Bargain headphones at a luxury technology show?
I met Antonio Meze, founder and chief designer of the company that bears his name, while attending the NY Luxury Technology Show, in Manhattan. The distinctive gold tone, stylish wooden ear cups, and obvious build quality of the Meze 99 Classics headphones caught my eye as I wandered the crowded show floor. I decided to give them a short audition.
Antonio had the 99 Classics connected to the superb-sounding Questyle QP1R hi-res music player, which I had just finished reviewing. While a show like that is a horrible environment to audition audio equipment, the 99 Classics passive noise isolation was surprisingly good. Certain audio cues hinted that these headphones were worth a serious, extended listen. I asked Antonio if I could request a pair for review, and he obliged.
A silver lining to the 99 Classics
My review pair took a several weeks to arrive, since Antonio and his team wanted me to be among the first to receive the new silver-accented version. When I first opened my review pair, I absolutely loved the look. The gold accents on the pair I auditioned at the show weren’t my style. But the silver pair is stunning. The brushed silver look is a perfect complement to the richly grained, genuine walnut ear cups (Meze says its wood is harvested from sustainable sources).
In hand, the 99 Classics didn’t disappoint. They have a sturdy, but relatively light feel to them. Their build quality? Superb.
The included accessories were a treat, too. The 99 Classics come in a nicely styled hard-case with a soft inner lining. There are also two cables: a short cable with an inline microphone, and a much, much longer cable without an inline microphone. I wish other headphone manufacturers would follow this example. The shorter cable was perfect to take the headphones on the go with a portable digital audio player, while the longer cable showed its merit for extended listening sessions where a preamp or headphone amplifier might be some distance from where you prefer to sit and relax. The included two-prong airline and 1/4-inch adapter are icing on the cake.
As with many of the higher-end headphones I’ve reviewed, the Meze 99 Classics’ ear cups aren’t labeled right and left; instead, both sides take the included Y cable and each arm of the cable is labeled as left or right. This is especially convenient with the inline microphone. Some prefer the microphone on their left; others on their right. Meze gives you your choice. In real-world use, however, the inline mic was hit or miss. During one call in particular, I had to switch from the 99 Classics to my Bowers & Wilkins C5 in-ear monitors, because the person on the other end of the phone had such a difficult time hearing me.
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