Meze 99 Classics Review by mark2410
Thanks to Meze for the loaner.
First Impressions: Well the box is a rather pleasant looking affair isn’t it. Seems very big though, hmm but nice, oh and inside we have a rather nice case. Though really, do people need a case for a big over ear headphone? Accessory wise we have them in a nice little cylindrical baggy thing and the cables inside which I must say all looks rather lovely. With the headphones ear pads and head band being cream rather than white, the outer weave on the cables is also that same cream. A rather nice touch than just having plain old white. Mind you on a wall cream ends up just looking like a not clean anymore white so……… hey it comes in other colour options too.
On the ears and nice squishy ear pads, very soft. Acoustically, well that is anything but soft, it’s a dazzling impression, quick hard punchy, dynamic. Oh gosh it moves fast, very fast, so very very fast. Wow there is some dazzle high up in the treble range somewhere. A marvellously spectacular presentation but 30 min and I can feel my ears crying out for a rest. Fingers crossed a little burn in will mellow their brilliance.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: Hearty and vigorous. Gosh they are quite vigorous. Okay they are beginning to be a little too vigorous. I’m not kidding now, stop it, seriously, I mean it!!! The bass, ooft, it’s very lively and big and god damn its wow on a first impression. Oh wow it really is super wow. It’s like the Yammy Pro-500 meets, err, erm, god knows what. Bass mountain on a dark and stormy night. Every time Lady Gaga came on it was like being thrown in a pressure chamber. The sudden pressure, the skull crushing power. Not just power but there is enough expansion on it to be such an air mover, good god, no one go near a bass boost button. Its quantity aside the quality is first rate, not quite yammy pro-500 good but this is waaaaaaaaay bigger and almost as skilful. This has clearly been made to be driven by any old source (phones) and so they are stupid easy to drive. Running ofF the Solo Ultra is just crazy. The power is ready to rip your face off, seriously.
Tonality is actually quite decent. Just so long as its not in abundance. Good god you provoke these in the slightest and they will tear your arm off and feed it to you. The quality is very nice and of a grade that is consummate to the price tag but I cannot help feel these are not aimed at the audiophile. These are aimed at the person who rather likes a Beats esq bass but doesn’t want to look like a chav wearing them and would like some semblance of quality.
Mids: Ahh if only there were more. Okay so these are pretty V shaped with a slant to the bass and the mids, they are very articulate and explicit in presentation. They have a very good breadth to them and the detail level is very high. They will release as much detail as you could ever want and will make your phone the limiting factor in use. I’m telling you now these need and deserve better than what your phone can supply. Tonally it is a slight drift towards broad and airy despite a moderately warm bass. It’s a little contradictory as in the lower vocals there is that noticeable slight warming. Yet at the same time the breadth in particular pulls and stretches out the mids to be a hint over explicit. Thus the detail levels are first rate all the way.
Quantity wise, well their clarity and space are good, it really is but these are still V shaped and the rambunctious bass is never shy and the treble as well come to that. Let’s just say the mids are taking third place here in quantity. However their very highly explicit nature means their forthright clarity is always apparent.
Highs: These for all their big bottom, very big bottom they have Grado like energy up top. I feel like there is some super high frequency at work. I’m not one to run a signal generator so I’m not going to try and find it but they remind me of the Grado 325’s I had (was the “is” version) which are known for being the most Grado, Grado. These are closed versions. There is a flighty, dancing, savage energy in there somewhere. Wow does it make for the most spectacular of first impressions. Just seriously and epically WOW. Those who know me know this is where I go but for me…….. yeah, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much. Oh good god it’s really is so spectacular to behold a fast, punchy, bassy, dazzlingly bombastic track. The treble moves just so fast, soooooooooooooo extremely fast I cannot help but be impressed by its raw talent. I imagine it’s the treble equivalent of being Sabine Schmitz children, running late for school, on exam day where you just cannot be late. The first few minutes you’re in awe, you’re dazzled. You’re thrilled by that extravaganza unfolding before you. Then your reality begins to sink in. While you can recognise that there is some amazing talent at work you begin to want it to just slow down.
The treble is such that you will want to steer away from any sort of brutality. Be it in the form of a hard or brittle source, poor mastering, poor bit rates, whatever. These are very unforgiving and they won’t be subtle about it if you feed them badly. Seriously, you don’t treat them well and they will take no prisoners in their assault on your ears.
Soundstage: Really quite good, their elevated hyper dynamic nature give a great sense of instrument separation and, yes and, they can do scale as well. Great instrument placement and scale aren’t things that often happen together. Their airiness from the scintillating treble and the vigour in the bottom form the bass gives a very convincing scale and authority. They can’t quite do open as well as an open headphone will but for a closed its some impressive stuff.
Fit: Super easy. They went on and I was done. They fit all the way round my ears so no faffing involved.
Comfort: Ah, well while they fit all the way round my ears they sadly didn’t quite have the depth my ears needed. In short bursts it was great and I barely noticed that they were touching my ears. However as time passed I could get to about an hour before I wanted them off my ears. I just couldn’t take it any longer. Their hyper dynamics and treble didn’t help them in this regard either. I really started wanted to get away from them after an hour and it’s in part why this review has taken so long to write. I won’t write about something if I’m not listening to it. This grew very wearing very fast.
