Meze 11 Neo Earphone Review by mark2410
Thanks To Meze for the sample.
TLDR? Try here http://www.head-fi.org/t/824405/meze-11-neo-earphone-review-by-mark2410#post_12973742
First Impressions: Oops, seems I forgot to do think when I first got them and opened. Oh well. Anyway…. The box, nothing very much exciting about it. A nice box, nothing unusual about it. Inside we got the earphones, a case and a bunch of tips. Oh and a Comply baggy, is it me or are they using much bigger bags than they used to? Oh there is also a shirt clip and a little Velcro cable wrap thingy, I like those. The buds look rather nice though I must say, I love that gunmetal look but mind you the Iridium pair in pics look great too, it can’t be real iridium though right? Whatever colour you get you always wander if the other would have been nicer but I think we can all agree these look pretty good.
In the ears and having slapped on the Comply’s because, well, lazy. These are not what I expected. I had assumed these would come with a sound signature like that of the 99 Classics, all drama and excitement orientated. These however have so much a more natural balance. Not that I’m unhappy about that, it’s generally much nicer on the ear which when your reviewing things and listening for hours it’s just more gentle. I’m just surprised is all, much more relaxed treble presentation. These are rather nice, they are reminding me of something too but I can’t quite think what. It’s on the tip of my tongue but, sigh, first world problems and having heard too many earphones I can’t think which one. Anyway burn in time.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: Rich, full and hearty. These have a really sumptuous presentation, it’s really relaxed, easy on the ear and though mellow isn’t sloppy about it. It is more roundelay shapely than I might entirely want. I found that with a warm source they did became a little over indulgent and soft. Though playing them with a more hard pairing they cleaned and hardened right up. The E7/E9 was nice, it really was but you know it just made for a too politely mellow sound. Changing to the uDAC 3 into the Solo Ultra and things got much more snappy. Yey for being easily adjusted. Don’t get me wrong the richly mellow stuff is nice for a little evening listening but the colder pairing was a much more refreshingly lightened presentation. Not that it’s very airy or dry, they just get a neutral nudging and made them very much more an attention grabbing, engaging listen. The bass depth seemed to diminish a touch not that it was crazy deep before but the more firm cooler pairing was nicely clean. Trust me giving up a dollop of warmth really makes these simply better. The accuracy of the bass is simply better. The sweeping lower ranges of Tori’s “Putting The Damage On” is excellent. Just the perfect sort of song for these, acoustic, well layered and not too cluttered.
The faster and harder the bass got the more these wanted a cold and power source. I know I ought to be swapping back to something warmer but I just couldn’t make my hands do it. I know it would soften and flabby it up and, well, I just couldn’t do it.
Quantity wise these are a bit on the bassy side, fitting in with that backslash type slope, mostly bassy, quite middy, reduced treble.
Mids: Nice. Things with acoustic balance tend to have richly captivating vocals and they do. Still I was so compelled to go with a colder paring and the vocals lost some of their fullness. The trade off was that they got more agile and this was noticeable most with strings. Firing up a little Elgar and these shone. Strings are most pleasing though I’m still waving back and forth about vocals. I like the richness of them warmed but the colder felt more revealing. Ahh as ever there is not “better” just different. Still the midrange either way is highly pleasing to the ear. Not the most direct or detailed but very pleasing. I never hit anything that sounded poor. While I know it’s not nailing things and it’s a little obfucative on the finer detail it’s such a pleasantly coherent and integrated mid range. Sweeping and melodic, you don’t sit listening out for details, listening to the earphone rather than the music. With these it’s the music you hear.
Quantity wise these are a little middy, a little behind the bass and a little ahead of the highs.
Highs: I think I’ve pretty much said enough for you to know what’s coming. It is a relatively treble muted, easy on the ear, gently warm and relaxed sound. Even with a cool source and amp this is no detail examining treble monster. It’s just so easy on the ear and so easy to just listen to the music not the earphone. Time and again I found myself having mentally drifted away then having to snap back and remember that I’m supposed to be reviewing them. Everything just sounded so nice on them. While I may enjoy listening to Nina Simone she’s really no use whatsoever trying to analyse anything. This would appear to the overriding theme of the 11 Neo, it’s something you listen to music through, you don’t listen to them. Trying to force myself to listen out for treble nuances was just such an effort, before I know it I was back just listening away, especially to the vocals. Good for users, massive pain in the arse for me.
