Rose Technics QT-9 Mk2s ($249)
The Rose Technics QT-9 Mk2s ($249) was a complete blind buy for me. This audio company has done well in the past and so this set intrigued me. Every now and again I’ll throw caution to the wind and hit the “Buy Now” button. OK that may be a bit dramatic but for a $250 iem, a blind buy can be a bit risky. I don’t have all the money in the world and so when I do purchase stuff, I have an idea I will enjoy it. Good thing for myself I wasn’t dissatisfied at all.
The QT-9 Mk2s is the 3rd installment into the QT line created by the good people at Rose Technics Co. I had briefly heard the last set (QT-9) but this is the one (QT-9 Mk2s) which sparked my interest. The reason being, I was able to get this set on sale for about $200 and I know that Rose Technics puts a lot of time and thought into what they put out in the iem’verse.
So, the story goes that Rose Technics apparently employed an Ex-Fostex sound engineer to take on this line of iems. Forgive me if anything is not perfectly correct here. All of my knowledge here comes through the grapevine. Anyways, I was told that he and his team took a solid year developing the QT-9 Mk2s to sound exactly as they wanted it. Word is this engineer did all he could to replicate the sound of higher tier and pricier iems. Who knows what exactly that means, I suppose the dude did all he could over the period of a solid year to make this hybrid iem sound as good as possible. We shall see…
QT-9 Mk2s Pros
-Dynamic and clean
-Great for technicalities
-Great low end (speedy, textured, authentic)
-Lightweight yet built well
-Sleek & minimalist appearance
QT-9 Mk2s Cons
-May be fatiguing for some
-Not for Bass-Heads (not really a con)
-Note weight in some areas can be less than competitors
-BA timbre at times
-Could be considered dry
So apparently Rose Technics knows how to package their products. Very nice, this is my round of applause! I received quite a few goodies in the unboxing. They didn’t need some huge box to embellish the unboxing. In fact, nothing was wasteful. The package is a sleeve which is home to two iem cases which slide next to each other, and that’s the boxing.
Opening things up, we are awarded with two very nice hard cases, which are pictured below. Both cases are rather large for holding our precious gear and come layered internally with a felt-type lining. One case holds the Iems and the cable and the other is home to the accessories.
Inside those cases is a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter, an mmcx removal tool (don’t lose that), a four pack of filter mesh spares and the ear tips. The tips come packaged in another smaller hard case. You get small, medium and large sets of wide bore silicon tips, a pair of double flange silicones and one pair of foam tips. P.S…I swapped tips for the Final Audio E-Tips as well as KBear 07 tips.
Also in this package is a 6n OCC high purity copper cable, braided in some sort of cloth. The cable is a mmcx design which ends in a 3.5mm jack. Personally, I have no issue with the cable and did use it a bit in this review. Yet I have better cables which I like more, so I switched to the Tripowin Noire cable with its modular connections. Please understand that I saw no sonic benefit to cable swapping, simply a matter of taste and ease of use (for balanced sources). Also, the color of the Noire cable is dead-on the same as my set of QT-9’s. Aesthetically more pleasing to my eyes. All in all, nice Rose Technics.
The Qt-9 Mk2s (as I’ll call it for review purposes) is one Hybrid Driver iem amongst an ever-growing field of Hybrid Drivers. So many companies are vying for or shooting their shot at this always growing hobby. As far as build quality goes, the QT-9 Mk2s is good. Nothing which stands out as top tier or premium however. Still I don’t see any issues with build at all, all edges are smooth and very clean looking.
I certainly wouldn’t call them cheap feeling or flimsy or unpolished. I would say that I don’t see any really excessive and over the top peerlessness of the build. This set is nice though. Very light. Comes in a few different colors (Blue, Gray & Green), mine is obviously a gray color. The feel is sturdy in hand and the fitment is wonderful for me, almost dead-on perfect. As far as looks go, I love the stylish and minimalist approach here. They are understated, but also sleek and very confident in appearance. If that makes any sense.
