I either own or have owned a large number of headphones since I started blogging about 9 years ago. I can’t name all the different brands or styles of headphones I’ve reviewed during that time, and today I get to add another pair of over the ear headphones to that list, the Meze 99 Classics in Walnut Gold.
As we all know, the headphone market is flooded and has been for quite some time. So many of these companies that have helped to flood the market have been doing so for several decades. Meze is slightly different in that case.
Meze Audio didn’t enter the headphone business until 2009, when founder and designer Antonio Meze “was searching for a pair of headphones that he could connect to in the same way that he felt connected to his Fender Stratocaster guitar; this according to Raluca Vontea, who works as the company’s brand manager. Vontea adds that Meze, who has experience designing products for a number of different industries, wanted to create “an object to pour his passion for music in, an object that is full of personality and life and that has its own story.” Meze Classic headphones are designed and engineered in Romania and manufactured and assembled (including drivers) to Meze’s specifications in Zhuhai, China. The Zhuhai factory, with a workforce 1000 strong, also makes headphones for other audiophile brands.
About The Meze 99 Classics
Meze Audio’s 99 Classics, which are in the middle of the company’s headphone line, arrived in a zippered hard-shell case that also contained two lightweight, detachable, Kevlar-sheathed cables: one 4′ long with a one-button remote control for portable use, and a 9′ cable for home use. At the headphone ends of these cables are dual 3.5mm gold-plated TS plugs—these, rather than the earcups themselves, are marked L and R—with a single 3.5mm TRRS plug at the amplifier ends. Also included are 3.5mm-to-¼” and dual 3.5mm airplane adapters. All plugs and cables can be kept in a small, resealable, faux-velvet pouch (provided).
The 99 Classics are closed-back, circumaural (ie, over-ear) headphones that weigh 9.2oz sans cables. They’re subtly stylish—unlike some of the robotic, gauche, trendy headphones I’ve seen on hipster heads here in New York. They’re solidly assembled from a combination of walnut wood (ear cups), cast zinc alloy (attaching braces), stamped manganese spring steel (frame and self-adjusting headband), and memory foam and synthetic leather (ear pads and the covering for the above-mentioned headband).
I’ve got to admit, the Meze 99 Classics are probably one of the most beautiful pair of headphones I’ve ever been sent to review. The smooth, polished walnut ear cups are a true pleasure to touch. You can tell there is a lot of work put into making these things look the way they look.
With most headphones, I find they get quite uncomfortable after an extended period of use. However, I didn’t feel that with the Meze 99 Classics. They fit comfortably over my ear, hugged my head gently and provided adequate isolation from the outside world.
The Meze 99 Classics do not have any folding features to make them more compact for travel and transport, but they do come with a hard side, clamshell carry case with zipper closure. Inside the case is a smaller zip closure pouch to store cables and adapters; both 3.5mm to 1/4″ and dual 3.5mm airplane adapters are included. Like the headphone, the travel case is a very handsome and useful item.
Two cables are included with the 99 Classics: a four foot long cable with one-botton remote for portable use; and a ten foot long plain cable for use at home. Meze website says cables are Kevlar reinforced with OFC conductors. Cable-born noise from scraping your finger nail on the woven cable cover can be quite loud if you keep tension on the cable to the headphones, but I did not find this was actually find cable microphonics (technically not the correct term but everyone uses it) a problem at all in normal use. Compared to other headphones I used in this evaluation, cable-born noise on the 99 Classics was only slightly above average.
Cables are “Y” type with 3.5mm mono plugs at the headphone end and a straight 3.5mm plug at the amp end. Though I would have preferred an angled plug at the amp end, I find the cable build very esthetically pleasing; the shape and gold accents of the plug and “Y” junction are very tasteful.
DIYers take note: the 3.5mm mono plugs that go into the ear pieces are slender and have deep insertion. Aftermarket connectors to fit these jacks will be hard to come by if you’re looking to recable these cans. Plug housing diameter is 5mm; and needs to insert about 13mm into the hole.
Wow….just wow. These cans sound great. Where to start?
Overall tonality is excellent. Bass response sounds slightly over-emphatic; I think the level is just about right, but modestly loose and mildly distorted response does bring it a bit more attention to it. Extension is good, but does not quite fully reach into the lowest octave. Even though this is the 99 Classics weakest area, the bass still seemed to integrate and add pleasure to the overall listening experience.
I think headphone enthusiasts have become used to headphones that may be flat in the bass, and generally feel that dialing in 3-5db more bass below 150H; which is what the Harman Target Curve suggest; is too much. I think this feeling will slowly shift over time as we get more used to this presentation. I certainly now prefer a slightly elevated bass response below 150Hz.
The midrange on the 99 Classics is superb. Very coherent and even throughout; voices are rendered with wonderfully balanced tone; performers are neither too distant or in your face. This is a marvelously organic and musical headphone.
Treble is well balanced with the mid and bass response seamlessly integrating with the overall sound. It’s present and snappy, never straying into any undue harshness, though I find it ever so mildly grainy.
Imaging is outstanding for a sealed headphone. The image doesn’t move as far out from my head as some other open headphones, but width, depth, and image specificity seem very, very good.
Dynamics are also quite good, though lacking the serious punch big planar magnetics can deliver with a powerful amplifier. On the other hand, the 99 Classics are very efficient, and an astonishing drive and dynamism can be had from a phone!
I can easily say that the Meze 99 Classics are a truly great pair of headphones.
Styling is elegant and simple, luxurious and jewelry-like. A little over-the-top for my taste, but I recognize this is a tasty headphone. Build quality is very good with lots of cast zinc, steel, and wood. The headphones are fundamentally screwed together and can be disassembled with relative ease for repair. Hard-side clam-shell carry case and accessorization is terrific.
Comfort takes a slight knock for a slightly tight self-adjusting headband (for my head), and for slightly small and stiff ear-pads that tend to put more pressure at the top of my ears than the bottom.
Remember, these are headphones that I use often times for hours each day as I’m playing my video games on top of while I listen to music as well. That just means the Meze 99 Classics are an all around great product and can be used for multiple things.
The Meze 99 Classics are a bit expensive at $309.00, even on Amazon, but you have to remember, you’re getting much more than just a budget pair of headphones. These are top quality headphones in multiple ways. These aren’t something you’d buy just to throw around and on each and every day while you work out or do things around the house.