Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Questyle QP1R, Soundaware Esther Pro
Headphone amps: COS Engineering H1, Vinnie Rossi LIO, Eversound Essence
Headphones: Final Sonorous X, VI & III; HifiMan HE-1000; Sennheiser HD800; Audeze LCD-XC and LCD-2v1
Power delivery:
Vibex Granada/Alhambra or Furutech RTp-6
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves
Review component retail: $249

In the Middle East and around the club of Med, a meze is a sampler plate of different finger foods. In Spain it goes by tapas. Such assortments serve up a broader cross section of regional dishes than a regular meal would. In Romania however, Meze are a headphone maker. Their previous over-ear 99 Classics were a hit here and everywhere else they were tested. For those few not digging their real Walnut cups—or keen on saving sixty clams—now comes the, uncork it, 99 Neo. It's a word play on neoclassic when combined with the otherwise near identical firstborn. That already was, let's admit it, quite the looker. Hot damn! As Meze's representative at Munich HighEnd explained, the Neo's textured ABS plastic cups aren't just a different material. They use thinner walls to make for slightly roomier innards. That extra air presumably created a somewhat bassier plumper response but the driver's tuning remains unchanged and exclamations to any sonic side effect always require actual experience. Guesses won't do. Voilà, ears-on loaners for reviewers. Still hush-hush but spilled nonetheless at their booth, Meze are currently sweating their own premium planarmagnetics in a collab with an engineer involved with Oppo's. At Munich, ETA or target price of those were still unwritten. Being their most ambitious project yet, Meze will take whatever time it takes. With perfectionists Final of Japan bowing their AFD air-film damped range of planars later this year, that seems wise strategy.

Work hard, play harder, style hardest. Headfi's meze is unusual for placing centre plate industrial designer Antonio Meze. Hifi companies are mostly run by engineers or tinkers. They obsess over sound but in other aspects often remain nerdy and disconnected to make cosmetics an afterthought. But who really wants to date a geek? Not team Romania. They start with appearance as an elemental part of the user experience. With mobile-happy cans as indicated by compact size, 3.5mm plug and iPhone-ready sensitivity, the aspect of fashion kicks in like a twin turbo. Where traditional hifi is invisible except to its owners—if consigned to the man cave, even the missus may rarely clap eyes on it—headphonistas on the tube or board walk, in the gym or strolling Central Park make fashion statements with their choice of hardware. You better believe that fugly won't cut it. Bling certainly does. What exactly divides one from the other, cough, remains a chat for another day. But whatever chic actually is, it means desirable. And that means sales. Suffice to say that the 99 Classics seem to have caused far more thumbs up than not for having that 'it' factor.

Following up the Walnutters' silver or gold trim with a more uptown two tone in black'n'silver whilst dropping the price must have been a very natural evolution. Call it Neolution if you're an Orphan Black fan. Being perfectly dialled already, nothing but the cups were changed. Welcome back effective uni-swivel mount, symmetrical orientation of the 40mm Mylar/Neodymium drivers, miniature PCB with passive compensation notch filter, retracting headband, cast-zinc hardware, manganese-steel bridge, medium-density memory foam pads, plug-in harness and sturdy travel case. If you do things right the first time, there's no need to clean up after. Think 103dB/1kHz/1mW sensitivity, 26Ω impedance, 15Hz-25kHz bandwidth and 260g/9.2oz weight without Kevlar OFC cable. It adds up to comfy wear without unsightly protrusions and mild power appetites which even a mobile 'phone will curb with ease. And, to hammer the final nail into that old rotten coffin, you'll look good doing it. Rădăcină as they say in Romanian. Rad!