Pros: Good sound that is far more balanced than most at this price point, good build quality, did I mention the low price?
Cons: Could use some more clarity throughout the spectrum, more accessories might be nice
I've been out of the loop for a while when it comes to budget IEMs. Back in the day, the low priced options were simply not very good. I remember paying $40 for the V-MODA Bass Freq as a workout IEM because I liked the massive impact, though it was obviously not an "all purpose" type IEM. I used them with my Creative Zen Micro Photo which I believe was $300 for the 6GB model, just to put things in perspective. I knew things had improved since then, but I didn't realize just how much IEM you could get for so little money.
The IEM in question is the Nuforce NE-600X. It sells for $25 and comes in several colors - the housing is always black and silver, but the cable is available in red, green, or black. Nuforce also has a version with an inline mic called the NE-600M. The one I have is standard, no mic, with the red cable. Specs are as follows:
Driver Size: 11mm
Impedance: 32 Ohm
Frequency Response: 20 to 20kHz
Rated Power: 10mW
Max. Input Power: 40mW
Connector: 3.5mm 3-pin stereo plug
Weight (without packing): 12.5 grams
Length: 110 cm (43.3 inches)
S,L spare tips
Advanced-technology extra large drivers
High-efficiency acoustic design
Excellent bass impact
Self-untangling flat OFC wire
As can be expected for $25, the NE-600X uses a dynamic driver. The housing is what I'd call fairly "generic" - I don't mean that in a bad way though. It has a good size to it and does not attempt to reinvent the wheel. I was able to get an excellent fit using the standard medium sized tips, which seem to be of somewhat higher quality than some other bundled tips I've seen. Some of them are so thin that they will practically tear when you handle them; not so with the NE-600. The housing has what appears to be a fairly large vent in the rear. Looking closer, I don't think it actually goes through. Instead, there is a tiny little port on each housing next the "L" or "R" symbol. Isolation is on the lower side because of this, as is the case with many similar dynamic IEMs. These also do best (for my ears anyway) with a somewhat shallow insertion. I can usually just shove them in quickly and get a great seal right from the start. I like not having to fiddle with them much.
The cable seems a bit on the short side compared to what I'm used to. It's a flat cable which is relatively tangle resistant if not completely tangle proof. One thing I like is the slider: when did universal IEM makers suddenly decide it was not necessary to have these? The last "budget" IEMs I've owned, from Meizu and HiSound, both lacked this feature, so I'm glad to see it here. The Y split and angled 1/8" plug are both fairly basic, low key affairs. They get the job done without being fancy and seem durable enough. Wearing the cable up over the ear is possible (contrary to what I has assumed based on the flat cable) and is actually rather comfortable. It does make the super-fast insertion a bit more complicated though, and the short cable becomes that much shorter. The cable does seem pretty microphonic when worn down, but going over-ear takes care of that nicely.
The sound did not blow me away at first, but I'm used to far more expensive IEMs so that's not surprising. What did surprise me was that I could listen to them for long periods of time and not be too fatigued. The sound is somewhat U shaped, with exaggerated lows and a slightly tipped up top end. More boost applies to the bass than the treble though, and the mids remain fairly present so as not to be majorly unbalanced. Many of the low priced IEMs I've experienced are vastly more colored than this, so it's actually a pretty tame bass boost in comparison.
I tried all types of music with the NE-600, and nothing stood out as a particular weakness. As far as strengths, they seem to do well with more dynamic tracks that call for a lot of gusto. The new Tron soundtrack by Daft Punk sounded great, as did Immersion by Pendulum. I think my favorite album though was 7th Symphony by Apocalyptica. Track 10, titled Rage of Poseidon, sounded fantastic - if I had to guess, I would have sworn I was listening through an IEM costing at least $75 or so. Bass had depth and rumble but remained controlled, and I got a good sense of texture from the crunchy guitars. Very nice.