Meze Classics 99 - Impressions and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Hands, Jun 25, 2016.

  1. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Meze Classics 99

    [​IMG]

    Product Impressions
    The Meze Classics 99 headphones are closed back, easy to drive, wood cup headphones that look and feel quite nice. You too can feel like the fancy boy or girl you've always dreamed of becoming with these on your head.

    Depending on your head and ears, you might find them closer to on-ear than over-ear. For me, they were closer to over-ear, barely, though I believe they are shipping models with larger pads as of recently to address this.

    It appears the channels are interchangeable, in that I could not find a left/right marking on them. Since they don't have angled pads or cups, and the left/right cables are removable (3.5mm mono jack per channel), you can go wild flip flopping between which channel you want to be left or right. Note: Please swap channels responsibly.

    You can drive them well from portable sources, including phones, and they'll sound good.

    While the looks and build quality are quite good, comfort is a bit hit and miss. The headband mechanism auto-adjusts to your head nicely, but I'd like to see more headband cushion, thicker and more plush ear pads, larger ear pads, and less clamp. The Meze Classics 99 started to hurt my ears and jaw after about 10 to 15 minutes. If this were my own pair, I could stretch them out to adjust the clamp, swap out the ear pads, and add some cushioning to the headband, but these are just loaners.

    The headphones come with two cables, one with an in-line mic and volume controls for phones and tablets, and a nice, hard shell case.

    Aside from some comfort issues, which depends on the individual, the Meze Classics 99 do impress right out of the box. Based on all non-sound traits, Meze could have gotten away with a higher price on these.

    Sound Impressions
    Wow, talk about a ton of bass! Once you get the fit and seal right on these, and they are rather consistent performers if you have them on your head right, it's like someone sat you down in their '95 Civic with dual 15", ported subwoofers and opened the windows. Or, imagine you're dressed up in a suit and are heading to what you believe will be a symphony. You walk in the door with a naive smile on your face, expecting an elegant, classic performance, and are immediately blown back into the street by the amount of bass, hair all messed up and everything from the pressure.

    Once you come to and get your shit together, you're able to start digging into the rest of the sound. The bass is incredibly elevated, no doubt, but it is punchy and has relatively good pitch and texture to it. It's not quite perfect, and it's hard to see through the veil of bass, but it's better than you think if you can adjust to the sheer amount of it. Yes, I find the headphones bassier than the TH-X00. Those that wear glasses might hear less bass due to a broken seal, but that could be favorable in the case of this headphone.

    While the veil of bass makes it difficult to really get a grasp for how the Meze Classics 99 sound, they have many positive qualities. Perhaps their strongest suit is their midrange. It's surprisingly balanced, detailed, clean, fast. It's actually very, very good.

    Treble is harder to put a finger on. It sounds well balanced, fast, detailed, and doesn't seem to have any major peaks or troughs to it, but something about the timbre is fatiguing. It has a sort of etched, rough sound to it, as if everything has a sort of digital glare and sandpapery sheen to it. Some of this is amplifier dependent, and I found myself preferring it from my phone over most of my dedicated equipment, for some reason. Yet on the other hand, the midrange and treble balance most closely reminds me of the HD650. Weird, right? I also think the clamp and overall comfort issues factor into how quickly these headphones fatigue me.

    Side note regarding amplifiers, the Meze Classics 99 did not like my Super 7 or the Feliks Audio Elise. It made them sound a bit sloppy, and they picked up a lot of hum even with the volume pot at zero. Treble was a bit sweeter than from my solid state amp, however. The Mezes seem to prefer portable sources and solid state amps, albeit something that will help warm and soften up the headphones. Really quiet tube amps, likely hybrid designs, might work too.

    As I've said, the Meze Classics 99 is surprisingly quick, clear, and detailed sounding. Resolution and separation are both good but not quite at the level of the HD650, nor do the Mezes scale quite as much with better gear. They have a punchy and dynamic sound. Staging is surprisingly good too, for a closed headphone, though they do exhibit a strong closed-cup coloration, most noticeable with the bass-to-mids transition.

    Taking a step back from how I normally hear things, I think there is a lot to like about the Meze Classics 99. Yes, they're bassy as hell. Some might like this, but I'd probably stick some damping in the cups to reduce this. The midrange is wonderful, but the treble is a bit rough, and with the strong clamp, can quickly lead to a fatiguing headphone if you fall into the same category as me. I imagine most with smaller heads and less treble sensitivity, i.e. not those in the minority like me, should have no issues. And, clearly, the drivers have low distortion, are fast, are detailed, and very capable of a good response in this enclosure, so there are a lot of positive traits and even some modding potential.

