Meze Audio are based in Romania, and have been one of the true success stories of the high-end headphone revolution. Their affordable 99 Classics headphones are very popular with our staff who use them on a daily basis. Their flagship Empyrean model has won almost every major award from the audio/video press in the headphone category. It’s considered to be one of the best headphones ever made. It’s also one of the most expensive headphones available and out of the reach of 99% of the population. The $69 Meze Audio 12 Classics V2 earphones are not perfect but easily one of the most compelling affordable high-end earphones available.
The original Meze Audio 12 Classics were an attempt to capture the sonic signature of the 99 Classics in an IEM and at a price point most could afford. Meze did not use inferior components and offered the original design with walnut shells, a titanium coating on the driver, and a cloth wrapped cable at a price below $90. It was a very good deal and the start of a trend in the segment.
The Meze Model 11 Neo sported an all-metal shell and dropped the price tag to just below $50 USD; the brand has always been very concerned with delivering a lot of performance at an affordable price — minus the Empyrean that are trying to compete with everything above $3,000 in the headphone category.
Both were good sellers and performed very well for the asking price; both are somewhat dated today and the 11 has since been dropped from the catalog. Meze went on to develop the RAI series of IEMs with the Solo and Penta; the 12 Classics soldiered on as the entry-level model for Meze.
I’ve been lucky to have owned or at least tried all of the models that Meze have brought to market with the exception of the new Empyrean Phoenix, but my Meze journey started with a second-hand pair of the original 12 Classics that are still in my collection.
I liked the original 12 Classics which had a very organic sounding tonal balance that delivered a strong connection to the music and didn’t follow the crowd with big bass and an over emphasized treble at the expense of the midrange. This is not to say that the 12 Classics didn’t have a bit of a V shape in regard to its frequency response but it didn’t sacrifice resolution either.
12 Classics V2
So what’s new here for $69?
When I heard about the Meze Audio 12 Classics V2 release, my immediate thought was that there wasn’t much broken to begin with, and any significant changes that I would have liked to see were probably too cost prohibitive to implement in a $69 pair of earphones.
The first big change is the color. Gone is the gray/black anodizing of the aluminum parts replaced with a bright copper finish that better complements the walnut. All of the metal parts are anodized in the same finish with good uniformity and anodizing should last better than a coating would.
I’m not sure whether all pairs have more closely matched wood but at least for the pair I reviewed, the color of the two earpieces was much more tightly matched than my original pair. Meze are clearly offering an even higher level of finish on their entry-level headphones and there’s nothing about these that screams $69.00 USD. I would have guess over $100 without even trying them on.
The next change was something that I noticed right away and was a very welcome one for me — the omission of a microphone. YMMV with this change but I don’t use my smartphone as a DAP and with the increasing number of Dongle DACs that don’t necessarily play so nicely in the sandbox with mics and remotes — it’s not a huge loss to me. I’ve lost more calls than I can possibly count over the years with poorly designed and performing headphones with mics.
From a performance perspective, there are additional changes to the Meze Audio 12 Classics, but these are more incremental and wont leap off the page at you like the copper coloration. Starting with its bass performance, the 12 Classics V2 have good extension and enough low end rumble to announce its presence.
It lacks a little texture, but this is an entry-level product and asking it to rattle the inside of your head was probably a foolhardy wish. I’m not sure anyone would be turned off by its impact.
The midbass is a touch less emphasized and does have more detail and texture and begins to show the real strength of the Meze Audio 12 Classics V2. It possesses a warm and smooth tonal balance with enough detail to keep one engaged but not so much as to lose its resolution and overall musicality. This is not a bright sounding pair of earphones.
If my complaint about the low end was the lack of some texture and detail, the opposite can be said of the midrange. The tuning brings out vocals well without pushing other things further back than needed in the process and lets every instrument have enough space to unfold in the mix.
I was particularly impressed with acoustic guitar pieces and piano concertos. Strings are well rendered as well and have enough energy to sound very natural; which is something that you don’t expect in a $69 pair of earphones. If you enjoy classical music, folk, or country (that hasn’t been mixed as some bizarre pop extravaganza), the performance of the Meze 12 Classics V2 will surprise you.
The treble can sound slightly subdued and while there is enough energy to keep the Meze 12 Classics V2 from sounding restrained, and enough detail to resolve texture well, they sound a bit thin compared to the lush midrange. They are a bit too polite for my personal taste here and won’t appeal to those looking for every last bit of treble detail. People who hate bright sounding earphones will find a lot to like in the treble performance of these earphones.
The decision by Meze Audio to go with a more musical, fluid presentation at the expense of some weight and detail was probably a wise move for an entry-level pair of earphones. Those wanting a more neutral presentation have the RIA Penta and Empyrean to consider.
For those just entering the high-end earphones market, the Meze Audio 12 Classics V2 are an excellent point of entry. They deliver just enough resolution, detail, and warmth to keep one engaged and without any listening fatigue during longer listening sessions like a commute or long walk.
This proved to be a good thing as once you start listening to your favorite music through the 12 Classics V2, you may find yourself listening longer than you intended. Spending $69 on these will prove to be a very wise long-term investment.
For more information: mezeaudio.com
Where to buy: $69 at Amazon