Meze 12 Classics: The Walnut Wonder

Greetings!

Today we will be checking out another wooden wonder from the brilliant minds at Meze, the aptly named 12 Classics.

Hailing from Romania, Meze is a company that needs no introduction with the hi-fi crowd. Despite only being on the market for a short period of time, their 99 Classics model has become ubiquitously associated with all-round quality and a timeless design. When Meze released news of their upcoming 11 Neo and 12 Classics in-ears, it was clear they hadn’t been resting on their laurels while relishing in the success of the 99 Classics.

Both the 11 Neo and 12 Classics feature a titanium coated driver membrane. What sets the two apart and links the 12 Classics to their full-sized counterpart is the difference in housing material; all-aluminum versus an aluminum/walnut wood hybrid. The 12 Classics additionally toss in a copper-clad, aluminum voice coil for good measure.

Do the 12 Classics live up to the Classics name, offering the premium build and sound quality we’ve come to expect from the Meze name. For the most part, they sure do.

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank @MezeTeam for selecting me to take part in the Head-fi 12 Classics review tour. I am not receiving any financial compensation for this review and all comments and views within are my honest opinions. They are not representative of Meze or any other entity.

The 12 Classics can be purchased from Meze at the cost of 79.99 USD; https://mezeheadphones.com/products/meze-12-classics-gun-metal-wood-earphones

A Little About Me:

Over the last couple years I decided to dive head first into the world of portable audio. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread and being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own reviews. Fast forward a couple years and I’ve had the opportunity to write about some great products for wonderful companies like RHA, Havi, FiiO, NarMoo, Brainwavz, and Meze. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done.

The gear I use for testing is pretty basic composing of an XDuoo X3 (with Rockbox update) HTC One M8 cellphone, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Plantronics Rig USB amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. When it comes to signature preference I tend to lean towards aggressive and energetic, but I try not to limit myself to one signature only. I also tend to listen at lower than average volumes.

Packaging and Accessories:

The 12 Classics unboxing experience is price appropriate, with a few eye-catching aspects. The first thing that struck me was just how solid the cardboard used is. It’s not that flimsy, thin stuff most manufacturer’s opt to go with, but is thick, firm, and durable. Second, the direct nods to Meze’s trident logo in the orientation of the image of the 12 Classics on the front of the box, and again inside nestled among the foam padding. This are nice details that show Meze put some thought into the packaging without going overboard and making it too extravagant.

It’s also refreshing to see a complete lack of marketing blurbs, mission statement, and the like, though sometimes that can be pretty entertaining. The closest Meze gets is with the statement, “Perfect Natural Sound,” printed on the left side. This packaging is all business; images of the complete product, a breakdown of the components and construction, specifications, and key features.

The included accessories are everything you need to ensure a good listening experience. You are provided the same silicone tips that come with a trillion other earphones in s/m/l, and a set of dual flange as well. Meze also includes a set of genuine Comply T500 Isolation tips. I didn’t think they would suit the 12 Classics since they’re not a bright earphone, but they paired surprisingly well and helped combat microphonics (cable noise). A handy little Velcro strip is provided and helps with cable management during storage.

Overall the 12 Classic’s unboxing experience is pleasant. The presentation is very clean and straightforward, and the included accessories pair well with the 12 Classics and their sound signature.

Build, Design, Comfort, and Isolation:

Meze’s 99 Classics set a high standard for the build quality and design of all future Meze products in my opinion. They’re absolutely stunning and look even better in person. Despite their sub-100 USD price tag, the 12 Classics uphold expectations with a unique design and quality materials, though fit and finish on the earpieces could use some additional TLC.

There are minor nicks and blemishes at the edges of the walnut wood selected for the earpieces where it connects with the aluminum end cap and nozzle section. These pieces also happen to avoid sitting perfectly flush with each other. I would chalk this up to the use of natural materials, but this is not something I noticed to the same extent on other wood earphones like the Thinksound MS01 or even the House of Marley Smile Jamaica and Uplift.

Meze selected a quality cable for the 12 Classics. It’s thick and has a hefty, dense sheath that is flexible enough and doesn’t retain memory of bends or kinks. It would be near perfect if it wasn’t for the overly invasive microphonics that nearly ruin the experience. Luckily, wearing them cable over-ear effectively negates the issue, but not completely. I want to point out and give great thanks to Meze for getting strain relief right. Someone finally gets it! At all major intersections relief is present and effective; jack, y-split, in-line controller, and leading into the earpieces. To everyone who is not Meze; effective strain relief isn’t difficult to implement.

The 12 Classics are very comfortable and I can only see someone having issues if they need extremely slim nozzles like those found on the Shure SE215, Fidue A31s, or Klipsche S3. The front aluminum nozzle section is smooth and curves naturally into the rest of the housing, completely free of sharp edges or awkward angles. The curves continue along the body of the housing making gripping them easy and natural as they conform to the natural shape of your fingers. Finally, we get to what is oddly my favorite part of the 12 Classics; the rear dimple containing the Meze logo. For whatever reason I find it immensely satisfying to set the tip of my finger on there. Oh, and it’s useful for inserting them into your ear. What I’m getting at is Meze did their homework and nailed the ergonomics.

