1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

NiceHCK DB3

Rating:
4.25/5,
  1. Wiljen
    NiceHCK DB3, a good sub-$20 option arrives
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Oct 11, 2019 at 1:22 PM
    4.0/5,
    Pros - V-shaped tune but nothing too far ahead or behind, Good control, engaging vocals
    Cons - V-shaped tuning, Soundstage is average as is instrument separation.
    disclaimer: I purchased the DB3 from NiceHck at a slightly reduced price but have no affiliation or financial interest in NiceHCK other than that of a customer. The DB3 arrived at my office on 9/22.

    Unboxing / Packaging:

    The DB3 comes in a slipcover style box with a graphic of the earphones on the front and the specs on the reverse. Removing the slipcover, shows the earpieces in a foam tray in the upper portion of the box and a small box in the lower portion hides the rest of the kit. In total, the earpieces, cable, 3 sets of tips, cable tie, carry bag, and manual are hiding in the box. Remembering the budget price point, this is a fairly complete kit. One thing I would like to see changed, I don't like the combination of cloth carrying cases with Velcro cable ties as the tie inevitably gets stuck inside the bag and collects garbage in the hooks. I'd love to see either a leather tie or a case that didn't have an affinity for Velcro.

    Nicehck-db3-box-front1.jpg Nicehck-db3-box-rear.jpg Nicehck-db3-box-inner.JPG


    Build/Fit:

    The DB3 shell is a 3 part design with an outer zinc alloy faceplate, an inner transparent plastic shell, and a metal nozzle that appears brass or chrome plated depending on shell color selected. I would classify shell size as medium-large with the height and width being larger than the depth. The Exterior has some aesthetic details, but no vents or functional components. The inner shell houses the drivers, connector, and nozzle and most of the components are easily visible. There is a single vent over the dynamic driver. The DB3 fits better than I initially thought it might for me because it is fairly thin. Nozzles exit with a slight forward rake and insertion is fairly shallow.


    Nicehck-db3-faceplate.jpg Nicehck-db3-front.jpg Nicehck-db3-inside.jpg Nicehck-db3-L-rear.jpg Nicehck-db3-nozzle.jpg Nicehck-db3-rake.jpg Nicehck-db3-R-Rear.jpg


    Internals:

    The DB3 is a 3 driver hybrid consisting of a coaxial dual dynamic driver with a graphene diaphragm and a titanium dome material along with a custom tuned 30095 balanced armature driver to provide the top end. Nominal impedance is listed as 16Ω with a sensitivity of 106 dB/mW. I found the DB3 to be easy to drive from a phone tablet and while quality scaled with better sources, I do feel that an external amp helps bring out the best in the DB3 but is not entirely necessary to get acceptable performance.

    NiceHCK-DB3-Faceplate-off.JPG NiceHCK-DB3-Internals1.jpg NiceHCK-DB3-Internals2.jpg



    Cable:

    The cable will be familiar to those who have other recent releases from Nicehck as it has the now standard 90º 3.5mm Jack, the 4 wire double twist cable from jack to splitter, a small V shaped plastic splitter and matching black chin slide. The north end is .78mm hooded bi-pin connectors with pre-formed earhooks without memory wire. The cable is a solid offering for a base model with the exception of the chin slider which is too loose on the wire and didn't want to stay where I put it. NiceHCK has recently released a fairly complete list of 8 and 16 core upgrade cables and I did use a couple of those in testing the db3 so I could have 4.4mm and 2.5mm balanced options.

    Nicehck-db3-jack.jpg Nicehck-db3-splitter.jpg Nicehck-db3-earhook.jpg



    Sound:

    NiceHCK-DB3-FR.jpg

    Bass:

    Bass is one of the stars of this show with sub-bass and mid-bass both elevated above the rest of the signature, but very tastefully so. The bass is not sloppy or loose and texture is better than expected on a $20 in-ear by a considerable margin. Sub-bass has good rumble when called upon, but doesn't attempt to turn every song into a bass show like some do. Mid-bass falls from the sub-bass peak to the mids and provides ample thump without obstructing other elements behind it. With a string of less than spectacular offerings from NiceHCK of late, I was expecting more of the same, so this was a nice change of pace. Bass is lively enough to command your attention, but not hot enough to take over the joint. There is slight mid-bass bleed into the lower mids that carries a bit of warmth with it, and at times does hide a little detail in that region.



