Current testing methodology is v1.2
Some brands like to release their products chronologically and by counting by order of release, you get a simple equation: newer model = better. But in the case of the SK9, I don’t think this applies.
Maybe this assessment is due to having a frame of references with all the IEMs I’ve tried but for any person just looking for any kind of earphone that just works, then this set will do just fine.
The review title may seem harsh. It’s because I got the SK9 for only under $1 and even at that price point, I’ve tried IEMs that sound way better which makes me wonder if this set is even worth it.
If you have a very limited budget, I’ll be more than happy to make some recommendations other than the QKZ SK9, and this review will tell you why.
Budget IEMs that are simply bad.
The QKZ SK9 is a single dynamic driver from QKZ audio. Despite being a model above the SK3, this model is far from being an improvement.
It has a big and juicy bass response but that’s about it. The midrange is recessed and the treble is overpowered by the lower frequencies even though it has some decent details.
You could get the SK9 since it’s under a dollar and all, but you can certainly get something better for the same price.
The AK6 line has some good options that are in the same price range as the SK9 and I would honestly steer you their way instead.
- Driver: 10mm Single Dynamic Driver
- Frequency response: 20Hz-20000kHz
- Impedance: 16Ω
- Sensitivity: 96db/mw
What’s in the Box?
- QKZ SK9 earphones
- 3.5mm jack cable
- 2 x Stock tips
- Cable clip
- Silicone Hooks
Stuff I like
- Deep sub-bass
- Adequate mid-bass presence
- Energetic mids
- Treble details
- No sibilance
Stuff I like less
- Veiled midrange
- Bass bleed
- Bass fatigue
The QKZ SK9 comes in pink packaging, which veers away from QKZ’s usual black packaging. Inside the box are the earphones and included accessories.
Presentation-wise, there was nothing special about these IEMs and the unboxing experience was nothing to write home about.
The SK9 didn’t take too kindly to a phone source. Once this had been established, I immediately plugged it into my digital audio player (DAP) and it still sounded bad. At that point, the SK9 to me was pretty irredeemable.
After a few days, I thought of trying it out using a brighter source. I plugged the IEMs into my Shanling UA1 DAC dongle in combination with my laptop for a more analytical source plus more amplification.
Did it affect the sound? Definitely.
The sound afterward wasn’t downright irredeemable. It was decent and it showed me a lot more of the SK9’s true potential, but in terms of sound, it just doesn’t hit the ballpark.
I have two complaints regarding the build quality of the QKZ SK9. Number one was how big the shell was and number two was the ear fins they added to the shell.
Complaint number one made the shell feel needlessly clunkier and more prone to cracking. Meanwhile, complaint number two made the already big shell barely able to fit in my ear.
Overall the build feels more fragile than every other QKZ set I tried and as for the cable, it’s just the same as other QKZ earphones, very reminiscent of a speaker wire.
Fit and Comfort
Regarding the fit and comfort, I’d give the QKZ SK9 an F.
The unit definitely fits my ears but I have to push really deep because the shell is pretty big. And if I push just slightly more, the fins bite into my ear causing some pain.
It’s some sort of conundrum that could’ve been prevented by making a smaller shell. I mean this thing doesn’t house a lot of crossover networks since it just has a single dynamic driver, so why is the shell this big?
Overall, this one is another miss for the SK9.
The SK9 is definitely a warm-tuned V-shaped set.
With how big the bass is, I’d be surprised if it didn’t automatically mean bass bleed. The midrange has a nice presence but sits farther up in the mix. The treble has good details but I don’t hear them too often since the bass thinks it’s the only frequency that needs attention.
In all seriousness, the tuning would’ve been better if the bass was a little tamer. This would allow the other frequencies to do their designated jobs without much compromise.
The sub-bass of the QKZ SK9 has a big presence and adequate mid-bass dynamics.
Truthfully, the sub-bass is straight-up overpowering. It also lacks any semblance of texture and comes across as a thick wall of deep rumble. This felony amount of bass goes presents a significant amount of bass bleed, smothering the midrange and the treble.
