Twin reviews incoming!
Well of course I am not here to publish both in one go, I will have the other one saved for another day here at The Tech Kaiju. However, these two will have to be a pretty interesting review comparing their contrasts in spite of seemingly identical looks.
I give you: the Meze 99 Neo and Classics!
Both has their own personality given the material used, however in terms of dimensions and design they pretty much look alike. One would wonder then, what in the world got into Meze’s mind when they came up with identical cans instead of going for an opportunity to come up with a different design for each? Yes, they look pretty sexy, I be damned about it, but what really is different between these siblings apart from what is obvious?
For today, let’s focus on their newest outing, the 99 Neo and see how can this pair of cans pit up against similarly priced cans in the market.
Let’s check it out.
Much has been said about Meze cans and most are pretty much the same: they look damn lovely! The texture of the cups really got me, and while I have a strong affinity with wood cups, the cups of the 99 Neo is somewhat reminiscent of a leathery finish which matches the luster of the can’s headband and ear pads.
Looking at how Meze designed their cans kind of give you a mix of both industrial and classic look. While the leathery overall finish of most parts kind of give you the quintessential classy look, the metal parts does put a bit of modernistic accent to the can. The Meze logo on both sides of the can definitely places a touch of premium for the can.
Perhaps Meze invested much on the design, what with how it looked while wearing it. While the sound quality of a pair of headphones definitely should be the primary consideration when getting one, the looks definitely should be a significant bonus considering that a lot of people see cans somewhat a fashion accessory to match their outfit.
Packaging is excellently done too. The 99 Neo comes with 2 cables, a shorter one with mic and a 3 meter non-mic cable. My issue though with the cables is the termination; while it sports two 3.5mm mono TS plugs that go straight to the cups, the jacks in the cups are a bit too deep that Meze decided to go for slim extended plugs which may be an issue for DIY fans. I personally would opt for a shorter non-mic cable, and using my Onkyo DP-X1, it will be a shame if I won’t be able to maximize the use of a balanced termination with my DAP, so in case I will want to get myself a custom cable, I will be a bit hard pressed to find plugs of such width and depth. Good thing though that Meze now offers such plugs which costs $20 a pair. Not exactly the cheapest plugs you can get, but will do if you are really like me who wishes for a balanced termination. It looks good though, so I guess the price is not too bad.
The packaging also includes a very nifty case made of mesh patched with a Meze emblem. Pretty cool for me, as it not only protects the cans but also adds some premium feel on the entire package.
Along these comes a cylindrical accessory case which also includes an airplane adapter and a 3.5mm-6.3mm adapter in case you need one. All in all, the packaging already sets to mind how well thought of the entire packaging is. At $249, I will have to say that the 99 Neo is already a bargain.
I find it strange upon checking the Meze website (www.mezeaudio.com) that the frequency range graph between the 99 Neo and the 99 Classics to be pretty identical. Contrary to this, as much as both has a certain similarities especially with the fact that they both carry the same house sound of Meze, there are certain differences that one might notice. Initially, both sounded the same from the get-go, but closer listening should reveal some differences between each other.
One of these is the soundstage. While both are closed back, I find the 99 Classics to have a slightly better soundstage compared to the 99 Neo. While it may not be discernible for some people, 99 Classics sounded to have a better height and width in terms of soundstage. While 99 Neo may sound narrower, for some people it may not necessarily be much different (although for those who nitpick, it is something that is clear after about half an hour listening when comparing the two).
Imaging seems to also be a little bit more accurate for the 99 Classics compared to the 99 Neo. I found the spatial accuracy to be slightly better for the 99 Classics, and while it may also not be too noticeable for a lot of people, for those who has the ability to pick on such details it may be something that is a bit obvious.
Bass is also something quite noticeable for each when doing a bit of a comparison. While both carries a significant quantity of bass, 99 Neo has a more lush low end compared to 99 Classics’ tighter bass. Mid bass also seems to be richer with the 99 Neo.
Perhaps to have a better glimpse of the differences between the two, it will be best to use orchestral tracks to hear the difference as mentioned. You may also want to try live tracks to see how much difference there is between the two. I will have to admit though that this may exactly be preferential depending on who will use the cans.
Let me go through some of the tracks I tried using the 99 Neo so I can represent it a bit better. With this test, I shall be using my Onkyo DP-X1.
No One Like You (Sarah Brightman & The London Symphony Orchestra, Time To Say Goodbye)
While the Meze house sound signature bears emphasis on the low ends, it is capable of carrying such excellent detail on the mid range and even the higher end. Chimes sounded quite clear and airy. Cymbals and strings sounded pretty clean for me, although in comparison with the 99 Classics, range is a bit narrower but would probably be too close to really see that much of a difference.
Star Wars Main Title (John Williams, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
The fun part using the 99 Neo is its versatility when it comes to varied musical genre. While I immensely enjoyed the can with the previous track, this track was offered to be quite as enjoyable. Details on the symphony of the orchestra definitely was laid properly by the 99 Neo, although it felt a bit suppressed on the higher frequencies, at least for this track. That is not saying that it is not enjoyable, but perhaps a slightly brighter tuning would have been a lot more impressive. Still, using this can I won’t say no listening to John Williams.
Crazy (Seal, Best: 1991-2004)
Seal has got to have one of my favorite voices, and it is for a good reason. His is so soulful and may only be justified by properly positioned mid range of a certain can or IEM. In the case of 99 Neo, his voice is well complemented by the punches of the lower frequencies without being overpowered by the subs. I pretty much liked how the sub bass hummed along Seal’s voice, emanating a very clean sound while enjoying the bass. Imaging is also quite exquisite for something of this price, but in comparison to its brother, I will have to say that the 99 Classics did better justice to the track.
One might think that with such slim price difference between 99 Neo and 99 Classics, one would probably opt for the 99 Classics. I disagree though, as the ever consistent issue on preference will always come into play. However, in an objective standpoint, there should be a lot of reasons to like the 99 Neo, particularly the lush, rich bass you get out of the can. It is forgiving, and would allow one to enjoy most of the current hits in the industry at this point in time. As I have tried 3 varied genres, I enjoyed the time listening in to the 99 Neo. It sounds clean for something of its price, and I will say it can even compete with some cans with a price of about $400.
Then again, I will leave it to you, my dear readers, to check it out for yourself. Trust me, the time you will spend listening in to the 99 Neo is very, very much worth it. Heck, I would even hazard a guess that you will get one after listening to it; it is practical, offers great sound, and should be easily liked by pretty much anyone.