    Mids:

    The transition between mid-bass and mids is probably the least emphasized portion of the signature but does still manage to have more presence than expected and never really gave the impression of being recessed as much as just not particularly emphasized. Mids do climb forward as you move up and give both male and female vocals very good weight and presence with female vocals being maybe 1/2 step in front but again both are well presented. Guitars are well rendered with the electric having a slightly more natural tone than its acoustic sibling. Violins are passable but are not the wheelhouse of the driver and do sound a bit less fluid than high end models. (Again its $20, what did I expect?) I keep coming back to the vocals as they are something special for an iem at this price as they always sit in front the same distance regardless of the volume of what is going on around them. The quietest passage or the biggest hit, both have the vocal staged equally. Impressive.



    Treble:

    I think one of the smart moves NiceHCK made with the DB3 was using a single ba to handle the upper duties rather than trying to pack a bunch more drivers in for a techno dog and pony show like so many of the recent releases have become. Treble isn't the most even I have heard with some regions being considerably more emphasized than others, but it stays clean throughout and provides a bit of extra energy that open up the top end and give the DB3 good air and some sparkle even without getting strident or harsh in the process. Cymbals are slightly metallic at times, but better than expected at this price. Snare hits are not as crisp as upper models, but rattle is clean and well defined.



    Soundstage / Imaging:

    Soundstage is wider than deep but has solid dimensions so not over-crowded and manages some sense of height. Instrument separation is on par with others in its class (average). Seating the orchestra is fairly straight forward with no large anomalies or oddities but the orchestra does end up being wider and shallower than a standard seating chart. Layering is better than expected as the coaxial driver does a good job handling this. Imaging is good with spatial cues readily recognizable and movement around the stage easy to track. There is some minor compression as tracks get exceptionally complex but well within the expected at $20.



    Thoughts / Conclusion:

    For awhile, I had found NiceHCK to be a good value as they made several solid models at good prices. The Height of that was probably the M6. Unfortunately, since then, NiceHCK had taken a turn and produced a string of models that were tuned with very forward treble, or were techno dog and pony shows to show they could do Piezo, Planar, etc... I had begun to think the best days for NiceHCK might be behind them as I hadn't really had anything since the M6 that I thought showed more of that same magic. The DB3 (and the Nx7 in fairness) have done a good job in restoring my faith in NiceHCK. The two models complement each other well as the DB3 is definitely a V with more pronounced bass than the Nx7 and will appeal to those listening to Pop, EDM, and Rock while the Nx7 is better tuned for Jazz, strings, and orchestra works. If you are in the market for a new in-ear, you could a lot worse than the DB3. It can hit with good authority when called upon, fade to black when asked to, and those vocals, they just grab your attention and hold it. This is $20 well spent

    images

    1. Nicehck-db3-kit.jpg
  2. Dsnuts
    $20 surper star
    Written by Dsnuts
    Published Sep 29, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Musical, smooth rich midrange, large agile full bass end. Full bodied engaging sound. More dynamic tuned than BA. Vocal performance that is unheard of at this price. Scales to more powerful amplification. Sound profile changes to your liking using your sources,cables and tips.
    Cons - Mid bass might be too big for some, average stage and depth, stock accessories is not able to maximize the sonics. Neutral sources recommended.
    NiceHCK DB3.
    DSC06707.JPG

    I would like to thank Jim and the crew at NiceHCK for the review sample of the DB3. These are my personal accounts of the DB3 and my thoughts on them. The DB3 can be ordered direct from the NiceHCK page at Aliexpress.com. Gear used for evaluation.

