The Meze 99 Classics are a pair of well built and stylish headphones that should please most audiophiles looking for a fun, warmer, and bass heavy sound signature. The bass skewed sound signature results in a fun sound that favors music that have lighter composition or doesn’t require a ton of separation such as vocals, electronic, solo instruments, etc, so people listening to those types of music across genres will have a lot of fun with these headphones. While I think they’re a bit overhyped by the audio community, they still perform well enough to be considered a pair of quality audiophile headphones.
UPDATE: Tried these headphones with the Brainwavz velour pads, and my perspective on these headphones went from pretty good to really good. See sound section for update.
Build quality and comfort
The Meze 99 classics look fantastic, and the build quality feels top notch, except maybe the cable, which constantly tangles or feels thin enough to question their long term durability. Everything you touch feels high quality, from the wooden cup to the metal pieces bolted strategically around the headband. I’m always a bit skeptical about these type of non adjustable headphones since headphones like the K701s never quite agreed with me, but I’m pleased to say that these have not been uncomfortable after 2-3 hour listening sessions, even as someone who wears glasses. This was a pleasant surprise; however, comfort is very subjective, and you should definitely try these yourself. The headband can put some pressure on the upper part of your head, but it’s only noticeable once in awhile, and you can adjust the headband position a bit to solve it. Clamping force is relatively light, but strong enough it won’t fall when rocking out. It does, however, shift around a bit if you’re jumping up and down while DJing.
Objectively, the Meze 99s produce a warm and bass heavy sound that creates a fun signature to listen to. Soundstage width leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s just wide enough that it’s not too claustrophobic. Separation is generally good and the depth produced by these headphones is fantastic because of the rich and deep bass. Bass is definitely the star of these headphones, and while they’re reasonably tight, it can feel a tiny bit loose at times, and it can also bleed into the mids and clutter the sound a bit. Mids are very smooth and natural, but highs are a bit too quiet and lack the sparkle and tightness found in other audiophile headphones. Sonically, I don’t think these are particularly mind blowing, but they sound adequate enough to be considered audiophile headphones. They’re also quite sensitive and easy to drive from pretty much anything.
Subjectively, I do agree with people that these are fun headphones to listen to, but I’m not sure if they’re “knock your socks off” impressive. The best way I can summarize it is that if you start doing critical listening and treating the listening session as a review, you start to see it fall apart a bit; however, if you’re casually listening most of the time, they are definitely fun to listen to with the audiophile level quality brilliance shining through here and there. While heavy compositions that require a lot of separation sound a bit suffocating on these headphones, such as orchestral music (scheherazade – rimsky korsakov), big bands (count bubba – gordon goodwin), and even some rock can get a bit cluttered (YYZ – Rush), lighter compositions across different genres sound fantastic, such as vocals (valerie – amy winehouse), solo instruments (violin partita no 2 in d minor – bach played by hilary), or electronic music (voltage control – andrew bayer). While trance isn’t technically lighter composition, it falls under “homogenous sound that requires minimal separation between instruments,” which the headphones tackle well. These are pretty fun to listen to electronic music on, but the bass is just too damn much for prolonged loud listening sessions. If you’re not doing analytical work on headphones, these are reasonably fun to listen to across all genres.
I actually think I prefer the sound of the Sennheiser Momentums a bit more, but I had serious issues with comfort on both the headband and earpad, so it was an easy no. I also wanted something that’s both easy to drive, small enough to carry around, fully circumaural, and there aren’t that many headphones that check off those boxes. Because the Meze successfully checks off my specific requirements for these headphones and sound reasonably good, I think I will be keeping these headphones and swapping out the earpads with the brainwavz velour pads. There really aren’t that many competitors for my specific needs. If size or amping isn’t a requirement, people should definitely have more headphones to compare against.
