Nuforce HEM Discussion & Impressions
Feb 7, 2019 at 9:15 AM Post #496 of 533

geo2160

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Ha! I’m of the opinion that they are very interesting indeed. I’ve never auditioned those but have been lurking on their thread here for a long while. They seem to be great all-rounders, like the RHA T20, $200 gear that just does everything well. For 100€ or less, wow. They are hybrids though so I’m not sure you’ll enjoy the slower, heavier bass, especially since the dynamic driver also takes care of the mids, it’s only the upper registers that are driven by the BA.

They're 70-100 euro LESS than the FA7/HEM8, 240 euros to be precise. If they were 100 euros, I would have already ordered them :).
 
Feb 7, 2019 at 1:32 PM Post #497 of 533

Rodmunch

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I used to describe the HEM8 sound as “laid-back reference”, like a Californian take on audiophile audio. The more I listen to them and other gear, the more I want to scratch the “laid-back” part. It’s quintessential multi-BA tuning, absolutely flat, relentlessly accurate, with extreme refinement in the bass (2 dedicated drivers). Talk of roll-off in the upper-mids or treble baffles me; my impression, on the contrary, is that these are like studio monitors, willing to sacrifice musicality and enjoyment on the altar of impeccable fidelity. Nuforce introduce them as reference gear. Roll-off is almost a theoretical impossibility; but decay is so sharp the quantity of any frequency can seem reduced. Even more than with other iems packing balanced armature or ceramic drivers. They are an analyst's dream.

I find them quite transparent, reflecting the character of the source, which may explain why impressions can differ widely. You enjoy the baseline sound of your source and Sony’s processing, that’s good, the HEM8 will bring the technical finesse a phone may be lacking and bring out detail in any genre, including with lossy material. They’re almost like a pass of upsampling :robot:

I agree with this description. Unfortunately I haven't heard the HEM2/4/6 so I can't comment on those. I use my HEM8 with an LG V20 and Pro-Ject Head Box S2 Digital with large SpinFit tips because the stock large tips don't seal well...I almost sold them off because the sound was too thin but it was just from a poor seal, so be aware of that issue if you have large ear canals. I bought them at $200 but from Newegg if I remember correctly. They are a good deal at that price. I don't think I'd pay any more than $300 though.
 
Feb 7, 2019 at 1:35 PM Post #498 of 533

Rodmunch

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Thank you both for the kind advice. Unfortunately, my HEM2s just broke down and I have no way to listen to music on my commute :frowning2:. Since that's usually the only time I get to enjoy music, I will probably need schedule another audition and choose something on the spot. I will let you guys know how it goes.

You must buy a cheaper backup pair to have available at all times! :)
 
Feb 7, 2019 at 6:40 PM Post #499 of 533

monsieurfromag3

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I agree with this description. Unfortunately I haven't heard the HEM2/4/6 so I can't comment on those. I use my HEM8 with an LG V20 and Pro-Ject Head Box S2 Digital with large SpinFit tips because the stock large tips don't seal well...I almost sold them off because the sound was too thin but it was just from a poor seal, so be aware of that issue if you have large ear canals. I bought them at $200 but from Newegg if I remember correctly. They are a good deal at that price. I don't think I'd pay any more than $300 though.
Thanks for that, sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy or have a hearing issue, so different is my impression from the majority of reviewers’. I have large ear canals too and struggled with that for two years, the nozzle is so thin even large Comply foams weren’t enough; bass went from quick to non-existent, it was a mess. I’m using Klipsch single-flange now, and correctly set up I’d definitely place them way above $200, they are very advanced technically. Coming from dynamic drivers it’s like a fresh wind, a dazzling shot of clarity and quite exhilarating.
 
Feb 15, 2019 at 5:26 AM Post #500 of 533

geo2160

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Well guys, I'm back and I've solved both my broken IEMs and my upgrade itch.

Firstly, I decided to buy the HEM8 after having another listening session with the Fiio FA7. I did not think I would enjoy the FA7, with their elevated mid-bass and non-reference tuning. They look and feel amazing though, like a piece of jewelry, with the 3D printed casing and silvery wire.

