This headphone deserves a positive review...
Ok, so now that I have dealt with the usual disclaimers let get into the review.
When the headphone arrived I loved how it looked. I personally love the dark walnut cups, the black headrest and suspension system and the gold accents. The headphone looks like a tasteful work of art and listening instrument. To be blunt I can't take pictures of the headphone that do it justice so I won't be lacing my review with pictures. Suffice it to say Meze's stock pictures look every bit as good as the finished product with no photo touching and glamorizing needed. Some will prefer the companies silver offerings more which is fine because I believe every picture offered by Meze is an honest depiction of their quality and craftsmanship so people can buy with confidence based on their personal fashion preference.
The retail packaging also reflects the quality of the product without being excessive or over the top in an attempt to upsell an otherwise less than impressive product. Just as Meze has not needed to depict their product as more than they are in their pictures, they haven't felt the need to waste money with fancy packaging either. Which is great news because they then put that money into a great case to protect their works of art as well as a very nice soft case to hold their cables.
Everything Meze has done shows their love for craftsmanship, design, and most importantly... MUSIC.
So are there any flies in the ointment? Yes, there are two things that stand out.
- The cables while looking very nice and being well built internally are cloth covered which makes then slightly noising when rubbing on things, with the smartphone cable being a bit less noisy due to the microphone/button acting as a noise absorber.
- The cups are not truly over ear (at least for my average sized ears), being more of a 3/4 over ear, somewhat similar to the original Sennheiser Momentum. The good news for me is that while they are not truly over ear, they are far more comfortable than any other partial over ear headphone I have tried or owned and that's even when I wear my glasses. In fact I found them comfortable for several 2+ hour listening sessions.
So how do these sound? In my opinion these sound as good as they look, reflecting the same esthetic values as their design. When I look at them I see a headphone that looks natural, with craftsmanship so solid there is no need for excessive coats of lacquer, over sized components, or glittery/shiny over polished accents. It's just so well put together it doesn't need to TRY THAT HARD! When I listen to them, THATS EXACTLY HOW THEY SOUND TOO! They have a boosted bass but it's never bombastic or over the top. They have a midrange that is clear, articulate, and engaging without ever feeling in your face and shouty. The treble similarly is detailed and slightly brighter than I have grown used to but never fatiguing. Their sound stage while smaller than my most expensive headphone and others I have owned or heard is still of a decent size and offers an above average 3D experience.
In my testing I used these equally between my LG G4 phone and my Pono player with both devices sounding excellent with the headphone. I also did some listening sessions with my computer and Audio Engine 1 DAC. Again the headphone sounded impressive. In all 3 listening situations I was using a mix of standard and high definition FLAC files from a variety of musical genres from classical orchestra, choral, movie sound tracks (lots of Hans Zimmer), small ensemble, Celtic, classic rock, psychedelic rock, country, female jazz, and more.
My usual review style is a breakdown of each area of the sound spectrum but I think I will fore go this process in favor of a brief comparison I wrote between the Meze 99 Classics, the VModa M100, and the Sony MDR-Z7.
The bottom line is I think the Meze 99 Classic is EVER BIT THE TITLE. They are "classic".
Meze 99, Vmoda M100, Sony MDR-Z7 shootout listening to 192kHz 24 bit FLAC song Code Cool by Patricia Barber on my Pono.
Meze 99 and M100 played with standard stereo connection, Z7 played with balanced cable output.
Ok before I get started I want to be clear about my preferences. Over the years I have fluctuated between bright and dark sounding headphones. Swaying as bright as the AKG K712 and as dark as RHA T10. The T10 actually started me down the path to darker headphones until I settled on the Z7 which found a good balance between a dark sound with just the right sparkle and treble detail for me. For the past year and half it has been my go to headphone for listening enjoyment in full size gear.
M100 - Comparing the 3 headphones with this song really shows the M100's main stream signature and it's weaknesses. Starting with the bass while almost as strong as the Z7 it lacks the Z7 punch, detail and texture, sounding slightly hollow in comparison. The midrange is slightly subdued compared to the Z7 and the 99 while having a vocal pitch closer to the 99as compared to the warmer sounding Z7. Strangely the midrange sounds less cohesive due to the gap between the bass and the midrange. Treble is slightly hotter than the Z7 while still not being as bright or as detailed as the 99. The hotness of the treble makes the M100 ever so slightly more fatiguing than the 99 and Z7. The sound stage is slightly larger than the 99 but smaller than the Z7 but has an artificial quality assocated with its V shaped signature. Of the three the M100 has the least detail and imaging prowess.
MDR-Z7 - The Z7 has the biggest bass of the three headphones while having good punch and texture. The bass is definitely the Z7 strength and for many will be its Achilles heel. In this song the Big Bass (instrument) sounds slightly slightly larger than normal. Personally I enjoy the slightly larger than life experience but again many would not appreciate the coloration. The midrange is the warmest of the three headphones and yet retains detail, urgency, and is very cohesive with the bass. But this also means vocals have a level of huskiness that some would again find colored. The treble is finely detailed and articulate while being slightly relaxed, never approaching anything close to fatiguing. 3D imaging and sound stage is immensly satisfying and large beating both 99 and M100 handily.
Meze 99 - The bass of the 99 is the lowest in quantity while having as good a punch as the Z7 as well as detail and texture making it the most balanced of the three headphones. It is not a neutral headphone though, just more balanced than the other 2 in this comparison. The midrange similarly is brighter and as detailed and urgent as the Z7. The treble has none of the hotness of the M100 while being the brightest of the 3 headphones and yet fatigue free. While the 99 has the smallest sound stage it is very natural sounding and has as good instrument separation as the Z7.
So given my leaning towards the dark side it would be easy to say I would like the Z7 the most, but strangely enough I found myself enjoying the Meze 99 as much or more than the Z7. Where the Z7 won in the 3D and sound stage department the 99 won in the clarity and natural department. Both were non-fatiguing.
Comfort wise the Z7 wins but I actually found the 99 more comfortable than the M100 with extra large pads. In fact I can easily see living with the 99 from a comfort perspective which is shocking because I immensely prefer full over over versus on ear or half on ear. But the 99 has done a better job of comfort than any other half on ear headphone I have owned or tried.
So there you have it. The Meze trounced the M100 and sounded as good as (or better if you don't like the sound of the Z7's signaure) my $700 Z7 running in its optimal balanced configuration. So I guess you could say I like the Meze 99 a lot