[Review/Comparison] Nuforce IEMs: NE-600X, NE-700X, NE-770X
*pics in second post*
600X: Comes in a hard slim plastic box (reuseable but not really useful for portability), and 1 pair each of S/M/L rubber tips. No carrying case, which is a bit surprising.
700X: A bit better than the 600X. It comes in a box, nothing special there. Included is a cloth drawstring carry case, and 2 pairs each of S/M/L rubber tips
Build Quality & Cable
- body: metal and plastic, feels solid, L/R are labelled on the body
- cable: flat non-tangling cable though has mild memory, a bit short especially if worn over ear
- strain relief: solid strain relief at ear, right angled at jack but relief is so stiff it has a stress point where it returns to normal
- microphonics: quite bad when worn down, but negligible when worn over ear
- body: aluminum body, solid feel and construction, always a bit cold when inserting into ear at first, does not label L/R on the body but is colour coded at the cable entry point (black is left, red is right),
- cable: standard round cable that kinks and has memory, metal accents on the Y split and jack that look nice
- strain relief: soft & weak at earpiece that seems slipped on rather than moulded in (see pic; it comes off very easily), good strain relief at the straight jack
- microphonics: less than the 600X when worn down; about the same when worn over ear
- surprisingly no chin slider but it has a clip that can sort of function as one
- longer cable than the 600X
- body: polycarbonate body, very light
- cable: much like the 700X, no metal accents, has a chin slider but no clip
- strain relief: same as 700X
- microphonics: same as 700X
Overall isolation is pretty good. Stronger than my V-Sonic GR07.
Across the overall spectrum I would say the 700X isolates better than the 600X, probably due to that port on the back of the 600X. Of note though is within the upper frequencies, where the 600X attenuates the upper treble a little better while the 700X attenuates the lower treble better. Take the sound of running tap water for example: the 600X reduces it to a “shhhhh” kind of sound while the 700X sounds like “sssssss”.
In the case of the 770X, it is very similar to the 700X but is a touch better attenuates the mid treble isolation, and the resulting tap water sound is reduced moreso but higher in pitch
bass isolation: all roughly the same
mid isolation: 700 = 770 > 600
high isolation: 770 > 700 > 600
The fit is roughly the same for all the models since they share the same size and rough form factor and cable angle from the earpiece.
weight: 700X > 600X > 770X (lightest)
- overall response is V shaped
- very bass heavy, holds strong down to 40Hz easily
- bass overwhelms into the mids, which are very recessed in comparison
- treble is rather hot; cymbals come across somewhat harsh/zing
The 600X has a “consumer” sound signature; very bass heavy and not much else. Even the bass that it has suffers clarity issues. It provides strong and viscerally pleasing impact, but lacks in clarity and the midbass bleeds heavily into the midrange. For modern music this may not matter as much, but for any genres or pieces that have a vocal line and bass track behind it, the bass is so pronounced that you will almost lose the vocals.
The treble likewise is somewhat pronounced, particularly in the midtreble which feels like it's throwing it in your face. Listening to a frequency sweep shows that treble peak early on and not too much wobble afterwards, but the overall treble energy is high (likely a slow decay). Combined with the bass, this makes the midrange feel quite recessed, resulting in a hollower sound. This is particularly noticeable in the vocals which sound somewhat spacy, almost like an echo.
Soundstage falls squarely in the *shrug* realm. It's not horrible, but could be better.
The 600X is also highly susceptible to noise and seems to pick up more machine hum than other iems of similar sensitivity.
That all said, this isn't a bad sounding iem for $25. For the price it performs quite admirably.
- overall response is also U shaped
- recessed midrange
- bass heavy. but decay times are a bit better than the 600X
- strong treble, but only mild peak, and comes later than the 600X
The bass on the 700X is arguably as strong as the 600X, but the clarity is much improved since the midbass is less pronounced and does not bleed into the midrange nearly as much. On the flipside, the reduced midbass makes the midrange on the 700X feel slightly more recessed that the 600X. Despite that, the overall balance feels better since each range does not overlap as heavily into each other.
Detail retrieval on the 700X is significantly better than the 600X, leading to better definition particularly in the midtreble. This lends to better soundstage as well.