The only thing adorning the faceplates is a romantic little cursive “Rose” written on the bottom-side of each iem. Rose Technics chose a metal Faceplate perfectly set on a crystal-clear shell. I do like the clear housing which shows off the very well put together internals. The design and layout of the internals is on full display as the high build quality is evident. Two vents are located on the bottom of the QT-9 and one vent near the cable connector. The screen mesh located at the tips is not the most appealing either. It’s simply a cheapo screen mesh. The QT-9 Mk2s is small too. Extremely small in fact. It doesn’t seem like you’d be able to cram “5” Drivers in this small shell.
The nozzle doesn’t extend very far into the ear canal. It is on the shorter side. Hence why I used the longer Final tips at times. Another set which worked nicely was the KBear 07 large tips. If you can’t go longer, go wider. The great majority of my time with this set I actually did use the 07 tips the most. Anyways I am able to get a great seal, yet I can easily see many people struggling here. Isolation may not be perfect. Thankfully for myself it was spot-on. You may need to bust out some other tips if the stock tips don’t do the trick. I honestly can’t remember a time I went with any stock tips on any review so, you too may feel the need to switch it up.
Housed inside of the shell is a 10mm Dynamic Driver constructed out of a Liquid Crystal Polymer Diaphragm. The promotional calls it a Liquid Crystal Tesla Driver and is partnered with Japanese imported voice coils. The DD handles the lows. Handling the Mids are two Balanced Armature Drivers (30018IF) as well as two more BA’s (30019HF) for the Treble region. Rose Technics states that the Balanced Armatures were imported from the United States, I don’t know exactly where though.
As far as Drivability is concerned… well there is no concern. This set can be driven from almost anything. Rated at 12 ohms and 108 dB’s the QT-9 is very easy to bring to satisfying volume and fidelity with lower powered dongle dacs and I am assuming from a phone also. I don’t have a phone with a 3.5 jack to prove this presumption but… I’m sure you’ll be happy with it.
I used this set with many different combinations of sources. Starting with the Fiio Utws5 (2 pin), I used a 2 pin to mmcx adapter which worked wonderfully, and the sound together is perfect for out and about music sessions. The Utws5 is rated at 53 mw @ 16 ohms and was easily enough to drive the QT-9. With the AK4332 dac chip these two played off each other just fine. Moving onto the IFi Go Blu was obviously a nice step up as well. I went with the Tripowin Noire cable on balanced with the Go Blu. I actually adore this set up. Jamming out in my office was so fulfilling with this match-up. Dynamics were cleaned up and extended both ways to a degree with the Go Blu. I still think the Go Blu is the best sounding BT device of its kind.
Going to a wired source using the Shanling UA2 (Also on balanced) I heard slightly cleaner dynamics and possibly a better separated staging of elements to my music. I say better but this is also me being extremely picky. I could also state that the UA2 makes notes in the midrange a slight bit leaner. Very resolute and clean but a titch thinner, of course this could also be my mind playing tricks on me.
Last but never the least is my powerful little DAP, the Ibasso Dx240 (980 mw @32 ohm) with Amp8 MK2. This will always be my favorite way to listen. I think the ES9038 Pro Dac Chip has just the right tonality to cater to the QT-9 Mk2s.
Driving the QT-9 Mk2s is no issue. Like almost anything a better source will get the most out of this set. Also, like anything, tonal pairing and synergy should always be considered, but truthfully the QT-9 paired well with everything I tried it on. Plug-her-in and enjoy.
Initial Sound Impressions
The sound I hear is like harnessed energy through and through. I would call it maybe a W-shape tonal character but there really is a dynamic balance with this set. Hovering close to that neutral point. It has a slightly warmer lower half while the upper half adds some coolness and levity.
There is a balance in the dynamic structure of the frequency. It isn’t flat… at all. Instead, there is a nice balance at the most brilliant and heightened areas of the mix. Nothing stands above any other part of the sound. Sub-bass and mid-bass, upper-mids and the highs all have a point where they are enthusiastic, highlighted and lush. At least this is what I hear as the sound is processed in my cerebral cortex. I hear liveliness which cascades, yet there is balance to that liveliness. The balance resides at its peaks. “Energetic” will always be the first word which describes this set for me.
