Review: Meze 99 NEO – riot

Disclaimer: Meze sent Meze 99 NEO to me, free of charge. It goes for 249$ USD. You can find out all about it here: Meze 99 NEO.

It’s every bit as comfortable, every bit as light, every bit as well-hung as the original. Meze 99 NEO is the new, lower priced, re-refined 99 Classics. It’s a bit of a point of guilt for me to admit that I like this 50$ cheaper headphone as much as its big brother. Guilty, yes, but I’m not about to apologise. Obviously, Meze had listeners like me in mind when they designed it.

Not sound

NEO’s new composit shell fits better the aesthetic defined by the Classic’s now-iconic headbands and elegant fulcrum. The original’s Walnut wood cabinets were, and are, pretty. They draw the eye, but not as much as they could in apposition to duller fastening hardware. The current bolts and sculpted nubs shine, reflect highlights, and pull in all your gaze. What is it Meze want us to look at? Beautiful wood cabinets? Shiny metal? I imagine it’s the former. 99 NEO’s low-key composite sits further below the radar. You look through it like you look through the lens in your eye. It is finished in faux pimples like a black American football. Was that the aesthetic/market for which Meze aimed?

Was it BDSM-loving American football fans? Or, was it leather-loving animal conservationists? Meze, what say you?

Meze 99 NEO comes with the same cable, and with the same sort of semi-hard carrying case as before. This time it is tough nylon rather than soft, dent-friendly pleather. 99 NEO also comes in the same giant product box with the same literature. (My 99 NEO came with better lifestyle photographs than the 99 Classics, which is pretty cool.) This is good news because the original was handsome and easy to use. A year on, Meze’s design has stormed the audiophile front. You’ll be hard pressed to meet an entrenched body that hasn’t heard of or tried a Meze headphone. By now, you’ve probably figured out their nomenclature. Or think you have. Classics means wood. Until now, NEO has meant metal. Meze 99 NEO, of course doesn’t; it means not wood. Or maybe it means plastic. Is this a marketing rift? Or, has NEO done the Major Kusanagi thing and merged upward into an ever-expanding consciousness?

Meze, what say you?

Meze 99 NEO’s composit makes more touch noise when brushed or tapped. But it’s 50$ cheaper. And let’s be honest here, it’s not like you’re going to be fingering NEO whilst banging your head to whatever’s in Lori’s playlist. In fact, NEO 99’s low-key design should keep your fingers off it more than on. If you want to touch and ooh and aah, stick with the original. The other thing about its composite is that it’s a bit soft. It soaks up finger grease and grime. Its matte black composite shells don’t dull under finger prints; rather they turn shiny when smudged. Like a shiny forehead.

Sound and more after the jump: