PreSonus has a great reputation for quality products at an affordable price. In this review, we check out the HD9. A budget pair of closed-back headphones intended for mixing and monitoring. Are these cans any good? Read on to find out.
The PreSonus HD9 has a lot going for it. Especially when you factor in how cheap these headphones are compared to others. But as with many budget offerings, there are some shortcomings. Below are the quick hits before we dive into a more detailed evaluation.
The PreSonus HD9 is a solid pair of budget closed-back headphones. It has plenty of appealing features. But it isn’t without its faults. Below we take a deeper look at these cheap cans.
When it comes to sound quality a lot of the satisfaction you’ll get will depend on what you need your headphones to do.
The PreSonus HD9 offers a clean and lively sound profile. Rather satisfying. But the shift towards a more colored response will be an issue for serious studio work.
The HD9 features a punchy low-end response.
With a frequency range of 10Hz – 26kHz (±3dB), there is enough depth going both ways. Output is also loud giving you ample headroom.
The low-end is rich and meaty. Plenty of thump and kick. Tonality is clean and the sound profile isn’t muddy. But this emphasis on the low-end does make the HD9 not very neutral and balanced. A must for serious mixing work.
The mid-range is ample and well-defined. But it is overshadowed by the more pronounced low-end. While not invasive there is a loss of detail. Despite that, I’m impressed with the level of clarity on offer. Especially from a pair of headphones in this price range.
The top-end is also a little hyped. It tends to roll-off at the very top but not to the point where it is a major concern. And while hyped it isn’t overly bright or sharp. It is a decent compliment to the thick lows the HD9 presents.
So for all intents and purposes, the HD9 performs quite well. It’s a clean and open sound profile that isn’t fatiguing. But the accuracy is the issue here. For general listening, light monitoring work, or DJing these are a great buy. But for more detailed work these are not balanced enough.
It is hard to be too critical of these headphones when you consider the price point. It is exceptionally difficult to get supreme neutrality from this price range.
The imaging and soundstage are also better than I expect at this price. Closed-back headphones tend to offer a more cramped sound. But the HD9 does a good job of separating components and placing them accordingly in the stereo field.
If you have serious studio work to do you’ll need to spend more. However, as a budget entry point, these are a decent choice that perform well above their price point.
The comfort level of the PreSonus HD9 is impressive. Budget headphones often feature below-average padding. But the HD9 bucks this trend with thick and durable ear pads.
Thick ear pads can lead to discomfort but the quality and flexibility on these are just right. There is enough space within the cups to envelop your ears. Unless you have particularly large ears you shouldn’t hit the sides of the cups or the driver covering.
The thick padding is comfortable and durable.
The good padding extends to the headband. Even distribution of weight ensures a comfortable fit. The headband adjusts and offers a generous range to tackle even the largest of heads.
The clamping force is also well-executed. It is firm but not overly so. Just enough to give you dependable stability. I wouldn’t suggest you go working out with these on but for most day-to-day applications these won’t fall off your head.
Breathability is as good as you can expect from closed-back headphones. They will trap some heat. But it isn’t as bad as some other closed-back headphones I’ve encountered. Heat build-up comes with the territory so you can’t expect too much in this area.
These offer a solid combination of good quality padding and a dependable yet comfortable fit. A good choice for longer listening sessions.
At first glance, it is evident that these headphones take some design cues from the Audio-Technica M range of headphones.
The most notable is the hinges. A near-identical replica. But that isn’t a bad thing. Audio-Technica headphones are popular and the hinges are reliable. That is also the case here.
The HD9 is both a functional and attractive pair of cans.
The all-black plastic appearance doesn’t break any new ground. But the finishing is clean. A nice-looking pair of headphones that won’t look out of place in the studio.
Moving past the rather familiar-looking design, there are some other design elements worth highlighting.
First is the hardwired cable. I always prefer detachable cables. Both for flexibility and equally for longevity. The long 9.8ft (3 m) can easily catch. Enough pressure and you can say goodbye to your headphones. While not uncommon at this price point it is something worth noting.
Next is the impedance level. Coming in at just 40 ohms these don’t need a lot of power to drive them. A good choice if you mix on a laptop or also want to use these with your smartphone.
Isolation is also high thanks to the thick ear pads and the firm fit. This makes them a reasonable option for recording sessions. Also great when working in noisy environments.
