Meze Audio’s 99 Classics

John Pickford checks out the Meze Audio 99 Classics, a sub-£300 set of headphones offering great sound and comfort for the price…
Meze 99 Classics

The Meze 99 Classics arrived with me just after the similarly priced Master & Dynamic MH30s, reviewed in issue 12. The M&Ds impressed me enormously, so I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the 99 Classics if they didn’t live up to the hype I’d read before I received them. I needn’t have worried; the 99 Classics instantly proved to be serious contenders in the sub-£300 stakes.

Straight away, I was most impressed with the luxurious fit and finish of the headphones, the review sample featuring beautiful hand-polished walnut earcups with gold-metal trim. Meze screw together the 99 Classics rather than using glue, making them easy to take apart for repair should a fault develop. 
The polyurethane headband is self-adjusting and reinforced with a metal outer band, and the ear pads use medium-density memory foam covered with soft PU leather. Two lengths of Kevlar-reinforced detachable cable are supplied, one 1.2m, the other 3m, which terminate with gold-plated 3.5mm plugs. These and the jack-plug adaptors come in their own zip case which, along with the ‘phones, are housed in a hard EVA case; this is necessarily chunky, as the 99 Classics don’t fold.
The 40mm Mylar/neodymium transducers (speakers) have a wide-band frequency response of 15Hz to 25kHz, while sensitivity is well above average at 103dB, making the 99 Classics very easy to drive. Some high-end ’phones designed primarily for use with premium hi-fi equipment don’t perform well with portable devices, but these are just as comfortable with top-end hi-fi as they are with iPhones and iPods.
Putting on the 99 Classics, they’re immediately comfortable and remain so even during lengthy listening sessions. The self-adjusting mechanism of the 99 Classics provides adequate grip without becoming too vice-like, while their featherlight weight (260g) adds to their long-term comfort. 
They can, however, be quite resonant when adjusting, with the metal headband in particular causing audible resonance; if tapped, it’s like having your head inside a metal dustbin.
Spacious soundscape
Sound quality is superb for this price point, with the 99 Classics performing better than several more costly designs. Most notable is the spaciousness of the soundstage, presenting a panoramic stereo image with a cavernous impression of stage depth. The mid-range is natural and unforced, offering plenty of detail without becoming conspicuous and distracting, while upper registers are in good proportion and give a decent impression of air and space with high-quality recordings. 
The bottom end has a generous amount of mid-bass in the 100 to 200Hz region; however, the lower frequencies aren’t as taut and firm as some others (the aforementioned M&D MH30s for example), and can sound a little loose on busier rock and pop recordings.
The 99 Classics are an attractive proposition, being both stylish and offering excellent sound quality. Although they perform best when used with a good headphone amplifier, their high sensitivity makes them ideal partners for low-powered portable devices. Anyone looking for a set of cans at this price point should place the 99 Classics at the top of their audition list.
Meze 99 Classics