ThieAudio Legacy 9

Precogvision

Reviewer at Headphones.com
Pros: massive globs of bass
- sparkly, splashy treble
- solid upgrade over Legacy 3
Cons: lacks resolution
- plethora minor issues with tuning
- not for bassheads

Introduction

Thieaudio is a sub-brand of Linsoul, and they have two lineups: Their all-BA Voyager lineup and their Legacy, hybrid lineup. To this effect, the Legacy 9 (L9) is using 1DD+8BA and retails for $549. After my previous experiences with their Voyager 14 and Legacy 3 IEMs, let's just say my expectations going into listening the L9 were...not very high. Both of those other IEMs have what I can only describe as "cucked" midranges. But despite the low bar set by its predecessors, I do think that the L9 is at least a solid IEM that is perhaps not quite conducive to its asking price.

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The Tangibles

I’m not going to allocate too much time here just because this is a loaned unit, and I didn’t receive any packaging by my own request. Build quality seems good to me. The L9 is of average size for an IEM (think original Moondrop Blessing size), and it weighs very little. Personally, I had no issues with the fit but that's 100% subject to one's own, unique ear canals.

Sound Analysis

Disclaimer: This unit was kindly lended to me by a member of the audio community. At the end of the demo period, it will be returned to him. I have no other conflict of interest, and as usual what follows are my honest thoughts.

Testing Methodology:
  • Tripowin C8 cable and silicon tips. I’m sure one could tip-roll to adjust the sound signature to somewhat better align with their preferences.
  • FLAC files off of a Shanling M0.
  • Burn-in – I don’t really believe in it unless we’re talking about your brain and ears getting used to the sound. For what its worth, I rarely hear differences after the fact, and this was a loaner anyways.
  • The L9 takes very little power to drive, and I had no issues driving it off of any of my sources.
Bass: The L9 has a strong bass emphasis, probably bordering on bass-head levels. Admittedly, I am a bit of a bass-head, so I very much enjoy this. That being said, the bass is not the cleanest. Having recently listened to the Sony IER-Z1R, which is basically the bass-head IEM endgame, it's clear to me that the L9 lacks a lot of control in the lower frequencies. I hear good texture, rumble, and extension, but the attack transients just aren't as pronounced as they should be. Furthermore, if you're not a bass-head, it could definitely come across as bloated or as having too much quantity.

Midrange: There's not much to talk about here, and coming from the Legacy 3's midrange - which I couldn't stand - that's definitely a good thing. Vocals come across as thick and smooth on the L9. Nothing outright wrong and nothing particularly noteworthy.

Highs: Damn, I love the L9's treble. I've sometimes heard of treble being described as "sparkly" and I never really understood that sentiment, perhaps because of my limited experience with IEMs. Well, now I do. The L9's treble zings, sparkles, and splashes with good extension. It's most definitely present, and I love the detail and air it adds. That being said, I acknowledge that it might offend some who prefer a more muted treble response.

Overall, the L9 has a warm, dark tonality. There's a little bit of BA timbre but nothing too egregious. I think you'll notice that I'm a bit split on the L9's frequency response. I've pointed out more than a couple deficiencies with it, and yet it aligns really well with some qualities I desire. But as much as I (subjectively) like the L9's tonality, its technicalities do leave something to be desired. Imaging and soundstage are decidedly average, and in general, resolution is only decent. It's also not the fastest IEM, particularly in the bass response which can slightly lag behind the midrange. It doesn't do anything blatantly wrong here...and yet, I can't help but feel that it's lacking something especially at its price point.

Select Comparisons

Versus the L3 ($119), the L9 has a more powerful bass boost that is slightly less controlled, a thicker midrange, and much more sparkle in the treble. Both are warmer, darker listens and the L9 suffers less from timbre coloration. In terms of technicalities, the L9 also handily edges out the L3. It's a clear upgrade minus being several times the L3's price.

Versus the Fearless Audio S8 Pro ($489), from memory the S8 is more in-your-face. While the L9 has more quantity to the bass, the S8 Pro's treble is more pronounced and verges on aggressive at times. Mids on the L9 are thicker and less textured. Both suffer from BA timbre to a certain extent. While I prefer the tone of the L9, the S8 Pro has a clear advantage in terms of technical performance and is a good deal faster. The S8 Pro is the better value, but some may find it too aggressive.

Versus the Moondrop Blessing 2 ($320), once again the L9 has more bass quantity (yeah, it's one bassy boi), but the B2 has more control in the low-end. The midrange on the B2 is thinner and cleaner. For me, the L9 has the advantage in the highs because of its sparkle, but that's more so personal preference. The B2 is also the clear winner in terms of technicalities. They're very different IEMs, but in the most objective sense possible, the B2 is the better IEM not even taking into account the price differential.

Test Tracks (just some of the ones I used)
  • Brooks and Dunn – Red Dirt Road
  • Ekali – Cage
  • IU – Blueming
  • Jason Aldean – Talk About Georgia
  • Keith Urban – Sweet Thing, Kiss a Girl
  • Kelsea Ballerini – Needy
  • Lee Brice – Love Like Crazy
  • Sabai – Million Days
  • SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] – REMEMBER, e of S
  • Taeyeon – My Voice (Album)
The Verdict

The more hours I put on the L9, the more I realize that it's in a bit of a weird spot. It doesn't seem to play especially well with any of the genres that I regularly listen to, sans perhaps EDM. It's neither an analytical IEM nor a laid-back IEM due to its booming bass and sparkly treble. There's also a lot of reservations that one should have about the L9's tonality - particularly the boosted bass response - and it's not the greatest technical performer either. For these reasons, I don't think it's competitive at its $550 asking price, and a couple of the select comparisons I outlined above are good examples of why.

And yet, the L9's not a bad IEM at all. In fact, it's probably my favorite IEM out of the Thieaudio lineup so far, although in all fairness I only lasted five minutes with the V14 before handing it back to its owner. To this effect, the L9's mostly a guilty-pleasure IEM for me. So while I can't really recommend the L9, I can't say I dislike it, and if the tonality sounds like something that would float your boat - then why not?

Score: 5.5/10 (Good)
Understanding my scoring: This is a personal, subjective assessment of an IEM’s sound quality. I don’t take into account any other factors, and it's relative to the absolute best sound I've heard. Take it with a grain of salt! I’m not going to lie; I have high standards. But I’m not telling anybody how they should hear something – it’s a reflection of what of me, myself, and I hear.
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GrandNagus50
GrandNagus50
Why did you only last five minutes with the V14?
Precogvision
Precogvision
@GrandNagus50 Been a long time since I’ve listened to it, but IIRC it had a huge midrange suckout, sounded telephonic. Might’ve just been the setting it was on, I didn’t have the chance to play with the pins. It’s supposedly pretty solid tho.
N
Nathanial
Does anyone have any opinions on whether a used pair for circa 250 usd would be worth buying to complement a more analytical neutral IEM like the Moondrop S8?
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