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Mini-Review: Nuforce NE-770X and NE-600 budget earphones

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 

 

First Impressions of Nuforce NE-770X and NE-600X:
 
 
 
 
 
The new NE-770X:
NE-770-03.jpg
 
Posted Specifications
Earphones
Driver Size: 8mm
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Frequency Response: 20 to 20kHz
Rated Power: 3mW
Max. Input Power: 5mW
Sensitivity: 102dB +/- 3db
Plug: 3.5mm
Mechanical
Weight (without packing): 12 grams
Length: 54 inches
Package Contents Include
Stereo headset
3 pairs of single flange ear-tips (2 small, 2 medium, 2 large)
Carrying case
 Warranty
1 Year.
 
Noted Features on their website are:
8-mm high-performance neodymium driver
Acoustically inert polycarbonate body
Lightweight and comfortable
Natural and warm acoustic signature
Wide soundstage and imaging
 
 
 
The new NE-600:
NE-600_01.jpg
 
Posted Specifications
Earphones
Driver Size: 11mm
Impedance: 32 Ohm
Frequency Response: 20 to 20kHz
Rated Power: 10mW
Max. Input Power: 40mW
Sensitivity: 100dB+/-3dB
Connector: 3.5mm 3-pin stereo plug
Mechanical
Weight (without packing): 12.5 grams
Length: 110 cm (43.3 inches)
Package Contents Include
S,L spare tips
Carrying Case
Warranty
1 Year
 
Noted Features on their website are:
Advanced-technology extra large drivers
High-efficiency acoustic design
Excellent bass impact
Self-untangling flat OFC wire
 
 
 
HISTORY:
 
As many of you know, I spend most of my portable listening time with several high-end custom IEM, but I like to dabble some with budget IEM that I can carry around with me without worrying about losing a fortune if anything happens to them (damage or theft).  I also like to keep my three teenagers supplied with decent sounding IEM that wont break the bank or spoil them, but will still hold up to their abuse.  
 
For a while my kids were each running through a set of cheap $20 Skullcandy Ink'd about every 3-4 months, until one side or both quit making any sound.  I only had to pay for 3 pair a year, because the local AT&T store replaces them as often as needed for the first year, but making 9-10 trips a year to the store between the 3 sets was a real pain.  The $29 Skullcandy Smokin' Buds hold up much better and sound a little better than the Ink'd, but they don't fit the ears of any of my kids very well due to their shape, so our two remaining pair don't get used at all (one is still in the package, which was a replacement for a pair that had the sound nozzle snap off).  
 
Once I discovered the Nuforce NE-6 and NE-7M we found a partial solution, in that the sound quality, fit and build was clearly above that of the Skullcandy, although the $49 price was still an issue when the kids lose them. Cost was the big reason why I didn't buy all the kids the NE-700M yet, because with 3 kids it adds up!  The new NE-600 seem well built and solid, which raises my hopes that we can replace their lost IEM with the NE-600X for half the cost of the old NE-7M, or at the same price with the improved NE-770X if they want a nice upgrade in sound.  
 
Having a microphone hasn't been mandatory for us since the iPhone uses the built-in mic with standard ear buds, although Nuforce will be selling NE-600 versions eventually, just like with the NE-700 series.  That way a person can use them to accept or continue a phone call while the iPhone remains in a purse or pocket.
 
SOURCES and SYNERGY:  
 
I listened to these IEM with my 5th and 6th Gen iPod Nano, iPhone 4S, uDAC-2 SE, Audioengine D1, Nuforce iDo, CEntrance DACport, and DACmini.  I used a wide variety of lossless music and compressed 256-320K AAC and MP3.  I thought the NE-770X paired well with all of these source/amps, with a slight bump in the bass from the AE D1 although it was still fairly comparable to the uDAC-2 SE and iDo.  And they scaled up well as the source/amp improved.  However, the NE-600 sounded a little bloated in the bass with several of the desktop amps, and they worked best with my iPhone and iPod Nanos which tamed the bass output a little.  
 
