NICEHCK EBX REVIEW: Grand earbuds sounding like open headphones

NiceHCK EBX REVIEW:

CONSTRUCTION: 9.5/10
SOUND: 9/10
VALUE: 8.5/10

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INTRO:

NiceHCK (Shenzen HCKexin Electronic technology Co.ltd) is an Aliexpress seller that have sell and create high quality IEM and earbuds that earn lot of praise in chifi audiophile world and begin to be recognize more and more as serious audiophile products that offer incredible value. In earbuds world, the NiceHCK EBX is the first high end earbud from this manufacter who have create mustly budget earbuds like the NiceHCK PK2 wich are more OEM or DIY earbuds than serious unique product. This time, with the EBX, I feel HCK became more credible as an independant conceptor because this earbuds feel as a mature product with a unique look and sound. I was so curious to try it that I ask for a discount in exchange of an honnest unbiased review, wich sometime is only possible if you buy and choose your products yourself. I want to thank Jim to let me collaborate this way.

(ABOUT me: I’m a melomaniac before being an audiophile. My passion about music is drive by a wide curiosity for sound harmony, melody and rythm as well as its texture and intimate timbre details, wich perhaps explain why i’m an amateur music producer as well. This obsession about music is all my own, its not about style or nostalgia or comformism, its first about beauty for sake of beauty and after its about curiosity for all the color of emotion or excitation passing trough a music canvas. Real music is something that tend to go above our humanity and is a form of consecration for an absolute that perhaps will never be achieve.)

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Specification:

1. Product Name: NICEHCK EBX metal earbud NICEHCK flagship earbud
2. Brand: NICEHCK
3. Model: EBX
4.
Type: Earbud
5. Impedance: 32Ω
6. Eerphone sensitivity:120dB/mW
7. Frequency range:20-20000Hz
8. THD: <1%@1KHz
9. Interface: 3.5mm
10.Cable Length: 1.2m±5cm
11.Color: Black, Gold
12.
Whether with Mic: No
13.Eerphone plug type: Line Tpye
14.Eerphone category: HIFI

 

CONSTRUCTION & FITTING:

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The construction of this flagship earbuds is seriously impressive and reflect the amount of money you spent on a high end product. We cannot say that for every TOTL earbuds, where some brand shamelessly use plastic housing that are the very same found in sub-20$ price range. With the EBX you have master craftmanship. The back of big housing is made of brushed metal with a vented hole, other part is made of thick plastic that keep the weight low for such a housing that need to be big for hiding an enormous 14.8mm dynamic driver as well as being large enough to expend air flow wich permit to open the soundstage alot.

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The cable is of an incredible quality and should worth half total price. Its a braided copper and silver cable sumptuously made where you can actualy see both copper and silver core compenent. Its real candy for they eyes as well as they ears, because it help to give a warm but detailed sound. It feel sturdy and have a reassuring weight to it, yep, this cable is a little heavy wich will be more noticable if you don’t wear the EBX around the ear.

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So now about fitting, at first I have some difficulties to find a solid fitting with those, and it tend to move or even fall from my ears, it was the standard way that was the more problematic. When I wear them over ear it will not fall but sometime will move easily wich will change the sound, because as with any earbuds the fitting must be perfect to have proper sound, more its tigh between tragus near the ear hole the better sounding it is. The EBX are very big as I already say, so I would not suggest them for people with small ears or tragus. I have big ears cavity wich make another problem that not being able to put them in they ears, they are too loose and just not stay still, to solve this problem I use double foam and wear them around ear, now even if I will not do trampoline session with the EBX, I can walk without paranoia crisis about frequent housing moving. They re comfortable and not as heavy than one would think, as well, there silicone hook for earbuds housing and other usefull tool to help fitting issue. Just don’t give up, there certainly a fitting way for everybody with the EBX, me being a concret proof!

SOUND IMPRESSIONS:

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AUDIO GEAR USED: Xduoo X20, Xduoo X3 (line out trough walnut V2 amp with Burson V5iD Opamp), Ibasso DX90, Faudio FA, DIY Xmos AK4490EQ DAC-AMP with Burson audio V5iD upgrade, FIIO Q1 MK2

MUSIC THAT PASS TROUGH THIS EARBUDS:

(Vocal) Lykke Li, El Perro Del Mar, Hope Sandoval, Timber Timbre, Serge Gainsbourg, Arianna Savall, Sinikka Langeland, Meridith Monk, Fever Ray, Bjork, Susanna Wallumrod, Jessica Pratt, Julia Holter, Madeleine Peyroux, Marissa Nadler, Beth Gibbons, Agnes Obel, Phaedra.

