NAEB500 Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones from Nyrius are a refreshing departure from the run of the mill $10 in-ear earphones one usually runs into. They’re priced at $49.95 but are widely available around $30, and as such they cost about as much as 2 or three of those knock-off earphones you’ll find in the big-box store. What you get for that premium are earphones that are built like wee-little tanks, and that provide (after a bit of fiddling and fitting) clearly better sound than those cheaper options. Thanks to the “deep” in-ear/angled design the NAEB500s provide a decent amount of noise blocking as well.
Inside the Box
In the box is a surprising array of goodies, given these are earphones:
In addition to the earphones, you get one of those clamshell semi-rigid cases to store them in (handy for those of us who toss the earphones in a backpack!) and a pile (8 pair!) of additional bud tips in various sized and configurations. Those will come in handy, as you’ll see later on. Also included is a manual, which is important to read to get the proper fit, and to read about the break-in period. I kid you not, I experienced it firsthand. More on that in a bit.
The earbuds are made out of both metal and plastic, with stress reduction connectors to the heavy gauge wire attractively showing through a clear sheath. The removable tip sits on an angled stalk, and the right side (in addition to being on the end of the longer wire) is helpfully marked with an R. When you cram these things in your ear, the end sticking out of your ear is angled forward, towards the front, if you’re putting them in right.
The back is branded with a lowercase N.
The impression the buds give off is that they’re solidly constructed, and nothing I’ve seen in several weeks of use has demonstrated otherwise.
The Y connection between the earbuds is even built using the same solid construction and stress relief:
And as you would expect at this price-point, the jack tip is gold plated. It’s also made exactly the same as the other parts – metal, with the same stress reduction fitting.
The overall feel is solid in the hand, and solid in use. The included shirt clip isn’t anything to get excited about – it’s your basic plastic clip – but then all it has to do is grab hold of a shirt. If anything it seems a bit large for the job.
My only gripe about the NAEB500 design is the use of asymmetric cable lengths between left and right. It’s just me – I am sure someone loves this style, but it just doesn’t work for me. You’re supposed to wrap the right one around the back of your head. If you have long hair, then the question is “over or under”. Maybe it’s just my hair (which is usually in a heavy thick braid), but neither works for me. So the cords hang in front, and look odd. It also kinda mandates that whatever you’ve got these plugged into should be on the left side of you – since the cord tends to hang down from the left ear:
As I said, that is my pet peeve – I find this asymmetric design no worse than any other, I just really don’t seem to work well with these.
The NAEB500 fit in-ear very well. The little manual tells you how to pull your ear back to really wedge it in. I found I was able to also just corkscrew the buds in one handed, with a little practice. I also found that I got better sound switching to a smaller tip, which surprised me a bit since I usually need to use the largest ones provided. I think the angled end, and somewhat larger actual core plastic bit inside made the largest tips too large for me to get the bud in at the proper angle and depth. With some experimentation I ended up quite pleased with the ease of putting them in & out, and their stability once in place. I’m not a runner, but I do spend time in the gym, and take brisk walks. In both cases the buds stayed put, and there was little static/noise transfer from the cord moving about. I managed to get one flight in with these, and they worked well at providing noise isolation – so well I wore them, unplugged, for takeoff and landing. In the air they allowed for a comfortably low listening level due to the reduced ‘roar of the jets’ background noise.
Sure, but how do they Sound?
I’m glad I read the manual, and I had some time to use these earphones before doing this review. The manual points out that there is a break-in period. I read that and thought it was likely bogus. When I first used the NAEB500s sure enough the sound was somewhat flat, and seemed to be a bit tinny with no low end. “Uh oh” was my first thought. Even listening to “talking head” podcasts the sound just wasn’t as full as I expected. I hung in there with them, and after about a week they did seem to even out. The low end was mostly about getting the fit in my ear right, and the tinny/harsh upper end “mellowed” as the manual suggested it would. I’m not sure what’s at work with that, but it was a noticeable improvement over time. Now I find them to be quite good for both “talking” sources, and music. My hearing isn’t the best (too much rock in the old days) but to me, they’re as good as other medium-priced earphones.
Where’s the mic?
These are not headsets, so they lack a mic, and the attendant bubble to answer/hangup/control music on an iPhone/iOS/other smart phone device. While that’s completely understandable, it sure would be handy.
Let Me Sum That Up For You
I tend to chew through earphones, so I’m very accustomed to the low end products. I also own one high end set that I treat with kid gloves. The NAEB500 earphones fall into a sweet spot between those two extremes. They’re not so expensive that you feel like you need to don white gloves when handling them – and not only that, they’re built like they expect to be used in active situations. In actual use I found they delivered on those expectations. They’re comfortable, they sound great, and they’re much more attractive than the usual white wired plastic wired earphones. They’re a nice step up in quality, without being a huge step up in price.