It’s fair to say that plug-in corded headphones have followed a similar trajectory as manual transmissions in automobiles: an arc trending ever downward. That said, just as auto enthusiasts still regale anyone listening to the pleasures and benefits of shifting gears manually, so too will an audiophile attempt to convince others plugging in remains vital for the finest audio experience. A pair of Meze 99 Classics stands as a convincing example that warm design with even warmer sound is worth the cord.
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While the brand’s name evokes delectably delicious spreads of some of our favorite foods, Meze Audio’s history begins with the brand’s namesake, Antonio Meze. Meze founded the company in 2011 in Baia Mare, Romania compelled in his desire to find headphones that would properly complement the warmth of his Fender Stratocaster guitar. And like that storied musical instrument, the Meze 99 Classics over-the-ear headphones were designed to be as beloved by their users for all the small details that separate itself from mere functionality as the Strat.
Meze says each pair of earcups takes up to 8 hours to transform from wood to the subtly domed shape, with another 45 days dedicated to sanding, lacquering and finishing. It shouldn’t require convincing that these headphones probably aren’t ideal for those prone to toss their favorite cans onto a desk or into a backpack, but designed for audio enthusiasts with a dedicated headphone stand and the proclivity to set aside time to enjoy music without interruption.
Plugged into the Cambridge Audio Evo 75 all-in-one system, the 99 Classics helped shape music into an immersive and well-rounded – almost Rubenesque – affair. Whether listening to classical, indie, electronic or hip-hop, every listening session left us warmed by the sound, as if the harshest elements of any song was softened and everything desirable expanded outward. Thankfully unlike many fantastic sounding headphones that begin to wear their welcome due to ergonomics after a few hours, the 99 Classics felt comfortable for several hours, both over the ears and across the head, mostly attributed to the memory foam fit and the adjustable manganese spring steel headband that kept the 99 Classics in place even while in lounged back listening position.
After plugging back in with the Meze 99 Classics, we aren’t convinced wired over-ears are the future of audio, nor a primary pick for most people who probably value mobile convenience over the sonic accolades a crafted headphone like the Meze 99 Classics delivers. But as a complementary at-home piece of audio gear intended to don for dedicated listening sessions, these headphones’ warm design and sound remind you every time that a degree of attention goes a long way.