the vocals, guitars, and cymbal work of the drummer. Even the bass drum presence was limited to a lively ‘thud’. As a transducer, the Neo 99’s are simply not accurate instruments revealing the subtle, and even not-so-subtle, details of the recording. But for that matter, neither were ancient Pioneer 4-Ways sold at Circuit City and the Good Guys in the 80’s and 90’s. And the more I grow in this hobby, the more convinced I am that we should all have some Pioneer/Cerwin Vega/JBL speakers in our lives. Because the truth is, when I listen to anything heavy with my other cans and IEM’s, I always seem to reach for the Neo’s to hear if they give me that extra something I crave, and they usually do. I’m just not fooling myself into believing they are anything but what they are: good headphones at a competitive price that sacrifice detail for impact.

    I’m totally okay with that!
      rafaelo and Bansaku like this.
  2. 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.

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    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.

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    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…).

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    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.

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


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    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.

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    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
      rafaelo and Pharmaboy like this.
  3. 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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      MezeTeam likes this.
  4. 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)

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    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.
      MezeTeam likes this.
  5. Mark Up
    This Is Good Progress
    Written by Mark Up
    Published Oct 25, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Quality Build, Fun & Honest Sound, Amazing Treble
    Cons - Still Tight On Large Heads, Ears Can Touch Drivers
    Meze 99 Neo
    I've reviewed their Classic, and appreciate Meze letting me review this model. Stay tuned for comparisons.

    Background
    I'm a lifelong musician, live and studio sound engineer, always with heavy duty earplugs. Often the only one in my band wearing them, but then, I've retained my unusually sensitive hearing because of it. I've tried too many headphones and in-ears to list. I'll refer to what I've tried where it's relevant in the review, to keep it simple. I've got some I'm happy with now, but I'm never tired of trying new things, so it brought me to these headphones.

    What I Look For
    I prefer warmer headphones, full lower mids, flat mids, reduced high mids. More than a moderate mid bass bump bothers me, and sub bass rarely extends low enough in most quality cans I'll try. I'll say "quality" since there are plenty that are explosive down there, but often at the expense of everything else. Some have said you can't have all frequencies well represented, but enough come close to this, so I know this can be done.

    Common Issues
    Fit has had me reject 80% of what I've tried. I much prefer over-ear. It's hard enough to get an over-ear to go over your ears (Senn. Momentum 1 for example and Momentum 2 isn't much better). My ears are fairly flat but learger around, proportional to being 6'5". My head is also, triple X hat size. Most companies could fit larger heads, with just an inch more band extension, but only some seem to take that into consideration.

    Design and Comfort
    These arrived well package and designed. Nice solid case and aesthetics. Very light yet sturdy. The plastic replacing the Classic's wood is sturdy, and not inclined to fingerprints. Still, I'm more into the sound aspect (and the fit, naturally). The band auto-fits easily, though like many w/ this style on me, they tend to contract when worn and have to be pulled back down sometimes. The design seems to allow some flex to fit better.

    Fully extended they reach my ears but press on the top of my head. The pressure at the top of the cups that I had with the Classic is not there now. You'll see in pictures I slipped the band on top of the metal hoops to make more room. Pads are better, still not quite deep enough. As pictured, I'd put on Audio Technica MSR7 pads, perfect fit perfect, more space for ears, and sound. I'll go into that in more detail further into my review.

    Sound Quality and Ideas
    A bit warmer vs Classics and I prefer that. That Meze treble magic that no other company has pulled off. Clarity without any lack of detail, yet no audible peaks and no fatigue, even for one as sensitive to treble as me. This is their strongest point. There is still a bit of mid-fi quality, but that's not a bad thing. For their price, they are among the best. Many long for a "closed HD650 (now 660s) with more bass and air" and these are that.

    The high mids are just right, blending with the highs perfectly. Another big win. The true mids (roughly 500 hz to 2 khz) are close to flat but with a pleasing bit of low mid warmth the Classic didn't quite have making them enjoyable, without a hard sound, yet you feel like you are missing nothing. Like the highs, they do this better than almost everyone else I've heard. A sound you can trust for accuracy, but is easy on the ears. Nice work.