UPDATE: With the Brainwavz velour pads, the sound becomes much more balanced and clear. The highs are noticeably crisper, the bass isn’t as overwhelming, and the overall signature feels a lot more balanced. Yes, you will lose a lot of bass and depth, but the gains mentioned above make it worth it for me personally. The bass is still audible and extends relatively deep, but it’s not the center of focus like before. With that said, listening to electronic music still provides an ample ‘head-bang’ levels of bass. Because of this shift, details in the composition are a lot more present, and the velour pads are also significantly more comfortable. Do I recommend the pads for everyone? Depends. If you’re happy with the stock sound, I’d keep it, but if your opinions and musical preferences are similar to mine, I’d definitely recommend trying these out. The only downside is that these don’t fit perfectly, so the pads stick a tiny bit; however, it’s not as ill-fitting as putting these on the momentums or something, and I’m pretty picky about how my headphones look. If you’re sensitive to highs, this change might also not be for you.
Giorgio by Moroder – Daft Punk
- 00:00 – 00:36 – Soundstage is adequate for closed headphones, but not amazing as expected. His voice is the focus, but it’s actually easy to get distracted by the lower end bass line and the background chatter. There’s a good amount of depth and richness in both his voice and the bass line, and the overall sound is very warm.
- 00:36 – 1:08 – There’s a lot of bass. These are definitely bass focused headphones, but you can still hear the other bands if you turn your attention towards them. Bass is reasonably tight and high quality, the little guitar riffs come through with plenty of clarity if you listen for it. His voice continues to sound rich, smooth, and relatively neutral.
- 6:58 – 7:30 – Treble is slightly subdued, and it doesn’t have the crispness and sparkle from headphones with outstanding treble. With that said, it’s pleasant enough. Bass continues to be deep and reasonably tight, but it feels like it lags just the tiniest bit in some areas.
Tom Sawyer – Rush
- 00:00 – 00:50 – Soundstage and separation is adequate, and it feels just wide enough to not feel claustrophobic. Highs being subdued is very obvious here and can be hard to listen identify, bass line is definitely has the biggest presence, with the bass drum kicks coming through with a lot of punch, and his voice sounds natural, but slightly in the background due to the way bass lines are coming through.
Come Away with Me – Norah Jones
- 00:00 -1:00 – Separation is adequate as stated previously, and bass line also continues to come through and always take center stage with each bass note. I do love the details in her voice; it’s smooth, detailed, and natural.
Four seasons L’estate III Presto – Vivaldi (Pavel)
- 00:00 – 00:44 Violin attacks are a bit disappointing and lacking the ferocious energy that the orchestra is displaying in the opening sections. Depth is impressive because of how well the bass performs, but the rest of the string sections get a little bit lost as a result.
- 00:45 -1:04 Pavel’s aggressiveness does not really come through that well, which is a bit disappointing. It’s definitely a warmer set of headphones.
- 1:05 – 1:20 – Love the depth in this section, and I love the way everything comes together. Sure, it’s not balanced, but it’s entertaining to listen to when the full orchestra is moving as one.
Count Bubba – Gordon Goodwin
- 00:00 – 00:41 Overall sound is very warm due to bumped up bass and quieter treble, and the soundstage is just wide enough to not feel cluttered, but it’s not amazing as stated previously. Sax section comes through well, but it sounds a little bit too warm then what they should sound like, but it might be a side effect of the bass tuning. Maybe it’ll be different once I EQ it. Treble is a bit of a let down, and these headphones don’t impress when you need a lot of separation and clarity.
- 1:10 – 1:39 Fortunately, this is where the headphone shines. Stripped down compositions where you can enjoy how smooth and clean the mid range sounds. Yes, it’s a bit warmer than what you expect, but it’s still quite enjoyable to listen to.
Are the Meze 99 Classics right for you?
Who it’s for:
- People who want headphones that are stylish and audiophile grade quality with a fun bassy sound signature
- People who want closed headphones that are portable and easy to drive
- People who listen to music genres such as vocals, single instrument, electronic
Who it’s not for:
- People who want a detailed and analytic set of headphones for studio work or critical listening
- People who hate bass
- People who prefer colder and detail favoring headphones
- People who listen to heavily layered music genres (e.g. orchestral music)