The ear cups offer full 180-degree rotation. A great choice for one-ear monitoring. Plus these headphones also collapse for easy transport. Both of these features add versatility and contribute to the appeal of these budget headphones.
While not groundbreaking the PreSonus HD9 does tick a lot of the right boxes. Streamlined and functional design with a couple of bells and whistles.
The PreSonus HD9 is a budget pair of closed-back headphones. As a result, you can’t expect supreme quality. But despite the low price point, this pair of headphones is surprisingly durable.
The headband is thick and tough. It is plastic but doesn’t feel flimsy like I’ve seen on many other budget pairs of headphones.
The hinges on the HD9 are high quality and dependable.
The padding throughout is high quality and won’t wear out easily. Another thing that plagues budget headphones.
Connection points, hinges and component quality is also better than you would expect at this price point.
The hardwired cable is not ideal but it also feels tough and dependable. Plus there are no exposed wires which earn it a few extra points.
Despite a full plastic build, the PreSonus HD9 is a solid pair of headphones that won’t break easily. Great balance between price and quality.
By far one of the most appealing aspects of the PreSonus HD9 is the low price point. Studio headphones can be exorbitantly expensive. And if you happen to be setting up your first studio you’ll know how quickly costs can add up.
While it isn’t a premium offering the HD9 expertly balances the list of features with its price point. It also includes a pouch. Great value for money and a lot better than a lot of other budget options out there.
This is something that I often find myself praising PreSonus for. Their entry-level budget options always find the sweet spot. It is also the reason they often find their way onto many recommended lists.
If you need an affordable yet decent pair of cans the PreSonus HD9 delivers.
Are Neutral Headphones Better?
One of the challenges I face when reviewing headphones is assessing the sound quality. Many elements are universal. Soundstage, imaging, and clarity to name a few. But where things get tricky is how neutral the headphones are.
For serious studio work, neutral headphones will always be a better choice. Neutral headphones won’t mask or hype up the source material. Something critical to making accurate mixing decisions. Some people also prefer to listen to music in its rawest form to analyze and critique the details.
The HD9 offers a smooth, rich, and pleasant sound profile. But it is not very neutral.
But for others, neutrality is not always that important. Even in a studio setting when monitoring it isn’t always needed. Likewise when it comes to recording.
Many of us have grown up with more hi-fi-focused products. They offer a generous curve that enhances the low-end and brings life to the top end.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying music like this. It’s the reason why home sound systems don’t lean towards neutrality.
That is why it can be tricky when making assessments of sound quality. It is all relative to your needs and what you need your headphones for.
If you are not doing serious studio work you shouldn’t be too bothered about headphones that are not supremely neutral.
Selecting the right pair of closed-back headphones for your needs can be a challenge. There is a wide selection of options available. Below are a few alternatives to the HD9 worth considering.
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Review
The ATH-M40x is at a similar price point to the HD9. These are a capable pair of closed-back cans that do offer a few extras compared to the HD9.
- Smooth midrange performance and a satisfying low-end thump.
- The detachable cable is a nice touch at this price point.
- Much like the HD9, it isn’t the most balanced pair of headphones for mixing.
AKG K371 Review
If you do need a pair of headphones with more neutral delivery the K371 is worth considering. Robust and durable while maintaining a reasonable price point.
- The neutral sound profile makes it a better choice for mixing and monitoring.
- Comfortable earpads and a more relaxed fit. Good for people with larger heads.
- Due to the relaxed fit, the passive isolation is not as strong as the HD9
Rode NTH-100 Review
For those that have a bit more to spend the NTH-100 from Rode is worth adding to your shortlist. Unique and eye-catching design backed up by impressive performance.
- Relatively balanced sound profile for accurate mixing. But the bass response is a little soft.
- Super comfortable ear padding that features cooling gel. Great for long sessions.
- The unique ear cup shape is not ideal for people with bigger ears.
Should You Buy?
PreSonus has once again delivered a great product at a great price. Don’t get me wrong there are better headphones out there. But they also come with much higher price tags.
The balance between function, form, and price is commendable. A pleasant albeit unbalanced sound profile with plenty of punch in the low end. Durable construction and comfortable padding that can withstand frequent use. Strong isolation also adds to the appeal.
If supreme accuracy isn’t high on your list of needs the PreSonus HD9 is worth picking up. A budget closed-back pair of headphones that is among the best in its price range.