(Bass) Max Cooper, Kangding Ray, Arild Andersen (bassist), Rival Consoles, Ametsub, M.E.S.H, Jlin, Equiknoxx, Nosaj Thing, Lapalux, Boards of Canada, Slugabed, Vinces Staple, Avishai Cohen (bassist), Charles Mingus (bassist), Alva Noto, Prefuse 73

(Treble) Pierre Hantaï (harpsichord), Glenn Gould (Piano), Lavinie Meijer (Harp), Uakti (instrumental), Chamber orchestra (Vivaldi, Purcell, Bach, Couperin), Tin Hat Trio, Penguin Cafe, Tarkovsky quartet, Domic Miller, Jacob Bro, Helge Lien trio, Gogo Penguin, Eple Trio, Bobo Stenson Trio, Tingvall Trio, Sylvie Proulx (classical guitar), Autoryno, Hypercolor.

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SOUNDSIGNATURE:

As you can read in EBX description, its say ”Impeccable female vocal, High fidelity and high resolution”, well this for once is certainly true, especially about female vocal wich are incredibly lush and immersive, so I would consider the EBX as Mid centric with excellent treble extension, realistic but not boomy bass and very sparkly highs that do not feel too peaky. The soundsignature tend towards neutral with mid elevation and mid-highs elevation too, it do not feel bright and have hint of delicate warmnest wich tame the grain of treble. They are detailed in a delicate and airy way, and its more about layering talent and a wide realistic sound presentation than a analytical one that put fowards microdetails and color upper highs to make them more hearable. Here, the musicality can be enjoy for hours without ears fatigue, wich can happen with lot of too fowards sounding earbuds, this isn’t basshead earbuds at all like the EMX500, but comparatively to the 500 bass can go deeper and never distort or bleed on other frequencies. Bass is tigh and fast but do not have lot of weighty impact, just enough, it really shine with jazz or instrumental bass, and even with some bass heavy electronic. The NiceHCK EBX are serious audiophile earbuds and deliver a sound that you will think to found with full size open headphones but not with earbuds, its all about airyness and delicacy without lacking in caracter and especially in vocal presentation. For Jazz signer lover, this is perhaps the holy grail earbud they were looking for.

SOUNDSTAGE:

Wide soundstage isn’t that rare to find with earbuds, even if some too foward one feel congested. The EBX impress in this area but especially in term of deepness, wich permit a very articulate layering with enough space between instrument to make them shine and have a hint of realist decay to it. As well, it is tall and englobing from every angle of your head, you really feel your into the music with the EBX. It have above average air that can flow in this gigantic space of delicious musicality, as well, it have a well resolved laid back feel, wich do not deconcentrate from everyday tasks.

ISOLATION:

Earbuds aren’t know for good isolation but I find the EBX not bad in this department as I conclude when somebody try to talk to me and I didn’t hear it at all. Sure, I listen to music a little loud, but with earbuds that have plastic shell I can hear easily outside world and not with the EBX. I think this is due to the big and thick housing that have a metal back with just a small hole to make it open. The EBX have even better isolation than my MRz Tomahawk that isn’t bad at all in this department. It leak sound but never to a point of creating contreversy around you.

BASS go deep and hit the right way, it never sound artificial or dry and have good round body that feel natural. One thing to note, is that bass performance will really depend on the fitting, more your able to keep the earbuds near your ear hole more it will feel weighty and impactfull. To test that you just have to press the earbuds and listen, the incredible result can be frustrating if you can’t find a way to keep the EBX there, wich was my case first, but even with the bass lighten up it sound marvelous, if I was able to keep this bass performance 100% of the time without having to hold the earbuds myself, well, I think the EBX will be the end game for me (sigh). Anyway, 50% of my earbuds have this utopical performance potential, wich I think should be take more seriously by the conceptor.

