NiceHCK M6

Introduction

The M6 was recommended by Jim at NiceHCK to me suggesting it had mid-fi sound quality while maintaining a price point near the $100 mark.    This is getting to be a more crowded market segment all the time and I was interested in seeing how the M6 compared.   I purchased the NiceHCK M6 at a discount for the purpose of this review.  Jim at NiceHCK has offered a head-fi discount on them that brings the retail down to $88.   The sale is going on now for users of Head-fi.  Make your purchase but use the bank transfer method so it doesnt require immediate payment. Leave a message for Jim to update price.  Once price is updated you can choose a different payment method and finish your purchase.    I am aware of some contention between the makers of the M6 and the DMG as they share a very similar shell.  I have no interest in the politics of this and will be reviewing both products as I would any other in-ear.

Unboxing/Packaging

The M6 comes shipped in the same un-assuming brown/gold pressboard box with the NiceHck logo on the front and a few details (Model #) on the rear.  Inside the box is the standard NiceHck Soft case which is a nice rubberized case but borders on too small in this instance with all the tips and filters etc crammed inside.   Under the soft case is the warranty card while all other accesories are inside the soft case.

Accessories

Inside the soft case are two sets of silicone tips (SML), one wide bore and one medium, a set of foam tips (1 single large size pair), two filters (Silver and gold, the third comes pre-installed and matches the color of the IEM body).  and the cable.   My sample does not have a microphone or remote but that option is available.

Build/Fit

Build is first rate with anodized aluminum shells and filters anodized to match.  Size is medium but shape is such that it rides in the ear like a smaller design and was very comfortable for long periods of wear.  This is probably also due to the rounding off of all sharp edges on the shell.  All edges are beveled and then anodized with a slight grain left that helps keep the earpiece from shifting once inserted.  Overall, I rank these 3rd behind the Eartech Custom (I know – duh), and the Magaosi K5 for best shaped in-ear for long wear.    Three vents are present in the shell as shown in the photos below.  One on the internal surface, one on the faceplate and one just below the MMCX connector.  I did find that I could at least partially obstruct the inner vent depending on how I position the M6 in my ear and could impact the bass response by doing so.   The filter is hidden by the tip in pictures below but threads onto the body very positively and while it could possibly work loose, I found no tendency to do so.  I suspect that as long as these are not subject to harsh treatment, they should last very well as they are very solid in hand.

 

Cable

The cable appears to be the new standard for NiceHCK as the same cable is shipped with the P3 as well.   While well enough constructed, it is somewhat tangle prone.    The Jack is a 90º 3.5mm TRS of two part construction.  The lower half is metal while the upper portion is black plastic and provides ample strain relief.  The cable exits the strain relief as two wire twisted pair in a fairly loose braid and runs to the splitter as such.  At the splitter the two strands separate and run to their respective earpieces.  In comparing the P3 cable to the M6 version, the only difference appears to the be P3 or M6 printed on the splitter.  A small chin slider is nested to the top of the splitter in matching matte black finish.     The earpiece has a pre-formed earhook and terminates with a metal shelled mmcx connector with a blue or red disk (depending on side) immediately adjacent to the connector for easy left/right recognition.

 

 

Tips

I found the M6 to be somewhat tip sensitive and ended up trying several before finding that mid-bore tips seemed to be the best compromise for me.  I have heard good things about the pairing of symbio tips with the M6 but didn’t have any on hand to test with.  Of what I had on hand, the Shure Olives were the best compromise as they took a bit away from the bass but were better for treble response than the standard tips provided with the M6.  I found the foams to be a bit of a trainwreck as they altered the signature way too much for my liking.

Sound

Sound notes are all done with the Stock large tip and while I would encourage tip rolling, I have stuck with the provided tips here for those that will do so if they purchase the M6 and don’t have other options on hand.

Lows

Sub-bass is well extended but a rise beginning about 60Hz obscures some of the lower tones a bit.  Mid-bass continues to build on the 60Hz rise and pushes the mid-bass well forward of the rest of the signature.   Bass is an odd dichotomy on the M6 with good attack and a clean lead edge, but somewhat slow decay and a bit sloppy at times.   It is almost as if one DD is tuned for speed and the other is much more laid back and the two are in a constant fight to see who wins.   On the plus side, it provides a very full/warm tone and adds a bit of thickness to the overall.  On the downside, it can get overwhelmed and a bit murky on really busy tracks.   As a result, the M6 is best paired with a source that is slightly bass recessed (aka Shanling/Hidizs) and not with sources that lean toward a bit of warmth anyway (Opus/Cayin).     I found the M6 more enjoyable when pairing the Opus with the xDSD than when using the Opus internal DAC as the Opus is a bit warmer than the xDSD.   The AK70Mk2 was a better match than the Opus #1s alone.