Cable: Beautiful. It’s a really lovely cable, that cloth weave on it, which is colour matched to the pads. I may not love Cream but the cable looks lush and it feels of a high quality. However that weave, for some reason the right hand side in particular would rub on my collars. This would then transmit that noise right up to my ear. It wasn’t a deal breaker but it was irritating at times.
Isolation: Rather good. The big cups and the pads made a pretty good seal and so I could if I needed could use these out and about. It’s borderline what I’d usually think acceptable for bus use but walking I guess you could if you were so inclined. As ever my warning, as they are, with music on you could quite easy get yourself run over if you don’t look where you’re going.
Build Quality: Very nice. It’s pretty clear that some effort has been put into their looks and the build quality. They are lush, they look it and they feel it. Every little detail about them says these are a quality product, it is that simple.
Aesthetic: Beautiful. Now I’ve mentioned that the Cream ones I have here are not especially to my tastes. I would have much preferred a darker pair but that said, they still look beautiful. Taste’s may differ but I do not believe anyone would look at these and not be forced to concede that they look stunningly good. Just look at the things, they look fantastic. No ifs, no but’s these are one of if not the best looking headphones out there. I mean these things next to some chavtastic Beats things, there really isn’t any parallel between them. These look wonderful.
Phone Use: It worked just fine with my Nexus 5. It worked fine with every phone I stuck it into actually. Though I did find that while the button worked the shape of the housing meant it wanted to turn in my fingers rather than depress. A very minor thing but you know. Calls though were all good, as you would hope them to be.
Amped/Unamped: One thing I noticed is these are stupidly easy to drive, I mean seriously stupidly easy. They are maybe the most easy to drive full sized headphones ever encountered. They are clearly made with phone use in mind. Not least of which because they have a phone cable and mic but that they are soooooooooooooooo easy to drive. They are so wildly sensitive that even the weakest source will drive them to deafen you levels with the tiniest flick of a volume dial. It also meant to make these dazzlingly explicit was easy. These will pull out everything your phone can display to them. Now if you are insistent that you must use a phone as your source and you must have full sized cans then these will work great for you. You really do not at all, need some beefy amp. In fact, you may well be better with not using these from a powerful source. You see they are so sensitive that running them out of a good amp they could become so hyper dynamic and hyper explicit. Their exuberance just soars to crazy levels, the lows explosive, the highs, like firing lasers in a De Beers show room. It’s all just wow, so wow that it’s exhausting and simply too much for me. As such you may well want to not amp them. Yes an amp will “improve” them in the usual ways but given their highly explicit nature I just think you may not want to increase it.
Accessories: It really is quite a nice little bundle. You get a nice case, a bag thing for the cables and bits. The bits being 6.25 to 3.5mm adapter and a plane adapter. Oh there is also a spare cable, well you get the phone one with is a reasonably short cable, you know normal length. Then there is the non-phone one that’s huge. I tried to look it up on their site but I didn’t notice it specify and I wasn’t going to measure it, so let’s just go with its long.
Value: They come in at 309 euro’s which seems a strange number, I mean why not make them 300? They will also sell them in US$ and they are too US$309. Erm, that doesn’t to specify you must be outside the EU to get that price so I’d suggest you pay in US$ then. At the moment that would make them £232 (verses £259 if you pay in euro’s.) Let’s face it their competition are the Senn Momentum Over-Ears which come in at just £200 these days. The 99’s are better, in pure detail retrieval they are simply better. They are also more pretty, in fact I’d say they best the Senn’s on almost every account, just availability, price and comfort do the Senn’s come out on top.
Conclusion: Ahh the 99 Classics. May I just say, what is with that name? I’m sorry but in the UK, I hear 99 and I think ice cream cone with a flake in it. Anyway…they are a pretty damned impressive first outing for a new company, a very, very seriously impressive outing. However you know that’s their biggest problem. They are sooooooo impressive, too wildly impressive, that bass, those highs, wow, just so much wow. Too much wow. They do make the most incredible first impression even to me and my treble sensitive ears, at first you cannot help but be blown away with them. That bass is awesome but like the highs there is just too much, it’s too eager, too abundant, too everything. Gah they just don’t ever stop and 30 min in with them I find myself tipping from the wow this great to can I take a little break now, please?
That is the problem I have with the 99’s, they are just so wow and they pair that with being relentless. Any one song on them and I’m in awe of them. They are just so wonderful, acoustically they are just excellent, so mesmerising and dazzling.
So should you/ would I buy one? Well I would not, they are impressive for sure but oh god they are exhausting my ears and more than a touch uncomfortable physically. I don’t think I have particularly sticky out ears but they with the lovely soft, squishy pads squished too much and began resting on my ears. This discomfort would rapidly grow to pain and to desperately wanting them off my ears. However I haven’t sees anyone else comment they had this issue so maybe it’s just me. Likewise I haven’t sees anyone else find its treble to be so exhausting as I have. I know I’ve got more treble sensitive ears than most so again maybe it’s me. What about you then, well no doubt the 99’s are super impressive things but the question you need to ask yourself is do you want something so hyper expressive and exuberant? For sure it’s a dazzling wonder just make sure you want to be so dazzled first.