Someone was kind enough to let me demo their M9 for a couple days! Didn’t have the time to put together a full review as such, but here are some my general thoughts and impressions.
For some context, the IER-Z1R is one of my favorite IEMs; Sony struck gold with whatever they did to achieve such coherency in a hybrid. And in a similar vein, Sony’s really done something special with the M9’s timbre. Coming off the VE8, it feels distinctly different – in a good way. Both run neutral-warm and are colored, but the M9’s mostly devoid of that plasticky feeling, those BA artifacts. So much so that I could almost see it being mistaken for DD. The bass clearly benefits from whatever they’ve done too. It’s leagues ahead of most BA responses with some actual weight behind it minus a slight bloat. Not quite a substitute, and far from being a Z1R, but it’s good. The midrange is passable enough; I do hear the occasional sibilance or screechiness on some tracks. Rare, but when it comes out, it’s very obvious. As for the treble, I like it! It works rather well with the M9, and I wonder why Vision Ears couldn’t do the same with the VE8 which rolls off. This is what I wanted the VE8 to be, but it just wasn’t.
In terms of intangibles, the interesting thing to me is that the M9 isn’t fast. Like the Z1R, it seems to lean toward the slower side. Speed and technical ability generally go hand-in-hand, but this is one of the exceptions. It’s certainly not lacking anything when it comes to imaging or layering capability.
My main criticism of the M9 is the lack of depth. In particular, it often feels like vocals struggle to diffuse from the head-stage, and they’re sort of just left floating there. Neither in your face, nor pushed back enough to make it feel like the vocalist is truly in front of you. In tandem with the more laidback tonality, the M9 lacks some of that elusive engagement factor that lures you in, establishes you inside of the music.
Overall, though, this is a very safe IEM and probably my top pick if I had $1000. And unlike the Z1R? The M9 was designed for human ears. This one’s definitely worth your money.