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Over-Ear item created by MezeTeam, Apr 12, 2017
Pros - Good build quality.
Excellent bass quantity.
Easy to drive.
Cons - Bass bleeds all over the mids.
Far from neutral.
Lacking detail and nuance.
About 25 years ago, I had this horrible set of Pioneer 4-Way speakers. Not the wonderful ones built in Japan with premium drivers and accurate crossovers. Nope, these were the kind of speakers you find at garage sales with cheap the near peeling off the edges, along with Cerwin Vega and old JBL’s. As much as I can criticize them, I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a stereo as much as I enjoyed ‘em hooked up to an early nineties Yamaha stereo receiver. I have since moved on to much more accurate, expensive, and well-built equipment. But to be totally honest, listening with the Pioneers was just flipping fun.
Nowadays my tastes have matured, and my headphone collection includes the Alpha Primes and the Sennheiser HD-800S’s. My search for neutrality has paid dividends, and my music collection is an eclectic blend of Stoner/Doom, Prog, World Music, Jazz and Classical. I have no complaints about my gear. However, I still remember the headbanging fun of those old speakers, and no matter how good my current headphones are, they don’t scratch that particular itch.
Enter the Meze Neo 99’s.
I tried the Classics when they were part of the tour about a year and a half ago, and reading my notes as well as my review clarified my memory of the experience. I loved those headphones, and gave them a solid four-star rating. I recently decided to reward myself with my first set of new headphones in a long, long time. Reading the reviews and thread comments confirmed my suspicion that the Neo 99’s might bring me even closer to the Pioneer experience. To make this review really, really short: I was right.
You may notice that I am rating these headphones with a rather harsh three-stars. They simply do not have the clarity and detail of the Classics, at least not compared to the notes I took. For instance, the bass bleeds all over the mids, obscuring fine details. The most recent album by Argus is a good example of what I mean...
“From Fields of Fire” is one of the best traditional or classic metal albums I’ve heard in years. The recording is exceptional, and the performance by the musicians is pretty strong. When I listen with the Neo 99’s, all of the emotional impact remains in the recording, but the tonal properties of the guitars, and especially the bass guitar, are severely lacking. Comparing the exact same recording on the exact same equipment with my venerable Grado SR-250i’s, the detail embedded in the recording was nothing short of remarkable. The sonic character of the bass as well as the drums were as if from an entirely different recording, and I heard the same thing with every other headphone that I own.
Returning to the Neo’s, the fine detail, my reason for using headphones in the first place, was all but absent. This was also apparent in the vocals, guitars, and cymbal work of the drummer. Even the bass drum presence was limited to a lively ‘thud’. As a transducer, the Neo 99’s are simply not accurate instruments revealing the subtle, and even not-so-subtle, details of the recording. But for that matter, neither were ancient Pioneer 4-Ways sold at Circuit City and the Good Guys in the 80’s and 90’s. And the more I grow in this hobby, the more convinced I am that we should all have some Pioneer/Cerwin Vega/JBL speakers in our lives. Because the truth is, when I listen to anything heavy with my other cans and IEM’s, I always seem to reach for the Neo’s to hear if they give me that extra something I crave, and they usually do. I’m just not fooling myself into believing they are anything but what they are: good headphones at a competitive price that sacrifice detail for impact.
I’m totally okay with that!
Pros - Good looking
Very good build quality
Clean smooth sound
Cons - Bit bas heavy with some music
Sound stage not quite as wide as with the classics
Limited re cable options
Thank you to Meze for the loan of these headphones.
My ears are 55 years old and so not perfect, I listen to a combination of high res files on portable daps and a high end home system.
I am a Maze Classic owner and was intrigued to see what this cheaper variant had to offer. Comfort is very good and the ear pads are just the right density to give a good fit but keep your ears at the right distance from the speaker. As with all closed back phones your ears will get hot after prolonged use. Isolation is quite good bit loud outside noise can be heard over quite music, there is very little sound leakage.
With classical music they perform well with restrained uppers, clear mids and warm base. With rock music they can be confused by sustained base complex base but vocals work well and treble is sweet with no tinny cymbals. Sound stage is quite wide and has a sense of depth and appears well layered.
With the stock cable on SE out the Fiio x7ii drives them to good volume, switching to balanced adds more volume and a greater sense of depth.
Used with a Schiit Mjolnir 2, they really sing especially with good NOS valves.
In conclusion if you’re looking for a good well-made set of phones for general listening you cannot go far wrong with these. Go out and audition a pair today to see if they suit your hearing and equipment!
Pros - Gorgeous aesthetics. Lightweight and comfortable. Value for money.
Cons - Bass can be a little boisterous.
This sample was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. I'm not affiliated with the company in any way and all observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.
The Meze 99 Neo is currently priced at $249 and can be purchased from the company's website: https://www.mezeaudio.com/
Spoiler: My preferences etc
Like most people on this type of site I'm a lover of music. In my younger days I spent several years as a hip-hop DJ (using real vinyl and turntables) as well as producing a variety of music on computer using a combination of MIDI and live instruments. I did a Home Studio Sound Certificate at the Milton School of Audio Engineering in Brisbane, Queensland which covered the setup of audio for playback and recording in a studio environment along with other basic engineering principles. Nowadays I prefer to simply listen to and enjoy music.
My taste in music has changed a great deal over the years. For a long time my only interest was in rap and hip-hop music. Now though I listen to all kinds of music including jazz, classical, rock, psytrance, folk and ambient. I listen to music everyday using portable gear consisting of a DAP and mostly IEMs or simple desktop setup consisting of a laptop and DAC at work and my desktop setup at home which is based around my PC or Shinrico D3S with a DAC, often but not always including a tube amp and full-sized headphones or speakers.
My preferred sound signature is fairly balanced with slightly elevated mid-bass and deep well-extended sub-bass, clear and resolving midrange with a touch of warmth and clean, airy treble. I'm not offended by brighter sounding gear but dislike any sibilance. The majority of my music is 16/44.1 flac files as I stopped using physical media (CD/vinyl) many years ago and prefer the convenience of digital formats.
Packaging and accessories
The Neo arrived in a high quality, light gray cardboard box with a partial image of the headphone on the front. The box is sealed by a magnet and when opened reveals the hard carrying case inside, nestled among some black protective foam.
Opening up the case presents you with the headphone and a hockey puck-shaped zippered case which contains the cable and two adapters (x1 airline, x1 3.5 mm to 6.35 mm). The hard case is a great addition and is perfect for protecting your headphone when not in use or during transport.
The included cable is nice and a perfect length for desktop use while still being practical enough for portability. The lower section has a braided material covering and above the Y-split it changes to a rubberized sheathing. At the top end are the two 3.5 mm plugs that connect to either side of the headphone. A small feature that goes to show Meze really does pay attention to detail is the slight raised ridge on the left cable plug where most manufacturers opt to make both sides identical.
On the left side is the metal in-line microphone and rubberized single button controller. The button has a nice tactile click to it and feels quite durable. Finally the cable terminates in a straight metal, 3.5 mm plug.
Build, comfort and isolation
Onto the headphone itself now and this is where so much of the Neo's appeal comes from, in its sublime form and design. Simplicity is key in this aspect and it lends an effortless elegance to the Neo's appearance. The basis of the frame consists of a double sided manganese spring steel arch which is lightweight yet very sturdy. Connected to this is the self adjusting headband that's screwed in to the lower section. This particular headband is a wide pleather with "99 NEO" embossed on the top side. There's very little down force to it which is a good part of the reason this headphone is so comfortable but the fit feels really secure and sits firmly in place, even when you're moving about.
Meze have cleverly forgone the usual clasp that secures the metal arch and instead connected it directly to the earcups. This time around, gone are the wooden earcups and they've been replaced by charcoal black ABS plastic. The earcups have a slightly textured matte finish, look great and at the same time very robust. Lastly the earpads are a medium density memory foam that softly hug your dome and have enough space inside to accommodate even large ears.
