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Review: Truthears Nova

Disclaimer: I formally thank Truthears for graciously providing us with the Nova in exchange for an honest review.

Pros:

  • Fantastic build quality with artisanal-finishing
  • Resolution and clarity mirroring top-of-the-line products 2-3 years prior.
  • Excellent midrange detail-retrieval and life-like treble sparkle.
  • Taut bass response with agile mid-bass slam.
  • Excellent width between audible elements in the stage.
  • Highly resolving PRAT highlights subtle nuances in the music.

Cons:

  • Mediocre cable-build and design
  • Occasional shrillness in the upper-midrange on poorly-mastered recordings.
  • “Nasally” female vocal presentation for mezzo-soprano voicings.
  • Harman Target Response Curve is starting to lose its “lustre”

Introduction

Truthears Waifu-branded ephemera seems to be a variation on an all-too-familiar theme in the Chi-Fi community (staring at you, Moondrop). Despite their eerie similarities, Truthears has its influential tendrils deeply rooted in the thralls of the global audiophile community.

The massively successful debut of their now universally acclaimed HEXA was a market disruptor, uprooting familiar go-to brands populating the sub-$100 bracket. And soon followed a series of calculated product launches, from the affordable-yet competent Truthears SHIO DAC/Amp, and the hotly anticipated launch of Project RED: a co-branding effort between Truthears and Singaporean audiophile influencer, Crinnacle. There are no “happy” coincidences with Truthears, only deliberate and calculated manoeuvres from methodical decision-making and business foresight.

More importantly, the HEXA appealed to the customers’ perception of value. In a community defined by multitudes of IEM releases on a day-to-day roster, price alone is not an exclusive guarantor of performance. Educated customers don’t fall prey to sanitised marketing psychobabble: they are looking to stretch their hard-earned dollars. The HEXA was the definitive answer to those silent prayers, featuring a neatly tucked array of 3 balanced armatures and a liquid-crystal-polymer (LCP) dynamic driver.

But the HEXA is close to one year old now. In consumer-electronics years, that indicates the “HEXA” is starting to show signs of its age. That means a spiritual successor is needed to carry the HEXA’s torch. Truthears recent release of the NOVA symbolises that change of their guard.

Priced at 127.49 USD, the NOVA throws in one more balanced armature into the mix, featuring an architecture comprised of 2 balanced armatures (mids), 2 balanced armatures (highs), and a single 10mm PU+LCP dynamic driver (in a 3-way active crossover configuration). The NOVA can be purchased directly on Shenzhen Audio’s official website.

Technology

The Truthears NOVA boasts a straightforward, no-frills architecture comprised of 2 balanced armatures (mids), 2 balanced armatures (highs), and a single 10mm PU+LCP dynamic driver (in a 3-way active crossover configuration). The entire driver array is snugly mounted onto a 3D-printed cavity (printed by Hey Gears) with three tubes leading outward into the paths of each nozzle/spout.

While the NOVA doesn’t attempt to deviate from the hybrid tradition, what matters is how it is implemented AND how it performs in our stringent testing regimen.

Unboxing

Truthears’ emblematic “anime-inspired” design spans their entire catalogue of evolving products, and the NOVA is no exception. Inside the box, you’ll find that its contents are neatly segregated into separate sections. The NOVA comes packaged with standard silicon ear tips (S, M, L), foam tips (S, M, L), the NOVA IEMs themselves, a soprano-leather-inspired carry case with a polished oversized zipper, and an OCC SPC copper-cable terminated in 3.5mm with a striking blue-and-black fabric sheathing.

The NOVA’s accessory package is a step up from the HEXA, partially explained by the modest increase in price. Overall, NOVA’s package stays true to the brand’s overarching philosophy: value for the consumer.

Design, Comfort and Durability

The Truthears HEXA’s silhouette is defined by distinct angles reminiscent of a prism: a cyber-punk aesthetic. The NOVA does away with this bold approach to design, opting for a conventional resin-based shell with acrylic faceplates. The ethereal appearance of the wave-like lapis-lazuli-blue pattern is appealing as it is premium, belying its modest price tag. I would classify the NOVA as an affordable luxury.

The NOVA’s resin-based shell is featherlight, with no visible seams between the faceplate and the chamber itself: the excellent application of finishing lacquer helps to mask it. Both the NOVA’s shells and spouts are noticeably larger than the HEXA, with a more bulbous body and lengthier spout with deeper insertion depth. Interestingly, there are 4 pin-hole-sized vents on each chamber near their 2-pin connection points; vents to displace the built-up pressure from their 10mm LCP dynamic driver woofers.

Comfort-wise, the elongated spouts alongside the larger frame of the NOVA are likely to discourage listeners with smaller external ears and shallow ear canals. In my experience (YMMV), I have a natural preference for deeper spouts for a snug fit, which the NOVA easily satisfies. The larger exterior of the NOVA does not detract from my first-hand experience. The implementation of a resin-based shell keeps the weight down to a minimum, which makes it conducive for protracted periods of leisurely listening.

Isolation is commendable, but nothing out of the ordinary. The 4 pinhole-sized vents naturally circumscribe its ability to isolate passively in noisier settings. Because of where the vents are situated, the NOVAs are shielded naturally from wind noise on the daily commute. It’s not Etymotic, but it isolates just as well, if not better than other hybrid or DD-based IEMs.

Cable Quality

The Truthears NOVA cable, consisting of 448 cores of single-crystal copper wire, is sheathed in a contrasting electric-blue & back fabric jacket and terminated in a 3.5mm unbalanced jack. The Y-split and choker are machined from aluminium with a black PVD finish.

Cable noise is particularly prominent on fabric-jacketed IEMs, which is why a cloth sleeve is not my personal preference. Moreover, fabric tends to pill over time via normal wear. Moreover, the garish colourway lacks the subtlety of the HEXA’s stock cable, which allows for a more inconspicuous appearance in outdoor settings.

On the plus side, the cables themselves are flexible and supple enough for convenient stowing. The loose braiding of the cable allows the braids to unravel ever-so-slightly; evocative of its hand-braided nature. While the NOVA’s default cable has its merits, ergonomics is not one of them.

Onto the next page for details on sound…

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Kevin Goh

Kevin Goh

Raised in Southeast Asia’s largest portable-audio market, Kevin’s interest in high-end audio has grown alongside it as the industry flourishes. His pursuit of “perfect sound” began in the heydays of Jaben in Singapore at the age of just 10 years old. Kevin believes that we live in a golden age of readily accessible, quality audio.

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