MEZE 99 NEO REVIEW
- TONAL BALANCE / NEUTRALITY 70%
- PERFORMANCE FOR THE PRICE 90%
- SOUND FIDELITY 81%
- MUSICALITY 89%
- BUILD QUALITY 93%
- ERGONOMICS/COMFORT 97%
- Hassle-Free Ergonomics
- Non-Fatiguing tonality
- Good Dynamics
- Bass bloat makes the midrange murky
As you may or may not know, the Meze company released what is called the MEZE 99 Classics. Which to some, including myself, actually lived up to the name ‘Classic’ being a very good headphone overall. It produces wonderful sound with decent balance at an affordable price. The Meze Classics also have excellent ergonomics that are only taxed by what some feel are small earpad openings and also an aesthetic that is just a little too flashy for some. Enter the Meze 99 NEO, with the same build sans the wood and now with a slightly larger opening and even more affordable price.
Special thanks to MEZE for sending me these pair of the NEOs and Classics for review.
I wrote what was a mini review of the Meze 99 Classics on the forums a while back. At the time they arrived, I was actually not really interested in them and wanted to try other headphones instead. Well the Classics stopped me in my tracks, delivering excellent sound and tonality to me with exceptional nuance and definition for the price. Upon seeing the 99 NEO I first thought “‘awww yeah!.. now that’s how I want my pair to look'” Lets see what they did with the sound.
- FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 15HZ – 25KHZ
- TRANSDUCER SIZE: 40 MM
- SENSITIVITY: 103DB @ 1KHZ
- IMPEDANGE 26 OHMS
- WEIGHT: 260 gr
- EAR CUPS: ABS PLASTIC
The 99 NEO Comes with several accessories:
- 1.2M Cable w/Mic & Remote
- 3M cable
- Nylon Headphone travel case
- Headphone cable pouch
- Adampters and mono plugs
- Earpads that are detachable
Bearing the same fabulous housing of thin and lightweight magnese spring steel, a self adjusting headband and fully serviceable parts, the Neo doesn’t break the mold of the Classics. The drivers are the same as well but the cups are plastic instead of wood.
To this day there still hasn’t been a headphone that has been as simple to fit as the Meze full sized headphones. They ear cavity on the Neo’s are only slightly larger and my ears never touch the drivers. With the original Classics, I did want a minutely larger opening and the 99 Neo’s seem to get it just right for my sized ears that fit snug inside of the cups.
Very good isolation and little leakage. I have absolutely no complaints.
- BASS EXTENSION 88%
- BASS BALANCE (ACCURACY) 68%
- LOWER MIDRANGE BALANCE 75%
- <p>MIDRANGE PROPER BALANCE</p><p class=”p1 et-fb-mce-line-break-holder”> 85%
- UPPER MIDRANGE BALANCE 88%
- TREBLE BALANCE 80%
- TREBLE EXTENSION 80%
- BASS CONTROL 73%
- MACRO DYNAMICS (SOFTS TO LOUDS) 89%
- MICRO DYNAMICS (SMALL GRADATIONS OF VOLUME) 95%
- SOUND STAGE WIDTH 89%
- SOUND STAGE DEPTH 89%
*please note that in the above bar counters I use the word balance instead of presence which is a percentage of how unbiased, accurate, and neutral that aspect is. Also those aspects are totally subjective and from my point of view. The above is relative to the price as well.
The sound signature of the Meze 99 Neo is warm, charismatic, and bloomed with a tinted, and laid back balance.
The bass of the 99 NEO is most definitely boosted above neutral. The sheer amount of bass is not as a problem for me as I tend to love bass and lots of it. Its not the most bass heavy headphone I have heard, and in quantity sits somewhat above where my favorite closed back, the Atticus, is in presence. It has good sustain and rumble with nice punch that plays well with my dub reggae and drum and bass songs. Still and all there is a lack of control on Meze’s latest that will be a turnoff to bass purists yet not much of a problem to casual listeners. The upper bass is boosted as well showing itself problematic for vocals as its presence does more than just warm up the tonality. What I do like about the bass is that I find it to be fairly engaging with an exceptional amount of oomph for drums and kicks. At this price its quality is not out of range even if I have heard better from the classic M-Audio Q40 which is known to be a bassheads bargain which reaches lower, is tighter, and less swollen in the upper bass. However, the Neo strikes back with better sustain, punch, and rumble. For EDM, I found the Neos very enjoyable except in rare cases where the sub bass felt just a little ill extended having some problems with 30 hz.