I was surprised at how big the jump in performance was with the DACmini and the NE-770X.  While the DACport, Audioengine D1, and uDAC-2 SE do a very respectable job with the NE-770X and other IEM, the DACmini was on another level and showed the potential of these IEM.  Still, even the un-amped iPhone and Nano can drive them well.
 
NE-770X SOUND:
 
I thought that the NE-770X sounded pretty good right out of the package, and they actually surprised me for a sub-$50 budget earphone.  I should note that they are not hugely different from the more costly NE-700X that I reviewed about a year ago, but there are some noticeable differences that I will discuss below.  
 
Out of the box I thought the bass was astounding for the price, and while very generous in power it was boosted mostly in the sub bass or deep bass, so that the mid-bass was not overwhelming and did not intrude into the mids.  However, unlike my Denon AH-C700, the NE-770X mid/upper bass is not thin and the NE-770X add the proper amount of body and weight to instruments while tying the low-bass and mid-bass together better than the Denon.  
 
The NE-770X mids struck me as slightly fuller and richer, and slightly less laid back than the NE-700X mids, although both of these are still a step up from my old Denon C700.  The highs were smoother and more pleasant to my ears, partly because the upper mids blend into the lower treble better so the highs don't stand out on their own as much. These didn't lose much of the sparkle of the NE-700X, but they did seem to have slightly less micro-detail and extension than the titanium coated drivers of the NE-700X. 
 
Initially I heard a slight coloring in the upper mids that made the snare drums and cymbals stand out a little more, and the soundstage was a little confused in return (which varied depending on what instrument was playing).  But it was not a serious issue and the IEM were not burned in yet.  Even early on I thought that female vocals were vivid, pianos were weighty and believable, cymbals had nice sparkle, and the bass was quite powerful but fairly tight.  Test tones didn't show a lot of dips and peaks in the response, and they demonstrated good extension to the 16Hz-16Khz limits of my 49 yr old ears. 
 
AFTER 100+ hours of burn-in I feel that they have become more natural and transparent, and while there was an improvement the overall tone and sonic character is fairly consistent.  They wont turn into a whole new IEM with burn-in, but they do tighten up, clean up, and open up. The imaging did become more coherent with burn-in, with better instrument placement and ending up slightly closer to the stage or performers than the NE-700X.  Like with the NE-700X, the soundstage is not too small, but neither is it huge.  It has good width and leans toward being forward sounding rather than distant or recessed.  They still have a better out of head soundstage than the NE-600, but it's not as big as something like the Westone 2/3/4 or IE8.
 
The NE-770X mids still seem a little less laid back and a little more present than the NE-700X.  While they're not hugely different they offer a small improvement in liveliness that area, although the older NE-700X offer a little better treble extension and micro-detail in exchange for a slightly thinner midrange.  Nevertheless, I prefer the slightly more engaging mids of the NE-770X more now.  The NE-770X micro-detail and speed (when used with a good source and amp) seems slightly better than the average dynamic driver IEM, but they're a little behind that of my balanced armature IEMs or some more costly dynamics like the NE-700X or Monster Gold/Copper.  Still, I would not call these veiled sounding. 
 
Compared to my Denon AH-C700 the NE-770X are much better balanced in sound signature, where the C700 sound recessed in the mids and tipped up in both the deep bass and mid/upper treble, and yet lack presence in the mid/upper bass or mids.  After listening to and enjoying the NE-770X, switching to the C700 makes the Denon sound a bit wrong, where the piano lacks the same weight and might move to behind the drums, while the saxophone is in my head but sounds a little thin and lacks body.  In this way the NE-770X remind me a little more of my Monster Turbine Pro Gold than the NE-700X did, but maybe in some combination with the MP4 Nation Brainwavz M2 and M3 due to the Nuforce's stronger bass, and with just a slightly less crisp sound than the Gold, NE-700X or Xscape for example. 
 
