NiceHCK X49: What of this affordable bullet?

What of this affordable bullet?

Pros: Affordable
All-in-one
Ease of use
Quite nice sounding considering price
Throw-it-in-your-bag for use when you forget others

Cons: Connected cable
No case
Finite lifetime
Not much else at this price

NiceHCK X49 ($17):What of this affordable bullet?

HiFiGo:
NiceHCK X49

Intro:There seems to be a dearth of “affordable” ChiFi hitting the shores of the US at the current time, slowed only by the global pandemic. Many worthy companies have set up shop on this side of the pond, in hopes of achieving faster response to sales, as well as the ability to control products here. It makes sense. Kind of like a car dealer in many towns across the country. Aiming for sales, this is indeed a tough market. HiFiGo is a “relative newcomer” making marks with excellent distributional characteristics on the US mainland and elsewhere. Catering to the more affordable end, Nappoler and crew are doing an excellent job. With first-rate customer service, they are becoming a force.

The X49 is the second unit I have reviewed for HiFiGo, after the TRN VX, and as such I was looking forward to the single balanced armature, not the least of which was to see how a single BA would compare to the more common single DD. And, this little critter certainly is on the affordable end, at sub-$20usd. Coming off the VE Erlkönig, and others, my opinion would have to be tempered to meet that level. That is, until I listened. To say that I was a bit taken aback would be an excellent descriptor. In conversing with a couple of other reviewers, we agreed that the X49 was an affordable diamond in the mostly polished form. Small, affordable (there’s that word again), tiny of fit, and very good sound qualities highlight the X49. I thank Nappoler for sending the review unit, and I write this as our daughter partakes in a week-long high intensity goalie camp. To say I’m in heaven would be an excellent picture.


Specs:

1. Brand and model: NICEHCK X49 in ear earphone
2. Model: X49
3. Product type: In ear
4. Frequency: 20-20000Hz
5. Impedance: 22Ω
6. Cable material: Pure copper
7. Cable length: 1.2m±3cm
8. Plug type: 3.5mm gold plated
9. Color: Bright Silver
10. Sensitivity: 110dB/mW
11. Shell Material: Pure Copper (Surface Plating)
12. Microphone: Options (No Mic / With Mic )
13.Use: Sleep, Music, Game, TV Series
14.Earphone plug type: Line type
15.Earphones category: HIFI, Monitor
16. Driver unit: Single Balanced Armature Driver


Compared/Sources:

TRN VX ($75)
CVJ CSA ($27)


Shanling M0
iPhone XS Max (w/DDHiFi TC35i dongle)
MacBook Pro (Tidal Premium)


Songs used:

Dave Mathews albums, Come Tomorrow, Away From The World
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
Los Lobos album, Disconnected In New York City
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
twenty one pilots-Forest
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots album, Trench
Mark Knopfler album, Down The Road Wherever



Unboxing:

Simple. Straightforward. Nothing special. Nothing left behind. I like when IEM’s such as these come in simple packaging, which minimizes their impact. Nicely done.


Fit-n-Finish:

Coming with a rubber coated all-copper cable, which is attached you get the sense that the money spent goes into the balanced armature and electroplating of the all-copper bullet-shaped shell. Permanently attached, I do not fault NiceHCK since this is a unit, which will most likely be used in “throw in the bag” situations. The cable is on the thinner side and does carry microphonics with it. But, using the right tip, there is a very good seal, which keeps wind and other noise (such as the pecking on my MBP keyboard, which I hate. The keyboard not the MBP) to a minimum. Other than the microphonics, I have no issue with the thin cable. It also has a rubberized ring attached to the left cable above the split for easy identification in less than ideal viewing conditions.

The shell itself comes from two pieces of electroplated copper, replete with vent hole on the bottom. Inside the BA sits in a protective hard plastic bracket. I do like the shape of this unit, and it is tastefully small. Reminding me of the Campfire Atlas or Comet, the shape does not bother me one bit, and actually aids in the fit. Nicely done so far. A small assortment of tips is included. I skipped those and went right for my SendaFit Azla or Comply foam. I settled on the Comply for a better fit and seal.

Sound:

As per standard, the unit was checked upon arrival to ensure proper working order, then banished for burn-in with any of a number of units I have going at the moment. Periodic checking was done at 25 hrs, 50hrs, and 75hrs. It was after 75hrs that the dedicated listening took place. I do prefer to burn a unit in for a lengthy time to give the user an idea of what the critter sounds like six months down the road from new. With the X49, the bass tightened up a bit, but without dedicated listening at the beginning, I cannot say for sure regarding any other changes. Suffice to say that the signature did not change for me in any remarkable manner.