    The lower mids are not lacking, the Classic did a bit. There is a bit of a buildup here, and in the higher bass, evident on some recordings. That bugs me. My headphone earpad swap (to AT MSR7 pads) got rid of that as they added spaciousness, treble detail (without fatigue) and no loss of bass (rare with a pad swap) or maybe even a touch more sub bass. Low mids are a 6-7 stock, and a 9-10 with the MSR7 pads. Yes, it's that good.

    Mid bass is nice with the right amount of boost. It has a bit more than the Classic, but till within an ideal range. Not for purists and not the "fastest" thing, but very pleasing. The fun goes lower (to my ear at least) than the Classic that rolled off under 40 hz. These don't roll off until under 30 hz with useful sub info at / below 20 hz. Graphs don't show this improvement though, in fact they show the Classic with the same or more extension.

    How They Make This Better
    Consider an easily removable pleather padded band vs. what is clamped on, as larger head folk like me can get by with just the outer metal hoop wires. They can be gently bent to fit even better. Their light weight, even lighter without that band, means no padding is no problem when the weight is spread out, with those two flat bands, which could always be wrapped in some thin padding, if needed. That would not be any issue for me.

    Meze, please consider buying Audio Technica MSR7 pads. Test them, and develop your next pad based on that. They slip into the groove and fit perfectly. Images show the same depth - but the less rolled off interior means it helps the cups sit a bit farther out to fit ears better. The better stereo depth and width, cleaning up low mids / mid bass, no loss of subs and better treble clarity (with no extra treble level) is a worthwhile goal.

    A word on the Audio Technica MSR7 ear pads. These are not as comfortable as the Meze stock pads which are amazingly soft. That firmness allows them to stay a bit farther out, giving you that space. The MSR7 pads ARE still very comfortable, it's just that the stock pads can spoil you, as they are among the most soft and compliant pads I've felt. So you won't feel uncomfortable, you just won't have the super pillow stock pads on them.

    Additionally, that firmness can cause the clamp to increase, if you have a large head and the clamp bothers you, you will find it increases with these pads since they don't compress as much. I'm already to where they are a little too small for my head so that did make it worse. If I did a "big head mod" and removed the band to just leave the outer rings, this will not be an issue and I'm considering buying these and doing just that with these.

    Meze 1.JPG Meze 2.JPG Meze 3.JPG Meze 4.JPG

    Mid December EDIT / Update for Brand New Pair

    I need to add an update / edit to my review and on every Meze post, where I had said something in particular. The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 pads, which worked a miracle on the Sony MDR-1A, did change the sound of these headphones a bit. The test pair I had had a bit of a lower mid to high bass resonance build up that these tamed. I think that's what also bothered Tyll and others. They still do that, and if you want that area cleared up a bit these do it. They don't increase treble or decrease the sub bass, but the mids are every so slightly more recessed (true mids, 500 to 2 khz), the high mids aren't changed. I ordered a brand new pair. Not this may be because of slight quality improvements but these new Meze 99 Neo were best stock. Right out of the box, no burn in. The MSR7 pads had the above minor effect, but it is no longer needed, high bass and low mids had no excess to me, and true mids were full and as accurate, as do I prefer. I can't say these are the best in my collection, as each as a purpose, but they are now my favorite sounding all-rounder. My EMU Teak and my Sony MDR-1A are a bit more extended on both ends of the spectrum but don't have quite the stereo magic and gets a bit fatiguing on some songs with that. My Sony MDR-Z7 has slightly more soundstage / warmth.

