Most modern smartphones and portable media devices come with earphones, and for the most part they do their job at a satisfactory level. But what if you want to experience a greater dynamics range from your movies, games and videos while on such devices? Not everyone finds the prospect of spending large amounts of money on earphones very appealing, and that's absolutely fine.
But what if I told you there are entry level earphones that are capable of performing above what their price would otherwise suggest? Products like this do indeed exist, but the problem is finding them among the vast competition. Hopefully this review will help make one decision for readers somewhat easier.
Today we will be reviewing the £15.99 / $25 Symphonized NRG Premium earphones. Strangely, the official site doesn't mention the specs or go into much technical detail about them, though thankfully the back of the box does.
|Driver Unit||Dynamic 8mm Neodynium Magnet|
|Sensitivity||101dB +/- 3dB @ 1KHz, 1mW|
|Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)||<3dB|
|Input power rating||5mW|
|Cable||1.2m braided nylon|
Silicon eartips in small, medium and large sizes
Nothing out of the ordinary here with the specs. It's worth noting that the packaging says that it includes a pouch, I found no such item in the retail and sealed contents sent to me by Amazon UK.
The packaging is nothing to write home about, a clear plastic box with a card insert at the back with the specs and blurb.
Taking the earphones out, I was surprised by the quality of the braided cable. I've had cheap braided cables before, and the NRG feels lightweight but confidence-inspiring in its construction.
The termination at the jack end is also of good quality, as is the Y splitter junction where the single cable spawns off to each respective earphone. The cable isn't prone to tangling, which was welcome to see.
The silver parts you see in the photos are not plastic painted in chrome, but actual metal. The driver casing is genuine wood as well, and the whole package is lightweight but solid to the touch. How the headphones cost this little yet feel so good is beyond me.
Taking an eartip off reveals the inner mesh that protects from debris entering the chamber. The rear of the casing is also meshed, something I haven't seen too often on an in ear headphone as they tend to be a closed back design in this class. This gives me the impression that Symphonized wanted the NRG to sound more like an open-air headphone.
The in-line microphone is on the left earphone. I mention this because the L and R markers on each casing was hard to read, and there's no notch to denote right or left orientation. The microphone is encased in a rubber surround, again a quality design choice, and everything has a nice fit and finish.
The only area that bears the Symphonized branding is on the Y junction of the cable. Each end is rubberised to protect the cable from bending and fraying.
So first impressions then are very good, it's set my expectations already. Time to find out if they sound as good as they look and feel.
I tested the NRG Premium on my Xperia Z3. The Z3 supports HD Audio playback and sports a decent quality DAC. I use GoneMAD Music Player and have the Sony effects processing like DSEE HX disabled, instead opting to tune the sound via GoneMAD's dedicated EQ to get the best out of the earphones.
I then put my music library to shuffle and played a good variation of both lossless and mp3 files.
To note the merits of the NRG, I swapped between a pair of Sennheiser IE80 IEMs. I should add that I will not be comparing the IE80 to the NRG directly, but instead sharing basic observations. The IE80s are high end earphones at a much higher price point, so it would be unfair to pit them against each other.
What I found was quite surprising. The NRG is capable of putting out rich, deep bass, without muddying the mid or high frequencies, which is a common trait in cheap, bass heavy earphones.
The soundstage is semi-wide, but vocals on acoustic tracks were more centralised in my head, giving a closed-back headphone feel to supporting instruments in any given track. My personal music taste favours a more open and wide soundstage.
It's certainly not a bad presentation, but to my ears, suits music like Hip-Hop and EDM more than acoustic. I also noted some slight sibilance coming in at higher volumes. Nothing show-stopping of course, and easily forgiven at this class.
The more I listened, the more accustomed I got to the sound signature, and I definitely grew to appreciate the sound.
Outside noise isolation was well controlled, not completely noise cancelling like the official title would otherwise suggest, but the silicon eartips do a good job of keeping city noise at bay. For my ears, the large sized tips had the most secure fit, and these are more snug than the similarly shaped large tips that came with the IE80.
What we have here is a pair of earphones that push above their weight and looking at the cost of them, they have certainly impressed me.
When Symphonized asked me to review these headphones, I genuinely thought they would be a standard run of the mill type of entry level earphones. I've now come away with a new perspective of what's possible at a nearly giveaway price, and am very glad to have had the opportunity to review them. Small price, big sound certainly sums up my experience.
If you are in the market for a quality pair of in ear headphones but don't want to spend too much, then look nowhere else, the NRG Premium are certainly worth a look.
They are by no means high end IEM beaters - they miss the finer detail and soundstage of such earphones - but as mentioned, it is unfair to compare them this way, because for £15 you're getting truly excellent bang for buck. I think these may just be the perfect example of what can be defined by the term "a diamond in the rough."