On to HEM8 impressions though, because that's what this topic is about:

1) They're super sensitive with the source that you give them. They're super sensitive in general, actually. I guess this explains the wildly different opinions that people have about them. The HEM2 were fine with my Sony XZ3's output. The HEM8 were a muddy mess, with a dark, bassy sound signature and recessed vocals. I was actually disappointed when I first tried them out, since I had already bought them. So I plugged into my ifi idsd nano, to see what they can do in a best case scenario. It's a whole other ball game. Everything opened up, the vocals came forward and let in a very nice sound signature. Not as bright as the HEM2, but very nicely balanced and very detailed. The IEMatch port also works wonders with them, providing a very clean output, with absolutely zero hissing.

Since I needed these IEMs for portable use, the Hidizs Sonata DAC cable is a decent compromise. The sound signature is pretty close to the idsd nano and it's not that much bigger than the passive USB-C -> 3.5mm adapter that I have to use anyway with the phone. Unfortunately, I lose the Sony processing this way and it has a noticeable hiss in some quiet songs. If it had a low/high gain switch for the amp, it would have been perfect. I'm still glad I have it, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to enjoy the HEM8. For 30 bucks, it's a steal.

2) The bass and sub-bass is better than I expected, much better than the HEM2 in general and much more neutral than the Fiio FA7. I find it exactly like @monsieurfromag3 described it, tight and unforgiving with textures that I didn't hear before. The bassline in Outkast's "Hey ya" is a very good example of this. I realised that it's not just there, it keeps the rhythm with the drums.

3) The tuning is indeed different than the HEM2, but it keeps the good things, like the soundstage and detailed presentation.

As a side-note, the store, being specialized in AV equipment, replaced my HEM2 on the spot. I have to give then props for that. Other places would have asked for me to ship them the product, open an RMA request and then wait for a couple of weeks until they blame me for "improper usage".
 
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Feb 15, 2019 at 2:37 PM Post #501 of 533

Rodmunch

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As a side-note, the store, being specialized in AV equipment, replaced my HEM2 on the spot. I have to give then props for that. Other places would have asked for me to ship them the product, open an RMA request and then wait for a couple of weeks until they blame me for "improper usage".

Good to hear!
 
Feb 15, 2019 at 8:21 PM Post #502 of 533

monsieurfromag3

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Well guys, I'm back and I've solved both my broken IEMs and my upgrade itch.

Firstly, I decided to buy the HEM8 after having another listening session with the Fiio FA7. I did not think I would enjoy the FA7, with their elevated mid-bass and non-reference tuning. They look and feel amazing though, like a piece of jewelry, with the 3D printed casing and silvery wire.

On to HEM8 impressions though, because that's what this topic is about:

1) They're super sensitive with the source that you give them. They're super sensitive in general, actually. I guess this explains the wildly different opinions that people have about them. The HEM2 were fine with my Sony XZ3's output. The HEM8 were a muddy mess, with a dark, bassy sound signature and recessed vocals. I was actually disappointed when I first tried them out, since I had already bought them. So I plugged into my ifi idsd nano, to see what they can do in a best case scenario. It's a whole other ball game. Everything opened up, the vocals came forward and let in a very nice sound signature. Not as bright as the HEM2, but very nicely balanced and very detailed. The IEMatch port also works wonders with them, providing a very clean output, with absolutely zero hissing.

Since I needed these IEMs for portable use, the Hidizs Sonata DAC cable is a decent compromise. The sound signature is pretty close to the idsd nano and it's not that much bigger than the passive USB-C -> 3.5mm adapter that I have to use anyway with the phone. Unfortunately, I lose the Sony processing this way and it has a noticeable hiss in some quiet songs. If it had a low/high gain switch for the amp, it would have been perfect. I'm still glad I have it, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to enjoy the HEM8. For 30 bucks, it's a steal.

2) The bass and sub-bass is better than I expected, much better than the HEM2 in general and much more neutral than the Fiio FA7. I find it exactly like @monsieurfromag3 described it, tight and unforgiving with textures that I didn't hear before. The bassline in Outkast's "Hey ya" is a very good example of this. I realised that it's not just there, it keeps the rhythm with the drums.

3) The tuning is indeed different than the HEM2, but it keeps the good things, like the soundstage and detailed presentation.

