Meze (IEM) 12 Classics V2

For a short while I’ve been using the Meze Audio 99 Classics, a set of closed-back headphones that have a reputation of being ultra-clear, extremely defined and crispy. I wanted a smaller set of similar sounding phones for travel or casual listening and became interested in Meze’s earbuds, the 12 Classics V2. I’ll cover the features (see video below), but just about everyone wants to know how they sound, and so that will be tackled first.

The 12 Classics V2 ($69 USD) sound very much like the 99 Classics ($299 USD), insofar as the following, and to reiterate the introduction: extremely clear, crisp (although with modest warmth), detailed, defined and, most importantly, natural. Podcasts sound fantastic, as though the person speaking is in the room with you. Music-wise, it’s like listening in high-definition. Now, the 12 Classics V2 do lack a bit of bottom end that the 99 Classics have, but that is to be expected since regular closed-back headphones do have more soundstage (that 3D, high-quality sound image that produces an out-of-your-head experience) and will create more ‘air’ and dimension around the ears. Nonetheless, the bass is very tight with moderate punchiness. The mids are subdued only slightly, and the highs sparkle with super clarity without being shrill or biting.

The 12 Classics V2 were ‘tested’ with various styles of music and production, from orchestral, to jazz, blues, adult contemporary, classic rock and modern rock/metal. When it comes to orchestral and easier listening music, these earbuds shine incredibly well. And with classic rock there is enough bottom end and fullness to please most listeners. When it comes to ‘dance’ music (aka Beats headphone territory), they do fall short and for anyone who wants that big fat bottom end (however, using a headphone amp with EQ will dial some of that back in). What’s also noticeable is that if you’re used to a lower quality headphone (viz., less clarity) they can seem too clear initially. For example, these earbuds were loaned to a 25-year old woman who is used to listening to today’s pop music, as well as vinyl on a somewhat inexpensive player. She not only noticed the lack of bass for today’s ‘dance’ music (as she stated, feels like it leaves you waiting for the bass to drop” ), but brought up the notion that they are incredibly clear, which (to her ears) sounded somewhat off, as she was used to music tracks (singer, drums, guitar, bass, etc.) almost blending a lot more – she was not used to each instrument playing separately, distinctly and within its own frequency. In her words: Any music that’s supposed to have heavy bass…, I guess ‘messy’ sound… it just sort of over-clarifies and takes away from that.” She further added: “Also the volume… I hardly had my phone volume on and the headphones had great volume. Usually I need to turn my volume up a lot to get enough sound from headphones.” That says a lot about Meze quality, but also that it would take a few days of getting used to the Meze’s lack of ‘mud’ or ‘muffle.’ She’s also uses JBL Tune 205 earbuds, which are a third the price as the Meze 12 Classics V2 – and so, that has to be taken into consideration.

There are a number of factors that make these Romanian-made earbuds such a standout for the money, and which contribute to their sound. The frequency response (16Hz – 24Hz) provides only modest elaboration in bass and treble, together with only a slight dip in mids. Most modern music is recorded with that ‘V’ shape frequency in mind, and that’s how most non-studio-monitoring headphones express sound. However, these Meze earbuds perform without any aspect in the overall frequency being accentuated (viz., with exaggeration). This is what makes these earbuds so versatile, unless preferring a fat bottom end that rumbles. They have low harmonic distortion (<0.5%), a copper-clad aluminum voice coil, and titanium coated 8mm mylar drivers. Sensitivity is at 101dB (+/-3dB), with noise attenuation up to 26dB. In fact, they sound so crystal clear that you don’t have to jack up your tunes to enjoy them, thereby saving on your hearing.

The 12 Classics V2 also are of fantastic build quality, but with a modern flair and curves. Its package includes four silicone eartips (different sizes and shapes), a protective pouch and with a 1.2-meter (nearly 4-foot) 6N OFC cable. At a very reasonable cost, the Meze Audio 12 Classics V2 has such purity of sound that they do challenge other earbuds within their price-range and beyond. They come highly recommended and from a person with 56-year-old ears.

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