Comfort is excellent with the soft pads and light clamping force and I can easily wear the Neo for hours on end without discomfort. The closed backs mean that your ears might get a bit hot but hey, closed back headphones are always going to be like that. The wide, well padded headband and low down-force add again to the comfort.
Isolation is pretty good too as you'd expect with closed backs and there's really not much more to say about that. While I personally prefer to use in-ears on the go the Neo is also well suited to the task and there's enough isolation given to use it in most scenarios without issue.
Gear used for testing
Acoustic Research AR-M20 > 99 Neo
ATC HDA-DP20 > Phatlab Sassy II > 99 Neo
Foobar2000 > Topping DX7 > 99 Neo
The Neo does not require amplification as it's super easy to drive with an impedance of just 26 Ohm. It can be paired with almost any low powered device but as always, a better DAC will usually provide superior overall sound. Due to the warm nature of the headphone I'd recommend a neutral source to get the best results.
I never had an opportunity to hear the 99 Classic so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the Neo. I was pretty certain they'd be good considering the coverage, awards and hype that had surrounded the Classic. My first listen gave me something very different from what I was anticipating. I thought it was going to be a very "audiophile" tuned sound, rather linear, perhaps even close to neutral with a clean, tight bass, loads of detail and resolution etc. Imagine my surprise when I heard the accentuated, meaty bass and warm overtones. "Wait a second" I thought... This is tuned for fun. It's built to be emotive, to make you forget that you intended to do some critical listening and instead draw you in and lose yourself to the music. These things are designed for pleasure plain and simple.
Bass has a healthy boost taking it way north of neutral. It has a slow attack, giving bass notes a soft edge and similarly the somewhat slow decay adds to the rounded effect. At times it even seems a bit loose but that's not necessarily a bad thing although on occasion it does mean that some detail in the music gets lost. There's a definite mid-bass hump that carries over into the lower mids and adds to the overall warmth. Sub-bass in contrast is quite tame in tonal balance but can still provide a satisfying rumble. It extends fairly well but does roll-off a little and plays second fiddle to the mid-bass dominance.
Midrange is lush and organic, very musical and not in the least bit dry or analytical. In "New Horizon" by The Gentle Storm the mids occasionally struggle for a foothold and are suppressed by the thick drums. In Loreena Mckennitt's "Emmanuel" however, the Neo shines on this vocal and strings based track, its warmth smoothing Loreena's high notes and bringing out the rich resonance of the classical backing strings. An album that's a great match for the Neo's properties is Language of the Ancients by S1gns of L1fe, with it's soothing, ambient sounds and hypnotic bass lines.
Treble is unremarkable but only because it plays a lesser role in the overall warm tuning. Timbre is accurate and the extension is there, it's just that the treble doesn't have much prominence. It does make the Neo easy to listen to and should appeal to the treble sensitive. Listening to Utada Hikaru's "Traveling" the track's inherent sibilance can still be heard, so the treble is not artificially smoothed over but rather sits at the back of the mix. Still in Bill Withers' "Soul Shadows" the hi-hats have a great lift and come out to play throughout the whole track.
Soundstage is above average for a closed back headphone. There are plenty of times when it can reach outside of the headspace, generally in music with lighter bass this becomes more evident. Depth though is very good and the imaging is excellent. Positional cues are accurate and defining in the large sized sphere portrayed which provide the added bonus of making the Neo good for some first person gaming as well.
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro 250 Ohm ($179 USD)
The DT990 is well known for its strong V-shaped signature so it has similarly boosted bass levels but also has a lot more treble as well. It's more resolving than the Neo and reveals more small details but can get a little strident or overenthusiastic on the high frequencies. The DT990's bass notes are more defined and controlled bringing more punch where the Neo brings the thump. Both headphones are exceptionally comfortable and well worth their respective prices.
Ultrasone Performance 860 ($362 USD)
The 860 is much more linear across the board so offers a very different sound compared to the Neo. Bass is tighter and faster without any of the same boomy properties found on the Meze. Midrange in comparison is a lot thinner and less lush than the Neo's. The treble is where these two have the most in common, being neutral-ish on both. The 860 reveals more details in music but presents itself in a more clinical and less emotive manner compared to the "fun" tuning of the Neo.
The Meze 99 Neo is more than just a good sounding headphone. The look and feel of it combined with the sound provided all add up to make it an experience that's quite unique. If you're a fan of attention to detail and subtle elegance you'll get a kick out of how well this headphone is designed. However those looking for neutrality should seek other options. Sure it might not provide the best audio quality out there but you have to keep in mind the very affordable $249 price tag which ultimately makes this a very easy recommendation for anyone looking for something comfortable, stylish and downright fun to listen to.
Transducer size: 40mm
Frequency response: 15Hz - 25KHz
Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
Impedance: 26 Ohm
Rated input power: 30mW
Maximum input power: 50mW
Detachable Kevlar OFC cable
Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
Weight: 260 gr (9.2 ounces) without cables
Ear-cups: ABS Plastic
Pros - Fun-sounding, comfortable
Cons - Small soundstage, might be too bass-heavy for some
This review is based upon a tour sample unit provided to me by the manufacturer in exchange for my honest and unfiltered opinion. I am not being compensated in any way for writing this review. I have shipped the sample unit to the next reviewer.
I listen mostly to heavy metal, hip hop, and electronic music, as well as movie and video game soundtracks. I value detail, clarity, and soundstage above other acoustic qualities. I like V-shaped sound signatures, generally those with more of an emphasis on the treble. Other headphones I own or have owned in the past include the E-MU Teak, Mee Audio P1 Pinnacle, Mee Audio P2 Pinnacle, Fostex TH-X00, V-Moda M-80, V-Moda LP2 Crossfade, Beyerdynamic DT-770 (250 ohm), KZ ATE, Mixcder X5, Mee Audio M6, Hifiman HE-400S, and (very briefly) Phillips Fidelio X2.
I have used the Meze 99 Neo with the following sources:
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Global > Meze 99 Neo
Windows 10 PC > JDS Labs The Element > Meze 99 Neo
I have tested these headphones with Spotify Premium high-quality streaming and local FLAC.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The Meze comes in a sleek semi-glossy box. The unit I reviewed came with a high-quality rigid carry case, 2 cables (one longer cable for desktop use and one shorter for use with a mobile source), a cable container, a ¼” to 3.5mm adapter, and a stereo female to 2-prong mono splitter. The texture of the carry case is exquisite, and the cable container fits below the top of the headband inside the case so that every component is easily portable.
BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
The build quality of these headphones is excellent. I had previously thought about purchasing the Neos for myself, but ultimately decided not to based on the promotional images I’d seen. I had thought the luster of the cups was too shiny, but the sheen is much more subdued in person. Though I’m still not the biggest fan of the silver accents on the headband, I would not be embarrassed to wear these in public. The self-adjusting headband is smooth and stays in place perfectly while on my ears. I’d love to see it emulated on other headphones. The one negative point I’d like to make is that I’d occasionally get hairs caught in the silver parts of the headband. This did not happen often but was painful when it did.
FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
I’m somewhat sensitive to clamping earpads. I have replaced the stock earpads on the E-MU Teaks and TH-X00s I have owned with Dekoni lambskin earpads, as the stock earpads become uncomfortable after a short period of time. The Neos earpads are more comfortable than the stock Fostex earpads, but not as comfortable as the velour pads on the DT770s. I could wear them for about 3-4 hours before they became uncomfortable. The earpads completely enclose my ears without squashing them, but I have small ears, so YMMV. Isolation is above average, less than the DT770s but more than the semi-open Fostex headphones. I have a fairly noisy keyboard and I couldn’t hear myself typing over music at a moderate volume. The Neos passed the girlfriend noise leakage test with flying colors, for which the threshold for failure is very low. I could listen to my music at high volumes even lying next to her without her complaining. For comparison, she has complained about noise leakage from my TH-X00s at higher volumes while sitting about ten feet away. These are a great option for listeners using public/shared spaces.