    My Samson Z55 is a bit more flat / accurate. These still do treble better than any headphone I have ever heard. As easy on the ears as Senn HD650 but not 'veiled'. It you want a closed option - with a bit better imaging, more sub bass and more detail without any harshness, get these. I don't feel I lose any detail v. brighter phones I've heard, all the way up to the brightest and most expensive tested (the Focal Utopia or Sennheiser HSD800 / 700). Mids are absolutely perfect. Nothing missing, but no hot spots in true mids as Sony MDR-Z7 had before it was modded, and still can have occasionally, as some Planars can have. Even very neutral Samson Z55 is slightly north of what I'd like in that area vs. these. Without a high bass, low mid issue, I can't find a frequency area on it I'd want to change even with EQ if I tried to (I mix and master lots of music, I can usually find something). I'd maybe add 1 db at 10-20 hz (yes - I can hear that low), and that is it. Maybe 1/2 db less mid bass. If they did a slight tweak in design or quality control that caused this keep doing it. These are the BEST headphones under $250, period. I'd say even under $500. Open or closed. Being free of resonances and so spacious sounding, you don't need them open to to get that kind of width in their sound.
      sepukku and Bansaku like this.
  6. Currawong
    Good sound and great looks and comfort
    Written by Currawong
    Published Oct 9, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Very comfortable and stylish with an instant, easy fit. Easy to drive. Very good sound for relaxing listening or modern music.
    Cons - Less great with acoustic and classical. Non-folding cups make them bulky for portable use. Cable is a bit noisy. Earpads can get a bit sweaty.


    A few years ago a company from Romania caught my attention with some wood headphones that had attracted a few members. They quickly spotted that they were a rebrand of some Chinese wood headphones and nothing much came from it. However in the intervening few years after that initial bad start, Antonio Meze was hard at work on making a pair of well-designed, good sounding, and most of all, unique headphones. The result of his toil were the Meze 99 Classics, which are now joined by the black 99 Neo being reviewed here.

    The down-side to the design is that the cups don't fold flat, so along with the large arcs, once cased in the simple, but suitably solid included case, they aren't as portable as might be ideal and they are really going to stick out if used on public transport.

    Meze_99_Neo-D75_8013_.jpg

    The cables for the headphones are dual-entry using very thin 3.5mm TS plugs.. The standard cable, which is very long, terminates in a 3.5mm plug which can be adapted to 6.5mm with the included adaptor. A 3.5mm 3.5mm TRRS cable with an inline mic and play/pause buttons for smart phones is also included.

    Uniquely the headphones themselves don't have left and right cups, but are entirely symmetrical, so it doesn't matter which cup which plug is inserted. To determine left and right, the plugs themselves are marked, the left plug also having a protruding ring, making it easy to feel which side is left simply by touching the plug. This cable, due to the un-damped wooden cups can transmit some noise when rubbed, though I didn't find it a serious problem. Some people with noisy clothes might find it a bit of an issue, however.

    Overall, the simplicity of the design has resulted in great ergonomics and a light and comfortable pair of headphones that are also very attractive.

    Compared to the 99 Classics, the 99 Neo supports black plastic cups with a leather-like pattern, and silver-colored metal parts in place of those which were gold-colored on the 99 Classics. This naturally makes for a very attractive pair of headphones.

    The result of using plastic cups has two consequences: The first is that the 99 Neo are cheaper, Amazon.com showing $249 versus $309 for the 99 Classics. That's a 20% saving.

    The second is that a different cup material means different resonances and a possible change in sound. It was this which I wished to investigate.

    Meze_99_Neo-D75_8001_.jpg

    By default, both pairs of headphones have something of a warm-of-neutral sound, with a slightly, but not too forgiving treble, and moderately boosted bass. This is something I call a "consumer" tuning, as it mates well with modern, popular music.

    It also works well with older pop music that has been mastered in a way that lacks bass somewhat, as it boosts that region. Where it doesn't work as well is with classical and similar acoustic recordings, where the greater "air" of brighter headphones makes for a better match.

    While I wouldn't call the 99 Neo detailed, I wouldn't call it congested either, as the bass through to the treble is reasonably precise, with enough detail, even directly out of my iPhone 6, that I was capable of enjoying listening with them using some of the more modern music that I like.

    The sense of soundstage and instrument separation is also quite good for this price bracket, with again, only the slightly muted treble taking away from that on acoustic recordings.

    That being said, for fun I tried them out of Chord's Hugo 2 after using them out of my iPhone, and while the Hugo 2 sounded more natural, the 99 Neo wasn't going to show anything like how much of a jump in resolution the better hardware was capable of delivering.

    Meze_99_Neo-D75_7998_.jpg

    Comparing to the original 99 Classic was a bit trickier. For the most part, they were more similar than different, the sound of the original having a slightly nicer presentation, as sound reverberating off wood does. It wasn't, however, a big difference, and one I don't feel the need to go into detail over.

