NXears Opera and Sonata IEMS
What is NXEars?
NXEars Opera and Sonata IEMS is made by NXEars. The company is a boutique audio company founded by Casey Ng who is an industry veteran and formerly worked at Knowles. Casey is a next-level designer and engineer behind Nuforce’s ‘NE’-IEMs.
Ng created three different IEM models using 100% Knowles balanced drivers, small-scale 3D printing technology, and some interesting Acoustic Design and Cross-over technology. He believes this brand will disrupt the market and offer high-performance and great value to prospective earbud customers.
NXEars 3D Technology
NXEar IEMs are made using 3D printing. This manufacturing method is preferred to injection-molded ABS/Polycarbonate plastics and machined metals because of the material’s tendency to avoid unwanted resonance. NXEars uses a biocompatible resin, similar to high-end custom hearing aids. It takes approximately 2 hours to make each set. This resin is hypoallergenic and is designed to prevent irritation if worn for prolonged periods.
NXEars products feature their “Aperiodic Ground Loading” (patent-pending) acoustic design technology. This was created to reduce the pressure imbalance that IEMs can cause, which can lead both to discomfort and to listening fatigue. NXEars claims that their AGL technology creates a more comfortable soundstage than IEMs.
Range of the NXEars
Sonata costs $199 and uses one full-range balanced driver to cover the entire frequency range. It is a crossover-less design. The Sonata comes in Black, Midnight Green and Red. It also has a carbon fiber faceplate.
The Sonata comes with a MMCX detachable cable, just like the rest of NXEars’ range. The review unit came with an 8-core braided cable with 90-degree termination. However, I believe that the final retail Sonata or Basso will include a 4-core silver-plated copper-plated cable to temper higher frequencies.
The Basso sits in the middle NXEars’ range and uses four balanced drivers to create an impactful low end. Knowles has two models larger than the Basso, making it a unique choice. The unique copper faceplate makes the Basso stand out and lets you see its intricate inner workings through its translucent shell design.
Opera, NXEars flagship launch product, is the 8-balanced armature drive. It is designed to be NXEars big statement product and reflect their ultimate expression of technology, design, and aesthetic philosophy.
NXEars claims that the crossover network of 8 drivers and 3 way crossovers was created by NXEars using computer modeling and proprietary measurements to create a phase-coherent effect. Net-net, there is far less distortion and lower electrical impedance. Opera ships 8-strand monocrystal 6N copper MMCX cable with 3.5mm MMCX. Each pair is hand-finished in an impressive iridescent finish.
NXEars Sound Quality
After studying a lot about the manufacturing process of the NXEars range, it was clear that I was curious about the sound quality and how each model would play back music with the four, eight, and single driver assemblies.
I tested all three NXEars with a variety of mobile-centric source gear, including the Chord Mojo and Earstudio ES100. The Sonata (16-ohm/108dB sensitive), Basso (25-2-ohm/110dBsensitivity) and Opera (18-18-ohm/106dBsensitivity) are all easy to drive and perform well across all sources tested (including phones).
NXEars Basso Sound Quality
Basso is a well-known name. I expected proceedings to be filled with a lot of low-end ‘thump.’ Instead, the Basso presented me with a reasonable amount of bass quantity. However, it was accompanied by decent punch, extension, and speed. Although soundstage and layering are above-average, the Basso’s overall voice is dominated in the mid-treble by a significant bump that is right in the sibilance territory for most music. Hot is the best way to describe the tuning of this pair.
The Basso might be a hit with fans of bright and energetic tunes, but this reviewer is not a fan of the basso’s non-linearity or aggression in the top. NXEars suggests that the Basso can be used for “great live stage performance monitoring”, and the Basso’s levels of punch and information might make it a great choice for cutting through background noise.
NXEars Opera Sound Quality
I found the Opera’s presentation is very gentle and relaxing. The Opera is very easy to listen to, with only waves of soft, velvety sounds and a pleasant voice. The musical detail is there across the frequency-range but the Opera leaves some unresolved treble regions. With a minimized attack on consonants and a less detailed midrange, the vocals can be slightly distant.
NXEars Sonata Sound Quality
The Sonata is the most affordable and least technically complex NXEar product. After testing it on rock, rap, and jazz tracks I liked it the best giving it a higher proportional value. Voices come across transparent with an open, clean timbre. Expect minimal bass decay with solid textures and tones.
