We open the HiFi reviews section talking about our most recent acquisition among the brands that we distribute exclusively in Italy: we are talking about Meze Headphones, a company founded by Antonio Meze in England, and which has recently moved its operational base in Baia Mare, Romania.
The Meze 99 Classics headphones are the flagship model of Meze Headphones and are enjoying, in Europe and worldwide, a resounding and unanimous success, thanks to the excellent characteristics of their design and the materials used.
We have been listening to them for dozens of hours and this is the report of our tests, with our considerations.
The wooden headphones you don't expect
Antonio Meze is the designer and designer of the 99 Classics headphones, a product with which he has already won numerous awards from international critics. The latest award, in chronological order, is the prestigious A'Design Award.
But how is it possible that headphones can win design competitions and at the same time prove to be champions of musicality?
Just look at the graph of the frequency response of the Meze 99 Classics headphones to understand how Antonio Meze is not only capable of designing objects that are stylistically excellent, but how he also understands high fidelity...
Meze 99 Classics: how they look like
The Meze 99 Classics are circumaural headphones, equipped with 40mm diameter wide band drivers housed in pavilions made of soft memory foam shape (memory foam), upholstered in leather-like, with very solid shells made entirely of real wood.
One of the peculiarities of Meze headphones is the fact that they can be completely disassembled, because no component is glued or welded. This solution responds to a clear will of the designer, who wanted to create a headset that can last very long in time and easily repairable in case of need.
Speaking of technical data, these are respectable: the sensitivity of the headphones Meze 99 Classics is 103dB at 1kHz with 1 mW of power, while its impedance is 32 ohms, with a very linear frequency response ranging from 15Hz to 25 kHz.
According to specifications, these headphones can be driven by any smartphone, as well as by a headphone amplifier or an Audio DAC.
Meze 99 Classics: the accesories included
Meze 99 Classics headphones are delivered in a very stylish and refined premium package and are housed in a shaped plastic case.
Very practical and equipped with a zipper, the case includes inside an additional bag containing all the accessories: it is a very rich equipment that accompanies the Meze 99 Classics, consisting of two interconnecting cables (one of 3 meters with 3.5mm mini-jack terminals, one of 1.2 meters with a wired remote control and integrated microphone, useful for making voice calls with a smartphone or tablet), a male mini-jack adapter from 6.35 and also an adapter for use in the airplane.
Meze 99 Classics: ergonomics
The self-adjusting band is really very well designed and the pressure exerted on the head is always uniform and never annoying. There is no need to make any adjustments, because the headset adjusts itself as soon as it is placed on the head.
The earcups are very comfortable and the level of passive sound insulation is very good.
At 260 grams, the Meze 99 Classics headset is very comfortable to wear and we found no painful inertia when making head movements.
The Meze 99 Classics are suitable for both home listening at a fixed location and for listening on the go.
Even when used in bed, the wooden shells properly filter out the noise generated by contact with the cushion, which is rarely the case with headphones with plastic earcups.
The only small drawback is that the metal headband generates some noise when touched. Of course this is a circumstance that does not create any problem and that has never disturbed us during our listening.
The OFC copper interconnects are also very well made, detachable, and are lined with a protective Kevlar sheath to prevent them from tangling during use.
Really nothing to object to, the ergonomics is excellent.
Meze 99 Classics : the finishes
It's really hard to criticise the Meze 99 Classics. The Walnut Gold finish is elegant and eye-catching, while the other two finishes available (Walnut Silver and Maple Silver) are probably more discreet and classic. As always it's a matter of taste and you enter the sphere of personal subjectivity, but it's nice to be able to choose!
One could raise some objections to the choice of synthetic leather, but in this price range, with this almost maniacal care in the realization and with this sound performance, it is probably only a matter of vices and of necessarily wanting to look for "the hair in the egg".
