Saturday, 1 June 2013

Nuforce NE-700m Review

Nuforce NE-700m Review

First Impressions:  A rather smaller box than I was expecting.  Still this is Nuforce’s “flagship” IEM so given the relatively mixed feelings I had about the previous two this shall be interesting.  Visually these are pretty sedate affairs.  Dare I say it in comparison to the 770 these are positively boring.  You could of course say they are far more grown up looking and they are.  They are also a shed more weighty than the weightless 770 too.  These are clearly all metal, machined aluminium the spec sheet says.

First listen and oh god, thick heavy, bassy.  I’m thinking these will want a good long burn in and maybe the pairing of a bright amp.  Shockingly I’m thinking right away the rather bright sounding Nuforce Icon Mobile might be the amp for these.

Source:  Nuforce Icon Mobile, Fireye DA, FiiO E7/E9 combo, 1G Ipod shuffle and for phone use a Galaxy Nexus.

Lows:  Big and abundant.  They bass is clearly taking centre stage and I can’t say I love that.  I did find it’s a little bit fussy in what you pair it to.  You see I think Nuforce have assumed that this is going to be paired with DAPs that are likely to roll off the lows.  If you then pair it with something that doesn’t you get rather a lot.  Still pairing up with its stable mate, the Icon Mobile, which is known to be rather bright, they pair up very well.  I found the combo to be very enjoyable.  The bass with its still elevated quantity rolled off a little bit more and so was much more tolerable to the ear.  The warm E7/E9 combo produced a low, low end that felt like it wanted to shake my skull apart.  Even with the phone the quantity was significant yet it lacked the quickness on the Icon Mobile.  The 700 is not the fastest low end that ever there was.  It felt much more at home with slower, thicker stuff particularly when not well powered.  It’s great big bottom end has great authority but it lacks in agility the way a large 4x4 (SUV for Americans) can hurl itself into a corner.  It will go round but it doesn’t feel nimble and effortless.  The trade-off is you get a large sumptuous sound.  The bass is velvety melted chocolate that you can sink into.

When you do make it pound out a quicker bass line it will do it but I felt the bass a bit overblown.  It doesn’t start and stop terribly quickly and you get a big wall of powerful bass.  For me it got tiring but I’m not a bass head and I could see many really enjoying its low end.  The more mainstream crowd in particular I’m sure would find it most entertaining.

Mids:  Rather recessed behind that bass if you ask me.  Tonally its rather on the warm side of things like the rest of the IEM so you don’t get the most explicit vocals ever.  They are rather lovely though, smooth and gentle on the ear, just washing over it.  For things with smooth, melodic vocals they work great and for songs with vocalists that erm, shall we say are lacking a bit, this smooth’s and sands the rough edges.  If you’re after light and breathy vocals though these will suffocate them a bit.  “The Bird and The Bee” stuff feels too heavy vocally.  They should be full of air and dry but the NE-700 just isn’t capable of that sort of thing.  It depends on what style you like, the sound has been hugely popular and Sony has used it for years as do many others. 

For me though I find its thickness and richness a bit more than I’d like to see.  It obscures things and the detail retrieval suffers for it.  I shouldn’t really complain at that as it’s a preference thing but I like to listen out for little things and this just isn’t that sort of IEM.

Highs:  You know what to expect I think.  It’s warm so softened, gentle highs that roll off a bit.  Tbh that works great for me as I hate nothing worse than harshness in the highs.  Here they are smooth and gentle no matter really what you do.  Maybe not one for aggressive rock then.  These just do not want to do abrasive and aggressive.  The down side to that is they could be said to lack detail and they do a bit.  It’s more that they don’t thrust the brutal edge of a high note at you like some do so they don’t have the sense of detail about them.  They aren’t terrible detail wise but you’ll have listen out and pay attention to notice.  Extension wise too these aren’t stellar but they do have a gentle roll away with a nice shimmery fade.

Not one for the treble junkies.

Soundstage:  Placement I found a bit unfocused but they have a significant scale to them.  They feel big and powerful even if you can’t place things anywhere in particular nor do they feel particularly distant.

Fit:  Sealed dynamics, joy.  Actually not bad but I did find I got on best with these once I slapped on a pair of Comply’s.  It was quicker that way.

Comfort:  Given their weight you maybe think there could be an issue but no, naturally I wore them up and they were fine.  The cord and your ear takes the weight so you really don’t notice.   Worn down the mic as always caught on collars and got annoying but that always happens to me with mic’s.

Cable:  Fairly non descript.  Feels sturdy particularly the jack and the Y splitter.  The Y splitter seems very sturdy, nice chin slider too.

Microphonics:  Not bad even worn down.  There is a chin slider to help if that’s how you like to wear them.  Naturally worn up there’s really no issue.

Accessories:  Not a vast assortment.  You get a little brown baggie and 6 pairs of tips.  Its only three sizes though, i.e. you get 2 pairs of each or I did anyway.  The spec’s say you get 3 pairs.

Phone Use:  Made a call, they could hear me fine despite my wearing them up and the mic sitting just below my ear.  So seems to be a success there.  Control wise it’s the 1 press for play/pause, 2 to skip a track etc etc.  That worked just fine too.

Amped/Unamped:  They didn’t seem to mind if amped or not but responded for more to what they were paired with.  Shockingly they paired best with Icon Mobile particularly in the vocals but they seemed to otherwise run just fine form anything including my phone.  My phone’s pretty clean and crisp rather than something warm like an Iphone.

Isolation:  Pretty good for dynamic.  Of course it is a closed dynamic so that is to be expected.  Good enough for normal out and about or on a bus.  Not what I’d really want for a great long flight but it would do in a pinch.  Naturally enough to get you run over if you don’t look where you’re going.

Value:  Hmmm, like many Nuforce products it matters if your American or not.  I can see the 700x going for £63 and the 700m for £75.  If I was American then they go for US$65 or US$75 respectively.  That’s a bit or a jump as just now US$75 equates to £49.40 according to google today.  That’s a 50% price increase to pay in pounds rather than US dollars.  Eek!

Conclusion:  These don’t wow me in any given area but they are a nice, solid IEM.  They are solidly constructed and have a solidly good, warm rich sound to them.  They are mostly natural sounding in the vocals if a touch heavy and they sound lovely.  They ooze and flow like a viscous cream and I do like it.  Its coloured but in a pleasant way.  Their rich warmth is undoubtedly a popular style and very listenable.  Particularly I can see their low end to be rather popular in the mainstream.  It I think is just a sound that’s maybe not aimed so much at the likes of those on Head-fi.  These aren’t the most detailed nor the most revealing but they aren’t trying to be.  It’s all about the weighty sumptuousness and power they offer.

So these are pretty flavoured sounding and only you can say if that’s something you’re after.  I found that its works very well with the likes of Jayson Mraz or Eric Huntchinson.  Especially with Mr Hutchinsons big bass with heavy vocals.  It’s rhythmically gently bouncy and eminently foot tapping.  It’s just not one that’s going to make you launch off your chair and go dancing round the room.  It’s much more relaxed and sedate than that.  Relaxed and sedate music is too where I felt there at their best too.  The fastest music didn’t have the bight and crispness you want for it unless you want to soften things.

These are the sort of thing I’d expect to see sold in the likes of John Lewis.  It’s a good sold set physically and aurally.  Good solid low end to them and a warm beefy power that should be popular.  The quality is good if rather flavoured.  It’s the aural equivalent of a hot chocolate topped with skooshy cream and marshmallows.  So long as you weren’t expecting an Earl Grey I’m sure anyone buying or getting these as a gift should be very content with them.

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