Stars and Stripes
- Great tuning, balanced, equilibrated and complete, very suitable for long listening. It has even been refined compared to the previous model.
- The sound is still natural, rich and very detailed, very well blended with an analytical character.
- Very good imaging for such a small capsule.
- The small size and weight of the capsules make for excellent ergonomics.
- The accessories, such as the cases, number of tips or the cable, could be better.
- There is no choice of cable with balanced plug.
Link to the Store
Rose Technics is not a new or unknown brand to any earbud or IEMS enthusiast. Hailing from China, their models are often of premium value and proven audiophile quality. Their Earbuds are among the best and their IEMS are also appreciated. It is clear that Rose Technics innovates in all its models, aiming for the best sound quality at the best price. But this sound has to be paid for. Still, Rose Technics is not a fully «visible» brand. It is not easy to find much information about it, apart from its models. But that seems to have changed with this latest product. It seems that Rose has started a campaign to make their new IEMS Rose QT9 MK2s visible and it seems to have paid off. Just as there are only a few reviews of their previous model (QT9 MK2), including one of mine, there are now many more reviews to establish a better idea of its quality. But back to the model of the present review, the QT9 MK2s are a revision with an «s» added to its name. According to the brand’s own statement: «The QT series is the unified prefix of Rose Technics’ DD and BA hybrid headphones and the oldest series. Since 2014, the QT Series has been upgraded from QT5 to QT9. As the most competitive product in this series, QT9 has been upgraded for three generations and renamed as QT9 MK2s, which has been greatly improved in tuning maturity, quality and craftsmanship.» Actually, externally, the capsules are the same as the QT9 MK2 model. Both my models are blue and differ only in the cable. Internally «QT9 adopts Sony’s latest Tesla technology 10mm liquid crystal diaphragm DD unit configuration, plus 2BA for the midrange and 2BA dedicated to the high frequencies, which has been personally tuned by a former Fostex engineer». The previous model used a 10mm Goertek tungsten alloy film dynamic driver, plus 2 balanced armatures TWF30018 + 2 balanced armatures TWF30019. The new model uses the same BA drivers and only the DD driver has changed, plus the cable. Will that be enough to improve the sound of the previous model? All that and more, we will see in this review.
- Driver type: 10mm DD Tesla driver with state-of-the-art Sony liquid crystal diaphragm (HD Nano material). 2 balanced armatures TWF30018 (midrange) + 2 balanced armatures TWF30019 (treble).
- Frequency Response: 8Hz-44600Hz
- Sensitivity: 108dB
- Impedance: 12Ω
- Jack Connector: 3.5mm SE
- Capsule Connection Type: MMCX
- Capsule Material. Plexiglass with outer panels made of aviation aluminium alloy.
- Cable Material: OCC
- Cable Length: 1.2m.
- Weight: 30g
The Rose QT9 MK2s come in a narrow, medium-sized blue box. Actually, it’s not a usual box or packaging. On the main side there is what could be a 9, consisting of a circle and a curved segment underneath on the right side. It is as if it were an incomplete 9. The inside of the circle is lighter. Underneath is the brand logo and the name, all in white lettering. On the back side everything is written in Chinese, supposed to be the product description and specifications. After sliding this outer cardboard, two black boxes appear, wrapped in another black cardboard with the brand logo inscribed and an indication, in gold, of their contents. The boxes are two flat cases, like a flattened spectacle case. They have the Rose logo inscribed on the front. The previous model already used one of these cases. In one are all the accessories, in the other the cable and the capsules. Each capsule is inside a zip pouch, but connected to the cable. In short, the complete contents are as follows:
- The two QT9 MK2s capsules.
- 1 OCC 5N cable with coaxial shielding structure, PET insulating layer and Teflon insulating layer.
- 1 set of white silicone tips size SxMxL.
- 1 pair of foam tips.
- 1 pair of double flange silicone tips.
- 1 adapter to 6.3mm plug.
- 4 pairs of protective grids for the mouthpieces.
- 1 pair of tweezers to help dismantle the cable.
- 1 quality control card.
- 1 manual card.