The bass is speedy and natural, impactful yet not big, forceful while never boomy and always punchy. The midrange doesn’t sound forced and not even close to recessed. They toe the line of being a bit on the aggressive side (upper mids) but stand clear and resolute. If any area had a spotlight, it would be the Mids however. Treble is mostly in good order and extended enough. The treble has controlled shimmer while I wouldn’t consider it abundantly shimmery. Details and texture are wherever the sound makes waves, while speedy is the delivery and transparent is the final product.
Some may call this sound passive (in a mass market way) yet could never call it boring. You could say uncolored yet wouldn’t be wrong if you said bold. Confused yet? There is a refined element to the sound of this set, detailed and full yet somehow lean in places as well. A well textured and punchy demeanor with fast attack as well as decay.
There is a rich nature to any melody played through the QT-9 Mk2s, almost as though this coursing energy just sits vibrating to express itself. Oddly enough that energy isn’t here to express itself in vivacious explosive harmonics. Instead that tension stands at the ready, all to keep this replay inline and within some refined limit governed by its creators. No doubt special expertise was at play to police the rhythm and cadence of the QT-9 Mk2s. One con is… this set can get alllllmost hot! Choose your tips wisely, let your brain adapt. This may not be for everyone but… honestly what is? One thing is for sure, I really like it, and many agree with me on this.
Below: Rose Technics Ltd. Promotional Photos Copyright Rose Technics Ltd.
The 10mm LCP Dynamic Driver takes full responsibility of the low end and to me the sound is quite nice. The bass region here is nicely partitioned off from the rest of the mix, never casting a veil over anything. There is room to breathe with a bass like this. Rhythm and pace are fantastic with quick energy.
Sub-bass provides just enough buzzing rattle to provide good feedback for bass guitars and the like. The sub-bass sounds as though it is barely less in quantity, at least compared to the mid-bass. Assuredly not enough to call it lacking. “Fast Car” by Tracey Chapman sounds clean in this area. Perhaps a little lean for some but this would be a preference thing. Technically I do still hear texture in the lowest region with enough bite to notes. The speed is great here as the sub bass doesn’t shy away but keeps pace and rhythm right in step with quicker bass lines or even congested tracks. The deepest area still gives very good energy with physical feedback.
Mid-bass hits with enough clean authority. The QT-9 Mk2s replays what is given to them. The bass can have slam if slam is present. Of course, this isn’t the most bountiful or hard-edged sound. Compared to some iems which specialize in such a thing.
The mid-bass hits each mark with a nice attack and a quick but full note outline. I hear a round promptness with great tempo. Not fuzzy at all but also not completely rigid. Sometimes. Obviously, some tracks display this tendency much easier than others. Drums bang just right and are natural, defined, and never hollow. “Billie Jean” by Weezer (Michael Jackson remake) sounds absolutely fantastic. The first thing you hear is the explosive kick drum. With the QT-9 Mk2s I hear power and real authority and the quickly trailing snare drums PANG so nicely, like a statement! Sounds so nice.
Multiple bass lines are easy for this set as well. “Country Child” by Robert Finley is a good example. Multiple basses play in tandem as the QT-9 Mk2s handles it nicely. BTW, listen to this man’s album, just wonderful. Also, basslines played simultaneously with lower register male vocals are separate and sophisticated for the asking price. “Gravity Glidin” by Masked Wolf shows this a bit. Keep in mind that the low-end is not a Big Boi Banger, at all. This is mature bass which obviously prescribes to quality over quantity.
All things considered I love the low-end replay of the QT-9 Mk2s. Love the speed and the texture here with its more natural bass which moves with ease. There isn’t a chance for any encroachment into the midrange or bloat. This is a refined bass, tuned very well for multiple genres. The Dynamic Driver plays off the BA Drivers with great conformity to the overall sound. The low end has layering and stays composed. Those who prefer good and clean bass will find just that with this set.
The midrange has a full nature to it. Top to bottom. I perceive this has a bit to do with the frequency as a whole. The bass region adds depth and more girth to the lower mids. Lower male vocals carry a nice weight and clarity. Try out “Glass House” by Kaleo. There is so much energy in that song! The QT-9 Mk2s captures it well with Kaleo’s vocals highlighted amongst the rest of the big sound around it. The QT-9 handles this type of confusion nicely. Another approach to male vocals is the softer voice of Teddy Swims on his new song “Simple Things“. There is soft empathy in the breath of his voice, but a weightiness as his voice extends that sounds wonderful with this set.
