Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › A 3-Way Comparison: Apple In-Ears vs. Nuforce NE-7M vs. ZAGG Z.Buds
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

A 3-Way Comparison: Apple In-Ears vs. Nuforce NE-7M vs. ZAGG Z.Buds

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
A 3-Way Comparison: Apple In-Ears vs. Nuforce NE-7M vs. ZAGG Z.Buds



Individual Reviews
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f103/n...-er-6i-391701/
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f103/r...n-c700-383617/
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f103/z...review-394809/

Well, here it is. I've been putting this off for a number of reasons, mostly because I wanted to make sure I had enough time with each IEM to make a fair comparison. I've spent about a week and a half using these three interchangeably between my PC, laptop and Sansa Fuze. I feel that each of these has received the necessary burn in they respectively require. While I write this I'll be listening through foobar2000 on my PC and rapidly swapping these three out (trying to keep the volume the same as well) while making my comparisons. Let's begin.



Sound Signatures

Apple In-Ears
┣ Treble: ★★★★
┣ Mid: ★★★★★
┣ Bass: ★★★

Nuforce NE-7M
┣ Treble: ★★★★★
┣ Mid: ★★★★☆
┣ Bass: ★★★★

ZAGG Z.Buds
┣ Treble: ★★★★
┣ Mid: ★★★★★
┣ Bass: ★★★★★

Quick Comment: The NE-7M makes me feel like I'm listening to a high-def radio (with bass!), which is interesting to say the least. As has been mentioned before, the NE-7M is somewhat similar to the Image X10 in sound signature, albeit somewhat darker and muffled. The Apple In-Ears mids feel a bit abnormally tweaked, almost like the fullness they have is hollow. They are a touch dark on the treble side of things, which means you probably won't find them shrill. The bass is there but I wouldn't complain if it was boosted a few dB. The Z.Buds mainly have a problem with a bit too much mid-bass which can cause some songs to feel too warm. Vocals are overly warm with the Z.Buds, having an unnatural fullness, and I feel in complex instrumental pieces the Z.Buds almost introduce a built-in "dither" to the sound, which somewhat confuses the overall picture. On the plus side, the sound signature of the Z.Buds is the most non-fatiguing and fun of the three, and the easiest in my opinion to listen to for long stretches at a time. The Z.Buds have the most bass of the three by a fair margin.



Sound Quality
Fair note, my Etymotic HF5 (Highs), Shure SCL4 (Mids) and Klipsch Image X10/Future Sonics Atrio M5 (Bass) are my anchors here on sound quality. Also, three stars does not mean poor. It means adequate or average, and is a great rating. Anything above that means above average to superior quality in that area.

Apple In-Ears
┣ Treble: ★★★☆
┣ Mid: ★★★★
┣ Bass: ★★★☆

Nuforce NE-7M
┣ Treble: ★★★☆
┣ Mid: ★★★
┣ Bass: ★★★★☆

ZAGG Z.Buds
┣ Treble: ★★★
┣ Mid: ★★★★
┣ Bass: ★★★★

Quick Comment: I feel the Apple In-Ears have the most refinement in overall sound quality of the three, but some of it feels unnatural, kind of "hollow", especially in the mids and bass. This is why I docked them perhaps more than they may deserve. The NE-7M shines on the treble end, having the best extension and brightest presentation of the three. Mids are reproduced well, but it's nothing special, and I feel vocals are put in the background more frequently than with the Apple In-Ears or the Z.Buds. The NE-7M makes a great compromise between bass hit and quality, but overall I think the Z.Buds offer a better compromise if you're looking for the most bass possible without sacrificing an excessive amount of quality. Some will say the mid-bass creeps into the lower mids on the Z.Buds, but I feel that most of that comes from how warm the mids on the Z.Buds are throughout. I don't feel sibilance is a major issue for any of these three IEMs. As for sound stage, the NE-7M and Z.Buds feel like they have the same sound stage which I'd rate about par for the course with most IEMs, and they both easily beat the Apple In-Ears, which feels about 75% of what the other two are.



Overall Pros & Cons
Please note that the length of my comments on pros or cons doesn't necessarily mean any of these IEMs is better or worse because of that. I know most of you realize this, but I wanted to clarify for those who might think a long "Cons" section automatically means "bad". Take these thoughts for what they are, an explanation of what's good and bad about each IEM.

Apple In-Ears
Pros: Most stylish, nice wind-up case for cord management, decently comfortable, best overall sound quality if the hollowness doesn't bother you like it does me. Cord is sturdy enough to take some abuse.

