Review: Meze 99 Neo – A more affordable option from Meze
How do the more-affordable Meze headphones hold up?
Meze Audio might not be a name you’d immediately recognize, but they’ve been chasing their uncompromising sound since 2011. Their timeless designs mix with tuned acoustics that are designed for you to get lost in the music.
Normally they’re aimed immediately at the higher end of the market, but the Meze 99 Neo that we’re looking at today is a different animal – can the high standards from the 99 Classics translate to a cheaper set of headphones?
So, what’s it all about?
Let’s start with what’s changed from the Meze 99 Classics, because to be honest, it’s the shorter list. Gone are the expensive-to-produce walnut ear cups, replaced by some textured ABS plastic ones. That’s fine, because only you will know. I mean, I’ve been using them for a while now and I keep forgetting that they’re made of plastic, because the rest of the headphones are immaculate.
The self-adjusting, ‘floating’ style headband is still soft PU leather, still with manganese spring steel, still just as comfortable, just as stylish. The mounting points, plug surrounds, and other hardware is still shiny, durable zinc alloy. The ear cups are still medium density memory foam wrapped in the same PU leather, adding acoustic isolation to all-day comfort. Oh, and if you’ve got big ears like me, don’t worry – there’s tons of space inside them.
Powering your sound are 40mm drivers with a 15Hz to 25Khz frequency response, a 26 Ohm impedance so they can be driven by almost anything, and the included oxygen-free cable has an integrated mic, so they’re perfect for phone use.
In the box, you get a Hard EVA carrying pouch that contains the headphones, and a smaller zipped pouch that has the detachable headphones cable terminating in a 3.5mm jack and a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter.
So, how do they sound?
Continuing the new reviewing rubric is yet another style of music that I really haven’t been able to get to grips with – J-Pop. I mean, millions of people can’t be all wrong, right?
Without further ado, here’s the Spotify playlist I’m using today:
Okay, so I know J-Pop is known for its high-energy and autotuned-vocals, but I wasn’t expecting the deep sub-bass of these tracks. That’s in part to the fantastic bass response of the 99 Neo’s, which happily rumble along in my ear holes. It’s also down to the fantastic job Meze has done of tuning the drivers, so the treble-heavy J-Pop never gets fatiguing, even after listening to this whole playlist on repeat for the last few days.
Honestly, I now feel like I’m living inside a jRPG like Persona, but that’s okay as long as I still have my comfortable Meze 99 Neo’s to keep me company. Just like a well-balanced party, these headphones give my music all the support I need. I’m going to go listen to some drum n bass now to regain my sanity, but I’m not unplugging these headphones for a good, long time.
One last thing to note – the Meze 99 Neo’s are rated for a max 50 mW of output power. If you’re using an audio source like an amp that can go over that power rating, it’s really easy to overpower the drivers inside these headphones. Just keep it lower power and you’ll get the crisp, clean sound that you should be hearing.
So, should I buy them?
Look here, the sub-$200 market is full of big names and bigger tradeoffs. Meze might not be a name you recognize, but that’s because they don’t have Apple’s advertising budget. Shame, when you consider that anything else under $200 either looks good but sounds terrible, or looks terrible but sounds good. The Meze 99 Neo bucks the trend, with classic style, a sound signature that can only be characterized as “fun,” and a comfortable wear that reminds me of sinking into a well-worn, well-loved leather couch at the end of a long day.
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