The sound signature of these headphones is very warm, with pronounced bass and mids and rolled off treble. The bass is not as strong as in the TH-X00 and E-MU Teak, and does not slam the way the Fostex variants do. The Neos lend themselves well to distorted electric guitar driven music like heavy metal and hard rock. Bass drums and snares sound great as well. Clarity and separation are good. The Neos are not overly detailed, but are pretty forgiving of poorly recorded music. On the negative side, the soundstage is small, probably smaller than the DT770s and definitely smaller than the semi-open Fostex headphones.
I did not game extensively during the time I had these headphones, but I can say that positional audio works the way it should in first person shooters like Battlefield 1. However as I mentioned in the previous section, soundstage is lacking compared to the semi-open Fostex variants.
The Neos are designed to be driven easily from mobile sources. I usually listened to music on my phone through the Neos at less than 50% volume, and at my desktop at less than a quarter turn from 0 on The Element on low gain. I did not notice a difference in sound quality between the two and did not test the Neos on my phone using an external amplifier.
As I mentioned at the start of my review, I generally prefer detailed headphones with pronounced treble. The Neos cannot be described as such. The fact that the Neos impressed me so much in spite of this is a testament to how good these headphones are. They are easily driven, fun-sounding, well-built cans available at a very reasonable price ($200 retail). I cannot recommend these enough. Five stars.
Pros - Attractive styling, good build quality, pleasing non-fatiguing sound, good comfort, and very efficient.
Cons - Sound isn't as smooth and balanced as the Classics. Slight closed-back effect to the sound.
Disclaimer: This is a review of a review unit of the Meze 99 Neo's.
Meze 99 Neo Review
The Meze 99 Neo is quite and attractive looking headphone that actually sounds quite nice as well. It's an excellent choice for a portable headphone and is best suited for electronic, energetic, and modern music genres as it has a slightly v-shaped sound in my honest opinion. I had two other headphones to compare the Neo's with, but not going to directly compare them much sound wise as the other two are open-backs and much more expensive than the Neo's but I will draw some comparisons between them. About my sound preferences, I personally lean towards more neutral headphones or slightly warm headphones overall as I have a very eclectic taste in music and like my headphones to play well with most any genre.
The specs of the headphones:
26 Ohm impedance
Sensitivity of 103dB at 1kHz, 1mw
Rated input power of 30mw
Max input power at 50mw
Weight without cable is 260g
Comfort & Build
The Meze 99 Neo is quite a comfortable headphone to my head, the headband mechanism is an auto-adjustable system similar to what is found on AKG headphones and headphones such as the Audioquest Nighthawk/Nightowl. The earpads have been notably changed from the original earpads found in the early Meze 99 Classics, earpads which I found too small and uncomfortable, the larger earpads are definitely a good design change on the Meze teams part even if it does change the sound signature a bit. I can wear the new earpads for hours without much discomfort, though some readjusting at times is needed for me so the Neo's get an B+ rating from me on comfort.
Build quality is something where the Neo's really shine in just like in the Classics, the heavily modular design, large amounts of metal, robust ABS plastic earcups, and a design that feels like it was made with longevity and durability in mind gives this headphone high marks for me. The cable also feels nice and I didn't really have any complaints with it on my usage of the headphone. This headphones gets an A+ in build for me at it's price range. The feel of quality of the build is closer to my Amiron Home and below the DT 1990 Pro. Next I am going to talk about the sound of the headphone. The ABS plastic earcups while not as pretty as the wooden ones on the Classics to my ears I feel they are more durable and make it honestly a more robust portable option overall than the Classics.
Arguably the most important part of any headphone. So how do the Meze 99 Neo's sound? Quite frankly, they sound very good, they are a slightly more colored and slightly more bassy and sparkly sounding version of the Meze 99 classics which is more smooth sounding. Fidelity between the 99 Neo and 99 Classic's is the same, they seem to use the same transducer so it's more housing differences between the two.
Soundstage & Imaging:
The Meze 99 Neo's soundstage and imaging is honestly quite good, just like with the classics may be the best headphones in their category I have heard in terms of how spacious the soundstage is and how natural the imaging comes across. The 99 Neo's do have a mild chamber effect to their soundstage where you notice it at times but it's not really an notable issue for most tracks. Not sure how much is the new pads and how much is the different housing material compared to the 99 Classics. I'll give the soundstage an imaging a B+ rating overall.
Midrange & Vocals:
The midrange and vocals of the Meze 99 Neo's are overall quite good. There is a bit of a recession in the upper midrange which does take away from the presence of the vocals a bit and part of why I say the headphone is a little v-shaped sounding. The vocals sound natural but do take a bit of a step-back. The midrange overall is quite smooth and without any major issues. I'll give the midrange and vocals a B on the Neo's as I would personally prefer a bit more presence in the vocals and more balance compared to the highs and bass.
The treble on the Neo's is quite non-fatiguing, non overly-sibilant, and overall quite pleasant to listen to, but it does have some extra sparkle to it which I feel does detract from it overall at times, but like any headphone with a slightly v-shaped sound this does lend itself well to to certain tracks and genres. The Classics with the original pads didn't have this extra treble energy and were smoother overall. Treble gets a B overall.
The bass on the Neo's is quite prominent and strong with good impact, I would say it's a little too accentuated overall. This makes the bass very nice for EDM and some contemporary music but can be a bit of a problem with some other tracks as it can come off as a bit too much and maybe a tad bloated at times. Overall the bass also gets a B rating from me as I personally despite some excess as I found the bass of pretty good quality overall and quite fun with bassier genres.
The Meze 99 Neo is a solid headphone in my books, while I personally would prefer to own the Classics for their more natural and smooth sound and honestly I'm a bit of a sucker for wood, I would be perfectly content with the 99 Neo's as a portable option and I would be less afraid of damaging them as I would be worrying about nicking the wood of the 99 Classics as I can be a little rough on portable headphones. The Neo's are incredibly easy to drive and can be driven with ease and authority out of most portable devices. If one listens to a lot of contemporary music and wants a nice robust portable closed-back the Neo's are on the top of my suggestions. The Classic's are for those who want a more natural and analog experience. The "Neo" name is quite fitting for these headphones. I do recommend these headphones and a must listen to those looking for a very efficient circumaural closed-back. A nice benefit to both the Neo's and Classics is there is no extra cost in buying an amplifier, etc. Whether one likes the Neo's or Classic's sound more simply comes down to preference.
Pros - great price/performance ratio, built quality, accessories
Cons - comfort could be better, too much emphasis on bass
Thank you very much to Meze for letting me have the new 99 Neo for a week as part of their world-wide loaner program. I wanted to hear the ‘Meze’ sound since the 99 Classics came out however I did not have a chance yet to try the original wood-cup version.
My daily driver is a NightHawk these days, connected to Chord Mojo. The 99 Neo was plugged in to Mojo for most of the time, and I will often refer to NightHawk as comparison even though these headphones are rather different, not playing on the same fields.
The 99 Neo is pretty impressive for the price in every sense. Here in the U.K. they cost around £200, and I have to say Meze does deliver for this money. The headphones come with a very nice, semi-hard and good sized carrying case and two non-tangling, good quality cables: a shorter one with built-in play/stop button and a long one for home use.
The headphones are well-built using good quality materials. I am not a big fan of plastic cups, would happily pay a little more for wooden ones, but they look and feel fine.
Interestingly there is no left or right sign on the headphones as they are completely symmetrical. The cable determines which cup will be the left and the right one. Unfortunately the L/R signs are hardly visible on the plugs, but you can decide which side is which if you look at the writing on the top of the headband.