Males remain in concert and level with the rest of the mix. Voices and instruments are rendered well, with realistic timbre. A very natural sound to me as the lower-mids dance with the upper-mids just right. There is a soothing nature to the lower mids, but also a slightly brighter energy to the rest of the midrange. So, pianos, strings, horns, percussions, you name it, sound authentic and perhaps have a bit more of a spark. There is speed here which enables a delineation between pieces within the staging along with depth for room to breathe. I will cover that more later, but everything is tied together nicely.
Females come through great. “Enough for You” by Olivia Rodrigo (stop making fun of me) has a sweet nature to it. Svelte but full at the same time. Her voice is lush but lean, melodic and soft with crisp edges. Sorry for just throwing in descriptive words but the QT-9 Mk2s does exactly what I wrote… to me. Sopranos may be a hair more forward than males but nothing which distracts. I still hear good note weight with a natural inflection to their voices.
There does exist some upper-mid/lower-treble hotness which may be bothersome. At louder volumes and the right track this may become an issue, especially if you desire a more warm and subdued sound. This is where pairing and source may help. To me, I love this sound. The QT-9 Mk2s have the right amount of everything and the mids are no exception. It isn’t an issue for me, but I have to at least make a comment about it. In total I love the balance at play here. The way the low end compliments the midrange and vice versa has such a cohesive and effortless dynamic.
The treble carries over from the midrange quite the same as the bass to the mids, with cohesion. Adding just the right amount of glitz and shimmer while not scorching our ears in it. A certain natural brightness adds levity but in the same breath there is a cap to it. At times, very rarely actually I could perceive some of that BA timbre peaking through but that is few and far in between.
Some may crave a bit more shimmer and sparkle. The makers of the QT-9 Mk2s did subdue this set in the highs. This may come across a hint dry at times as well. Perhaps dull to some. However, I don’t think so. I find that the nature of the highs has just the right amount of energy. Details are illuminated to the surface wonderfully. Both macro and micro. The balanced armature drivers controlling the upper region are tuned to emphasize the little things while staying melodic enough. No these are not the most dynamic in this area or the most sparkly, but they do a clean and meticulous job at the region.
I would probably describe the treble as somewhat airy and certainly appropriate to the overall replay. It isn’t the most emphasized or vigorous treble. Not the most dynamic or electric. I like that there isn’t so much emphasis to invoke fatigue as the treble stays calmer but still refined for the price point. I understand there are iems which do this area better, especially to those who enjoy a heightened and ultra-airy treble. Treble Heads will be left in wanting, I think.
All in all, the whole treble region is very clear and clean and transparent. I hear awesome spatial cues when looking at the sound as a whole and the treble region does well to play a big part in that. Still, I do hear a very slight dryish display at times, but it is not distracting. I hear enough levity and shimmer to add details and still have body. Cymbals sound weighty enough, as do flutes and strings etc. etc. which play in this area, and they all seem to be represented appropriately.
The soundstage is pretty wide, pretty tall and deep enough. I have basically used either Final E-tips or KBear 07 tips the entirety of my time with these. With both tip choices the stage remains basically the same. This is a fairly big stage and spatial imaging plays off of it nicely. Obviously, this isn’t the stadium effect of open back headphones but for iems I am impressed.
Imaging within the stage is spot on to me. The speed and technical prowess of the drivers etches out placement really well. Everything is where it should be with good space to play in. Good layering of pieces on a stage is evident and easy to hear. It is more 3D than it isn’t. With the effective and awesome pacing and timing between drivers and the overall swiftness of this set, imaging as a whole is impacted in a very positive way.
I’ve already mentioned details, but I’ll say it again, the QT-9 Mk2s do details very well. A balance between smoothness and speed, subtle warmth and brightness as well as the technical chops to pull out some good details. I hear some micro details to a point, but this is not microscopic, and I thank them for that at Rose Technics Ltd. What we are left with is a very unblurred and articulate sound which replays what it is given. Clarity throughout is a mainstay with any genre in my library. Some iems do details better but not many in the price point put it all together better than the QT-9 Mk2s. My opinion.