The tips come in a small case and are very well stored. Although there are three different sets of tips, I find the number of silicone tips too few and that the double flange tips only come in one size. The other unusual accessories, such as the tweezers, the plug and, above all, the grids, are fine. But I would have preferred more tips instead of these products. Another thing is the cases, although they are lined with a velvet-like material, they are very flat and it is not easy to store the IEMS inside them, although their dimensions are relatively large. As protection it is very good, because it is rigid, but I find it impractical.
Overall, distinctive packaging, but not very successful.
Construction and Design
Externally, everything is the same as the QT9 MK2 model. The construction of the capsules is characterised by their small size and their completely transparent inner side. It is made of a polymeric material, similar to acrylic, which is able to withstand drops of up to 10 metres without being damaged. It is called PMMA and is a type of plexiglass. Despite this proven resistance, the material is highly transparent and its very low weight seems to give a false sense of fragility, which is not at all consistent with reality. The outer face is made of aviation aluminium alloy, is opaque blue and can be chosen in three colours, blue, grey and green. The word «Rose» is written in white letters, in a font that simulates handwriting, in ligature type.
I insist again on the small size of the capsules: the largest width of the external face is no more than 20mm and the thickness, measured at the foot of the mouthpieces, is less than 12mm. This gives a good idea of the small size of the capsules, especially when there is a 10mm dynamic driver protected by a metal grille and 4 BA drivers inside. The dynamic driver is in the centre of the capsule and the 4 BA drivers are next to it, but oriented towards the mouthpiece, but not in it. The 10mm dynamic driver has a Tesla magnet, with a state-of-the-art Sony liquid crystal diaphragm (HD Nano material). The BA drivers are paired: 2 TWF30018 and 2 TWF30019. Being paired means that they are linked by a single board with a single output. Coupled to this output, this time there is no channel leading the sound out of the mouthpiece. It seems that the channel is wider and unique for the two groups of drivers, so that the sound is already mixed in the neck of the mouthpiece, together with the sound produced by the Dynamic Driver. The mouthpiece, measured from the base, is just over 6mm. The neck of the mouthpiece is approximately 4.5mm in diameter. The crown is 2mm thick, with a diameter of 5.6mm. Its interior is protected by a metal grid with very small holes. Inside the neck of the mouthpiece there is a small metal pipe.
Below the drivers, near the outer plate of the capsule, some discrete components can be seen: some resistors and what appear to be capacitors. You can also see a multiwire foil, which connects these components to the BA drivers, and other wires connecting the MMCX input to these components and the MMCX input to the DD driver. Thus, I would say that the divider filter is passive and only connected to the BA drivers, although this is the feeling I get, as far as I can see through the capsule. Continuing with your description, on the edge, next to the MMCX connector, there is a hole. You can also see two other holes on the opposite edge, on the vertical of the nozzles. As you can see, everything is very similar to the previous model.
The cable is different, covered in textile fabric, with a 3.5mm gold-plated 3.5mm plug, at a 90° angle, very classic. It consists of two intertwined strands, one for each channel. The splitter piece is a black cylinder and the pin is a small, hollow, black cylinder. There are over-ear guides, consisting of a semi-rigid plastic sleeve. The MMCX connectors are gold-plated and have a black cylindrical sleeve tapering at the edge, made of black plastic material. The lettering of each channel is inscribed on them, but they are difficult to read. Inside, the cable consists of OCC 5N, with a coaxial shield structure, an insulating layer of PET, an outer OCC shield and another layer of insulating Teflon. It cannot be chosen with a balanced plug and that’s a pity because the cable doesn’t look bad and fits the sound of the IEMS.
On the other hand, the capsule stands out for its small size and although it may seem otherwise, it is robust, very well built, as the assembly of both sides is perfect, with no debris. It also stands out for its light weight. What I don’t like so much is that they are completely the same as the previous model.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The capsules are small and the mouthpieces are short and with an inclination that can be tricky. In my case, the fit of the capsules in the pinna is very good. They fit very well in my ears, resting remarkably well inside. The tips have a medium length, but the insertion is rather shallow. With longer silicone tips or a bi-flange model, the insertion could be medium. Be that as it may, the ergonomics, without being the best due to their simplicity, are very effective and, together with the small size, light weight and good fit, the Rose QT9 MK2 are perfect for long listening, for everyday use, even for walking, running or other moderate activity.
