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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Nuforce NE-700X earphones / IEM (non-mic version) - post your thoughts here

post #1 of 235
Thread Starter 

I've spent a bit of time listening to the new Nuforce NE-700X over the past few weeks, and wanted to post my impressions of them.  (The NE-700M have a microphone)

 

NE-700.jpg

 

As many people know, in the budget earphone category I have been a fan of the Nuforce NE-7M and NE-6 earphones, which when upgraded with Shure E2c silicone tips or Complys T400 foam tips sound pretty good for their price.  The NE-8 were not bad, but they were very difficult for me to obtain a good fit for the best sound, and the stock tips didn't seal for me at all.  With a lot of effort towards a good fit I could appreciate their increased detail and soundstage, but I had to press them to my ears with my hands to get the right bass.  

 

The NE-700X are a step up from their previous entries, both in terms of build and sound.  They are using a new manufacturer for these, with machined aluminum driver housings, titanium drivers, and upgraded cables, connectors and ear tips.  With the NE-700X I have not needed to upgrade or replace the stock tips with other brands to get good sound and isolation.  The increased quality and material did push the price up higher to $65 for the non-mic version and $79 for the mic version.  In my opinion this price is too low, but who am I to complain about low prices!

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  When I first got them I took notes about what I heard and wrote, "On their own, just based on their sound alone, the new IEM sound very nice right out of the package without burn-in.  I am listening to Eva Cassidy "Ain't no Sunshine" and "The Letter" and I like what I hear.  Vocals are beautiful, and sound fairly transparent.  Detail and speed seems to be a little above the NE-7M/NE-6.  Guitars seem very crisp, pianos sing, cymbal ring.  Bass is not bloated nor recessed or light, with a good punch (such as when listening to Live At Blues Alley "Stormy Monday" or "Fine and Mellow").  Soundstage is not small, nor huge.  The stock tips are nicer than the ones I got with my NE-7M (where I had to use Shure E2c tips or Complys T400), so isolation is also better than with NE-7M.  Pushing the IEM in deeper gives me a nice boost to the bass, while increasing isolation, and yet not killing the highs.  I can play them quite loud with no distortion, clipping or signs of stress from the drivers."  That could have been all I wrote, and it would have said it all.

 

After that I gave them several hundred hours of burn-in and play time after that, listening un-amped and amped, trying to figure out where they stand in relation to the competition (such as the the $80 Sunrise Audio Xcape, and the $89 Brainwavz M3).  For listening I used my Macbook Pro iTunes > Amara Mini > uDAC-2 or HDP, Pico DAC/Slim Combo, or iPhone 4 with and without Pico Slim.  I listened to a wide variety of lossless 16/44 and 24/96 music as well as 160-320K MP3 and AAC.  

 

BASS:  I like the bass of the NE-700X, which is well balanced and has nice impact and presence without over-doing it or lacking.  It's speedier and more detailed than the bass in my C700, and more present and punchy than the RE-2, Maximo iMetal iP-HS5, NE-8, or IM716 (with 33 or 47 ohm pod).  I'd have to say the quality is also better than my NE-6/7M.  The Nuforce pick up some extra bass if I tighten my jaw closed, but my nose is always stuffy due to allergies and I have to breathe through my mouth, which slightly lessens the bass in the NE-700X to more normal levels.  If I insert the Nuforce into my ears as deep as they will go then the bass increases, but then the metal housing is hitting the opening of my ear canal and it becomes uncomfortable after an hour or two.  The bass is not as present as that of the Brainwavz M2 and M3, but most people would agree that the M2 bass is fairly boosted and the M3's is slightly boosted above normal.  I did my computer listening initially with the Nuforce uDAC-2, but with test tones I was finding the bass to be maybe 1-2 dB down at 25Hz and about 3-4 dB down at 20Hz. Switching to the Nuforce HDP I found bass extension to be very good and I stuck with the HDP or Pico DAC/Slim combo.  The uDAC-2 sounds great, but they have better synergy with some of my other gear.