In other words, the only time my Denon AH-C700 ever come out to play is for comparisons in reviews, but with the NE-770X I'd be happy using them most of the time if I didn't have any better IEM.  They have a nice musical quality to them that I would not normally equate with a $49 IEM.  When I bought the Denon in 2007 I liked them un-amped with my 3rd Gen Nano and 5th Gen iPod video, and I paid the full $199 for them.  Now in 2012 here is a $49 IEM that I'd rather listen to.  I liked these with any genre, and with most of my source/amps, which is unusual for me without spending a lot more money.  They're not a giant killer, but they do raise the bar for a $49 IEM.
 
NE-770X ERGONOMICS and miscellaneous
 
While the body of the older NE-700X was rather fat even my kids were able to get them to seal in their ears, unlike the Smokin' Buds where their cable and shape interferes with getting the IEM deep enough into the ear.  The lighter polycarbonate body of the NE-770X is the same size as the NE-700's aluminum body, and so they fit the ears in the same way, but the lighter weight is slightly more comfortable and they disappear better.  The plastic build and faceted face feels a little cheap, however in comparison.  
 
The cable is a little microphonic, but this improves by wearing the cable over the ears.  Mine didn't come with a chin slider or Y-cable slider, so it was difficult to keep the cable tight over the ears when active.  Instead I used a tiny rubber band from my son's braces to do the job.  The 54" cable is terminated with a 3.5mm straight plug.
 
The right ear is marked RED at the strain relief, but it would be nice to have a bump on the right ear piece to help identify it in the dark.  At least I could identify the right earpiece in dim light, which I cannot do with the NE-600.  The pastel blue color is not as sexy as the old Bondi Blue iMacs of the past redface.gif , so the carbon or white color would be more appealing to me.  The supplied tips seal well and offer decent isolation.  I did most of my iPhone listening with the volume between 50-60%, and they don't need to be amplified to get good impact and volume.
 
NE-600X SOUND:
 
The NE-600 were less impressive sounding right out of the box, with a muddier and less controlled bass.  This cleaned up some by changing the source/amp, but the bass was still somewhat intrusive into the rest of the music, with a more pronounced mid/upper bass than I like.  This was worse with my AE D1 DAC/amp.  I also thought the upper mids had more of a closed headphone (echo) sound than the NE-770X.  
 
However, after burn-in the bass has tightened up a bit, and they're a bit more open sounding as well.  I heard improvements in just the first day of running music through them, but I gave them 100+ hours just to be sure, and they did improve more subtly the remainder of the time.  Now they sound a little more like my old NE-6/7M, but with more tipped up bass and slightly more lower-treble etch in comparison.  After burn-in the upper mids/lower treble still have a little bit of a Grado-esque or iMetal-like glare to them, but not annoyingly so.  
 
So there's a little more of a U shaped frequency response than with the older NE-6/7M. With the extra bass they don't need a portable amp at all, and sound strong with just the headphone out of the iPhone and Nano.  I did my listening on the iPhone 4S with the volume set at 50-60% with good results - at the same settings as the NE-770X these don't play as loud, but the bass boost makes them easier to listen to at lower volumes.  I especially found my vintage rock (60's - 80's) to sound better with the NE-600 than the NE-6, where the bass bump helped these old recordings.  
 
They scaled up some with the DACmini, although the bass was still boosted higher than what was called for, and the soundstage was still smaller than with the other IEM on the same source/amp. Fortunately the iTunes EQ setting "Bass Reducer" worked well with the NE-600 and all the desktop DAC/amps listed above - most would agree that if you have to EQ it's better to reduce frequencies than to boost them.  Un-amped via iPhone or Nano the NE-600 bass levels become more reasonable, and I'm more willing to recommend them for use with an iPhone or Nano where the extra bass is more appreciated and welcome.  The NE-600 were acceptable with or without the iPhone EQ "bass reducer" engaged, but I tended to leave the EQ off with the iPhone.
 
Overall, for around half the price of the discontinued NE-6/7M I think these are worthy of consideration, especially un-amped with an iPhone or Nano.  While the NE-600 bass may be a little more fun than the NE-6/NE-7M, the mids and highs on the older model are still a little better although not as good as the NE-770X/NE-700X.  If the old $39-49 price point of the NE-6/NE-7M wasn't a problem, the NE-770X are a definite upgrade in that same price range.
 
