Meze 99 Neo Headphones
I signed on for Meze Audio’s Head-Fi tour a few months back, and their latest product arrived for a short visit this month. The Meze 99 Neo (US$249) headphones. Thanks so much to Meze for including me in the tour.
This is my first time sitting down with any of their products, though I did read some reviews of both the Classics and the Neo in advance. I will keep this short, as there are many exhaustive reports already available online. I’ll try to get to what I think are the key characteristics before you grow tired of me.
I love the look of the 99 Neo. The build quality is impressive, and the design is classy. The electroplated zinc alloy hardware combined with the plastic black cups and memory foam ear pads makes for a sleek look. The fact that all parts are serviceable is outstanding. Not many out there today that can make the same claim.
The hard shell carrying case for the ‘phones, and the smaller accessory case are high quality. Both have a texture that is pleasing to touch. I assume the 99 Neo are aimed at users who are on the go. I did not have an opportunity to step out with the Neo.
The 99 Neo are 3oz. lighter than my main comparison for this report – the Audioquest Nighthawks. The Nighthawk’s ear cups are slightly larger and shaped differently, so for my large melon, they’re more comfortable. I’ve big ears too, so while the 99 Neo are quite comfortable, I’ve got more room in the Nighthawks stock pads.
Again, the 99 Neo are very comfortable headphones. I had no problem with them over longer sessions. Of course, the closed design is going to be warmer than an open one. Out here in the desert, it is something to consider. Of course, for their target audience, the closed back may not be negotiable.
Meze provide two cables – the short and the long. I used the longer cable the entire time, and appreciate having enough length to move around my office. My DHC cables are short, and keep me tethered to my source.
Both headphones have similar impedance – 26db (99 Neo) vs 25db (Nighthawks). The Neo is rated at 103db sensitivity. That’s 4db higher than the Nighthawk. Wow. I’m sticking with my AQ Dragonfly Red paired with an AQ Jitterbug for power. Streaming cd quality tracks via Tidal the entire session. I listened with both a PC source and Android phone.
These are great sounding headphones. And fun. The bumped mid-bass, or bloom, is readily apparent. That bloom – and, maybe a dip in the upper mid-range – in combination result in a somewhat warm and close presentation. Intimate. Cymbals lack some of the overtones that the Nighthawks present. It’s quite subtle, and overall they sound linear and natural. The 99 Neo are an energetic headphone. Dynamic, and driving. Punchy. At times, the shove in the low end brought to mind two channel speakers.
Based on my short time when them, I feel it’s less about high frequency extension, and more about the slightly lifted low frequencies – this warmer, shadier tone. I really enjoy the sound. To my ears they are slightly less linear and natural in comparison to the Nighthawks with my Double Helix cable. You know, I would’ve have tried the DHC cable with the Neo, but the connectors did not fit. The Nighthawks are more relaxed, being a more open design.
Fiona Apple’s voice on “The Idler Wheel…” illustrates my earlier point. Less head, and a tiny bit more throat and chest in vocals. And, cymbals lose some of their overtones. Acoustic drum stick attack and body are highlighted with the overtones slightly diminished. Pianos and other assorted keys on this record reflect this same downward shift of the stage. Again, this is subtle, and not necessarily a mark against the Neo. Just my own observations set down here for your consideration.
As for isolation – I don’t have another closed pair available for a comparison. The 99 Neo seemed to isolate well. I was not able to test this in an office or elsewhere it might be needed.
The 99 Neo are a great sounding and stylish headphone. They were easily driven by my OnePlus3 phone streaming Tidal HiFi. Likewise with my pc in combo with the Audioquest Dragonfly Red. I wanted more time to test a more powerful amps affect on these sensitive phones. I am currently without my usual tube amps, so have stuck with the portable rig for the entire session. I think this may be more relevant for folks who are considering the Neo, anyway.
So, they are easy to drive, have a warm, natural voice, and are really comfortable. I think you can’t go wrong if you are looking for a closed back and portable headphone in this price range. Add to this that they are stylish and fully serviceable, and they begin to compete outside this range. In a world of primarily recyclable products, one that has a higher probability of outliving me is very attractive.
In my reading I found that Meze has a devoted following, and I now know why. The 99 Neo are an excellent product. Thanks for listening.