Coming from NightHawk I am pretty spoiled regarding comfort. The 99 Neo are not uncomfortable, but I also wouldn’t say they are very comfortable. They are fine, won’t cause you any discomfort, however I couldn’t forget they are on my head and after 30-40 minutes it was a smaller relief to take them off and let my ears breath. (Or change for the NightHawks.)
I don’t think my head is much bigger than average, however I had to stretch the self-adjusting headband to its maximum. The only other headphones I experienced this small size issue were the HE-400s’s. They are still big enough for me, but someone with a slightly bigger head would struggle. My ears on the other hand are relatively small, and still they were touching the cups inside which I don’t particularly like.
Another small annoyance for me was that occasionally my hair stuck to the small screws on the headband tearing a couple of hairs out as I took the headphones off my head.
The sound of these cans is quite impressive for the money. They sound big, fun and musical with plenty of bass. I have to say, I didn’t expect such a big sound from relatively small plastic cup closed back headphones. They were built for fun listening and probably beat pretty much anything in their category (closed-backs around £200) for this purpose. I definitely like them more than I liked the NAD HP50 or the Momentums.
Bass, especially mid-bass is a bit too much for my taste it is not always in line with mid and treble quantity, more about that later.
Interestingly the sound signature often reminded me for the Fidelio X2s, although those have a much bigger soundstage.
Being closed-back the soundstage of the 99Neo is not very big. It is quite narrow actually, with a pretty upfront presentation, far from being laid back. Spaciousness is ok for a closed-back, but I did experience a little ‘in the box’ feeling with the mids and treble. They are just not as airy as sound can be on semi-closed or open headphones, but that is not really a surprise.
Imaging is ok again for what it is, an affordable closed-back. Nothing really stands out, but also nothing is really lacking.
In my opinion the biggest difference between Meze 99 Neo and NightHawks is sound resolution. NightHawks being a category higher, offer far better resolution which translates to more details and clarity, much closer to a ‘lifelike’ sound presentation. Again, not a big surprise looking at the price difference and different design (closed back vs. semi-opened).
The Meze 99 Neo has a very warm sound signature, which I tend to prefer. It is about music and enjoyment rather than analytical detail hunting. Meze Neo was made for easy-listening. As I mentioned before this warm and musical sound comes with a pretty upfront presentation which can be too much after a while if someone prefers a more laid back sound. Not as aggressively 'in your face' as the Fostex X00s for example, but still very ‘bravely’ in the front line.
Treble is always clear enough, and the 99 Neo being warm sounding headphones are never harsh or piercing.
Mids are slightly recessed and bass is always plenty, occasionally a little bit overshadowing the lower mids. Bass is definitely the strength of these headphones, it is fun and enjoyable, however it is quite far from neutral which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The 99 Neo is not a detail monster, won’t win hearts with extreme resolution and supremely clean and controlled bass. It is an affordable, musical closed-back headphone for music listening, and for the asking price it does its job pretty well. Overall sound is coherent, nothing is really missing. Mid-bass could be tamed down a bit, as it rules the sound too often, not always giving a chance to mids and treble to be present with the same weight.
Partly this is personal preference, but if someone prefers a more linear and balanced sound which is a bit closer to neutral, they have to look elsewhere.
Bass and treble extension is enough 90% of the time, but if someone is longing for the deepest bass notes to be as audible as the rest of the bass frequencies, they have to spend a little more money for headphones that can deliver that.
Meze 99 Neo is very easy to drive. It can easily be powered by a smartphone, and will deliver a good enough sound for most people however the improvement what an external DAC/amp like Chord Mojo brings to the picture, is quite significant. With other words, the 99 Neo scales well to its limits.
I really enjoyed my time with these headphones. It is good to see that good quality (portable) audio is more and more affordable. The Meze 99 Neo is well worth its price, in case someone is looking for a musical closed back headphone. They are not perfect and for 1.5x or 2x of its price there is better sound available, however if your budget is limited to £200, with a very good chance you won't regret buying these.
Pros - Warm, natural sound. Comfort and a classy style. Fully serviceable!
Cons - Not as natural and linear as I'd like.
I signed on for Meze Audio's Head-Fi tour a few months back, and their latest product arrived for a short visit this month. The Meze 99 Neo (US$249) headphones. Thanks so much to Meze for including me in the tour.
This is my first time sitting down with any of their products, though I did read some reviews of both the Classics and the Neo in advance. I will keep this short, as there are many exhaustive reports already available online. I'll try to get to what I think are the key characteristics before you grow tired of me.
Photo courtesy of Meze Audio
I love the look of the 99 Neo. The build quality is impressive, and the design is classy. The electroplated zinc alloy hardware combined with the plastic black cups and memory foam ear pads makes for a sleek look. The fact that all parts are serviceable is outstanding. Not many out there today that can make the same claim.
The hard shell carrying case for the 'phones, and the smaller accessory case are high quality. Both have a texture that is pleasing to touch. I assume the 99 Neo are aimed at users who are on the go. I did not have an opportunity to step out with the Neo.
The 99 Neo are 3oz. lighter than my main comparison for this report - the Audioquest Nighthawks. The Nighthawk's ear cups are slightly larger and shaped differently, so for my large melon, they're more comfortable. I've big ears too, so while the 99 Neo are quite comfortable, I've got more room in the Nighthawks stock pads.
Again, the 99 Neo are very comfortable headphones. I had no problem with them over longer sessions. Of course, the closed design is going to be warmer than an open one. Out here in the desert, it is something to consider. Of course, for their target audience, the closed back may not be negotiable.
Meze provide two cables - the short and the long. I used the longer cable the entire time, and appreciate having enough length to move around my office. My DHC cables are short, and keep me tethered to my source.
Both headphones have similar impedance - 26db (99 Neo) vs 25db (Nighthawks). The Neo is rated at 103db sensitivity. That's 4db higher than the Nighthawk. Wow. I'm sticking with my AQ Dragonfly Red paired with an AQ Jitterbug for power. Streaming cd quality tracks via Tidal the entire session. I listened with both a PC source and Android phone.
These are great sounding headphones. And fun. The bumped mid-bass, or bloom, is readily apparent. That bloom - and, maybe a dip in the upper mid-range - in combination result in a somewhat warm and close presentation. Intimate. Cymbals lack some of the overtones that the Nighthawks present. It's quite subtle, and overall they sound linear and natural. The 99 Neo are an energetic headphone. Dynamic, and driving. Punchy. At times, the shove in the low end brought to mind two channel speakers.
Based on my short time when them, I feel it's less about high frequency extension, and more about the slightly lifted low frequencies - this warmer, shadier tone. I really enjoy the sound. To my ears they are slightly less linear and natural in comparison to the Nighthawks with my Double Helix cable. You know, I would've have tried the DHC cable with the Neo, but the connectors did not fit. The Nighthawks are more relaxed, being a more open design.
Fiona Apple's voice on "The Idler Wheel..." illustrates my earlier point. Less head, and a tiny bit more throat and chest in vocals. And, cymbals lose some of their overtones. Acoustic drum stick attack and body are highlighted with the overtones slightly diminished. Pianos and other assorted keys on this record reflect this same downward shift of the stage. Again, this is subtle, and not necessarily a mark against the Neo. Just my own observations set down here for your consideration.
As for isolation - I don't have another closed pair available for a comparison. The 99 Neo seemed to isolate well. I was not able to test this in an office or elsewhere it might be needed.
The 99 Neo are a great sounding and stylish headphone. They were easily driven by my OnePlus3 phone streaming Tidal HiFi. Likewise with my pc in combo with the Audioquest Dragonfly Red. I wanted more time to test a more powerful amps affect on these sensitive phones. I am currently without my usual tube amps, so have stuck with the portable rig for the entire session. I think this may be more relevant for folks who are considering the Neo, anyway.
