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Meze 99 Classics
December 3, 2015
1.2m (cable with remote)
A bit long in the tooth, the Meze 99 Classics Gold certainly doesn’t shy away from catching eyes, but does it grab your ears, too? Originally crowdfunded back in 2016, you can still find these headphones on Amazon and other retail sites—but the goalposts for what’s worth your money have moved quite far in the intervening years. After another week with the Meze 99 Classics, we’re ready to share how this headset holds up in the modern age.
This set of headphones is good for someone who wants a computer buddy that sounds decent enough, and appeals to the wood-lover. It’s less good for commuters, but mainly because smartphones don’t often have headphone jacks nowadays.
Hey, this review was changed!
This review was originally posted at the beginning of 2016, and the following is a re-review of the headphones performed by Executive Editor Chris Thomas. We purchased a new unit, tested it with our new test bench, and re-wrote almost everything here to meet our current standards. We are not archiving the old review, so if there’s something on this page you’re looking for: it may be gone to the sands of time.
Thanks for your understanding, and happy listening.
Editor’s note: This review was updated on January 24, 2023 to correct formatting, style issues, and improve interlinking.
What’s it like to use the Meze Audio 99 Classics?
Using the Meze 99 Classics is simple. With the exception of the removable cables, pretty much all of your interactions with the headphones will be some variation of: place on head, hit play. There aren’t any smart features here, as the headphones are simply a basic tool for listening to music. There’s no app, there’s no advanced virtualization or surround features, and there are no features dependent on data collection. There’s just a cable and driver elements, just as God intended.
The basic construction is mainly composed of metal and wood, which might make you think this is heavy, but you’d be wrong. When you plop them on your head, you really notice how light they are. The metal bars up top fit nicely but the self-adjusting suspension headband does all the work, allowing the headphones to fit snugly without being too tight. That kind of form-fitting is also reflected in the padding on the ear cups which sit almost flat around the ears but still allow them room to breathe.
Design-wise, this is a very aesthetically-pleasing pair of headphones. The black metal is accented with lots of gold, and the dark walnut ear cups aren’t too shabby either. The connecting joints on the skeleton of the headphones are the only place where you’ll find the Meze branding. The 3.5mm inputs on the bottom of each ear cup are also accented in gold, which helps you locate them easily and you’ll be happy for them if you’re trying to do this in the dark.
The Meze 99 Classics looks like it could be easily crushed by a book or a hard drop, but durable materials mean durable headphones. Because of the replaceable cable design, this ought to last you a long time. Meze is putting its money where its mouth is too, offering an “endless” warranty. As long as you own the headphones, Meze will take care of you. Personally, I appreciate headphones built to be a tool you use for a long time rather than something you buy and subsequently trash every year. There’s also an included hard shell case if you don’t feel like putting that warranty to the test anytime soon.
How do you connect the Meze Audio 99 Classics?
The Meze 99 Classics isn’t a Bluetooth headset, so if you’re looking for a wireless option you’ll have to look somewhere else. Instead, these headphones are fully-wired with two Y-shaped cables in the box: one 3m cable for use in a studio setting or at a desk, and one for use with portable devices. These cables plug into the jacks at the bottom of the ear cups, and are joined by a plastic Y-split protector. There’s also a 3.5mm airplane adapter and a 1/4-inch adapter.
The first cable doesn’t have playback controls or anything like that, but the second one comes with a mic and in-line controls about an inch or two down from the left ear cup. Pressing the multi-function button once pauses and plays music as well as answers phone calls, while double tapping skips songs, and triple tapping starts the song over or goes back to a previous song. You can also hold it down to access Siri or Google search.
Due to its low impedance and high sensitivity, you do not need an amplifier to properly power the Meze 99 Classics. If for some reason you’re hearing audible distortion, noise, or other artifacts: you may want to look into a DAC or soundcard.
Max input power
Rated input power
How well does the Meze Audio 99 Classics block out noise?
Overall, the Meze 99 Classics offers decent isolation from outside noise, and will quiet the world around you well. However, like most passive headphones, these won’t isolate much below 300Hz, and you will probably hear engine rumbles and vehicle noise along with your music. If you need more noise reduction than this, consider getting noise cancelling headphones.
High-frequency noise will be quieted by half to one-sixteenth of its original loudness, depending on frequency. Like most closed-back over-ears, the Meze 99 Classics do really well at killing high-frequency noise.
How do the Meze Audio 99 Classics sound?
