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(Pocket-lint) - We're long-time users of headphones that promise "club sound", having adopted the Sennheiser HD25 through its two generations, so when the Pioneer SE-MX9 headphones - promising "superior club sound" at home or on the go - arrived through the door for review, we were rather excited.

In this particular guise the metal frame SE-MX9T come dressed in a copper finish, and look a lot more fetching than such a simple colour description may suggest. Standout design box ticked, do these Pioneer headphones succeed in their mission to deliver quality audio and can they replace our go-to Sennheisers?

Our quick take

Whether you're after a "club sound" or just good sound, the Pioneer SE-MX9 headphones make a great case to feature on your over-ear shortlist.

They're comfortable to wear straight out of the box, deliver ample volume and quality audio - even if we would trim the mid-range for our personal tastes - in a well designed and, particularly in the case of the copper colour finish, distinct package.

The only thing holding them back from greater things is the £250 price tag. With the likes of the on-ear Sennheiser Urbanites available for £100 less you're paying for the metal and leather materials in the Pioneers. If that's the kind of build you're after, though, then with the exception of the plastic hinge surrounds the Pioneer SE-MX9 deliver at every level. We'll be sad to see them go back to Pioneer.

Pioneer SE-MX9 review

Pioneer SE-MX9

4.0 stars
  • Quality sound
  • Generally premium finish
  • Really comfortable straight out the box
  • Subtle branding
  • Three viable colour options
  • Mid-range a little pushed
  • Not cheap
  • Red and black cable not suited to copper finish
  • Hinge created a hairline crack


If copper isn't your colour then the SE-MX9 on-ear headphones also come available in white or black finishes so cater for all tastes. We think they look rather dashing.

The styling is subtle rather than over-the-top, comprising Pioneer brand logos above the hinge of each earcup, but minus any distinct branding bar for a circular emblem to add to the visual design.

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We've been carting the SE-MX9T headphones around for a couple of weeks now. They've joined us on plane journeys, tube travel and, by and large, have been deployed at our desk for the majority of the time. However, such travel has had some impact on the plastic surround of the left hinge, which is showing a hairline crack. It's had no impact on use however.

Otherwise the materials used are of a decent quality, including the metal design and soft headband coating. The earcups' leather pads are spaced apart to sit comfortably over the ear, and from the off we found the Pioneers to be more comfortable than the slight pinch of the Sennheiser Urbanite cans we recently reviewed. That's the difference between over- and on-ear in part.

READ: Sennheiser Urbanite review

The positions of the earcups can be height adjusted and the hinges automatically adjust for different head shapes to sit at the right angle. It's a fully shrouded, well encompassed fit that even blots out some external noise thanks to the leather finish.

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Oddly the copper finish of our review sample includes a red and black 3.5mm headphones cable that, while probably fine when paired with the black and white colour models, does clash somewhat in this particular instance. Plain black would have done the job.

There's also a basic zip-up carry case and 3.5mm-1/4in jack converter included in the box. Nothing luxury or hugely protective, but does the job.


Headphones are, but of course, all about their sound quality. It's nice to have a decent-looking pair to sit over your head, but without quality sound that has little meaning.

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Fortunately the Pioneer SE-MX9 do a good job of delivering the audio. There's ample bass without overdoing things and the high-end sparkles too. Roll out those house classics and everything sounds great.

However, we found they pushed the mid-levels too much for some genres, so we dipped the 250-2,000Hz range a little using a multi-band EQ to take some of the crash out of hard-hitting snares that some genres tend to boost in the mix these days.

Adjustments made and there's little else we would change. The bass kicks without distorting and a 6 - 40,000Hz range is way beyond human hearing at both end of the spectrum. You won't miss anything here. Except, perhaps, those days gone by of hands-in-the-air late nighters. We digress.

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Despite it's "superior club sound" sentiment, you needn't just push club music through the Pioneer SE-MX9 headphones. That might depend on how you define "club music", we suppose, but having ploughed through the Royal Blood LP that delivered all its recorded distortion with the necessary grit and impact. Here our criticism about mid-range aren't as applicable either - we ran a flat EQ and it all sounded top notch to our ears.

With a 106dB output from those 50mm drivers volume is also issue either. Maximum output from our MacBook Air as our source was actually too much to bear, but fine if you want to destroy your eardrums. There wasn't any unwanted discernible distortion to worry about either. We like not being restricted to limits, and we'd always opt for the headphones capable of delivering on the loudness front, so the SE-MX9 do their job here.

Writing by Mike Lowe.