disclaimer: I was provided the Nx7 Pro in exchange for my review of it by Hifigo. To learn more about it or to purchase it, please visit their web-store here. Many of you will remember that I found the Nx7 a bit of a mixed bag and while I have hopes for the Nx7 Pro, my expectations are somewhat tempered by previous experience with the hit & miss nature of these sequels. I have no financial interest in Hifigo or NiceHCK and was not compensated for this review beyond the unit itself.
Unboxing / Packaging:
Packaging of the Nx7 Pro is a bit of an improvement from its predecessor with a book-fold style box with the image of the earphones on the front and the specifications on the rear. Inside, the earpieces rest in a foam surround at the top and a box hiding the accessories in the bottom portion. Inside the box, we find a gray soft case with the filters, tips, cable, faceplates, screws, and screw driver. 3 different colors of face plates (red, blue, and silver) and matching filters are provided. My understanding is that the red filter matches the original Nx7 Tuning while the silver and blue alter the signature in different ways. Overall it is a fairly complete kit for the price point, but could use a shirt clip, and perhaps a balanced cable.
Shells are very similar to the original as well. Matter of fact, they are nearly identical. The design is changed little from its parent with faceplates being interchangeable between the two models and the only obvious difference being the brass nozzle on the original and the silver threaded design for the filters on the Pro. The inner shell is clear on the pro but has the same venting in the same locations as the parent with a single vent behind the nozzle directly over the dynamic driver. Nozzles exit the lead edge with an upward rake and a pronounced lip. The rear of the shell has L/R indicators as do the hoods on the cable for easy mating. The bi-pin connector is mounted about 2mm above flush but unlike some is unobtrusive enough that non-hooded cables can be used if desired.
Fit is good as the shells are not overly large and the teardrop shape is pretty standard. With the tip-up only style cable, weight is a non-issue, and standard tips give lots of options for finding good fitting options.
The Nx7 was a technology dog and pony show with 7 drivers per earpiece, each ear sporting 4 balanced armature drivers, a 10mm dual diaphragm graphene coated dynamic driver, and a piezoelectric ceramic driver. That same driver configuration is maintained in the pro and a visual inspection suggests the geometry inside the shell is identical as well. Interestingly, the Pro version is listed at 58Ω nominal impedance while the original was listed at 55Ω. The Pro also lists sensitivities between 105 and 108 dB/mW depending on the filter in use. The original version was listed as 108 dB/mW so lines up pretty much exactly as well. The Nx7 and the Pro are right on the borderline for use with cell phones or tablets with the LG handling it reasonably well on high-output mode, but the i-pad, Samsung, and Moto Z3 being over-matched. The Nx7 Pro needs an external amp to really open up and perform well. I would not recommend this for users pairing these to a phone or tablet without external amplification. By Contrast most of the dongle dacs handled them without issue.
And here is where we take a hard turn from the Nx7. The pro ships with a vastly improved 16 core copper braid that is very pliable and not at all kink prone. The Jack is a straight 3.5mm with chrome fixtures and a short strain relief followed by a heavy braid up to the splitter where two 8 core braids exit. The Splitter and chin slider match the polished steel/chrome look of the jack as well. At the north end, cables terminate in pre-formed earhooks and hooded bi-pin connectors of the .78mm type. The cable alone would encourage me to order the pro over its predecessor, but is certainly not its only advantage.
I had previously found the Nx7 to be fairly tip dependent and that trend continues here. I used the large provided silicones for all testing just to level the playing field. Narrower bore tips will accentuate the treble while wider bores give the Nx7 Pro a bit more low end so tune to your liking. (I prefer the Shure Olives with mine).
The big difference in the Nx7 Pro is of course the filters provided. While the Nx7 pro ships with the Silver filters installed and the red and blue in the pack, it should be noted that the Red filter is the one that matches the original Nx7 sound signature. The silver and blue are the alterations to that sound. So if you were to take the Nx7 Pro out of the box without touching the filters and compare to the Nx7, you’d get something like the graph below. This makes them seem very different and indeed they do sound distinct from their progenitor, but most of that change is lost the minute you switch to the red filter. At which point they sound very much like the original.
Sub-bass extension is quite good with roll-off only becoming evident in the low 30Hz range. This gives the Nx7Pro good rumble and thump regardless of which filter is in use. Mid bass steps back from the sub-bass emphasis but still is forward enough that it overshadows the lower mids at times. Overall, speed and control are good with attack being slightly faster than decay. Bass texture is good, but not spectacular but detail is above average for the price point. Bass is very responsive to EQ and can be pushed considerably forward for those who desire more rumble and thump. I found the XBass function of the Ifi products worked quite well for this. I think the Nx7Pro stops short of being a Basshead iem, but it certainly delivers enough to make it a pleasure to watch movies with it or listen to bass heavy genres with it.