Not only did our eyes appreciate the details of the finish, but also our ears appreciated (and not a little!) the musicality and naturalness of the sound reproduction!
All the components of these headphones are worked with great skill and we can only congratulate the team of designers Antonio Meze and, at the same time, marvel at the experience gained during their long work of research and development (over 2 years of development, testing, extensive testing).
Meze 99 Classics : the drivers
Antonio Meze personally tested several transducers before finding the ones that best fit his needs and the sonic result he was pursuing. It was also a question of finding a loudspeaker model that would fit perfectly into the wood chosen for the shells. The 40mm wide band neodymium mylar dynamic transducer showed a truly admirable frequency response curve, with reduced sensitivity in the low-mid range and a slight reinforcement in the high range.
“On paper, it is the guarantee of a well incarnated listening, not very aggressive, with the right dose of brightness such as to make it flattering”.
Let's be clearer: a frequency response curve like this of the Meze 99 Classics is really a rarity for headphones, because it is (unfortunately) fashionable to have very emphasized curves in the mid and high range, with a prominence at these frequencies introduced to provide the illusion of greater definition.
We can therefore say that the Meze 99 Classics are not victims of these "commercial" choices, quite the contrary.
Rather, the frequency response curve of the Meze 99 Classics is absolutely physiological, which means it is ideal for the sensitivity of the human ear.
The low frequencies (about 20Hz to about 200Hz) at which our ear is less sensitive are reproduced with an intensity 2 to 4 times greater than the midrange frequencies, at which our ear is much more sensitive.
When listening, this translates into a very balanced and generous sound at low frequencies, but since the range between 20 Hz and 200 Hz is slightly reinforced, the resulting performance appears to be well amalgamated.
As for the high range, this extends up to 5 kHz (which is absolutely normal for a full-range driver), but is in a 3dB range. The high frequencies are therefore always well controlled and never over the top, never annoying, never sharp.
The final result is a very, very good overall tonal balance.
It is amusing to note that this frequency response curve is practically identical to that typical of the most successful drivers in vogue in the 70s and 80s: that is, a full-bodied bass range, a mid-range back between 2 and 4 kHz (for a total absence of harshness) and a well controlled high range, with the result of having a bright but never fatiguing tone.
“In short, the frequency response of the Meze 99 Classics is very good and it is no coincidence that Antonio Meze wanted the curve itself to be printed on every pack of his headphones.”.
Meze 99 Classics: listening impressions
Meze 99 Classics headphones deliver superbly balanced sound, with incredible energy extending evenly from bass to treble. They are never fatiguing and are capable of reproducing every piece of music brilliantly and without difficulty.
The ability to reproduce detail is impressive for a headset in this price range.
Bass: What a fantastic punch! The Meze 99 Classics go very low, no tricks, and they always do it with exemplary speed. The bass is never too far forward or backward, but it is always extremely correct. The electric bass and double bass are reproduced with bite and sensuality. A simply excellent result.
Midrange: backwards on the curve weighed by the manufacturer, in practice they appear very well placed in the sound spectrum, with a volume level that blends perfectly between the low and high range.
Treble: clear, brilliant, calibrated exactly to be bright without ever compressing the sound stage.
Meze 99 Classics : conclusions
What we like:
- Tonal balance
- The analysis ability
- The development of transients that is "lightning-fast" from bass to treble
- Easy driving
- Comfort and self-adjusting headband
- The materials used and the quality of the finish
- Passive isolation
- The wide range of accessories available as standard
What we disliked:
- We're still trying to find a flaw in it...
These are headphones that stand out from the crowd, are finished in an extraordinary way and are superbly musical; they can be listened to continuously from morning to night, at home as well as on the move, and even before falling asleep, pleasantly cradling the listener even at low volume. The competition will do well to look around, because the Meze 99 Classics headphones compete without problems with other models that cost up to 5 times their price.
Congratulations to Antonio Meze and his Meze Headphones staff for the result!