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NiceHCK DZ12

Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. Dsnuts
    The DZ12. NiceHCK semi custom flagship iems.
    Written by Dsnuts
    Published Jun 26, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - High end musical universal earphones from NiceHCK. Semi custom meaning you can choose which color plate and connector style. Clean, detailed, balanced, full bodied with excellent extension. Wide stage with extreme isolation.
    Cons - Using absolutely raw Knowles drivers. Terrible sounding from open box. smorgasbord of tips and cases. Fairly larger housing. Not made for smaller ears.
    This is a review about a little unknown iem called the DZ12. I would like to give a hearty shout out to all my friends on headfi that support what I do. Another hearty thanks to Jim at NiceHCK for helping me purchase these fine works of art.

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    The one thing I have learned in the years that I have been enjoying the hobby is that everyone has a subjective view of what they consider is proper. With this being said I would like to mention my own likes in a sound is one that I would consider fairly universal. For one clarity is of the utmost importance for any sound signature I consider proper. Then there is the sound balancing. I am more of a balance head than anything. Admittedly was formerly a basshead. I suppose once a basshead always a basshead but I have grown to appreciate the fine balancing act it takes to balance out an earphone tuning.

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    To be among the very best in sound I would say the sound has to perform in all fronts of what I consider not only proper but also have a few plusses mixed in. Balance plus width, depth, attack, imaging, resolution and isolation are some of the factors that can make or break an earphone.


    I am holding the DZ12 at a higher standard simply due to the fact that I feel iem tech has come so far in such a relative short amount of time. Does the DZ12 have what it takes to be considered a higher end iem?


    Today we have the DZ12.

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    Specs:

    Impedance 40 Ohm

    Sensitivity 120db/mW

    Frequency 20Hz-25Khz

    12BA drive unit. ( Knowles BAs)

    4 crossovers, 4 lows, 4 mids,2 highs, 2 super highs

    MMCX or 2 Pin can be chosen when purchased

    Faceplate and color can be chosen when purchased

    Included: High purity copper cable in single ended 3.5mm

    Mini clamshell plastic case,

    Foam, and silicone tips

    NiceHCK zip up case.


    Home page for the DZ12. LINK.


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    I was on a nice long vacation road trip recently and took my DZ12 and NiceHCKs HK6 with me on the trip. Out of all my earphones I could have chosen to take with me on the road trip both of these earphones did splendidly simply due to the isolation aspect and the very nice sound of both earphones but it was the DZ12 that has steadily became my go to ever since getting them.


    The process.


    Admittedly when I first got them I was a bit confused and even a bit worried about their sound. I had no reason to worry about them but taking a shot on an expensive semi custom from NiceHCK was due to myself being crazy about how good the HK6 was. It was assembled, tested and sent to me in a record time. I believe it only took a weeks worth of time and another week to get them to me. I was very surprised just how quick I got them. Once I did, it was a mixed bag of emotions for me as they were raw.


    Very raw sounding out of the box. You don’t spend this kind of money to get a very raw sounding earphone but that is exactly what I got. This was to be expected as the sales page clearly says to burn them in for 200 hours or more. So I started the long run in process. You can believe or not to believe but these earphones need to be run with music for a good 2 weeks straight. Each day that passed I went from.” These don’t sound like a flagship iem, wow the bass has come alive to , wait a second these sound amazing!” As the days of burn in progressed. Cohesiveness and their sound signature became more and more apparent to me. Yes it took longer than 2 weeks just to get them to be proper. Guys that don’t believe I would stay away as your not going to hear what you paid for on open listen. NiceHCK does no factory run in at all.


    One stern warning to potential buyers of the semi custom iems sold from NiceHCK. You must give them some time to mature. They will test your patience if your not prepared to give them some time. The sound I hear from them today vs when I first heard them are night and day different. Very drastic. The BAs used for the DZ12 are 12BA Knowles with 4 crossovers 4BAs for Bass, 4BAs for Mids, 2 BAs for highs, 2BAs for super highs per side. Inspecting the translucent grey resin I can tell NiceHCK uses all dual BAs for these earphones. Dual BAs or not it is simply amazing to me that they were able to stuff 12BAs inside a shell and still be able to fit all of it in my ear. With all that metal in the ear, isolation is easily the best out of all my earphones.


    The build of the DZ12 is just superb. The detail of the earphones and how each BA sits inside the poured resin inside the DZ12 both match perfectly from the left to the right piece. The 3 sound bores does a great job separating the 3 sound sections all at once for the sound the DZ12 emit. The stock cable is a pure copper variety and is as good as any other pack in cable, as a bonus Jim was nice enough to throw in a nice hybrid copper silver plated copper cable. You might not be as lucky. Better higher quality cables and amping will bring out the best these have to offer according to the page.

