Hot off my rendezvous with the Meze Audio 11 Neo, the exquisite house of Meze in Romania has managed to delight me with another guest and although I am yet to be a full-on convert for the cult following surrounding how Meze has managed to be a company associated with meticulous standards both in form and function. I am yet put again tempted by them to try and prove such standards do exist with their interpretation of what a headphone should look and sound in the form of the Meze 99 Neo. Provided directly by Meze Audio in exchange for an honest realview. You can visit their castle, I mean website at Meze Audio. The Meze 99 Neo, released in 2017 and is priced at $249, it sits smack on a headphone market swarming with audiophile grade options. The Meze 99 Neo Headphones houses a 40mm dynamic transducers on a black ABS plastic earcups, 15Hz – 25 KHz Frequency Response, 103dB Sensitivity, 26 Ohm Impedance. The 99 Neo features detachable Kevlar OFC cable which bodes well for those worried of cable breakage as well as an in-house subdued yet contemporary design conceptualized over long hours of sketches and outlines and with all these specifications, is the Meze Audio 99 Neo worthy of a fan base?
Packaging and Build Quality
The Meze 99 Neo barged in into my office sporting its packaging with shades of 2-tone grayscale. All the necessary details and information about the headphones is stated with 3 images of the 99 Neo all highlighting its detailed construction, do note that the back of the package has a security hologram on the lower left portion to guarantee authenticity of the 99 Neo which as they say, it’s all in the details. Opening up the box greeted me with an admirable and sexy black case contoured to the curves of the 99 Neo, the zipper zips smoothly and hanging tab is also present as well as a metal chrome and black Meze logo which I would love to have as a pin to stick on my work backpack. A brochure is also present along with all their current line-up of headphones and earphones and company details which was good for light reading. Inside the box was the 99 Neo’s themselves, comfortably resting on the smooth suede lining interiors of the case. A storage pouch was also present along which contained the detachable Kevlar OFC cable, 6.3mm gold-plated jack and an airline adapter. I tried storing the 99 Neo with cables attached on the case and sadly, it doesn’t work so the case is clearly for portable usage and not for storing it when used at home, I’d recommend getting a dedicated headphone stand because the 99 Neo is damn sensual to look at.
The 99 Neo isn’t foldable in any way which was fine since it has a gorgeous case to begin with, trade-offs my lads. It uses ABS plastic for its earcups which had leather-like grooves and is isn’t a fingerprint magnet, it is sturdy and the cable ports as well as the earcup outline is lined with electroplated precision die-cast zinc alloy, I have seen how this electroplating process takes place and believe me, the 99 Neo metal components won’t be rusting anytime soon. The headband is a chromium-manganese alloy which is if you’re familiar with your alloys, this specific combination provides improved strength and ductility for the times your 99 Neo meets your bad days and so far, none of my bad days have broken the 99 Neo. The support system of the 99 Neo utilized a self-adjusting PU leather headband with 99 Neo embedded on the top portion joined underneath by an elastic rubber garter attached to a thin strip of metal which terminates on a striking zinc alloy(also electroplated) joint for the 2-piece headbands.
The earpads uses soft PU leather with medium density memory foam. It is soft and non-irritating to wear and use, I managed to pull off around 3-4 hours of use on it, the clamping force of the headbands is also cozy, I have a relatively small head so the clamping force might be strong for others, depends really. I’m also glad that the Yaxi earpads that I have lying around did fit the 99 Neo and will state the differences in the sound analysis portion of the realview while so far the comfort was relatively similar except that the Yaxi earpads on the 99 Neo gave a encased feeling since it has larger chamber circumference as well as the velour part gave a more movable feel for the earcups.
Changing the earpads on the 99 Neo is easy and doesn’t involve any proprietary molds which I have seen on other headphones making earpads changing a pain. The included detachable Kevlar OFC cable isn’t stiff nor too pliable, it has the right amount of tension to it allowing it easy to store while also being hefty enough to stay in place and not wiggle around when used on the go. All of the cables metal components are machined aluminum with gold-plated plugs. The included mic controls worked flawlessly on both Android and iOS devices as well as the mic itself, the y-split has subtle 99 Neo branding and compliments the headphone aesthetics well. It is slightly microphonic yet unnoticeable most of the time. The overall build of the 99 Neo is indeed a work of art both made for work and art, no clanking and rattling here and there and the design language flows fluidly from each component to another.
