The Meze 99 Neo is currently the best choice for most people. It is versatile and has excellent sound characteristics, making it one of the most up-to-date headphones in the industry – but it does not relieve you of your ears before investing in a new hearing aid.
Beyerdynamic Custom Studio
The Beyerdynamic Custom Studio is equally impressive in terms of sound. He has in contrast to our favorite but no inline microphone and comes with higher impedance than the meze. For mobile devices he is not so well suited. Otherwise, he brings along good bass, which you can even customize.
The Shure SRH1440 works on the open principle and is in this price range one of the strongest sound open headphones. In principle, it does not descend so deeply into the bass cellar, but is extremely precise and provides an impressive spatial image. Although the Shure does not have an in-line microphone, it does come with a set of replacement pads and a pluggable spare cable.
Audio Quest Nighthawk
The Audioquest Nighthawk consists of so-called liquid wood capsules. This suppresses unwanted cabinet resonances, but, like the other items, is not entirely trivial in production. That’s why the Nighthawk comes at a price, but for many users it’s still the ultimate decision on headphones. It actually sounds very neutral with a very nice fundamental range and surprises with its precise bass foundation.
Devil Aureol Real
A headphone for less than $100, which is well equipped and for this price sounds very passable, is the devil Aureol Real . He is a good entry-level model for those who want to try a headphone first. However, the open construction constructed handset has problems with the spatial representation. For the price you should not complain about it.
The Best Over-Ear Headphones for 2019
Of closed headphones stood beside the Beyerdynamic Custom Studio also the Beats by Dr. Dre Pro Over-Ear , the Momentum 2.0 and its on-ear version of the Momentum OnEar 2.0 from Sennheiser, the Pro 550i and the HFI 780 from Ultrasone, as well as the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 , the affordable Panasonic RP-HD6ME , and more recently the Meze 99 Neo.
As open or semi-open systems we were the Philips Fidelio X2 , the AKG K702 and the devil Real Z and his low-priced colleague of the Aureol Real available, also now the Fostex T50RP MK3 and the HiFiMan HE400S .
The Meze 99 Neo is quite fresh on the German market, but was able to convince a lot of renowned colleagues within a very short time. The Japanese company Fostex, on the other hand, can be regarded as an old hand at least in the field of studios, and brings the isodynamic listeners like the T50RP MK3 at a bargain price among the interested listeners. HiFiMan finally, otherwise known for magnetostatic headphones at prices in the four-digit range, has invested in the HE400S as much know-how as possible in an affordable Benjamin, which should also perform on mobile devices even passable.
In addition to the Shure SRH1440 as an open candidate, we have currently added the popular semi-open Nighthawk by cable specialist Audioquest to our recommendations – even if the latter goes for well over $300 on the counter.
Selection of auditory capsules
Closed, open or semi-open – that’s almost a question of faith in terms of headphones. What is meant is the construction of the hearing capsules, whether they are open to the outside, closed or semi-open.
Distinct sound differences depending on the design of the earphones
Open headphones are known for their fine, well-balanced sound, whereas closed-type headphones are a prerequisite for powerful, contoured bass, but also have to deal with discoloration.
The enjoyment of music with a listener of a closed design separates in any case from the outside world – vice versa, the outside world is also spared by their own musical escapades, which may be beneficial to the house peace.
Another distinguishing feature has more to do with wearing comfort. In both the open and closed models, there are those whose cushions surround the ear and abut the head – called around-ear or over-ear headphones.
The others rest their cushions directly on the ears and are called accordingly on-ear headphones. Some manufacturers offer both variants, we have listened carefully, whether it is in addition to the comfort and sound differences.
A matter of principle – the converter
Apart from the closed, open and semi-open principle as well as the on and over ears, we have meanwhile also represented two different converter technologies.
On the one hand, there are the dynamic transducers, which is arguably the most widely represented technique: Here, the diaphragm and coil form a tightly assembled unit for the drive. Said coil dives into a magnetic gap and is moved in time to the music. This movement is transmitted to the membrane, which then transmits the sound to the ear.
Magnetostatic transducers offer the best sound quality, but are very expensive
In the case of the magnetostatic converter, the coil windings are vapor-deposited on the membrane and thus virtually a component of the entire membrane surface. This membrane is stretched between two magnets and also moves as soon as the coil is traversed by musical electrons.
Magnetostatic transducers offer the best sound quality, but are very expensive
The membrane of the magnetostatic and its relatives, the electrostatic transducers, is a lot lighter than in dynamic systems and is also driven over the entire surface. Therefore, she can follow even the finest instructions of the driving coil – and only those. It is almost free of unwanted partial vibrations that are not included in the music.