So, going back to this beautifull bass, yes, its perhaps the better performance I ever heard in an earbud, it don’t feel thin even if lightly bodied, we have a rather linear bass response without little mid bass bump to give extra punch, the EBX can deal with sub line that play with heavy kick quite well, it have a fast transient response that permit great articulation, sub will not be pumped up but hearable while kick will be tigh with good decay and not exagerated thickness. Jazz bass sound marvelous, we hear the picking note as well without feeling its too trebly, its a smooth but weel rounded bass line that keep its spacialisation at the right place. In fewer words bass can be resume to: warmish but well resolute with tigh, fast and ligthly punchy impact, great layering and clarity and a realist just enough textured presentation. It do not stole the show of music, but have enough presence to be greatly enjoy, the EBX sound good with electronic as well as jazz, and bass give great body to cello for classical music. I would like to be able to suggest it for rock, wich bass and kick sound great, but electric guitar is the only instrument that do not sound excellent with the EBX (more about this in treble section), but I think it have to do with lower region treble wich is quite smooth and little tamed.

MIDS is where the magic do his trick. The vocal of EBX is so incredible its hard to believe it came from an earbud and not a full size headphone. They are wide and envelopping as if the signer was at one meter of you in a perfect acoustic environment. What is mesmerizing is the fact that even if vocal sound vast and full bodied, they aren’t agressively fowards and do not have sibilance or a trebly presentation that will give it to much texture and grain, its velvet for the ears with an exquisite musicality to it. Male vocal sound very good too and do not lack lower body register. Violin and saxophone sound as well marvelous, its all about how it occupy the space with a natural authority that do not feel forced, it flow in the immense soundstage from one ear to another when needed and give a very holographic illusion. The treble of medium frequencies is smooth, but as the mids are lifted up it feel very airy and thick even if the transparency permit to hear various instruments in the background. The EBX is really an ultimate performer for people that mostly listen to signers, but another time, I could say this for instrumental music too, its just that having this type of non-fatiguing mids that do not sacrifice accuracy and necessary details is utterly rare. Its an organic presentation that blossom from a wide musical soundstage, whatever how crowded is the background, the mids will be stars of the show if it need to be, in instrumental music or electronic, it will not feel as fowards as with vocal based music and this is what make the EBX a versatile exception among all earbuds I try.

HIGHS are very extended and revealing, you get details and microdetails when the music need to show some, it will never feel forced as with ultra analytical earbuds or IEM and still, will surely show as much details as those. Treble is extended above 15KHZ and will only be bothersome for ultimate treble sensitive people, wich is…well, a disease I guess because myself i’m a little treble sensitive and can listen to EBX hours and hours without ear fatigue. As the layering is extremely impressive, you do not struggle to find hidden secret of you favorite tracks, but it will not be background hiss or squeaking chair, just the sound that was recorded for musical purpose. How is it possible I don’t know but listening to complex electronic track like Ametsub or Rival Consoles was seriously rewarding, but as its beat driven experimental IDM a hint of more bass would make this….well, miraculous! Anyway, when you listen to classical guitar you know there something special going on with the treble, it have a sweet brillance and just enough teeth to make acoustic instruments sound very spacious and realist, with lot of air between every note and a type of timbre that give excellent PRaT without feeling too sharp, even if yes, there’s a maestro sharpness going on here. Only place where treble lack some teeths, its with distorted electic guitar, and it obsess me to the point of making reasearch about frequencies range of this instrument, its really about the distortion grain, it do lack just a hint of treble emphasis to be perfect, but it’s in upper low and lower mids, wich is why I do not suggest the EBX as end game for some type of rock, like metal or fast noisy hard rock. Some type of synthesizer will not sound at there supreme best as well but classical guitar, violin, cello, harp, piano, harpsichord, saxophone, trumpet, xylophone, electric guitar without too much overdrive and even complex drum will sound extremely impressive and accurate. Still, when I listen to jazz-rock group Autoryno, the guitar sound fantastic, its really with bad recorded noisy rock that it will feel a lack of thickness and texture for overly distorted riffs…and perhaps no earbuds can deal with this type of agressive noise anyway (I don’t know any that can have treble teeth rightly tweaked for that, so.

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AMPING:

At 32ohm it isn’t really needed. But you still need a capable DAP or audio source in term of amping. For pairing, very detailed source with pushed up bass like the AK4490EQ dac can give is excellent bet. Using amp with warm sounding Burson V5iD Opamp wasn’t bad but at all because it give some more bass impact, but to the cost of lossing some details because of a little roll off in top end. I prefer simple pairing with Xduoo X20 even if its a bass light source.

BURN IN:
Is it a myth or not that burn in will improve sound? Well, for some earbuds and IEM yes, and other like the EBX no. I really suggest you to burn them in for at least 50 hours so the sound will open more and the bass presence will be more controled. At first, the EBX sound very fowards, and now they are very open sounding with a crystal clear layering. Yep, the drivers in there need some exercise before becaming champion of musicality!

