Pros: Small form factor, metal body, good bass extension, good noise isolation, narrow jack insert, 45˚ angled plug
Cons: Sibilant, stiff/non-pliable cable, cable microphonics, scrunching sound upon insert, recessed midrange, small soundstage, lacks treble extension
First of all, a friend gave these to me since they were becoming infrequently used. As a result, I don't have the original packaging, nor the original tips. The primary tips I am using are old V-MODA BLISS (Bass Level Isolating Soft Silicone) tips, though I have tried other ones lying around the house.
In terms of the earphone itself, the body is made of a metal material that seems very durable. I have dropped and stepped on them before and although scratches are evident on the surface, no serious damage is seen. On the back-end of the metal body, there seems to be some sort of hole possibly for air flow (see image below). On the front-end of the metal body, there is a felt filter where the sound goes through (see image below). The size of the metal body itself is also pretty small, so it won't stick out of your ears like Frankenstein's bolts as evident by the photo above as well as the photo below.
Moving from the body of the earphone, the cable strain relief right below the body (see above photo) seems useless in function. It's really stiff and hardly moves, and they can actually spin in place such that it spins independently from the metal body and cable. Why is this even here? I have no idea.
The cable of the M9 is pretty stiff and non-pliable since it's a plastic-coated cable. As a result a lot of cable microphonics is encountered and they stick out everywhere (see the first photo). To alleviate the cable microphonics, I've tried to wrap the cable around my ear instead of hanging them straight down and the non-pliable cable makes it very difficult to do so. Also, the plastic-coated cable makes the M9 a bit impractical for storage since a lot of the kinks in the cable remain after unwrapping and the stiff cable doesn't stay wrapped in a compact form.
You can adjust the length of the Y-split cable going to either earbud using the cable adjustor in the middle of the cable (see photo below).
Finally, down at the 3.5 mm terminated gold-plated jack, the insert has a long, narrow body so it will definitely fit in a device with a case. It's also at a 45˚ angle, which allows better cable management with a portable device over 90˚ ones and it prevents the strain encountered with 0˚/180˚ jacks.
The overall design of the M9 is good, but the cable is a real turn-off, which is a bummer since the cable matters a lot for earphones.
Although the M9s have a shallow insert tip, they actually provide a good amount of noise isolation. Because of this, I think they make a pretty comfortable earphone for listening to music in louder environments. However, since the tips are silicone, they get very uncomfortable for me within an hour, leaving my ear canal a bit moist and itchy.
Speaking of the tips though, when you insert the earphones into your ear, they make a really annoying scrunching sound. It's as if you were crumpling a piece of cellophane in your ear and it is quite unpleasant to hear.
As is the nature of shallow insert tips, they're quite easy to yank out of your ear. The stiff cable sticking out all over the place doesn't help with that either.
My listening tests have been done on a variety of setups, but the main rig is:
- iPhone 4S
- FiiO L9 Line-Out-Dock
- JDS Labs C5 or Objective 2
The M9's sound signature is pretty much your typical V-shaped sound:
- Bass extension is good and the bass response is elevated; there is a ton of sub-bass
- The midrange as a whole is really recessed and muffled by the big bass response and strident treble; the timbre seems to be pretty wonky, but it is warm on the other hand
- Upper-midrange is sibilant
- Lower-treble is harsh and lacks detail
- Upper-treble is lacking in extension
- The soundstage seems very cramped both in width and depth
- Instrument separation is pretty poor; instruments seemed meshed together and not very well-defined
As a whole I don't think the M9 sounds very good. I'm sure there are plenty of alternative earphones out there that sound more transparent. Of course being a ~$20 USD earphone I wasn't expecting much, but I own a different set of earphones that sound leagues better in comparison for about the same price using the same tips. Likewise for a different earphone that I bought from a generic retail store that you find near the checkout stands; at least the midrange sounds much more realistic with those.
I don't know if it's the tips or what, but I would not recommend the M9 to most people who are looking for a < $30 earphone. Even with other tips I have at home, my observations remain more or less the same. I would only recommend the M9 for someone who listens to electronic music since the fat sub-bass response is nice for that genre. I'm glad I didn't have to pay money for the M9 because it really disappoints me. I use the M9 purely for testing equipment to make sure it works (such as a home-built CMoy amp), and not really for listening to music to.
Thank you for taking the time to read or glance through my review. I hope it is useful in some shape or form. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a note below. Thank you again!