NiceHCK DB3

General Information




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Pros: Fantastic value, resolution, build, and resolution
Cons: Can be dry sounding at times
NiceHCK DB3 - New Year's Resolution


BACKGROUND


I wanted a small gift for myself last Christmas. Well it was November so it's an early Christmas gift. And since I haven't bought anything audio for quite some time, I decided to check around Youtube for some budget finds. The reviewer Zpolt put out a soundtest of the Nicehck DB3:


I liked what I heard. Now before anyone gives out a violent reaction, I know that Youtube sound tests are not representative of the earphone's actual performance. But still, if you like what you heard, you ought to give it a try. Was I pleasantly surprised? Read on to find out.


PACKAGING, DESIGN, BUILD QUALITY

Here you go, including the DB3 in a 4.4 pentaconn.

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Design is not bad. I actually like it. It's utilitarian, not overstated. I also like the black and gold accents.

Build is actually good, better than most KZs and you can actually feel it on the shells. Plus the nozzle has a pretty big lip to hold tips very securely.

The TRN IM2 is a touch smaller and better shaped and fits more securely. The DB3 is still comfortable and isolates enough though it doesn't conform to the inner ear as much as the IM2 does. Please take that into consideration. Overall, it's still a good-enough design.


SOUND

Bass is fast, tight and visceral. I missed this kind of bass. It hits you harder due to its speed and depth. Not boom, but actual, guttural depth, especially with the right tips. I love it. And since Chi-fi is now saturated by IEMs with (some poorly) elevated bass, this is a pleasant departure from today's norm.

Mids and Highs are very detailed. Not harsh, but detailed. And, "not harsh but detailed" is very hard to do these days as most budget IEMs tend to favor detail on both ends at the expense of being piercing and harsh, especially at higher volumes. I believe the DB3 is meticulously tuned to achieve this. Cymbal decays are very distinct. Plucking, movement of some equipment in the background, actual recorded distortion in the music, they all come in clearly and effortlessly. I'm floored by how much resolution I'm getting at this price point. Thus the title of this review.

Sound stage is a touch wider than the IM2. It's probably because it doesn't seal that much. Imaging though is spot on. Out of all the headphones I have, including over-ears, this is the only one that convincingly recreates sound coming from the back. Ran the Dolby Atmos test on these and if the audio is positioned coming from the back, it's really coming from the back. For my other headphones, there is a slight blur to positioning. The DB3 images like a boss. Here are the actual videos from Dolby (official channel):






One weakness that I'm finding, and some other also have, is that the DB3 can sound a little dry. It sounds natural, very resolving, but a little dry. It's hard to explain. I like the lack of warmth. I like the accuracy and timbre, but at the same time, I miss a little bit of warmth too, a little bit of emotion. If music is given to you as it is, or as they say, "as it was recorded", well, well and good. But a sprinkle of warmth and emotional "salt" will do music good...sometimes.


CONCLUSION

The NiceHCK DB3 is a gem, not only at the $20 price point, but an undeniable gem. It is very underrated. Can it go toe to toe with the Blon 03? I don't own the Blon, never liked the design. But if I keep it in regular rotation with my Grado SR80e and my Shure SRH440, you better believe it can. I'm pretty happy with my new year's "resolution".

Happy listening everyone!
Last edited:
audiophilefan
audiophilefan
@AkuZaku - The DB3. Sounds more "correct" to me. The IM2 is bassier (if you prefer that signature) but doesn't sound as natural or detailed. :)
AkuZaku
AkuZaku
What about trn st1 or kz zsn/zsn pro?
audiophilefan
audiophilefan
@AkuZaku - Haven't tried the ST1. I tried the ZSNs and though generally they sound good, the plain ZSN being the most "neutral" among other KZs, they still sound "metallic" and piercing at higher volumes. Plus either the IM2 or the DB3 are better built. Still DB3 for me. One of the best out there. But still, it's very detailed. So if you're treble sensitive, probably one from TRN will do. Or the Blon BL-03 but I never liked the Blon's design so I never tried it. :)
Pros: Appealing sound image and speed; decent balance; decent midrange; nothing annoying.
Cons: Bass slightly boomy; repetitive design.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


The NiceHCK DB3 is a well-priced 2+1 budget earphone with a “fun” tuning that justifies this attribute: V-shaped with good dynamics and no fatiguing upper end.

This review was originally posted at https://audioreviews.org


INTRODUCTION

Sometimes, this happens: you take a pair of iems out of the box, plug them in, and you instantly like them. There is something about the image that hits you even before you start your analytical listening procedure. The NiceHCK DB3 is such a rare case. Was I ever surprised by this KZ in disguise, I had not expected much. The first impression was a bass tuning that covered up a bit of the lower midrange, but this didn’t really matter in the big picture. Gone was the piercing upper midrange so typical for cheap Chi-Fi. The result was an appealing “fun” tuned image with quite a good depth and a natural punch. I was packing my suitcase for a 17 hr trip to Rio de Janeiro at the time and spontaneously decided to take it as one of my inflight iems (the other one was the BQEYZ Spring 1).


SPECIFICATIONS




PHYSICAL THINGS AND USABILITY

Let’s go a step back. This is a $20 earphone and cable and tip selection are in line with this pricing. Luckily, the NiceHCK DB3 work right out of the box. The cable is stiff but ok and the largest tips did the job for me. I also tried the SpinFit CP145 and the JVC Spiral dots (both would be somewhat cost prohibitive with a budget earphone at $5-6 per pair) and the Tennmak Whirlwind. While there were nuanced differences, I went with the stock tips in the end. As source, I used the iPhone SE, and it drove the NiceHCK DB3 well. Not much juice needed. The combination of $100+ amp and a $20 earphone would be somewhat pointless.




