This is the second of our Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci series universal monitor reviews and this time it is the IX or 9 in non-Roman numerals. This is the original preference based on my 15 minutes with both the X and IX at CanJam Singapore 2018 when they were at the prototype stage.
Again, I have to emphasize it was day 2, 5pm, and my ears had taken an aural pounding from all the testing done with other gear over those 2 days. I was all for musical and relaxing by that point and the IX, in its prototype form, was all that and more.
I asked Cesar and Sandra, the owners of CTM, how the feedback was on the two monitors and at the time they said the split might be 60/40 for the X or 50/50 for both, they could not quite remember.
Well after a few months with them both I can well understand why the final count might be quite fluid. The IX is just that kind of monitor sound you can really take to on any given day and still hanker after the X just to push it in a different direction.
Quite often, I found myself flitting between both depending on my mood and what I wanted to listen to. The X has the final word in technical detail, but the IX delivers something a little different that I think will appeal to a wide audience. It is also $400 cheaper so let’s not forget that.
The Da Vinci Series is the company’s current flagship offering with two specific models, the IX, and the X. Both of these monitors are wholly balanced armature configurations with the difference being the $2000 IX has 9 drivers and the $2400 X has 10 drivers. Hence their Latin numeral labeling.
The exact configuration for the IX is 4 for the lows, 4 for the mids, and one for the highs (the X has 2 for the highs), using a 4-way crossover.
The IX also comes with tweakable tuning filters to subtly adjust the treble and bass by varying amounts so the precise sound is not fixed in stone.
Something we did not cover in the original X review but does apply to both the X and IX is CTM’s new W.I.S.E. internal chamber and tubing technology. You will find this only in the Da Vinci and AS-7 series models in the CTM range.
W.I.S.E is short for Wave Integrating Sonic Element and is the company’s response to the challenge of migrating their signature custom-fit in-ear sound into the realm of a high-performing universal fit.
By means of an intricate 3D-designed part, the W.I.S.E. element accommodates the specified combination of balanced armature drivers of each particular in-ear model whilst providing an ideal path for the sound to travel uninterruptedly to the bore. Once it hits the bore the tech then offers an additional filtering stage to further refine the sound.
I spoke with Castor Milano, one of the engineers at CTM, on just how exactly the W.I.S.E. system is built and integrated into the Da Vinci IX (and the X):
Each W.I.S.E. element of the IX (and the X) is designed from scratch. The process begins by creating a solid element out of the void space between the shells, eliminating this way any possible inner vibrations, and then carving out each component’s space once a suitable position is determined according to its relationship to the other components and sound paths. Several iterations are created before the team settles for the version that best represents the CTM sound.
The use of a contoured custom universal design on the shell body of the IX is a welcome feature also. This is a specific shaping designed to match the common traits of most people’s ear shapes. By crafting this wedged contour, it allows the Da Vinci series to fit snugly in your ear without putting pressure on you crus of your Helix or that little ridge around your ear canal.
The Da Vinci IX is a fairly large design though and does stick out of your ear just a little rather than inset or flush. However, due to the design, the majority of the housing sits to the rear and away from the more sensitive ridges of your outer ear and keeps things quite comfortable.
The IX has a rugged industrial chic to its finishing combined with a ‘custom universal’ body design. The builds look robust, strong, and unlikely to break easily. This is a 3-part CNC aluminum housing with an all-black anodized finish and a detachable silver aluminum nozzle where you swap the filter.
The IX has a large torq triple-screw finishing on their faceplates much like the Campfire Audio V1 designs (Andromeda, Jupiter). To tell them apart visually, since the IX has the same design, CTM has an IX cut into the faceplates but with no silver chrome finish that you find on the X.
Despite the rugged top-down looks, the body shell is quite smooth. In fact, unlike the CA early designs CTM has done a much better job of ensuring there are no sharp edges from the sides of the faceplate downwards.
