The Meze Neo 99 Headphones came out almost 3 years ago and still sells like hotcakes.
What’s so good about these $200 headphones? Why would a piece of consumer tech still be a totally valid purchase in such a dynamic market where every week a new iteration of headphones/earbuds hit the shelves. To answer all these burning questions, I reviewed the Meze Audio Neo 99 Headphones.
The Neo 99 is the toned-down version of the 99 Walnut Classics which comes with walnut earcups. In simple terms, the Neo 99 is like the iPhone 11, meant for more on-the-go listeners and the Neo Classics are like the iPhone 11 Pro. A more classic refined version of the former in almost every aspect.
Enough with comparisons, let’s jump into the actual review.
I’ve been using the Meze Neo 99 headphones for over 2 months now primarily for editing videos, watching movies, and a fair share of listening to music as well. The pair of cans come in a big box with nice packaging. The unboxing experience was pretty cool and reminded of the price tag.
Moving on, you’re greeted by a hard-shelled Kevlar traveling case sitting in the box. The case is somewhat travel-friendly, it’s durable and protects the headphones but it’s very heavy and bulky at the same time.
What comes in the box?
Following is the stuff that comes in the hard-shelled braided case:
- 1.5m thread Kevlar OFC with Mic and remote cable
- 6.3mm gold-plated jack (adapter)
- A 1/8-inch dual-plug airline audio adapter
- Cable pouch
Design & In-hand feel
The Meze Audio Neo 99 headphones have a contemporary design with a dash of PU leather and electroplated zinc alloy coatings. At first glance, the $199 pair of cans give a very premium and comfortable vibe. The in-hand feel is amazing and soothing, thanks to the PU leather headband coating and medium density memory foam ear pads.
One thing that took me by surprise was the lack of a stepping headband slider. Yes, there’s no headband adjustment slider because the Neo 99 uses a self-adjusting headband with a leather covering and elastic extensions. Honestly, this solved a great problem for me as adjusting headbands has always been a big hurdle for me. This is one of the reasons why I don’t prefer using headphones and have been using Jabra Elite Sports as my go-to listening accessory for the past few years.
The self-adjusting headband makes it really comfortable for any kind of head. I have a broad head and it sits comfortably without the need to adjust it every few minutes.
The headband sits between the dual-beam headband frame. This frame and headband give it a very symmetrical look. It gives a minimalistic vibe to the headphone as well with just small logos on each side.
The ear cups are not fixated in one place and have some sort of a moving mechanism that allows it to adjust themselves based on the side of your head. The ear cups have memory foam earpads which ensure there’s a decent amount of sound isolation. I’ve mentioned more about my experience with this memory foam in the UX section.
As mentioned earlier, the Neo 99 comes in a hard-shelled case with a smaller pouch inside. The small pouch holds the Kevlar cable and 2 adapters. The case is strong enough that even if you throw it away from a desk’s height, the headphones won’t be damaged at all.
Like the Classics, the Neo 99 also has dual entry detachable cable design. It basically means that the Left and Right side of the headphones are controlled on the cable’s side. Hence, a user can wear them any side and then insert the L and R cable.
The cable is Kevlar braided over Nylon which some users would appreciate because of higher durability and heat resistance. Although, the caveat is the cables are braided until the Y split joint. After that, it’s just the regular silicon cable jackets. They’re durable but are unlikely to survive accidental stretches like getting stuck in a doorknob while walking. There’s also a microphone on the remote module on the left side of the cable.
Overall, it’s a good design with a very premium looks and in-hand feel.
User Experience & Performance
Thanks to the self-adjusting elastic headband I don’t have to fiddle with the stepping slider or any sort of module to get the right fit for my head whenever I want to enjoy some beats. Moreover, the lack of a stepping slider module makes it a lightweight over-the-ear headphone.
The Neo 99 has medium density memory foam earpads which ensures amazing sound isolation. The texture on the earcups makes them even more appealing. The major caveat (for me) is that I can’t use them for longer periods like for more than 20 minutes or so. The sound isolation certainly contributes to the amazing sound quality but that means there’s no air passing through the earcups which leads to a sweaty and uncomfortable experience. This is subjective to the surrounding temperatures and whether your head sweats or not. In my case, I tested these during summers where Mercury usually crosses 40 ° Celcius daily. Plus, I sweat a lot because of my long hair. So, make sure to consider these factors before you add this to your cart. If you plan to use them in cool surroundings, it’s a very comfortable pair of headphones.
In terms of performance, the Meze Audio Neo 99 delivers excellent frequency response especially for higher mids and lows with minimal levels of distortion. Things tend to go South when you increase the volume over the standard or recommended listening levels.
The highs overshadow the mids and lows when watching action scenes like a Michal Bay movie at high volume levels. It’s certainly not an issue for me but action movie enthusiasts will miss out on some intense dialogues in the middle of a car chase for sure.
As mentioned earlier, I used the Neo 99 primarily for editing videos. So, here are my findings:
- It handles the mids and high frequencies really well, especially when working with human vocals
- The lack of bass booster accessory/software calibration makes it a decent choice while working on sound design and sound FX. This is both a good or bad thing depending on your requirements. But I personally loved the optimum level of bass in the Meze Audio Neo 99 headphones.
Movies & Music
This has become my go-to headphones for watching movies or TV shows on a big screen. Thanks to the incredible sound performance. The sound rendering is somewhat better than the Bose’s QC25. The latter was pushing too much bass over the low frequencies which somewhat distorted the sound design and interfered with the movie-watching experience. Moreover, it’s certainly a good choice for listening to vocal music.
If you’re a bass lover, then this isn’t the right choice for you. The bass experience is decent but nowhere close to Bose or Sony. The bass feels a bit hollow but at the same time, the Neo 99 ensures the bass player in a certain orchestral music piece is not to be taken lightly. If you’re someone who does not want to miss the crackling sound of fire in a camping scene in a movie during people’s chatter, then you won’t be disappointed.
This is a feature that Meze mentions on their product page for the Neo 99. And unfortunately, or fortunately, I had the opportunity to experience it firsthand. When I received the headphones, one of the headphone driver/speakers made an annoying buzzing vibration sound while playing high-frequency sounds. So, I shared the issue with the support team and within 24 hours, the replacement drivers were shipped by them. I’ll give an A+ for the fast customer support that’s for sure.
After receiving the drivers, I watched the 3-minute official how-to tutorial shared by the support team. And another 15 minutes later, the issue was fixed. I can say that the fully serviceable claim certainly holds up.
After a close inspection of the replacement drivers sent by Meze, the Neo 99 uses the same set of drivers/speakers as the Meze Audio Classics.
Should you buy the Meze Audio Neo 99 $200 headphone?
Totally depends on what you’re after. If you’re someone who just wants a decent pair of headphones for every kind of music. Then the Neo 99 will fit the bill but it’ll be a bit hard to justify the price tag . But if you’re somewhat on the path to become an audiophile or an audio connoisseur, the Meze Audio Neo 99 will make a fine addition to your collection without burning a hole in your pocket.