The reason why it makes sense to read this review. It’s subjective. That ensures a certain level of professionalism and a modicum of tongue in cheek. It’s also a fact that I don’t read or watch any reviews of any of the product that turns up on this page. My words, my opinions, my original videos. They might stray from the other opinions out there, but if you read something at a later date that sounds similar to what I’ve said ; well, I’m flattered! I shan’t be sueing anyone to prove that I said it first, but believe me, I said it first!
Thanks must be sent out to shenzhen audio, the retailer who sent these to me in return for this review. This is where it’s currently on sale for. Ok, so it’s so new that I don’t believe Amazon UK have these. Shenzhen got these to me in a week. They will guarantee their price as to being the lowest and will hold that guarantee for 30 days from your purchase. That means if you find it somewhere else online at a lower price than you bought it for, send them an email with the link and they will refund you the difference. So, it doesn’t really matter that it might not be available in your Country just yet.
A Chinese company not throwing multiple drivers at a $100+ product surely has to be worth a look/listen. The NM2+, keeps within the current custom of upgrading an existing IEM, namely the NM2, which must have done well for them, but strays from the adage that more drivers maketh a better earphone. NF Audio, established in China in 2014, sent Subjective Reviews these unassuming silver singles and I couldn’t help but be a little skeptical. I mean, this comes a week after receiving the $40 CCA C10 Pro, themselves an upgrade from the CCA C10. The Pro is a 5 driver DD/BA hybrid. The NM2+ is a single DD. And it retails at $169. That being said, there are 1 or 2 decent single driver IEMs out there. The Campfire Audio Ara $1000+, the Sennheiser IE800, the Final Audio Pure Beryllium A8000, all of which I have had extensive time with, and all right up there in the outrageously good territory, and some, naming no names, in the outrageously pricey bracket to boot.
So what do you get for $169, that you don’t get for $40?
The Unboxing Experience
A nifty, sizeable box whets the appetite somewhat doesn’t it? What immediately springs to mind here ; the CCA packaging is a fifth of the size of this box. NF Acoustics must mean business. But what’s in the box?
Sliding the outer sleeve away to reveal a double box, which opens without any annoying tape which rips half of the cardbord away. Now we can begin to see that quite a bit of attention has gone into making the buyer’s experience a positive one. A distinctive cd jewel box shape on the left and a cd sized presentation of the drivers on the right. Needless to say, the NM2+ have replaceable cables.
A quick look at what is below the top of the box, again, well thought out. There is an artist’s palette of tips. 2 types, balanced and bass. Don’t be frightened by the word bass for these eartips. They are not going to make the NM2+ into bloated monsters. More on that later. Another welcome addition is the simple word, “balanced” and “bass” to show you the obvious difference between the small, medium and large versions of each set of tips. The CCA C10 Pros had some tips in a plastic bag, and the whole box took up less volume than the NF Audio’s tips….
The instruction manual on the left takes approximately 5 minutes to digest. You get a brief history of the company, their principles, when it’s safe or not safe to wear these, and the standard 1 year warranty. Underneath the instruction manual is a customised black denim box, with the NF Logo embossed on it.
Inside the carry case is a rather nice looking silver cable, and a 3.5-6 mm adapter. Let us now spread all the contents out and have a proper look and start to form some opinions.
The NM2+ claims lots of improvements over the existing NM2. Better materials, better sound, lighter weight, better moulding process and an improved cable.
First of all, the drivers. They have just the one colour, which is a small blue logo at the bottom of each shell. The brushed silver appearance is tasteful enough and shouldn’t offend anyone. In it’s lack of standing out from the crowd, it doesn’t have the wow factor of the $40 CCA C10 Pro. It looks a little plain. Of course, once the IEMs are in the ears, they disappear from view. IEMs are meant to be heard and not to be seen. How much time one should spend gazing adoringly at audio purchases remains to be seen. An earring is sold primarily on it’s looks, and once in, only the admiring onlooker catches a glimpse. How much do we shop with the eye when we shop audio? Looks are superficial. But they’re important. They’re also subjective. Oh, but that’s me too!
The NM2+ driver shells have other, aguably more important things going for them. For one, they are an extremely good fit into the concha part of the ear. The shape has been well thought of, and the fit surpasses the good fit of the cheaper C10 Pro. The driver shells have a decent bit of weight to them. That slight extra weight helps to sit the drivers securely into the sweet spot at the entrance to the ear canal, with little need for readjustment. Feel free, those of you who have taken these out for a run or to the gym. Your opinions are welcome as to their abilities when put to those more strenuous tests. I have not yet had the chance to do so, and have spent my time in careful listening contemplation. The tips, shells, memory wire, cable and chin strap all contribute to a decent level of noise attenuation. Isolation on the NM2+ is efficient and backgound noises are reduced down by a good margin. NF claims a 25 dB isolation level. Train and bus journeys should be manageable with these in.