Cables & Connectors
The Da Vinci Series uses a recessed socket 2-pin 0.78mm connection and is designed to be worn over the ear. The sockets protrude ever so slightly from the main shell and the connectors on the stock cable are slightly angles but they are not UM style protruding connectors so cable rolling is not an issue. To prove that CTM, has supplied two cables with the X and IX, both are the same cables.
The first stock cable is a standard 50″ OFC 4-wire lightweight black jacket 3.5mm cable and the second is a more premium finished 4-wire hybrid with a balanced 2.5mm jack termination.
The first one I have seen many times before and it will sound ok but lacks a bit of dynamic range and openness. It is, however, light, pliant, and easy to work with little in the way of memory retention or microphonics. Strain relief on the stock cable is excellent at both ends and they use slanted 2-Pin connectors which tend to curve easier around the ear than traditional straight ones.
The second one is the CTN’s aftermarket $180 Juba hybrid so no skimping on quality here. This is a 4-wire Hybrid Copper/Silver Alloy and brings a bit more clarity and treble sparkle to the IX compared to the softer and warmer sounding stock OFC. Overall, I would advise going with the Juba cable just on sound quality alone, especially if you need to go balanced with that 2.5mm connection.
It is a bigger cable but with a nice short braiding overthrow with some nice contrasting copper and silver colors from the TPE translucent jackets. All barrels and connectors look built from solid aluminum and have matching design patterns so it is a nice finish.
Comfort & Fit
The IX is by no means the lightest monitor around but it is marginally lighter than its bigger 10-driver sibling, the X. They are still quite comfortable in the ear with no perceived pressure point build-up thanks to their unique body shell design.
Unlike the original CA Andromeda, the nozzle and tip combination is long enough to prevent the outer edging of the main driver housing from grating on your outer ear ridges and creating unintended discomfort.
I actually found the large foam tips on the IX to work in a similar fashion to X for comfort as they seal without having to insert the IX all the way into the canal. It does mean the housing is less flush but it doesn’t affect the seal and it stays pretty secure in the ear also.
The IX comes with two packs of tips. Foams in small, medium, and large and silicone single bore tips in S. M, and L also. You also get one set of dual flange tips. Both the foam and dual flange isolate equally well with the dual flange tips being the comfier of the two. The single-bore silicone tips provided very little passive isolation in comparison.
The preference of tips here for synergy is also slightly different from the IX. With the X, I opted for foams 99% of the time. I found the timbre to fatten up nicely with foam tips on the flagship monitor. The warmer sound of the IX means I also enjoyed the silicone tips a bit more though understanding I was getting less of a seal. YMMV on this one.
Accessories & Packaging
The Da Vinci IX packaging is more or less the same as the X save for different packaging graphics. This is a professionally made, well laid out presentation with some eye-catching labeling on the front. This is no cheap origami ‘stack ’em and rack ’em’ container.
The accessory line-up for the Da Vinci IX mirrors the X’s lineup so that means plentiful and useful functionality. The full accessory list is as follows:
Standard 50″ Cable
Premium 4-Wire Hybrid Cable
Interchangeable Sound Filters
1/4″ to 1/8″ Adapter
S, M, L Silicon, and Foam Tips
Double Flange Silicone Tips
The curved case is an excellent organizer box though a little big for pocket duty. It reminds me of 64 Audio’s cases but more complex with useful storage compartments.
Inside, you get a binding pole to wrap your cable(s) around, two curved compartments to store the drivers and towards the middle, a little latched storage compartment for a cleaning tool and the 6.35mm adapter. What I especially like, though I am not sure it is intended for this, is the ability to stuff the stock tips into that little storage compartment. A feature I felt was missing from the 64 Audio version.
With the IX you also get 2 sets of tuning filters, the same as the X. I have the benefit now of testing them from the X review but I would still love to see the specifics on the box itself just to know their purpose right away if I am coming to this for the first time.
The blue one is denoted as 150Ω and the red one 300Ω which does not mean a whole lot initially. A quick check with CTM clarifies their purpose in a simpler manner with the blue filters taming the treble (by up to 3dB) and the red ones enhancing the bass by up to 3dB.
Click on Page 2 for Sound Impressions & Comparisons