Highly defined yet coherent midrange, Outstanding imaging, Squeaky clean transient response, Great ergonomics, Competitive pricing
Low-end lacks dynamics, Odd bass tonality, Minimal sparkle and limited air up top
The Opera’s magic lies in its ability to bring every element together into a highly coherent, composed and effortless whole.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re familiar with Knowles, NuForce or Erato. If that’s the case, then you would be well acquainted with Casey Ng whose expertise was invaluable to all. NXEars is his latest venture, uniting the core principles of each brand. These earphones feature strong value per driver from his relationship to Knowles, a phase-coherent crossover ala NuForce and have been tuned to perform well in both time and frequency domains. The Opera is NXEars’ statement product, with a 3-way, 8-driver configuration and a $799 USD asking price. You can read more about the line-up and technology behind NXEars here. With that in mind, these are my impressions.
I would like to thank Casey very much for his quick communication, clarification and for providing me with the Opera for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. The earphones have been reviewed under flexible terms meaning that they will be shipped back as required by NXEars. As always, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation. This review also features a pre-production unit that came with no packaging nor the full set of accessories. The retail units will also feature heavy copper faceplates that Casey assures will enhance bass heft.
The Pitch –
Aperiodic Ground Loading
Casey’s patent-pending AGL technology isn’t fleshed out on NXEars’ website but is a development that is worth taking some time to understand as it contributes to some key characteristics of the Opera’s sound. It consists of driver body damping on the faceplate in conjunction with a vent that controls driver resonance while bleeding over-pressure. As a result, these will be very non-fatiguing on the eardrum and low in distortion.
The Opera implements a sophisticated crossover system to achieve a low-distortion and linear sound. It is both frequency and time-aligned ensuring phase coherence in addition to a smooth and coherent frequency response. In real-world listening, this should translate to clean transients and sharp imaging. There are only a handful of phase-coherent earphones on the market, notable to me are the JH and Custom Art flagships that are all more expensive than the Opera.
I personally love the design of the Opera which merges elements of custom and universal IEMs to create a very unique aesthetic alongside excellent ergonomics. The 3D printed housings are perfectly realised with an immaculate gloss finish and a complete absence of bubbles, seams or defects. The smoke design provides a window into the complex driver and crossover designs inside. Meanwhile, stardust blue faceplates glittered with lustrous gold accents provide a truly otherworldly aesthetic that is gorgeous to photograph and even more captivating in person.
This is complemented by a removable MMCX cable with 8-core 6N mono-crystal copper conductors. It’s very soft and easily coiled for storage. The jacket is a touch rubbery which can make untangling difficult; however, the 8-wire braid does resist tangling very well. There is ample strain relief and convincing build quality without cumbersome weight. The memory wire ear guides hold their position well and provide a confident fit. Meanwhile, the MMCX connectors themselves are snappy and even in tension between sides.
Fit & Isolation –
The housings are on the larger side both in terms of height and depth, however, they are very smoothly formed and sculpted to complement the features of the outer ear. In conjunction with long, tapered nozzles that provide a deep fit, the Opera feels very stable and locked into the ear. I also found the deeper fit to permit the earphones to sit flush with my outer ear while their sculpted design avoided hotspot formation over longer listening.
Due to their vented nature, isolation is good but not outstanding like a custom or fully sealed design. They are still perfectly suitable for commute and potentially air travel with foam tips that said. On the contrary, though functionally different, I did find AGL to provide similar pressure relief to my ADEL and APEX earphones which makes them very comfortable for extended listening despite their fit depth. They provide a similarly strong seal to other high-end IEMs but without the vacuum so the Opera will be a good choice for those sensitive to that kind of discomfort.
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