Overall when listening with the Meze 11 Neo I didn’t feel like I was listening with sub-$100 IEMs at all, but a pair that was quite a bit more expensive. At one point I was using a $1000+ rig with a Mojo and Soundaware DAP to listen and the combination didn’t sound out of place at all. Fantastic stuff from Meze once again.
When Anthony Meze revealed the 99 Classic full-sized headphones, he surprised everyone with their unique design and good sound. Not content to stop there, he turned his attention to IEMs, the result of which is the 11 series and the latest metal Meze 11 Neo. Like the 99s, he sought both a classy design and good sound, and from my initial impressions has managed to pull of both. Out of the box they are elegant, from the aluminium earpieces, splitter and plug, to the translucent cable through which you can see the braided shield of the high-quality cable.
A small, round pouch is included in the box, along with Comply isolating foam tips and a cable clip. The Neo 11s only came with a smart-phone cable, though most portable electronics are wired to handle this now and I had no trouble using them with a Chord Mojo or any DAPs I had to hand. The standard tips are medium-bore and appear to be the same as those that come with the DITA IEMs. As the tip bore width affects the sound signature, I found that this was quite important when choosing tips to use with them.
I’ve usually been disappointed by inexpensive IEMs, but after listening to the $50 Shozy Zeros, my expectations were high. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed — on the contrary, I was very surprised by the quality of what I was hearing from their single dynamic driver. Out of the box with the stock tips they are fairly even-sounding, with a bit of upper-mid and treble brightness on some tracks. A pleasant mid-range brings instruments forward and the bass has lovely impact and impressive precision, which dynamic driver IEMs are known for. While they aren’t as good at giving a sense of soundstage, the overall sound from the titanium-coated drivers is quite cohesive, and has a good degree of precision and instrument separation in exchange.
Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, surprisingly for a pair of IEMs that are relatively bright, the music didn’t come through as spaciously as would be ideal. A bit too much emphasis on the upper-mids pushed the instruments a bit too far forward to be ideal, though the speed of the driver allowed me to experience individual instruments quite clearly. Despite that, the delicious bass made cellos sound fantastic.
Where the Meze 11 Neo worked quite well was with rock, such as A Perfect Circle. The distinct and precise bass is dialled in just perfectly for bass guitars and drums and the more forward and brighter-tuned mid-range pushes the vocals and guitars in your face, if somewhat at the expense of any sense of soundstage.
It was at this point that I thought some tip-rolling was in order. My first preference is for SpinFit tips, purely for the comfort. SpinFit’s turned the Meze 11 Neo into bass cannons, but not at all in a bad way. The too-forward upper mids were tamed but despite the bass going up a LOT it didn’t lose its cohesiveness and the fine details weren’t inhibited. If anything, that the instrument details managed to come through so clearly despite the somewhat overbearing bass was a very good sign.
Bi-flange tips can be problematic on some IEMs, mucking up the sound quality, but in the case of the 11 Neo they brought similar results that the SpinFits did, so with their better isolation I am thinking I may have found a good pair of IEMs to take with me on public transport.
Sadly the Complys, with their excellent isolation had the opposite effect, considerably dulling the sound, the IEMs losing their magic entirely.
Another favourite lately has been the JVC Spiral Dot tips which use, as the name suggests, a spiral of indents to reduce turbulence from internal reflections. These brought a sparkle back to the treble and a bit of needed soundstage to the sound, pushing the mids back a bit while keeping the wonderful bass intact. The Spiral Dot tips unfortunately made some brighter pop music unbearable, leaving the SpinFit tips the best all-rounders for the 11 Neo, unless I stick only to acoustic music.
That left me with a pair of deliciously punchy IEMs which were highly entertaining to listen with across a variety of genres. The bass never got in the way of the mids and treble at the moderate levels I listen with.
Thanks to Meze for giving me a pair to review.