Review: Meze 99 Classics – On the cups of brilliance

Disclaimer I: Meze supplied Meze 99 Classics for the purposes of this review. I paid no import duties or anything. 99 Classics go for 309$ USD. You can find out all about them here

Disclaimer II: From what I understand, Meze will be sponsoring an advert at Headfonia in March. Thank you, Meze, but that won’t save your ear pads from a good thrashing in this review.

Not sound

Add Meze to the list of companies I can’t pronounce. Is it ‘Mee-zee’? Is it ‘Meeze’ or ‘Meh-zeh’? Does it require a German-style Z ‘Me-tze’? I don’t know. I’ll clap to the rhythmic mispronunciation endemic to all humanities-majoring Canadians: Meeze it is. (Gesundheit!) I kind of like that Meeze is easy to rhyme.

Meezy-breasy, 99 Classics  is really easy to use and easier to enjoy. Even its storage box is simple: opening like a book. Between its padded front and back covers is a nice semi-hard zippered carrying case. Inside that is a fuzzy cable pouch with a 3m HiFi cable, a 3,5mm to 6,3mm step-up adapter, and a dual 3,5mm TS airplane adapter. Photos of the full accessory set can be seen at Meze’s 99 Classics page.

Meze 99 Classics - logo-1

Both cables terminate in dual 2,5mm TS plugs at the headphone, and at the jack in a 3,5mm straight plug. Both are wrapped in woven nylon, that, while microphonic, is light, and resistant to tangling. Both cables really well finished with beautiful, solid y-splits. There’s careful little about 99 Classics that isn’t just good looking, but well-designed be to used rather than to be looked at. One thing to note is that the wood cups pickup knicks and scrapes. And I have no idea how well the bolts will stay bolted after a year of twisting and turning. From my vantage, 99 Classics is solid, but not tank-like.

Case in point #1 Nathan’s skinny, crown-shrunk head: This sail-thin, sail-long thing causes me no end of problems. Almost all headphones designed for wide heads droop below my ears at their smallest settings. I end up purchasing accessory headbands, or going fashionably hipster by DIYing moleskins between my head and the headband. Oh, and that self-adjusting headband works like a charm. Set it and forget it.

Meze 99 Classics - jack-1

And my small ears fit right inside the cups, making the 99 Classics cirum-aural. For me, these phones are full-size. If your ears are medium to large, they will be supra-aural. About the only thing I can complain are the ear pads. Protein leather is never good. Ever. Even in a winter-cooled room, it gets sweaty, sticky, and warm. While hardly as classy, a good velour would solve comfort issues while remaining animal-friendly. I’m hoping that intrepid third parties will engineer better pads. Leather would be good. Apart from that, the only thing about which I can whinge (and you know how I like to whinge) is that 99 Classics’s sport a pretty strong spring. Laterally large heads may experience a bit of a clamp.

From what I can see, every part is user-serviceable. Torx bolts bind the headband to its fulcrums and Philips bolts fasten the drivers to the cups. The padded head is comfy, and while 99 Classics weighs 270g, it feels like 150. Its skeleton is so well-engineered for long-term listening that the problematic pads really stick out. By the way, in the process of removing the pads to look at the driver mount, the gum tabs had on the inner side of the driver delaminated. Now, messy pleather obstructs the drivers. Ho hum.

Meze 99 Classics - cup-1

Meze: the ear pads are the only thing about 99 Classics that really needs to change. Change them and you’ll have a nearly perfect headphone.

Sound impressions after the jump:

Meze-728x90-headfonia-001

Review: Meze 99 Classics – On the cups of brilliance
4.2 (83.83%) 47 votes

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

45 Comments

  • Reply February 11, 2016

    Barun C

    Good stuff!!! How’s the isolation with this can? Is it at all advisable for portable use in noisy environment?

    • Reply February 11, 2016

      ohm image

      I guess I didn’t cover it very well. They isolate pretty well, actually. even on the train, I don’t have to raise the volume over 50%. That said, I listen to volumes lower than most people. But still, impressive.

