Pros: Sturdy build quality
Cons: Boomy bass, lack of accessories
Home: Musicbee WASAPI out->iBasso D4->JDS Labs O2
On-the-Go: iPod Classic 160gb
The NuForce NE-600X are NuForce’s entry level IEMs and the packaging shows. The NE-600X arrived in a clear plastic case that pulls apart and is easily put back in place. The NE-600X are seen as well as the included tips. The back has specifications and shows the other tips through a small window. This is absolutely no frills here, even the included accessories scream that these are entry level IEMs. The only thing included with the NE-600X is set of small, medium, and large, tips. This is the type of packaging I expect to see with $10 cheap-o IEMs from Walmart, not a serious audio company.
Design and Build Quality
Despite the packaging the NE-600X have a sturdy feel to them. The housings are made of grey plastic and some sort of black metal (aluminum?). The nozzle is rather wide with an non removable mesh filter made from some sort of softer material instead of metal. The back half of the housing has an indicator of which side and a small port. A small stress relief leaves the housing to a very sturdy feeling ribbon cable, that does not tangle at all, which leads to a y-split with a cinch. At the end a 90 degree angle 3.5mm plug is attached and feels sturdy. My one complaint about the build is that the cord is just a tad too short, for instance when my iPod is in my pocket I feel tugging on my ears when exercising. I do wear these over-ear though for a better fit, while they are meant for wearing down.
Once put in my ears, thankfully one of the included tips gave me a secure seal, they make their presence known through some driver flex and minor irritation. These aren’t the least comfortable IEMs, but they are certainly noticeable in my ears creating mild discomfort after an hour of wear. The NE-600X sit shallow at least, which many users new to IEMs will likely appreciate more than a deep insertion IEM. The isolation of the NE-600X is sub-par, hardly blocking any noise without music playing, but that is to be expected with shallow insertion IEMs. Another plus to the shallow insertion is that it tends to mean less microponics and there is absolutely none here.
I praise NuForce for the build of these, I feel like I could throw these in a loaded backpack and not worry, or wear them for heavy exercise without worry of them breaking. That is how an IEM should feel! The comfort could definitely use work though as it’s a pain wearing these for my hour of light exercise, perhaps softer tips? The build is above average for the durability I expect out of these, these should not break easily.
As always I gave the NuForce NE-600X at least 50 hours of burn-in before gauging their quality. I also used them personally for at least 100 hours in various environments. No major burn-in signs were noticed throughout the time.
So NuForce is entering the IEM market? That was my first thought when I first heard of these, apparently though these aren’t very new, rather not very well-known. This isn’t uncommon though considering most audio enthusiasts skip over the lower priced products in-favor of higher-end products from buzzworthy companies. Many products get swept under the rug and are never heard of, many rightfully so, but what about the NuForce NE-600X? Well, these are certainly a headphone that caters to a certain type of crowd in my opinion. The overall sound of these is bassy with a lot of punch that puts the mids and highs into the background, though those two are relatively balanced. These remind me of the IEM version of the Sony XB-500 actually and in all honesty I quite like these for certain genres.
On-to the bass, oh yes the bass. These headphones are clearly tuned to appeal to the modern day top 40 listener with its punchy and pushy bass. The bass extends pretty deep with good presence and surprisingly decent speed and texture for the price, for example on James Blake’s Limit to Your Love the rapidly fluctuating bass-line changes fast and isn’t one-noted as expected. With the good comes the bad though, the mid-bass, somewhere around the 150-200hz region I’m assuming, is bloated and pushy which causes the bass to seem too weighty and slows it down. This is also very bad for rock music as the bass-line has a tendency to push the vocals and other instruments aside. Listening to The Beatles Something from the MFSL CD master the bass-line is pushing the vocals to the background, the guitar nuances are hard to hear, and the piano is all but silent except on certain parts. Thankfully though some music does benefit from this pushy mid-bass, that is pop music. I found my most satisfying listening experiences with the NuForce with music such as Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe where the nuances don’t matter, the bass thumps and makes me want to dance while Carly sings her hook that will get stuck in your head. Atmospheric drum and bass also is something I’m enjoying very much as I listen to Duo Infernal’s Lost in the World, now that would see odd since one of the things that makes the genre pleasurable is the layering done in it that is built around the rolling bass-line considering the bass pushes a lot of the nuances out. While the 3-d sound to this song is gone, the bass rolls along in a satisfying way that I have to admit I enjoy sometimes.
Aside from the bass being pushy against the mids and highs causing them to sound recessed they have their own set of problems. The biggest problem I have with the mids is that instruments have a tendency to sound plastic at times, mostly drums. Drums have a tendency to sound like toys which gives the music a poorly recorded sound to it. The Black Keys Tighten Up for instance sounds as if it were poorly mastered, a bit fuzzy, and even a bit “underwater muffled.” Guitars don’t have the proper aggression through the NE-600X for me to recommend this for the rock genre either. Fortunately though the NE-600X do give a satisfying mid-experience in the way of synths. Now that isn’t to say that they portray them perfectly, but Radiohead’s warm and fuzzy synths in Everything In It’s Right Place are phenomenal through these. What about vocals? Well they are pushed back by the bass but in vocal-centric music, such as most female fronted bands, the vocals come off a tad sibilant but smooth and clean. Sara Bareilles is one of my most sibilant artists and while it’s noticeable it’s not harsh, this is thanks to the warm full presentation of it, though again slightly plastic. Male vocals are uninspired in my listening.
The highs are very forgettable, being rolled off and pushed towards the back. I really don’t have much to say about the highs as they are that forgettable. Details are certainly lost because of this, I feel like I’m missing a lot of nuances in many songs and it takes away from the listening experience. I have nothing more to say about them.
The soundstage is decent for what these are, in-part I expect, due to the large opening nozzle. The music can get congested at times, but it’s usually due to the bass being bloated and taking up a lot of space. On tracks that have little bass presence the NE-600X have an intimate small-club vibe to them, though once the bass is present the space fills fast. There’s not much depth though and the imaging is average at best.
What about amping? Well the NE-600X are 32 ohms so I was expecting the bass to tighten up through my O2 amp compared to my iPod. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. No worthwhile change has occurred when amped, these are what they are from an iPod or an O2.
From the packaging, price-point, and sound signature I would guess that NuForce is aiming these towards young teens as a decent set of IEMs to listen to their radio hits on. For that these are great. The NE-600X feel durable enough to let any youngster use and have a very pleasing sound for the pop genre and darker electronic genres. These are something I would buy for my 12 year old nephew. For the rest of us these are a pass. I can’t find a reason to buy these over other budget IEMs such as the Monoprice 8320, or the Meelectronics M6.
Edited by keanex - 7/9/12 at 7:55am