I’m a bit of an audio junkie. Not an audiophile, mind you; I don’t believe for a second I can tell the difference between an Ogg Vorbis and a Lossless FLAC. But I can tell when the bass is muddy and the highs are clipped. And I believe that when great music is delivered through great hardware, emotions can be magnified and experienced like an earthquake.
So, when I was offered a pair of Meze headphones for review, I accepted with curiosity. I’ve had a very solid paid of Grado headphones for a number of years, and have been quite happy with them. However, they are on-ear phones, which means they don’t block out a lot of ambient sound, which doesn’t lend to as much of a complete, all-encompassing musical experience.
The first thing you should know is that they are visual works of art. The ear cups are handcrafted from ebony wood. They look gorgeous, and the idea is that the wood helps add a warm, natural resonance to the sound. The cups are comfortably padded, and after extended wearing, still felt light and good. The overall construction of the headgear is lightweight polycarbonite, and the system for resting it on your head is different than any I’ve ever seen, but works really well to cushion the (albiet already light) weight against the crown of my head.
Because I will never present myself as technically knowledgeable about headphones, I present you with the technical specs for the Model 88 Classics I tested:
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20KHz
- Sensitivity:107+/-3dB at 1KHz, 1mW
- Impedance: 40 Ohm
- R&L balance: -50mm neodymium drivers
To test the headphones, I listened to two albums. The first was Koyaanisqatsi, the groundbreaking minimalist soundtrack from the film of the same title, by composer Phillip Glass. My goal here was to see how well the Mezes could portray the rolling arpeggios and choral flourishes. To my ears, they do a wonderful job. The sound that comes from these headphones is pure enough that you can be transported by the music. I could easily close my eyes and recall images from the film in my head, floating on the music.
The second album I listened to was something new. A Night of Queen by The Protomen. Recorded in 2010, this is a live concert where the masters of video-game rock opera instead presented an entire set list of Queen covers with a loving devotion and uncanny accuracy.
I’ll pause here, and admit I must be becoming an old softy in my middle age. One of my favorite songs in the world is One Vision, off Queen’s often overlooked (though not by geeks) soundtrack for the film Highlander. The song has one of the awesomest opening licks on all of rock. The song will physically send chills down my spine every time I listen to it.
So, when it came up on The Promoten’s album, I expected some reaction. But I have to admit to you, Marge, I got something in my eye. The combination of a spot-on cover of a beloved song with headphones that provide warm, powerful bass and clear, concise mids and highs not only sent chills down my spine, they altered my state. I welled up. I was moved.
There’s not much more I can ask from a pair of headphones.
As headphones that are billed as “audiophile” quality, the price isn’t exorbitant, either (though they aren’t cheap). The 88 Classics I reviewed go for $270 directly from Meze. They have two smaller editions, including one that folds up for portability, and that use smaller drivers but similar ear cups. You can find them all on the Meze website.