The treble isn't as hot as the 600X, and peaks later as well. This lends to a less “in your face” sound while providing some extra “zing” and energy on the top end.
Sitting at $65 this is quite a bit more expensive than the 600X. I would say the sound quality is improved, but enough to warrant the price... maybe.
- bass emphasized
- relatively flat midrange
- treble wobbles more than the 700X
- decay times noticeably improve moving from bass into the mids, providing cleaner sound
- slightly “dryer” overall sound
The 770X strongly resembles the 700X, but it has a polycarbonate body instead of aluminum, and it does not have the titanium coated drivers.
The bass is emphasized just like the 600X and 700X, but is a bit more controlled (less “flabby”) down at 40Hz. Moving up to the midbass and midrange you can feel the volume and energy drop down, which isn't a bad thing. That rumble and decay cleans up and the midrange clarity immediately jumps out. If anything, it might err on the slightly dryer side compared to the other two.
Moving up to the treble range, unlike the other two the 770X doesn't peak nearly as hard, but it does wobble more resulting in two or three more noticeable smaller peaks. So the tradeoff is that you don't get any harsh highs, but sometimes it also feels a little more confused. Percussive things like cymbals aren't affected as much, but treble range instruments and sopranos might potentially sound a little off.
At their current price of $35, this is the no-brainer choice among the three for me personally. In the Nuforce literature, the 700X is supposed to be their top of the line model, but according to my ear the 770X sits at the top.
All three are bassy
600X - most V shaped
700X - more U shaped
770X - most neutral though bass emphasized
With Comply Tips - applies to all three models
*disclaimer: I always have odd fit issues with iems and changing tips affects not just the seal but the angle and depth in which the iems will sit in my ear. As such, take the following notes with the understanding that my impressions here may vastly differ from yours
- isolation much improved across the entire spectrum
- upper bass is stronger but muddier and bleeds more into the lower mids
- lower bass (<60Hz, basically electronic) is stronger with the stock tips... or maybe they just sound that way compared to the bump the upper bass gets from the foam
- highs are more prominent, sharper percussive hits, bit more sparkle and shimmer
- overall sound feels even more V shaped
- unless you need the isolation or prefer the fit, I would not consider the foam tips an upgrade
March 2013 update
Nuforce has updated their NE-700 iem. Below is their response when I asked what changes were made...
The new improved NE-700X/M has "IMPROVED" words on the top left side so you can easily distinguish it from the old version.
Build and Sound Quality
We are mainly addressing the weakness in reliability of the previous NE700, particular, we had a new supplier to provide the 'monster like' earphone cable, which has 50% more and thinner strands of copper. All the strain-reliefs are new structure for to prevent wire pulls, the 3.5mm is now 90-degree to reduce stress when the phone is in a pocket. Also the Aluminum chassis change into matted surface. Cost went up, but MSRP remained the same, $65 for X, $75 for M.
After handling these for a few days, I do like the new cable. It is the same thickness and texture, but is softer and more flexible, and doesn't seem to hold memory as much as the last one. The jack is now a right angle and has an odd strain relief built in. It doesn't look like there is one, but upon closer examination I realized that the end part of the jack was actually softer than the rest of it, allowing some flex. However, the transition is still sharp enough that any failure is likely going to be right at that joint.
The wire entry at the earpieces seem identical to before, but some light tugging shows that the updated model is a bit sturdier than before which is good.
At the Y-split there's an actual chin slider now, which is a much welcomed addition. This replaces the shirt clip from the previous model, which I frankly never used though I suppose some might miss it. I'm curious why it wasn't just included as an accessory in the update.
Speaking of accessories, no changes there. You still get the little cloth bag and two pairs each of S/M/L rubber tips. Minor quibble is that the tips don't come in a litle ziploc bag like before (they're all just plopped into the bag), so you'll have to find a separate place to stash them if you want to use the pouch.
In terms of appearance, the shells are now a matte chocolate colour. They're still aluminum, but don't look it anymore. I find I actually preferred the old look, but that's just an aesthetic opinion. The new model just looks like plastic to me.
Edited by Armaegis - 3/31/13 at 10:15pm