    The biggest difference is that the 99 Neo is cheaper, with Amazon.com showing a price of $249 versus $309 for the Classic. That means for a 20% saving, if you don't mind forgoing the wood, you can get pretty much the same pair of headphones.

    I wish these had been available back in 2007 when I started in the hobby, as these would have been the perfect pair of headphones for me at the time. Once again I reckon Antonio Meze has made a good pair of headphones for the average listener who wants something stylish and good-sounding.

    Meze_99_Neo-D75_8011_.jpg
      Bansaku and swspiers like this.
  7. peter1480
    Stylish neo 99
    Written by peter1480
    Published Sep 18, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Good looking
    Very good build quality
    Clean smooth sound
    Cons - Bit bas heavy with some music
    Sound stage not quite as wide as with the classics
    Limited re cable options
    20170918_130925.jpg


    Thank you to Meze for the loan of these headphones.


    My ears are 55 years old and so not perfect, I listen to a combination of high res files on portable daps and a high end home system.


    I am a Maze Classic owner and was intrigued to see what this cheaper variant had to offer. Comfort is very good and the ear pads are just the right density to give a good fit but keep your ears at the right distance from the speaker. As with all closed back phones your ears will get hot after prolonged use. Isolation is quite good bit loud outside noise can be heard over quite music, there is very little sound leakage.



    With classical music they perform well with restrained uppers, clear mids and warm base. With rock music they can be confused by sustained base complex base but vocals work well and treble is sweet with no tinny cymbals. Sound stage is quite wide and has a sense of depth and appears well layered.



    With the stock cable on SE out the Fiio x7ii drives them to good volume, switching to balanced adds more volume and a greater sense of depth.

    Used with a Schiit Mjolnir 2, they really sing especially with good NOS valves.



    In conclusion if you’re looking for a good well-made set of phones for general listening you cannot go far wrong with these. Go out and audition a pair today to see if they suit your hearing and equipment!
      Bansaku and swspiers like this.
  8. crabdog
    Stomping good fun in an impeccable form factor
    Written by crabdog
    Published Sep 17, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Gorgeous aesthetics. Lightweight and comfortable. Value for money.
    Cons - Bass can be a little boisterous.
    DSC_0204.jpg

    Disclaimer

    This sample was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. I'm not affiliated with the company in any way and all observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.

    The Meze 99 Neo is currently priced at $249 and can be purchased from the company's website: https://www.mezeaudio.com/

    Like most people on this type of site I'm a lover of music. In my younger days I spent several years as a hip-hop DJ (using real vinyl and turntables) as well as producing a variety of music on computer using a combination of MIDI and live instruments. I did a Home Studio Sound Certificate at the Milton School of Audio Engineering in Brisbane, Queensland which covered the setup of audio for playback and recording in a studio environment along with other basic engineering principles. Nowadays I prefer to simply listen to and enjoy music.

    My taste in music has changed a great deal over the years. For a long time my only interest was in rap and hip-hop music. Now though I listen to all kinds of music including jazz, classical, rock, psytrance, folk and ambient. I listen to music everyday using portable gear consisting of a DAP and mostly IEMs or simple desktop setup consisting of a laptop and DAC at work and my desktop setup at home which is based around my PC or Shinrico D3S with a DAC, often but not always including a tube amp and full-sized headphones or speakers.

    My preferred sound signature is fairly balanced with slightly elevated mid-bass and deep well-extended sub-bass, clear and resolving midrange with a touch of warmth and clean, airy treble. I'm not offended by brighter sounding gear but dislike any sibilance. The majority of my music is 16/44.1 flac files as I stopped using physical media (CD/vinyl) many years ago and prefer the convenience of digital formats.

    Packaging and accessories

    The Neo arrived in a high quality, light gray cardboard box with a partial image of the headphone on the front. The box is sealed by a magnet and when opened reveals the hard carrying case inside, nestled among some black protective foam.

    Opening up the case presents you with the headphone and a hockey puck-shaped zippered case which contains the cable and two adapters (x1 airline, x1 3.5 mm to 6.35 mm). The hard case is a great addition and is perfect for protecting your headphone when not in use or during transport.

