I purchased the EP35 at a discounted rate from NiceHCK at Jim’s recommendation. Thoughts presented here are solely my own and I have received no guidance from the Vendor or manufacturer.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The EP35 comes in the standard NiceHCK Brown lift top box with the logo and model designation on the front and the pertinent data on the reverse in both English and Chinese. Inside the box is the standard soft case in a foam frame. The headphones and tips are hiding inside the soft case. 3 sizes of tips are provided.
The earpieces are similar to an earbud style with a small barrel at the rear with an MMCX connector and a larger disk at the front with the nozzle offset to the lower lead edge of the earpiece. Nozzles themselves are oval in shape but still take standard 400 sized tips. Venting is provided by 4 ports on the inner face of the earpiece adjacent to the nozzles. L/R are clearly marked on the inner surface as well. No branding is present on the earpieces themselves but the casing on the mmcx connector is labeled EP35. Seems odd to have the model number associated to the cable rather than the earpiece but real estate on the outside of the shell is very limited due to design. Overall the EP35 is small enough and light enough weight that I found them very comfortable for long wear although prone to movement during activity. A chin slider is always appreciated with this style of in ear.
The driver is listed as a single dynamic of 13.5mm with an impedance of 32Ω and a sensitivity of 103dB. I had no trouble driving the EP35 with the Cayin N3 on low gain as well as with the LG v30. Rumor is that the driver is the same one used in the Onkyo E700M and it is entirely possible that NiceHCK is the OEM for the e700 as the two bear a more than passing resemblance to each other. Interestingly. **** lists a very similar in-ear but the specs are enough different to make me think the shell is the same but the driver is not. 16Ω vs 32Ω and one listed as 12mm vs 13.5.
The provided cable is silver-plated copper in a clear casing. the 3.5mm straight TRS plug is gold plated with a black casement that matches the earphones. The cable exits the jack in a 4 wire braid with no strain relief at the base of the jack. Particularly on a straight jack, I would have preferred to see a good strain relief but none are present anywhere on the length of the cable. The splitter is a cone shape in the same color metal as the earpieces and again no strain relief is provided on either side of it. The cable exits the splitter as 2 strand braids running to the mmcx connectors. Again the mmcx connectors are in matching finish giving the cable a nice aesthetic but again no strain relief exists. One gripe I have to bring up is the cables are marked incorrectly. I thought this was a one time QC issue but received a 2nd pair with the same issue and spoke with several others who have reviewed the EP35 as well and found that all indeed have the Red marking on the left cable. This is easy enough to fix with a bit of blue paint and polarity is correct if Left and Right are reversed so many may own the EP35 and never realize the mistake. I first noticed it with a couple tracks that bounce the melody line left to right and then back between instruments. If you have the EP35, you may want to check this and reverse the cable. Most other reviewers suggested they had previously replaced the cable anyway so this may not be an issue at all if that is the intent.
I used the largest provided tips to do all of my listening to this iem.
Sub-bass is not emphasized and rolls off pretty substantially below about 70Hz. Mid-bass is also linear without a pronounced hump and is faster on attack than expected. Decay is a bit slower which makes the EP35 sound well controlled in the bass while still bringing a bit of extra warmth and body to the mix. The Downside is that it can get a little muddy at times when tracks get particularly fast and busy.
Mids rise from the mid-bass and push vocals a bit forward of the rest of the signature making the EP35 a good choice for a cappella or choral. Upper-mids are emphasized but not disproportionately and don’t jump out as aggresive or over-done. Clarity and detail in the mids is better than expected. The forward push of the upper mids and lower treble also helps make percussion attack sound more natural than most IEMs in its class. Overall if the EP35 does one thing well, the Mids are it.
Treble is a mixed bag on the EP35, lower treble takes a step back from the mids but rises again at around the 7kHz mark and adds a bit of brightness back into the mix but can also introduce a bit of sibilance if the track is prone to it. Roll-off above about 11kHz is fairly quick. This leaves the EP35 with some air and sparkle but prevents rendering of cymbals and tambourine from sounding natural and proper. Overall the treble is good (especially at the price) but after the table set by the bass and mids, falls short of what I was hoping for. The lack of upper extension coupled with the 7kHz resonance prevents this from being a recommended earphone to being a cautioned recommendation as EQ goes a long way on the EP35 but many will not want to do that.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage on the EP35 is quite large but can be tough to define as the push of the vocals forward makes them feel a bit more intimate. Overall the stage is broader than deep with some sense of height. Depth is average for the class while width is a bit better than average. Imaging is solid but suffers occasionally as tracks get too busy for the EP35 to keep up. If tracks are kept to small ensembles the EP35 does well. When full orchestra is on tap, the EP35 can struggle a bit.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
Overall the EP35 is a qualified recommendation. The cable issue is obviously a bit disappointing, but in reality impacts very little. The sound signature is good and gets better with a bit of EQ. Overall the EP35 is best reserved for Choral or vocal pieces where it isn’t overwhelmed like it can be when used for full orchestra pieces. Those looking for an in-ear that can be worn comfortably for extended periods and like a well controlled bass with forward mids will find the EP35 particularly appealing. Those who are more treble sensitive will want to either EQ the EP35 a bit or may want to look to another in-ear.