Throwing on Owl City’s “Cave In” and these with a cold set up do a rather good job of rising up to the occasion. The treble is a touch dampened but the bass really gets its groove on. See there I’m doing it again, not paying attention to what I should be. So treble, it nice, bit diffuse, easy on the ear with good enough detail.
Soundstage: These are at times smallish then with other things really open up. They do shine at the best when playing stuff of a more intimate nature though. Fast paced stuff however does seem to really open up them spatially. It’s a bit weird but hey, it all works rather nicely.
Fit: Great, no issue wearing up or down, though you should wear them up. In they went and done.
Comfort: Great. I could have maybe done with bigger Comply’s as these are a bit shallow fitting but no issues wearing these for several hours at a time. Never got bothersome or tiring.
Microphonics: None. Like nothing at all wearing them up, even deliberately hitting the cable. Wearing down there was barely anything too, deliberately trying. I don’t know why but hey, great stuff.
Aesthetics: Yeah so these may not be the best looking things in the world but they are right up there with the lookers. I just wish I had the Iridium ones too in front of me to compare them both next to each other. These look lovely.
Cable: Great. It weirdly gave zero microphonics and its looks nice while feeling rather sturdy. There isn’t anything not to like about it. It’s really nice looking too.
Isolation: Pretty good. For a dynamic it’s in the okay category so that means fine for out and about possibly on a bus. Not ideal for a Tube commute or long flight but you know, better than nothing. As ever it’s easily sufficient to make yourself a hood ornament if you don’t use your eyes when near traffic.
Accessories: It is a fairly simple bundle, a smallish selection of tips, a shirt clip and the case. The case tbh is the bit that really matters to me and it’s a rather nice and functional case so I’m fine with the bundle.
Amped/Unamped: Well these don’t “need” an amping but they do respond well to it. They also respond well to being paired to a warm or cold set up. Now for me, my tastes meant I constantly went with the cooler set up and threw power at them. Though what really was the more important aspect of that set up was the cooler pairing. For example I like the nudging they got from the little 1G Ipod Shuffle over going with the warm HM-603. These are warm earphones and I generally like to pair warm with cold, whichever way round they are. Warm on warm and you get a very rich flavour that while is comforting it was just too warm for me. Very smooth and relaxing sure but I wanted a little dash of excitement in there.
Value: So they are €59 or £49. I’m not even going to try and think how many things there are around that price or trying to judge what is the best value. There is tons of good stuff and these too are really good. They are richly engaging and would appear to be very nicely constructed with excellent looks. So long as you aren’t after buckets of treble these are very sold buy for your money acoustically and one of the better looking I think.
Conclusion: So I’ve had issues with these. You see its not that I don’t like them or anything but they are just so nice, so constantly very nice, all I ended up doing was listening to music and not listening to them like I was supposed to be. This is such a pain when you’re trying to reviewing something as it’s the equivalent of trying to be all productive then you have suddenly find yourself on YouTube and two hours have just vanished. You didn’t mean to but you’ve taken a handful of time and thrown it out the window. That is what I kept doing with these. Time and again I had to snap myself back to what I was supposed to be doing. They aren’t the most technically amazing things ever but they are just so easy and palatable. I could completely happily spend the day with these in my ears and then find I’ve getting nothing productive done, I won’t care either. I might care later but I won’t be unhappy at the time.
Ahh so if these have a failing it’s that they are too nice. They are always so pleasant to listen to, everything you play on them all sounds so nice. It’s so easy on the ear too, never do you get warn out. Like some comforting warm stew or something. So effortless, so easy, so snuggly that you can lose yourself in it. As issues go it’s not exactly a bad one. Though from my perspective and if you’re wanting to use these as an analytical tool, yeah but no, no they don’t do that. It isn’t that it’s really a problem per say, it’s an accoustic styling choice, a flavoured one that I found deeply pleasing and relaxing.
So would I / should you buy one? Me maybe. This is a musical style I enjoy very much but these are so homely and comforting that I’d lose so much time to them. Trust me this review has eaten up waaaaaaaaaaay more time than it should have because I’d just get lost listening to the music when I was supposed to be listening to them. So if you’re a crazy audio person always looking for the next exciting thing, this isn’t it. This is the one you buy when you want to just get on with the music. You want to hear your music and not spent time picking the music and the mastering apart, these are for the integrated whole.