I understand that tips can be tricky. I am fortunate that in most cases I use my large, home-made foam-filled tips. With them the fit is shallow, but the large size of the tips used and the foam filling create a very occlusive fit that promotes both isolation and the best possible sound, achieving a large low area, without losing any detail, thanks to the very wide core of the tips. I understand that the fit and ergonomics may be critical for other users, but for me it is excellent and the capsules barely protrude from my ears, which is a great integration.
The profile is still a smooth and balanced «w», but even smoother than the previous model. The bass has been moderated, as has the unevenness in the high mids and highs. It is as if all the bands have undergone refinement in order to achieve a more homogeneous profile. And, indeed, that is the result. The bass has lost its visceral power, the high-mids are more balanced and, despite the smoothing, stand out a notch higher, thanks to the lowering of the low end. The treble is also slightly more weighted and gains in extension. In short, this new version of the Rose QT9 MK2s aims to be more audiophile-friendly, and it succeeds. On the other hand, it should be noted that their technical capabilities are even superior to those of the previous model.
What I mentioned in the previous section, about the technical capabilities of this new model, is something that is noticeable from the low end. Although the MK2s do not have the energetic kick of the previous version, they have a bass that does not go unnoticed. But I must point out that the full perception of the bass in this model has a lot to do with the adjustment achieved and the tips chosen. I insist that my morphology and my homemade foam-filled tips fit perfectly with the QT9 MK2s and produce what I think is the best sound they can provide. And this is an authoritative bass, but more controlled, not so devastating. In the previous model their power was on the edge, at the limit, it seemed as if such a small capsule couldn’t hold such power, giving the feeling that, at some point or another, the sound was going to crack. In this current model, that extreme sensation has disappeared in favour of a much more controlled and agile one. The lower range has replaced that power with quality, speed, agility and restraint. It’s a tweak that takes away that power peak, but still respects the precise curve of the initial model. In this sense, the tuning remains focused on the sub-bass and possesses a slight dip towards the mids. This generates a clean and quick transition, with a very brief sustain and a taste that disappears quickly. In my opinion, the bass has been perfected. It has lost that point of fun, that addictive viscerality, but it has gained in technique and balance. I still enjoy electronic music but in a different way, now everything is more musical and the fact of reducing the incidence of bass opens a door in the rest of the bands.
The sonority of the low end is not the most sensory or deep, but it does have a timbre that I consider very close to reality. The pure tone test gives a natural result, with the ultra LFOs being almost inaudible, but enjoying that physical sensation that their presence denotes. The 40Hz kick is continuous and powerful, yet agile and smooth on the surface, attesting to the realism of which I speak. The roughness and texture is not one of the most pronounced, due to the speed of the bass reducing this sensation, but it has a good distinctive trace and is remarkably descriptive. As it is technically a very good bass, its ability to recreate bass lines is excellent, the speed and agility of which I speak so much allows it to generate planes and structures with naturalness and speed, without mixing or muddiness at any point. Bass doesn’t swamp the scene and is kept in check, it is very capable of discerning magmatic bass and defining it with quality and remarkable resolving power. In my opinion, this is an excellent low end, very enjoyable and most importantly, it is clean and very respectful of the rest of the fringes. Very big.
The transition from bass to midrange is clean and the dB range in which it moves is narrow. This denotes a great homogeneity in the tuning, which does not break down in the mid-highs, because its curve is refined and balanced. I like the fact that the final zone of the mids has been corrected and aligned, not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because it implies that there has been a refinement in its tuning, looking for a coherence that is reflected in the sound. Now, the female voices are even more credible and achieve a superior body. There is no longer that bass that overlaps in presence, now they are more protagonists. More importantly, they are very natural. If already in the previous model, the BA timbre was not very pronounced, now, with a more accurate, tight and natural tuning, it is still an improvement in this aspect. Actually, I find the reproduction of the vocals very neutral and when I say this I mean that it matches the music as it was recorded. This is high fidelity and I think the tuning of the QT9 MK2s fits my audiometry like a very precise negative. This might not be true for other people, but every ear has its curve and, in this case, these IEMS make me enjoy everything I hear. In this sense, I am not biased. If I already liked the previous model a lot, this new model has lost that visceral bass so attractive. Now it has gained the mid-range I’m looking for. It’s true that I miss a bit more body in the male voices, but the female voices have a full success. The MK2s are a clear example of how a high-mid range should be excited to be clear, vivid, transparent, luminous, but without losing neutrality, without being angry, nervous, agitated or too projected. I always comment that high mids tend to be raised high as a way of gaining definition and clarity in an ensemble that lacks the technical ability to support its quality. There is no need for any of that here. There is a little excitement, I won’t hide it, but it’s just right, it has that sweet spot and there is also a playfulness in the treble that helps to avoid unwanted sibilance. It’s true that Rose here, and on the previous model, has used a «kick to follow» trick by dodging that problem in the mids and sending it into the treble, but we’ll talk about that later.
