disclaimer: I was sent the X49 for review by Hifigo. I have no financial interest in NiceHck, Hifigo, or any of their subsidiaries, nor have I received any compensation for this review. For more information about the x49, see NiceHck or Hifigo.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The x49 comes in a fairly simple white box with the NiceHCK Name and Logo on the front and specs on the reverse. Lifting the top reveals the earpieces in a foam surround with a flap hiding most of the cable and accessories beneath it. The x49 comes with a cable tie, shirt clip, and 3 sets of silicone tips along with a warranty card. This is a fairly solid package for a sub-$20 budget item but we have gotten spoiled by more and more accessories regardless of price point and others like the directly competing Kinera Tyr do include a case at nearly the same price. Still, all things being equal, I’d rather more effort was put into the sound quality and less in the case so lets see how it sounds before making too many comments on lack of kit.
The x49 is a micro-driver style barrel shaped housing with the cable exiting the bottom of the tube and a solid metal faceplate at the rear. A single vent exists in the bottom of the shell forward of the cable exit. Whether this vent is of any practical significance is debatable as nothing suggests the ba in use is vented and the diagram shown under internals would suggest the vent is obstructed by the ba support. Shells are listed as solid copper with a nickel/chrome electroplating over the exterior. Those with nickel allergies may wish to avoid these for that reason. A short strain relief exists at the exit point of the shell at the rear while a prounounced lip exists at front for tip retention. Grills appear to be plated with the same material as the shells themselves. Overall the exterior is well done with no errors in plating or obvious flaws and a very high polish finish.
The x49 is a single balanced armature driver per side with a nominal impedance of 22Ω and sensitivity of 110dB/mW. NiceHCK does not list the make or model of the driver used but based on tuning, impedance, and sensitivity, I think this Bellsing made model is a good bet. The x49 was designed to work with phones and low powered sources and does well in that role. It doesn’t need additional power and while it scales some qualitatively, its ceiling is somewhat limited.
The cable is non-detachable and is housed in a soft black rubber casing for its entire length. All fitting are black rubber from the straight jack to the splitter, to the strain reliefs at the ears. The seemingly goofed chin slider is actually an intentional item to identify the left side since the earpieces themselves are unmarked and identical. Cable material is listed as pure copper while the jack is listed as gold plated for corrosion resistance. The cable worked well for me with no tendency to tangle easily and very low microphonics even in tip down wear.
The x49 starts off in the manner I’ve come to expect single balanced armatures to perform. Sub-bass is fast, but rolled-off pretty substantially below about 45Hz and nearly non-existant by the mid 20Hz range. What sub-bass is present has good speed and control. Mid-bass is a bit more present in the mix while maintaining the speed and control of the sub-bass. Not a lot of mid bass bleed to be found, and maybe just a hair thin. The upside is from the 90Hz range up through about 2kHz, the x49 is very linear and transition from mid-bass to mids and even into the upper mids. The x49 has good tonality if it sacrifices a bit of extension and weight in the low end.
Mids transition very smoothly from the mid-bass with no discernible bleed or obstruction. This is one of a very few iems in recent memory where I really don’t have to break this discussion into lower and upper as the mids are voiced evenly with equal weight to both lower and upper and no push of the upper mids forward. Speed is good throughout giving good clarity, and vocals are well rendered and on the same plane with the rest of the instrumentation. To my ear, the x49 comes across as mid-centric despite a push forward in the lower treble. Strings are fairly well presented but lack a bit of realism, particularly the Cello and Bass.
There is a boost to the lower treble which gives it a bit of extra energy and life but seems a bit disjointed after a very linear effort up to that point. It falls back just about as quickly as it arrives and returns to the level of the mids for most of the treble range. After that initial boost, the x49 treble comes across as fairly detailed, with good transparency and clarity. Snare rattle is good, but could use a touch more assertiveness to the attack, and cymbals while not overly metallic do sound a bit tinny at times probably due to that early boost.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage is wider than deep as one usually finds in budget in-ears, with both dimensions being average at best. The lack of a vocal push and the small stage give the x49 a theatre in the round feel. Seating the orchestra results in some side by side placements of instruments that should be front/back due to stage dimensions. Instrument separation is average with layering being limited by teh single ba driver as well. Imaging is passable but gives more of a general sense of position than a pinpoint. Movement around the stage is easily followed but somewhat nondescript.
The x49 shares a good bit with the campfire comet both of which are also tuned single BA in-ears in metal housings. Signatures vary more in degree than in differences in overall tuning. So, as one might expect, the scores for sound quality are nearly identical. Build is similar with the comet having a more customized shape but both sport designs to enhance the sound signature and both are equally well crafted. The Comet does utilize MMCX and removable cables while the x49 is non-removable and the comet has a more complete kit than the x49. The x49 is $17 and sounds as good or better than the Comet. I can buy a lot of accessories for that $180 difference.
Another recent in-ear that the x49 shares a lot with is the F1. Both are single BA, budget oriented designs. The x49 uses a copper housing while the F1 uses resin. The F1 does feature a detachable cable where the x49 does offer a way to replace the cable should it become necessary. The other thing that has plagued the F1 is the changes made in mid run. There have been at least 2 different models of driver used during the production of F1s and 3 different labels on the drivers to add even more to the confusion. The Graph at rights shows the x49 has a lot in common with my early release F1 which was the more desirable of the group. This will make fans that missed the early F1 happy as sonically this gives them another chance at it without the questions surrounding the current production F1.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The x49 has many of the hallmarks I’ve come to expect from single BA offerings. It has limited sub-bass, tight, crisp mid-bass, linear mids, and a bit of a lower treble push. Mids are the star of the show here which makes the x49 a good choice for choral, vocal, and small ensemble mixes. It seems to be equally at home with popular and classical music when complexity is kept within reason and ensemble size doesn’t grow too large. Sound signature on the x49 is more than a little reminiscent of the Campfire comet, the Kbear F1, and the Audiosense T180 all of which also use a single balanced armature. I really liked and recommended the Kbear F1 early in its production, but sadly it changed mid-production run and the later versions were not as good. Barring a similar change in the x49, it gives those interested another chance to get that same sound in a better looking, more ergonomic package and with the upcoming sale on AliExpress, less than $15. The x49 is a solid recommendation as it provides an entry level reference like tuning for those looking to replace what came with a phone with a bit better sonics, those who like a mid-centric in-ear and don’t mind a bit of roll-off at the low-end, and those looking for something for a cappella or choral music where sub-bass plays a much lesser role.
- Bass - 6.5/106.5/10
- Mids - 7.5/107.5/10
- Treble - 6.5/106.5/10
- Soundstage - 6.5/106.5/10
- Imaging - 6/106/10
Pros: nice build, linear lows and mids, good isolation, price
Cons: splashy lower treble, small stage