Filters have their impact from here up so we will discuss a bit about each filter so readers get more of a feel for the impact of each.
Red filter: The lower-mids are inline with the mid-bass and are subject to some mild mid-bass bleed but not enough to add considerable warmth. Since the lower mids are in the trough of the V signature, lower vocals tend to be a step behind higher voices, and lower strings are a bit muted as well. From the lower mids, the climb is fairly rapid as you move up and by the time you reach the upper mids they are well forward again in the signature. Even with this forward push, mids come off as a slightly thin and a bit relaxed.
Silver filter: Lower mids are similar to those of the red filter, but the rise is much less steep as you move into the upper-mids and as a result vocals all seem to be coming from the same point in space rather than one being dramatically in front of the other. There is still enough of a push to allow vocals to cut through the other instruments but not so much that they present a harsh tone as can be the case with the red filter.
Blue filter: the blue filter effectively flattens the mids so there is no push in the upper and all vocals are at the same level with no push to separate them from the guitar and other mid-voiced instrumentation.
Red filter: Lower treble is the single most dominant feature of the signature using this filter with the push of the lower mids continuing into the lower treble region and the those two ranges becoming a bit fatiguing as a result. I found the treble a bit grainy with cymbals sounding slightly unnatural and highhat suffering the same fate. Upper treble is a bit better behaved but at times sparkle can be more sizzle than it should be. The red filter to me is a typical big V, very forward treble with the problems that usually accompany it.
Silver filter: Here the lower treble steps back and while still above the base-line, it doesn’t venture into the harsh territory of the red. Grain is dramatically reduced and detail is retained which is a nice combination as too often detail is lost to smoothing. Here we have enough energy that highhat still has some life to it, but without the sizzle or harsh edge I found in the red filter. I didn’t find that the silver smoothed over harsh tracks excessively, but it definitely has a more fluid sound than it’s red countpart.
Blue filter: the filter for the treble shy. With the exception of a small bump at 3kHz, the blue filter brings everything down another notch below its silver counter part. Here treble takes a back seat to the bass and stays in direct proportion with the mid-range for most of its presentation. Detail is still good, but it is a bit smoothed at times, and snare lacks that crisp attack of the other two filters. For the treble sensitive, this makes a nice option, for most it will feel a bit lifeless.
The filters do the bulk of their work in the upper-mid range and above. I found the red a bit too forward for my liking (as some will remember from my critique of its parent), the blue was a bit too smoothed over, and the silver was the pick of the bunch with a bit of treble energy, but a mostly toned down upper-mid/lower treble region. The one disappointment is that all three still show the same 10kHz peak. I had hoped it might be tuned back a bit, but alas, still there to some degree or other.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage is deeper than wide although somewhat filter dependent in exact ratio. The Nx7 pro has some sense of height to the presentation as well, but is limited. Seating the orchestra at times arranges instruments behind one another rather than beside each other. Overall, instrument separation is good enough that the arrangement of instruments on the stage doesn’t cause problems with layering, even if technically a bit less than precise. Layering is very good as expected from a multi-driver affair and it has little issue with faster and busier tracks as some in its class do. Imaging is passable, but not spectacular and is probably the place where the stage shape has its largest impact. Sometimes spatial cues are exactly where they are expected and other times they are off to one degree or another.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
I found the Nx7 to be a bit of mixed bag. I certainly enjoyed it more than the N3 (the first piezo from NiceHCK) but found it fell short of the lofty status the advertising materials tried to suggest. The funny thing to my ear was that the two new elements (piezo and Dynamic driver were both new to the model) were well done, but the balanced armature drivers in between needed a bit more care in tuning. In some ways, the Nx7 Pro has changed very little, some would argue that with the red filter it has changed none at all, but with the changes the others filters make, it is definitely movement in a positive direction. The silver filter does enough to tame some of the issues and make it a much more listenable signature to my ear, and for those even more treble shy than I am, the blue offers yet another step down. Each new step makes progress and the pro adds some tuning options that definitely improve on the past efforts. I think a bit more tuning internally (either in the cross-over or in a swap in balanced armature models) would be the next logical step and might just push this into territory where it threatens much higher priced models. The Nx7 Pro is a very good in-ear as is, and shows NiceHCK is listening and willing to take direction from the market. For the price, the Pro has a lot to offer the listener.
- Bass - 7.5/107.5/10
- Mids - 7/107/10
- Treble - 7/107/10
- Soundstage - 7/107/10
- Imaging - 7/107/10
Pros: filters offer solid improvements over original, good detail and dynamics, improved cable
Cons: Red filter is exactly the same tuning as Nx7, removal of faceplates exposes internals.