TRI I3 Pro ($189)
Oh, the TRI I3 Pro. One of my absolute favorite iems at any price. (For a more in-depth review of the I3 Pro check out Mahir’s review.) Built like a tank and beautiful. The I3P (as I’ll call it) is actually a tribrid setup consisting of one 8mm composite diaphragm dynamic driver, one 10mm planar magnetic driver and one balanced armature driver.
The Qt9 is less warm overall in tonality and has a bit more clarity throughout. Both iems are very resolving and show off the entire spectrum fantastically (if you like these sound sigs). Now the QT-9 is about $60 more, and I believe that $60 is accounted for. It’s the balance that makes that difference worth it. To me, it may not be for you. Not many iems in this price point can do what the QT-9 can do… really. In the same breath, not many iems can do what the I3P does at its price point. Both showcase dynamics differently.
Real quick, the bass is much larger on the I3P and interacts with the mix differently. Bass heads will love the fantastic and vivacious sub-bass which is tight for its size and adds a ton of fun. On the other hand, the QT-9 has a more natural take with an even tighter transient attack but with much less in quantity. The QT-9 may have less but it’s technically more sound, more lifelike with a snappier attack and quicker decay, leaving room to breathe for the Mids to shine.
Lower mids are more forward and weighty on the I3P yet I would say the lower mids of the QT-9 have a more detailed and realistic timbre and cadence. The upper mids on the Qt-9 are more forward with a cleaner and more organic sound to me. Note weight is heftier on the I3P. Both sound great. This is a question of taste though. Both have a detailed and melodic midrange.
Highs on the I3P are a bit more extended in the highest areas, countering the more intense lows. Neither are veiled, at all. Truthfully both sets present a good treble area when considering the whole of the sound. Details are nice on both iems with the QT-9 MK2S showing off a bit better here. Stage size is a bit wider and taller on the Qt-9 Mk2s. Neither have a congested stage size. It comes down to preference really. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you want fun and bold or realistic and musical.
Fiio FH5 ($199 – $320)
The Fiio FH5 is a four-driver hybrid which once was the most premium iem in the Fiio line. Of course, that was about 3-4 years ago. Honestly this set still holds up against the newer competitors. Good sound doesn’t get old.
One 10mm polymer nano-composite dynamic driver and 3 Knowles Balanced Armature Drivers are Housed within the beautiful shells of the FH5. Build quality is still ridiculously good for any price iem in any year.
Both iems tend to have a more balanced approach while the FH5 has quite a bit more low end. I would say the FH5 also is a hint warmer in tonality. The QT-9 Mk2s is again snappier with a faster low end. Mids sound a hair more recessed on the FH5 as the QT-9 Mk2s have a more resolving midrange to me, as well as a more natural sound in both male and female vocals. The FH5 sounds as though there is a quicker roll-off in the treble region. I hear a more nuanced and intricate sounding treble on the Qt-9.
QT9 Mk2s just sounds more polished. More resolving throughout the entire spectrum. This isn’t to take anything away from the FH5. The FH5 is still a very nice sounding unit and the package as a whole is robust and very premium even by today’s standards. However, when it comes down strictly to sound quality, the QT-9 is simply a more refined iem. Top to bottom. The FH5 may have a small amount more of the “Fun Factor” with its larger bass region and very well done tuning to appeal more to the masses…maybe? I think it speaks more on the ability/expertise, R&D and better tech that Rose Technics implements. I can’t say it is a slam dunk as this hobby is 100% objective at all times. Technically speaking I’d go with the QT-9.
Xenns Mangird Tea ($329)
I’ve always adored the Mangird Tea. (For a closer look at the Tea check out Mahir’s review of the Tea). One of those sets which could give you a lil taste of what true premium iems sound like. The Tea has one dynamic driver along with two Knowles Balanced Armature and four Sonion balanced armature drivers.
I’ll be honest, as far as sound quality is concerned, there isn’t a whole lot which separates these two. In fact, they are extremely similar in tonality all the way through. Going back and forth between the Tea and the QT-9 Mk2s took a strained ear to discern any differences.