Upon using the Meze 99 Neo’s, a sense of lax atmosphere envelops the user. Despite switching from multiple sources ranging from the Opus 1, Sony ZX1, Xduoo X3ii, Sony CAS-1 via an MSI laptop and also direct from the said laptop and the OnePlus 3T, the 99 Neo sound was evidently a non-overdoing set of cans, it delivers a smooth and easy sound which leans on the warmer spectrum. I have used it extensively and haven’t found any singular frequency that distinctly outshines any other aside from the low-end giving a more resonating vibe that ever so slightly extends to the midrange.
Having said that the 99 Neo being a set of warm sounding cans, its low-end performance doesn’t overpower the other frequencies in a manner of great extent. Kicking in Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams in 16/44 Flac showcases its good bass attack capabilities, sub bass drops had good body to it and decays on a slower pace which was surprisingly wasn’t congesting even on consecutive sub bass drops. The bass performance was clean and reverbs effortlessly providing an added zest on the lower frequencies which resulted on its easy sounding warm signature.
The 99 Neo’s midrange gives it its strong coherent performance, transitional notes in the lower and upper midrange weaves through the spectrum smoothly. Angela Bofill’s Angel of the Night in 16/44 Flac had good dynamics on them and the female vocals had distinct clarity on them and had good definition which compliments the bass hits well. Vocal timber sounds a tad colored but doesn’t reach unnatural levels. Trying out the male vocals was done with Scorpion’s Wind of Change in 16/44 Flac, upper midrange performance was clear and detailed even showcasing sporadic extension abilities while the male vocals still sounded a tad colored but had more air to it which was extensively highlighted near the 3:33 minute mark.
I decided to pull out Jerry Cortez’s Around the Globe in 16/44 Flac to focus on checking out the 99 Neo’s higher frequency abilities. There is noticeable lack of bite on this set of cans although it is still able to deliver a lively and musical vibe on the signature. The lack of bite also showed supplemented the fact that the 99 Neo’s doesn’t induce harsh and piercing highs instead gives out a totally non-fatiguing experience.
Soundstage and Imaging
Spandau Ballet’s Code of Love in 16/44 Flac was used to test out the soundstage and imaging which right off the bat gave out a rather intimate feel, studio-like. Imaging was distinct and easy to identify. There is great sense of left to right orientation especially when instrumental hits are made. Detail retrieval is on point. Those who put a premium on a very wide soundstage would need to look elsewhere.
Yaxi Pads on the 99 Neo’s
I was fortunate enough to have the Yaxi Pads for the CD900st’s lying around and from all the other earpads I had the fit the CD900st, it was surprising that only the Yaxi’s managed to fit the 99 Neo. This was all because of the 99 Neo’s very slim earpad lining outline which all the other earpads didn’t managed to fit in, the leather on those were too thick so note that when you are looking forward to trying 3rd party earpads for the 99 Neo’s. The noticeable differences between the stock 99 Neo earpads and the Yaxi’s were the circumference size. The Yaxi’s had a much larger circumference and also had deeper earpad depth giving more area for your ears and the 99 Neo drivers themselves although the cloth lining had the same thickness on both earpads. Sound changes were minimal with the Yaxi giving out more air and soundstage than the stock one’s yet also taking the highs down which wasn’t a good thing. I ended using the stock earpads until now.
There is much to be said for the Meze 99 Neo just from its build quality alone which is unusual for a company who is fairly new to the game. The accessory set checks all the right boxes not to mention the sophistication poured on them. The sound needs no getting used to as it sits right home with it’s easy to love appeal, one not focused on getting critical and clinical with technicalities. Viewing the 99 Neo at $249 on an audiophile perspective familiar with his options wouldn’t entice one much except for the fact that this set of cans would possibly last a long time even with constant use, a result stemming from the confidence you can get just when using it 1st hand which suits its name, 99 Neo, a sign that something new can feel lasting.