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Astell & Kern x Beyerdynamic AK T9iE Review: Itty Bitty IEM Packing Punch

AK T9iE Review: this new earphone improves on a classic design and sound

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The latest collaboration between two storied audio giants, the Astell & Kern x Beyerdynamic AK T9iE sounds amazing.  Featuring an updated design based around the Beyerdynamic Xelento, this earphones reinvents a classic IEM.  With that in mind, how does it sound?  And is it worth a $1299 price tag?

Astell & Kern x Beyerdynamic AK T9iE Review: Itty Bitty IEM Packing Punch

The AK T9iE comes in a box with a carrying case, ten pairs of eartips (including three pairs of comply tips), and a 2.5mm to 3.5 mm adapter.  Sporting an MMCX connection, the T9iE uses this last accessory to plug into a standard 3.5 mm output.

Cabling comes in the form of a rugged 8-wire braided cable that feels tough and resilient.  If you short this thing out, your spirit animal may be a gorilla.

Once out of the box and in my ears, i’m impressed by the fit.  Mirroring the shape of the Xelento earphone on which it is based, the T9iE adds a bit of memory wire over the ear to help the earphone stay put.  Usually I prefer no memory wire, but AK hasn’t skimped here; the wiring does a good job of keeping things in place while remaining pliable.

The big design feature here is an enlarged bass port over previous Astell & Kern models, and a solid step up from the stock Xelento.  Furthermore, the nozzle of the earphone also features a revamped design.  Thanks to this new build, the T9iE offers more attenuated highs and a double layer of protection against earwax buildup.

For my review, I plugged tested these earphones with an iPhone, a computer, and a modded iPod.  Basically, even with a basic machine (but good source files) you will find yourself effortlessly grooving to this sound.

Low End

The AK T9iE delivers rich lows with just a bit of bite or traction in the bass. Neither bloated nor sloppy, the sound here appears tight and controlled. Solid detail works wonders for my favorite rock tracks, or anything with some action going on in the low end.  There’s just a little extra bass over the Beyerdynamic Xelento on which this earphone is based. Overall, this feels like an impressive low end.

Midrange

My first listening session reveals a slightly recessed sound in comparison to lows and highs. Instruments feel a little fuzzy and less present than in other parts of the frequency range.  However, vocals don’t seem to suffer all that much in the mids. Personally, I have a hard time enjoying earphones with a scooped midrange, but the T9iE feels like it’s compromising something here. While not horrible, it could definitely sound a little more substantial.

High End

A slight emphasis in the highs really helps the sound.  Not necessarily bright, it’s just got a little something special going on in the higher frequencies.  Guitars and strings in general seem to gain something here, but so do vocals. Even Neil Young’s wailing harmonica on “Out on the Weekend” seems a little more vibrant and plaintive. A good compliment to the low end, these highs are definitely a step up from those on the Xelento.

Soundstage

There’s some good soundstage here.  Not as good as an over-ear open-back headphone, but for an IEM I can’t complain. While not vast or completely three dimensional, the soundstage still feels fairly wide. Sources and instruments seem spaced apart from one another. And, even where they might overlap, the sound still remains clear enough for unbridled enjoyment.

Summary

If you’re looking for a solid earphone with impressive lows, a thick bass response, and detail that just won’t quit, look no further.  While the mids might not be everything I want them to be, it’s still an impressive sound and one that doesn’t skip on fun.  If you’re into rock, hip-hop, or electronica, you’re going to dig this sound.

 

Headphone Dungeon Score

4 skulls

I really wanted to give this earphone a full five skulls.  But I had to dock one due to the mids.  This single flaw did upset my listening sessions to a degree. That being said, folks who prefer a more scooped midrange will still enjoy this energetic little earphone.

Get the Beyerdynamic T9iE for the best price here:

Audio46

Amazon

Specifications

 Transducer Type  Dynamic, Moving-Coil
Operation Principle Closed
Frequency Response 8 – 48,000Hz (TBD)
Impedance 16 Ohm
Total Harmonic Distortion < 0.2%
Power Handling Capacity 10mW
Sound Coupling to the Ear Intra-aural
Cables 4N pure silver and 7N Copper hybrid 2.5mm 4-pole cable, 2.5mm to 3.5mm interconnector
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