| Balanced Armature | Bass Exciter |
? The Pioneer SE-CX9 is their top of the line earphone having the “Bass Exciter” technology. The bass exciter is a vibration system made by Pioneer that is hold inside the earphone that mimics the bass and sub-bass vibrations. Although it may sound like a toyish gimmick, let me tell you a spoiler… the bass exciter technology is amazing.
The bass exciter… mimics the bass and sub-bass vibrations
The Pioneer SE-CX9 and SE-CX8 models may share identical design, size and both make use of the “Bass Exciter” technology but they differ from each other on the inside. The SE-CX9 holds a balanced armature and the SE-CX8 has a 9.4mm dynamic driver. The sound signature is different between them and apparently they must be using a different bass exciter inside each model as they do not impact equally strong. The balanced armature inside the SE-CX9 gives it a more bright signature and the 9.4mm of the SE-CX8 gives it a more bassy signature. E
xactly the same as we talked about on our Pioneer SE-CX8 review, The Pioneer SE-CX9 comes with a MMCX detachable flat cable with microphone and 3 buttons (Play/Pause, Volume Up, Volume Down), the cable is red on the rear side and black on the front side. The MMCX cable is heavy duty, plugs firmly and fits seamlessly with the aesthetics of the earpieces but unfortunately it adds a lot of weight to the earphones as they are pretty heavy for an iem cable. It is nice to see that Pioneer adopted the solid and very diffused MMCX interface because in case that you dislike the cable you can just buy any MMCX cable on the market and use it with the Pioneer SE-CX9.
Pioneer sells them in a Silver metal finish color combined with red details.
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Accessories & Packaging
Out of the box besides the MMCX cable you get an oval carrying case, 3 pairs of silicon eartips and an airplane adapter all inside a polished and well designed box.
Bass & Sub Bass
To mimic the sub-bass low frequency vibrations, the Pioneer SE-CX9 uses a vibrating technology named “bass exciter”, it does not reproduce sub-bass sound frequency it just emulates the vibrations you could feel from sub-bass.
Equalizing and/or amplifying is a good way to push the gas pedal of the bass exciter
The bass exciter needs to be fed with high volume levels to start working, at low volumes the bass exciter will not be felt. Equalizing and/or amplifying is a good way to push the gas pedal of the bass exciter. Pioneer has been conservative with the specified maximum power of 100mW as the Pioneer SE-CX9 can handle massive quantities of power from an amplifier. As a reference, coupling it to a Fiio E12 on high gain, bass boost turned on and basshead equalized you can crank the Fiio E12 up to 50% to 55% of its maximum power (that is a lot more than 100mW) without getting any distortion but you will loose highs and mids, read more on about this on the next paragraph.
The equipped balanced armature does not provide strong enough bass nor sub-bass
It may surprise you when you get this earphone, from one side you will have the super innovative technology of the “bass exciter” tickling and shaking inside your ears but at the same time you will feel that the bass is lacking, a strange sensation coming from the lack of a dynamic driver to reproduce consistent bass with depth and body. The equipped balanced armature does not provide strong enough bass nor sub-bass. If you push the Pioneer SE-CX9 to basshead limits equalizing to emphasize sub-bass and amplifying, you will get the worst of this earphone as the bass exciter inside the SE-CX9 is the strongest of all models making the ear canal shakiness extreme but at the same time being the sound muffled with no mids nor highs. Fortunately Pioneer made more than one model of “bass exciter” line and the Pioneer SE-CX8 does not suffer from these bass and sub-bass problems, it actually shines at it, you can read more in detail about it in our review of the Pioneer SE-CX8.
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Mids & Vocals
Mids are present and vocals are clear as far as you don’t push the iem for extreme bass. The balanced armature inside the SE-CX9 reproduces mids and vocals fine but nothing spectacular in comparison with other balanced armature iems.
Highs & Treble
Highs are present, certainly not recessed. The SE-CX9 is a bright earphone (only becomes dark when pushed into basshead land), if you are not into bright sound signature and prefer less peaks on high frequencies, take a look at the Pioneer SE-CX8.
These iems have a low quantity of sound leakage even at medium volumes.
You can block outside noises without problem with the SE-CX9 thanks to the tight fit and big housing size.
Very big and heavy are the words that better define this earphones. The earpieces are gigantic and protrude a lot from the ears, they are substantially heavy as well, but to be fair the actual heavy component of the SE-CX9 is the MMCX cable, the earpieces alone are not heavy. Both earpieces have a sort of rigid fixed angle “wing” to secure the fit in the ear, but unfortunately this “wing” makes your ear sore after a mid to long period of time wearing the earphones.
Response to Equalization
The Pioneer SE-CX9 respond well to equalization but not greatly like its small brother the Pioneer SE-CX8. At normal listening you can get a good response equalizing the SE-CX9 but if you push them for bass the balanced armature is just unable to respond and keep up with the bass exciter.
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BUY IT AT:
- Accessories - 10/1010/10
- Design - 10/1010/10
- Bass - 6.5/106.5/10
- Mids - 7.5/107.5/10
- Highs - 6.5/106.5/10
- Sound Leak - 9/109/10
- Sound Isolation - 8/108/10
- Comfort - 8/108/10
- Response to EQ - 6.5/106.5/10
- Value for Money - 8/108/10
- Bass Exciter provides an unique experience that no Dynamic driver or balanced armature can match
- Clear sound at normal volumes
- Solid construction
- Bass Exciter overpowers balanced armature when eqed, amped and pushed for bass, resulting in a muffled sound
- MMCX cable is too heavy and stiff
- Uncomfortable after a while of continuous use
- The Pioneer SE-CX9 will fulfill the needs of sub-bass shake lovers (though not true sub-bass) who do not own or do not want to use an amp. The SE-CX9 are a great iem because of its bass exciter, without it they would be mediocre and too expensive. If you want the bass exciter on a better package go for the Pioneer SE-CX8
Thanks to the jaw-dropping impact of the Bass Exciter technology, the Pioneer SE-CX9 have a top position in the Best Basshead Earphones Charts
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|Type||Balanced Armature with Bass Exciter|
|Driver Unit||Balanced Armature + Bass Exciter|
|Cord||Detachable MMCX Y-type, flat cord|
|Plug||L shaped stereo mini plug|
|Weight (Without Cord)||Approx. 13g|
|Supplied Accessories||2x Earphone tips (silicone) S, M, L Carrying case, detachable MMXC cable with microphone, in-flight plug adapter|
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