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Review: Truthears Nova

Sound Quality

Summary

The NOVA typically adheres to the tried-and-tested Harman Target Response Curve in terms of tuning. However, sonic performance is not exclusively beholden to its tuning, but the technical capacity of its driver (or drivers) to reproduce it. To my ears, the Harman Target Response Curve is a twist on neutrality, with a very gentle V-shaped sound signature.

The NOVA’s 10mm LCP dynamic driver acts as the woofer in the frequency band, providing a taut-and-tight bass response that ripples outwards, with a satisfying kick, followed by a thicker elevation in the sub-bass floor. Technically, the LCP driver has an agile bass presence that is sub-bass dominant but is still distinctly conservative in its tactility. Decay is spontaneous instead of sustained; a testament to its highly-resolving character.

The NOVA’s midrange is clean and vibrant, with a marginal elevation in the upper midrange, highlighting outright detail retrieval and resolution, which proves to be a boon for female and male voicings. Treble (or presence) is addictively sparkly and frenetic, highlighting the diffuseness and porous timbre of brass instruments.

The NOVA’s pronounced lower treble enhances the satisfying thud of percussive instruments (snare drums etc.). The downside of the NOVA’s tuning is the thinning of male and female voicings beyond the Soprano range. There isn’t enough “meat” in the lower mid-range, artificially skewing the midrange towards a “splashier” sound signature with moments of sibilance.

Bass

The NOVA’s bass exhibits a huge leap in agility and control in comparison to its little brother, the HEXA. There’s still a stricter emphasis on sub-bass rumble in a “ripple-like” motion. However, the entirety of the low-end is far more tactile than its younger counterpart, with the LCP driver’s performance mirroring the characteristics of a planar-magnetic diaphragm: rapid attack and a perceivable lack of distortion.

The mid-bass bump is far more prominent on the NOVA, providing a satisfying slam in songs interspersed with kick drums. The same accelerated decay is still present, with immediacy in its delivery. Note-definition in the form of audible information within the lower-frequency band is distinctly Truthears, with excellent micro-detail retrieval on nuanced shifts in volume, from the pluck of a string to the slide on a lap steel guitar. Think the HEXA’s bass response, but with more meat-to-its-bones.

Midrange

The NOVA’s midrange is a continuation of the HEXA’s theme, but better. The modest addition of an extra balanced armature driver to an already beefy hybrid array amp up the technical performance. To my ears, there is a (very) marginal elevation on lower-midrange; the region in which male/female vocals and percussive instruments have a moment to shine. The upper midrange bears the characteristic crispiness sans the artificial brittleness/coarseness commonly associated with drivers struggling to keep up.

The pragmatic beauty of the Harman Response Target Curve is the confluence or harmonising of tuning philosophies, where analytical and consumer-friendly sound signatures merge into one. There’s no obvious haziness in the midrange when it comes to gaps in sonic information. Microdetails are rendered exceptionally for the price bracket the NOVA inhabits. It’s incredible the remarkable heights the sub-$200 bracket has reached in the last 5 years. A tremendous feat to be commended.

However, the lack of overemphasis on any particular region can prove to be a massive bane for audio enthusiasts who own multiple sets tailored to their different genre preferences. No IEM is a master of all trades, and so is the NOVA.

Highs

The HEXA, while revolutionary for its time, lacked the technical chops to present the treble region when it comes to outright clarity and accuracy. There were moments of audible haziness even-harmonic focused instruments, with the expected “splashy” effect commonly associated with cheaper drivers. The NOVA manages to tick that box.

The presence region is full and vibrant, with the expected energy and pizazz that we have come to love with the HEXA. Harshness is kept to a minimum, with the occasional treble glare on dynamically compressed or poorly-mastered recordings. The lower treble is energetic and assertive, rolling off just in time to avoid that dreaded resonance peak that proves grating to the ears. The NOVA proves to be a smoother, carefree ride with both quality and quantity.

Brasswinds are especially atmospheric, with an unsanitized presentation and timbre-accurate portrayals. The forward “thump’ of snare-drum strikes is neither rolled-off nor brittle: it’s just about right: enough sonority in the highs whilst erring on the side of caution, smoothening off-resonant peaks beyond the 8kHz region.

Soundstage and Imaging

The NOVA’s soundstage is commensurate with its price tag, which isn’t to say that it is terrible by any means. Nonetheless, the lateral width between audible elements in the perceived stage isn’t noteworthy, with panning elements between both channels still retaining the signature “in-head” treatment. Don’t expect headphone levels of out-of-head depth.

The Z-axis distancing between instruments and voicings is quite good, with good height and layering even amidst complex and congested tracks with more instruments than both hands can count. Imaging however, is heightened by the NOVA’s technical prowess in the midrange, the most audible-band in the frequency response which forms the foundation in which we listen to our surroundings.

The NOVA’s as-it-is presentation from top to bottom results in the harmonious interplay of distinct instruments/voicings, where discerning between them faces little resistance in the way of audible distortion, mid-bass bleed or sluggish sub-bass walls. The macrodynamic contrast between odd-harmonic and even-harmonic instrumentations is cleanly juxtaposed against one another. Granted, some coarser artefacts are picked up by the NOVA’s emphatic tuning, but that is a tonal quirk that the Harman Target Response Curve doesn’t seem to resolve.

Onto the next page for the rest of the review…

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of 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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