Sunday, May 15, 2016

Meze 99 Classics Headphones


Meze Headphones is a new company based in Romania. Meze had contacted me sometime ago to arrange a review of their 99 Classics Headphones ("99 Classics"), but as luck would have it, I managed to meet their principal Antonio Meze at the recent Canjam Singapore 2016 (click here for my write-up). I really liked what I heard at Canjam and had a pleasant talk with Antonio. My review sample arrived sometime later.


The 99 Classics would best be described as medium-sized circumaural sealed headphones. My review sample was finished in walnut and silver and were visually impressive from an aesthetic point of view - everyone who saw it just gushed over how beautiful they were. Three colour options are available, a dark walnut wood with either silver or gold trim, and a light maple wood with silver trim. The maple option is matched with a white headband and ear pads.

The 99 Classics come nicely packaged with a variety of accessories, including a moulded carry case, an airplane adapter, two different sets of cables, and a 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm adapter. The cables consist of a short cable with a built-in mic cum iPhone / Android control button, and a longer cable for home use. The packaged accessories put every other headphone I've owned to shame - almost all of which are much more expensive than the Meze - well done Meze ! The only thing missing from going the full monty is an in-line attenuator for airplane use. 

Specified frequency response is 15 Hz - 25 KHz (no limits stated), with sensitivity at 103 db at 1 KHz / 1 mW. Impedance is 32 ohms, and the rated input power is 30 mw, with a maximum power handling of 50 mW.

Looking at the parts used, the 40 mm transducer is housed in a solid wood cup. The earcup padding is memory foam, and the "leather" used throughout is synthetic. A complete teardown is possible, which should make servicing very easy.

The wood cups are quite difficult to photograph. They looks sumptuously dark and rich under incandescent lighting but much lighter in strong sunlight.

Mounting hardware are of top quality

The overall impression is one of a finely finished product that looks classy and elegant

The cables terminate into the driver housing via a two pole 3.5 mm plug on each side. Before the DIYers start getting excited (balanced drive cables anyone ?), the clearance for the recessed socket is very tight - you will need to find an incredibly slim plug.

Note the raised ridge on the left connector. This helps you identify the channel without looking - a very clever touch.

I found the 99 Classics to be fairly comfortable in use. Pressure at the top of the head is minimal although the same cannot be said for the force across the earcups. The pads are quite small and my ears just sit nicely inside. However, I can imagine that for some people with large ears, these pads will sit on top, instead of around the ears - make sure you try these on first before buying.

The headband and cable are microphonic though - any vibration or friction is transmitted loud and clear.

Ventilation is typical for a closed-phone (i.e. hot in non-airconditioned environments), while sound isolation is average.

Sound Quality

I used these across a wide range of sources / headamps ranging from the bottom of the barrel to the fairly high end. Some of the headamps used, such as the Violectric HPA V281 had enough power to turn the 99 Classics to a burning crisp if they so wished. The good news is that the 99 Classics proved to be easy to drive in use, even sounding good driven by my iPhone 5 and my Fiio X3 DAP (Gen 1). 

Tonally, the 99 Classics have a warm and slightly bass heavy sound. This is coupled with a sweet and smooth midrange, and nice clean high frequencies that are clear without being too edgy. Put together, the sound was very coherent.

The bass would best be described as having a nice slam to it, with good pace and timing. The emphasis is not overdone, and is tempered such that it gives these headphones a warm signature, but not to the point of sounding too ponderous, or muddying up the rest of the frequency range. Bass notes did lack a bit of tightness, and could not go as low, nor deliver the articulation displayed by some of my other headphones such as the Sony MDR-Z7 and the Audeze LCD 2.2 (both of which are considerably more expensive).

Listening to some of my favourite jazz tracks, double bass had a desirable presence, but had some degree of blur in the way the strings and the body of the instrument resonated.

Vocals came across as being sweet, with a subtle body added to the voice of the singer. Eva Cassidy and Rebecca Pidgeon's voices were not as sibilant as usual, at the expense of reproduction of very fine texture.

High frequencies were clear and well controlled - cymbals and other percussion instruments sounded convincing and natural. In fact, the 99 Classics were very well behaved in this area - they never sounded harsh nor aggressive, even over long listening sessions.   

Another strong point of the 99 Classics was its staging abilities - this was wide, spacious, with a good perception of depth. I found this quality to be very helpful in helping me forget that I was listening to headphones - otherwise the "trapped inside your head" presentation quickly undermines the illusion of being there.

Although the 99 Classics were far from being the most resolving headphones I've tried, I still had a very enjoyable time listening to them. It made a valiant attempt at the different genres of music I threw at it, and delivered it with aplomb (even with recordings of mediocre quality).  After a while, I stopped thinking too much about the music, and started to enjoy the experience. 


The 99 Classics look like they came straight out of a designer catalogue. However, its beauty is not merely skin deep - it was able to deliver the goods. While it does not belong to a mastering studio, it will bring plenty of musical enjoyment at a very reasonable asking price - Highly Recommended.

Meze 99 Classics
Price : USD 309