Cons: "Mug me!" white with no other color options (AFAIK), the sound (to me) feels slightly off, bass may be anemic for some, weak sound stage, long stem on enclosures may be uncomfortable if you have to insert deeply to get a good seal, straight 1/8" jack, pill-shaped spare tip container tends to roll around a lot and may get lost

Nuforce NE-7M
Pros: Very nice airy presentation, carrying case is decent for blocking sound while burning in and isn't annoying or pretentious to boot, bent 1/8" jack

Cons: That airy presentation in this case sometimes sounds like a "better radio", which can be aggravating or pleasant depending on the song. The comfort is the worst of the three, and out of the many IEMs I own, the tips included with the NE-7M are the most uncomfortable and difficult I've used by far. The tips are also quite annoying to remove once you've tired of trying to get a seal with them (I use small UE tips on mine). If the copper part of the housing touches your ear if you have to insert deeply for a seal, it can be quite grating. No color options beside black + copper. The carrying case may be too fragile for some people's liking, as it doesn't offer any real protection other than from getting dirty. The cord is the weakest and most fragile of the three, which is another similarity to the Image X10 (although the Image X10 has a weaker cord still). Nuforce forgot to include any foamies with my NE-7M.

ZAGG Z.Buds
Pros: Sturdy nylon cord which is much better than the other two, two color options [Red & Black], most comfortable of the three, most bass of the three while not being too much of a slouch on quality (handles artists like DragonForce and Infected Mushroom just fine), most tips of the three (2 different sizes of foamies, three different sizes of silicone tips, one tri-flange set), volume control in-line (great for all-around use), multiple ways to wear the Z.Buds, microphonics are the least of the three if worn in the "hangin' tight" fashion (as seen on ZAGG's website)

Cons: Too much mid-bass for some, certain functional parts of the cord feel a bit fragile or are easy to lose (microphone/iPhone control and button loop), button loop would be better not in a "T" shape but rather screwing into the side of the metal instead of on the end, avoiding what I feel is a weak point in the cord structure while keeping the cord straight overall, carrying case (or bag, as it is) doesn't provide much protection as with the NE-7M, triple flange tips require Herculean effort to get on, straight 1/8" jack, Z.Buds are slightly weightier than other two if worn straight down like normal IEMs/earbuds as well as having slightly more microphonics than the other two when worn in this fashion.



Final Thoughts

These are three excellent IEMs for their price point, and all are worth the money. What's important to consider when deciding which one you want is what kind of sound you like out of a headphone and what compromises in comfort and functionality you want to make. If sound stage is important to you, that's something else to consider when deciding between the three here. Same thing with straight 1/8" jack vs. bent 1/8" jack.

Good luck deciding which is right for you!


Please note that I will likely be making minor adjustments to the format, wording, and possibly to some information if I think of anything I may have missed. Directly comparing three IEMs to each other fairly is no easy task, so please bear with any changes that occur.
post #2 of 13
Interesting.

What I noticed in that review is the lack of detail about well, detail.

The detail of the three.
How much detail do you think reside in the three?

NE-7M amped = O.M.G. detail!

I got my own NE-7M review coming up in a few days (holding it off becuase of other commmitments).
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesekiwi View Post
Interesting.

What I noticed in that review is the lack of detail about well, detail.

The detail of the three.
How much detail do you think reside in the three?

NE-7M amped = O.M.G. detail!

I got my own NE-7M review coming up in a few days (holding it off becuase of other commmitments).
The idea with the sound quality ratings is they represent detail for lows, mids, and highs. 3 stars is average, 3.5 stars is above average, 4 stars is great, 4.5 stars is superb, and 5 stars is perfect.
post #4 of 13
taikero,
What are your all time favorite headphones among the 'phones you've owned? I'm guessing Ety HF5 or Image x10 or Atrio M5.
What do you think would be an upgrade from the ADDIEM? I wanted something like the sound signature of the Apple. I got the Custom 3s, not exactly what I wanted, but I still love them anyways.
post #5 of 13
I appreciate this well thought out and honest review, but it helps to discuss clarity and detail and tonality too.

Do you listen to any music with real live instruments like piano, sax, string bass, drums, acoustic guitar, violin, flute, woodwinds, horns, plus male and female voices? That is the majority of what I listen to and the NE-7M have a much less colored tonality than the Z.buds. Although I only have 56 hours on the Z.buds towards my 100 hour burn-in, I don't find the tone to be accurate with the Z.buds. They are a decent rock and electronic IEM with gobs of bass that does slightly tighten up with burn-in, but for people who like jazz and classical and folk or new age instrumental they can be a little disappointing.

