The stock ear tips are comfortable. But they are not doing justice to the iems. The cable is of decent quality, and I found that cable rolling is not necessary but a cable with 4.4mm termination will bring out more bass presence and thickness to the overall sound. Thus, I mainly listen to it using stock cable as the bass is already thick enough for my taste and AET07 medium small tips (black stem).
I bought the Nebula version so I shall use this term in the following article.
The iem is very light and has contours which should fit most ears, a classical universal shape. Such design can achieve slightly better passive noise cancellation.
The nozzle is long enough, and the bore is not too wide to cause any discomfort and so the seal is quite good.
The shell cavity is made of resin but does not feel substantial. While it may be unique to stick pictures of Nebula or milky way on the faceplate, the result is, well at least to me, a bit gaudy. Then again, it makes this iem distinguishable from other run of the mill productions.
Followings were used to test the iem:
- iphone and PC with Spotify and Tidal
- JCally AP90
- Cayin RU6
- Fiio BTR7
- Fiio Q11
- Topping G5
- Tempotec BHD Pro
- KMERJ KM01
- S.M.S.L DL200
The iem is quite easy to drive, just need a wee bit more power than it’s brethren the KE-S so most dongles will work just fine.
General sound characteristics and technicalities
Throughout the sound tests AET07 small-medium sized ear tips from GBVP (fit my ear better than other Acoustune clones) and stock 3.5mm cable were used.
The driver is a 10mm dual magnet dynamic unit with graphene diaphragm. Creative Technology like to use this type of diaphragm for their earlier earphones/headphones, and they tend to have warm sound signature and the Nebula’s driver seems to exhibit similar characteristics.
Man, this iem is FUN! The general characteristics are like KZ iems of yesteryear, thick bass adding nice warmth to vocals but more articulate. Instruments sound correct but separation is not it’s strongest point, Katie Melua’s Quiet Moves has all sorts of instruments and background vocals fly around but the Nebula cannot really tell what from what and exactly where they are from making this song sounding a little messy.
Instruments sound accurate and soundstage is right about living room size. No complains here.
Normally I’d like more sub bass than mid bass because if not done right strong mid bass can cause fatigue, but that’s just me YMMV. Interestingly, despite having very strong mid bass presence, the Nebula doesn’t cause any discomfort on extended listening, there is good tangible rumble but the decay is just as fast so there isn’t much sub bass presence. The sub bass is still there when needed, I can hear sub bass in Basstronic’s Sub Bass Excursion and Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass, it’s just that it falls off very quickly.
There is some bass bleed to the mid but due to the fast decay the vocal remains well discerned. The strong bass also lends warmth to the overall sound, the sort I like a lot. A good gauge is to listen to Elaine Elias’s Dance of Time album where her lush voice is well presented with warm devices and in this case the Nebula did not disappoint. The one niggle is that despite fast roll offs, the thick bass may be the deciding factor for drop in resolution with bassy songs although the driver can prove to be quite resolute, more to this later under treble.
The mid is not recessed, in fact it is quite forward, a necessity to counter the strong bass, I think. Songs with low bass bring vocals forward very prominently. Listening to Diana Krall’s Turn Up the Quiet album, it is as if she is whispering next to my ears, her breaths and lip movements are clearly heard amidst the bass strings. Stacey Kent’s voice, otherwise slightly thin, has more body to it with the Nebula. The quick fall off before 2k make peaky voice from Celine Dion very tolerable, I think this may be why I like this iem so much. The driver’s detail is quite good, the proof is that it makes Ariana Grande’s voice clearer, I can now hear what she is singing .
The iem is never shouty nor show any sibilance, yet it is well extended giving that airy feeling. The echoes in Diana Krall’s Like Someone In Love are clearly heard and the decay drags a little longer giving a strong sense of airiness. I like it. The treble can get drowned out by the strong bass presence losing some details in EDMs and bassy music. So I tend to listen to Jazz music when putting on this iem. While 7hz Legato boosts the treble to counter the strong bass, it can sound a little artificial at times. Perhaps that is the reason why CVJ decides against it.
I like the Fiio FD11 a great deal and it is on my top 5 list. It is chosen for the similar price and for its interesting bass.
The conch-shaped passage (or Fiio calls it C-shaped acoustic flute) of the FD11 allows a controlled traveling path of the bass without interfering or interfering other frequencies resulting in holographic clean bass. Subjectively, I hear more sub bass than mid bass. But there’s more hearing than feeling the thump while the Nebula does it like a conventional DD should: you feel and hear the thump. Yet I can’t say which is better, both have their places in their music genres.
Fiio’s mid is like an organic breeze blowing through my ears, clean and refreshing. Yeah, organic sounding comes across my mind often when listening to this iem while the Nebula likes it thick and a boosted mid making it more fun to listen but with some sacrifice in clarity and details. Not to say that Nebula is not organic sounding, it does, it is just that FD11 does it more naturally.
Treble in both iems are considered as non-fatiguing and are comparably detailed and airy although the FD11 extends a bit further and sound cleaner, especially in busy or bass heavy tracks, though some may find that a little more fatiguing comparing to Nebula.
The Nebula pairs well with this DAC which lends extra treble to the iem. It also tones down the bass somewhat so there is good extensions in the treble region and less bleed into the mids.
Tempotec Sonata BHD Pro
Few dac companies are willing to invest in FPGA not to mention for use in dongles. But Tempotec implements it in the Sonata BHD Pro. I own a Chord Mojo and am very impressed with its rendering capability and musicality. The BHD Pro is not quite there yet, perhaps limited by the CS chips yet there is a certain sweetness to it’s sound with good details. Thanks to FPGA’s low power consumption, the dongle also doesn’t run hot. Matching the Nebula with it, there are improvement with the extensions in the treble region and they sound smoother.
Yet another proof that the Nebula has good drivers as it scales well with better sources, that is, with the S.M.S.L. DL200.
Bass now sounds as if I am listening to live concert. Listening to Grateful Dead’s cover Uncle John’s Band (John Scofield, Vicente Archer, Bill Stewart), I thought I was sitting in the front row right in the center with the instruments flying all around my ears and the bass comes in different flavours to boot. Alphaville’s Call Me Down sounds rich with the singer’s voice delivered in a clear and crisp manner, one would have thought this iem costs much more if the price is not revealed.
My first CVJ iem was the KE-S which I found very good value for the money, even after swapping the ear tips and cable to better ones.
The second iem, Nebula is more than a pleasant surprise for its more matured tuning which I only have three words for it: Fun! Fun! Fun!
Often, fun sounding iems swap details with musicality and the Nebula is no exception. But I am more than happy with this type of tuning. After all, I just want to listen and enjoy my favourite music more of the time and this is it especially at this price it is an easy choice to bring along when traveling.
Further, there are no harshness in the mid treble, together with the comfortable shell, this iem is good for prolonged listening sessions.