As a side-note, the store, being specialized in AV equipment, replaced my HEM2 on the spot. I have to give then props for that. Other places would have asked for me to ship them the product, open an RMA request and then wait for a couple of weeks until they blame me for "improper usage".
If the Hidisz Sonata doesn’t satisfy, may I suggest you try out Radsone’s ES100, a $100 Bluetooth receiver with dual AKM DACs that supports all of the main codecs including Sony’s LDAC. Its soft yet detailed tuning works well with the HEM8 and it lets you keep Nuforce’s nice cable. It packs the SQ of a nice mid-tier DAP in the tiniest imaginable package, and lets you use your phone as a source and also an interface for the amazingly powerful app.
 
Mar 5, 2019 at 5:10 AM Post #503 of 533

geo2160

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If the Hidisz Sonata doesn’t satisfy, may I suggest you try out Radsone’s ES100, a $100 Bluetooth receiver with dual AKM DACs that supports all of the main codecs including Sony’s LDAC. Its soft yet detailed tuning works well with the HEM8 and it lets you keep Nuforce’s nice cable. It packs the SQ of a nice mid-tier DAP in the tiniest imaginable package, and lets you use your phone as a source and also an interface for the amazingly powerful app.

Thank you for the advice. I've actually already read some reviews for the ES100 and Fiio BTR3, but I had my reservations due to all the bad rap that bluetooth has these days. I will have to make a decision next month probably: Type-C port vs much better app. I completely migrated to type-C in my home and I had hoped to carry a single charger/cable when I'm on trips.

In the meantime, I got an Apple type-C dongle for my phone. It actually sounds great and unlike all other Apple products, is reasonably priced at ~12 euros. The only problem it has is that its output power is severely limited on Android, but that's actually beneficial on the very sensitive HEM8. The maximum output volume is a little over confortable listening levels.

On an unrelated note, do you guys have any recommendations for aftermarket tips? Comply sounds much better than the rubber tips, but I don't really like the 10 second preparation that I have to do for each insertion.
 
Mar 6, 2019 at 9:30 PM Post #504 of 533

Dobrescu George

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Thank you for the advice. I've actually already read some reviews for the ES100 and Fiio BTR3, but I had my reservations due to all the bad rap that bluetooth has these days. I will have to make a decision next month probably: Type-C port vs much better app. I completely migrated to type-C in my home and I had hoped to carry a single charger/cable when I'm on trips.

In the meantime, I got an Apple type-C dongle for my phone. It actually sounds great and unlike all other Apple products, is reasonably priced at ~12 euros. The only problem it has is that its output power is severely limited on Android, but that's actually beneficial on the very sensitive HEM8. The maximum output volume is a little over confortable listening levels.

On an unrelated note, do you guys have any recommendations for aftermarket tips? Comply sounds much better than the rubber tips, but I don't really like the 10 second preparation that I have to do for each insertion.

Comply have the sweety comfort for those. Unless you want to make some custom tips for them.

As for Bluetooth, HEM8 is extremely analytical in the midrange, you will hear the BT compression algorithms much easier than with other IEMs.
 
Mar 7, 2019 at 3:17 AM Post #505 of 533

monsieurfromag3

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Thank you for the advice. I've actually already read some reviews for the ES100 and Fiio BTR3, but I had my reservations due to all the bad rap that bluetooth has these days. I will have to make a decision next month probably: Type-C port vs much better app. I completely migrated to type-C in my home and I had hoped to carry a single charger/cable when I'm on trips.

In the meantime, I got an Apple type-C dongle for my phone. It actually sounds great and unlike all other Apple products, is reasonably priced at ~12 euros. The only problem it has is that its output power is severely limited on Android, but that's actually beneficial on the very sensitive HEM8. The maximum output volume is a little over confortable listening levels.

On an unrelated note, do you guys have any recommendations for aftermarket tips? Comply sounds much better than the rubber tips, but I don't really like the 10 second preparation that I have to do for each insertion.
As to Bluetooth, imo at this point with LDAC and aptX HD you’re getting pretty much transparent playback up to a very high standard. Even AAC and aptX are close to perfection up to CD quality. Some high-end DAC/amps with BT functionality support no higher codecs than aptX, and advertize it as a cool feature. I don’t get Bluetooth naysayers these days. The problem is that many BT devices prioritize functionality over audio quality, and those are the ones giving wireless that bad rap. But with the right approach and enough effort lavished on the decoding/amplification front, you get these tiny wonders that offer the quality of a nice budget DAP and unbeatable convenience.

