The NuForce NE-600M and NE-770X earphones are two examples of what can be achieved by a desire to create something that is both affordable and that can still blow away free earbuds. Since they are only $25 – $35, these earphones beg the question: Where is it written that earphones have to be prohibitively expensive?
NuForce made the NE-600M and NE-770X earphones with two different goals in mind. If you are a bass head (which includes everyone younger than me, it seems), then the NE-600M is for you. By the way, there are actually two models of the NE-600 earphones: the NE-600X and NE-600M. The X means earphone only, while the M has an additional mic and music control button for commuters who want to use their smartphone as well. I’ll be reviewing the M model with microphone. The NE-770X does not have a mic option, even though it is the more expensive of the two.
Let’s deal with the NE-600M first. NuForce states that these earphones are made for bass impact. That’s true. The bottom end is stronger than the NE-770X, but so are the higher frequencies. The problem here is that the mid frequencies are compromised, making many songs – usually classic rock and vocal music – sounding boomy and harsh. For some reason, this is particularly true with my iPod classic.
The harshness completely disappeared though, when listening to the same songs on my Mac using an external digital audio convertor (DAC). The boominess in the bass was still there, but it was more refined using the DAC. It’s kind of ironic, because the NE-600M is made for portable use, not desktop listening. Go figure.
The NE-600M is very durably made with its all aluminum shell and wide, flat cables. The cables come in three colors: Red, Lime green and black. There is no case available, which – again – is ironic because the NE-600M is made for… well, you get the picture. The mic works well with iOS devices.
As I said, some music fares better than others. A good example is M/A/R/R/S US 12” remix of “Pump Up the Volume.” This throbbing, brain-shaking mix is headache inducing at loud volume with an incessant deep bass line. However, the UK 12” mix of the same song sounds positively tame by comparison. I prefer the UK version on the NE-600M, and the US version on the NE-770X. Since few songs are available with two distinct mixes, it provides a fun comparison. It comes down to preference: If you like your bass by the bucketful, you will love the NE-600M. If you prefer a more vocal-centric sound, the NE-770X will give you what you want.
Now, let’s look at the NE-770X. It’s slightly more expensive than the NE-600M, even with the lack of a mic. At least this one comes with a soft drawstring pouch.
The NE-770X also sounds more expensive than the NE-600M. While it lacks the bass kick of the NE-600M, it’s better suited to more diverse genres of music. There is a warm, forgiving audio presence that is easy on the ears (and brain) for extended periods. Plus, the soundstage is a bit wider than the NE-600M. Instruments sound more “out there” and not quite so “in your head.”
Ironically (yet again), the NE-600M looks and feels better built than the pricier NE-770X. It’s aluminum vs plastic. For those who care, the NE-770X’s design is softer and more feminine than the NE-600M. It even has a jewel/prism capping each shell. It’s available in Ice (shown), Carbon, and Sky.
Neither the NE-600M or NE-770X will replace any $150 or more earphones for clarity or accuracy. So what? Other companies and even NuForce make better earphones for your aural pleasure. It’s the vast majority of listeners who still use those free buds that came with their player (and don’t know any better) that NuForce is trying to reach with the NE-600M and NE-770X.
Note that earphones in the $50 – $100 range will achieve about 85% of the audio quality compared to ones costing (sometimes) much more. That is the law of diminishing returns which applies to almost all audio equipment.
And remember: The NuForce NE-600 X/M and NE-770X are even cheaper than that.