I bought the NiceHCK EP10 sight unseen as the 11.11 lucky bag special. It is a new model and information about it appeared on NiceHCK’s ali store about a week after I purchased it.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The EP10 comes packaged in the standard NiceHCK budget style white pressboard box with the logo and model name on the front and the pertinent information in both English and Chinese on the reverse. Inside the box is the standard NiceHCK soft case with the earphones and tips inside it. 3 sets of silicone tips are included.
The earpieces of the EP10 look similar to apple buds in shape but are considerably heavier and beautifully polished. They are available in silver(chrome) or black. They do not feel heavy when worn, but they definitely have more heft than expected when you first unbox and look at them. If you imagine an earbud design that someone sealed and added a nozzle to the front of and chrome plating the entire earpiece, you have the basic design of the EP10. L and R are clearly marked on the inner surface of the earpieces. Venting is provided by a single pinhole vent adjacent to the nozzle and 4 pinholes at the rear of the earpiece immediately above the cable extension. Nozzles are short with a large lip to keep tips from slipping and insertion is very shallow as a result making them very tip dependent. Getting a good seal required a size larger tip than normal (I used XL spiral dots) to get the seal I needed with these. One place where the fit and polish is not up to par is the end of the nozzles themselves where tool-marks are present and fairly obvious. (See picture at right).
When looking at the lucky bag, it listed the drivers as bing a 10mm dynamic with a PET/PEN diaphragm. Nicehck is quick to point out this construction is similar to that of the Dita Twins although no one is claiming it is the same driver or the same sound signature. The EP10 has an impedance of 32Ω with a sensitivity of 95dB. It is easily driven by a phone or low powered source but does benefit from some amping by creating a bit fuller sound.
A short strain relief starts the transition from chrome housing to cable. The cable itself is s 2 strand twisted pair from the earpieces to the splitter which is rectangular with a matching chin slider. Both are done in the same chrome-like finish as the the earpieces and EP10 is emblazoned on the splitter in white. Below the splitter a 4 strand braid runs to the jack which is a standard 3.5 TRS plug of the straight variety. Again a short strain relief is followed by a chrome plated cover. Overall the cable is quiet and just stiff enough to prevent tangling.
All sound notes were taken using XL Spiral Dot tips as the largest of the supplied tips were still a bit finicky for me.
Sub-bass is very good with great thump and good control. Roll-off is not pronounced until below 35Hz. Mid-bass is well proportioned and not in front of the rest of the signature. There is some mild bass bleed in the transition range that gives a nice warmth but does not interfere significantly with the clarity of the mids.
Lower mids show the previously mentioned bleed but are well textured with good detail and are not recessed behind the mid-bass. Upper mids climb slightly and bring vocals forward in the mix while not pushing them forward enough to overshadow any other instrument. Vocals have good weight and fullness without getting murky or thick.
Lower treble is mildly forward in a follow-on from the upper mids but remains polite and doesn’t show a tendency toward stridency. This is not to say that the EP10 can’t be harsh, it just takes a track that is recorded that way to produce it. I was impressed as usually polite treble struggles to produce accurate results with sibilant source materials. The treble falls off as you move further up the scale but retains enough energy to give some air and sparkle. Cymbals are well rendered as well which is always a tough task for in-ears.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage is well proportioned but not expansive in any dimension. I found width to be slightly greater than depth but not to the extent of some of the competitors at this price point that have oval shaped stages. Stage does seem to be somewhat volume dependent as it seems to be a bit larger at low volumes than when pushed harder. Imaging is very good and when combined with above average layering, instrument separation is better than expected at the price point.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The looks, feel, and sound of the EP10 do not match the price point in any way. Sound quality is very good with the mildest of V signatures and just enough warmth to add some body to the signature. Heft is better than expected and build quality is well better than one should expect for the price point. Knowing that the current retail is $16 or slightly more if one wants a microphone on the cable, these represent great value. The fit was a bit fiddly and I hope NiceHCK will use this driver in a different style of shell as the earbud style is not the best for active users where they tend to bounce around.