In my opinion the bass overwhelms the mids a bit, the female vocalists seem to be singing into a trash can, and the 4-8Khz range is boosted so that snare drums sound artificial - like they are playing into a coffee can. And there is sibilance emerging above the "tizzyness" as I burn them in, heard with the stock foam or silicone sleeves and with Complys T400 tips, where I hear it in CD's that I've never heard it in before. Without using the EQ I cannot appreciate what they have to offer, and I cannot make the sibilance go away with different tips and positioning yet.

I am going to give these another 48 hours of burn-in and see what happens, and try more sources, but this is with my Macbook headphone out, iPhone 3G headphone out and Macbook via 3MOVE USB DAC Amp. I put my thoughts into another thread where we have both posted, so I promise not to poop all over this one: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f103/z...ssions-398907/

PS: It is pretty easy to tell the difference between X10 and NE-7M, I don't think they sound alike. Sounding good vs X10 doesn't mean they sound the same.
post #6 of 13
Thanks for the review Taikero. I have already decided to skip the Z.Buds and ordered a white SCL4 (unfortunately I don't have an unlimited budget yet ). I feel that the bass on the NE-7 is either just right or almost too much for most songs and didn't want the mega bass of the Z.Buds.

I am looking forward to getting the SCL4 and IE8 for my reference points (and hope the IE8 bass isn't too much for me).

On a side note, I used my NE-7 with my blackberry for a call since my bluetooth headset (Jawbone 2) was driving around in my wife's car. My friend commented on how much better I sounded on the NE-7 vs. my bluetooth.
post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post
Do you listen to any music with real live instruments like piano, sax, string bass, drums, acoustic guitar, violin, flute, woodwinds, horns, plus male and female voices?

I found NE-7M wasn't the most tonally accurate. Vocals sounded distorted/colored slightly. I found the ADDIEM more tonally accurate than the NE-7M.

I agree with Taikero that the ADDIEM sounds more refined than the NE-7M as well. There was a sound quality to the NE-7M I couldn't put into words. "HD Radio" seems like an appropriate term and closest to my experience. The NE-7M sounded very good but not very refined. Then again for the price one can't have everything.

The ADDIEM has its flaws too. It is bit too laid back and dark. Makes for good listening without fatigue for extended periods of time. I found that the Shure tips improved on this slightly.

Soundstage is where I disagree. The NE-7M has a wide left-right soundstage but sound very flat and 2D. I wouldn't rate them very high on sound stage. The ADDIEM and SCL4 have a narrower more realistic soundstage and are 3-D.

The ADDIEM and NE-7M are both very good for the money but I am so glad I picked up the SCL4 instead.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by yakuzaph View Post
taikero,
What are your all time favorite headphones among the 'phones you've owned? I'm guessing Ety HF5 or Image x10 or Atrio M5.
What do you think would be an upgrade from the ADDIEM? I wanted something like the sound signature of the Apple. I got the Custom 3s, not exactly what I wanted, but I still love them anyways.
I'd say the Image X10, HF5, and SCL4 are my top 3 favorites. The Atrio M5 is probably 4th, but only because it does only certain things (although REALLY) well. If I had to pick, it'd probably be HF5 with Klipsch Image tips.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post
Do you listen to any music with real live instruments like piano, sax, string bass, drums, acoustic guitar, violin, flute, woodwinds, horns, plus male and female voices?
Yes, although I generally listen to music focused on the guitar and vocals. As long as it's not newer Country (older stuff which is tolerable is usually called "Western"), it gets listened to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post
That is the majority of what I listen to and the NE-7M have a much less colored tonality than the Z.buds. Although I only have 56 hours on the Z.buds towards my 100 hour burn-in, I don't find the tone to be accurate with the Z.buds. They are a decent rock and electronic IEM with gobs of bass that does slightly tighten up with burn-in, but for people who like jazz and classical and folk or new age instrumental they can be a little disappointing.
I agree the coloration is pretty thick with the Z.Buds (I'll be updating the main post to reflect further thoughts on this as soon as I can get around to it), but on the other hand, that coloration really makes stuff like Infected Mushroom ("Becoming Insane" is what I'm listening to typing this with Z.Buds in) shine, in my opinion. This is where you get into give and take country, where the sound signature can work for you or against you depending on what you're listening to. As I mention in my review of the Z.Buds, I feel it's very much like what would happen if you smashed a Shure IEM and a Future Sonics IEM together. Basically a very bassy and very warm IEM, which can be good or bad depending on what you like. Personally for me it depends on my mood, as if I'm listening for hours at a time I might choose the Z.Buds over a more detailed and less colored IEM in favor of something that can essentially let me hear the music and almost force me to enjoy it for what it is over something that excruciatingly extracts every detail from it.