Despite its high price, the Meze 99 Classics exhibits quite a consumer-friendly sound, and comes close to our ideal headphone response. Hallmarks of this kind of tuning include emphasized bass, and a bit of added emphasis in the highs between 4-10kHz. This is a pretty big plus, as most people will gravitate toward this kind of sound anyways. However, there are a couple of quirks you should be aware of before you decide whether or not to buy.
Generally, vocals and low frequencies come through a bit louder compared to other elements of songs. Sometimes this can lead to higher-pitched instrument sounds getting lost in busy mixes, or sounding a little quieter than you might expect. Many Barry White songs will sound like the instruments were pretty much an afterthought even though they’re quite important to the piece. Similarly, pop songs that have a lot of guitars or cymbals will lose their prominence in the presence of lower-pitched sounds.
However, not all the highs are quiet. Between 4-9kHz, sounds are emphasized to a rather high degree in comparison to the surrounding ranges. It’s unclear why Meze made this choice, but it can sometimes give prominence to lingering artifacts from recording like room reverb and echoes. It’s not grating, though, it’s just a quirk that can easily be equalized away.
Equalization should always use a light hand, but you can do a lot with either Equalizer APO for Windows or Wavelet for Android. Apple and iOS users will have fewer options, unless you have a different source hanging around. Here’s our suggestion for tuning your Meze 99 Classics below:
If you’re looking for parametric filters, you’re going to have a rough time boosting the underemphasis between 1-3kHz, as it will require some hefty gain close to the cuts you’ll be making. We don’t recommend boosting or cutting more than 6dB, but that range is difficult to navigate without taking some liberties. If you do try to correct that range, you’ll have to make some rather extreme cuts in the most audible bands, which could lead to issues, depending on your source. As annoying as it can get, we recommend not pushing this too hard.
Don’t worry too much about matching our curve below 100Hz or above 12.5kHz, as those will vary greatly based on your own anatomy and preferences. However, everything in between should be followed closely as a starting point for your own EQ profile!
Can you use the Meze Audio 99 Classics for phone calls?
When you use the 1.2m cable with the inline mic/remote module, you can use the 99 Classics for phone calls. As you can hear below, the mic does very well in quiet, ideal conditions. While the mic transmits some background noise in our office and street simulations, its performance outdoes many embedded Bluetooth mic systems. Take a listen and let us know what you think!
Meze Audio 99 Classics microphone demo (Ideal):
Meze Audio 99 Classics microphone demo (Office):
Meze Audio 99 Classics microphone demo (Street):
Should you buy the Meze Audio 99 Classics?
The Meze 99 Classics is a set piece in any of the available finishes (walnut gold, walnut black) to be sure. It’s very attractive and very expensive, so you really need to be sure you’re willing to spend the money on a set of wired headphones before you take the plunge.
Smartphones with headphone jacks are a rare breed nowadays, so it’s entirely possible that these cans aren’t the ones for you simply because of which phone you have. The Meze 99 Classics is definitely more difficult to take out on the town now than in 2016, but it would fit in well at a desk or listening station. There really aren’t that many headphones out there below $500 USD that include walnut in the construction, and while this isn’t perfect: you could do a whole lot worse for the money.
What should you get instead of the Meze 99 Classics?
If you’re a big fan of the walnut ear cups—and let’s be honest, wood looks awesome—the other main option you have at this price point is the Thinksound ov21. The ov21 also offers a high-end option with a primarily wooden construction, along with a really fun sound. It’s not for everyone, but a focus on environmentally-friendly manufacturing means this is one of the rare times where eco-conscious buyers can have their cake and eat it too.
Isolation performance is similar between the two headphones, but the main difference is in the sound quality. With the ov21, bass will sound more pronounced than it appears in the chart above due to a steep under-emphasis in the mids. Vocals will also sound a bit quieter than cymbals, higher notes on stringed instruments, and instrument attack. In contrast, the Meze 99 Classics will sound a little closer to what it “should” sound like, but many out there will think it doesn’t make basslines stand out like they’re expecting. Just a matter of taste.
Frequently asked questions about the Meze Audio 99 Classics
The ear cups on the 99 Neo are not made out of wood like the Meze Classics. With the 99 Neo you get a 1.5m cable with a mic/remote, while the 99 Classics includes a 1.2m cable with a mic/remote and a 3m cable without a remote. The material on the hard zippered cases is slightly different when it comes to texture and only the Classics includes an airplane adapter.
You can drive either headset with a smartphone as the Meze 99 Classics has a 32Ω impedance and the 99 Neo has a 26Ω impedance. Both headsets are just as easy to repair too as they use just nuts and bolts and feature easily replaceable parts, meaning either Meze headset should last for years and years.