Android Central Verdict
Meze 99 Classics feature an exquisite design with a wood-grain finish that makes them look much more upmarket than their $309 price tag. They deliver a vibrant and engaging sound with a lively bass that's delightful, and they're ideally suited for a wide range of genres. But what makes them a truly standout product is the comfort; I'm not exaggerating when I say that these are the most comfortable pair of headphones I've used. With a lightweight design featuring plush ear cushions and an elastic headband, they're built for all-day use. Throw in a high-quality carrying case and you're getting a great overall package here.
Top-notch build quality
Engaging sound signature with lively bass
Good noise isolation
Not the most analytical or dynamic sound
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Meze is a Romanian audio brand that makes high-end products with a unique focus on aesthetics. The manufacturer has a good selection of audiophile headphones and IEMs on offer these days, but the 99 Classics were the breakthrough product for the brand, releasing back in 2015. Seven years later, the 99 Classics continue to be a phenomenal option in the sub-$500 category.
One of the reasons for the 99 Classics' enduring success is the design; thanks to a wood grain finish and meticulous attention to detail, they stand out from just about every other product in its segment. The second reason is the sound quality — the 99 Classics have a lively sound that makes them a tour de force. So if you're thinking of getting your hands on a new pair of headphones, this is why you should consider the Meze 99 Classics.
Meze 99 Classics: Price and availability
The Meze 99 Classics were unveiled back in 2015, and they're available globally from Meze Audio and its authorized distributors, Amazon, and most audio stores. They retail for $309 and are available in two color finishes — Walnut Gold and Walnut Silver. Meze provides a two-year warranty as standard with the 99 Classics.
Meze 99 Classics: Design and comfort
Meze prides itself on its design prowess, and it's easy to see why. The 99 Classics are absolutely gorgeous to behold, and Meze did a brilliant job combining a classic design aesthetic with a few modern touches to make them stand out. The 99 Classics have a wood-grain finish that's exquisite; in a sea of similar-looking plastic and metal designs, the craftsmanship and attention to detail here is a breath of fresh air.
Meze sells the 99 Classics in two color options — Walnut Gold and Walnut Silver — and the gold option in particular is striking. The gold contrasts really well with the walnut finish, and it gives the 99 Classics an added flair — not that they need it. It's not often that I pay this much attention to the design side of things, but in this regard, the 99 Classics are in a league of their own.
This fanatical attention to detail extends to the rest of the design. The 99 Classics have metal rails that looks slender, but they're built to last and don't flex too much. There's a unique metal structure coated in gold that connects the leather headband to the rails, and it adds a lot of elegance to the design. The Meze branding on either side of this metal structure is classy, and the headband itself is made out of leather and has good padding.
The elastic design for the headband ensures the weight is distributed equally, and doesn't lead to any fatigue at all even after extended use. The same goes for the ear cushions; the plush leather is extremely comfortable and breathable. The detachable cables are of a high quality, and Meze bundles two pairs in the box, one with an in-line mic. The left cable jack has a slight ridge, allowing you to easily distinguish between the left and right sides without having to look at the indicators on the cables.
The best part is that you don't have to many any adjustments here; the elastic headband takes care of that. The lightweight chassis (260g) combined with the elegant design and sturdy build quality gives the 99 Classics a distinct leg up over its rivals, and switching from the HD6XX, I noticed an immediate difference — these are much more comfortable for extended use. They're just as light as the best wireless headsets, including the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4.
The clamping pressure is just adequate for ensuring you get a nice seal, but not so much that they become uncomfortable after a few hours of use. This was an issue with the HD6XX, and I would start to notice some fatigue after four hours of use. That isn't an issue with here; in fact, the 99 Classics are without a doubt the most comfortable pair of headphones I have ever used.
Finally, Meze bundles the 99 Classics in a high-quality hard case that makes it easy to carry them around. The design isn't inherently suited for portable use, but you can do so should you need to — they're easy enough to drive via a USB-C DAC. The bundled cables end in 3.5mm connectors, and you'll find a 6.3mm plug in the box as well.
On the whole, Meze did an excellent job with the design and build quality of the 99 Classics, and they're easily among the most comfortable headphones in this category.
Meze 99 Classics: Sound quality
The Meze 99 Classics aren't what I'd call analytical; they instead have a lively sound that shines through across various genres. The 40mm dynamic drivers are standard fare in this category, and while they aren't tuned to produce a neutral sound signature like the Sennheiser HD650 or aren't as dynamic as the Austrian Audio Hi-X55, where they truly come into their own is delivering an engaging sound.
That's at the core of what makes the 99 Classics stand out against its rivals; you don't get the most technically accurate sound, but use them for any extended amount of time and you'll realize that they have a unique presentation that's wonderful. This is particularly true for the low-end; the 99 Classics have a meaty bass that's vibrant and exciting, but at no point does it become overbearing.
The mids are energetic, with vocals shining through without any exaggeration or sibilance. There's plenty of clarity and detail, good instrument separation, and a lot of dynamism to the sound.
The treble is smooth and detailed, but it loses some character in the high-end. Overall, the tonality here is very engaging, and and the 99 Classics excel at a wide variety of genres — I listened to a lot of classic rock, metalcore, house, grunge, synthwave, and jazz in the two months I used the headphones, and never felt like there was any harshness to the sound.
With sensitivity of 101dB and an impedance of just 32Ohms, they're also incredibly easy to drive. I used the 99 Classics with the Fiio K5 Pro and K9 Pro for the most part, but also switched to the portable KA3 and BTR5 when using the headphones with the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Nothing phone (1), and it didn't have any issues playing back music from a variety of sources. Any decent USB-C DAC should be adequate to drive these headphones.
Meze 99 Classics: The competition
The Sennheiser HD6XX continues to be one of the best overall options in this category, and that's down to its technical proficiency. The HD6XX are built to last, and while they're not as comfortable as the 99 Classics, they deliver a neutral sound signature and are more immersive. Coming in at $279, they're affordable as well. The DT 177X GO are a good alternative if you want a closed-back design, but they are costlier at $429.
If you want a comfortable fit and bass-focused sound signature that's similar to the 99 Classics, you'll want to take a look at Sony's MDR1AM2. They have a swivel design that's geared for portability, are incredibly easy to drive, and a vibrant sound that's great for diverse genres. The design is nothing to be excited about, but for $298, they are a viable alternative.
Meze 99 Classics: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if:
- You want headphones with an exquisite design and solid build quality
- You need headphones that are comfortable to wear throughout the day
- You're looking for a lively sound with an engaging low-end
You shouldn't buy this if:
- You need headphones with a neutral sound signature
- You want closed-back headphones that are easily portable
The Meze 99 Classics aren't about delivering the most accurate sound. They're instead aimed at producing the most lively sound, and they do a phenomenal job in this area. They handle a wide variety of genres with uncharacteristic ease, and the powerful bass combined with the natural mids and detailed highs makes for a thoroughly engaging and fun sound profile.
Then there's the design. A big part of the 99 Classics' allure is down to the gorgeous design, and they definitely look much more upmarket than their price. The walnut finish along with the gold accents gives the 99 Classics a distinct edge over their immediate rivals, and the breathable leather ear cushions and lightweight chassis means they're among the most comfortable headphones you'll find in this category.
Overall, if you're looking for headphones that have a vibrant sound and an eye-catching design, you won't find anything else in the sub-$500 category that comes close.
The Meze 99 Classics combine a breathtaking design with an energetic sound that makes them stand out from the pack. They have sturdy build quality, sound great for a lot of genres, and they're extremely comfortable for all-day use.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.
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