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Review: Rose Technics QT9 MK2S – Kiss From a Rose

A rose by any other name: the QT9 MK2S seems like a mouthful to pronounce! Let's hope they sound easier to the ears than their alphabet-soup namesake!
A rose by any other name: the “QT9 MK2S” seems like a mouthful to pronounce! Let’s hope they sound easier to the ears than their alphabet-soup namesake!

Roses are red, violets are blue; I’m addicted to IEMs, and (if you’re reading this) so are you!

Thank you, Rose Technics, for providing the QT9 MK2S for review.

The QT9 MK2S are Rose Technics’ flagship pair of hybrid IEMs. Will they wilt in the glare of the ultra-competitive mid-FI market? Or blossom like a rose among thorns? Read on to find out!

A rose by any other name: the QT9 MK2S seems like a mouthful to pronounce! Let's hope they sound easier to the ears than their alphabet-soup namesake!
Bottom Line

The Rose Technics QT9 MK2S are a balanced U-shaped set that do most things well. They are an all-rounder mid-FI set with very good technicalities and robust build. The included accessories are also a true highlight that put some TOTL sets to shame! The coherency is outstanding on the QT9 MK2S, with the bass speed the star of the show. Every rose has its thorns though, and the QT9 MK2S have a sub-bass roll-off with a thinner note weight.

What We Like
  • Ultra premium accessories
  • Solid build, yet light weight
  • Easy to drive
  • Well balanced U-shaped tonality
  • Very coherently tuned hybrid
  • Excellent bass quality
  • Natural treble with good resolution and excellent technical performance
What We Don't Like
  • Microphonic cable
  • Fit may be an issue for those with larger ears
  • Thin note weight
  • Lack of sub-bass rumble
  • Upper mids a tinge spicy

Company Overview

Rose Technics is a boutique CHI-FI brand, based in Chengdu, China. They have released IEMs with names such as the Rose Pudding, Miracle EST, and QT7 Pro. There was even a QT9 MK2 previously released, the predecessor of the QT9 MK2S discussed today, differing in name only by the letter “S”!

Rose Technics is best known for their flathead earbuds and esteemed sets such as the Rose Martini and Maria are still discussed by earbuds enthusiasts!

Technical Specifications

  • Form: IEMs
  • Drivers: 1x 10mm liquid crystal Tesla dynamic driver + 4 imported flagship BA drivers (dual 30018IF BA unit for midrange and a dual 30019HF balanced armature for treble) in a 3-way frequency crossover
  • Impedance (Ohm): 12Ω
  • Sensitivity (dB): 108dB
  • Frequency Response (Hz): 8Hz – 44600Hz
  • Removable Cable: Y
  • Cable: High-purity 6N OCC copper cable (1.2m)
  • Source Plug: 3.5mm TRS, single-ended
  • Cup/Shell Plug: MMCX

Packaging

Lying in a bed of roses?
Lying in a bed of roses?

In the box

  • Rose Technics QT9 MK2S IEMs
  • Cable
  • 2 hard cases (yes 2!)
  • MMCX removal tool
  • 3 pairs of silicone tips (S/M/L)
  • 1 pair of foam tips
  • 1 pair of dual flange silicone tips
  • 4 pairs of filter replacements
  • 3.5mm to 6.5mm adapter
Evidently, Rose Technics didn't stinge on the included accessories.
Evidently, Rose Technics didn’t stinge on the included accessories.

The included accessories are more generous than some TOTL packaging I’ve encountered!

Coupled with the wide array of foam and silicone tips on offer, the addition of a 1/4 inch jack adapter and filter replacements is a very nice touch. It is really cool that they included two hard cases, as some mid-FI models do not even come with ONE!

Do you think two hard cases is an overkill? Guess what, the eartips themselves come with their own smaller hard case!
Do you think two hard cases is an overkill? Guess what, the eartips themselves come with their own smaller hard case!

Rose Technics has included an MMCX removal tool for easy removal of the cable. Personally I’m not a fan of MMCX connectors, as they tend to have a shorter lifespan than 2-pin connectors, especially with frequent cable changes. However, the addition of this removal tool should help mitigate the chance of MMCX mishaps!

