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  1. cleg
    More affordable way to go balanced
    Written by cleg
    Published Aug 22, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - usability, price, sound
    Cons - none
    It's not the first Meze's attempt to offer a balanced cable, some time ago, they created great cable, but its price is pretty high, compared with more than affordable 99 Series headphones. So, Meze decided to create a new cable with a better price range, and now we've got it.
    1-Main Pic.jpg
    First of all, I'd like to thank Meze Audio for providing me this cable's sample in exchange to my honest and unbiased opinion.

    Of course, $99 is much better than $199, but maybe it's because the new cable is 2 times worse? Well, I can say: no. New cable offers a perfect price-quality ratio.
    2-Box.jpg
    The cable itself is made of silver-plated copper in TPU jacket, so it's soft, it's reliable, and it looks nice. It's not typical "audiophile" braided "rope," typical in the high-end segment, but with portable usage in mind, I'd prefer new cable, as the fancy old balanced wire is harder and less flexible.

    I'll skip parts related to package and installation, and I think it's predictable and will continue with sound.
    3-Cable.jpg
    As I'm a prominent skeptic when it comes to wires, I've tried to make this part as objective as possible and conducted a series of blind A/B tests. Of course, the most significant change when you'll switch to balanced cable will be caused by the different output of your DAP/DAC: more power, better channels separation — that's the primary source of sound improvement. However, I needed to find out a difference between this cable and the stock one, so I've decided to use 2.5 mm to 3.5 mm adapter supplied with Meze's $199 cable. I've tried it with few IEMs with balanced cable and found it sonically transparent and thus suitable for my tests. I've used SP1000 as a reference source to get the best possible sound quality.
    4-New vs Old.jpg
    So, compared with stock cable, the new one makes mids, especially upper mids a bit more forward, so they sound a bit more detailed. This change in representation also causes a slight increase in stage depth and width, not drastic, but noticeable, especially in layering. Also, bass became a bit less in quantity, but even tighter. Also, I think the treble became a bit more extended, but this change is barely audible, so I'm not 100% sure.
    5-Style Shot.jpg
    Besides that, I've made comparisons between "old" and "new" cables, using 2.5 mm output of my Ultima. Most expensive cable has the most forward mids, but of course, it preserves 99's signature with accented lows, but it gives them the maximum possible resolution and highlights emotions the most. Anyway, I can't say that I'd pay $100 extra for this cable, as changes between two balanced cables are way less than between stock and new 2.5 mm one.

    Of course, old balanced cable is better in absolute sound quality, but a new one offers better quality to price ratio.

      Semper HiFi and MezeTeam like this.
  2. NymPHONOmaniac
    Let the MEZE musical Soul fly freely
    Written by NymPHONOmaniac
    Published May 13, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Hearable sound improvment that include better bass control, clarity, dynamic, transparency and imaging. Price value at 50$.
    Cons - No L jack. 100$ is too expensive (tough 50$ is great value)
    MEZE 99 series 2.5mm Silver plated BALANCED CABLE REVIEW:
    P1011558.JPG

    CONSTRUCTION: 8.5/10
    SOUND IMPROVMENT: 9.5/10
    PRICE VALUE (at 50$): 9.5/10


    Cable, cable, tell me if you worth the gamble.


    Are you capable or just snake oil?

    One thing sure, cable are something collectable, and I have so much of them taking the dust it's not even funny. Why so? Because there lot of cheap detachable cable out there, that manufacturer try to make disappear from their shop by including them with budget earphones or headphones. Some have bad connectors, other have bad isolation, other are badly assembled. Some go green because of copper oxydation, other have intermitent sound cut off because of inner broken signal wires and other one, whatever the price, can work perfectly for years and years.

    Yes, cable are a gamble.

    But there different type of cable family: Unbalanced and Balanced.

    The different between those two is utterly important, and should really make us regret to use unbalanced cable that are factualy inferior for trustable signal conductivity free of any interference.

    Unbalanced cable use 2 conductors and 2 wires-a signal wire and a ground wire-, the ground wire serve to shied the signal wire from surrounding interference and to carry part of audio signal.

