Clarity is the first trait which jumps at me each and every time I don the Meze 99 Classics. There is a glass-like clarity. Unlike bright headphones, however, this clearness has a liquid quality, instead of a sharp or detail-oriented one. That isn’t to say these aren’t detailed cans. They very much are. Resolution here is quite sophisticated, and the level of transparency is wonderful. Even driven from a mobile device, my music exploded to life with outstanding dynamics. Meze accomplishes all this under the auspices of smooth, silky rendering.
Soundstage and imaging are above average, and might be wider than the Momentum. I bought the M2 in large part because they had one of the widest stages in the portable closed-back arena. Meze feels wider and much deeper. Imaging and separation are excellent. These headphones make it easy to get lost in the performance when you close your eyes, layering the instruments out with visual accuracy.
There is a wealth of bass that measures north of neutral. It’s not the tightest or most controlled bass, but it sounds very lifelike. It feels good and right. The lows bloom, bleeding a little into the lower mids, but not enough to do harm. It merely gives the 99C its warm characteristic. Her sub frequencies punch with moderate authority. Rather than a high degree of texture, the Meze’s low-end carries the same liquidity found throughout the whole spectrum. They are a delight to bask in.
Her treble has nice extension and casts plenty of light over the presentation. These highs possess a purity and sweetness to them. They remind me most of JHAudio Angie’s treble: delicious honey. Yet there’s more treble than Angie gives you. Meze’s highs add so much air and brightness to the stage, without ever leaving the warm signature. Such sparkly treble is the much-needed counter balance to that serious bass. It keeps things open and airy, never straying into dark territory.
For me, the true star of the show is the midsection. Describing the lows and highs might seem like we’re dealing with a V-Shape signature. But the vocals are FAR too present for that to be true. They are front and center and so very intimate. Nowhere does the clarity play a bigger role than with the vocals. They are naked. So clean, clear, and transparent. Here, too, is where the resolution and detail get to shine, bringing out every nuance the recording contains. Above all this you get a heavenly timbre and the most natural tonality. It’s an enchanting experience.
What excites me to no end about the Meze 99 Classics is that they don’t need a desktop amp to sound their best. Driven from a medium-powered DAP, like my AK120II, the dynamics are some of the best I’ve heard from any of my bigger and meaner headphones. Between 75-110/150, I can get them loud enough to satisfy anyone, no matter how quiet the track. My Galaxy S6 has no trouble, either. The same is true for the Momentum 2.0. They are, after all, mobile headphones. But unlike the M2, the Meze sounds truly and honestly complete from my Astell&Kern. The Sennheiser sounds a tiny bit underpowered. When I plugged them into a more powerful device, like the FiiO X5, Cayin i5, or Opus#1, they filled out nicely. The 99C is ready to impress at the drop of a hat, on whatever device you have on hand.
Due to the brilliant balance of frequencies, there is no DAP I would caution against pairing with the Meze. My AK is on the warmer side, while the Opus#1 is an exceptional case of neutral done like a warrior-king. The 99C celebrates the virtues of both devices. I’ve also read great things about the Cayin i5>99C pairing, Cayin being warmer still than my AK. That is Meze’s mastery of tuning at work. This headphone will never sound too dark, nor too bright. It will maintain a balance and sound splendid regardless.
The 99 Classics are of a quality high enough to sit among my desktop phones. The HD6XX, being open-back, has an unfair advantage in some ways, like naturalness. Closed-backs will never sound quite like that. But the 99C matches it in resolution and tonal accuracy. I also hear more sub-bass and greater clarity. Although, the HD6XX has more texture and control over its low-end. The Meze’s treble is not as rolled-off. That lush, smooth, liquid sound is present in both.
All in all, I feel the 99C has more in common with the Audeze LCD-2. Not that it’s closer in performance, but rather closer in character. Quality goes to Audeze by a not insignificant margin. But that transparency and treble puts them closer in nature than the HD6XX, which sounds darker by far.
So what about the only comparison that really matters?
Is there a single area where the Sennheiser Momentum beats the Meze 99 Classics? Well, not really. The M2’s treble is not as sparkly or as organic. The bass is not as memorable or as fulfilling. The vocals lack the clarity and vibrancy of the 99C. Soundstage, width and depth. Imaging. Transparency. Dynamics. On some of these points, the Momentum is only a tad behind the game. On others, like the treble and vocals, Meze exists in a higher realm entirely. The 99 Classics is better in every way.
Did I mention I am a fan of the Momentum? It may sound like I have an axe to grind. I don’t. I’ve enjoyed these cans for over a year. They have a sound I find exceedingly pleasant. Many people in the Help & Introduction forum have suffered my ceaseless recommendation of the Momentum 2.0 Over-Ear.
I’ve simply found a better headphone. If you need portability, closed-back, easy to drive, and high levels of comfort, direct those creepy peepers right here. At $309 you can have a circumaural experience that matches IEMs that cost $1500 or more. When I put on these cans at work, no longer do I feel as though I’m slumming it. They hold their own in a big bad way. No matter what my ears are in the mood for, I have the equipment to immerse myself in transcendent audio.
I can’t tell you how delirious it makes me the 99C are also so easy on the eyes. I love the retro styling of the Sennheiser Momentum, and the Meze have their own throwback elegance. The modern aesthetic of Oppo failed to get my juices flowing. Meze, on the other hand, does me in all the right ways. I’m a slut for wood.