Isolation is solid, and better than I was expecting given there are two vents in each earpiece; one right behind the nozzle and another in front of the strain relief. At the overly low volumes I listen they were unable to fully snuff out the whirling dervish that is my work computer and it’s horribly noisy fans; not so much of an issue at more average listening volumes. It was also enough for walking around in the real world, letting in just enough external stimuli to remain safe-ish. I live in London, Ontario, Canada, a city notorious for having some of the worst drivers in the country. You’re never truly safe…

Overall the 12 Classics are an attractive, comfortable earphone made from quality materials that suffers slightly from an abundance of cable noise and slightly sub-par fit and finish where the wood and aluminum meets. These negatives are in no way deal killers, just noteworthy items.

Sound:

Tips: I’m a big fan of tip rolling and feel it is integral to getting the most out of your earphone in terms of both comfort and sound. The stock tips Meze provides are about as generic as they get, but they work. I have no complaints about them whatsoever. They’re comfortable, they don’t feel cheap and flimsy, and they pair well with the 12 Classics sound signature. That said, I use KZ’s new star tips. They give me a more consistent seal in my left ear, and the wider bore brings the treble forward a touch.

Amping: I honestly didn’t spend much time with them attached to my NX1 or Rig USB amp. It worked just fine with my HTC One M8 and XDuoo X3 so the need just wasn’t there. I’ve read they scale quite well but since my gear is still more-or-less entry level, I recommend checking out other reviews for more in depth information on this subject.

Meze played it safe, no, smart with the 12 Classics’ tuning. They weren’t being adventurous, trying to offer up something overly unique or polarizing. Instead, they dialed in a balanced sound with a mildly boosted mid-bass presence that gives the 12 Classics a warm, welcoming presentation. It’s near perfectly weighted, never coming across too thin and wispy or thick and soupy. This balance really lets the natural mid-range stand out despite being slightly recessed. Treble is tight and well-controlled with excellent extension that falls well short of bright but isn’t lacking energy and panache. They’re very musical. Imaging is quite good with sound moving cleanly between channels without any ‘dead-zones’ or vague spots. Detail, however, is merely adequate. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, but at the same time they’re not wowing me by picking up the smallest of nuances.

Overall the 12 Classics present sound effortlessly. They don’t struggle or distort, and simply provide listeners with a comforting and musical experience.

Select Comparisons:

House of Marley Uplift (39.99 USD): Really, B9? A House of Marley earphone. Yeah, because it’s actually a pretty solid product and shares a similar signature. I found the Uplift to be even more balanced than the 12 Classics due to their more even mid-bass/sub-bass progression. Treble is similarly emphasized and extended, and the mid-range clear and prominent.

Where the near 40 USD difference shows is in refinement. The 12 Classics are smoother in the treble and more detailed. The Uplift’s bass hits with a slightly muffed thud vs. the 12 Classics clean, crisp thump. Soundstage is similarly presented, but the 12 Classics move sound around with more natural precision and greater accuracy.

Material quality is split but build quality goes to the Uplift. They have what I think is one of the best fabric cables in the business, at least of those earphones I’ve tried with fabric cables, and fit and finish is excellent where the aluminum and wood meets. Strain relief is lacking at the y-split though.

Meze 11 Neo (59.99 USD): How does the 12 Classics’ little brother stack up? Quite well, to the point I feel the 11 Neo offers better value and is the model to get if you don’t absolutely need the sexy walnut wood housings and are willing to sacrifice what would to most listeners would be a negligible level of technical competence.

The 12 Classics and 11 Neo share sound signatures, design, and for the most part, materials. The 12 Classics have slightly more emphasized treble and mids. The 11 Neo are a wee bit warmer, smoother, and slower, sacrificing some detail for listening ease. Unless listening to them back to back, your average listener probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Build quality and ergonomics are identical minus the 11 Neo swapping out the walnut for more aluminum. To me, that by default means the Neo will be the more durable and longer lasting of the two.

Thinksound MS02 (99.00 USD): Yet another attractive wooden earphone, the MS02 makes for a great comparison with the 12 Classics. While they offer similar signatures, the MS02 comes across as the more ‘hi-fi’ of the two. They’re brighter, less bassy, and have an even more prominent midrange. I found the MS02 offers a touch more clarity and detail at the cost of soundstage width/height. They ome across as more direct and focused than the 12 Classics.

The wooden portion of the MS02 is cleaner cut and better finished than the 12 Classics, and the aluminum front portion fits with great precision. Meze’s cable is much thicker and more durable above the y-split. Gauge is very similar below the y-split. Thinksound’s cable is the more flexible of the two, but also happens to retain very mild hints of bends and kinks.

Overall they’re both great earphones and it would be hard to choose one over the other.

Final Thoughts:

The Meze 12 Classics are an amazing looking product with a very appealing sound signature. They provide outstanding comfort and ergonomics. The cable is stellar if you can get around the near-crippling noise it funnels into your ears when worn down. The in-line mic is practical and a welcome addition, and the materials selected appear top notch. While the 11 Neo offers up nearly the same experience for 20 USD less, you can’t deny the appeal of the 12 Classics beautiful walnut housings and the extra clarity afforded by the copper-coated voice coils.

What is all comes down to is that Meze has released another stellar product into the market. It competes well with earphones in and above it’s category, and their mass-appeal sound signature makes them easy to recommend. Great job again, Meze!

Thanks for reading!

– B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Test Songs:

Aesop Rock – Saturn Missles

BT – The Antikythera Mechanism

Daft Punk – Touch

Gramatik – Bluestep (Album Version)

Incubus – 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey

Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians

Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed

Jessie J – Bang Bang

Kiesza – Hideaway

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black

Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)

Skindred – Death to all Spies

Supertramp – Rudy

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