Meze 66 Classics headphones
Most things aren't made out of wood these days, and that's a bit of a shame really, because wood is an incredible material. For a start, it's less of an environmental disaster than plastic and it quite literally grows on trees.
If you like a bit of wood, then surely you'll love the idea of the Meze 66 Classics, headphones that are made largely from wood with the claim that it gives your music a deep, rich and natural sound. Is it a gimmick, or are these headphones really worth the fairly high asking price?
Dominated by the wooden earpieces, the 66 Classics certainly look interesting and cool. You can choose one of two different finishes for the wood - either matte or gloss, essentially. Ours are matte, but the gloss ones look kind of cool too. Either way, it's nice to have the choice.
The headphones sit on your ears, rather than covering them. The band is tight enough so they won't fall off, but not so tight as to make your ears hurt after prolonged sessions. This design also means they're good at holding out ambient noise, although they have no active noise cancellation at all.
Indeed the have nothing at all in terms of extra features. There's no iPhone remote or microphone provided, so these won't work for making calls, you'll have to hold the phone to your mouth to be heard. This isn't a massive problem for us as we rarely do this anyway, but you might feel differently.
If you travel a lot, then you'll be happy that the headphones fold up reasonably small. In fact, the box they come in is a really small cube, so it's possible to pack them down to a compact travel-friendly size. The audio lead is also removable, so you can avoid wrapping it around the headphones, which is the number one cause of headphone lead damage and should be avoided where possible. The leads that connect the headphones to your MP3 player is tight though, which is good, as it won't just fall out when you're walking.
We always look at how long headphones will last these days. We've become quite interested in this, because with cans now costing as much as £200 up to £500 and even beyond, we want to be sure you get a level of durability with these premium headsets.
The Meze is off to a good start, because our big worry is always about the audio cable. Often these are hard-wired into the earphones, but here they are indeed removable, and replaceable. You'd need to contact Meze to get a new set though, because the connectors on the headphone end don't look like a standard size to us.
The earpads themselves don't appear to be removable though. While we haven't been using them long enough to judge properly, we would worry that they would disintegrate after a few years' use. Probably not a big problem for most people, but worthy of us mentioning so you can make an informed decision.
Everything else feels as if it will last. The hinge at the top that allows the headphones to be folded for travel is sturdy enough, and doesn't need to move much anyway. The whole folding mechanism seems to be solid and should last years if you are moderately careful with them.
First impressions with the Classics was good, but with some compressed audio we could really hear the flaws of compression. Feed in less compressed music, like CD lossless and FLAC and you get a clean sound that feels very natural. If you want to push the bass, or treble, you certainly can do that with EQ. We found that a little tweak to the low end gave the headphones a nice boost, and they handled it well. This is all good stuff for headphones, because what we want is the option to have a clear sound, with no interference from the headphones. We certainly felt that the Meze give you that.
Sound isolation is decent, blocking out most things happening around you - a positive side effect of that slightly tight headband, and the "over ear" design. We also found they didn't leak all that much either, which means they're ideal for using on public transport, without anyone knowing what sort of pop nonsense you're listening too, while you pretend to be listening to something credible.
Including shipping, the Meze 66 Classics cost about £150. Prices on the site are in euros, so we've converted that price at today's rate; your price will be different. Given that these headphones have a nice build quality, feature some pleasant wood and sound pretty good, we'd have to say they're probably worth the money. Non-wooden headphones might cost less for similar build and sound quality. If you like the style, then we think you'll enjoy the headphones, but you might want to consider some of the larger ones if you want an over-ear experience.
Perhaps our only real complaint would be that the amount and type of plastics used, and the slightly flimsy audio cable might give the headphones a slightly less than premium feel. That said, we'd argue the feel is mostly subjective, and the sound quality is good. It's even better if you feed the headphones with some high-quality audio and avoid compressed sound.
An interesting material that gives these headphones a unique look. Does wood improve the sound quality? Honestly, we don't know. The headphones sound good, but the downside seems to be that compressed audio can sometimes sound a bit rubbish - so stick to high-quality audio where possible.
Sound is clear, clean and feels natural. They are different from a lot of headphones we try, and they seem to respond well to tweaking the EQ on whatever player you use. The untweaked sound is flat, which is what we'd hope on premium headphones, but there's scope to get the sound you want.
We think that the other headphones in the Meze range are potentially more interesting. We're quite keen to try the firm's over-the-ear set, which go for about £200 - putting them in competition with some really solid performances from Denon, Focal and even perhaps Beats.