Reviewed Jan 2011
Details: Flagship in-ear from one of Head-Fi’s favorite brands
Current Price: $65 from amazon.com (MSRP: $65); $79 for NE-700X version w/mic
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 105 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 4.8’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 4.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (2.5/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) and triple-flange silicone tips, soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (4/5) – The metal housings are very solid and there are no visible seams – a welcome change from the original Nuforce NE-7M, which had a tendency to come unglued. The unique strain reliefs grip the circumference of the shell but can probably be damaged if tugged hard enough. A small red ring around the right strain relief takes the place of L/R indicators. The cable is rubbery, uncharacteristically long, and equipped with beefy metal-and-rubber y-split and an equally beefy metal-jacketed 3.5mm plug
Isolation (3/5) – The bulky housings prevent deep insertion and are vented like most dynamics, resulting in average isolation
Microphonics (4/5) – Annoying when worn cable-down; not bad with over-the-ear fitment
Comfort (3.5/5) – The shells are surprisingly large for an earphone with 8mm drivers and won’t work for everyone, at least not with single-flange tips. The rear edge of the shells can push against the outer ear and the edges are fairly sharp but comfort is still decent on the whole
Sound (7.3/10) – Nuforce first entered the IEM arena more than two years ago with the NE-7M and NE-8 models – one a conventional-fit iPhone-compatible earphone with a bass-heavy sound signature and intense tonal coloration and the other an ‘audiophile’ over-the-ear model with impressive clarity and anemic bass. While the NE-8 all but faded into obscurity, the NE-7M thrived, giving rise to a microphone-less offspring (the NE-6) and gaining a large following. It is no surprise, then, that the NE-700X, as the model numbering implies, borrows far more heavily from the NE-7 than the NE-8. Its bass is nice and full, placing plenty of weight on individual notes and contending with the best of the rest in impact and power. Extension is quite good, with a solid bit of rumble at the bottom and nearly as much depth as the Fischer Audio Eterna – enough to satisfy all but the most serious bassheads without losing resolution. Low-end detail and texture are solid as well – the bass of the NE-700X really isn’t the quickest in the realm of <$100 dynamics but it’s not downright bloated, either, and the impact doesn’t obscure low-end detailing. It can be a little excessive at times for my taste but switching to a slightly shallower fit helps balance the NE-700X out.
There’s a tinge of bass bleed to the midrange but nothing offensive – just enough to give the NE-700X a bit of coloration and warmth. The mids are generally smooth and a bit thick. Overall balance is good but the bass of the NE-700X makes the mids and treble sound slightly recessed. As with the Eterna and the new Meelectronics CC51, the clarity of the NE-700X is good for a thicker-sounding, bass-heavy set but not as striking as that of the mid-forward M2 or treble-heavy RE0 despite the decent overall balance and highly resolving nature of the Nuforces. Detail and texture are good but I feel that the Xcape still reveals more microdetail at the expense of sounding slightly more etched than the NE-700. The treble transition is mostly free of harshness and sibilance once the drivers have a few hours on them. In terms of emphasis the high end is about even with the midrange but treble presentation is slightly laid-back. There is a small amount of sparkle and extension is very reasonable but the NE-700X is softer-sounding at the high end than the Xcape or Eterna and slightly dark on the whole.
When it comes to presentation, the NE-700X impresses with its consistency and well-roundedness. It doesn’t have the spaciousness of the Eterna or the airiness of the Phiaton PS 20 but still sounds fairly natural. The soundstage has good width and good depth, beating out the similarly-priced Brainwavz M2 and keeping up with the pricier M3. Combined with the smooth and crisp sound signature, the soundstage of the NE-700X makes for an involving, if not very aggressive, experience. That said, I still feel that like the old NE-7M, the NE-700X puts the fun factor first and absolute accuracy second – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Interestingly, the NE-700X is still engaging and enjoyable at lower listening volumes, which is not something I can say for the Dre Beats Tour or even Monster Turbines. Lastly, while the NE-700X does not need an external amplifier, it is a bit less efficient than the average mid-range dynamic – the Brainwavz earphones, Phiaton PS 20, and Eterna all reach high output levels more easily that than the Nuforces.
Value (8.5/10) – Taking the general formula of the ever-popular NE-7M and improving on it in pretty much every way, the Nuforce NE-700X is an extremely competitive earphone, with build quality and all-around usability to match the impressive sound quality, all at a very reasonable price. While the NE-700X doesn’t break any barriers sonically, it combines many positive traits – traits that wouldn’t have scored as highly on their own – in a single and very coherent package, all the while sounding more natural on the whole compared to its predecessor. Personally, I find the NE-700X a bit too bassy for its own good but, as an earphone aimed at the consumer market, perhaps the NE-700X is better off not appealing to me at all.
Pros: Well-built; deep, impactful bass; well-rounded presentation
Cons: May be uncomfortable for those with smaller ears; not for those in search of neutrality or balance