    Shanling M3s, Shanling M5s, Cayin N5ii, Ibasso DX90, ZX300a, Ibasso PB3 amp, IFI Black label, Audinst MX2

    I was able to sample a prototype of the DB3 before the final tuning for the DB3.The prototype was decent but not what I consider special. Bass was a bit too big. I can tell NiceHCK wanted to go with a more consumer tuning on the DB3. The mids and treble suffered from the brawny bass but today we have a much more balanced offering. NiceHCKs final tuning is immediately familiar to me. It is a version of their house tuning. Unlike the NX7 which was more of an analytical type tuning with a sound foundation of detail, resolution and imaging. DB3 is the phone you want when your out and about working walking, playing or just relaxing. Getting your bass on. When you want to hear your favorite tune with dynamism and aplomb. Can a $20 earphone do that?
    DSC06709.JPG

    The DB3 comes in your standard NiceHCK packaging and much like the NX7, the packaging is bare bones and really nothing special. Phones, single ended copper cable, pouch and 4 pairs of silicone tips. New to this particular package is a medium sized double flange tip. So it goes without saying your favorite aftermarket tips and cables will come into play here perhaps more so than even the NX7. The DB3 is the one earphone I broke my own rule. I try not to use a cables that cost the same or more than the phone itself. But when they cost $20. That is an easy rule to break. I will have some tips on the right matching cables and tips to use for the DB3 and the NX7 toward the end of the read.

    Build wise they are fairly solid. Housing is comprised of a zinc alloy shell and plastic. This is the exact same build as many KZ, CCA, and now NiceHCK earphones. The housing size is medium/ smallish for sheer size so they will fit most ears with comfort. The nozzle is fairly short but has the correct angle to fit most ears comfortably. I have had zero issue with fit or the comfort of the phones themselves. Average in isolation. Foam tips helps a bit for isolation. They are used over the ear. I like that NiceHCK is using more 2 pins on their earphones now. I think they realized there are less problems when using 2 pins so it makes logical sense to design newer earphones with 2 pins.

    .78mm 2 pins apply on these so any of the standard 2 pins will fit these well.

    DSC06708.JPG

    The tuning has turned for the much better on their retail version vs the prototype. Some magical tuning has been done with these. They are going for a musical full bodied sound here and the one advice I gave to NiceHCK crew was if your gonna do bass you better have some space and balance is always key for a great sounding product. As compact as the design here is somehow they did it. These are bassy but don’t sound congested or too up in your face or too V in balance. In fact the stage actually seems to have an expansion in width and height/depth that seems to stretch a bit beyond the shells.

    The stage of sound has limitations due to the housing. Stages is somewhat similar to the NX7. About average in width and depth but the use of space is fantastic on the sound of the DB3. The tonality and ability of the DB3 sounds more like a dynamic based earphone than a BA based one which is usually not the norm for hybrids. What this gets you is a very nice take on the hybrid where the BA takes treble duties only and lets the capable dynamics do vocals instrument and that bass.

    DSC06710.JPG

    Incorporating a titanium dome, Graphene and PET diaphragms in a coaxial dual dynamic and using a single BA for treble. Overall tone of the earphones are slightly warm past neutral tonality due to the bass and mids taking precedence of the sound design. Not overly warm but a light jacket warm on a nice cool breezy Fall day warm. They sound natural rich and musically smooth. Very dynamic when called for and a blast to listen to due to their ample bass end and lovely vocal performance be it male or female vocals. The sound design has the treble enhancing the mids and bass. For a budget offering, detail and imaging is good. It is the dynamics of the sound that is excellent for the price. Bass that comes alive for your best bass heavy tracks. These are clearly made for bass and vocal lovers. Ya that is right folks. When was the last bassy earphone you heard that incorporates a lovely up front vocal tuning.?
    DSC06713.JPG

