Lucky me -- I get to play with lots of headphones, but I sometimes wonder if they're all made in the same factory, and their mostly plastic construction, similar features, and designs feel interchangeable. So when CNET's David Carnoy put the Meze 88 Classics in my hands I was intrigued. The beautifully finished, hand-carved ebony wood ear cups gave a high-end sheen to the design, and a quick audition proved the 88 Classics' beauty was more than skin deep.
Build quality is a step up from what you get with Beats by Dr. Dre 'phones, and I liked that the 88 Classics don't make creaky or squeaky plastic noises when I put it on my head. The headband "wings" keep the metal headband off my head, so comfort was above par. These closed-back headphones' large, flat ear pads block a decent amount of external noise, and the 50mm drivers are bigger than what you get with most competing models. A user-replaceable cable plugs into the left ear cup with a standard 3.5mm jack. Meze sells the Classic 88 direct on its Web site for $299. My review samples' gloss finish was snazzy, but if you crave a more sedate look, satin-finished 88s are available. The sound was crisp and exceptionally clear; bass oomph and definition are definitely up there with the very best headphones in the 88 Classics' price range.
They sell for the same price as the news, so I spent a half hour swapping between the two headphones while listening to Apple Lossless tunes on my iPod Classic. The 88s were more transparent and you-are-there present; the M-100s more laid back and mellow. The headphones' bass followed the same course, the 88s' bass was potent, unusually nimble and defined, the M-100's low-end was looser and more fleshed out. One downside: I didn't like that the 88s soundstage was less spacious than the M-100s'. The 88s are more neutral and transparent, which makes them more of an audiophile choice, but I'm sure some buyers will prefer the M-100s' richer sound balance. Which is better? That's a matter of taste -- I'd buy the Meze 88 Classics.