The design of a magnetostatic transducer, however, is a challenge, and usually not as cheap to implement as in dynamic transducers. More about the different converter systems can be found on Wikipedia.
Test winner: Meze 99 Neo
Choosing the right headphone is always a matter of taste. Because all hi-fi headphones have their own sound, what pleases somebody else finds quite awful. Of course, it’s also very much related to what kind of music you hear.
Meze 99 Neo
In addition, there is a growing trend to use the same headphones, both mobile and at home. In order to be able to operate a headphone except on the home hi-fi system and the most rather weak smartphone output, it should have a low impedance and ideally a high sensitivity.
But there are always headphones that look good on all genres of music and on most playback devices. One of them is the Meze 99 Neo – and that’s one of the reasons why it’s one of the best headphones for most people.
The Meze 99 Neo is a closed headphone, so you do not hear much of its environment when it’s on your ears. The other way round it is the same, even my environment does not get much of my taste in music. Incidentally, the company name is pronounced “Mese”, with voiced “s”, that is also the name of the owner – Antonio Meze.
Impedance and sensitivity
Impedance refers to the AC resistance of a headphone. In conjunction with the source device, this affects the volume and the sound.
High-quality studio headphones usually work with an impedance of about 300 ohms. On the other hand, mobile devices such as audio players or smartphones will work best with headphones with an impedance of 32 ohms or lower because of limited amplifier performance. Stationary hi-fi devices with headphone output again usually require an impedance of about 100 ohms between the two extremes, but are usually able to cope with higher impedances.
The sensitivity of a headphone is similar; It indicates how much sound pressure the headphone with the power of 1mW can produce to a maximum, and is also a measure of the achievable volume, but above all dynamics.
The Meze 99 Neo with its impedance of 26 ohms and a sensitivity of 103 dB is optimally designed for mobile devices. He also does not pose any problems with the domestic system.
Fully equipped, solid construction
The connection cable is plugged into each of the right and left earphones, there are two cables, a three-meter-long, pure hi-fi cable and one with 1.5 meters shorter for use on the smartphone. There is also a microphone attached to this cable.
The decision as to which capsule belongs to the left and which to the right ear lies solely in the pluggable cable, the connectors are marked accordingly. However, this mark is difficult to read in the inserted state.
Although the Neo has not like his brother, the Classic, on hearing capsules made of wood, but plastic. Nevertheless, he makes no weaknesses in the processing. The plastic cups of the capsules are of leathery texture and harmonize beautifully with the matte metal parts.
Two metal holders with imprinted company logo hold the comfortable headband in the bracket – they are screwed and allow an exchange if the headband has become defective or unsightly. However, this will take some listening sessions, as the synthetic leather used is of the highest quality.
The same applies to the ear cushions, which are also made of comfortable artificial leather and can also be replaced. Accordingly, the Meze is then on, the ears are completely enclosed, it does not penetrate music to the outside, nor hear much of the outside world.
Like any headphone, I grant the Meze 99 Neo a certain break-in period before the listening test. Although I consider the circulating information of several days or even weeks to be somewhat exaggerated, after only a few hours the sound does not really change much anymore.
On the contrary, if I assume that a device, whether headphones, speakers or even electronics would have to be used over days and weeks, I must logically also assume that these devices are subject to an equally rapid aging process.
And I feel confirmed, because even after unpacking the Neo is already a proper taste of his tonal abilities. The meze already has a very nice basic tone reproduction, without the heights suffer. If necessary, he pushes vehemently deep from the bass cell, without leaving a gap between the lower and middle or high frequencies to hear.
In the sensitive mid-range range, it delivers the entire spectrum of timbres, which currently makes voices and natural instruments. But Synthy-Pop and other electronic music sounds less cool and distant with the Meze, but he knows how to excite and get involved in every genre.
Of course that does not mean that he neglects the heights; it glitters and tingles impressively even at high altitudes, forgiving him that he takes the nasty peaks, like extreme sibilants something the sharpness. Perfectly tuned so for long-term listening. In addition it stands also that it is quite modest with its low impedance and its good efficiency (26 Ohm, 102 dB), as far as the amplifier output is concerned, it plays also on the Smartphone with rather weakly earphone amplifier.
However, the Meze 99 Neo gets to its peak with appropriate feed; The smartphone should therefore have a decent integrated converter in addition to a stable amplifier, or you can upgrade this section with an external DAC plus amplifier. When changing to the local system is then kindly a hi-fi cable without microphone and remote control available.
