Meze Audio 12 Classics Review: A Chill Classic

Introduction: Meze Audio, is a company that is well known, even in the Asian markets that are far from their native land of Baia Mare, Romania. It is here, amongst the scenic and medieval touched landscape that Antonio Meze, through his love for music, started Meze Audio in 2009. Starting small and gaining experience through the years, they were able to break through in 2015 with their 99 Classics which garnered them much accolades, awards and a lot of smiling happy customers. Following the success of their headphones, they came out with the Meze 11 Neo and 12 classics, like miniature versions of their 99 Neo and 99 classics, they were developed in house, and designed with their own aesthetic of timelessness, functionality, ergonomics and of course a flair for style while maintaining a high standard for quality and a sound that should be vivid and immersive.

Today, I'll be reviewing the Meze Audio 12 Classics (in gunmetal). and I'd like to thank Doina Ferrent and the people of Meze Audio for the chance to review the 12 Classics in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. You can buy the Meze Audio 12 Classics at the Meze Audio website or locally if you have an official retailer for Meze Audio products.

Driver: 8mm Dynamic, Copper-clad Aluminum voice coil
Diaphragm: Titanium coated Mylar
Sensitivity: 101dB (+/- 3db)
Frequency Response: 16Hz - 24KHz
Impedance: 16Ohm
Total harmonic distortion: < 0.5%
Material: Wood and Aluminum
Cable Material: 7N OFC cable
Cable Length: 1.2m
Plug: 3.5mm gold-plated jack

The 12 Classics are quite easy to drive thanks to its low impedance and can get to loud volumes with its sensitivity. Real world usage on my Xperia XZ Premium is able to drive it to 95db at max volume, which isn't the loudest but adequate enough to silence most ambient noise. The nice thing about the 12 Classics is that it can scale depending on the source, in particular, it can sound a lot better with more power provided, sounding more musical and articulate with better sources and still sound fun and entertaining with just a phone as a source.

Unboxing: The Meze 12 Classics arrives in a nice sturdy white box as seen above and has all the info necessary for an informed purchase if perused at say a store. It has a nice complimentary aesthetic for me and though it's not as minimalist as I'd like, the choice they made was a statement of how they view their products, that being worth the effort and flair and it shows with how the inner layout is made in homage to the Meze Audio logo which also mimics the front cover photo.

Inside are the basic necessities for Meze 12 Classics as well as some goodies:

1 x Meze 12 Classics
1 x Cable clip
1 x Carrying Case
1 x 3 sets of silicone ear-tips (S, M, L)
1 x Set of double flange tips
1 x Set of Comply foam ear tips
1 x Booklet
1 x Circular Meze Audio sticker
1 x Rectangular Meze Audio sticker

The tip selection is standard but the double flange and real Comply tips are a great addition to insure comfort and fit in almost any ear geometry. The clip can be a necessity as I'll explain later and the carrying case can be a godsend if you do not have your own case to use, though the case in itself is pretty awesome it's sturdy and quite compact. I'm not sure if the stickers are a recent addition but I think they are really a nice touch, it gives you the opportunity to show your love for Meze by using it on your favorite things, the refrigerator, a diary, laptops etc..

Cable/Build/Design: The Meze 12 Classics has a non-removable cable that looks reinforced for durability and made of 7N Oxygen Free Copper (OFC), the  jacket is a bit on the thick side, this adds to a bit of stiffness and microphonics of the cable but also prevents kinks and tangling. There is adequate strain relief in all places where to expect it (after the plug, before and after splitter and mic, before the drivers), a standard mobile case friendly straight gold plated plug adorns the connection end of the 12 Classics which the cable leads to a nice metallic Y-split with the Meze Audio branding, on the right cable, there is a microphone and button module for mobile use. The microphone has been tested with calls on cellular and internet calls and is quite clear with good and clear sound pickup. The overall build of the cable system inspires confidence in its resilience.

The driver shells of the 12 Classic are a nice mix of aluminum and wood, which is unique for each set, mine has already displayed it's characteristics in that one is lighter than the other. In hand they feel solid and textured but not rough or overly smooth. There is a small embossed letter L and R on the respective side of the strain relief of each shell and an additional dot on the left side, which incidentally isn't really necessary as you can just feel or look at the microphone module and know that side is the right.

There are two vents on the 12 Classics, one at the bottom for diaphragm venting and one near the front/nozzle is for insertion venting (to avoid driver flex). The front vent can be covered by a small piece of Blu Tack (or something similar) so there will be no air escaping the front side, this usually increases the bass of most IEMs with similar vents. The nozzle has a prominent tip lip made of Aluminum that holds any tip used securely. There is a fine mesh cover on the nozzle to prevent naturally occurring cerumen to enter the shell. The strain relief here is thick and flexible, giving it a good level of protection from accidental pulls and general manhandling. Aesthetic wise, the 12 Classics are easy on the eyes, look classy and seem to impart a feeling of inviting warmth and stability.