  • Reply February 11, 2016

    Isaac Harkness

    Hey Nathan,
    Great review! How do the 99 classics compare with the Oppo pm-3?

    • Reply February 11, 2016

      ohm image

      Brighter, lighter, a bit more lateral pressure, more 3D sound, and pads that are worse quality.

      • Reply February 12, 2016

        dalethorn

        I’ve gotten questions about this, and I don’t even have it! Anyway, since I did have the Meze 88 (cough cough), I’m very interested in the 99’s high end. Would you say it compares in upper treble strength to a Sennheiser HD600?

        • Reply February 12, 2016

          ohm image

          I don’t currently have an HD600 on hand, so I’ll have to talk out of memory from last year. One thing I am sure of is that the HD600 is a bit drier, with chalkier high range. This one is clearer overall, and probably tuned closer to something like a DT880 VS. an HD600. Bass pressure probably is higher in the 99 VS the DT880.

  • Reply February 12, 2016

    Headfonia_L.

    Thanks Nathan for getting me banned on Headfi after linking to this article 😀

  • Reply February 15, 2016

    Matt K.

    hey there, great review! i’m kinda new to this audiophile business. currently own the Fidelio X2’s by philips, pretty happy with them but just wondering… how do these compare? I like a sound just warm of neutral…

    • Reply February 18, 2016

      ohm image

      These are less warm than the X2 for sure, are better extended up top, and more suitable to fast electronic (IMO). If you love warmth and small-ensemble style of music, X2 _may_ be nicer for you. I prefer the 99 Classics. But I’m really into electronic music.

      • Reply January 6, 2017

        MadMu5icJunky

        What’s up? I was browsing headphones. I have a lot of IEMs, and at one point, I also had a lot of Over Ear’s. Only over ears I have still are Polk Ultrafocus (deep, visceral bass and warm overall), HD598 (typically Senn sound), and work/bluetooth Backbeat Pro & Focus for when calls are a-plenty.
        Anyways, I’m very much into electronic; Emancipator, Michaël Bijker, Manu Lei, Gregory Esayan, etc. So, I think our music tastes are very much in line. I’ve gone around and around; K712, MDR1A, PM-3 (owned once, considering again), X1, M100, D6000… I prefer having somewhat easier to drive, detachable cables, remote/mic is a plus. But I want great detail, wide soundstage, fun quality bass, and some sparkle. Looks like the Meze 99 may fit the bill, and may be the front-runner. Do you have any other suggestions that I should look at? How are they vs the Ultrasone IQ’s, by the way? I love hybrid IEMs and have drooled over those for a very long time.

  • Reply February 19, 2016

    breizh

    Hi Nathan,

    I was wondering if this one can compete with the Beyer DT1770… did you try it ?
    And if you had to choose between the Meze and the Oppo PM-3 for rock music, which one would you pick ?

    I’m actually hesitating between these 3 cans for an upgrade from my AKG K550

    Thanks a lot
    Richard

    • Reply February 19, 2016

      dalethorn

      I have the DT1770, and it’s even further away from what Nathan describes about the X2 that I also have:

      “These are less warm than the X2 for sure, are better extended up top, and more suitable to fast electronic (IMO). If you love warmth and small-ensemble style of music, X2 _may_ be nicer for you. I prefer the 99 Classics. But I’m really into electronic music.”

      The 1770 is a dark, mysterious sound that’s almost opposite of what Nathan described about the Meze.

      • Reply February 22, 2016

        breizh

        ok Thanks a lot Dale,
        Now I have to choose between the 3…

        Actually I think i will decide between the Oppo and the Beyer
        Do you think the Beyer is technically ahead of the Oppo ?

        • Reply February 22, 2016

          dalethorn

          I haven’t heard the PM3, but all of the planars I have heard sound anywhere from completely lifeless to less than alive. That includes the LCD2 and the original Alpha Dog (oh, wait – the Mad Dog was fairly good). But the Beyer 1770 definitely has life – better than Shure’s SRH1540, which is also dark, but lacks response on the high treble, where the 1770 sparkles.

