Review: Meze 99 Classics – On the cups of brilliance

Meze 99 Classics

Sound

At 32Ω @103dB sensitivity, 99 Classics get loud and quick. At home, I never bump my iPhone 6 over 6 bars from the bottom, which is about as loud as I go with Ultrasone’s IQ. And, thanks to pretty good isolation, you don’t have to put them very loud when out and about. (I almost missed sandwich time yesterday at 5 bars.) And, it’s not a really hard headphone to drive. Under 99 Classics’s load (and at full volume) my iPhone loses a mere 2dB stereo width, but loses ~10dB dynamic range, and THD ramps up to almost audible levels. But that is at full volume. At normal listening volumes none of that matters anyway, and 99 Classics plays perfectly well with modern portable players and phones.

Meze 99 Classics - clasp-1

Meze 99 Classics have a pneumatic, even-handed, ear-neutral sound. Highs are crisp and shimmery; their even, laterally wide sound pressure and energy are probably the biggest reason people suggest the 99 Classics have a large sound stage. While I don’t find high-frequency instrument spacing to be wide, it is immersive. Attacking edges and subsequent fall off are good enough for progressive trance and metal. Cymbal clarity is trailed by a small amount of smear, which is nice for jazz, but isn’t optimal for speed metal. The transition zone to high mids and mids is beautiful. 

Inter-frequency transitions are perfectly cohesive. Mids are wide, weighty, edgy, and clean. I’ve heard some people suggest that 99 Classics are warm. I don’t share that opinion. Mids are punchy, and share almost even sound pressure with bass and treble. Taj Mahal’s and Tourmani Diabete’s vocals don’t exactly push their way past upright bass; but they punch out with vigour and contrast. I think these phones will satisfy mid-heads out there whose preferences lean toward clarity, contrast, and speed, rather than to breathy warmth.

Meze 99 Classics - clasp inside-1

Bass is basically the same story: clean, punchy, and, while not spacey, transitionally amenable. Since it’s not really elevated, subdued sub-woofing pieces such as Markus Schulz’s Mainstage barely titters on the brink, not quite yawning, not quite whispering with sub-bass detail. And, when notes get very low, the drivers flutter, but only just so. For this reason, if your music consists of a lot of extremely low-reaching (almost inaudibly so) notes, you’ll find better options than 99 Classics. But outside of that, God, these headphones really do the trick. Bass is reactive, forward-tipped and decays fast. It’s a sublime headphone for most genres, even my favourites: progressive, trance, EDM, metal, and hip-hop.

Which is to say that with the sole exception of true sub-woofing background music and maybe super-speedy metal, there’s no music really to which the Meze 99 Classics isn’t suited. I wasn’t expecting such speed, nor was I expecting such a nice, 3D sound stage. But I got both and I love both.

Meze 99 Classics - clasp close up-1

Oh, I should say a thing or two about the sound stage. It’s not wide per se, but it is round, with wonderful placement of familiar instruments. Stereo details are accurate and eerily positional for a closed headphone. If you’re expecting the crazy width of certain open phones, Meze 99 Classics might not satisfy you, but its positional accuracy certainly will. Wonderful.

End words

So, with the exception of its ear pads (which are disappointing), Meze 99 Classics ticks off most, if not all the boxes I expected. It’s not cheap and it’s not expensive. Its accessories, cables, and general construction are nice, if not luxurious. With the right pads, it would be a damn hard headphone not to hype. And that goes for sound: punchy, but even handed, this headphone’s neutral, contrasty signature is there for the long haul.

Well done.

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Review: Meze 99 Classics – On the cups of brilliance
4.2 (84.8%) 50 vote[s]

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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.

48 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?

  • Reply October 15, 2018

    Ralph Gerard Uy Uy

    I tried this before and the effect of the wooden cups is amazing!

  • Reply October 18, 2018

    Tricia Fajardo

    This real good!!!!

  • Reply October 18, 2018

    Ja

    Damn ????

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