Pioneer SE-CH9T Dynamic Earphone Review
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Pioneer’s a big player in the audio field, and their new full size headphones certainly went down well at London’s recent Canjam event. They’ve other smaller offerings too, such as the in-ear SE-CH9T; we take a listen.
- Removable cable
- Mic/control for answering calls
- Well controlled bass
- Pouch included
- Relative lack of accessories
- Sound lacks refinement/detail
Design and Appearance
The outward appearance of the cosily-named SE-CH9T is fairly standard, although on closer inspection the capsules look like they’re half Shure SE215 and half SoundMAGIC E10. There’s a fairly small Shure-like capsule which looks to give some space behind the driver; this works in conjunction with the ‘air-flow control port’ to usher out all those unwanted reflections within. Leading to the actual sound nozzle, there’s a striking copper-coloured aluminium protrusion which itself houses an inner nozzle made of brass. This ‘enables tight and punchy bass’ according to the packaging.
There is a mic/control on the cable; this is of the single button type, so no volume controls. The SE-CH9T is suitable for use with both Android and Apple handsets though, and is removable with MMCX connectors.
It’s generally a sensible, understated design but for the copper-coloured nozzles which give a splash of flamboyance.
Durability and Build Quality
The SE-CH9T is a very well constructed earphone. The twisted cable is strong and pliable; the 90 degree jack is small and stylish and strain reliefs look as if they get the job done. As with a few other similar designs however, no such strain reliefs are on the mic/control unit, perhaps they are not so crucial in the middle of a cable.
Accessories are minimal; a pouch is provided along with a selection of eartips and two ‘connector shields’ which we think go over the ends of the cable where they meet the capsules. We’re not sure why though.
Once a comfortable fit is achieved, the earphones can be as good as forgotten. For this reviewer, a shallow fit works best as the sound nozzles are relatively wide at around 7mm in diameter. A deep insertion is not an option here, but may be for you.
The cable is supple and doesn’t offer any resistance to movement, but there is a chin slider to prevent any unruly cable behaviour, if needed.
The Pioneer SE-CH9T is a bit of a break from recent bass-heavy models such as the SE-CX8, release a couple of years back. Overall the presentation is on the warm side of neutral, with a bit of bass emphasis and upper midrange presence too. The sound has a certain ‘ungarnished’ quality about it.
Extension is low with the bass; it’s wide and deep, but there’s no more of it than necessary to add a touch of rumble if called upon. Bass is well controlled and tight; there seems to be a bit of a gap where it gives way to higher frequencies though; this isn’t a deal breaker but makes the midrange appear slightly detached from the bass.
The slightly forward upper-midrange gives an impression of a clean and accurate sound; it tends to pick up instruments like brass, percussion and electric piano rather than male vocals, although female vocals do get a bit of ‘centre stage’ treatment. There’s a decent amount of detail here, but there is also a touch of graininess, or lack of detail which carries on up into the treble.
The balance of the SE-CH9T’s treble with the other frequencies makes it almost understated and relaxed; it’s a pretty smooth transtion from the upper midrange but the treble prefers sitting in the shade. The treble does lack refinement, but Pioneer decided not to make up for this by emphasising these frequencies, and that’s pretty welcome.
- Soundstage and Separation
There is a good breadth to the sound, but instruments are less distinct than they could be. The harmonics which help to give instruments their character and form are not clear enough, and we’re left with a slightly smeary presentation with the instruments overlapping and bleeding into each other. It’s not unpleasant, but there are earphones at this price which do this better.
Music genres good for and why
The strengths of the SE-CH9T lie in the bass and midrange regions, but the tight bass wins out. Modern dance, R&B and pop will do well, with acoustic and classical taking second place. There’s a danger of the sound seeming a bit lean if there is not a fair level of bass warmth in the recording.
Pioneer’s new SE-CH9T earphones are pretty straight-laced if compared to some previous models such as the ‘Club Sound’ SE-CX8, and we’re tempted to suggest that Pioneer is growing up. However since Pioneer turns 80 next year, we won’t.