    [​IMG]

    Balanced cable use 3 conductors and 3 wires- 2 signal wires and 1 separate ground wire-, some think that this 2 signal wires are made for separate left and right stereo signal but this isn't really that simple, here its more about NOISE CANCELATION due to inversed polarity of the 2 signal wires.

    [​IMG]

    Adding a signal (LEFT) to an inverted copy of itself (RIGHT) results in a canceled signal, as positive peaks in the original signal correspond to an equally negative peak in the inverted signal (and vice versa).
    [​IMG]

    Sure, balanced cable become more and more important as the cable lenght become longer, due to more risk of interference and noise, but why using it for headphones or earphones then?

    Because we want the cleanest signal possible, and as well, numerous DAP begin using 2.5mm balanced output to deliver lower THD or/and even more power for hungries cans.

    P1010151.JPG

    TODAY iI will review the new SPC balanced cable from MEZE, wich is designed expressly for their 99 Classic and 99 Neo Headphones.

    This cable have silver plated oxygene-free coppers wires with soft transparent TPU coating. It is 1.4 meter long and have separate Left and right connector and a 2.5mm 3 poles jack (balanced).

    Priced at 100$, I was considering this type of cable a little overpriced, but it look like its selling for 50$ finally, wich make it an affordable upgrade for your MEZE 99 Classic or Neo.

    You can buy this 99 series 2.5mm cable for 50$ directly from MEZE HERE

    CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN:

    P1011555.JPG P1011557.JPG


    Compared to stock cable that come with my NEO, construction material is different and use Thermoplastic polyurethane instead of kevlar and basic rubber, this suggest a better durability and elasticity-flexibility. It is way softer than sticky rubber part used with the stock NEO cable, as well, the balanced cable isn' with a mic and remote wich I personally prefer as I never use this features.

    P1010153.JPG P1010152.JPG
    P1010156.JPG

    Left and right connector are of the exact same quality, using same material with the difference that balanced cable connectors are black and stock NEO are grey. In term of overall construction, it isn't high end looking like some multi braided, pure silver or ultra thick cable can look, but the real difference with stock cable is more about inner part used, like silver plated OFC wires that theorically promess better conductivity.

    P1010155.JPG


    The 2.5mm connector is still a straigh jack, I would have prefer a L jack here but no big deal as its personal preference.

    P1011561.JPG P1010154.JPG

    SOUND IMPRESSIONS:


    The fact that MEZE 99 NEO are extremely easy to drive with their 22ohm impendance can make you think going balanced is kinda vain, but this will be true if you only need the extra voltage ouput power that you DAP or DAC-AMP have to some extend, wich isn,t the case because every headphones benifit from cleanest conductivity, as well, I think higher voltage inflict on overall sound dynamic.

    So, when I plug the NEO into balanced output of my Xduoo X20, first thing that hit me was the improved clarity and dynamic, soundstage do not really expand but gain in deepness due to clearer more (micro) distortion free rendering. But that's wasn't all.

    BASS became tigher and more controled and gain in separation, this do solve in part the overemphased lower end that was going out of control wich became more rounded as well as less boomy. With the track ''Produk 29'' by Aphex Twin, the sub synth line was mixing badly with mid bass making it too thick and unatural as well as vibrating the NEO earcups in an annoying way, well, i test this very track to see if Total harmonic distortion was lower and if dynamic will be more balanced, the result is without a doubt rewarding. So, factually, the bass is improved and instead of gaining in impact, it loose some and gain in clarity, texture, speed and separation.

    MID RANGE again became clearer with balanced cable, it have more air in imaging too and a more lively and fowards presentation. Due to less bass bleed, vocal are more detailed and thicker in timbre. Still, this is subtle and will not suddenly transform your NEO headphones into bright or analytical one, but you have now a more accurate spaciality and higher clarity.

    TREBLE is another highlight of balanced output, due to extreme black background floor he feel more crisp and detailed. Highs are more delicate and balanced, compared to more artificial sounding one with stock unbalanced cable that feel pushed fowards trough an opaque wall of sound. Here, we have a more refined and revealing treble response that make the NEO even more natural sounding ans way less agressive than with stock cable.