COMPARAISONS:

VS SONY MDR-W20G Headband earbud (20$ 20 year ago, now can be find for around 80$ used) :
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Well, you surely have a sceptical face about making a comparaison of vintage kind-of-earbuds with the TOTL EBX, but I feel this semi-unknow gem belong to the earbud category and must of all can beat must of them especially in term of soundstage widness and bass performance. Sure, like the Koss Portapro, they have a rather warm sound, but impact of tone is really incredible.

So, the EBX are clearer sounding as well as slightly brighter, they offer more details in every region but bass, the MDR-W20G have a more rounded up bass and more impactfullwith a mid bass emphasis that do not bloat the mids. Vocal are more recessed and dry, where the EBX are very airy and wide sounding, floating above rest of instrumental in a fascinating way that grab your attention, so EBX feel way more balanced than the Sony wich are more V shaped without sounding boomy. Treble extension of EBX is greater but peakier too, I don’tfeel its harsh at all but compared to rolled-off high of W20G it sure is more agressive. So, EBX win in every region but bass against the excellent MDR-W20G even if soundstage is about same for widness but greater in term of deepnes for EBX.

 

VS MUSICMAKER MRZ TOMAHAWK (50$):
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I love my Tomahawk, and never stop using them daily since I buy them more than 1 year ago. Never find any earbuds that can me a soundstage like this, but this change when I receive the EBX as well as the Moondrop Nameless, but the nameless didn’t sound as good as MrZ, EBX, I can tell you already, sound better but let’s see why.

Firstly, the bass of EBX is more controled and will never bleed on mids or create any distortion where the Tomahawk can create distortion with too muscular kicks, wich is a shame as the Mrz arent bassy earbud so I guess I can call its bass performance as weak, uncontroled and anemic in sub region. Mids and vocal are very fowards with the Mrz, wich is nice but have some hissing in upper mids that can make some female signers sound dry and artificial, the EBX vocal have more decay and feel more airy, natural and organic, clarity of mids are better sounding and have great separation where the Mrz can feel too fowards and constraint, as if the EBX was a dual drivers earbuds compared to it. Highs and details are about same but presented in a less layered way with the Tomahawk, it lack the musical brillance of EBX and treble extend less further, wich the EBX show without feeling clinical or forced. Its all about elegance of sound presentation, and the Tomahawk sure feel like a warrior in hurry to show you what it got, to the cost of lacking in subtility as well as creating some ear fatigue with long listening. In another hand, EBX are less comfortable even if they do not hurt the ears. All in all, NiceHCK EBX sure feel like an earbud from another league (wich it factualy is).

 

VS MOONDROP NAMELESS (24$):
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Unfortunately I do not have other TOTL earbuds to compare the EBX too, as I buy sub-50$ earbuds since awhile now, must admit my mind have change but my wallet is stubornely empty. The Nameless is a very airy and delicate sounding earbuds that I like very much for his wide outside the head soundstage so its a good comparaison I think. Firstly, Nameless sound darker than the EBX, like if you were sit in the back of the room where the EBX put you in the middle of the scene where the instrument sound pure and non amplified. The bass, another time, is weak with the Nameless, it create distortion when its heavy kick where the EBX deal easily with beat heavy track, without making it boomy or overly impactfull. Really, avoid the Nameless for anything that is beat driven, its a delicate sound that fit specific music genre like instrumental, classical and jazz. EBX is way more polyvalent and can deal with any type of music, the mids feel less veiled than the Nameless, wich without being recessed lack body and decay and can feel little dry and boring, where EBX is a champion of musicality in this aspect. Nameless is less detailed as well, but have interesting highs sparkle and hint of brilliance that still keep a laid back presentation that feel less agressive in this region than EBX. Anyway, layering is inferior and dark, and sound is slower and way less detailed than EBX. Another thing, the Nameless are less easy to drive than the EBX. All in all, apart from soundstage, the Nameless really feel like it sound 6 times less good than EBX wich is 6 times pricier.

