Last week I made a bit of an impulse buy. I was not really in the market for new in hear earbuds/monitors but I bought some. Previously I had been using the older of my 2 pair of Sennheiser CX300s. I have had these for probably 4-5 years and really liked them. Recently I thought one ear as not outputting as much sound as the others and they had become more muddy in tone. I have been listening to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks recently so it was still ok. Well I was browsing around on Slickdeals and saw a thread all about new in ear monitors in this under $30 price range. Recently it seems that there are a lot of new upstart companies that are making fantastic sounding products for fractions of the price.
The build quality of the M9s are quite good. The heads are a hard metal shell and the metal looks to be anodized. I ended up with the silver buds because they were a little cheaper than black. The cord seems pretty sturdy. It is kind of slick feeling so hopefully this helps avoid knots. The cord is in a Y configuration. This is a personal preference but I much prefer the J cord style of the CX300’s. This will take a little getting use to. The plug end is bent at a 45 degree angle and I think this will work well for people who wrap the phones around a device or put the device in a pocket while using it. For my devices its a nice tight fit that really clicks in. The one area I can ding build quality is the speaker grill area. On my CX300’s its made of a wire mesh, on the M9 it looks to be a cardboard cover. I am a little concerned with how this will hold up over time, especially with sweat. I like to wear my IEM while biking.
I would categorize myself somewhere between enthusiast and audiophile. I don’t have the budget to spend thousands on speakers and headphones every year but do enjoy quality. I would say I favor bass but like crisp clear full range either. Muddy strong bass for me is a pass. I tested with a variety of music. I am recently into electronic,dubstep, house stuff, but balanced this with Tech N9ne new album “All 6’s & 7’s” because of the hard hitting base but sharp clear fast lyrics. I also used Silversun Pickups, Incubus, and John Mayer. The later because this is an excellently mastered album with fine detail in the guitars.
The M9’s are advertised as for bass heads and I would not argue with that. The bass is strong but not overpowering for my taste. The bass improved as the headphones burned in (See below) the bass becamse more accurate and cleaner. The mids and highs are very crisp, with the highs maybe being too crisp and strong for my liking. This can be improved with EQ but isnt a huge thing. I think I will get use to it the more I listen. I prefer the crispness to the not as crisp mids and highs of my CX300s.
The soundstage is pretty good for in ear ear buds. Its no where nearly as large as my Sennheiser 595 cans but there is several factors of price difference too. The soundstage is large and improvement over the cx300’s.
These headphones do need a burn in period in my opinion. I was not impressed with them on first listen but I played music through them over night for 2 nights and the phones improved quite a bit. Tones mellowed out and some of the harshness of the mids and highs wore off. I would think the more I use them the more this will improve.
Fit/Noise Reducing ability
Many people do not like in ear headphones because of the fit. They say they the sound quality is poor. This is 100% down to fit. Companies need to really stress this in instructions. Without the proper fit all in ear earbuds will sound terrible. The proper fit transforms them. This said I am still experimenting with the fit of my M9’s. I really want the double flanged versions to work for me but I don’t think it will for me because they are a bit large. I do wish they had a couple of sizes of the double flanged versions but for the money your still getting a great value.
These are a ported design. The port is directly opposite of the speaker driver. It is a small hole in the metal housing. My CX300s were sealed and this worked great for noisy things and riding my bike into the wind. The ported design of the M9 still seemed to work pretty well when mowing but I did have some trouble when riding my bike. The wind noise was more noticeable than I expected. I may stick with my second pair of CX300s when riding at windy times.
The amount of extras these come with is impressive for the price. The case is nice, I don’t see using it much as its not big enough to put a phone or ipod touch into, but you could fit a shuffle easily into it. The airplane adapter is super nice. I have always wanted one of these but don’t travel enough to buy one. Looking forward to trying it out. They came with 3 sizes of one flange ear tips in the bass boost (black) silicone, 1 size of double tip bass boos material. Also 1 pair of double flange tips in a balanced silicone (gray). I found the little covers a little hard to fit on but they all seem to stay.
Comparison to the CX300’s
My CX300’s have been my old reliable workhorse. I do everything in them without worry. I accepted their falts of having some muddy sound (Part of this was due the excessive wear I think I might have on my original pair). I must say that the new M9’s are better just about everywhere and I wont hesitate recommending these to anyone in the market for in ear buds for $20.
I bought my M9’s at Amazon for $16.99 and for the money I would say these are a fantastic value. These are so much better than any of the included headphones that come with any music player it really should be an automatic upgrade for anyone. While I have not experienced the really high end in earbuds and IEM’s I can say that the M9’s as a whole are the best I have heard. They are not without falts but I think I will get use to some of these. Time will tell how much I end up using them in the next few months. For less than $20 its very hard to go wrong.
Will update with a photo tonight.