In the end, although these are not in the same league as the NE-770X/NE-700X, the NE-600 hold up well vs other IEM in their price range (Skullcandy Ink'd and Smokin' buds, JVC Air Cushion and Marshmallows, and Brainwavz Beta).  And, like the Denon C700 or Brainwavz Beta, the NE-600 lay firmly in the fun phone category, not the audiophile/accurate category.  My 16 yr old daughter and wife both liked the NE-600 and asked for a pair to replace their Skullcandy (AT&T store will be happy).  My 14 year old son (HeadFanatic) uses a more expensive pair of Westone 1 that I gave him a while back, and he hasn't tried the new Nuforce IEM yet. But I will try to get his feedback here.  For me, the bass is a little too much for anything but my iPhone and Nanos, unless I use the iTunes EQ.
 
NE-600 ERGONOMICS and features:
 
The NE-600 feel solidly built, with a thick flat cable.  The cable is relatively tangle free, but has a fair amount of microphonics.  Wearing the IEM with the cable going over my ears fixed the issue with microphonics, but without a chin slider it was hard to keep the cable tight over the ears when active (although okay at rest).  
 
Mine are the pre-production microphone version, and the cable is only 40" long, a full foot shorter than the cable on the NE-770X (and about 10" shorter than the NE-6).  This presents a problem when trying to use them with a desktop amp that's sitting at the end of arm's reach, although this short length get's tangled up less when I'm portable.  The cable is terminated with a 3.5mm 90 degree plug, making it suitable for portable use, but more clumsy when using a 2 foot extension cable.  Since I'd only use these with my iPhone and Nano, I'm fine with the 40" cable and 90 degree plug.  The sound of phone calls was crisp and clear on both ends of the call.
 
I found that the NE-600 are more sensitive to placement in the ear canal, working best for me with a shallow insertion.  And the drivers can bind up with positive pressure or vacuum inside the ear canal, which can take away almost all the bass below 50Hz if there is any +/- pressure between the eardrum and the IEM driver.  Wiggling the IEM in the ears to open a temporary gap and equalize the pressure inside the ear canal can quickly bring back the low bass. 
 
The stock tips are comfortable and seal/isolate fine for me.  I don't feel the need to grab a better quality tip like I did with the NE-7M when they first came out. They should work fine with the Complys T400 and Shure E2c tips like the NE-6/7M.  One last thing - a few times I would plug them into my iPhone and get sound from the speaker, only to realize that I had to push in the plug harder for the final 2mm of insertion.  The plug makes a hard click when fully seated, and holds onto the phone jack rather tightly after that.
 
SUMMARY:
 
In their price range I think both of these IEM compete well sonically.  I think the NE-770X do a nice job of bringing the NE-700X sound quality into an even cheaper form factor, which some people might like even more than the original.  I haven't heard everything out there, but I would still vote for the NE-770X as the "best bang for the buck" out of what I have heard to this point.  I think they will appeal to those who want a fun sounding earphone or audiophiles on a budget. If you have an upgraded source or amp I'd strongly recommend the NE-770X more, since they scale up better and sound more realistic and engaging. The NE-600 is what I think of as the ultimate cheap iPhone/iPod IEM for my kids, or for when I need a cheap set to use in a pinch and not worry about losing them.  They are basically a fun sounding phone to play with, but audiophiles expecting too much from a $24.95 earphone may be disappointed. 
post #2 of 33
Thread Starter 

Post #2 reserved:

 

UPDATE - I was recently contacted by another head-fi member who has the NE-600 and is doing a review, and he felt the NE-600 sounded much better than they should, based on my review.  After a week of going back and forth I was very curious, so I ordered a new NE-600M from Nuforce's Amzon store last week.