    To me, the biggest improvment that offer balanced connection is in term of bass control and treble accuracy, for critical listener like me, it's really a game changer and make me even more enthusiast about lush sound of the MEZE 99 NEO. If we sum up all little improvment it make, should it be about transparency, dynamic control, transient response, treble or lower distortion, the balanced NEO sure gain a big sound improvment in they end. If you are sensitive about any type of improvement about sound rendering, like me, you will not want to go back the unbalanced way.



    CONCLUSION:

    P1010153.JPG

    In my opinion, there no doubt that the MEZE balanced cable offer real upgrade in term of sound, wich make it a must have for audiophile with DAP or DAC-AMP that have balanced output.

    In term of construction, improvment is there too, but more marginal as I like the kevlar part of stock NEO cable but not the Y rubber cables that feel cheap and sticky, so the soft TPU coating without feeling extremely luxurious sure feel like an upgrade over the stock cable.

    If the price stay at 50$, I consider this cable a great value and certainly worth the buy to hear what the MEZE 99 NEO or CLASSIC are capable of. Balanced (TRS) output improvment over unbalanced (TS) output isn't snake oil or zealous audiophile believe, its just factual, and to enjoy this factual improvment, well, the only way is to buy this very cable I just review.
      Mightygrey likes this.
    1. Mightygrey
      Thanks for reminding me that these exist! I've been waiting for the 2.5mm cable to come back into stock for some time now. I'm looking forward to running this with both my Earstudio ES100 for mobile use, as well as with my Questyle CMA600i using the Massdrop 2.5mm --> XLR adapter. But most of all, I'm looking forward to having less cable microphonics than that OG cloth-covered cable that came with my original Maple/Silver 99 Classics.
      All-in-all, I think I'll get a lot more use out of them!
      Mightygrey, May 13, 2019
      NymPHONOmaniac likes this.
  3. ostewart
    Provides a great improvement to the 99 Classics
    Written by ostewart
    Published May 19, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Tightens sound, balanced connection
    Firstly I would like to thank Meze for sending this sample for review, I would like to apologise also for the time it took me to get this review up.

    *disclaimer: This sample was provided for the purpose of writing a review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings.

    Gear Used: iBasso DX200 > Meze 99 Classics
    OnePlus 2 > ifi xCan > Meze 99 Classics

    [​IMG]

    Tech Specs:
    1.3m OFC Silver Plated
    2.5mm TRRS balanced connection
    Soft transparent TPU coating
    MSRP: €99

    Packaging and Build Quality:
    The cable comes in slim card box that has the key features on the front, the box is very simple and minimalist which I appreciate. I really cannot comment much on the packaging, as it is simple, attractive and small so good for the environment..

    The build quality is excellent, the housings for the jacks are aluminium, the cable is soft yet feels very well made and the y-splitter is simply and not too large. There is good strain relied all round, and the L and R markings are clearly engraved on the barrels of the jacks.

    [​IMG]

    Sound:
    I know there are many cable skeptics out there, but I am a believer that there are small differences between cables. With this cable you also have to consider the fact that your DAP of choice may have a slightly different sound signature out of the balanced output.

    Moving on I do believe this cable is a well priced, and great accessory for the 99 Classics if you use a DAP with balanced output. I always found the mid-bass bloom on the 99 Classics to be a little overwhelming at times, this cable does not get rid of it completely but is sure is an improvement.

    What it brings to the table is increased control to the lower frequencies, making that bloom slightly less noticeable, and everything is a bit more precise.

    Moving on to the midrange you gain a little better air and separation around instruments, it lifts a slight veil off the sound. Vocals now sound a bit more realistic due to the more controlled low end, and the sound is a bit more open.

    The treble region does not become bright of harsh, there is a subtle lift in presence and extension which just brings the sound up to a slightly higher level than stock.

    [​IMG]

    Conclusion: This cable will not drastically alter the sound of your headphones, but to me it made the 99 Classic sound better. The sound becomes more controlled with slightly better detail and separation. A great accessory for 99 Classic or Neo owners, at a modest price.

    Sound Perfection Rating: 9/10 (Great value, noticeable upgrade)