So, they are easy to drive, have a warm, natural voice, and are really comfortable. I think you can't go wrong if you are looking for a closed back and portable headphone in this price range. Add to this that they are stylish and fully serviceable, and they begin to compete outside this range. In a world of primarily recyclable products, one that has a higher probability of outliving me is very attractive.
In my reading I found that Meze has a devoted following, and I now know why. The 99 Neo are an excellent product.
Thanks for listening.
Pros - Beautiful with a neutral source, good separation, smooth, smexy
Cons - slight micro phonics with cable and metal head piece
Meze 99 Neo Headphones Review - Expatinjapan
Meze 99 Neo review
Meze 99 Neo and Opus#3 dap
Meze 99 Neo headphones review
`A fresh take on the 99 series for the uptown audiophile, 99 Neo brings together Meze Audio’s signature sound quality with cutting edge style.` - Meze website
Head pie has previously reviewed the Meze 99 Classics:
A headphone which we love and has a strong fan base.
let us see how the newer Neo measures up when compared.
Build and unboxing
The Meze 99 Neo packaging echoes the 99 Classic packaging.
The Meze 99 Neo packaging echoes the 99 Classic packaging.
The Meze 99 Neo packaging echoes the 99 Classic packaging.
Meze 99 Neo and CEntrance Hifi-M8
Some specs for that special someone who likes specs and stuff.
Repeating the name so it gets embedded in your consciousness.
99 Neo, 99 Neo, 99 Neo...
99 Neo! By Meze! Designed by Antonio Meze.
Its a box, Jim!
Ooh, nice hard ass case to protect your precious goods whilst commuting or traveling across the world. But we all know you will just hang them around your neck to look cool.
Whats in the soft circular pouch? Is it a tiny cat hat?
Exquisite detailing. Each piece specially designed to be replaceable If the need arises.
Those cups. Smexy styling for the audiophile about town.
As an earlier review unit my headband lacks the 99 Neo logo that the final version will have.
Buuurnn for Head pie *sad face*
Ah there we go, a detachable cable for the 99 Neo.
When you just want to look cool, hang em around your neck without the cable and tell everyone they`re bluetooth.
Bits and pieces of my broken heart, mind and soul.
Oops, my mistake. included bits and bobs of fancy.
*The retail version will not include the longer cable or airplane adapter. Buuurn for you this time.
As expected there is the obvious question of what is the difference between the two models?
The 99 Classic and the 99 Neo. Looks, material and sound in a nutshell.
Some will buy based on looks alone, one crowd preferring the natural and smexy wood finish of the 99 Classic, the others perhaps more cyber urban preferring the sleek black look of the modern commuter or inner city cyber punk.
Regardless one can`t be disappointed with either of these headphones by Meze. Like their earphones which echo the headphones look on a smaller scale having both would be ideal to match ones mood on any given day.
As usual I burned in the headphones for a a decent amount of hours before commencing on the review to keep the believers and non believers alike happy.
I used FLAC tracks of 16/44 mostly, and usually on a random shuffle mode. Daps employed for the purpose were the ipod touch 6G, iBasso DX200, Opus#1, Shozy Alien Gold and Opus#3.
Meze 99 Neo and Opus#1 dap.
Can`t got wrong with The Ramones!
Not a fan? GTFO!
The Meze 99 Neo differs from its predecessor in its cup change, from wood to black ABS plastic.
The sound differences happily echo the experiences I had with the 12 Classic and 11 Neo earphones.
Please see the earlier Head pie reviews:
Meze 12 Classics http://headpie.blogspot.jp/2017/03/meze-12-classics-review-expatinjapan.html
Meze 11 Neo http://headpie.blogspot.jp/2016/10/meze-neo-11-gun-metal-review.html
One expects a certain sonic signature difference from wood versus plastic, whilst this is most certainly true with these two headphones the valley between them both isn`t so wide. They share much in common as the general specs reveal.
Meze 99Neo and iBasso DX200. A bit of the sultry Lana del Rey.
Lets take a look back at the Meze 99 Classics
`Vocals: Neither too forward nor recessed the vocals on the Meze 99 Classic hit the sweet spot for me.
Bass: A slight slow decay is present, but overall is fast enough to please with most music.
Mids: As with most woodies the mids play an important part in the overall presentation, not overly warm as such, more on the liquid side of things rather than a deep lushness. fairly neutral and dynamic with a quick decay.
Treble: It is clear and offers the detail one expects, it veers away from being extended to the point of harshness or sibilance and is pleasing to the ears. It reaches far enough for a good balance with the bass and the mids, each not over stepping their individual bounds.
Instrument separation: Good separation, not crisp as such with a slight smudging at times. Overall very good.
Sound stage: A decent soundstage that feels larger than my head, good instrument placement.`
The Pixies, one of the groups along with The Smiths who redeemed the 80s.
And now lets look at the Meze 99 Neo
Vocals: nice and balanced with the music, not too forward nor back overall (mens vocals can be slightly forward at times), very smooth and even.
Bass. Is tight and fast. At times deep and with a punch to it.
Mids: Quite lush, present and defined. Very clear and smooth.
Treble: It is not as stretched as I would imagine it might have been. But is more than satisfactory. It has a nice reach. It balances out the overly dark leaning sound signature and is its saving grace.
Separation: Is crisp and well defined. Individual instruments are
are differentiated from each other.
Sound stage: It is above medium. It is a closed headphone so there are some limitations, but this didnt interfere with any enjoyment. Sound stage is more outside ones head, rather than inside it.
It has a bit of a xXx signature at times, a bit of a lil something extra in the mids. at other times a XXx signature depending on what music is being fed to them.
Meze 99 Neo and iBasso DX200
`Laaaana` - ABC Warriors.
Slipping in at a easy to digest US$249 - US$300 the Meze headphones are certainly an affordable entry point to high end sound, and high street looks.
Build quality is immaculate. And If not, If per chance any part fails all the parts are replaceable.
99 Classic versus the 99 Neo visually.
A comparison of the packaging between the Meze 99 Classics and 99 Neo.
Meze gave me a woody.
Old and new pads.
The new pads have a larger circumference and fit more comfortably over a more varied size of ears, also they are slightly thicker/higher.
Simply stunningly gorgeous in looks and sound.
The 99 Neo has some a dampener, the newer 99 Classic also have the dampener over the headphone speaker....mine does not `insert sad face emoji`. So whilst my comparisons may be `close enough`, perhaps they aren`t exact due the lack of dampeners.
The Meze 99 Neo are a great complement to its older sibling the Meze 99 Classic and both echo the sonics of the earphone series which also match up wood against synthetic materials.
Isolation is very good, so its handy for about town or commuting.
Slight micro phonics with the cable, but not really noticeable unless one is jumping about.
They are very easy to drive at 26ohms which is less than the 99 Classics.
I found the 99 Neo performed well when fed to the Opus#2 , but very much enjoyed them when paired with the more neutral Opus#1 which tamed some of the low end.
There isnt much between the Neo 99 and the 99 Classics being fairly near identical in build.
The 99 Neo has more bass, but not in a bass head sense, and also more mid heavy. Not to mention the obvious cup difference
It seems to handle most genres well, and my usual shuffle test rendered no complains, its a good all rounder as head phone.
I recommend a more neutral dap to pair with the 99 Neo to bring out its best.
I could listen to Mazzy Star for instance for hours with these headphones.
Smexy, stylish, superb lows and super smooth highs and vocals.
Thank you to Meze for sending Head pie the Neo 99 headphones for review
Pros - High build quality, comfortable, package, lightweight
Cons - average cup size, a bit bulky, they warm up after a while
Meze 99 Neo headphone review by Musicday
I would like to say a big thank you to Meze Romania, especially to Mr. Lorand that was kind enough to provide me free of charge a review unit of the relatively new 99 Neo headphone in exchange of my honest written review.