Overall, taming the bass with an equalizer will allow the other frequencies to breathe and perform better.
The midrange is clear but it comes across as pretty distant. Not only that but the delivery of the notes is noticeably blunted.
I could describe the midrange as being enveloped in a huge piece of bubble wrap. It’s not just veiled. The midrange details seem softer and fainter, making some lyrics harder to hear, especially with Mr. Big Bass up in everyone’s business.
On some songs with less bass presence, the mids come off clearer and more audible.
But if you’re listening to a playlist, you wouldn’t normally have the time to discern which song has more bass presence and which has less. That would just be cumbersome.
Treble performance on the QKZ SK9 is good when it’s not ruined by the bass. It’s another tragic story yet again.
The treble details are audible and flare from the sides of the main vocals, which are center. I could still hear the details even though the thick layer of bass is plastered on top of everything.
This makes me wince at the wasted potential the treble has. That’s because the bass bleed usually only affects the mids, but boy did this bass come overdressed to the party.
Transients also sound a little bit muted although they still have a certain amount of crunch to them. They’re very rounded off and totally miss that snappy sound.
- Reminder by The Weeknd (R&B) – The vocals were clear but the veil is very apparent. The mid-bass during the first few lines has already begun to fatigue my ears. The impact of the bass is a little bit overwhelming and made the experience a nauseating struggle to focus on the song rather than the tactile feeling of sound thumping inside my head. The synths were a little further back and this is a deal-breaker for me as I couldn’t enjoy the song.
- G.O.A.T by Polyphia (Rock) – I tried out the QKZ SK9 with a purely instrumental track to ascertain its qualities better. The bass is still taking a lot away from the playback as it clouds all the electric guitars. The harmonics sound fuzzy and the crunch tone sounds a lot more smoothed out. The timbre is bad because of the bass interference. An instrumental track should be able to deliver full-on instrumental glory but it seems with the SK9, it only favors the bass guitar, which is sad because this song is pretty engaging and fun to listen to.
- Blueberry Eyes by MAX feat. Suga (Pop) – Here’s a track that doesn’t get drowned in the bass. The bass is still pretty overwhelming but the song has a lot of parts where they swap piano chords for the bass. Suga’s voice was pretty clear but as you would’ve guessed, it lacked articulation because of the midrange veil. Overall, the cohesion of this song is better than most songs I’ve listened to but that’s just because we came across this very specific type of mixing.
- Supalonely by BENEE feat. Gus Dapperton (Alternative/Indie) – Here’s another one that works well with the QKZ SK9. The mix has a solid amount of reverb and this makes distant vocals kind of sound normal. The tambourine managed to sound splashy which is good considering it’s the only transient that doesn’t sound muted. The blending near the end of the song has good sound separation and does a good job of singing back and forth ending the song with claps.
The QKZ SK9 is a weak contender amongst all the QKZ sets I’ve tried.
I could always say that you can use it as a bass lover’s IEM but even then, it lacks texture and it’s way too aggressive when it comes to the mid-bass slam.
They sound really bad on a phone and they still sound bad on a $500 DAP, but they managed to come across as decent when connected to a laptop using a DAC dongle.
In hindsight, using the phone had it underpowered and the DAP was a warm-tuned source that made the bass even boomier but the DAC dongle was a cold source. It helped refine some of the bass bloats.
In the end, I can’t come to a conclusion on what genre these IEMs are specifically for.
If you want a cheap IEM that just works, then you can get the QKZ SK9. However, there’s no reason to purchase them over other QKZ models like the AK6 and AK6 Ares – both of which are roughly the same price but are way better overall.
Gavin is a college student who has a lot going on. From collecting IEMs and modding mechanical keyboards, to different hobbies like digital drawing, music mastering and cooking. It is safe to say he is a complete multi-faceted geek (and he's kinda cool too)
This post was last updated on 2024-02-21 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.