For some warm-up calisthenics, I used Soulnote's SD300 DAC/headphone amp with a 16/44.1 Qobuz streaming playlist during the day; equivalent or higher-resolution files off the Questyle QP1R during the night when the computer shut down. To demonstrate the 99's size against a known reference...

... here we see it next to a Sennheiser HD800 (and my MadCatz R.A.T.5 open-frame metal mouse). Above we have a HifiMan HE1000 for more context. Due to smaller pad openings, bigger ears will experience a bit of contact-induced sweating. Otherwise, wear comfort and stay-putness are high. Even rolling or bopping your head shouldn't have these slip or move even a bit. In short, the built-in clamping force of the bent spring steel is craftily chosen. Whilst the single ball-swivel's range is very limited, it's perfectly judged to conform to your ear, making more complex suspensions redundant and a mark of less intelligent industrial design. Fit'n'finish in the flesh kept up with the professional shots. This design really crosses off pride of ownership and fashionistas would give it two thumbs up, way up.

To get a non-audiophile's take on the whole package, I asked my wife to wear them. She immediately called them the prettiest cans in our 15+ deep collection and super comfy to booty. Then I played her a few tracks, watching her close her eyes and smile. The last cut was a very well-recorded one by Mayte Martin which begins with a hard-panned guitar on one side, then some percussion on the other, then the voice in the middle. In spontaneous delight and utterly unbidden, eyes closed still, Ivette pointed her finger to the left well beyond the ear cup to indicate where the first instrument appeared. Then her finger moved to the other cup again well away from it. Finally her finger moved behind her head and slightly up as though to 'touch' the area where the voice showed up. I couldn't have asked for a better demonstration. It was like watching an instructor explain stereophony to the deaf.

In a number of ways, the 99 Classics proved sonically unexpected. As though they were full-bandwidth omnipolar speakers like our HRS-120 by German Physiks, imaging was inherently diffuse and with it, big and at times even subtly phasey or minorly swimmy. On the right recordings like our Mayte Martin, hard-panned left or right events plus deliberate phase trickery could show up unusually wide, hence well outside the actual wooden cups. This combined with a center imaging area that was often more amorphous. It could result in a strange dislocation not of my shoulder but of my head - for a quasi out-of-head sensation that was different than usual. During early days and with one trigger track that did this unusually strong, I even took the 99 off perplexed just to check that the sound wasn't simultaneously coming from my desktop speakers, so peculiar was that 'dislocated' unfocused sensation. That has never happened with any other headphone before. Wondering what caused it, my puny technical brain suspected strong internal reflections, off the inner wood's hard surface right through the thin Mylar diaphragm. It would explain the resonant feel of the presentation. More complex music exhibited more of this diffusion which, aside from less specific focus, also had the side effect of sounding/feeling quite soufflé fluffy, hence spatially generous, not compact and sharply locked down in pin-prick focus. You could even use the term 'aerated' to conjure up foam-on-a-bath textures whose tiny bubbles permeated everything. It simply wouldn't apply to its verbal cousin 'airy' which always references the treble. The 99 wasn't airy in the classic sense of an HD800 which also would be the far more accurate albeit dry by contrast. Its verbal counterpoint 'wet' thus is another pointer at the 99 Classics. Their behaviour created wetter virtual venues with more reflective content.

Tonal balance did follow reasonable expectations based on Meze's own graph. This was no bright sharp needly forward headphone. It was on the warm bassy side in fact where it went astonishingly low with full power if also with bloom and occasionally a bit of ringing. If Tyll Hertsens ever measures these, I'd expect to see clear distortion in the bass particularly at higher volumes. As we know, LF distortion has the side effect of sounding louder. If these descriptions suggest more of a comfort than high-definition sound, you'd be spot on. I found the 99 Classics to be a ton of fun, very friendly and super involving. Rather than persnickety sorted and diva-fussy accurate, these Romanians played it looser, bigger and very wide. Such width is uncommon for sealed cans. Their diffusive character makes them all wrong for studio monitoring purposes but sure is very pleasant for long sessions run straight off a portable like our Questyle QP1R. Even in low-gain mode, I only tapped about half the available voltage. Add great wear comfort and designer cosmetics—my wife who never asks for hifi toys but accepts jewelry any day of the week has already asked me for the white version with blond wood—and I predict very successful sales in general; not to hard-boiled audiophiles but to pleasure seekers. In audiophile terms, this Meze flagship is priced like small fry. In throwaway earbud land, it's expensive. Siding with audiophiles and considering competition in our realm, I view the 99 Classics as very high value. And make no mistake, I'd much rather listen to them than the Focal Spirit One and Aëdle VK-1 in our collection. If you dislike the 'tiny people in my head' thing to stay clear of headfi because of it, the Meze woodies might be your bridge. They're just different enough from the norm to play down that 'inside' aspect by making it less specific. Ditto for if you like your images bigger, hate razor-sharp cutouts and prefer omni sound's textural give. From a been-there-heard-that perspective that's been turned deep green with jadedness over the years, I thought Meze's 99 Classics a truly lovely discovery. In fact, I'll take 'em with me in their clamshell case for our upcoming winter vacation, to have some music in our seaside B&B in case it rains. From our non-IEM porta options, it'd be my first choice. That might tell you all you need to know.

Meze Headphones website