 

MIDRANGE:  In comparison to the new MP4nation Brainwavz M3 the NE-700X are more transparent and natural sounding in the mids, with a little better controlled bass and bass detail.  The M3 are even warmer in comparison, but they had a slight "cupped hands" sound to the mids even after 30 hours of burn-in (at the time of my first comparisons, which improved by 100 hours but is almost still there).  The Nuforce mids are more laid back than the M3 or Xcape which are more forward sounding, but I don't think that the NE-700X mids could be called recessed.  I wanted to say that it's more like comparing the mids of the Triple.fi 10 Pro to the Monster Turbine Pro Gold which are more forward than the TF10 - but while the M3 sound more forward than the NE-700X, upon listening to test tones I found that the M3 were recessed at 2,500 - 3,150Hz where the NE-700 are flat.  Strange, but I think there is a lower midrange bloom in the M3 which make them seem more forward, while there is an upper-mids tilt to the Xcape which does that for them.  With test tones I am not hearing any big holes or peaks in the Nuforce frequency response anywhere, and they actually sound fairly flat and extended from 20Hz to the 16Khz limit of my 48 year old ears.  

 

TREBLE:  The NE-700X treble is fairly smooth, sparkly, and extended; without the excess grain or harshness that I heard for the first 100 hours on the Xcape.  While the Xcape improved greatly with 100-150 hours of burn-in, the NE-700 remain ahead of them in terms of a smooth and non-fatiguing treble.  My complaint about the Xcape treble is similar to my gripe with the Maximo iMetal, where you get a more Grado-esque forward upper mids and treble like in the SR-60, although the Xcape is maybe closer to the MS-1.  The M3 in comparison seem to feel a very slightly rolled off in the highs, but with a slight bump in the lower treble as part of a resonance or echo that added to the cupped hands coloration I sometimes hear.  There is an audible 8Khz peak in the M3 that the NE-700X doesn't have, and with the M3 the 12-16Khz tones are noticeably reduced in comparison to the Nuforce.  The Xcape also have a mild 8Khz peak, but unlike the M3 they are more extended to 16Khz like the Nuforce.  I'm not surprised that the NE-700X sounds better with audience applause than the others. 

 
MISC:  I also found the NE-700X to be a little better detailed and refined than the $79 Brainwavz M3.  Although the M3 are warmer and fuller sounding  which makes them great with rock music, they don't do as well with classical as the Nuforce.  The Nuforce seem to bridge the gap between the others as being more balanced sounding than M3 and fuller sounding than Xcape, plus they have the biggest soundstage among the Xcape or M3.  In comparison the Xcape is a little more analytical and drier sounding, while the M3 is a little more liquid sounding. 
 
SUMMARY:  Overall I found the Nuforce to be a very enjoyable sub-$100 earphone.  There are a couple of slightly more expensive earphones that I think the NE-700X are able to compete with, including the $80 Sunrise Audio Xcape, and the $79 Brainwavz M3 (and I'm sure many other IEM that I've never heard).  On a technical level, the Brainwavz M2 are not as capable performers, but they are almost as enjoyable because of how fun they are to play rock, electronic and new age music.  I would pick any of these three IEM over my numerous other sub $100 IEM, but I see myself reaching for the NE-700X and M3 the most out of the bunch.  However, my 13 year old son (HeadFanatic) has taken a liking to the Xcape, and keeps asking me if he can use them rather than his RE2 and RE3 prototype (using Macbook > uDAC-1 for source).
 
I enjoyed the Nuforce from a variety of sources and amps.  Where the Xcape benefitted my Pico Slim on the iPod to warm up and fill out the sound, NE-700X did that without needing to be amped.  Like the M3, the NE-700X are also more efficient and and louder at the same volume levels than the Xcape, and they work well un-amped, although the Xcape are more efficient than several other earphones that I have on hand.  The NE-700X don't have the slight treble tilt of the Xcape, nor the slight bass tilt of the M3 (or bass boost of the M2), but rather tend to fall right in the middle - although this might put them in the "Jack of all trades, master of none" category for some listeners.  They're a little more laid back in the mids than the M3 or Xcape, with slightly less bass although having a little more bass than the Xcape (which aren't lacking either), and it would be nice if the mids were just a little more engaging like the M3 or Xcape.  While the M3 (and M2) have some extra low end power over the others, the Nuforce and Xcape have enough bass and also respond well to bass boost as well.