After a few minutes with the Z.Buds on, I forget about the coloration and really have a fun time with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post
In my opinion the bass overwhelms the mids a bit, the female vocalists seem to be singing into a trash can, and the 4-8Khz range is boosted so that snare drums sound artificial - like they are playing into a coffee can. And there is sibilance emerging above the "tizzyness" as I burn them in, heard with the stock foam or silicone sleeves and with Complys T400 tips, where I hear it in CD's that I've never heard it in before. Without using the EQ I cannot appreciate what they have to offer, and I cannot make the sibilance go away with different tips and positioning yet.
What I found with female vocals is they sound overly warm and slightly dark, like putting a.....damp towel over the mic, I guess. I haven't personally had a problem with sibilance with any of the three IEMs (at least, any more than other IEMs). The only IEM I can get to not produce much sibilance is my Ety HF5.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post
PS: It is pretty easy to tell the difference between X10 and NE-7M, I don't think they sound alike. Sounding good vs X10 doesn't mean they sound the same.
I wasn't trying to infer that they sound alike other than similar sound signatures. The X10 is in an entire grade of clarity and quality over any of these three. (Quick comparison between NE-7M & X10. I know you'll wait...) The NE-7M sounds jittery and confused (darker as well) compared to the X10, almost as if I can hear the driver moving, almost crackling (high-def radio, remember?), whereas the X10 basically gets out of the way of the sound and lets it speak for itself.


Quote:
Originally Posted by oarnura View Post
I found NE-7M wasn't the most tonally accurate. Vocals sounded distorted/colored slightly. I found the ADDIEM more tonally accurate than the NE-7M.

I agree with Taikero that the ADDIEM sounds more refined than the NE-7M as well. There was a sound quality to the NE-7M I couldn't put into words. "HD Radio" seems like an appropriate term and closest to my experience. The NE-7M sounded very good but not very refined. Then again for the price one can't have everything.
I essentially agree. I found the NE-7M to have a very good sound signature, but quality was mainly found in the bass reproduction, rather than as much in the mids and highs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oarnura View Post
The ADDIEM has its flaws too. It is bit too laid back and dark. Makes for good listening without fatigue for extended periods of time. I found that the Shure tips improved on this slightly.

Soundstage is where I disagree. The NE-7M has a wide left-right soundstage but sound very flat and 2D. I wouldn't rate them very high on sound stage. The ADDIEM and SCL4 have a narrower more realistic soundstage and are 3-D.
Interesting about the sound stage. I'll take a closer look at this tomorrow with more scrutiny. When I made my comparisons on sound stage (since ear memory is so short) I simply remembered a rough image of how far out the sound stage went left to right and went off that. I'll do some more comparisons looking at the "depth perception" each of these give.
post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Taikero View Post
Interesting about the sound stage. I'll take a closer look at this tomorrow with more scrutiny. When I made my comparisons on sound stage (since ear memory is so short) I simply remembered a rough image of how far out the sound stage went left to right and went off that. I'll do some more comparisons looking at the "depth perception" each of these give.
My main take on the soundstage is that depth perception is mostly missing. All the instruments appear to be coming from a wall, albeit a very wide one. For me it was unnatural and one of the reasons for me not enjoying the NE-7M as much.

If they fixed the soundstage (assuming there is something to fix) and refined it a bit more I'd be all over it. They can even charge more. I suspect the NE-8 might be that earphone from NuForce. I think NuForce refined it and toned down the bass in the process, which is something I would do to the NE-7M to make a more balance presentation. I haven't heard those yet but that is what I got from the reviews.

I think NuForce has a great product here. For a first time entry into the IEM market these are excellent, especially at their price points. I think people find me too harsh on them. Far from it. If a company doesn't get feedback they can't really improve on things, even great products. If they can produce a great IEM at $50. I think with a little more work on refinement they can create one for $80-$100 and I'd still call them a great value.
post #10 of 13
reviving this thread just because i have both ne7m and the zagg in front of me burned in. reviews coming in the next 2-3 days on these two phones for tma.
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by shigzeo View Post
reviving this thread just because i have both ne7m and the zagg in front of me burned in. reviews coming in the next 2-3 days on these two phones for tma.
I disliked the Z.buds so much I felt guilty selling them and gave them away instead.
post #12 of 13
so far the review for the zagg is not so good. they have some merits but overall, they feel very much like prototype from a company who have never before made earphones.
post #13 of 13
well our review is up now of the Zagg, but ive created a new thread as i will add more of the phones we review in there.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › A 3-Way Comparison: Apple In-Ears vs. Nuforce NE-7M vs. ZAGG Z.Buds