I would say that the QT-9 Mk2s has a hair tighter Bass as a whole. Decay is a smidge slower on the Tea next to the QT-9. I hate to even comment on it because both are great in the bass area. The Tea does have a bit more haptic energy in the sub-bass and the QT-9 has a bit more of a tighter slam in the mid-bass. I’m splitting hairs though. In reality my library doesn’t sound worse or better with either set.
Both sets have about the same note weight in the lower mids. Males sound full and transparent with an edge on both sets. Upper mids go to the Tea as females have more depth to vocals in this region. The QT-9 Mk2s are just a little bit more dry sounding in this area. Please don’t confuse this as bad because the QT-9 Mk2s is a bona-fide beast. The QT-9 Mk2s and the Tea are both very resolving in this area. Highs sound very close as well. Perhaps a bit more shimmer on the Tea but nothing a casual listener would notice.
As far as staging goes, I hear the same width between the two. The Tea is a bit taller and has a hint more depth but, in all reality, the two both have above average psycho-acoustic stage sizes.
The only other differences would be the fit. I could see the Tea fitting more ears due to its more custom like shape. It’s debatable obviously but for me it is one of the best fitting iems I’ve ever worn.
I could keep going on like this but at the end of the day there simply isn’t enough to differentiate these two. Except of course the asking price. The QT-9 Mk2s is about $70 cheaper. Though I have seen the Tea being sold for quite a bit less. I don’t know if it would make sense though to cough up the extra cash for an aging set like the Tea at this time. Even if it is one of those iems that easily stands the test of time.
I decided to add this extra little area to express some of the overall cons or pros of this set or any set. Just a little reminder to offset the tone of my review. A counter if you will. Basically, if my review is mostly littered with compliments, I will then add some drawbacks or vice versa. No piece of audio gear is perfect and here is one final place to outline very quickly my extra views. In this case some cons to be aware of.
First, I would say that there can be some BA timbre which shows up. I realize I touched on this but on certain songs it slightly shows up. Granted I can easily overlook this but maybe some cannot.
Next, I would say that this set can get shouty. If you are after a more laid back and easy signature than the energy of this set may not be for you completely.
I’d also say that this set has been viewed by some to have a funny fit. The nozzle is at a funny angle for some and so tip changing will certainly come into play.
Lastly, this is not a basshead set. Not even close actually. To my preference I like some color down low. In my objective opinion I am fine with the bass quantity here and I do enjoy it. Clearly this is a quality bass, but I do like a titch more oomph. You get that natural and impactful slam and it’s great but if you are after something that fulfills your need for boom… This set probably isn’t for you.
I’ve had a very nice time witnessing what a lil good ole ingenuity can create when the right minds (Rose Technics Ltd.) come together. That of course is the QT-9 Mk2s. Pound for pound this set sits right around the top of the $200 – $350 price point of iems which I have personally heard. Musical, technical, lightweight and comfortable, minimalist but sleek and can play a multitude of genres. Truthfully, I am not trying to oversell this. I simply hear what I say and say what I hear, always. This was an easy set to practice objectivity. The great speed of the drivers mixed with a very musical and controlled sound throughout the spectrum. From the lowest of lows to the highest areas of the mix, the QT-9 Mk2s are a testament to a well-tuned iem. In my opinion of course. I’m sure there are those who would debate against that.
Please do yourself a favor and read other reviews and watch other videos relating to this set and iems in the price range. I am simply a fan of music and audio gear; I don’t look at myself as though I am an expert. What an odd thing to be an expert of. This is a hobby and I love it, as writing these reviews will always be therapeutic to me. I am not the most knowledgeable, but I do say exactly what I perceive in the best way I know how. The point is, please trust I will do my best to convey what I hear and also, read what others have to say as well. No two people are exactly the same. Not everyone has the same gear, not everyone has the same hearing, not everyone has the same likes and dislikes. There are so many variables in this hobby.
If a more neutral leaning but impactfully balanced sound is what you are after than I think I have a set for you to consider. The Qt-9 Mk2s really does show-off and show-out, with a very natural approach at an energetic and dynamic sound. Does it sound like I’m overselling? I hate when I do that. Oh well, you like what you like, and I like this fantastic little hybrid gem. I thank anyone who has read this far, truly, I appreciate every one of my brothers & sisters who also adore this hobby and most of all enjoy the music that these devices replay. Please take good care and stay safe.