Meze Audio is a company from Romania who design and produces high quality headphones and IEMs at affordable prices and they have a great success among audiophiles and anyone who love to listen to music on headphones around the world. Their current flagship Meze 99 Classics was introduced to the market late 2015 and it was a huge success.
Meze 99 Neo is based on the same philosophy and concept of 99 Classics with great build quality while the price was reduced and that make these headphones more affordable for anyone wants a great headphone and have a limited budget.
At the time of writing this review Meze 99 Neo price on Amazon.uk is £220.19
Box and accessories:
The headphones have arrived in a well packed box and their own box feels smooth and doesn't betray the relative affordable price.
In the box we find 1.2 m long Kevlar reinforced cable for extra durability. The headphones are very well built and will last you a long time.
They can also can make a very nice present to your loved ones.
Transducer size: 40mm
Transducer Type: Dynamic Neodymium / Mylar
Frequency response: 15Hz - 25KHz
Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
Impedance: 26 Ohm
Rated input power: 30mW
Maximum input power: 50mW
Detachable Kevlar OFC cable
Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
Ear-cups: ABS Plastic
Weight: 260g (without cable)
For the retail price of 99 Neo what’s included in the box quite nice. The hard case to store your headphones is nice and offer protection. Also there is a small velvet like pouch to store your cable when not in use.
A 3.5 mm-6.3 mm adaptor is included and an airplane adaptor.
Comfort and usage :
Having a low impedance and high sensitivity makes them very easy to drive, straight from your mobile phone or laptop. But i recommend a powerful music player or a DAC for best results. They weight only 260 gr without cable and they are very comfortable to use, but unfortunately after a long listening time my ears got warm and pause was needed. More likely leather earpads had to be sacrificed to keep the cost down.
Music players used :
I have used when listening to 99 Neo the Tera Player, Shanling M2s and Chord Hugo 2 DAC paired straight to my laptop.
Tera Player with 99 Neo paired sounds good with warm and detailed texture, with punchy bass. The soundstage is not as opened semi opened headphones but it does a good job for a closed back headphone at this price point. I suppose the high impedance of the Tera Player didn’t help too much in this test.
A better pairing was with Shanling M2s. This player has enough power to drive 99 Neo load and clear. Mids are smooth and clear and both male and female vocals are well reproduced. I find this headphone to be a bit bright for my taste but the treble is detailed and extended. From my understanding Meze Audio recommend that the headphones need to be burned in for around 40 hours for the sound to open up and stabilize.
Foreigner: To know what love is being a good example of male vocals, and the higher mids clarity. Isolation is better than average for this type of headphones and there was no sound leakage when playing music next to someone.
When using Chord Hugo 2 things started to improve dramatically especially the clarity and the micro details that this headphone is capable of when paired with high quality gear. Is a pair that i have enjoyed using, being listening to music or watching a movie. 99 Neo offers more than one can expect at this price point.
I am glad that Meze Audio came along to decrease the gap between affordable good sounding headphone and expensive headphones.
Final words and conclusion:
Meze Audio created another fine headphone in 99 Neo. Is nearly up there with the 99 Classics flagship at a lower price. Once again has been proved that in the low end headphone market you can still get very good headphones, still affordable that sound more then they cost. You need to give them a try and hear yourself but at the retail price IMHO there is not much to ask for.
Well done Meze Audio !
Pros - Versatility; different new look; build and accessories; value; warm engaging sound.
Cons - Heavy mid-bass hump might not be everyone's cup-of-tea; some microphonics; not that portable.
Hailing from Romania, Meze are relative new-kids-on-the-block in the world of audiophile headphone manufacturing. Their first full-size offering, the 99 Classics were a “slam-dunk” first attempt at creating a genuine audiophile product, with a focus on aesthetics and quality. They’ve been hailed world-wide for their engaging sound as much as their head-turning looks, and have created quite the niche for themselves in that regard.
This reviewer’s ears pricked-up at the number of 4-5-star reviews the 99 Classics received from many trusted sources; and I was visually intrigued by the look of the superbly-crafted leather, wood, and metal construction. I pulled the trigger on a pair of Silver/Maple 99 Classics all the way from Australia without having auditioned them in person. Admission: I may have actually bought them for my girlfriend - she’s been taking somewhat of an interest in personal audio, and is a keen music-lover. However, she’d been somewhat put-off by the lack of a good-looking pair of cans that also passed my audiophile criteria (I’m can’t just let her waste her money on any old celebrity-endorsed fashion-cans now can I?). When they arrived she was thrilled with the way they looked, but I was blown-away – because they sounded bloody brilliant. As a result we’ve been tussling for head-time with them with one another ever since.
I’ve found the team at Meze are brilliant to deal with, in terms of communication and customer service. In only a short time, they’ve demonstrated themselves to be an impressive young company. When they announced a new version of the 99’s were coming out, I jumped at the chance to participate on a review tour and see what the “Neos” were all about (Disclaimer: I was sent the 99 Neos for one week in return for my honest and objective unpaid opinion).
Ok, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the all-new Meze 99 Neos and see (…hear?) what we have on our hands (…head?).
The Meze 99 Neos are a $249USD pair of circum-aural (around-ear) closed, full-sized headphones. While they’re not advertised as ‘portable’ cans, their form-factor as well as low impedance (26 ohms) lends themselves to on-the-go usage, as well as home hi-fi listening – a little more on this later.
A quick overview of the specifications:
· Transducer size: 40mm
· Frequency response: 15Hz - 25KHz
· Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
· Impedance: 26 Ohm
· Rated input power: 30mW
· Maximum input power: 50mW
· Detachable Kevlar OFC cable
· Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
· Weight: 260 gr (9.2 ounces) without cables
· Ear-cups: ABS Plastic
Packaging, case and accessories
The Neos arrive in the same high-quality packaging as the Classics - a magnetised flip-lid box: It immediately screams “PREMIUM”, and reeks of high-quality from the very first glance.
Inside the box sits a clamshell case that anyone familiar with the 99 Classics will immediately recognise:
However, instead of a polished faux-leather exterior, it’s a dense and premium-feeling woven plastic material. For those of you who like to throw your cans into a backpack, take them to work, or bring them abroad as a travelling companion, you’ll be pleased to know this feels a little more scuff-resistant and will keep its appearance if it’s “loved” a little too much.
Unzip the clamshell case, and sitting snugly inside at the Neos themselves, as well as a nice zipped-up carrying pouch containing the following:
- 6.3mm stereo adapter
- Two-pronged airline adapter
- 1.2M cable with mic + play/pause button, 3.5mm termination
- 3M cable, 3.5mm termination
The accessories are all super high-quality, extremely sturdy, and extremely generous for the $249USD asking price.
So what’s the difference between the ‘Classics’ and the ‘Neos’?
At a glance? The price-tag, and the look. The Neos are $60USD cheaper than their 99 ‘Classic’ predecessors – so what does this mean you’re missing out on? Well, not much really. Instead of the famed unique walnut or maple wooden cups, they are replaced with a black ABS plastic. It’s fairly sturdy and premium to the touch, although it does pick-up fingerprints rather easily.
Aside from the colour-scheme and plastic cups, the only other obvious physical difference is the material make-up of the cables. Below the Y-splitter is the same fabric-wrapped material, but unlike the Classics, it is now rubberised above the Y-splitter leading up the 2.5mm (proprietary) ear-cup connectors. While the fabric cables were nice to the touch, this led to one of my only major criticisms of the 99 Classics – they are terribly microphonic. It’s good to see that Meze have listened to some real-world feedback on their product which has been reflected in the new model. I’m pleased to note these don’t have the same problem of sending noise of the cables brushing on clothing straight up into your ears. +1 Meze.
Spec-wise, a quick comparison between spec sheets informs me that the Neos are slightly easier to drive, at 26 ohms versus 32 ohms. The Classics are easily driven by absolutely anything – I wasn’t able to perceive any volume difference with the same amplification, so take this with a grain of salt.