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    The 2 cases the phones comes with are welcomed to secure the very nice earphones the DZ12 are. The mini clamshell box is something I have never seen before and is very cool. It has just enough room for the earphones and cables and that is it. It is nice to know my earphones are very secure in this box. The other zip up case is NiceHCKs zip up case that comes standard with many of their earphones which houses the rest of the tips and cable. Comes with 10 pairs of standard silicones. 2 pairs of double flange tips, 2 pairs of foams and 3 pairs of whirlwind tips. A nice variety and the only complaint I have about the package is that most of the tips are in medium size. Which is fine but I think they can mix up the sizes a bit better. Also the entire package did not come in a single box like most retail packaging for earphones.These are a flagship level product and as such some more attention to the overall presentation of the entire package would definitely go a long way. Ultimately this is just nit picking as your not going to be listening to the box the earphones comes in.

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    Now for the sound:

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    I went into this purchase well knowing I am taking a risk but like many of the risks I have taken on this hobby it was a risk that was well worth taking. Not a single review or impression of these earphones exist. I was the lone soldier on this one. As far as I know it seems I am the only person on the planet that has ordered one of these. Here’s taking one for the team! Going off my realtively short knowledge of NiceHCK and their earphones sold on aliexpress. I was completely blown away by just how good their HK6 6BA earphones are and so I took a chance on these. They do have a 14BA earphone called the DZX-14BA that is their highest end. Costs a bit more but I went with my gut instinct on this one and went for the 12BA DZ12. I was crazy as I didn’t know anything about them. My not so sensical theory was hey if their 6BAs sound this good what does doubling the BA on their higher end semi custom sound like. I am happy to report I am glad I took a chance.

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    Sound analysis was done using my daps ZX300A, Shanling M3s, Cayin N5ii and my IDSD BL and PB3 am connected to my IBasso DX90.


    Even on open listen the one thing that was immediately apparent to me was the sound stage. For earphones these have a large wide stage which is only closely second to my Sony Z5 in stage. The stage was outstanding to say the least. Which got me excited. The sound out of the box however was somewhat of a let down. The bass was there but sounded compressed. The mids sounded uneven. The treble sounded distant. Wow what did I get into. Speding this type of money for this type of sound? But I had faith it was due to the BAs being very raw. There is no other explanation for it but the sound not only filled out where they needed to be but now also has a very nicely done high end resolution and clear refinements in the tuning which was not perceived before.


    The sound signature of the DZ12 is an excellent mix of a forward full-bodied balanced musical sound signature with a broad wide sound stage. Has good depth but the width of sound is greater in scope than deep. This creates a very nicely done sound canvas with a coherent and large oval sound stage projection around the hearing.


    Clear definition of instruments in the mix is ideal due to the absolute black background on every tune. Instrument separation and timbre is at a very high level due to this aspect. That clear extended treble has a high level of detail but does not fatigue. This is an area I can nit pick a bit. I do feel the treble on these needs slightly more energy in the mid to upper trebles but what it does have is clean with no treble spikes or overly done sharpness for the sake of air or clarity. BAs are dedicated for the lower to upper highs and you can clearly make out anything in the high end of the spectrum but does not force treble upon the mix. Treble emphasis is very natural sounding as a result. The tuning of the earphones is one of precision from top to bottom. But stays away from a sterile type sound presentation. Extension and detail on both ends of the spectrum is exemplary. It is the fine details heard on every part of the sound layers that make these earphones stand out.

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    Some of the best realized mids I have heard on any earphone. The even keeled mid section is broad and perhaps that is where that sense of stage comes from but the outstanding imagery with smoothness shows a grand precision that bring emotion to male and female vocals alike. Has excellent layering of instruments according to sound recordings. I have yet to hear a track where I thought these were lacking in any aspect in the mids. In fact I would say these have some of the best mid section I have ever heard. Considering they are using 4BAs just for the mids. It is no surprise the meat of the music here is done extremely well. The BA distribution with 4 crossovers are done in a logical way on these. Using 4BAs for treble emphasis and then another 4BAs for the bass.


    Balance sound tuning. Of all the aspects that I appreciate the most of these is the excellent sound balancing. The Bass seems to have slightly more emphasis over the mids and treble but we are talking 2dbs at the most. Treble does not have the characteristic treble spikes to perceive better clarity or detail. If it is in the recording it will play on the DZ12.


    More BAs don’t mean more emphasis. The treble has immediate clarity and detail but does not step out of bounds and goes nowhere close to grain or spiky territory anywhere it is tuned. This to me shows a mastery of how these were tuned by NiceHCK. These guys simply know how to tune the highs with zero harshness so listening fatigue never sets in. Detail in the form of micro to macro nuanced highs are easily heard yet never out of bounds. Every pitch, ding, shimmer and clash has absolute distinction and their own space. Precise highs using 4BAs and precise mids using 4BAs which naturally blends to the 4BA BASS.


