disclaimer: I purchased the Me80 as a lucky bag sale from Nicehck at retail price for purposes of this review. What can I say, I’m a sucker for surprises. arrived 7/3.
Unboxing / Accessories:
Well, the box arrived a bit battered, but none the worse off. Inside was hiding a small gray cloth drawstring bag with the NiceHCK brand on the front. Everything else in the kit was hiding inside the bag. The kit is very complete for an earbud at this price point with the previously mentioned bag, the earbuds themselves with non-detachable cable, a shirt clip and cable tie, and 5 sets of tips, 3 regular in gray, green, and black and two donut style in blue and black. Impressive kit at the retail asking price of <US$20.
The Me80 is a barrel shaped iem with an lip at the front to house the over-sized driver and an extended protective stem around the cable. The bulk of the housing is brushed metal with a black plastic front lip and a stainless grill. The grill is typical of earbuds with concentric rings of small perforations. The design allows for either tip-up or tip-down wear and was comfortable either way for me, but stays put a bit better when worn tip-up. The Driver is vented on either edge of the lip and a single pin-hole port at the top edge of the outside of the shell opposite the insertion point for the cable. The cable stems have colored bands for easy recognition of right/left. The cable is silver plated oxygen-free copper in a clear sleeve with bright metal splitter and jack housing contrasting the gunmetal gray of the earpieces themselves. The jack is a 3.5mm gold plated straight style. No chin slider is provided and it would be useful as the splitter is low enough on the cable that I could easily move a slider up 6 or 7 inches. A microphone option is not available at the time of this writing.
The Me80 uses a 15.4mm dynamic driver with a titanium coated diaphragm and an N52 Neodymium magnet for ultra high-flux. The upside of the N52 spec is the highest magnetic strength possible using Neodymium, the downside, the higher up the ratings you go, the more fragile the magnet becomes, so dropping the Me80 may have dire consequences where a lesser model might survive the drop better. Nominal impedance is listed as 34Ω with a sensitivity of 109dB/mW. Remember when looking at those numbers that the Me80 is a non-sealing earbud design and will thus require considerably more power than a sealed design with the same specs. I found I could drive the Me80 with a cellphone, but it performed much better using a high powered source and was even able to use high gain on some models to really get the Me80 going.
My test equipment isn’t setup for the non-sealing design of earbuds so i have refrained from posting a graph as it would be largely misleading.
Listening shows the Me80 has good low end extension with enough sub-bass to provide some rumble, and nearly linear mid-bass as it rises from the depths. Neither is prominent let alone dominant in the overall signature, but for an open design, they do provide enough low end for rock and pop. Speed is good on both attack and decay without a notably slower decay than attack which is atypical of its price point. Overall, bass is fairly tight and clean with good detail. There is minimal bleed into the mids and the transition into the mids is smooth so don’t expect a lot of warmth like some previous NiceHck models.
Lower mids are either, in line with, or just a hair’s width ahead of the mid-bass and it pushes male vocals to the front. This is especially evident on tracks like Dire Straights – Tunnel of love where Knoffler seems to be singing directly to the listener. The rendering of electric guitar and piano are equally vibrant and intimate giving the Me80 a private concert sort of feeling. I found the Coldplay live album to be particularly engaging on the Me80s. If you have heard previous Nicehck earbuds (EBX/EB2) you will hear a difference in mids as the Me80 is a bit cooler and sounds a little leaner. I hesitate to call the Me80 thin in comparison as it doesn’t fit, more that the EBX is a bit thick.
Treble again is more or less linear with the rest of the signature with a small push in the lower treble giving the Me80 a bright sound signature when compared to its EBX or EB2 siblings. Detail is quite good and roll-off is high enough up to allow for good air and some sparkle. Cymbals are well reproduced while snare attack is a touch soft. I like the top end of the Me80 as it has good detail without getting harsh or strident. If they could maintain the detail level and step the lower treble back just a 1/2 step, it would be near perfect in tuning.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage is probably the best attribute of the Me80. It manages to deliver a holographic 3d stage and feel like the performance is directed straight at the user at the same time. Of the earbuds I have tried to date, it ranks behind only the top end Astrotec Lyra models in stage. Instrument separation is very good and seating the orchestra is easy with most positions being accurate. I did find a little tendency for things to be more behind than beside at times as the stage is a bit deeper than wide.
Four of the five shown above are available from the same seller, the 5th is from a competitor. All fall between $15 and $100 with all box the 2nd from left coming in well below the $50 mark.
Build Quality – Both are solid builds, but the ST-10 has a removable cable. While the Me80 can be worn tip-up or tip-down, the ST-10’s cable has a pre-formed hook so wearing them tip-down requires the use of a 3rd party cable.
Sound – The ST-10 outclasses the Me80 as it has better extension on both ends and better layering and detail as well. Considering you could purchase 5 of the Me80 for less than a single ST-10, this is not unexpected. The Me80 has a bit larger stage and requires less power so will be a btter choice for cellphone users while the ST-10 sounds best when pushed a bit harder than a phone or tablet can.
Build Quality – the earbuds themselves are about equal build quality, but the EBX has mmcx cable while the Me80 is fixed more like the EB2.
Sound – EBX has bit more bass (both sub and mid) quantity, but also has more mid-bass bleed and sounds warmer as a result. Mids sound thicker on the EBX but clarity is better on the Me80 and detail through the mids is better on the Me80. Highs are a little more extended on the EBX but detail is equally good on both and the Me80 is a bit more polite.
The EBX needs a bit more power than the Me80 but the difference is not as dramatic as the comparison to the ST-10.
Build Quality – Both are very similar in construction materials with similar cables. Neither has a detachable cable and both fall into roughly the same price class.
Sound – The EB2 suffered from odd tonality while the Me80 shows none of that same issue. Extension is roughly the same on both models with a little more top-end to the EB2 and a bit more low-end presence on the Me80. The almost forced warmth of the EB2 is not present on the Me80 and it sounds considerable more natural as a result.
Build Quality – The Yinyoo BK2 has a removable cable and shows a bit better build quality and kit, but at double the price tag, this is not unexpected.
Sound: Low end is better on the Me80 and more linear. The BK2 has less sub-bass but a bit of a mid-bass hump by comparison. Details in the mids are better on the Me80 as well. The two are probably the most different in treble response where the BK2 has better extension but gets splashy and harsh at times and the Me80 instead is a bit less extended but more polite by comparison.
Both models have similar power requirements.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The Me80 is a balanced sounding earbud with good stage size. Those who didn’t like the EB series extra warmth will appreciate the fact that the Me80 is a bit cooler and thinner, particularly in the mids. For me, the mids on the EB2 were artificial sounding at times with an enforced warmth that is not present on the Me80 so I tend to like the Me80 a bit better. Bass is not quite as pronounced or engaging as something like the Smabat ST-10, but has good depth and some rumble for an open design so while it won’t satisfy the basshead crowd, it does a good job of providing a thump when needed. The treble shy will find the Me80 slightly bright, but for most that brightness contributes a bit more life to the sound without getting harsh or annoying. Overall, I like the Me80 a good bit and when you add the price to the mix, I think it represents good value.
- Bass - 6/106/10
- Mids - 7/107/10
- Treble - 6.5/106.5/10
- Soundstage - 7/107/10
- Imaging - 5/105/10