fjlabs

Head-Fier
A technically strong set with treble and upper mid-range focus
Pros: - Very clear and detailed treble
- Excellent treble extension for near-perfect technicalities
- Forward upper mid-range and female vocals
- No sibilance
- Cohesive low-end
Cons: - Lacking in bass quantity
- Slightly blurred lower-mid's
- Higher-than-usual Chi-fi price
- Caution for the treble-sensitive
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Introduction

The EJ09’s are Shuoer’s latest entry into the flagship tribrid market. Sporting one 10mm dynamic driver, 3 Knowles balanced armatures, 1 Sonion BA, and 4 Sonion electret drivers, there is a lot crammed into this shell. At the rather comfortable $1,260 for the UIEM version and $1,425 for the CIEM version, there better be a lot in this IEM. Luckily, Shuoer has done a very admirable tuning this complex mix of drivers into a set that is bright and detailed and I’d characterize the EJ09’s as a “reference”-class monitor [despite hating that word].

The Shuoer EJ09 CIEM was payed by me entirely out of pocket at full retail price. I have not and will not be compensated in any way for this review. All thoughts are my own after listening to the EJ09’s for around a week nonstop.

This review is an extension to my initial thoughts over at the
Impressions Thread

I ordered the CIEM version directly through Shuoer with custom faceplate artwork and custom work on the shell itself. The stock universal version does not look like this for obvious reasons.

The Basics
The EJ09’s come in Shuoer’s new upgraded packaging and carrying case. You get a square gray box that is built much like an Apple product’s box. Inside you’ll find a generous combination of S/M/L silicone eartips in two materials, as well as M/L foam tips. Further down, you’ll find a very hefty milled aluminum case that’s unbranded apart from the Shuoer logo on the bottom. This is one of the sturdiest stock IEM cases I’ve had yet, but as a complete block of aluminum, that’s to be expected. The insides are lined with a silicone or rubber padding material to keep the IEM’s damage free. The case is way too big to be pocket friendly, but hey, it’s a nice to have. You also get a tiny little brush.

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The IEM’s also come with a brand new pure silver cable exclusive to the EJ09’s. The conductors are pure monocrystalline silver, surrounded by a silver plated copper shielding. Despite using primarily plastic hardware across the cable, it actually feels rather nice in the hand and is quite durable. The plastic is optically clear, a nice departure from the usual plastic connectors. The cable is soft and flexible in the hand and has a very nice feel to it overall. However, there is definitely room for improvement here, the cable retains kinks depending on how it’s stored. My current cable still has some pesky bends that haven’t completely flattened out despite being used for one week already. As well, the cable itself is a little bit on the thin side which goes against my preference for larger and thicker cables. Owing to the thinness, the cable picks up more electromagnetic interference from nearby cellphones, microwaves, Tesla coils, etc… than other cables I’ve tried in my collection. Neither of those things are dealbreakers though, and I still like this cable a lot.

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The Sound — Listening in Isolation
My initial impressions on getting the EJ09’s were a little rough. However, after two days of continuous burn in, the EJ09’s seem to have settled down into a very nice signature. Overall, this is a bright IEM—no getting around that. The 09’s are treble-forward and therefore present with a liveliness and energy that steals your attention.

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The Treble
The standout of the EJ09’s is certainly its excellent treble response and outstanding extension. Looking at the forest before the trees first, the relatively high pinna gain on the 09’s should caution those that are treble-sensitive to turn away. The tiny peak at 3kHz is occasionally noticeable, but the peak definitely calmed down after burn-in. The smooth elevation between 1kHz and 3kHz makes the set overall sound very crisp and light. The electrets carry their weight throughout the upper whistle register past 8kHz with ease, unlike some sister implementations. The 5kHz to 8kHz right on the boundary of the crossover remains sibilance free and presents a smooth and brilliant sound.

Now, for the trees. One of the immediately apparent things with the 09’s is the clarity, forwardness, and air they present busy passages. (See Hands Like Houses, This Ain’t No Place for Animals). The breakdown beginning at 1:28 is where many lower clarity sets struggle to maintain definition and a feeling of individuality of notes. This is especially true when high energy cymbal strikes are thrown into the mix at 1:34, in the background of the ridiculously intense passage. Many less-defined sets blur the entire passage into a singular tsunami of sound rather than individual attacks. Even compared to the EJ07’s [an already detailed set], the EJ09’s presented the background cymbals with a lightness and airiness that gets lost on the 07’s.

We find a very similar results on entirely synthetic tracks where clarity comes in handy. (See Seori, Trigger; Itzy, Not Shy; Dreamcatcher, Odd Eye). The hi-hats present throughoutTrigger” with not only aggression like they should but also an actual feeling of “emptiness” in between each of them. The immediacy of electret’s transient response really comes out to shine in situations like “Trigger.” Itzy’s “Not Shy” benefits in a slightly different way in the chorus. Once again, less defined sets loose much of the intricate hi-hat detail present following the whistling tone at 0:48. The EJ09’s keep the treble detail [primarily on the right] exceptionally crisp while still keeping the vocals forward. Moving to Dreamcatcher’s “Odd Eye,” the high-energy snaps starting at 0:20 come off sharp and with a quick leading and trailing edge.

