Meze Classics 99 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. 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! 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. Some Thoughts on Modifications Let's take a look at a couple internal pictures of the Meze Classics 99. 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.