 

When the NE-600M arrived they sounded slightly better than my preproduction pair.  After 36 hours of burn in the new pair were noticeably better.  here is what I wrote to him:

 

 

 

Quote:

Well, after about 36 hours of of burn-in on the new RED NE-600M, I can say that these do sound better than my original NE-600M.  

 

Overall the bass is still a bit bloated and wooley sounding, or basically looser and less defined than what a better IEM would offer.  But the bass quality is a little improved over the 1st set, and these aren't even really burned in yet.  I can tolerate using this pair with my Audioengine D1 and uDAC-2 amps, where with the original pair I have to use them with the iPhone 4S to tame and control the bass.  This might be due to headphone output impedance mismatch with the amps, where the 4S has a very low output impedance.  

 

And there is still a slight boost to the upper mids that makes the cymbals and snare drums slightly splashy like with the original set, but to a lesser degree.  What is most striking about these is I think the mids are much richer and natural, with better transparency and less upper mids coloration.  With Kent Poon "Audiophile Jazz Prologue III" in 24/96 and Audioengine D1 it was a "wow moment" for a $29 IEM.  These are much closer to the Brainwavz M2, but for the bass control and the upper mids differences.  I am very glad that I ended up getting another pair to try out.  Strangely, while the M3 are better than M2 in many ways, sometimes the M2 are more enjoyable with the M3 more tamed.

 

I have yet to compare the RED to either pair of NE-770X that I have here, I've just been too busy.  From memory I'd say they are a bit closer to the NE-700X I have, but I don't recall the bass being this loose on the NE-700X, and the upper mids spike is missing in the NE-770X like with the M2.  And I'm not saying they are terribly loose, but we are treading into Denon AH-C700 territory here.  The Denon have recessed mids with a V-shaped curve, and they are not as enjoyable as these, performing better from an iPod with low output impedance as well.  That's too bad because in 2007 I paid $199 for the Denon.

 

I'll listen some more and post an update in my review later.

 

At 85 hours these sound pretty nice, with little change over the past 12 hours.  I'm listening to the same Kent Poon Audiophile Jazz Prologue (lossless) through my Nuforce iDo right now, and the upper mids seem smoother and less colored than they did two days ago.  The bass is still fairly strong, but bass control is a little improved since my last report as well.

 

I've only compared the new pair to the preproduction pair so far (too busy).  I do plan to fetch my AH-C700, NE-770x and Brainwavz M2 and M3 in the next couple of days and compare them all over again, and see if my impressions hold up.


Edited by HeadphoneAddict - 9/10/12 at 1:17am
post #3 of 33

Man addict you just busted my bubble,  i just shelled out 80 bucks on a 700m, just to find out that a lower price nuforce is just as good

 

 

post #4 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by liteon6x View Post

Man addict you just busted my bubble,  i just shelled out 80 bucks on a 700m, just to find out that a lower price nuforce is just as good

 


Well, you do get a microphone with the 700M.

 

post #5 of 33

well i rather get a 50 iem than pay a extra 30 bucks for the mic

 

 

i cant belive nuforce

they dont know there own strength LOL

post #6 of 33

Good review, thanks.

post #7 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by matase View Post

Good review, thanks.


Your welcome.  I hadn't done an IEM review in a while, after taking a break.

 

post #8 of 33

Great review, I might get the 600x for my sister since she keeps blasting her music through the laptop speakers which are appalling at best and buy the 770x/700x for me. I also have an Audioengine D1, should I shell out the extra $15 for the 700x or go with the 770x?


Edited by OmarCCX - 2/23/12 at 3:56pm
post #9 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by OmarCCX View Post

Great review, I might get the 600x for my sister since she keeps blasting her music through the laptop speakers which are appalling at best and buy the 770x/700x for me. I also have an Audioengine D1, should I shell out the extra $15 for the 700x or go with the 770x?


If you don't need the mic of the 700M I'd look at the 770X.

 

post #10 of 33

Appreciate the quick reply, thanks.

post #11 of 33

Great review and thanks for bringing these to attention. 