    • Reply February 22, 2016

      ohm image

      I’ve not tried the DT1770. I want to. In fact, I really want to. I have owned (and loved) the DT770. That said, I prefer the Meze for rock with rock music. It feels faster. It’s not as nice-feeling of a headphone and not as well made, but it is sharper, faster-sounding, and funner. Meze it is from me. But your mileage may vary. If you prefer a softer, warmer sound, Oppo.

      • Reply February 24, 2016

        breizh

        Thanks for your feedback, I should try both…

    • Reply February 23, 2016

      Alok Juyal

      I tried both the 99s and the PM3 at Singapore canjam and was blown away by the 99s. They were great with Rock and I am ordering one later today. Hope this helps.

      • Reply February 24, 2016

        breizh

        Thanks – how would you compare the bass, the soundstage, the transparency between the two ?

        • Reply February 25, 2016

          Alok Juyal

          Not sure I could give you a helpful answer, not very long listening in a noisy room (less an issue with the 99s when things were quieter) plus I am not good at such articulation. Both the bass and the sound stage were better on the 99. The 99 is a very very warm sounding headphone vs the PM3 which is more neutral in comparison, although not neutral in the true sense. The soundstage surprised me on the 99, more out-of-the-head and bigger than I expected. The PM3 felt smaller and in-your-head. The bass on the 99s also carried more weight and slam (remember it was much warmer) with the PM3 being more textured but less impactful if you get what I am saying. I was listening to spotify premium and Onkyo HF (HD files) on an iPhone 6+ through a Chord Hugo. In the end it comes down to personal pref. A friend who was keen on the PM3 picked up the 99s instead but there were enough people who seemed to like the PM3 sound. Try it out for yourself if possible.

          • Reply February 26, 2016

            breizh

            I was very very hesitant between these 2 models, so I just put an order on the other contender… DT1770 Beyer – much less appealing design but it seems to be a sonic performer 🙂 Thanks for your answer !

            • Reply March 8, 2016

              Alok Juyal

              lemme know how it goes with the DT1770. Have my eyes on the 880

              • Reply March 9, 2016

                breizh

                Well, it’s difficult since we’re talking here about closed vs open headphones !
                Overall I always tend to prefer open headphones because the sound flows in a more natural way.
                But, and after only few days with the DT1770, I have to admit this one i very very …good, if paired with the right amp of course.
                It’s very well balanced – the bass is really strong and I have to tame a bit sometimes through eq – midrange is nice and trebles are clean and not harsh.
                It seems to me that the DT880 is more grainy, less clean, and less detailed also.
                The soundstage of the DT1770 is really good, maybe a little bit narrower compared to my AKG K550, but large enough for the music I mainly listen to (rock, folk, blues, and also some classical).
                And when I listen to the DT1770, I don’t really feel I strongly miss the open nature of my open cans.
                It’s much better balanced than the K550, which is quite plasticky sometimes in the midrange/treble.
                I’m perfectly enthusiastic about this 1770, which, despite its closed design gives a really high quality sound, in comparison with the other models I own.
                The bass is impressive and it’s sensitive enough to perfectly work with my DX50 ibasso.
                Great deal.

                If I want to go a little bit higher in sound quality…I put my T1 on my head, and it’s different bliss 😉
                The DT880 is also a wonderful headphones.
                From pure sound quality point of view I would rank T1>DT1770>=DT880 (each one with its own strengths)

                Hope this helps 🙂

                • Reply March 9, 2016

                  Alok Juyal

                  it does indeed so thank you. Sounds like something to compare with the Audeze EL-8C in which I have found the bass to be lacking to point of it being disappointing. I will give the 1770 a try

    • Reply February 25, 2016

      GrizzlybEast

      Of the three I would def pick the d1770, it has better instrument separation, better transparancy, and better details. The midrange of the 99’s though are better balanced. But other than that the DT1770 takes the cake, its a step above this one. These may be a little more engaging though. The meze has decent transparency but not stellar. Its winning quality is its dynamics and hd650 like balance. The 1770 has an odd timbre in the midrange but is technically superior. …. Honestly though the balance on the Meze is more enjoyable, but only slightly. I just find that while the Meze is slightly dark, its treble is a little rough. The treble texture of the dt1770 is better IMO

      • Reply February 26, 2016

        breizh

        DT1770 ordered this morning…will be combined with Teac HA501 and Icon audio HP8 MKII – upgrade from my AKG K550 let’s say…
        Thanks a lot for your advice 😉

        • Reply March 6, 2016

          GrizzlybEast

          Both will be a good upgrade to your AKG K550. If I could own both of them I would and for different reasons.