Meze themselves say the Neo represents “A fresh take on the 99 series for the uptown audiophile” that “brings together Meze Audio’s signature sound quality with cutting edge style”. So as far I can tell the decision to release the Neo must be about attempting to appeal to a wider group of potential customers by playing at a more competitive price-range, and offering a subjectively different look to the wood/metal combinations of the Classics.
And speaking of aesthetics, a few thoughts from me:
Look + aesthetics
Ok, so I think the Classics look amazing, yet a little ostentatious. I happily wear my (oops, I mean my girlfriend’s) Maple/Silver pair at home or at the office, although I’ve never wanted to walk around outside wearing a pair of white leather and silver coloured full-sized headphones. On the other hand, the Neos are a completely different subject – they look…cool, for lack of a better word.
Perhaps say, a little more James Dean than Frank Sinatra?
A little more Darth Vader than Obi Wan Kenobi?
A little more Berlin than Paris?
A little more Mustang than 300SL?
They’re altogether a different vibe to the luxurious look of the Classics, with more of an ‘edgy’ scheme that’s likely to appeal to a different (and possibly wider) audience.
I happily donned them on public transport and walking around outside during my review time. In fact, I think I like the look of them even more than the Classics, and I’d happily integrate a pair into my everyday-carry:
Oh, and they look more at home on my headphone “stand” than any other cans to-date have:
Comfort, and portability
Like the Classics, these feel great on my ears, and perched on top of my head. Earlier production runs of the Classics were found wanting in terms of pad size, with some customers feeding-back that they were a bit of a tight squeeze, resulting in pressure and “hot-spots” on their ears. Meze quickly remedied this in subsequent production runs, and my pair of Classics were shipped with the larger diameter pad-size. The pad-size of the Neos appears to be identical, and I’ll wear them for 8 hours at a time without a worry.
The self-adjusting headband is made from elastic and (protein?) leather, and distributes the extremely light weight (260g) of the 99 Neos over my head nicely. I notice this pre-production review pair still has the “99 Classics” moniker embossed on them, but I understand this will be updated to “99 Neos” for the retail release:
I’d call the 99 Neos one of the more comfortable headphones I’ve spent time with. So comfortable I forget I’m wearing them. Until one of two things happen:
1. I start walking around, or
2. Something touched the manganese yokes that stretch over the top of the headphones
Regarding the first point: the self-adjusting headband, which while it makes for superbly comfortable long-listening sessions at home, tends to shift up/down a bit if you walk with some pace. Meaning that a “creaking” noise is relatively present if you’re using them on-the-go, which is reasonably annoying.
On the subject of portability, these make great portable headphones, if you have the room to stow-away the case and accessories. They’re non-foldable, and that case does take up quite a bit of room in a laptop bag. They isolate reasonably well, but not remarkably. Glasses-wearers may experience some troubles getting them to fit while wearing sunglasses or spectacles, but the main problem hear is the seal. The sounds signature, which I’ll cover later, is very seal-dependent and the bass will be affected noticeably.
In short, more transportable than portable.
And the second criticism: that impressive metal (manganese) structure that dominates the physical appearance of the headphones is highly microphonic. A sure-fire way to interrupt yourself from a relaxing listening session is to bump into anything at all. They RIIIIIIING when touched, much like the Classics. Being a review pair I didn’t want to mess with them, although I have found that I have been able to reduce the level of microphonics on my own pair by tying some heavy-gauge string between the two bars, or squeezing a pencil eraser between them just above the ear-cups. I think the little button between the string on tennis racquets works in a similar way. Microphonics would have to be my only major criticism of the build/form-factor of the Neos.
Ok, so that covers it on the physical side of things – they get a massive ‘TICK’ on build quality, comfort, and looks, so now onto the sound. Which, after all, is where the “rubber meets the road”.
“Enjoy crisp, clean sound – natural, balanced, undistorted.” – Meze website.
So how accurate is this claim? Not entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sounds of the 99 Neos, and I think they are great headphones. But judging these claims depends on which world you’re approaching them from.
On one hand, if you’re very used to reference-style, neutral audiophile cans, you’ll be immediately surprised by the MASSIVE mid-bass hump, and may immediately put them (or dismiss them…) into the “FUN” camp.
If you’re coming from consumer audio-land, the amount of bass will be familiar (but of a higher quality and less distorted than what you’re used to), but the amount of detail in both the mids and treble will be both surprising, and hugely engaging.
Everyone has different preferences when it comes to headphone tuning, and I’m no different. I prefer a more mid-forward presentation, with bright treble and well-extended, but non-boomy bass. My main daily-driver cans are Grado GH-1’s (which I sometimes swap-out for Sennheiser HD650’s driven by a Bottlehead Crack when I want a more laid-back listening session). On-the-go, I use Beyerdynamic DT1350’s. In the office, I tend to use Beyerdynamic DT770’s, mainly for isolation.
With this points of reference in mind, I’ll try and comment of the sonic characteristics of the 99 Neos…according to my ears anyhow.
Source, chain, methodology:
I had a busy week testing on the 99 Neos. I’m not much of a believer in “burn-in” – all the same, given this pair had been to a couple of other reviewers prior to landing on my doorstep in Sydney, I can safely say they’ve had plenty of time to “settle-in”/”open-up”/insert other burn-in phrases here.
I logged around 50 hours of them, throwing every type of music possible at them, including classic rock; metal; folk/acoustic; EDM; hip-hop; and classical.
The rigs I tested them with were as follows:
Mobile: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (FLAC) > Audioquest Dragonfly Red/Black
Desktop: Macbook Pro > iTunes (ALAC) > Schiit Audio Modi 2U > Schiit Audio Asgard 2 / Little Dot 1+
Vinyl: Shure M91ED cartridge; Rega Planar 3; Schiit Mani pre-amp; Asgard 2 / Little Dot 1+
The low-end dominates the sound profile of these headphones…depending on the music you’re listening to. With a mid-bass heavy track such as “Show you the Way” by Thundercat, there’s an incredible ‘SLAM’ that’s unlike anything I’ve heard before. If you’re used to reference-oriented cans, it’s enough to put a grin of ‘guilty pleasure’ on your face:
The Neo’s bass extends reasonably well, but isn’t exactly the tightest nor most defined bass. It nearly borders on bloaty/boomy in some tracks, but that’s how it’s been tuned: for colourful, dynamic impact in the low-end. “Produk 29 ” is my go-to bass extension track, the Neos did roll-off some and weren’t able to dispatch the sub-bass with as much speed as a good planar (for example the Audeze Sine):
In addition to the mid-bass emphasis, the lower mids are forward, which creates a “wet”-sounding warmth between 100hz and 1-2000hz. The bass does bleed into the mids in bass-heavy passages, although with instrumental passages (electric guitar especially) there’s an amazing presence and body to the mid range. It works together like a big warm “hug”. Couple of standout tonal tests were the opening guitar passage on “Blood and Thunder” by Mastodon, and “Hummer” by Smashing Pumpkins:
Male and Female vocals sound perfectly natural. “Soothing” by Laura Marling was a particular highlight, with her voice sounding amazingly transparent alongside some remarkably lifelike strings:
Nothing remarkable or controversial to say here - not because it isn’t good (because it is), but because it’s neither fatiguing, nor rolled-off - it’s well-balanced and detailed. If anything, it’s the least “forward” of the frequencies in the 99 Neos, but plays its part in the overall tuning to create a warm, dynamic tuning.
