Note: This review was Originally posted in February 2014 but has been updated on October 10 2015 to give an up to date of the Chord & Major 9'13 in todays ever more competitive earphone & IEM market.
Chord & Major 9'13 Review - PREFACE
Tuned earphones have made an appearance once before that I know of and that was in the way of Radiopaq who seemed to do it more as a gimmick than passion. So step up Chord & Major. Chord are a relatively new company but they are coming at portable audio with a different methodology than many of the more established competition. Usually one would have to wait for reviews to establish how an IEM might fit into a buyers real world usage, looking for recommendations for the genres that interest them. Chord throw that concept on its head and has brought out three models that so far have gone very much under the radar, although I suspect not for long. The three IEM's offered come in three distinct flavours: Classical, Rock and Jazz. Over the next couple of months we here at Audiophile On are going to look at all three individually. Today though we are kicking things off with the beautiful 9'13 Classical model. THE
MEAT OF THE REVIEW
Chord & Major 9'13 - Earphone Packaging – (9/10)
In a word? Beautiful.
A solid wood display box with a lovely grain and a stained finish. It comes embossed on the top with the Chord and Major logo and engraved on the side with the words “Exist Only For Music”. Its a lovely touch adding some romance to the product. The paper band that seals the box follows that on as besides having the IEM's specification you can open it up to find another nice little touch explaining a bit about the earphones and a small written piece about Ludwig Van Beethoven. Inside the box its more of the same with everything compartmentalised well and beautifully presenting the earphones themselves.
Chord & Major 9'13 - Earphone Accessories – (6/10)
If anything the in box accessories do let down the overall package. You find a bag with a couple of different sized tips, when compared with other companies supplying an abundance in that area you feel a little left out. A cable wrap is also there which is nice and a small felt carry pouch. The carry pouch itself is very nice, proudly displaying the company logo and and imprinted cello on the back, but it is disappointing not to have a hard case to protect the IEM's a bit better.
Chord & Major 9'13 - Earphone Looks and Build Quality – (9/10)
I feel that writing anything here at all is a complete injustice to the Chords. They are simply stunning looking earphones and ooze class. Wood is such an under-utilised item in small IEM's because in general its done very poorly by other manufacturers. Chord on the other hand have beautiful grains matched with beautiful complimentary colours on the metallic parts. The classics deep red wood is matched with a brass finish on the metal parts of the housing, its stunning. Build quality is good on the main housings and the cable is inoffensive although not great it is in keeping with the style. Another stylistic touch is the inclusion of the same wood finish on the jack and brass on the Y-splitter.
Chord & Major 9'13 - Earphone Isolation (7.0/10)
They insert fairly shallow so isolation is never going to be the strongpoint of the IEM.
Chord & Major 9'13 - Earphone Fit (8/10)....with a tip change.
The original tips were disappointing and no matter what size I used I couldn't get a good seal. This I think was down to the tip rubber being too thin. So I played around with the tips I had and low and behold, one of the best tips that I own fit these like a glove. These are the Sony MH1-C tips. The MH1-C are around £10 in the UK and if you are buying the Chord and Major I suggest you buy the Sonys and take the tips from them. You will thank me in the long run plus the Sonys are an excellent set to keep around as backups.
Chord & Major 9'13 - Earphone Sound Quality (9/10) (for classical)
Allow me to talk about the 9'13's in purely classical terms. You can read the tracks used in the section at the top. At the bottom of this section I will also include how I got on with other genres but the main focus here is on classical in which regard the 9'13 are exceptional.
First thing you notice with the Chord & Major 9'13 is that stringed instruments sounded so good. Fans of classical, as I am, will know that the stringed instruments on many other sets of IEM's can struggle to reproduce tension and reverberation realistically. Chord have nailed it in this regard and cello's, violins, pianos and guitars all sounding as close to reality as I could imagine. This creates such an attachment to the music that makes classical such a great genre, one could almost melt as they feel the strings, being played.
Piano is another standout. Contemporary masters such as Ludovico Einaudi and Roberto Cacciapaglia, again sound breathtaking. There is an air and intimacy in the performance as well as the tension, pain and passion are all well expressed and come across making you feel the music. Especially nice is the sound of Einaudi dampening the strings through the pianos foot pedal something other earphones can fail to extract. In regards to these performances the air and openness is stand out with notes being portrayed accurately and then almost seeming to float off into the distance.
Highs are performed accurately but not peaky or sparkly. Again this works out great for classical which at times (1812 Overture) can sound ear piercing on the chords competitors. Detail retrieval is also observed to be good for a dynamic driver earphone.
Mids are lush and the focal point of the Chord & Major 9'13 with a nice warmth to them again lending itself to the overall tuning of the phone.
Bass has good quantity and quality. It isn't however the fastest so obviously not going to match electronic music but perfect for replicating a natural double bass. Jazz tracks suffered a little when the pace of the music became frantic and you might want to look at some balanced armature earphones for that genre.
With other genres the chords are actually very acceptable all rounders and do not do much to offend. There are a few areas that sounded average though and that was on deep male vocal predominant music as well as faster metal tracks and electronic music due to the lack of driver speed. This is all to be expected though as the purpose of the 9'13 is to portray classical music in the best possible way.
Chord & Major 9'13 Review - CONCLUSION
My time with the Chord & Major 9'13 tonal earphones has been one of sheer enjoyment, sitting in my favourite chair, sipping on some Bulliet Whiskey and truly relaxing with some of my favourite music. It is an earphone which unlike few others can set the mood when listening. The wood and metal design oozes class as does the presentation box and finishing touches, they are as pretty to look at as they sound. The included tips are the only let down in an otherwise strong package, but this can be remedied by fitting the Sony MH1 tips and when sealed properly the sound starts to really come out.
The Chord and Major were never going to be a great all around set of IEM's, to get some idea of set your DAP to play on the classical setting with an opposing genre. It will still sound good but a little off in certain areas. For classical however, it is very hard to fault them and for lovers of this genre they should be considered right at the top of the list.
To Contact Chord & Major contact Matt via email- firstname.lastname@example.org