Xears Nature N3 / N3i Review

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Xears Nature N3i
Reviewed Aug 2011

Details: In-ear headset from Xears
MSRP: €69.90 (est. $95) (manufacturer’s page); N3i model includes mic & 1-button remote
Current Price: 70 (est. $95) from ebay.de
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: N/A | Sens: N/A | Freq: 6-28k Hz | Cable: 4’ I-plug j-cord
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: generic single-flange; stock foam
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (3/5) –Single-flange (3 sizes), bi-flange, and tri-flange silicone tips, foamhybrid tips, and padded carrying pouch
Build Quality (3.5/5) – Like the other high-end Xears models, the N3 uses painted wood and metal housings and metal nozzle filters. The sturdy nylon-sheathed cord does not kink the way some of the thinner ones do but can tangle a bit compared to the old Xears cables. Some driver flex is present
Isolation (2.5/5) – Moderate with silicone tips and a bit better with the foamies. The large housings prevent deep insertion
Microphonics (4/5) – Surprisingly low for a cloth cable and helped further by the j-cord configuration
Comfort (3/5) – The housings are lightweight but quite large in diameter and clearly designed for a shallow fit. Unfortunately, the combination of j-cord and inline mic integrated into the y-split makes the N3 impractical to wear over-the-ear and the stock silicone tips leave a bit to be desired

Sound (7.8/10) – The sound of the Xears Nature N3 bears a resemblance to that of Xears’ previous higher-end woody, the TD-III Blackwood, with the major differences being a slightly larger soundstage and less mid-forward balance. The bass of the N3 is the most powerful and prominent of Xears in-ears I’ve heard, narrowly beating out the PS120 and TD-III. The sub-bass is more powerful than with the XE200 and the entire low end is boomier and more full-bodied. Part of the reason is longer note sustainment – the N3 tends to have longer decay times than the other Xears in-ears. Impact is very sizeable and will probably be excessive for some but the N3 still manages to sound clean and resolving compared to the majority of bass-heavy mid-range earphones.

The mids are very smooth, as with the TD-III, but the N3 is slightly less forward in the midrange, which is partly responsible for the greater prominence of its bass. The midrange is by no means recessed but bass bleed is slightly more noticeable and the whole sound signature is richer, warmer, and thicker compared to the TD-III. Texture lags slightly behind the XE200PRO and is about on par with the TD-III, as are detail and clarity. For an earphone with a sound signature that places so much emphasis on the low end, the overall cleanliness of the N3 is enviable but unfortunately the clarity can be difficult to appreciate with all of that bass drawing attention to itself. In direct comparisons to other bass-heavy sets, however the clarity of the N3 shines and even the far more balanced Spider Realvoice could not beat the clarity or detail of the Xears on tracks where the bass did not overwhelm.

The treble of the N3 is low on sparkle but has good clarity and detail. It is not the sort of crisp, clinical treble found on some of my favourite analytical earphones but it works well to compliment the bass and midrange. It extends well enough upward and easily matches the other Xears models in overall proficiency. Presentation, on the other hand, is what most certainly sets the N3 apart from the already-spacious TD-III and lesser Xears models. The TD-III is already well above average in terms of the space it produces but the N3 sounds bigger still. The soundstage extends farther in all directions and whereas the TD-III leans very slightly towards intimacy, the N3 images more evenly across the sonic space. It can be fairly intimate when necessary but is also capable producing very good ambience. Instrumental separation is moderate, as with the TD-III, and airiness lags slightly behind the XE200 and XR120 models. On the whole it is a very solid presentation with a headphone-like feel and even well-tuned competitors like the Spider Realvoice sound a bit small next to the N3.

Value (6.5/10) – The suggested retail price for the Xears N3 is quite high but discounts often drop it into a lower price bracket. The build quality of the N3 is quite good and the day-to-day usability is passable for those who can live with the j-cord and gargantuan housings. Signature-wise, the N3 is the most impactful of the three high-end wooden Xears models but still retains impressive technical ability and a large, engrossing presentation. It gives a sense of limitless power and makes no compromises and no attempts at civility with its signature. Quite simply, if you really like bass and can live with the form factor, the N3, when on sale, is one of the best deals in portable audio.

Pros: Great overall sound quality; low cable noise
Cons: Large housings; moderate driver flex; not giftable for lack of packaging; j-cord may be an issue for some; bass can be too prominent

 


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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