While the EJ09’s delivery an exceptionally detailed and nuanced treble register, the raw amount of treble may sometimes bring about issues on tracks with large amounts of sharp transients near the whistle register. (See Coheed & Cambria, Colors, 1:40). While not completely unlistenable like pre-burn in, the stick hits at 1:40 on the left still have a such a sharpness and liveliness that detracts from the rest of the chorus. This does not present itself with warmer and darker sets like the EJ07. We have a somewhat similar problem with Kesha’s “Tik Tok” [that’s a name that hasn’t been brought up in a while]. Each chorus features a repetitive hi-hat that is brought forward that draws attention and detracts from immersion. At very high listening volumes, the hats in this song in particular devolves into piercing and overwhelming, practically eviscerating the tonal balance and making you worry about your eardrums instead of enjoy the experience.

The Upper Mid’s
Having struggling to think about the “mid’s’ as an entire block, I feel inclined to break up them up into upper and lower mid’s. The driver configuration of the 09’s would seem to mirror this idea, with a Dual Knowles BA handling what I would consider to be upper mid and low-treble. In this range, I find primarily higher octave instruments and female soprano vocals.

One of the primary stand-outs of the entire EJ09’s signature is the fluidity and importance it gives to female vocalists across genres. (See Ailee, When We Were In Love). Ailee’s powerful vocals at the second half of the song place themselves well above the accompaniment and her head-voice takes on a shimmering quality. Her vocal vibrato [throughout, really] at 2:44 and 2:50 are much more accentuated on the EJ09’s than its sister set. Breathy vocals take on an ethereal trail to them while still remaining forward and assertive. (See Nature, Girls). The first pre-chorus at 0:54 has a reverb that comes off as longer and more lively than on the EJ07’s.

Deviating a little from the Tidal track-list, AleXa and Sonnet Son’s cover of “Sway with Me” presents an interesting study between the upper mid’s and lower mid’s [below]. Starting at 2:30, Sonnet Son’s sustained high note is contrasted starkly with AleXa’s chorus and the EJ09’s take that further. Sonnet Son comes through with force, power, and vigor, just teetering on the edge of overpowering. While strong, the EJ09’s remain controlled in their abilities and don’t deviate or distort the original recording as far as I can hear.

The Lower Mid’s
In contrast to the forward and strong upper mid’s, the lower mid’s seem to present a vastly different experience. Lacking a sharply defined bass shelf, the lower mid’s come out more veiled and muddy but remains very cohesive with the lower range handled by the dynamic driver.

This becomes especially present in male-vocal rock tracks, with some of the vocals blurring into the bass guitar and drums. (See Anberlin, Losing It All). Starting at 2:30, the vocals become extremely smeared with the instrumentals and become difficult to distinguish during the breakdown. It’s not to say that the vocals aren’t present. The lack of a bass shelf simply draws attention away from them. “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy also falls victim to this in certain sections, becoming especially apparent post-chorus. Some tracks are much more immune these effects though. (See Breaking Benjamin, Anthem of the Angels). The blurred lower mid’s still definitely are noticeable, but the less surrounding bass energy allow the vocals to still maintain some presence.

However, the lack of a true bass “shelf” makes the entire range sound very cohesive—almost as if the entire range was handled by just the DD. It’s extremely difficult to point to tracks that epitomize this unfortunately though as it’s all-around experience rather than an artifact of how the EJ09’s play certain tracks. Overall, the EJ09 feels more like a well-tuned single-DD set in the low-range as opposed to a hybrid design with a DD handling just the sub bass region.

The Bass
The bass on the EJ09’s is best described as a relaxed but textual experience. What the EJ09’s lack in raw bass quantity, it makes up for in bass texture and clarity, even at the extremely low ranges. Depending on the nature of the track and genre though, you may find the textural elements useless and the quantity unsatisfying. (See Excision & Illenium ft. Shallows, Gold (Stupid Love)).

The most polarized I’ve been with the EJ09’s is using them with Dubstep and similar EDM sub-genres. Being rather used to the “clubbing” scene (with earplugs, of course) these genres almost require a huge amount of sub-bass to sound fun. (See Alan Walker, Diamond Heart). Having heard this track through TAO’s PA system by Alan Walker himself not too long ago, the lack of raw sub-bass energy during the chorus left me wanting. Though, at the same time, the reduction in pure rumble left much more of the range option to a sense of resolution and detail. The empty space around each of the bass synths is much more readily apparent, when your skull isn’t being rattled.

The EJ09’s also respond wonderfully to quick and sharp sub-bass notes. (See The Tech Thieves, Bang!). While raw energy is, again, lacking in the bass drop, the sheer speed at which the bass notes hit and decay make the track incredibly enjoyable. All that said, I would not classify the EJ09’s as “lean” in the Etymotic sense of the word. (See Skan, Run). The bass at 1:30 is plenty for my tastes and if more is really desired, a few dB of EQ never killed anyone.

Comparisons to the EJ07 and Technicalities
See my track-by-track breakdown against the Shuoer EJ07’s on the Impressions Thread.

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The Verdict
The big question for this set is whether it’s worth the $400 price tag increase from the si ilar Shuoer EJ07’s. For those extra $400, you get 2 additional BA’s adding to the upper range clarity. You get more treble and whistle extension focus, sacrificing a bit of articulation in the lows. These are exceptionally tonally pleasing IEM’s for people who are into treble and female vocals. The set is exceptionally technically capable and I really can’t find anything that would be a dealbreaker in these unless you’re treble-sensitive. It’s still $400 more though, but the EJ09’s remain in a price bracket that doesn’t have much that would outshine it. I would definitely get the EJ09's if I were looking in the $1200–1500 bracket as it's hard to find something comparable.
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Paramekshu
Paramekshu
Is the nozzle length at least longer than the short nozzle on the EJ07M?
fjlabs
fjlabs
@Paramekshu Yes, the UIEM nozzle is more like the original resin 07 nozzle.
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