The fit was like the other KZs…pardon…earphones of this shape, it was fine. Isolution was good for me, as always, mileage may vary with tips used and with ear canal; shape. I do admit I like the silver faceplates, however the overall shape is repetitive and therefore unimaginative.


TONALITY AND TECHNICALITIES

V-shaped, what did you expect? The bass is prominent with decent speed, but it can be boomy. Extension is very good but the signal gets fuzzier towards the bottom end. Well, the mids are a bit recessed and could have more weight as always in this price category, but the overall balance of this earphone is pretty good. The density of vocals, male and female, are surprisingly good and more than acceptable. This is mainly achieved by a modestly dosed upper midrange that does NOT überenergize the vocals/midrange. The bass is bleeding into the mids at the cost of clarity clarity but this strengthens the deeper vocals. Music without much bass is much cleaner than bassy tracks. Treble is sparsely dosed and slightly rolled off: the tuner had recognized the danger of BAs drilling eardrums – finally. Overall, the NiceHCK DB3 has a decent tonal balance.



Frequency response measured by Biodegraded.

To the technicalities. Timbre is surprisingly accurate. Stage is not the widest, but especially in comparison to single dynamic drivers in this class, it has good height and depth. In terms of refinement, the DB3 can also not compete with the $50-100 class, but it can it terms of fun and enjoyment. At complex instrumentations, definition is getting somewhat wonky. All this does not take away from the enjoyment of the NiceHCK DB3.


CONCLUDING REMARKS

The NiceHCK DB3 is a crowdpleaser: it does nothing terribly wrong, much at least ok, and some really good. I quite enjoyed it on my trip to Rio de Janeiro and never had the perception that this was a cheap earphone. I therefore assign good value for money to it.

Keep on listening!


DISCLAIMER

I was solicited by NiceHCK and thank Jim for the review unit. You get the NiceHCK DB3 HERE.
Pros: balanced tuning
strong bass, but not overloaded
great dynamics and stage
Cons: the DB3 could be a bit clearer and more fine-resolved
not the best cable
Intro
I hadn't had a NICEHCK-In-Ear to test for a long time. With the DB3 I now have a hybrid with two dynamic and one BA driver. This configuration already worked very successfully with the REVONEXT QT2/2s and is also a strong combination with the DB3. In addition 18 € are a clear announcement to the competition, because for less than 20 € only the **** **** really pulled me from my stool.

Handling
NICEHCK does not go new ways with the design of the DB3, but orients itself at the usual universal in-ears on the market, or also at their own models, like the NX7. That means we get a small, quite light in-ear, which convinces with a good fit, haptics and a secure hold in the ear. The workmanship is very good and the light metal front panel gives the DB3 a valuable appearance with a recognition feature.

As far as accessories are concerned, NICEHCK doesn't particularly go for the tricks, but limits itself to the most necessary. The cable isn't a very lucky choice, though, but it does serve its purpose. Even if the DB3 only costs 18 €, you might want to consider buying an additional cable, like the NICEHCK C16, which is not only an upgrade for the DB3.

The isolation is very good with foam tips, or well fitting silicone tips.

Sound
The DB3 is damn musical and is simply a perfect all-rounder through all genres.

The bass is clearly raised, even if you have the possibility to influence it with the tip selection. But that doesn't make it booming, or too exaggerated, although some might find the midbass a bit too dominant. It simply has a rich sound, with good punch, without becoming overblown. It sounds really natural, even if it gives the signature more warmth than one could speak of neutrality. But that's not the claim of the DB3 either.
I really enjoy the bass, because despite the impact it doesn't lose much in accuracy and detail. Bassheads can be happy here, because it puts a scoop up again with equalizer, without overshadowing the rest.

In a three-driver configuration you often have only one dynamic driver and two BA drivers, which take care of the midrange and treble. With the DB3, however, a dynamic driver takes care of the mid-range, even if the BA driver takes care of the upper mid-range of course, but without perceiving the transition. This makes the DB3 very homogeneous across the frequency response. The mids sound dynamic and natural. There are no peaks or other unpleasant slips. Voices are really well positioned in the room. They are something in the foreground, which is also my preference, but they don't jump in your face. Men and women sound equally natural. Especially in the mids the DB3 sounds so musical that it makes you smile when listening to music and inevitably moves you to bounce along. The mids are somewhat receded in the V-signature, but here you have to clearly distinguish what is shown on the paper in terms of frequency response and what you actually hear. I like it!

I think it's a clever decision to put the treble in the hands of a BA driver, because it is finely tuned. No emphasis on sibilants and still a rich detail and spatial illustration. The DB3 convinces with a basic lightness as it presents the highs and the music in general. It doesn't look too thickly applied, despite bass accentuation and also not strained when it gets more hectic. Of course the DB3 is not an analytical in-ear, but still it has a very good resolution and a convincing dynamic and a balanced, harmonic tuning, which is wonderfully reflected in the highs.

The DB3 is neither too intimate, nor does it have the stage of the Elbphilharmonie. Nevertheless it creates a pleasant feeling of spaciousness and also in the depth it doesn't seem claustrophobic at all. For what it wants to be, the stage and the separation are really well done, even if there is of course still room for improvement.

Outro
18 € for a musical, natural sounding all-rounder with good resolution, fine tuning and above-average expansion in both directions and pleasant bass emphasis? Here comes the DB3!

For me there is not much to criticize here, except maybe the included cable. The bass rarely exaggerates it, but especially for current chart music the DB3 is a very good choice. A little more clarity and definition I would still like to see, but as I said, for 18 € you have to leave the church a little bit in the village!
For me a sure recommendation, if you are not shy of bass, or prefer to listen analytically. In terms of sound maybe even the better alternative to the Revonext QT2!

ALIEXPRESS
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