MSRP: $129.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $70 from Amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 32Ω | Sens: 96.5 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ 45-degree plug w/ mic & 1-button remote
Nozzle Size: 4.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges; MEElec M6 single-flanges; Comply T200 (included)
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear (preferred)
Accessories (4/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (5 sizes), Comply T200 memory foam tips (3 sizes), and zippered clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – The SuperBuds’ earpieces are decidedly large and hefty, but also feel rock-solid. The cables are fabric-sheathed, and while the combination of heavy earpieces, fabric cords, and lack of external strain relief worries me a little, they’re holding up fine five months in. The cable features a mic with single-button remote on the left side and 45-degree termination. No cable cinch is present
Isolation (4/5) – Impressive, especially with the included Comply eartips
Microphonics (4/5) – Bothersome when worn cable-down; good otherwise. Very good considering the cloth cable
Comfort (3/5) – Heavy, wide housings will cause problems in smaller ears but the SuperBuds attempt to make up for it with a strong eartip selection – 5 sizes of good-quality silicone tips (including always-welcome XL and XS sizes) and 3 pairs of Comply memory foam tips. The SuperBuds can also be worn cable-up to mitigate the weight
Sound (7.7/10) – The NHT SuperBuds follow a surprisingly bass-heavy signature with a warm tone and smooth highs – perhaps a bit more Beats by Dre than I expected, but a bass fan’s delight to be sure. The bass is deep and powerful, with a slight mid-bass bias and relatively slow attack and decay resulting in a very full-bodied sound.
The SuperBuds’ bass quantity falls north of just about any IEM I’ve tried recently except maybe JVC’s Xtreme Xplosives line, and their slower bass presentation acts to further accentuate the low end. This sort of bass “bloom” also means the majority of less bassy earphones, even those with strong punch like Brainwavz’ similarly-priced S5, sound tighter and quicker at the low end but ultimately lack the sheer power and fullness of the NHTs.
The SuperBuds have a warm tonal character and sound thick and rich through the midrange. The mids of the SuperBuds are slightly veiled, but not recessed. As expected, they don’t reach the clarity or detail levels of less bass-heavy earphones like the Brainwavz S5, but the clarity is not bad at all for this type of sound. Sets with more v-shaped, mid-recessed signatures – again, like the S5 – tend to sound a little thin and “hollow” in comparison.
The top end of the SuperBuds is smooth and non-fatiguing at the expense of sounding a little darker and less crisp than the average $100 in-ear monitor. It does an excellent job of killing whatever harshness and sibilance may be present and maintains smoothness even at higher volumes, which makes it perfect for sensitive ears. The soundstage is also good for a bass-heavy earphone – spacious enough to digest all the bass and not overly prone to congestion.
Interestingly, the SuperBuds have lower than average sensitivity – they’re not quiet or anything, but listeners who equate volume with sound quality may prefer the more efficient Beats by Dre Tours or JVC Xtreme Xplosives. I found this aspect of the performance interesting – on one hand the SuperBuds have a sound signature that’s perfect for the mainstream, and on the other they act more along the lines of enthusiast earphones when it comes to the volume war.
The intent of JVC’s Xtreme Xplosives headphone line is simple – to deliver as much bass as possible. The FR301 succeeds in matching the SuperBuds there, offering up a hair more mid-bass punch to boot, but lacks refinement. The overall response of the JVCs is much more v-shaped, with a ton more treble presence compared to the NHT set. The FR301 can sound a little clearer and more dynamic thanks to the extra treble energy and crispness, but the midrange is recessed and the top end is brighter and harsher, with occasional bouts of sibilance. The NHT set is muddier and more veiled, warmer in tone, and more dull in the treble, but its smoother sound is more natural and never unpleasant, which is more than can be said for the JVC unit.
The Fighter from Italy-based UBSOUND can be thought of as a bargain Beats by Dre – a flat-cabled headset with flashy colors and enhanced-bass sound. Next to the SuperBuds, however, its bass response seems rather tame. The SuperBuds boast greater mid-bass presence for a more impactful and full-bodied sound, offering true basshead performance and a richer, warmer overall audio experience. The Fighter puts up less mid-bass and sounds more balanced, which should give it a clarity advantage over the SuperBuds, but doesn’t, most likely due to the Fighter’s upper midrange dip.
RHA’s pricier MA750i, like the NHT SuperBuds, is a metal-shelled earphone with a hefty construction and bass-heavy sound. Compared to the basshead-worthy SuperBuds, the low end of the MA750i is less impactful, but tighter and not as intrusive. It still has good punch but with quicker note attack and decay, which makes it sound leaner and short on slam next to the NHT set. The SuperBuds, with their more full-bodied note, are boomier and more veiled, but also more powerful.
The MA750i offers a brighter overall tone compared to the SuperBuds, with significantly more presence in the upper midrange. This also makes it sound a little “tizzy” and far less tolerant of harshness in comparison to the smoother NHTs. The MA750 is more spacious thanks to its brighter sound and better overall resolution.
Beats by Dre Tour 2.0 ($150)
The Tour 2.0 is a sizable improvement over the original Beats Tour, but still doesn’t offer very good value for money in sound alone. It is, however, very user-friendly and ergonomic. The plastic-shelled Beats are much lighter than the SuperBuds, for instance, and tend to be more comfortable and secure in the ear with their angled nozzles and optional ear fins.
Coming back around to sound, it almost seems like NHT set out to out-Beats the Tour 2.0 by tuning the SuperBuds to be slightly bassier, warmer, and richer-sounding. The SuperBuds’ bass is a little slower and its midrange – a little more veiled – but the smoothness can sound more natural and the presentation is a little less compressed. The Tour 2.0 is marginally clearer, a bit less full-bodied, and less forgiving at the top. It is also worth noting that the Beats are significantly more sensitive – potentially an issue for the SuperBuds with listeners who wrongly equate loudness with sound quality.
Value (7.5/10) – The NHT SuperBuds are substantial in both sound and design, with hefty metal housings to match the basshead-worthy performance. Indeed, these warm and smooth-sounding earphones are unashamedly bassy, reminding me of the pricier, now-defunct TFTA 1V. The 1V was another large, solidly-built, and very bassy earphone that I’m still itching to recommend when someone asks for the most explosive bass you can get in a decent-sounding in-ear package. Happily, I can now recommend the SuperBuds in its stead, and to anyone else in search of a basshead earphone without the extra spend – and stigma – of a Beats Tour 2.0.
Pros: Solidly built, good eartip selection, smooth sound with tons of bass
Cons: Large, hefty housings not ideal for small ears; tons of bass