DQSM Z&W PANDA PK2 (28$):
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Its quite simple, the PK2 beat the EBX only in comfort and fitting, because the housing is smaller and slimer. That’s about it, turn the page! No, thats not THAT black and white because PANDA sound good if not a little too fowards. So, from all earbuds I compare this one are the more shamefull to listen after the EBX, it just feel veiled and congested, with a small soundstage and near non existent layering. The EBX are grandiose in every aspect, more controled and detailed, wich is even more evident with complex track. Sound of PANDA feel dry in the mids and not very detailed because of lack of good imaging, to be honnest, I don’t know if I will be able to love them anymore after this very unforgivable comparaison, because PANDA are quite source dependant and can create strange rattling noise with too powerfull amping (just confirm that try the same track on AK4490 DAC-AMP vs Xduoo X20). Anyway, with the right pairing PANDA can sound more than okay, it just feel rightly priced and not a supreme sound value offering like the MX500 and now, the EBX compared to it even at 140$ sound value.

VS DIY MX500 (10$):
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Firstly,priced at 140$, no the EBX do not sound 15 times better than the legendary 10$ MX500, but sure it doest by a enough big margin to justify the price step especially if you take construction in account. That being said, the MX500 could well be one of the best sounding earbuds under 50$, especially in term of bass performance. The construction worth 10$ but the sound hit way above its price range. For the EBX, I can’t really say how it compare in term of price range.

Bass of MX500 is beefier, rounder and more impactfull than the EBX, it is less tigh and detailed and can lightly bleed on the mids as well, the separation is less good than crystal clear EBX where sub and mid low are clearly seprate, with MX500 sub mix up with mid but not in a disastrous way, more in a fun muscular way. As well, we cans say the bass of MX500 is slower and will struggle with complex tracks compared to tigh fast bass of EMX that never distort or feel sloppy. Because of this assumed V shaped soundsignature of MX500, we could think the mids are veiled and very recessed but this isn’t the case, sure, they are little dark but a welcome treble push in this region help them to be enjoyable, compared to them, the EBX mids are sure from another league in term of clarity, presence and airyness, as well theyr are better layered and have more transparence where MX500 feel restraint and present in a full package mixed up with other instrument. MX500 is warmer sounding and offer a less details than EBX, the soundstage is little less wider too, but especially less taller and deeper than the EBX wich is incredible in this aspects. EBX being little brighter, especially in upper mids and highs, it give to instrument more timbre than MX500, but where the sword it the must is about layering and 3D sound presentation that feel around your head, here the MX500 feel frontal, fowards and more like a long sound tapestry presented in front of you than a surrounding environnement with sound that can float in they air. The highs of MX500 feel rolled of and lacking in sparkle, where EBX shine magnificently and offer an extreme level of details effortlessly. I think we pay for a TOTL earbuds to have this type of mature and extremely musical presentation where every frequencies aspect are treated with perfectionnism in a grandiose soundstage. The MX500 still is the best value, because 10$ is a joke and 140$ is a serious buy, but one thing certain, the upgrade is enormous in term of audiophile joy with the EBX, for basshead joy this isn’t the case tough.

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CONCLUSION:

The NiceHCK EBX are not made for every wallet, they are sure a little pricey but unlike cheap built TOTL earbuds with sometime high impendance, the EBX is easy to drive and I feel it worth its asking price in term of built quality and sound rendering. Yes, once its rightly fitted in your ears, the EBX deliver a pristime sound experience that even full size headphones will struggle to deliver: the soundstage is mesmerizing, the bass go deep without never sounding boomy or artificial, the mids are a whole experience just by themself and the highs deliver a level of details and vast layering unseen in any earbuds I ever heard. Still, perfection is a myth, and even if the EBX can deal with any genre it will excell with the one that do not need mid bass treble emphasis, I underline this because it do not give as much electric guitar presence and fullness that I would like for this genre, and it lack just a little punch to became more energic sounding as it have plenty of energy in mids and highs. Here, i’m utterly severe and only feel the need to talk about this aspect for people that ONLY listen to instrumental rock, because with vocal it will sound marvelous and the guitar will not stole the show. The NiceHCK EBX are accomplished earbuds that is another proof of the serious sound engineer HCK have his hands on, and it’s rightly priced at 140$ because of all high quality compenents it use, should it be the excellent 14.8mm dynamic drivers, the sturdy luxurious housing or incredible silver-copper hand made 8 cores cable. My opinion are based on the earbuds I can compare to, and now I admit that I became more curious about upper price range even if I will still enjoy some of my sub-50$ earbuds. Unfortunately tough, the EBX make lot of shadow on other earbuds that I will not be able to listen anymore, they are became my daily earbuds that i’m addict to so if money isn’t a problem for you, I really suggest you give the EBX multiple try!

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