Cable

The cable is made of high-purity 6N OCC copper, braided in a nylon sheath. Unfortunately, this cable is the weakest part of the accessories complement, as it is tangly and extremely microphonic. Slight movements or touching will transmit cable noise, so perhaps sourcing for an aftermarket cable is a wise option to consider.

The cable has a L and R lettering on the ends to delineate which sides the terminals are for.
The cable has a L and R lettering on the ends to delineate which sides the terminals are for.
The following review was completed with the stock cable and silicone eartips, so as not to add aftermarket confounders, which may affect the sound.
The hard cases are robust externally, and their inner layer is lined with a velvety material to protect the contents.
The hard cases are robust externally, and their inner layer is lined with a velvety material to protect the contents.

Design

The QT9 MK2S come in a teardrop shaped design, and are actually very small considering the fact that 5 drivers are crammed inside. During ordering, one can select one of three colors for the aluminum alloy faceplate – gray, green, or blue.

Being made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), which is a plexiglass material, Rose Technics says this set can even survive a “fall from height” (no distance provided)! Well, I do not dare to put the claim to the test, but overall the build seems robust and excellent.

Even the MMCX connectors disconnect easily and do not spin freely like some sets with poorer QC.

Rose Technics says the shells are fashioned via 3D scans of the ears of 200 Asian and European individuals. However, the nozzles are on the shorter side, and those with bigger ear canals might have an issue with the fit.

Having a bad fit will equate to losing the bass frequencies and skewing the sound signature towards bright and fatiguing.

Thankfully, the short nozzles can be mitigated by using longer aftermarket eartips, or the provided dual flange silicone tips, to give an extended reach into the ears.

Using the stock silicone tips, isolation on the QT9 MK2S is below average and nothing to write home about. With the stock double flange or foam tips installed, isolation improves a tinge, but won’t beat unvented pure BA sets.

Comfort

The QT9 MK2S housing is very smooth without any weird protrusions. Weighing in at 30g, the QT9 MK2S are very light and shouldn’t cause any issues in this department.

I didn’t find any driver flex during usage, but driver flex is dependent on ear anatomy and type of tips used, so YMMV.

Internals

The QT9 MK2S are a penta-hybrid arranged in a 3-way frequency crossover, which Rose Technics markets as having a clean and distortion-free sonic performance.

Look at this pair via rose-tinted spectacles! The inner aspect of the shells are transparent and allow one to visualize the drivers of the QT9 MK2S.
Look at this pair via rose-tinted spectacles! The inner aspect of the shells are transparent and allow one to visualize the drivers of the QT9 MK2S.

A 10mm Tesla dynamic driver unit handles the bass frequencies. This DD has over 1T super magnetic flux and is paired with an LCP (Liquid Crystal Polymer) diaphragm and Japanese imported voice coils.

Four high-performance balanced armature (BA) drivers, which are imported from America, complete the set-up. These feature a dual 30018IF BA unit for the midrange and a dual 30019HF BA unit for the treble. No data sheets are provided as these are customized BA drivers.

Of course, all this marketing gobbledygook does not translate to sonic fidelity, so here comes the most important part: the actual sound!

Rose Technics QT9 MK2S Sound

Tests were done with a Khadas Toneboard DAC -> Schiit Asgard 3 amp, E1DA 9038, Questyle M15, Colorfly CDA M1, IKKO, Tempotec Sonata HD Pro (BHD firmware mod), Zerda ITM01, smartphone and Sony NW A-55 DAP (Walkman One mod).

The QT9 MK2S are extremely easy to drive; amplification is not essential.

Graph of the QT9 MK2S via IEC711 compliant coupler. The 8 kHz area is a coupler artefact peak.
Graph of the QT9 MK2S via IEC711 compliant coupler. The 8 kHz area is a coupler artefact peak.

The Rose Technics QT9 MK2S feature a U-shaped, well balanced tonality. Some hybrids suffer from incoherency among the various drivers (eg slower DD bass compared to the BAs handling the higher frequencies), but I’m glad to report that the QT9 MK2S are quite well implemented and are one of the more coherent pairs of hybrid IEMs.