Soundstage & Imaging
Reasonably good as closed cans go. Their bass-tilt makes it more of an intimate/in-head performance, but a studio binaural test demonstrated they throw a fairly wide soundstage (http://www.audiocheck.net/soundtests_headphones.php ). Imaging is again, fairly good for closed cans. Play a track like Mark Eitzel’s “Just Because”, close your eyes, and you’ll be able to point to the location of each band member like you’re sitting in the front row of a small club:
They sounded honestly pretty good straight out of a phone, but reward you with better separation, PRAT and tighter bass with amplification. Some quick thoughts:
1. Asgard 2 vs. Little Dot 1+
- Slightly richer bass on the tube hybrids; and tighter, cleaner bass on the Asgard 2.
- Overall I tended to use the LD1+ a little more often, as it probably suited their tuning more.
- I didn’t need to go past 9 o’clock on the volume pot for either.
2. Dragonfly Red vs. Dragonfly Black
- Both are able to power them with absolute ease.
- The Black had a drier, airier presentation and sounded a bit faster.
- The Red sounded richer, more layered, with more impactful bass.
- I probably preferred the Black to be honest (maybe also because they also look great together...)
A lot of headphone review time gets spent on DACs and digital audio as a source, but I tend to spend a good portion of my listening time spinning wax. I’m not even going to bother weighing into the digital/analogue debate, although I will say I thoroughly enjoyed listening to LP’s on the 99 Neos. Say what you will about it, but vinyl’s a more emotional experience, no question – we are humans after all.
If you enjoy the sound of a well-mastered album on vinyl, I can highly recommend the Neo 99’s. A couple of notable albums were Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”, and the self-titled album by grunge supergroup “Temple of the Dog” (with beer shown for scale…of course):
Overall thoughts on sound
These are versatile cans that are an exciting and dynamic pairing for nearly all genres. They’re “balanced” in that there’s no dips to speak of, but rather it’s a definite ‘L-shape’ with a heavy focus on mid-bass and the lower mids. Without being analytical, they’re great headphones to simply pop on your head, and enjoy your music (which is what it’s meant to all be about, right?), as opposed to say mixing, mastering, or analytically testing other parts of your audio chain.
I’ve chosen three pairs of closed cans for the sake of comparison here, because I think they might be relevant or interesting points of reference to someone deciding whether or not to buy a pair.
1. 99 Classics vs 99 Neos
I’ve chosen to compare the 99 Neos with the 99 Classics for obvious reasons – prospective customers are probably curious as to the sonic differences in addition to the aesthetic when deciding whether or not to spend another $60.
Other reviews have A/B tested these two models far more scientifically than I, but the short version is: they sound almost identical. I’m not sure whether it is due to age of my Classics, the pads, burn-in, or the cycle of the moon, but the Neos had a noticeably boomier, looser bass than my pair of 99 Classics.
I A/B-d them on a number of amps on bassier tracks, and found this to be the case every time. This got me thinking: if the drivers are the same, is it the pads? I did a bit of pad-swapping between the two, and found that it slightly altered the sound somewhat, but confusingly wasn’t the immediate source of the reasoning for the bass-tuning difference.
During this I did notice the pads on the Classics (white leather below) did have a layer of foam padding, whereas the Neos simply had a thin layer of fabric:
It was fun “cross-dressing” the Neos in the white pads from my Classics. Hey, it might be an interesting choice if you’re looking to swap pads down the track on your Neos, or perhaps an idea for a limited edition down the track from Meze:
So head-to-head: Is one ‘better’ than the other? It really depends on what’s important to you. Perhaps you prefer like the prospect of real, luxurious wood-grain (and that fact that no two are really alike in that sense) and a more ‘premium’ look. But if I were choosing again between the Classics and the Neos, personally I’d take the $60 change and be happier with the way the black-on-black colour scheme looks.
2. Beyerdynamic DT770 (80 ohm variant) vs 99 Neos
For many people these are the ‘gateway’ closed-back, full-sized audiophile headphones. Funnily enough, they were for me too. They’re worth comparing in that they’re in a similar price-bracket (although the street-price for the Beyers is often $100 less); form-wise they take-up about the same amount of room in a backpack; and they both offer an amazing sound-to-price ratio…although it is an altogether different sound and product experience.
The DT770’s have a classic ‘V-shape’ tuning, and straight away you notice the mids are very recessed compared to the Neos. This gives them a ‘drier’ sound, which is a little more relaxing, although there is also more pronounced sparkle in the upper treble. A lot of people complain of Beyer “Treble-murder”, but it sounds great to me.
In addition to the less-pronounced mids, one other thing you notice…is what you can’t notice – they isolate passive noise SO well. This is why they’ve been my go-to office cans for a long time. They also have a slight edge when it comes to comfort, the big pillow-y velour pads are just wonderful. People with larger ears will appreciate the extra space inside the cups as well.
The DT770’s are famous for being “bass-y” cans, but it’s a completely different bass experience. There is more sub-bass that is lower and cleaner hitting than the Neos, and it’s altogether more controlled and makes the Neos feel positively bloated in comparison.
The Beyers have the edge in terms of soundstage, in both width and depth. It’s a more open-back experience, with the sound feeling more ‘cavernous’ inside the cups.
Build-wise/accessories-wise, the Neos win by a mile. The cable sucks on the Beyers. It’s long, kinks easily, and is non-detachable. It also comes with a simple nylon thin bag which is almost laughable. But then again, philosophically these cans are like chalk and cheese: One is utilitarian workhorse and built like a tank; the other is a finely-crafted blend of form and function that’s as much an outward expression as it is an internal one.
All-in-all, the DT770’s make for better studio / desktop cans…if you’re not going far from said work-station that is. It’s a very different tuning, with the Neos being a more lively, warm and rich experience.
3. Beyerdynamic DT1350 vs 99 Neos
Many of you might want to know how these fare against dedicated portable cans, which is why I’ve compared the Neos with my Beyerdynamic DT1350s. I’ve had bad experiences with portables, in that they’re generally a compromise: they either sound compromised; or they’re built in such a way that they’re a) uncomfortable, or b) a bit too unwieldy.
The sound profile for the DT1350’s, to me, is almost perfect. The second I heard these, I sold my Audeze Sines (and pocketed a few hundred bucks too!). They are so balanced, they’re neutral, and the bass extends unbelievably low. How Beyerdynamic managed to squeeze this into such a small package is astonishing.
As you can see, the DT1350’s are simply much smaller headphones. They stow flat, and the cups swivel 90 degrees each way. In their semi-rigid case they take up about half as much room in a briefcase or backpack.
Form-factor wise, they are on-ears. So while they’re far more portable, they inevitably get a bit hurt-y on the pinnae after a couple of hours. Although on the other hand because they a decent clamp, and weigh nearly nothing they are great for strenuous activity – I’ve even managed some full-on road-running with them. They also work well with glasses.
Cable-wise, the DT1350’s have a non-detachable, Kevlar-coated permanently attached cable. It’s permanently kinked into the way it came folded, and tends to be very microphonic. Oh, and it has a laughably HUGE termination at the end – in fact it’s from the same parts bin as the DT770. At least you know it’s not going to break…
Sound-wise these are very different. Being on-ear it’s a fairly intimate experience with the DT1350’s, and being very neutral they have an almost ‘tinny’ quality, at a first listen (especially after some time on the Neos!). Settle into their timbre after a track or two, and it’s you’ll notice that it’s amazingly balanced with almost perfect bass. It’s tight, articulate bass that reaches deeper and hits cleaner than the Neos.
They’re overall better at being portable cans than the Neos, but simply aren’t “do it all” like the Neos are. It’s also a completely different SQ that depends on the user’s preference.
Meze ought to have another hit on their hands here with the 99 Neos. The fact that they’re $60 cheaper than the Classics means that the world of audiophile headphones has become even more accessible. They are an extremely versatile, well-built cans, and very might well be the only pair you might need – they simply have to be my go-to recommendation for a closed pair of headphones under $300. They might still be my recommendation for closed cans even at $500, but that depends on whether you like an all-black vibe, or can't resist the appeal of the unique wooden build of the 99 Classics...