The cable is a good looking piece of kit. It has strength where it’s needed and the cable itself wouldn’t look out of place hung around a slender neck. The 3.5 mm jack looks a little out of place amongst all this finery and the black v split looks a little cheap and cheerful. Minor infringements? For sure. More on that lovely cable. It’s a 5N (almost impossibly pure) 238 strands of silver at it’s core, with a bit of oxygen free copper casing to eliminate any interference. The cable doesn’t exhibit any microphonics. These are unwanted vibrations on movement, where the cable flaps against the body and sends a vibration up into the drivers. This is something all too prevalent in IEMs for my liking. But it’s not here, so rant over. The closer one gets to a custom fit (see picture above) the better one can lessen wind noise. Wind noise, when out and about, can turn a £1000 earphone into a £1 sound. If those shells stick out, or if there is a gap anywhere around the shell and concha, wind will find a way in. As you can see, there is a slight gap at the bottom of the earlobe on my ears, close to the entrance of the ear canal. There is some shadow which is making the gap seem larger than it actually is. The seal on these is good. Compared to a standard universal IEM design these can hold back a fair bit of wind. But some wind will get in. The bottom of the shells are angled to get a better fit into the ear canal, inevitably that pulls the bottom part of the shells slightly outwards, so more of them are open to the air. My ears detect less wind than most other IEMs I currently own.
In most conditions, these IEMs go very loud, very quickly. They have the aforementioned 25 dB isolation, 18 Ohms of impedance and 108 dB sensitivity. The impedance is low, good for earphones, and the sensitivity is high, again, what you want for earphones. This means they can be hooked up to your smartphone. If your smartphone doesn’t have a headphone jack, not to worry. There are bluetooth adapters out there and relatively cheap 3.5 dac/amps or adapters, depending on the spec of your device. I have tested mine with both a USB C to headphone jack and a Dragonfly Cobalt Dac/Amp. Both fine, but the Cobalt is waaay too powerful for these!
All of the above; so far so good. We have the Subjective Reviews seal of approval. Technically, yes, a few niggles, but a strong candidate based on looks, design and price. But what now, dear reader, on the nitty gritty? How do these baby’s perform in a real World setting? We don’t do measurements here at Subjective Reviews. If a benefactor has several £1000 to spare and is willing to supply our offices with REAL GOOD gear, then yep, we will put our lab coats on and go a tinkering. And change our name from Subjective. Cos we will go all Objective on you. It’s not the direction I want to go in, I’m a lover not a fighter. So I suspect that this will be the way we shall stay for the forseeable future. I can give you my opinion on how an IEM sounds by shoving them into my lugholes and taking them out quickly and chucking another comparable pair in pronto and repeating this til I’m satisfied. I write the article, film the vlog, and you get to know. An incredibly simple process, but painstaking nonetheless.
Vs. CCA C10 Pro ($40)
This will be short. The CCA C10 Pro, with all of it’s hybridness and it’s beauty, is a steal at $40. But it simply cannot match the NM2+ in sq. The NM2+ sounds in another league in terms of a refinement, or smoothness of sound, in terms of separation, or how easy it is to hear invidual sounds. Of course, the NM2+ IS in another league in terms of price; it’s over 4 x the retail. Do yourselves a favour; don’t listen to something like the NM2+ if you aren’t intending to part with your CCA C10 Pro or similar. In isolation the Pro sounds incredible for the money. It is the usual story that you don’t know what you’re missing until you hear it! I have no criticism of owners of cheaper ChiFi; there is some great stuff out there, I’m currently putting other IEMs through their paces which are at the budget end.
Vs. Shuoer Tape ($129)
This is an interesting match up. The Shuoer Tape is an electrostatic hybrid IEM. It uses dynamic driver tech for bass and an electrostat for the highs. I am a big fan of the Shuoer Tape. This time there was not a gulf between the 2 rivals for sq supremacy. But…The NM2+ still won. The balanced tips offered me very little bass response and were a no no for my ears for the NM2+. If I had used the balanced eartips, I sense the Tape’s would have thrashed the 2+. I am usually reluctant to try anything which mentions the word “bass” on it. Call it a prejudice due to the days in HMV listening to mass market Beats and Skullkandys and the like. I have a distrust. Given the balanced eartips didn’t work, I had to at least try the bass eartips. To me, they were a revelation! There was even some visceral effect. Some air was being pushed from the shell and into the ear. The bass didn’t obscure the rest of the mix of the track. This is the clever bit about using just the 1 driver. There is no crossover to worry about. More on that in the vlog.
The Tapes have a good bass, but it couldn’t compare with the NM2+. There was a thicker, or more bloated sounding bass, which did creep into some of the frequency’s slightly further up the scale. The Shuoer Tape had some sparkle, or extension, in the high mids and treble region. They are quite captivating. The Tape has that sparkle that beats the NM2+ in the upper ranges. But the Tape has to sacrifice that for a slightly less detailed lower mid sound, in other words, the main part of the music, be it vocals or main instrument, are less easy to pick out. The NM2+ is rolled back in the treble region compared to the Tape, but has plenty of detail where it matters. The NM2+ sounds like it has more music inside those shells, whereas the Tapes have a sparkle, but alas, the windows are not quite as thick.
The need for a decent IEM that can perform well and can be compromised into something even more convenient (bluetooth, with a cable) is still with us. Long may that be the case. It will push manufacturers to make ever more advances. And yet, the single dynamic driver remains a potent force. Provided, of course, someone is taking the care needed to give us what we want in our gear. Namely, that is, low distortion and high enjoyment. I believe NF Audio have done enough to convince me they are sailing on the right heading. Thank you to all involved in this latest instalment, and please take the time if you have it to watch my vlog. I always try to include something differnt in the YouTube. As always, listen more and keep it real