Meze 99 Classic. Ahh.
I came across the can late last year through a friend, Giuseppe Massara and he shared to me how well tuned this can is. Well in my case, I am not very familiar with the can, and since his brands including the Advanced and ATech Go are proven to be really quite well-tuned for the entry level mark, I kind of expected this to be no less given how Giuseppe’s ears are.
Fast forward several months later, I finally decided to get my hands on this pair, and I am pretty thankful to Giuseppe upon hearing these cans. These are actually what portable cans are supposed to be.
Truth be told, you can’t compare these to the likes of Audeze LCD-2 or Mr. Speaker Ether, for the simple reason that this is very portable and will not require amplifiers to be made to sing well. However, for those within its price range (Sony MDR-1A? Focal Listen? BD Custom One Pro?), I think this relatively new brand did put some fight and may even be better than a lot of those given the same function and price.
But why, some of you who haven’t tried it, might ask. Well, let me go through this as we talk about this new sensation from Meze.
As I previously reviewed, in terms of build the 99 Neo is not really much different to the 99 Classics. Most parts are pretty much the same, with the exception of the wood cups that the 99 Classics tote. Given this major difference, the aesthetics definitely got a more, err, classic look. The 99 Classics used to carry three color variants, but opted to leave the two Walnut models and decided to ditch the Maple model (at least based on the website which took the Maple model out of its shop). It isn’t much of a loss, as the silver and gold trimmed already are quite the lookers. Plus, personally, the white tone of the Maple model doesn’t seem to suit me well so I can’t really care less.
One other difference I noticed was the foam pads. As much as the 99 Neo and 99 Classics seem to carry same pads, they felt a bit different. I had co-TTK writer/owner Lorenz try both and give his views and one thing he pointed out was how much better the seal was for the 99 Classics compared to the 99 Neo. Seems Meze used a firmer, better memory foams on 99 Classics’ pads compared to the one from the Neo.
Other than these two difference, everything seems to be pretty much the same. Both carries two cables, a shorter one with mic and another 3 meter long mic-less cable, airplane adapter, 3.5mm-6.3mm adapter, accessory pouch and the really slim and snug carrying case. With the $60 increment from 99 Neo, I still think the package alone is all worth it.
If you are following the Bus Ride Impression here at The Tech Kaiju, I would say that there are some slight differences between the 99 Neo and the 99 Classics. Overall, I will say the 99 Classics should be better against the 99 Neo, although it is not to say that 99 Neo is bad. It just so happens that 99 Classics seems to present better staging, imaging and details. It felt that the headroom of 99 Classics is better, with much more refined, tighter mid-bass and better sparkle on the higher end. Mid-range sounded the same, although in terms of realism, the 99 Classics easily wins it.
Just to make a point, I will be using my Onkyo DP-X1 to test the 99 Classics.
Shoot To Thrill (AC/DC, Iron Man 2 [Deluxe Edition])
Guitars are quite raunchy and is fairly separated from the drums, giving a very clean division of low ends to mids-ranges. Sub-bass has an ample but smooth extension, not to extended but is definitely not rolled off. Cymbals are ever transparent and clear but is not piercing nor sharp. Brian Johnson’s voice is thrown in clearly without being too forward, I am perhaps guessing that there is a very slight bump on the mid-range to allow such vocal clarity.
Lost Stars (Adam Levine, Begin Again: Music From & Inspired by the OMPST)
Guitars at the start of the track is still quite crisp, with Levine’s voice harmonizing well with the guitars. Clapper’s splashes seems to be short yet crystalline. As the rest of the instruments are introduced at around 0:59, you can easily discern each, with bass humming lightly and piano resonating with such excellent tone. Throughout the track, Levine’s vocal prowess does stand out without being drowned by any instruments yet still limiting its placement to something not too forward but very clear. Placement is definitely great with the 99 Classics for each instruments.
These Dreams (Heart, Live At The Royal Albert Hall)
One thing that particularly stood out in this track is the hum of sub-bass that sounded relaxing and omnipresent. Nancy and Annie Wilson’s voice are definitely golden with the 99 Classics, blending with each other well while complementing the gentle attack of the instruments. Soundstage seems quite decent for a closed-back can; not too wide but has quite an excellent height. Imaging still is above average to excellent, but I guess above average given the fact that this is a closed-back can.
Overall, bass definitely is the strength of the 99 Classic. With all 3 tracks, bass has definitely been playing as the strength of the the can, as it allowed great control of the frequency. Subtle but immaculate sub-bass with mid-bass punching through quite well.
Personally, I will have to say that I have finally found the right go-to portable can for me. It is closed-back, so sound leak should be the least of your concerns. It allows such excellent great control of the frequencies, yet provides that right bass punch. It is easy to drive, so a phone should be sufficient to give it the juice it needs to sing well. Most importantly, with the price of $309 (www.mezeaudio.com), you should not worry about breaking your wallet in half.
Should you get one? I highly suggest that you do. It is not always you come across something this good, and this has been attested by a lot of people who has tried it. No cons? Maybe perhaps because of the expectation from a portable, easy to drive can, it is indeed just a great one should get should the budget is available anyway. Afterall, I don’t see any losses if you do grab one yourself, so please, just go get one.