disclaimer: I purchased the NiceHCK b40 as a lucky bag sale through their Ali Store. No disclaimer needed.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The B40 comes in the typical white box packaging used on NiceHck’s budget models. A line drawing depicts the earbuds on the front and the specs are on the reverse. The box is thin material and is not designed for longer term use so storage will need to be in the provided cloth bag rather than re-using the box. The kit contains the earbuds with non-detachable cable, a velcro cable tie, a carry bag, 3 sets of foams and 2 sets of donut foams. Remember, this is an entry level product with a sub-$10 price when you judge the kit.
The B40 is a stereotypical inexpensive earbud, from the use of the standard driver housings, to the cable exit from the housing with no strain reliefs, the overly lightweight cable, and the silver barrel furniture used on the splitter and jack. It could be any of 5 or 10 brands that have released very similar earbuds. But there is a reason for this, the formula works if you put a good driver in the mix. Earpieces sit comfortably in ear with little movement unless subject to strenuous activity. Housing are well marked L/R below the exterior vent. Not much else to say here, if you own an earbud, chances are you have a pretty good idea of the fit of these.
The B40 uses a 14.8 mm or 15.4 mm dynamic driver depending on which literature you believe. Either way it is a pretty typical size for an earbud driver. The diaphragm is PET or polyethylene terephthalate) which is a much fancier name for polyester (basically every plastic soda bottle on the planet is made of PET). The good news is polyester is light and stiff so makes a good diaphragm material on the cheap. Nominal impedance is listed as 32Ω with a sensitivity of 111dB/mW.
All sound notes were done with no foams installed so use of foams may alter the observations here.
Bass is quite potent on the B40 with good slam and enough sub-bass to have some rumble to it depending on how well you get it fitted. The mid-bass does bleed into the mids some and is not as tightly controlled as the previous Me80 model or something like the Smabat ST-10 but hey, we are talking a $10 earbud here. Mid-bass bleed gives the b40 a nice warm tilt and honestly doesn’t obstruct enough of the mids to worry about much. On the other hand, I do wish the bass was a bit better controlled as it can get a bit sloppy and murky at times as it lacks definition and texture.
Lower mids are slightly overlapped by mid-bass and give the mids their characteristic warmth. The mids are a bit thinner than I’d prefer and lower register vocals, strings, and reed instruments suffer a bit as a result . Acoustic Guitar has better tonality than its electric sibling. Female vocals are a bit more forward and a bit more lush than the lower counterparts but still not as full as some other models I’ve recently reviewed.
And this is where the B40 falls down, so far, I’ve kind of nitpicked the b40 for things that I probably shouldn’t expect from a $10 earbud to begin with, but the treble is a genuine concern regardless of price point. I faulted the Me80 as needing a 1/2 step backward and by contrast the B40 needs a full step forward. Treble is simply too recessed and hurts the overall signature. Cymbals are flat and snare rattle is not lifelike. The treble is certainly polite as I don’t think it will offend even the treble shy, but it loses all sense of top end air and sparkle in doing so.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage is quite good, as is generally expected on earbuds. I don’t think stage is competitive with some like the ST-10 or EBX, but it is still well proportioned and expansive. Seating the orchestra is largely straight forward as both stage and instrument separation contribute well. Imaging is good with spatial cues being well rendered and movement easily tracked. Layering is average but again for a $10 earbud, that’ pretty darn good.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
I cant help but compare the B40 to the Me80 that is NiceHck’s other recent budget release. The b40 is more potent at the low end but sacrifices control to get there, while the Me80 has better tonality in the mid-bass and more texture. In the mids, the b40 is more scooped than the Me80 and vocals take the hit for it, and the top end ain’t even close. To my ear, the Me80 is a better earbud as it has better definition from top to bottom, better extension at both ends, and a much more realistic treble rendering. It is hard to find too much fault with a $10 earbud although those of us with the VE monks will recall what can be done for $5 too. For me, the B40 is a swing and a miss. It comes close, but the things it doesn’t do well outnumber the things it does.
Pros: Potent bass, polite treble, $10 price tag
Cons: loose bass, recessed mids, very rolled-off treble