    DSC_0018.jpg DSC_0074.jpg DSC_0077.jpg DSC_0080.jpg

    The included cable is nice and a perfect length for desktop use while still being practical enough for portability. The lower section has a braided material covering and above the Y-split it changes to a rubberized sheathing. At the top end are the two 3.5 mm plugs that connect to either side of the headphone. A small feature that goes to show Meze really does pay attention to detail is the slight raised ridge on the left cable plug where most manufacturers opt to make both sides identical.

    DSC_0207.jpg

    On the left side is the metal in-line microphone and rubberized single button controller. The button has a nice tactile click to it and feels quite durable. Finally the cable terminates in a straight metal, 3.5 mm plug.

    DSC_0206.jpg DSC_0205.jpg

    Build, comfort and isolation

    Onto the headphone itself now and this is where so much of the Neo's appeal comes from, in its sublime form and design. Simplicity is key in this aspect and it lends an effortless elegance to the Neo's appearance. The basis of the frame consists of a double sided manganese spring steel arch which is lightweight yet very sturdy. Connected to this is the self adjusting headband that's screwed in to the lower section. This particular headband is a wide pleather with "99 NEO" embossed on the top side. There's very little down force to it which is a good part of the reason this headphone is so comfortable but the fit feels really secure and sits firmly in place, even when you're moving about.

    DSC_0197.jpg DSC_0007.jpg

    Meze have cleverly forgone the usual clasp that secures the metal arch and instead connected it directly to the earcups. This time around, gone are the wooden earcups and they've been replaced by charcoal black ABS plastic. The earcups have a slightly textured matte finish, look great and at the same time very robust. Lastly the earpads are a medium density memory foam that softly hug your dome and have enough space inside to accommodate even large ears.

    DSC_0198.jpg DSC_0011.jpg DSC_0201.jpg DSC_0202.jpg DSC_0209.jpg DSC_0210.jpg

    Comfort is excellent with the soft pads and light clamping force and I can easily wear the Neo for hours on end without discomfort. The closed backs mean that your ears might get a bit hot but hey, closed back headphones are always going to be like that. The wide, well padded headband and low down-force add again to the comfort.

    Isolation is pretty good too as you'd expect with closed backs and there's really not much more to say about that. While I personally prefer to use in-ears on the go the Neo is also well suited to the task and there's enough isolation given to use it in most scenarios without issue.

    Sound

    Gear used for testing
    • Acoustic Research AR-M20 > 99 Neo
    • ATC HDA-DP20 > Phatlab Sassy II > 99 Neo
    • Foobar2000 > Topping DX7 > 99 Neo
    The Neo does not require amplification as it's super easy to drive with an impedance of just 26 Ohm. It can be paired with almost any low powered device but as always, a better DAC will usually provide superior overall sound. Due to the warm nature of the headphone I'd recommend a neutral source to get the best results.

    I never had an opportunity to hear the 99 Classic so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the Neo. I was pretty certain they'd be good considering the coverage, awards and hype that had surrounded the Classic. My first listen gave me something very different from what I was anticipating. I thought it was going to be a very "audiophile" tuned sound, rather linear, perhaps even close to neutral with a clean, tight bass, loads of detail and resolution etc. Imagine my surprise when I heard the accentuated, meaty bass and warm overtones. "Wait a second" I thought... This is tuned for fun. It's built to be emotive, to make you forget that you intended to do some critical listening and instead draw you in and lose yourself to the music. These things are designed for pleasure plain and simple.

    Bass has a healthy boost taking it way north of neutral. It has a slow attack, giving bass notes a soft edge and similarly the somewhat slow decay adds to the rounded effect. At times it even seems a bit loose but that's not necessarily a bad thing although on occasion it does mean that some detail in the music gets lost. There's a definite mid-bass hump that carries over into the lower mids and adds to the overall warmth. Sub-bass in contrast is quite tame in tonal balance but can still provide a satisfying rumble. It extends fairly well but does roll-off a little and plays second fiddle to the mid-bass dominance.