Bass

Bass is just north of neutral and descends linearly from the mid-bass to the sub-bass. There’s an obvious sub-bass roll off and the QT9 MK2S are not for bassheads in view of a lack of mid-bass slam. There isn’t a jaw-rattling sub-bass rumble either, and the bass is rather unobtrusive and lies in the background.

The QT9 MK2S eschews big bass for quality bass.

The bass is fast and clean with no mid-bass bleed, coupled with great texturing.

Midrange

The midrange is rather transparent, though a bit dry, due to the lack of mid-bass bleed. Layering and positioning of instruments are hence clear and unobscured. The lower mid-range is a tinge depressed, whereas the upper mid-range is boosted. Vocals are forward over instruments and can be at times spicy.

The caveat is that upper midrange perception is dependent on hearing health, volume-played-at (ie Fletcher Munson curve), source, and pinna gain (ear anatomy).

Treble

Treble extends moderately, sounding very natural, and balancing a good mix of micro-details without sounding forced. There are some hybrids that have a boosted treble to give “fake” details and resolution, which isn’t the case with the QT9 MK2S. There is minimal sibilance and cymbals and high-hats are not splashy or artificial.

Timbre is pretty decent considering there are BAs inside, they don’t sound as natural as a pure single DD set, but the QT9 MK2S are far from artificial-sounding.

Soundstage is spacious in all 3 directions and music hardly sounded compressed. Micro-details, imaging and clarity are very good, though instrument separation is just above average.

Listening to Seal’s Kiss from a rose, the QT9 MK2S showcases their good technicalities to give a spacious soundscape.

Note weight lies on the thinner side, but this aids in clarity and transients and gives the QT9 MK2S an analytical flavor. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more heft and lushness to the music, but due to the U-shaped tuning and good technicalities, the QT9 MK2S could even serve as a stage monitor!

Comparisons

Comparisons were made with other mid-FI hybrids. Pure BAs, single DDs and planars were left out of the equation as the different transducers have their pros and cons.

Vs. Sony XBA-N3

The Sony XBA-N3 are a bullet-shaped hybrid that are more L-shaped, with a thicker note weight and bigger bass that will please bona fide bassheads.

The N3 have a more natural timbre, but have less clarity and micro-details. Treble/upper mids are darker and less fatiguing than on the Rose Technics QT9 MK2S. In terms of bass quality, the XBA-N3 have a more bloated bass which is less tight and fast.

These two are polar opposites in tuning and bring different things to the mid-FI buffet table: the XBA-N3 for chilling and relaxing, while the QT9 MK2S are more analytical and revealing.

Vs. Earsonics Onyx

The Earsonics Onyx are markedly heavier and larger, they are literally built like a tank, in contrast to the lighter plastic build of the QT9 MK2S.

The Onyx are more V-shaped with a bigger bass and less upper mids than the QT9 MK2S. Note weight is thicker on the Onyx, but they have a less tight bass with mid-bass bleed. Technicalities are inferior on the Onyx, with the Onyx offering poorer resolution and sounding more analogue than the analytical QT9 MK2S.

The Onyx also come across as a bit incoherent, due to the slower DD bass not keeping up with the BAs handling the upper frequencies.

The Onyx retail at a higher price than the QT9 MK2S, but do not offer better sonic performance.

Where to Buy

Conclusion

So, do the QT9 MK2S come up smelling like roses?
So, do the QT9 MK2S come up smelling like roses?

The Rose Technics QT9 MK2S are a balanced U-shaped set that do most things well. They are an all-rounder mid-FI set with very good technicalities and robust build. The included accessories are also a true highlight that put some TOTL sets to shame!

The coherency is outstanding on the QT9 MK2S, with the bass speed the star of the show; indeed, the bass can keep up with the BAs handling the midrange and treble, which is something that cannot be said for all hybrids.

Every rose has its thorns though, and the QT9 MK2S have a sub-bass roll-off with a thinner note weight. So bassheads and those that want a thicker and lusher analogue sounding pair, will have to look elsewhere. The upper midrange and fit may also be a tinge polarizing.

All in all though, the QT9 MK2S do live up to their flagship namesake, and are quite a worthwhile pair to consider in the mid-FI segment, especially for those looking for an all-rounder coherent hybrid with a well balanced and analytical tuning.

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