I agree it’s more elegant to stick to one connector type. In this case though it’s just one tiny micro-usb cable that plugs into the same charger as the usb-c cables... As you’ve gathered I like the ES100 more because of the software but people seem happy with the BTR3. That particular competition may soon be a moot point anyway with the upcoming arrival of cool new BT receivers such as the Shanling up2 or the Hiby W5 (just $59!).

Regarding tips, my absolute favorites for anything with a narrow stem are the Klipsch tips. Deep insertion but not the intrusive double- or triple-flange type. Those are silicone though. A good bet could be Symbio’s Wa - foam inserts under a silicone top. They’re more rigid so don’t require as much prep.
 
Mar 7, 2019 at 7:13 PM Post #506 of 533

winterhalter

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I prefer a neutral sound so the strong bass out of the HEM8 feels like a bit too much at first listen. I'm currently using the SE braided cable out of a Fiio M9 which may be part of the problem; the M9's unbalanced output is not very good. I'm rewiring for balanced and giving it another try on the M9 and xDSD but...I don't know. I'm not too impressed so far.

The fit is quite good and very flush; I think they'll fit under my motorcycle helmet.
Sad that there aren't any small Comply tips included.

EDIT:
1) They're super sensitive with the source that you give them. They're super sensitive in general, actually. I guess this explains the wildly different opinions that people have about them. The HEM2 were fine with my Sony XZ3's output. The HEM8 were a muddy mess, with a dark, bassy sound signature and recessed vocals. I was actually disappointed when I first tried them out, since I had already bought them. So I plugged into my ifi idsd nano, to see what they can do in a best case scenario. It's a whole other ball game. Everything opened up, the vocals came forward and let in a very nice sound signature. Not as bright as the HEM2, but very nicely balanced and very detailed. The IEMatch port also works wonders with them, providing a very clean output, with absolutely zero hissing.

Thanks for this, I'm hoping a better dac/amp and/or the balanced cable will clean things up. "a muddy mess, with a dark, bassy sound signature and recessed vocals" is what I'm hearing now out of the M9.
 
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Mar 27, 2019 at 4:28 PM Post #507 of 533

winterhalter

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It’s quintessential multi-BA tuning, absolutely flat, relentlessly accurate, with extreme refinement in the bass (2 dedicated drivers). Talk of roll-off in the upper-mids or treble baffles me; my impression, on the contrary, is that these are like studio monitors, willing to sacrifice musicality and enjoyment on the altar of impeccable fidelity. Nuforce introduce them as reference gear. Roll-off is almost a theoretical impossibility; but decay is so sharp the quantity of any frequency can seem reduced. Even more than with other iems packing balanced armature or ceramic drivers. They are an analyst's dream.

They are fun and warm with a lot of punch but I wouldn't call them reference-quality or transparent mostly due to the poor BA crossovers. I can see why they never caught on.
The accessories are great and they're very comfortable but overpriced for what you get.
 
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Mar 27, 2019 at 8:16 PM Post #508 of 533

monsieurfromag3

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the poor BA crossovers.
What makes you say that? What was your source/s?

They are unbelievably amp-dependent. I was trying out my iems the other day with my desktop tube amp. I had just listened to my Klipsch x20i, which I often refer to as “creamy”. They sounded quite bright all of a sudden. I then plugged in the HEM8, already wincing in expectation of their murderous clarity - what was not my surprise at their uncharacteristic warmth! I heard then and there what many commentators, including in this very thread recently, have described for years: a darker balance than I know them for, and their quickness undiminished but the overall response a bit off, veiled. If that’s what you’ve heard, I get it, they can seem less than expertly tuned, but I’d say you haven't heard them as they are supposed to sound. My impression of them as an epitome of accuracy certainly aligns more with what Nuforce state was their intention for the HEM8. I may also be entirely wrong and Nuforce spectacularly failed development, but given what I hear when I plug them into a DAP or my V30, I doubt it and definitely wouldn't describe their issues as hallmarks of poor BA crossover.
 

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