Sound Analysis: When I first listened to the 12 Classics, it felt like a spacious and enjoyable tuning though bass felt a bit fast and controlled, it didn't overwhelm me with bass, or very forwarded mids and a bright treble, it also felt that the upper mids were a little recessed compared to the mids which struck me as odd. Still it was a fun listen and the lightness of the overall tuning gave me an easy listening vibe. Considering the belief that dynamics need clocked usage for it to reach its best performance, I used the Meze 12 Classics with music for over 200 hours before doing my review. I used Symbio W tips for listening and various sources (calibrated to 85db) though most was done using the Sony WM1a to compare and find the sound of the 12 Classics.

Bass: First off, the Meze 12 Classics are not bass head IEMs, now that is out of the way, with an 8mm dynamic driver, the Meze 12 Classics is able to push out a good amount of bass. The sub-bass is of average reach and is controlled with a faster than average decay which lets Dragonborn's battle drums slam and reach a decent depth before resounding enthusiastically into the next notes, this does reflect well for its responsiveness and ability to resolve details. Bass has good impact, owing to a boost in this part of the frequency, giving the 12 Classics an above average punch that is felt well with Acid Rain's bass slams and bass guitars have that nice grungy crunch, giving Lithium an effervescent quality (aka lively). Overall, the 12 Classics has good bass texture, blending smoothly with the warmth, attack and decay of the music.

Mids: The mids for me can be a make or break situation considering I really like this frequency range, and it's fortunate (for me) that the Meze 12 Classics has good mids that are near balanced in tonality with a leaning towards a little more thickness with a touch of warmth for that rather organic smoothness. This is apparent with Dream a Little Dream of Me (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong) where the music has a good amount of thickness that defines their voices well just as the instruments sound distinct and harmonious. This also displays how balanced the mids are with both voices being on the same level and are a little forward in overall placement.

There is ample space and detail retrieval in the 12 Classics for it to sound clear and uncompressed, Pandemic sounds good with every instrument and voice identifiable and don't meld incoherently with one another in this otherwise wall of sound of a song. Pianos in Do What You have to Do sound a little on the light side in this range and give some crisp as the offset while guitars and synths positively respond on this frequency. Alive's (Pearl Jam) rhythm guitar sound smooth with a grungy bite while the lead has a bit of crisp to its note. Clair Marlo's Till They take my Heart Away is particularly nice for me with the synths sounding crisp, the bass guitars strumming a good beat and sounding melodious while her voice wrapped in a warmth and smoothness sings emotively.

Treble: The Meze 12 has an above average reach for the treble, providing a good amount of air and some sparkle, Silent Lucidity's harmonics sound particularly crisp and clear, inviting with a semblance of brightness that does not induce harshness or fatigue. Hit the Lights' cymbal crashes and high hats arrive well and nicely detailed, sounding quite natural. The 12 Classics provide a needed clarity and separation to avoid congestion as the sounds in Hit the Lights can overlap and merge on gear that has poor tuning and ability. Sibilance is well controlled here and without sounding rolled off or cut off too early, an overall good sounding area for the 12 Classics.

Soundstage: Left and right staging has very good width, moving outward in a natural way, going up to around 4 inches away in distance for some sounds and on most songs a little out of the ear. Front and back staging distance is on the average size, while up and down depth is a little above average. Instrument separation and layering is pretty good as it prevents you from feeling or hearing any congestion in the music no matter how busy it gets. Imaging is accurate for positioning of source sounds.

Conclusion: The Meze 12 Classics is one of the good all arounder IEMs out in the market, it has an overall balanced and organic sound that's fatigue and harshness free, perfect for chilling through your daily routine. With a fast and punctuating bass, smooth and detailed mids, a crisp, airy treble framed in a stage that is both layered and spacious, the Meze 12 Classic is an enjoyable listen for many genres that don't overly rely on very strong bass presence. The overall physical attributes of the 12 Classic are also worth noting, built with sturdy cables and provided with a good control microphone that compliments the well built aluminum and classy wooden shell, a merging of both modern and organic aesthetics.

One other thing to note is the vent a little after the nozzle, if you accidentally smother it with a foam tip or intentionally cover it with some Blu Tack, the bass on the Meze 12 Classic will become stronger, able to hit harder and have more quantity, at this level, the mids are not overwhelmed by the bass but you can say that it could possibly satisfy a basshead. Mids and treble, clarity, separation and layering are largely unaffected though the stage feels a bit smaller overall. Covering the vents can introduce a bit of driver flex which is usually not damaging to the IEMs so use proper insertion methods to avoid this in case you want the basshead version of the Meze 12 Classics.

Pros: A good balanced signature, smooth sound, good detail retrieval, fatigue free listening, great build quality, beautiful wooden shell and overall aesthetics, has a microphone for mobile/internet calls.

Cons: Cable microphonics

Sound testing was done using a Sony WM1a (Primarily), a Hiby R6, Zishan Z1(for comparison), Audirect Beam (for computer convenience) and a phone (for checking driveability) volume matched to 90.X db of max volume for safe hearing below 8 hours of use and calibrated using a 1kh tone on a dedicated DB Meter, all sources patched through a switcher. More information will be available on the About Me page (once I find the time to write it up.)

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