    NiceHCK has tuned these to be reference yet it is very much musical at the same time. BASS is always a part of the NiceHCK house tuning and these have the type of bass that is mature and more refined than their cheaper sibling the HK6 as it should be.


    Much like how broad the Mids are so is the BASS. It has a good amount of mid bass punch which is tuned for tightness and precision here as well. Bass much like the highs does not step over bounds. There seems to be slightly more bass emphasis from a balance perspective over the highs but only a small amount. This overall bass emphasis lends to a slight warmth of tonality overall but sounds more close to a neutral tonal balance to my ears than anything. Very natural clean sound to it. I have recently learned to appreciate good bass from BAs as BAs have a way of projecting bass emphasis when called for and the DZ12 does just this. Its tight clean punchy bass has excellent sub bass extension. With more than a few BAs on tap, Bass notes come with authority when called for but much like the rest of the sound does not over step boundaries. Like a good venue that has that live event with bass emphasis these blend exceptionally well with the rest of the sound.


    Mix these aspects of sound with a nice wide stage and you get one of the best sounding earphones I have ever heard.
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    In comparison I have the Noble K10s ( Thanks goes out to DannyBai for lending me his K10) with me to compare them with and to my surprise. The DZ12 more than holds their own against Nobles former flagship model. In fact the one thing this comparison did for me is made me realize just how good the DZ12 is. K10s have more of a traditional reference type tuning to my ears heard on AKG and Sennheiser headphones. the DZ12 has the more engaging forward mid range with a wider stage. Comparable detail and imaging with the K10 slightly winning out on imagery detail and with better precision. But this is partially due to more of their different sound tunings than anything. The K10s mid range is not as forward or as thick sounding so therefor better precision is possible. However what the DZ12 lack to the K10 in these factors more than make up for it in their grand musical style balanced tuning.


    Treble emphasis on both earphones are comparable with the DZ12 being as defined in the treble with no peaky sharpness. Bass ends both hit hard and dig deep. Very comparable on the bass ends. It was the mid ranges that had the most differences between these. The mids on the DZ12 is the clear winner here and I suppose this depends on your preference. Vocals emit much greater fullness range and depth. Instruments have more vertical space to work with and the mid range in general is fuller, thicker, meatier sounding.


    K10 sounds like your listening to the venue in the middle of the auditorium while the DZ12 sounds like your sitting on the 10th row.


    So in the end these were a risk I took and ultimately was worth taking. I was thinking that when hearing the K10 if I thought they were going to be a clear winner over my DZ12 I was considering a purchase of them from massdrop for the sale price of $899.. Nope. I would say these two are at a very similar level but with different tunings. An upgrade to the DZ12 they are not. In fact in some aspects it is the opposite. Once you have this type of high end mid range that is on the DZ12 it is difficult to give that up.


    Would I have done it again? Hind sight is always 20/20. Ya. I would have. I now know for certain I definitely got my monies worth in earphone. These are sitting at the top of the heap of my humble earphone collection and they should for the price. However regardless of price I find myself always reaching for them now a days as they are easily my best sounding earphone. Buying an unknown iem is risky business but when the manufacturer makes arguably some of the best sounding earphones and earbuds at all cost levels. It is much less of a risk and is more about what design I want for a faceplate to go with my nice sounding 12BA earphones. NiceHCK has quickly won me over with their dedication to sound and value..As an enthusiasts who values these aspects the most. I could not have asked for any more than this. Well maybe a better package. These are excellent earphones and easily worth your hard earned cash.
      menuki, jerazm, dhruvmeena96 and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. menuki
      Very nice and informative review, thanks a lot!

      I'll receive the Hisenior T12 rather soon, also 12 BAs per side. Now I feel more secure / less alone spending a lot of money on a Chi-Fi TOTL. :)
      menuki, Jun 28, 2018
      Dsnuts likes this.
    3. Dsnuts
      HK6 was mass produced so I can see where a few can slip on the QC tip but the DZ12 are hand made to order. I have never seen anyone that ordered a semi custom from NiceHCK not be happy with what they got. Ultimately it comes down to if you trust the manufacturer or not. For me I definitley trust NiceHCK stuff. They have been nothing but kind and quick to respond to any of my questions. They seem to care about what they are selling. Which I can't say for some of the other vendors on Aliexpress.
      Dsnuts, Jun 28, 2018
      menuki likes this.
    4. menuki
      I can agree with Dsnuts, my Hisenior B8 were also made on demand, which was unexpected for an IEM in that price-range and they also sent me very high-quality pictures beforehand. I'm sure not many sellers do this.. I trust Hisenior, they were always very honest and transparent which is why the decision to upgrade to the T12 wasn't hard especially since the B8 already sounds amazing.
      menuki, Jun 28, 2018