Ergonomics: The NE-770X offers a modicum of noise isolation, though it is not really a benchmark performer in that area. Fit and comfort are good, too, and the NuForces come with three pairs of rubber ear tips, though some might wish they came with both rubber tips and the very popular Comply-brand compressible foam ear tips. Note, please that one factor that works strongly in the NuForce’s favor is that it is almost ridiculously light (just 12 grams total), meaning you are almost never aware of the weight of the ‘phones tugging at your ears. These babies are real featherweights that can be worn for hours at a stretch.
A useful track for evaluating the NE-770X is “Joanni” from Kate Bush’s Aerial: A Sea of Honey [Sony Legacy], which opens with a slow-building percussion groove complemented by sweeping, soaring string synthesizer washes. As the energy of the groove and the synth washes build, Bush’s voice arrives with a flair that somehow exhibits, in equal parts, reverence, majesty, and a heroic kind of confidence—or at least that’s what happens with top-tier earphones. The groove, which is carried in part by some very low-frequency percussion instruments, should be insistent and almost hypnotic, but not overblown—never claiming the spotlight for itself. The synth washes are there mostly to define chord progressions and to establish mood, while Bush’s voice is, or at least should be, the luminous focal point for the listener’s attention.
With the NE-770X, though, what actually happens is that the deep bass “thwoomp” of the lowest-pitched percussion instruments presses too far forward in the mix, to a degree overpowering both the string synthesizers and even the lower register of Bush’s voice, thus making the voice less balanced and wide-ranging than it normally would. Because the NE-770X does have a touch of midrange forwardness the middle and upper registers of Bush’s voice are much more easily heard and sound pretty appealing at that. Highs in general and especially the higher frequency vocal and percussion overtones heard on this track are present, but not as extended or as sharply focused as they would be in a more accurate (and presumably more expensive) earphone. The bottom line is that the NE-770X’s rendition of the track is powerful and appealing in its own way, but not as balanced, accurate, or complete is might be the case with some higher-priced earphones.
I am of divided mind on the NE-770X; on one hand, I could build a case that it is one of the most accomplished and fun to use ‘phones in its ever-so-modest price class. At the same time, I think some of the liberties the NE-770X takes with tonal balance (especially in terms of bass emphasis) show why it might be worthwhile to step up to the next higher price class—roughly the $50-$100 class—in pursuit of greater accuracy and resolution.
NuForce NE-700X In-Ear Headphones
Type: In-ear headphones with single, non-metallic 8mm drive units housed in polycarbonate earpieces.
Accessories: Three pairs of ear tips (size S, M, and L), and a drawstring-type carrying bag.
Frequency response: 20Hz – 20 kHz
Weight: 12 grams
Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Warranty: 1 year, parts and labor
Manufactured by: NuForce, Inc.