• Pioneer SE-CX9 Review

    April 11, 2015 Luckbad 0

    First Impressions

    I just received the Pioneer SE-CX9-S.

    I was expecting the bass exciter to be a gimmick.

    It is.

    But Holy F.

    Crank the EQ up on these, and it shakes like MAD. The bass is actually quite clear too.

    It has a good balanced armature driver and overall good quality, and the bass exciter actually does what it promises. Shakes your ear canals.

    I assumed I’d be returning these with a smug look on my face. I only bought them because they’re $130 right now (usually ~$250).

    I’ve spent about 15 minutes with them in my ears, and I’m considering the very real possibility that these could become my primary basshead IEMs.

    What. The. Crap.

    It checks all the (annoying) boxes that try to make it popular. Red and Black. Brushed aluminum. Marketing-speak Bass Exciter. In-line microphone.

    As far as IEMs that rock your canals with bass go, these are absolutely right at the top. I can feel the bass in my foot that’s resting against the side of my desk. I’m starting my comparison now with the HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2 and Audio Technica ATH-CKS1000.

    I really want this earphone to lose with all its friggin’ gimmicks. I’m not confident that it will.

    Some time passed…

    I’ve spent some more time with the Pioneer SE-CX9 and compared them directly to HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2 and Audio Technica ATH-CKS1000.

    The Bass Exciter is real life. It provides the most visceral impact of any IEM I’ve experienced.

    The Balanced Armature units provide very clear audio. Very little mud between the bass and mids. But it doesn’t reach as deep as I first thought.

    The reason, it seems, is that the BA driver can’t exactly do what a Dynamic driver can do. It doesn’t dive into your chest and make you short of breath.

    Without EQ, the SE-CX9 has virtually no bass hit at all. It’s not exactly balanced, as it’s still colored toward bass a bit, but you have to EQ up your music and crank the volume a bit to get to the point that the Bass Exciter kicks in to feel anything.

    If the Bass Exciter did not exist, these would be nowhere close to a Basshead headphone. This earphone has actually made me far more curious about the Pioneer SE-CX8, because it uses Dynamic Drivers and might provide the deep-reaching bass rumble AND impact in one package (at the expense of clarity, most likely).

    The Wooduo 2 and ATH-CKS1000 both have more of a deep, throaty breathtaking quality to them than the SE-CX9. Neither have the visceral canal-shaking impact of the Pioneer’s Bass Exciter, though.

    If you want clear mids and highs presented by good Balanced Armature drivers and the skull-rattling physical shaking sensation, these are probably exactly what you’re after. If you want your chest to feel compressed from bass, lean toward the Wooduo 2 (or something else entirely… see the Top 10 list for current recommendations).

    The Pioneer SE-CX9 is a unique earphone. It pairs crystal clarity with visceral bass impact, which is what many people are after. I’m surprised these aren’t far more popular.

    That said, I’m willing to accept a little muddiness to make it feel like I’m having trouble breathing from the bass, so I’ll ultimately exchange these IEMs for the SE-CX8 to see if those have what I’m looking for.

    Note that you must use EQ to engage the Bass Exciter (otherwise you’d have to turn the volume up way too high–as it is, I have to go louder than I’d prefer to start feeling the bass). Without it, these are not basshead earphones, but they still sound good. If you don’t have EQ and seek bass impact, Wooduo 2 are the best I’ve heard, and still give you pretty nice bass at low volumes.

    Pioneer SE-CX9 Specifications

    Headphone Type Fully Enclosed with Balanced Armature and Exciter
    Frequency Response 6 – 25,000 Hz
    Impedance 20 Ω
    Maximum Input Power 100 mW
    Sensitivity 101 dB/mW
    Driver Units Diameter Balanced Armature driver
    Plug 3.5 mm 4P mini-plug (gold plated)
    Cable Length 1.2 m (detachable OFC Litz wire with lock-function)
    Weight 0.46 oz (without cord)


    If you’re looking for clear, balanced armature sound and a visceral bass impact (but not chest-heaving depth), these are a great option, and unique in their ability to remain clear while shaking your ear canals. At $129 (the price at Amazon when purchased), they are a great deal as well. Be ready to use an equalizer to get that bass impact, and be aware that low listening volumes will not yield any head shaking. Caveats, sure, but these surprised me as perhaps the best articulate basshead IEM available. They are a class unto themselves for the Refined Basshead.

    See my Top Basshead IEMs list for more info on bass-heavy IEMs I’ve tested thoroughly.

    Some Basshead IEMs (that Basshead.Club has heard as of this very moment)

    • Pioneer SE-CX9 – Very good full range clarity coupled with visceral bass impact. BA drivers sound good, but you don’t feel the bass in your chest. However, if you want clear music with the most significant ear canal shaking you can obtain in an IEM, these are for you. Requires ample EQ and volume–the Bass Exciter does nothing until you feed it enough bass and volume. You’ll know when you hit the right amount of bass EQ, because it’s like turning a switch on that says “I want my ear canals to be in an earthquake please.” These are pretty bulky and heavy, so if that’s a concern for you, you might want to skip them.
    • HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2 – Small, wooden, surprising. These have quite a bit of bass out of the box and respond well to EQ. The overall sound signature is not as clear as the Pioneer or Audio Technica, but they do the best job of taking your breath away when reaching down into the deepest reaches of bass. If all you’re after is bass impact and depth, these offer the best combination that I’ve heard. Driver flex appears to be common with these–I have to pull the left earphone slightly out after insertion or the driver stays flexed.
    • Audio Technica ATH-CKS1000 – Dual Chamber bass gimmick. But, it works. These can get down deep into the sub-bass region with ample EQ and provide a fair amount of hit as well. More overall clarity and versatility than the Wooduo 2 with a bit less feeling in the chest. They’re about at the halfway point between the Wooduo 2 and SE-CX9. Bulky, but lighter than the Pioneer.

    Pioneer SE-CX9

    $299 MSRP ($129.99 tested)

    Bass Impact


    Bass Depth


    Overall Sound


    Build Quality


    Reviewer Bias



    • Great bass impact
    • Good clarity
    • Shakes your canals
    • Balanced Armature
    • Good across entire frequency spectrum


    • Heavy/bulky
    • Lacks some bass depth
    • Requires significant EQ/volume
    • Mild bass at low volumes
    • List price is too high ($299)

    Categories: Basshead IEM, Reviews

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    Drop the Bass

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