      • Reply March 8, 2016

        ohm image

        The DT770 is obviously better built and a nicer-feeling headphone. But it is certainly darker. I’m not sure about instrument separation. I suppose it matters _how_ you listen to music and for what you are listening. For my listening style, the Meze is both more ‘detailed’ and has more separation between instruments.

        • Reply March 8, 2016

          GrizzlybEast

          I mean 1770… I think the meze is better than the 770 by a lot. I could be wrong. Actually after typing it I felt like vs the 1770 the and the meze is a little closer than I made it seem.

          • Reply March 8, 2016

            ohm image

            I totally misread your comment then. I much prefer the Meze’s sound to the 1770 but the 1770 is made to handle a beating. The Meze for the living room.

            • Reply March 8, 2016

              GrizzlybEast

              It has a better balance. If I could buy one right now it would be the Meze but that is only because I already have mid-fi headphones <500 bucks and don't have any portables. When I tested the meze I felt it lacked a slight bit of transparency in the midrange to make it recommendation for an only headphone. I doubt the 99classics can be beat in its own category by any headphone. I just put the 1770 in a different tier where it should compete against the alpha dogs etc… The 99's punch a little above its price but for me doesn't fully cross over into the nest tier.

            • Reply March 8, 2016

              dalethorn

              Funny thing – I’ve tried to EQ some liveliness into the 1770 that I have, and haven’t been totally successful. It should be a simple thing to do, but for some reason it just stubbornly refuses to sound lively.

              • Reply March 8, 2016

                ohm image

                You know how you knock on wood when you don’t want something bad to happen? The 1770 is sort of like that. Knocked wood.

  • Reply February 28, 2016

    Mikko Kohonen

    Hi! Can anyone tell how these compare to grado RS-1? I’m lookin for new headphones and might be getting good deal on grados. I know they are super but at the same time I would like closed headphones for travelling. I came across to these and I’m in love with the looks and reviews but I’m still unsure not knowing how the two compare.

    • Reply March 8, 2016

      ohm image

      I wish I had the RS-1. That said, the sound is less high-tweaky than any non-earphone Grado I’ve heard.

  • Reply March 8, 2016

    Alok Juyal

    You never disappoint 🙂 I got the Meze 99s and love them – the fit, finish and of course the sound. I had a chance to audition them at CanJam Singapore and dropped all other headphone plans and ordered a pair. I was worried about the small pads but once the music started playing I forgot all about them. They sound awesome and you never find yourself reaching up to adjust the clamping or the seal. Well done Meze!!

  • Reply November 16, 2016

    Jingjing

    Hi Nathan, this is a very informative and in-depth review of the headphone and really got me interested. I saw these pair on display at Birmingham last year and was really impressed by the craftsmanship, however I could not find any of the sales people to try them out personally. Hope I am not being unreasonable here, but I was wondering if you could tell how these compare to the Denon AH-MM400. I have had the denon for quite some time now and was my everyday phone since I bought them. Thanks!

  • Reply November 19, 2016

    V

    Hi, Sorry for another Fidelio X2 question but what is the Meze 99’s bass quantity in comparison?

    • Reply November 20, 2016

      ohm image

      I think that the 99 Classics’s upper bass is cleaner with less warmth. This may make it appear to have less upper bass slam. I would just say the 99 is cleaner.

  • Reply July 23, 2017

    adam

    nice review! I currently own the Yamaha Pro 500 cans. I love them but having read your review and a few others, i’m starting to consider buying 99’s as well. How do they compare against the Yamaha Pro 500?

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