The lower midrange the 99 Neo provides excellent texture for male vocals and on songs absent from lots of bass, it can draw out good body, with an adequate level of clarity. The problem arises on certain albums that are warm already from my collection like ‘Everything’s Beautiful’ – Miles Davis & Rober Glasper where there is a muffled sound to the vocals; both male and female vocals sound unnatural and obscured. When I played ‘Jah Army’ from Damien Marley this effect seemed to be just a regular part of the track and the raspy vocalists were able to cut through decently. To say this headphone is not for critical listening is an understatement. There were also a few songs not affected by this at all, like one of my all time favorite test albums from Fleet Foxes, where there isn’t much bass to begin with and it is a vocal showcase. The midrange proper seems flat to my ears and the upper midrange is not improved from the classics, yet again is far from shouty or harsh by any means. Consonants sound hard enough to remain traceable the the overall the sound of the midrange can be particularly boxy, especially on the wrong song.
I personally enjoy where the treble sits on the Neo as I generally lean towards a darker sound. There is good enough snap and enough bite for me not to complain too much here. Sibilance is not smoothed over to my ears but also not too accentuated or problematic which means the definition region is nicely balanced. Extension is not that great but hey…I didn’t really expect it to sound airy in the first place. The texture in the treble is a little rough but since it is dim I kind of like the way it adds character and allows textures to come through. The M-Audio q40s are brighter for sure and I still consider the Neo a somewhat dark headphone with my ideal balance being a split between the two.
These kinds of headphones have to be assessed with relativity in the forefront of my mind. Looking for the ultimate soundstage experience in a smaller portable headphone like this is unrealistic. I have not much on hand to compare them to but my own similarly priced Pioneer HRM-7s and M-Audio Q40s. I expect my modified Pioneers with Alpha pads to sound more spacious than these, and they do by just a little bit, but those are the most spacious sub 300USD headphones I have heard and I have modified them so a comparison to it loses relativity. The soundstage of the NEO is not bad at all for a portable, having good depth and decent width, besting the Q40s but being beaten by my modded Pioneers. My impressions of the sound stage are very positive for this kind of headphone given my low expectations.
These have dynamics as a trait I find them to be very competent in. Both the Classic’s and Neo’s are wonderfully nuanced and responsive throughout the frequency range. Sure the treble is just a little dull but the treble that is there is dynamic as well. My opinions here from the Classics still carry over to the Neo model without leaving any scraps behind.
Again, not for the critical listener. I do not consider these headphones detailed or resolved. The separation is great, and the resolution is competitive at its price but details are a bit masked in the midrange due to the tuning. I mean, the driver is inherently resolving but the balance is holding it back a bit.
NEO vs CLASSICS
The Neos and Classics have lots of similarities. The presence region of both is just a bit shy of what I find ideal but the Neos on some songs seem to sound thinner and peakier there. They are both exceptionally dynamic and fun to listen to with a warm, yet never bright sound. I imagine Meze to have a lot in common with ZMF in regards to frequency targets. Both of these have about the same treble extension which means not really airy. The bass quality is very close between them as well, sounding similarly textured, responsive, and midbass focused.
- The Neos have more sub bass and seem to have better sub bass presence.
- The Neos have more upper bass that bleeds into the midrange. Voices on the Classics are much less effected by the upper bass, if effected at all. The Classics sound much more natural in the midrange for sure with less murkiness and mudd from the lower mids.
- The bass on the Classics can sound just a little tighter.
- The Classics sometimes do not sound as dark as the Neos, where as other times the Neos sound more accentuated in the lower treble (could be because of the midrange issues that make me subconsciously focus on the treble). Overall though I find the Neos just a little more laid back sounding.
- The Classics do not do as well with EDM and bass rumble as the Neos. The Neos do better for genres like dub, reggae, hip hop, poorly mastered funk etc where the Neos provide more bass drive. This doesn’t mean the Classics won’t cut it though for those genres but compared to the Neos it loses everytime.
- Soundstage is the same to my ears between the two. Maybe more critical listening can reveal otherwise but just swapping between them didn’t reveal any immediate differences.
The Neos won’t be for everyone and I would be lying if I said they were better ‘all arounders’ than the Classics. I do appreciate the larger cavity in the ear pads but also wish some of the upper bass was less bloated. However, I would also be lying if I said that I don’t listen to a lot of the music that the NEOs do very well on. I had them on by choice even more than the classics based on those reasons. Drums and percussion on the Neo’s sound engaging to me and when I go on my road trip I have a strong feeling the Classics will be the ones left in the trunk while I take another set with me besides the classics for other music.
Now the big question is, are they as good as the Classics? The answer is no, as these have a limited genre bandwidth and do not sound nearly as clear in the midrange. The Neos will do well for some, just know it’s pros and cons and put them to good use accordingly. They do look pretty sexy though! I had fun taking pics of these headphones.