    Sure the bass is not reference level bass here you wouldn't expect that for a budget offering. It can overshadow the lower mids giving it the slightly warmer tonality but for the most part sound is balanced well for a bassy iem. Mid bass seem to have more emphasis than sub bass but sub bass do not have much in the way of roll off. These are almost borderline basshead but where the real surprise is at is the mids and treble having presence and don’t take much of a step back to the bass. The overall tuning is more balanced which tends to be more difficult the more bass heavy the design is. They do have a V shaped Fr but more due to the emphasized mid bass and a 7K treble peak.
    DSC06711.JPG

    Mids of the DB3 has good range and fullness much better than most budget fi earphones I have owned in the past. The rich, smooth tonality of the mids help balance out the sound of the DB3. Sound separation and space of instruments while only average in these aspects has a non fatiguing smoothness quality to it making it easy to listen to the DB3 for hours. A warm bass massage when called for the bass end of the DB3 is for folks that thought the NX7 was a bit tame in the bass area. These don’t hold back the punch and rumble. Neutral guys will not like these much but would be missing out on some outstanding vocal performances. These remind me a lot of the tuning that is on the Fiio FH5. For a $20 phone to match a phone 10X cost. That is saying something.

    So do these sound good? Ya you bet. Especially pop hip hop,edm, jazz, and vocal acoustic tracks. They simply shine for vocals both male and female vocals. The brilliance of using a single BA to take care of the Highs lets the dual dynamics focus on mids and bass duties. Might be the reason why vocals have full range and great presence for this tuning.
    DSC06712.JPG

    Treble for the most part is clean, crisp and is represented well to balanced out the full sound on the DB3. It does have some peaks at 4K another at 7K and the last peak being around 15k, The peaks gives the upper mids and vocals presence with no sibilance. Some minor splashiness was heard but nothing that ruines the overall enjoyment of the sound. Extension and definition in the treble could be better, but for what it is, treble does a good job of complimenting this musical take on the NiceHCK house sound. DB3 incorporates a crossover PCB that seems to allow this hybrid to have good cohesion to the sound.

    In this section I will go into some tips cables and sources that match up well with the DB3. DB3 being a full bodied sound. It does like some power to strut what it can do so a dedicated source and or an amp is recommended to bring out the beast that can be the DB3. They sound fine on a phone but sounds amazing on an amp.Neutrally tuned sources are highly recommended as well as silver/ silver coated copper cables to bring out a bit of extra detail and tighten up that bass end a bit farther.
    DSC06714.JPG

    For tips it will be a matter of preference as you can enhance the bass even more so using foams. I found that using a medium wider bored tips like Symbio W tips reduces the bass end a touch and balances the sound even more so. Stock cables and tips work well enough for the sound but better cables and tips will give you the ability to slightly tweak the sound to your liking. I prefer using the DB3 in balanced. Balanced out gives an expansion to the DB3 sonics which makes them sound even better.
    DSC06715.JPG NiceHCK C-16-1 and C-16-3 cables pictured. Great match for both the DB3 and the NX7.

    So here we are heading toward 2020 and we have a huge flood of earphones in the market mostly done by the Chinese. Here is the scary thing. These budget offerings are so good I have no doubts in my mind eventually we will see a budget phone that outdoes a high end earphone. It will happen. The sound quality of the DB3 is no joke my friends it is a $20 phone that will get you into your music and you are gonna be very surprised how good a budget phone can sound now a days. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on this budget phone from NiceHCK. The real encouraging aspect of phones like the DB3 is that these budget offerings will only get better and better. I am excited about the future of budget level earphones. The price to performance is greater than it has ever been.
      Zelda, earplug, HungryPanda and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Dsnuts
      Don't have those. You should ask in the Chinese thread I am sure guys will chime in. Panda might be the guy to ask.
      Dsnuts, Sep 30, 2019
      Dani157 likes this.
    3. harry501501
      Hey Dsnuts, what's a "surper star"?
      harry501501, Oct 7, 2019
    4. harry501501
      I can't imagine anyone thinking the bass on the NX7 was tame. If these have stronger bass then they must pack a helluva punch
      harry501501, Oct 7, 2019