Meze 99 Neo in the test results
The listeners of Meze are relatively young on the market, there is the 99 Neo actually only a few months. That’s why you’ll find most of the test results for the Meze 99 Classic, that’s the one with the wooden capsules. Of course, we did not use them, we would rather wait a little while longer, until there are more test results for Neo, so that they can be added later.
In the current EarIn, colleague Martin Mertens gave the Neo the grade 1.4 in the top class, with a very good price / performance ratio. He dropped the neo against the Classic as follows:
The Meze 99 Neo is not just the younger 99 model in time. He looks more modern and his tonal vote should accommodate a younger taste in music. Nevertheless, he is not trendy, but a timelessly beautiful and sound mature headphones.
The market, especially in the price structure around $300, is huge. Nevertheless, we have picked out some really interesting alternatives to our favorite for you, which can come up with very special skills or features.
Beyerdynamic Custom Studio
Our former favorite is still worth a sin, but it’s hard on mobile devices. The Custom Studio Beyerdynamic is slightly higher resistance than our new Testieger and brings no inline microphone.
We particularly liked the bass management of the Custom Studio, because it allows you to raise the bass level in several stages with a corresponding musical preference, without this becoming uncontrolled wrangliness. Always crisp and contoured, the depths of the music are noticeable without loss of information in the mid-high range.
Incidentally, the studio version of the Custom delivers a very well-balanced sound in the neutral position of the bass slider, allowing you to confidently enjoy classical music as well.
For its price, the Beyerdynamic is neatly equipped and clean, but a cable with a microphone for connection to the mobile phone is not there, here you have to do without the acceptance of calls. However, the Beyerdynamic already runs only on mobile devices with a potent headphone output to the top. Anyone who uses the headphones at home anyway will be happy with the Custom Studio, especially as it is still a few dollars cheaper than our new favorite.
The Shure SRH1440 works, unlike the other two favorites, according to the open principle and is in this price range one of the strongest sound open headphones.
Although it is not necessarily one of the lightweights with more than 300 grams, it is heavier and the wearing comfort does not detract from it. Finally, the well-padded strap spreads the weight generously and the moderate contact pressure of the capsules ensures that they sit safely but do not press uncomfortably.
The upholstery is the same way in duplicate and even if the replacement should have become unsightly or inaudible, you will be able to easily get replacement padding at Shure. In addition, a replacement cable is the solid case, with the Shure the connection cable is plugged on both sides, so that a cable break is not a major problem here.
The SRH1440 is more brightly tuned, with a very fine mid-high resolution. He also delivers an amazingly wide stage and lets the music breathe. He is not suitable for deep bass fetishists because of its open design; Although the bass is rendered rich and contoured, it does not go as deep as with its colleagues.
For cultured music enjoyment at a low price, the Shure is always a recommendation.
Audio Quest Nighthawk
The Nighthawk was developed by the cable specialist Audioquest. Although it is well above the other listeners in this test with just under $600, it also offers interesting new materials.
Thus, the transducer membranes consist of a pulp mixture and the capsules were poured from so-called liquid wood. This should be largely avoided cabinet resonances, and the Nighthawk should be as free of sound as possible. By the way, with the Nighthawk Carbon version, the earphones are not really made of carbon, only the finish is called because of its color. So there is not the typical grain of wood here, and they have been improved in some detail.
Freshly unpacked, it smells first of all of wood and wood glue, a leftover from the production, which has however literally dissolved after several months of extensive use in the air.
Anyway, Audioquest has managed with the Nighthawk that he is for many users of the headphones par excellence, because he does not sound like headphones and with enormous space – as long as the recording gives it. Personally, I also like the rather warm timbre of the Nighthawk, the basic tone range is very pleasant, especially for long-term listeners. In the bass it makes a bit more pressure than many completely open listeners and always remains jagged and fast.
As befits a listener in the upper price range, the cable is pluggable on both sides. Anyone who wants to finally solve the issue of headphones, should definitely listen to the Nighthawk.
Devil Aureol Real
With the budget-priced Aureol Real, the Berlin-based manufacturer Teufel has succeeded in achieving a true masterpiece for a friendship award.
The Aureol Real has a practical equipment and offers a very good sound at a price of less than $100.
Also with him it concerns a copy in open construction method, according to airy it comes over also sonorous. The Aureol Real sounds surprisingly mature for this price, only in the spatial representation of the music scene he does not quite approach the more expensive competition.
The equipment includes a transport bag made of cloth and two connecting cables, one with a large, one with a small handle. The devil is next to black also available in black and gold, black and red and white and red.
If you do not want to spend more than $100, the devil Aureol Real is currently the best choice.