Perhaps, because of my preference for analytical profiles, I don’t feel that the QT9 MK2s are very analytical. In this sense, I prefer to retain the first impression. And at the time I did notice it. Although they didn’t have the right burning. Now I even like to pair them with cooler sources to get the best out of their BA drivers. And this is the other great asset of the MK2s, their neutrality in this range is supported by very good technical capabilities. With this you get great dynamics, try your best recordings and almost all details and instruments will be there and this is very good for a set of this price. The mids are accurate and of great resolution. It is not a totally crystal clear presentation, even in that there is neutrality. You can’t criticise the MK2s for being overly analytical, they are critical, but they do their job. And I like that job, I think it’s easier to create a warm sound than to look for realism in an analytical aspect. Here, that more analytical side has been mixed with neutrality, creating this great sound in the mid-range.
The treble starts with a control drop, as is usual for many V-models. Only here it may start earlier and its lower point may not be as abrupt or deep. Clearly, this trick seeks to balance a sound that could become bright, given the nature of its BA drivers. In principle, it succeeds in doing so, but it also manages to make the sound a point drier. This prevents the projection of the high notes from being greater. It is clear that the tuning still aims to be tight in that dB range and succeeds in doing so. Compared to the previous model, the control valley seems a little deeper, but the peaks are smoother. In addition, better extension and more air has been achieved. All this has been done with care, because the fact that the lower area is lighter, could contribute to a high treble boost. However, the tuner has taken this into account and has managed to maintain smoothness and balance throughout the range. In this way, I distinguish fine and subtle trebles, delicate and limited in their sparkle, with a brilliance characterised by technique, speed and short duration. The first part possesses that dryness and at that point the extension is nuanced. In the second half a greater openness is felt and the initial loss of sparkle is compensated for, although the range is not fully corrected. Thus, the timbre of the upper range can sound a little sterile because of this omission. But nevertheless, the result is still coherent with the rest of the sound, maintaining balance, homogeneity and finding a pleasant and secure musicality for long hours of listening.
On a technical level, the treble BA drivers do a good job, being disciplined, descriptive, tight, fast and accurate. They do not extend beyond the threshold and have a great resolution that provides remarkable detail.
The amount of air, although superior, is still not excellent.
It’s still surprising how so much stage can fit into such a small enclosure. But the tuning of this model has lost a few points in this area. Now, the sound is not so deep, the containment of the bass makes the projection of the music not so elongated. At the same time, the closer approach of the voices, especially the female ones, brings the scene closer to the listener, contributing to this compression of the music on the longitudinal plane. Laterality is still very good, as is the stereophonic feel. There is noticeable height, but I perceive frontality in the stage recreation and less volatility. The more realistic, well-exposed and disciplined sound allows for precise placement of the elements, but there is not enough air or gas to generate a more three-dimensional sensation, which achieves a more holographic representation of the sound. In this way, I envision an oval, clean and crisp soundstage, with a remarkable level of transparency and an equal sense of separation. The technical qualities are outstanding and the drivers are very competent in terms of accuracy, speed, retrieval, resolution and detail. But I find that the tuning limits the exposure of some micro-detail and subtle nuances that I do hear in other models of equal or superior quality. Even so, it is still a pleasure to see the abilities of this small model, both in simple and very complex passages, maintaining the ability to show the music with great skill, structure and musical generation. Something that makes them great IEMS for monitoring, as well as enjoying the music.
One of the great IEMS that can be obtained for a price equal to the QT9 MK2s are the Yanyin Aladdin. A really good model that is a reference in its price range. With a DD driver and 3 BA drivers, the Aladdin is bigger, bulkier and heavier. They have a semi-custom shape. Compared to them, the Rose is like a toy, being smaller and lighter. The ergonomics are more classic on the Yanyin and more critical on the Rose. But personally, the Rose fits me better.
