The Munitio NINES SLV : Tactical 9mm earphones are a styled in-ear headset with built-in inline microphone/three-button iPhone control. The NINES look like bullets, their carrying case looks like standard tactical black gear, and the replacement three-sized ear pieces are in a bag labeled “Hollow Points.” So there’s a definite bullet theme going on here, but what would you expect from a company whose name is a derivative of munitions?
I initially saw the NINES at the Pepcom Digital Experience at CES 2013 and put them in a head to head comparison using the company’s music source and my own House of Marley earbuds. On their setup, the NINES lost almost immediately on bass to my half-the-cost travel headphones. I was not particularly impressed, but the folks at Munitio encouraged me to play with them some more and gave us a pair to give away on Pocketables and a pair to review.
I’m glad they did. While the NINES sounded flat and cardboardy on their setup, the bass is so rich and intense on my EVO 4G LTE with Beats that I worry my eardrums might be shot. My music sounds better under the Beats processor than I’ve ever heard from any in-ear headphone. Oddly it sounds just OK on my computer and I can’t get it anywhere in the range of sounding like my little HOM earbuds.
Your mileage will probably vary.
On my HTV EVO 4G LTE at least one of the buttons worked to pause or start playback of audio in the applications I tested, and on my friend’s iPhone the buttons worked as volume up, down, and start/stop.
Since the audio experience is varied and subjective, I’ll just say in reproduction quality, they’re exceptional except on my computer, though even there they’re still pretty darn good.
The NINES have a frequency response of 12Hz-20Hz, which is less than my HOM headset, but they also have something called a “BassEnhancingChamber,” which seems to really come through in feeling.
Since I can’t really convey the audio characteristic experiences of these too much better than saying “they’re great,” I’ll focus on the individual items.
The earphones include an optional around-the-ear plastic holder so that under few circumstances should you have the headset pop out. This is useful for joggers and people who find they’re accidentally yanking on the cord in their daily activities.
The plastic earpiece was surprisingly comfortable and also allowed me to hang the earphones a bit further out from my ear. This dropped the bass down considerably, but I was able to hear things around me quite a bit better.
There’s also an optional clothing clip, which is also quite useful for serious activity as it keeps the earphones from being yanked all the time if you’re running, dancing, or engaged in a dramatic slow-motion firefight.
The NINES include a very nice carrying kit for all your goods that is made out of a plasticky-feeling canvas-type material with two very powerful magnetic clasps. It’s absurdly useful for carrying your gear, and you won’t appreciate it until you fully accept that pockets are designed to tangle even untangle-able headphones. It also has a hoop so you can tie the case to whatever you’re carrying.
The microphone plug is gold-plated, in theory to make the audio better, but it’s more of a marketing gimmick because unless you’re running gold up the entire cable you’re not really getting a significant improvement (this is according to my Sony BMG friend who deals with this stuff professionally on a regular basis).
The headphones are darn comfortable as a note.
The cord claims it is Kevlar-reinforced cloth. It doesn’t really feel all that different from any other cloth I’ve felt; I’ll believe it, but I’m not going to trust it between me and a bullet. Not that that little amount would do anything. The cloth helps with tangle, but tangle-proof this ain’t.
I decided if Munitio was going to make bullet-themed earphones, I might as well see how well they stacked up against what they’re claiming to be in terms of reproduction. So my police friend dropped by with some equipment (an iPhone for one test, hollow point bullets, firearms, etc.) and we saw how these really stacked up.
While we didn’t have any 9MM hollow point ammo to compare, I’m given to understand that the opening is about the same on 9MM HP and in the case of what we had (45mm HP,) the NINES are taking artistic liberties for audio reproduction.
The Munitio NINES were a bit shorter than standard 9MM FMJ rounds we could scrape up, and I’m assuming that’s a standard, so if you’re expecting a perfect reproduction of a bullet to place in your ear, these fall a wee bit short.
The NINES also do not seem to load easily into a standard clip, so if you’re planning on storing them that way, it was not advised by the officer. The notion was floated to try and chamber a round but it was decided that would probably result in more trouble than it was worth.
In the end, you either think having bullet-shaped headphones is cool or macabre. I found it to be a bit more on the silly side, but can’t deny the audio on my phone sounds better than any other headset I’ve tried.
I’ve accepted I’ll now be the old dude wearing bullets for earphones.
You can purchase these for $169.00 from Munitio’s website, although a little Google searching will yield you better deals. Some waiting might also, as they’re a relatively new product.