    Midrange is lush and organic, very musical and not in the least bit dry or analytical. In "New Horizon" by The Gentle Storm the mids occasionally struggle for a foothold and are suppressed by the thick drums. In Loreena Mckennitt's "Emmanuel" however, the Neo shines on this vocal and strings based track, its warmth smoothing Loreena's high notes and bringing out the rich resonance of the classical backing strings. An album that's a great match for the Neo's properties is Language of the Ancients by S1gns of L1fe, with it's soothing, ambient sounds and hypnotic bass lines.

    Treble is unremarkable but only because it plays a lesser role in the overall warm tuning. Timbre is accurate and the extension is there, it's just that the treble doesn't have much prominence. It does make the Neo easy to listen to and should appeal to the treble sensitive. Listening to Utada Hikaru's "Traveling" the track's inherent sibilance can still be heard, so the treble is not artificially smoothed over but rather sits at the back of the mix. Still in Bill Withers' "Soul Shadows" the hi-hats have a great lift and come out to play throughout the whole track.

    Soundstage is above average for a closed back headphone. There are plenty of times when it can reach outside of the headspace, generally in music with lighter bass this becomes more evident. Depth though is very good and the imaging is excellent. Positional cues are accurate and defining in the large sized sphere portrayed which provide the added bonus of making the Neo good for some first person gaming as well.

    DSC_0092.jpg

    Comparisons

    Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro 250 Ohm ($179 USD)
    The DT990 is well known for its strong V-shaped signature so it has similarly boosted bass levels but also has a lot more treble as well. It's more resolving than the Neo and reveals more small details but can get a little strident or overenthusiastic on the high frequencies. The DT990's bass notes are more defined and controlled bringing more punch where the Neo brings the thump. Both headphones are exceptionally comfortable and well worth their respective prices.

    Ultrasone Performance 860 ($362 USD)
    The 860 is much more linear across the board so offers a very different sound compared to the Neo. Bass is tighter and faster without any of the same boomy properties found on the Meze. Midrange in comparison is a lot thinner and less lush than the Neo's. The treble is where these two have the most in common, being neutral-ish on both. The 860 reveals more details in music but presents itself in a more clinical and less emotive manner compared to the "fun" tuning of the Neo.

    DSC_0023.jpg

    Conclusion

    The Meze 99 Neo is more than just a good sounding headphone. The look and feel of it combined with the sound provided all add up to make it an experience that's quite unique. If you're a fan of attention to detail and subtle elegance you'll get a kick out of how well this headphone is designed. However those looking for neutrality should seek other options. Sure it might not provide the best audio quality out there but you have to keep in mind the very affordable $249 price tag which ultimately makes this a very easy recommendation for anyone looking for something comfortable, stylish and downright fun to listen to.

    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
      rafaelo, Bansaku and B9Scrambler like this.
  9. kman1211
    An excellent and attractive portable closed-back!
    Written by kman1211
    Published Sep 7, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Attractive styling, good build quality, pleasing non-fatiguing sound, good comfort, and very efficient.
    Cons - Sound isn't as smooth and balanced as the Classics. Slight closed-back effect to the sound.
    Disclaimer: This is a review of a review unit of the Meze 99 Neo's.

    Meze 99 Neo Review

    unnamed (1).jpg

    The Meze 99 Neo is quite and attractive looking headphone that actually sounds quite nice as well. It's an excellent choice for a portable headphone and is best suited for electronic, energetic, and modern music genres as it has a slightly v-shaped sound in my honest opinion. I had two other headphones to compare the Neo's with, but not going to directly compare them much sound wise as the other two are open-backs and much more expensive than the Neo's but I will draw some comparisons between them. About my sound preferences, I personally lean towards more neutral headphones or slightly warm headphones overall as I have a very eclectic taste in music and like my headphones to play well with most any genre.

    The specs of the headphones:
    26 Ohm impedance
    Sensitivity of 103dB at 1kHz, 1mw
    Rated input power of 30mw
    Max input power at 50mw
    Weight without cable is 260g

    Comfort & Build
    The Meze 99 Neo is quite a comfortable headphone to my head, the headband mechanism is an auto-adjustable system similar to what is found on AKG headphones and headphones such as the Audioquest Nighthawk/Nightowl. The earpads have been notably changed from the original earpads found in the early Meze 99 Classics, earpads which I found too small and uncomfortable, the larger earpads are definitely a good design change on the Meze teams part even if it does change the sound signature a bit. I can wear the new earpads for hours without much discomfort, though some readjusting at times is needed for me so the Neo's get an B+ rating from me on comfort.