 

In terms of sonic characteristics, the NE-700X have more in common with the Sunrise Audio Sw-Xcape than the M3.  The two have similar levels of detail which  bests the M3; but the Xcape brings the mids a little more forward than the Nuforce and brings out background detail a little better, while the NE-700X is a little more laid back in the mids and gives you more of an "audience point of view" rather than "on stage" like the Xcape.  In terms of sound signature and tone (not performance), The NE-700X is different from the Xcape in the same way that the Westone 2 is different from the the Fischer Audio DBA-02, with a little warmer, fuller, smoother tone.  Both are good performers, but bring a different perspective to the music and may appeal to different tastes.  Likewise, the M2/M3 would be more like the Monster Turbine Pro Gold in it's bassy, rich and rounded liquid character that gives up a little detail in exchange.  It goes without saying that none of these $65-$80 earphones are on the same level as the above mentioned high-end phones; but they don't fare too badly in comparison, and beat all the other sub $100 IEM I've tried or owned.  I can enjoy any of them depending on my mood, source and amp, and encourage you to give them a try.

 


Edited by HeadphoneAddict - 12/4/10 at 11:12am
post #2 of 235
Thread Starter 

Post #2 reserved just in case

post #3 of 235

hmm a titanium driver like the RE262s....sounds interesting. I also really like it's silver-bullet-like shape. 


Edited by Inks - 12/3/10 at 2:23am
post #4 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inks View Post

hmm a titanium driver like the RE262s....sounds interesting. I also really like it's silver-bullet-like shape. 

Yep, second that.
 

post #5 of 235

The final production NE-700X has a rounded corner (edge) at the end of the outer casing instead of the straight angle, which makes it more comfortable to use.

post #6 of 235

Sounds interesting, I hope I get the chance to try them out, their trial offer is very nice, imo.

post #7 of 235

What trial offer? Can you elaborate? I have just heard about these and cant wait till the end of december to get my hands on a pair.

post #8 of 235

The trial offer does sound nice. If the NE-700 are as good as those models compared to but just offer a different presentation then these must be quite good. The plug and cable reminds me of the HJE900 cable.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 346L3 View Post

What trial offer? Can you elaborate? I have just heard about these and cant wait till the end of december to get my hands on a pair.



http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/525714/nuforce-ne-700x-trial-offer#post_7100561

post #9 of 235

Great review.  Since you've used both, which one do you think is more comfortable, the NE-700X or Xcape? I recently bought the meelec m6, but the behind the ear style is really annoying me, so I'm looking at some newer options that use a straight down cable.

post #10 of 235

I received my trial pair of the NE-700X yesterday and although I haven't had time to burn these in properly, initial listening impressions are very positive.


These boast a nice, smooth sound signature while still managing to be nicely transparent. I'm liking the bass response, which sounds just right to my ears. The mids are nicely presented and slightly warm and the treble is smooth, detailed and carries a good amount of sparkle without ever becoming harsh or sibilant.

 

Full review to come soon, after I've had time to put these through their paces properly.

post #11 of 235

I gotta say these babies looks great!

The right driver on my NE-7M have suddenly dropped alot in volume compared to the left one so maybe it's time to replace them for these ones......

post #12 of 235

Probably won't be available in Canada for months, sigh.

post #13 of 235

Fulcrum audio is pretty quick in picking up new products.  I would contact them to see when they would be able to get them in.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frydude View Post

Probably won't be available in Canada for months, sigh.

post #14 of 235
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kappaz View Post

Great review.  Since you've used both, which one do you think is more comfortable, the NE-700X or Xcape? I recently bought the meelec m6, but the behind the ear style is really annoying me, so I'm looking at some newer options that use a straight down cable.


I find both to be comfortable with normal use.  I wear both with cable down.

post #15 of 235

Great first impressions. Well written!

Really like the design, look very stylish.  I've been a fan of the NE-6 so if this is a step up I'm really looking forward to how good these might be!

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