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Massdrop’s $200 Meze headphones tone down the bling so you won't get mugged

Don’t buy the Massdrop X Meze 99 Noir just because they're beautiful -- they sound great, too.


The Massdrop X Meze 99 Noir headphones


Headphone maker Massdrop changed its name -- it's known as just Drop now, and that might lead to some brand identity confusion. That said, my own thoughts about the $200 (Mass)Drop X Meze 99 Noir are crystal clear: this is a terrific headphone. Other than trading gold accents for anodized black, the new model is pretty close to the existing $309 Meze 99 Classics headphones I've loved for years. If you're looking for something less ostentatious to use in public places, the Noir version could be for you.

Luxurious $200 headphones are rare, but when one shows up I'm all ears! The 99 Noir's sound is richly balanced but not overly so, vocals are natural, and the treble is clear. It's a closed-back design, and it does a decent job in minimizing external noise.

The headphones feature proprietary 40mm drivers, and impedance is rated at an easy-to-drive 32 ohms. Weight is just 9.2 ounces, and that's pretty light for a full-size, over-the-ear headphone.

The smartly styled metal-and-leather headband perfectly complements the curvy, real walnut ear cups. Their tall oval shape and amply padded cushions do a good job fitting over and around my ears. The user-replaceable 6-foot-long cable with microphone and remote terminates with a 3.5mm plug, and you get a 6.3mm adapter.


The Massdrop X Meze 99 Noir headphones


The 99 Noir headphones are light and very comfortable, but since they don't fold flat for compact storage, they're not as portable as some. I noted that whenever I brushed against the metal headband it would "ping" or resonate a bit. The included woven nylon carry case protects the 99 Noir from the elements.

Listening to the 99

The 99 Noir's sound signature is satisfyingly rich, that's what you'll hear first. Not soft, just easy on the ears. Treble is bright, midrange is nicely balanced, and the bass is very full but reasonably nimble.

Keith Richards' 2019 remaster of his Talk is Cheap solo album sounds great. The Noir 99 digs in and rocks with conviction! Frank Sinatra's Standing Room Only album springs to life over the Noir 99. The artistry of his vocals really shines over these headphones.

The 99 Noir is a closed-back headphone, and it sounds like one. That is, the sound isn't as open and spacious as you get with open-back headphones like the $220 Massdrop X Sennheiser HD6xx 'phones. It's a more audiophile-oriented, smoother-sounding headphone.

The '99 is easy to drive, so it's a good match with my iPhone 8, when used with the Apple 3.5mm-to-Lightning dongle.

The Massdrop X Meze 99 Noir is beautiful inside and out. The sound has broad appeal, and build quality is as good as I've seen in $200 headphones.