In terms of accessories, the Yanyin does not live up to its price. The Rose is a little better, but it doesn’t reach the level of a Dunu Falcon Pro either, a model that makes them both pale in terms of presentation and accessories.
When it comes to the essentials, which is the sound, my opinion is very divided. There are songs I prefer to listen to with the Aladdin and others where I prefer the Rose.
The Yanyins are somewhat warmer, that higher sub-bass level is noticeable in the ambience, generating a denser and also deeper sound. The low end is more sensory, the bass is lower and the LFOs are more physical. Meanwhile, the Rose delivers bass with a bit more colour, with a little less body, but with a good kick. On a qualitative level both are very good, perhaps the Rose is more disciplined and technical, but the darker colour and more suitable for the bass, makes me choose the Yanyin.
The valley in the Aladdin’s mids is smaller and smoother. That means a fuller, lusher midrange. I appreciate more physicality in the Aladdin in that first half of the midrange, but also a softer, subtly less luminous sound than in the Rose. I would also say that the Yanyin is more musical and organic. The greater coolness of the QT9 MK2s is apparent, being more delicate and with a balance somewhat more tilted towards the mid-highs and early treble. This makes for more brightness and some compositions veer from one side to the other depending on their concentration. Music that requires warmth will sound better on the Yanyin, while more technical or bright music will benefit from the Rose. It’s not that the Yanyin doesn’t have detail or good technicality, it’s just that the Rose is more delicate and finer in this respect.
In the upper range, the mid-high projection of the Rose is noticeable, but both have similar treble tuning. The lighter, less dense sound of the Rose contributes to a higher perception of treble and detail. It is that coolness and finesse that avoids being more musical, but is also more critical. The Yanyin is softer and that mantle hinders the slightest nuances from coming through more easily.
There is better separation in the Rose because its notes are thinner, but the scenery is deeper in the Aladdin. It is a different recreation. The Rose is more splashy, this creates a more detailed and wider scene frontally. But the Aladdin has more body, more mass, but less height. Different perception of the scene, but very even overall in both models.
In the end, it comes down to which tuning you prefer. A softer, warmer, more musical, more physical, but also more detailed tuning, with a deeper and more powerful sub-bass. Or a tuning that is cleaner, transparent, balanced, neutral, more analytical, somewhat brighter, more light and exposed, with finer and more delicate details and notes. It’s a matter of taste.
I represent my grades with stripes on my blog and on Head-fi.org with stars. This is an internal struggle to try to be consistent in all my ratings. But there are times when neither stars nor stripes are able to define the quality of the product or, rather, how I feel about them. In the case of the previous model, it was one of the few models I rated with 5 stars. Now, I find that this model also lives up to that rating, because, frankly, I think they are superior to those in some respects. The problem is that between the previous model and this one, other IEMS have come on the market that are very good and I have been lucky enough to review them. What should I do? Well, rate the QT9 MK2s against the best IEMS and that means that, this time, they don’t reach the top score.
The Rose QT9 MK2s are a successful revision of the previous model. Externally everything is the same, so any issues with ergonomics or construction have not improved. The dynamic driver has changed and the tuning has been refined. In the quest for a more homogeneous and balanced profile, Rose has polished some details to find neutrality, a more analytical and refined feel. And while it’s not a big change, the improvements work. Bass has been attenuated, mid-highs have been smoothed and treble has been extended. All in a subtle but effective way. The result is not a drastic change, but a quest to perfect a product that was already good, but is now technically superior, more homogeneous, balanced and equilibrated. It’s true that it has lost that serious visceral feel of the previous model, in favour of a faster and more agile one. But I still think the low end is very good. However, the mids have become more prominent and there is more light across the spectrum. The mix of a more analytical character gives a richer, more delicate, yet detailed sound. A great success.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- S.M.S.L Sanskrit 10th MKII + iFi ZEN CAN.
- Hidizs AP80 PRO-X.
- HiBy R3 Pro.
- Earmen Colibri.
- Earmen Sparrow.
- xDuoo Link2 BAL.
- Tempotec V1-A + Hidizs DH80S.
- Tempotec Sonata E44.
- Hidizs S9 Pro.