    Build quality is something where the Neo's really shine in just like in the Classics, the heavily modular design, large amounts of metal, robust ABS plastic earcups, and a design that feels like it was made with longevity and durability in mind gives this headphone high marks for me. The cable also feels nice and I didn't really have any complaints with it on my usage of the headphone. This headphones gets an A+ in build for me at it's price range. The feel of quality of the build is closer to my Amiron Home and below the DT 1990 Pro. Next I am going to talk about the sound of the headphone. The ABS plastic earcups while not as pretty as the wooden ones on the Classics to my ears I feel they are more durable and make it honestly a more robust portable option overall than the Classics.

    unnamed (4).jpg

    Sound:
    Arguably the most important part of any headphone. So how do the Meze 99 Neo's sound? Quite frankly, they sound very good, they are a slightly more colored and slightly more bassy and sparkly sounding version of the Meze 99 classics which is more smooth sounding. Fidelity between the 99 Neo and 99 Classic's is the same, they seem to use the same transducer so it's more housing differences between the two.

    Soundstage & Imaging:
    The Meze 99 Neo's soundstage and imaging is honestly quite good, just like with the classics may be the best headphones in their category I have heard in terms of how spacious the soundstage is and how natural the imaging comes across. The 99 Neo's do have a mild chamber effect to their soundstage where you notice it at times but it's not really an notable issue for most tracks. Not sure how much is the new pads and how much is the different housing material compared to the 99 Classics. I'll give the soundstage an imaging a B+ rating overall.

    Midrange & Vocals:
    The midrange and vocals of the Meze 99 Neo's are overall quite good. There is a bit of a recession in the upper midrange which does take away from the presence of the vocals a bit and part of why I say the headphone is a little v-shaped sounding. The vocals sound natural but do take a bit of a step-back. The midrange overall is quite smooth and without any major issues. I'll give the midrange and vocals a B on the Neo's as I would personally prefer a bit more presence in the vocals and more balance compared to the highs and bass.

    Treble:
    The treble on the Neo's is quite non-fatiguing, non overly-sibilant, and overall quite pleasant to listen to, but it does have some extra sparkle to it which I feel does detract from it overall at times, but like any headphone with a slightly v-shaped sound this does lend itself well to to certain tracks and genres. The Classics with the original pads didn't have this extra treble energy and were smoother overall. Treble gets a B overall.

    Bass:
    The bass on the Neo's is quite prominent and strong with good impact, I would say it's a little too accentuated overall. This makes the bass very nice for EDM and some contemporary music but can be a bit of a problem with some other tracks as it can come off as a bit too much and maybe a tad bloated at times. Overall the bass also gets a B rating from me as I personally despite some excess as I found the bass of pretty good quality overall and quite fun with bassier genres.

    Conclusion:
    The Meze 99 Neo is a solid headphone in my books, while I personally would prefer to own the Classics for their more natural and smooth sound and honestly I'm a bit of a sucker for wood, I would be perfectly content with the 99 Neo's as a portable option and I would be less afraid of damaging them as I would be worrying about nicking the wood of the 99 Classics as I can be a little rough on portable headphones. The Neo's are incredibly easy to drive and can be driven with ease and authority out of most portable devices. If one listens to a lot of contemporary music and wants a nice robust portable closed-back the Neo's are on the top of my suggestions. The Classic's are for those who want a more natural and analog experience. The "Neo" name is quite fitting for these headphones. I do recommend these headphones and a must listen to those looking for a very efficient circumaural closed-back. A nice benefit to both the Neo's and Classics is there is no extra cost in buying an amplifier, etc. Whether one likes the Neo's or Classic's sound more simply comes down to preference.
      rafaelo, Light - Man and Bansaku like this.
  10. 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.)

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    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.

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    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.

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    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).

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.