Balanced Armature drivers are still typically not known for their thumping bass, and the X49 continues that, but with one exception. It does provide good reach, but not outstanding. It does seem to be more than the derigueur of recent ChFi tunings, which are tending towards brighter signatures. I always hate to say anything “punches above their weight,” for this can mean that it is A: underpriced, or B: the others really are not that good. I will state that for this price, the bass is very, very good and could be considered at the top of its class. That to me is a better compliment, anyway. Paired with the portable Shanling M0, the sound comes across as full and a bit of warmness emanates. The bass of Shanling’s is already tops for me, and the X49 compliments that without hindering the M0 response.

Mids are to me fairly neutral, with vocal sound emanating slightly above center and just about in line with the others. I would not call it flat, nor would I call it V-shape. Not even W-shaped. To me they could be a bit brighter and more forward, but this is picking on a sub-$20 earbud…Male vocals are on the cleaner side, but not spectacular. Female voices follow suit, but with a bit more focus. Not extraordinary, but not sloppy either.

Thankfully, the treble up top is not biting nor sibilant as can be the case at this price. Coming across as complimentary to the others, I appreciate that this isn’t an affordable earbud, which has treble too bright. There has been talk across the review waves of what Westerners actually want in a tune, and I for one do not think that the manufacturer should cater to a particular market, but rather give the sound, which their engineers feel will be pleasant and sellable. If that does not meet your tastes, move on. Don’t bag on a manufacturer for tuning something you don’t like. Rather you should espouse whom it might be better tuned for and call it good. We must keep our subjectivity at a minimum and present what we hear, then recommend. Those of you who read many reviews will know of what I speak. For those that might be in a bit of a fog, essentially as reviewers we must present what we hear, and let others know whom the unit might be geared towards. Likes and dislikes come into play then, but shant be the basis for recommending or not. It is not our job to point out that “this should be tuned for a specific market,” no but rather whom it might be tuned for instead.

Rant over.

Providing an averagely wide soundstage, the X49 competes well in giving a full sound spectrum. Adequate in height, but lacking in depth, there is no cathedral effect, but rather one of efficient use of space. Layering & instrumentation thus suffers a bit, but it is not bad. Sufficient for the price, and again, near or at the top of the price range. Paired again with the M0, the sound comes across as clean and representative. Competent would be a good description all across the board. Call it the workhorse of this price. The one that does the dirty work without asking for anything in return.


Comparisons:

This shall be a shorter section, since the price is so darn affordable.

NiceHCK X49 ($17) vs TRN VX ($75):

I add this in, because it is a recent unit for me, and one in which there seems to be a conundrum of opinion. Some like the tuning, others do not. I would fall in the category of the later, with nothing spectacular about the 7-BA’s. It is a shame really, for it has high hopes, but has a mid-section, which is too biting to me. I cannot get around this. And as I stated above, I would recommend this unit for those who like vocal representation, or string orchestral movements. That enhanced mid-section would be presented very well with the VX. But, if I heard both of these side by side in a store, I’d go home with the X49. Period.


NiceHCK X49 ($17) vs CVJ CSA ($27):

Another of recent review, the CSA is the affordable unit from CVJ, which has approximately 5-6 offerings. If one likes bright mids, but not overly bright then the CSA should be in consideration. Good solid bass, a somewhat sparkly treble section, and mids that take the show for me highlight an affordable contender. The CSA won’t win many followers but should still be considered for its stellar mid presentation. A very good price point, and one that you should consider for vocal temptations. Personally though, I still prefer the X49 for its affordability and overall sound character.


Finale:

I finish this while listening to the X49 through my iPhone XS Max & DDHiFi TC35i dongle. An excellent little DAC paired with a decent sounding phone. The trifecta of sound comes across as warmer than the Shanling, but I blame Tidal. This shows the true mettle of the X49. It is adaptable, and fits will many excellent affordable sources (OK, iPhone isn’t cheap…). But the point still holds. The X49 benefits from being a set of earbuds that can be thrown in your bag or pocket for on the go use, and that balanced armature sound comes across nicely. This should alone put the X49 into consideration. It should also be considered as part of your regular rotation system as it can ground you in how an affordable earbud can still sound good regardless of the price.

I thank Nappoler and HiFiGo for the sample. The NiceHCK X49 is a real treat at an exceptionally affordable price. I can live with its few faults, due to the many positives within the unit. Cheers, and keep listening.

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