Mids

If there is one thing the M6 gets absolutely right, this is it.  Mids have a stellar timbre and are as natural sounding as anything I have in my collection.  They are on par with or better than the Magaosi K5 which is saying a lot.   There is minor mid-bass bleed that sometimes detracts a bit, but otherwise the mids are well rendered and well shaped.  A slight climb of the upper mids pushes the presence region forward and helps with vocal energy.   All in all, the mids are what mids should be and I would encourage the use of the M6 for orchestral or Piano concertos as it does a great job of rendering the piano and the cello both of which can be difficult for any headphone/earphone to get right.

Treble

The bump of the upper mids is carried into the lower treble without ever getting far enough forward to be harsh (when using the neutral filter).  If replaced with the silver filter the treble climbs an additional dB or two and then some stridency becomes evident.  In this regard, the filter is very evident.  Treble extension is good but upper treble begins to fall again above about 9kHz.  Air and sparkle are present but again somewhere between the green and silver filters is the best possible answer for cymbals as they sound a little flat with the neutral filter and a little metallic with the silver. (Here I find the black LZ A5 filter near perfect).

Filters

Filters are often a mixed bag with some being more gimmick than others.  Unfortunately, the M6 filters fall into the minimally effective category and if you don’t like the default signature, you probably aren’t going to suddenly fall in love by changing the filter.   To my ear the green (neutral) filter had the best overall signature but slightly veils the treble which I found annoying.  The silver filter (Oxymoron as it is a pass-through tube with no filter) is better for treble as the veil is lifted but it is replaced by a hard edge that will make the treble shy run for the aisles.   The gold filter that is advertised as a low frequency enhancer is actually a treble-cut filter and drops the energy of everything over 1.5kHz by about 2.5dB.    So for me, the best filter was somewhere between green and silver.   Luckily such a filter does exist, but it will cost you $20 to get it.   Penon Audio carries the LZ A5 replacement filter sets and they fit the M6 like a charm.   I found the black filter that is advertised as the mild treble boost filter to be exactly split the difference in the green and silver stock filters.   For the treble shy, the red LZ filter is also a cleaner cut filter than the gold stock filter and is worth investigating if you find the provided filters don’t suit your needs.

Stage and Imaging

This is another thing the M6 gets right.  The stage is three dimensional with good height in addition to width and depth.   The m6 doesn’t sound concert hall huge, but it does consistantly place the user in about the 3rd row from the stage at dead center.   Imaging is superb with movement of instruments on the stage easily audible.  I found it quite possible to close my eyes and position nearly every instrument on the stage for orchestral pieces and most if not all were in exactly the seating arrangement expected.  This is tough for any earphone to reproduce and well beyond expectations at the $100 price point.

Comparisons

This is harder than expected because in one regard I want to compare to things at roughly the same price point and in another regard, the M6 doesn’t behave like other things at its price point so it doesn’t really make a very good comparison.

 

IBasso IT01:  The low end on the ibasso wins hands down, but everything from the lower mids up the M6 wipes the floor with the IT01.  Imaging and staging are way better on the M6 and detail retrieval is not even close.   The level of detail on the M6 is easily in the same range with the IT03 and well beyond what the IT01 can deliver.   Overall, if you are a basshead, the IT01 is still likely to tick more of the right boxes for you but otherwise the M6 is the clear winner.

BQEYZ BQ3:  These two share a lot of similarities with the difference being a matter of degrees.  Sound signature is similar with bass decay being a bit better on the BQ3, while the m6 has more natural mids with a bit better detail retrieval.   Both have good high-end extension but again the M6 manages to edge out the BQ3 in timbre and detail.  If you like one of these two chances are you’ll enjoy both,  if you don’t like one – don’t buy the other.

Fiio FH5:  Bass is similar but a bit better rendered on the FH5 than on the M6 while mids are a bit more natural sounding the M6 leaving the FH5 feeling a bit artificial.   Treble is good on both but smoother on the M6 and detail retrieval is similar on both.   Imaging I’d give a slight edge to the M6 in the respect that the stage is a bit better proportioned and more 3 dimensional.  Oh and just as a reminder the FH5 is nearly 3 times the price tag.

Magaosi K5:  This is the one I keep coming back to when comparing the mids on the M6.  True the bass is entirely different as the M6 goes for bass depth while the K5 is all about control at the expense of some extension.  Treble is slightly better on the M6 in both extension and timbre, but what both have in spades is the mids.   To date, the K5 has been the standards bearer for what mids should be in an IEM for things in its price bracket and the M6 represents the first serious challenge to that.

 

Final thoughts

Jim recommended I try the M6 as he thought it was going to be a popular item.  I think Jim got it absolutely correct.  While it is easy to nitpick in the comparisons, we have to remember that I am comparing a couple IEMs that cost $200 and nearly $300 to one that can be had on sale for as little as $88.   When you have to go into a different price bracket to find able competitors, that tells you something.   What would Mayweather’s record look like today if he had decided to fight Fury or Klitschko?     No, the M6 isnt perfect and the bass could use a little refinement in generation 2, but it does mids as well as anything I’ve heard and treble better than most and with the addition of the $20 set of LZ A5 filters, still costs less than $140.   This is one of the better spends in in-ears as 2018 comes to a close and well worth a listen if you get the chance.

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