Meze 99 Classics Headphones: Great Looks, Great Sound
Not everyone wants or needs wireless Bluetooth headphones. If you’re still into the idea of wired headphones, these over-the-ear phones from Meze look terrific—and sound just as good as they look.
Here There Be Wires
When it comes to over-the-ear headphones, there are several ways you can go. One very popular choice is a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones, which provide excellent mobility since you can move 30 feet or more from the audio source. Plus, in most cases, you can also switch between listening to audio and answering a call if your headphones are paired with your smartphone.
However, many audio purists still swear by wired headsets, even though they tether you to the sound source. If you count yourself in this group, you owe it to yourself to test a pair of Meze Audio’s 99 Classics.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. The most obvious drawback with a set of wired headphones is that they have a cable that must be plugged into the audio source. This limits mobility to the length of the cable. With the 99 Classics, this is mitigated by the inclusion of two cables—one short (at about 3 feet/1 meter) and one long (at about 10 feet/93 meters). Both cables are kevlar-wrapped for increased durability.
Unlike many wired headsets, which have a single cable that plugs in on only one earcup, the 99 Classic’s cable splits and needs to be plugged into jacks on both earcups. The phones themselves are not marked left and right—it doesn’t really matter how you wear them. It’s a different story with the cable. The left channel of the headphones has a small lip on the 3.5mm plug, and an equally small push switch on the cord that lets you answer the phone while you’re wearing the headset, assuming you’re plugged into a phone and not some other audio source. This switch is located far up the cable reasonably close to the earcup, and, at least for me, was somewhat awkward to reach.
The ultimate tests of any set of earphones are how they fit and how they sound. On both counts, the Meze 99 Classics do very well. As far as looks go, it’s hard to beat the solid Walnut ear cups. The non-removable cups aren’t plastic colored to look like wood but are actually CNC machined out of solid Walnut, smoothed and polished. Along with the silver-colored Zinc hardware, it will be challenging to find a set of headphones that look as good as the 99 Classics.
At the $300 price level, you can expect to get something more than just a great set of headphones in the box. Meze doesn’t disappoint you in this area. There’s a semi-rigid carry case, and inside are the phones and a smaller zippered case that holds the rest of the accessories (including the cables mentioned above). There’s a two-prong airplane adapter (though these aren’t used much any more in the US), and an adapter to use the headphones with a standard 1/4 inch audio jack found on many larger audio devices, like receivers.
But as good as the 99 Classics look, the real test is how they sound and whether they are comfortable to wear for an extended period. Given that my taste in music might be different than yours, and my hearing range also somewhat different, I’d have to say from my testing and experience with the 99 Classics that they sound great. I spent hours listening to a wide range of music from my Spotify playlist, which includes standards such as Cole Porter and songs from the 40s and 50s, country, garage band rock, easy listening, lots of blues, and even some folk.