    Measurements

    First, I would like to point out @Tyll Hertsens measurements: http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/MezeClassic99.pdf

    I'd like to highlight his distortion results for the Meze Classics 99. It looks really good overall, save for some bass distortion creep (less than HD650, however). The impulse response also looks fairly quick and well controlled, though you can still see some very slight driver movement later on than is ideal, which I think some damping and mass loading would fix.

    As for my measurements, let's start with the frequency response. It might not be noticeable at first glance, but if you look very closely, you might be able to see what I mean with the exaggerated bass response. It's only a good 10dB up from the midrange and treble, bleeds into the lower-mids, and has a disconnect with the rest of the midrange response.

    However, the rest of the response is really quite good looking. 600Hz to around 3 or 4KHz looks great, and the rest of the treble response is balanced as well. I would point out the overall rough look to the treble and some minor spikes, which I believe contributes to the timbre issues I mentioned earlier. If you stare long enough, you can see the average midrange through treble curve does go up and up ever so slightly until the >10KHz crash. Ah, well, to me this looks much closer to an ideal curve than the vast majority of headphones out there, so I think with some damping and mass loading to control the bass, and maybe a bit of extra front damping to control the treble, you might have a really nice, closed set of headphones.

    Meze Classics 99 Frequency Response.png

    Distortion results look pretty good. There's a bit of bass creep, but less than the HD6X0 family. Don't forget that with an elevated bass response, you're likely to see the distortion dB level go up with it relatively (i.e. this isn't a percentage distortion measurement unless you run the dB difference through a calculator). Midrange through treble distortion more or less pushes my measurement rig to its limits. Hard to complain about that!

    Meze Classics 99 Left FR and THD.png Meze Classics 99 Right FR and THD.png

    CSDs show some of the low-mids lingering longer than I'd like, but otherwise the midrange is very fast. But what's this? The treble area has some undesirable ringing in quite a few places. Not the worst I've seen, but for such a relatively balanced treble response, I'm not used to seeing results quite like this. This might explain the treble and timbre issues I was hearing. Again, I think with the right mods, this could be a non-issue.

    Meze Classics 99 Left CSD.PNG Meze Classics 99 Right CSD.PNG

    Some Thoughts on Modifications

    Let's take a look at a couple internal pictures of the Meze Classics 99.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    First off, I have to hand it to Meze for making this an easily serviceable headphone and being totally willing to throw these shots up on the main product page for this headphone.

    Here is what I'm thinking based on this. With the bass levels being so high, I think these would greatly benefit from some basic internal damping inside the cups. I don't see much in place with that as-is. The wood cups themselves should not need much in the way of mass damping, though maybe some strategic rug liner for reflection control might help, but the plastic baffle itself feels relatively thin. Some Dynamat might be in order there.

    It's possible closing off some of the baffle ports might help the bass levels as well, though that might come at the expense of screwing up the mids and treble. Cup damping could also throw off the mids and treble, but it might also do the opposite and help smooth the treble and clean up CSDs.

    The headphones already have some foam in front of the driver and even thicker foam inside the ear pad opening, and while I wouldn't want to add too many extra layers of front damping with a couple already in place stock, it might be necessary.

    For those that are willing to drill into the wood cups, some of the cup colorations, mostly the bass-to-mids transition, might be fixable with some very minor, strategic cup ports. I can't tell for sure, but the headphones seem almost entirely closed.

    If you would need to swap out the pads, that might complicate getting the tuning just right, but I think you could make it work with mods.

    Conclusion

    The Meze Classics 99 have a lot of good things going for them. They look and feel good, they work well from portable devices, and they have some very good sound traits. They're too bassy for my tastes as-is, and the treble can be fatiguing despite the frequency response making them appear really balanced in the midrange and treble at first glance. That said, I think all the other positive traits, subjectively and objectively, point to a well-designed headphone and a quality driver that just needs a bit more refinement, which is good news for modders or those that want to keep an eye out for a successor to this headphone. These are certainly worth trying, because you might find a lot to like about them.

    TL;DR Bullet Points

    - Classy design. Looks and feels good.
    - Comfort is hit-and-miss due to pad thickness, headband cushioning, and clamp. Almost barely fits as over-ear for me, closer to on-ear. Supposedly you can get these with larger pads now, which I don't think this particular unit has.
    - Very, very bassy sound, but still with decent pitch and texture.
    - Midrange and treble balance is good, but treble has a rough, fatiguing timbre to it.
    - Low distortion, fast, clean, detailed sound.
    - Possible modding potential.
    - Works well, and possibly sounds best, from portable sources. Very sensitive and will pick up hum and noise from tube amps or other noisier amps.
     
  2. Poleepkwa

    Poleepkwa Friend

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    Ireally like these as my office headphones. I did not find the bass as much as you did though, but I wear glasses so this controlled leak probably makes them indeed sound more neutral, although that bass still gets noticed. They are also considerably more comfortable with the bigger pads. I was really quite surprised at how fast these sound compared to a Fostex T50RP I had had in for demo purposes.
    Did you have time to dampen those drivers at all? I would wait for the warranty to expire before trying some stuffing in the cups. Hopefully someone more brave than I will try it first...
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
  3. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I would have modded them already if they weren't loaners.
     
  4. Greed

    Greed Friend

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    I had issues with the clamping as well, stretching didn't seem to help, I kept them on a ball for a few days, no change. I received a email from Meze offering to loosen the tension, so I took them up on it. Will see what they feel like when they come back.

    In regards to bass, definitely strong but not crazy. Interesting that you found them extremely bassy. It is possible my seal was never ideal. Either way, these are great sounding headphones IMO.
     
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  5. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I had the same thing with the PM3. Found it rather bassy, more so than most (or all?). Maybe I just have the ideal head, ears, and hair to get that perfect headphone seal. ;)
     
  6. Azteca

    Azteca Friend

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    Thanks Hans. This is the exact sort of post that gives a manufacturer a to-do list for V2.
     
  7. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    I listened to these via the loaner tour using a Mac Mini/Audirvana + -> Yggdrasil -> MicroZOTL 2 w/ LPS. At first I thought they were kinda boring and that the bass quantity was not as great as the TH-X00 PH. Later it seemed like they played a little deeper but the TH-X00 had more of a bump in the lower mid-bass/ upper bass which is why the first listen was a little deceptive.

    I thought they were pretty smooth but a little muted compared to the TH-X00. There was nothing really offensive about the sound and had they been a little more comfortable I may have given them a longer listen. Despite the bigger earcups vs. the earlier version, they were still on the border of being a little small for me.
     
  8. Poleepkwa

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    @Hands , how do you feel these stand compared to the Oppo PM3?
     
  9. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I might prefer the PM3 if you get the larger pads on Mezes. Maybe in favor of Meze if you run smaller pads. Hard to say. PM3 is a bit brighter but slightly cleaner and has tighter bass IIRC.
     
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  10. Poleepkwa

    Poleepkwa Friend

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    Ok, since I have the Meze allready probably not point to look at the Oppo then. Pricing here in europe favours the Meze anyway.
     
  11. MattRG

    MattRG Almost "Made"

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    Just found this thread and thought I would comment since I've owned a pair of 99 Classics for several weeks now. For the $225 that I paid (I bought them very gently used from a Head-fi member) I like them very, very much. They seem to work well on my iPod, iPad, directly out from my PC AND my Fostex HP-A4BL DAC/amp. Bonus points for the robust carrying case and completely detachable pair of cables which makes travelling with them quite easy.

    In terms of the sound, the bass is my favorite part although they also do a great job on anything with generous amounts of guitar fuzz and distortion (think Ted Nugent - Stranglehold). I find them punchy and visceral and that is both a plus and a minus. They are fun and engaging for an album or two's worth of listening but after that I start to get fatigued and need a break. Easy listening is not the name of the game for the 99 Classics, at least for me. Again, for what I paid for them I am satisfied. As is they aren't "everyday" headphones for me (I have MA900's for that) but they are a great change of pace and extremely well built for the asking price.
     
  12. Azteca

    Azteca Friend

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    Absolutely. I did not purchase a pair after having the loaner but the build quality and aesthetics are phenomenal. I truly wish Meze great success. They did not make a bad headphone by any means. I hope they put out a great successor that I can purchase with fewer reservations for myself or my wife.
     
  13. MattRG

    MattRG Almost "Made"

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    The 99 Classics are indeed a great effort from Meze and pretty close to being unconditionally good. My honest opinion is that even with the niggles they remain a strong value in comparison to other headphones in their price range. In fact I am struggling to think of another headphone that has the look, the build quality, the accessories and the sound quality of the Meze at or near the same price point (maybe the PM3 at $400 is the closest?). That's what impresses me most and makes me look forward to whatever Meze might be doing next.
     

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