 

I realize there's a local store that has these available for demo so I'll go give them a listen sometime. 

post #12 of 33

Thinking about getting a pair of these.  So do people still feel the 770 is better than the 700?  I ask because the price difference between them isn't very much at all anymore.

post #13 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vaxick View Post

Thinking about getting a pair of these.  So do people still feel the 770 is better than the 700?  I ask because the price difference between them isn't very much at all anymore.

 

Well, as you can see from my review, they each have their strengths and will have a different appeal based on what your preferences are.  If you are a detail freak the NE-700 might be a better choice, while those who cherish the mids with a more forgiving treble will like the NE-770 more.  Both have pretty solid bass.

post #14 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post

Well, as you can see from my review, they each have their strengths and will have a different appeal based on what your preferences are.  If you are a detail freak the NE-700 might be a better choice, while those who cherish the mids with a more forgiving treble will like the NE-770 more.  Both have pretty solid bass.

 

Hm. My NE-700X has once again broken (third time in 1 year). Using mine very carefully but obviously not enough :p However, I'm not quite sure I want a new pair since the built quality seems to be really poor. I have the possibility to choose between Klipch Image S4 and NE-770, or a new pair of NE-700X. I'm thinking about trying the S4's, though I havn't heard them and I really like the sound of my 700X, will the 770 keep me satisfied? Will the S4's be a better deal?

post #15 of 33
Thread Starter 

UPDATE - I was recently contacted by another head-fi member who has the NE-600 and is doing a review, and he felt the NE-600 sounded much better than they should, based on my review.  After a week of going back and forth I was very curious, so I ordered a new NE-600M from Nuforce's Amzon store last week.

 

When the NE-600M arrived they sounded slightly better than my preproduction pair.  After 36 hours of burn in the new pair were noticeably better.  Here is what I wrote to him:

 

 

Quote:

Well, after about 36 hours of of burn-in on the new RED NE-600M, I can say that these do sound better than my original NE-600M.  

 

Overall the bass is still a bit bloated and wooley sounding, or basically looser and less defined than what a better IEM would offer.  But the bass quality is a little improved over the 1st set, and these aren't even really burned in yet.  I can tolerate using this pair with my Audioengine D1 and uDAC-2 amps, where with the original pair I have to use them with the iPhone 4S to tame and control the bass.  This might be due to headphone output impedance mismatch with the amps, where the 4S has a very low output impedance.  

 

And there is still a slight boost to the upper mids that makes the cymbals and snare drums slightly splashy like with the original set, but to a lesser degree.  What is most striking about these is I think the mids are much richer and natural, with better transparency and less upper mids coloration.  With Kent Poon "Audiophile Jazz Prologue III" in 24/96 and Audioengine D1 it was a "wow moment" for a $29 IEM.  These are much closer to the Brainwavz M2, but for the bass control and the upper mids differences.  I am very glad that I ended up getting another pair to try out.  Strangely, while the M3 are better than M2 in many ways, sometimes the M2 are more enjoyable with the M3 more tamed.

 

I have yet to compare the RED to either pair of NE-770X that I have here, I've just been too busy.  From memory I'd say they are a bit closer to the NE-700X I have, but I don't recall the bass being this loose on the NE-700X, and the upper mids spike is missing in the NE-770X like with the M2.  And I'm not saying they are terribly loose, but we are treading into Denon AH-C700 territory here.  The Denon have recessed mids with a V-shaped curve, and they are not as enjoyable as these, performing better from an iPod with low output impedance as well.  That's too bad because in 2007 I paid $199 for the Denon.

 

I'll listen some more and post an update in my review later.

 

At 85 hours these sound pretty nice, with little change over the past 12 hours.  I'm listening to the same Kent Poon Audiophile Jazz Prologue (lossless) through my Nuforce iDo right now, and the upper mids seem smoother and less colored than they did two days ago.  The bass is still fairly strong, but bass control is a little improved since my last report as well.

 

I've only compared the new pair to the preproduction pair so far (too busy).  I do plan to fetch my AH-C700, NE-770x and Brainwavz M2 and M3 in the next couple of days and compare them all over again, and see if my impressions hold up.

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