Specs of NXears Opera and Sonata IEMS
Sonata Earbuds Specs
- Drivers: (1) Knowles balanced armor
- Impedance: 19 ohms
- Sensitivity = 103 dB
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20 kHz
Opera Earbuds Specs
- Drivers: (8) Knowles balanced arms
- Impedance: 18 ohms
- Sensitivity 100 dB
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20 kHz
Opera is packaged in a simple, white box. The sides and back of the box contain basic information and specifications about the products. It is possible to access the earphones and accessories once it has been unpacked.
It comes with the earpieces as well as a 3.5mm stock cable, a leather storage bag, 4 pairs silicone eartips and 2 pairs foam tips. There is also a shirt clip, paperwork, and a metal bag clip. The case is lightweight, durable, and large enough for extra accessories or a second set of headphones.
Mono-crystal 6N copper stock cables are included with Opera. The 8-braided wires have a well-braided with no loosen parts and are soft, light and non-microphonic. End termination is done using a TRS3.5mm plug.
The MMCX connectors have blue and red rings at their tips, which makes it easier to identify the L/R ears. The shrink tubed earguides secure the cable so it can stay over the ears. I would have liked to see interchangeable plugs (such Dita, Dunu etc.) for expanded usability.
In Ear Sound Staging
Compared to most headphones, the Opera’s headroom would create a virtual concave curve of sound behind you. This is designed to make you feel inside the music instead of listening to it as a casual observer. It would look like a shape of “)”,, where a half-sphere would surround you. The mids feel close with upper and lower ranges creating a baseline for the headroom.
NXEars Tone of Mids
Mids may feel recessed have a distinctive, pleasing tone. An average set of headphones can often muffle the mids and allow the bass to overshadow the ambiance and vocals. In this case, the Opera does not overwhelm the vocals creating a more speaker-like effect for the listener.
The mids are designed to break down larger sounds to allow music grains and soft sounds to intermingle while not being dry or shallow. Warm, thick mids keeps the music fluid leaving room for the upper mids a range to be transparent enough for female and male vocals.
NXEars Tone of Lows
Lows in the Opera are thick with a pleasant rumble. The muted bass response can emphasize flat sound signatures without bending into rigid sounds. While ample for delicate sounds, lows can sink down and dominate the music to flow evenly across the musical range.
NXEars Headphone Comparisons
The Opera and Moondrop S8 are different in their respective characteristics. I found the S8 consistently flat across the range with neat, clean sounds with bright notes and snappy bass. The S8 is crunchy with crisp notes taking listeners across a dense range without being muddy. The Opera, conversely, is atmospherically focused with soft, smooth textures while being bold in ambient sounds and overall depth.
You will find the mids of the Phoenix to be more closely aligned with the Opera. I found the Phoenix slightly more soothing and tender with great flow. The Opera lows are slightly more subtle with thicker highs and slightly less finesse than the Phoenix. The lows of the Phoenix are more dramatic and intense without being dark.
When compared to its younger cousin, Basso, the Opera is more expansive and wide. While the Basso has higher bass range and tighter notes, the mids yield tension and sibilance crossing the upper mids. The Opera is simply more calm and smooth lacking the turbulence found in the Basso. In short, the Basso’s overall presentation is less robust leaning towards natural or neutral.
Basso has a higher bass volume, with more powerful strikes and tighter notes. Opera has a more calm, smoother approach that generates more reverbs. Mids: Opera has a thicker, fuller body than Basso. Scales are just about neutral.
Basso’s mids seem more tense because it causes a little sibilance when it passes the upper middles. This spiced up the mids but also causes more turbulence and vulnerability for those with sibilance sensitivities. Opera, on the other hand, is calmer and more even. It doesn’t cause any sibilance or spikes that could make the listener feel drained. The presentation is also less colored because the tone is more natural and neutral.
Bottom Line: NXears Opera and Sonata IEMS
If you have listened to them, you will agree that NXEars gave Opera its title because there would be some opera in your ears when the play button is pressed. Opera is a different approach to IEMs. It draws large pictures, looks at the mood and then puts them together.
NXEar’s staging and imaging concepts are delightfully different from other IEMs I have ever heard. It is worth mentioning as an eye-opener. Opera is NXEar’s flagship go-to option for in-ear headphones.
PROS of NXears Opera and Sonata IEMS
- Analyticity performed smoothly
- Uniquely designed imaging presentation
- AGL technology provides low ear/sound pressure
- Wide, deep headroom
CONS of NXears Opera and Sonata IEMS
- Some might find the sound unorthodox
- Not recommended for people who want strong bass punches
Conclusion: NXEars Opera & Sonata IEMS
NXEars has three unique and different products. It’s worth booking to see the Sonata, Basso and Opera in person if you want to hear something new and to see the results of a single start-up vision.
FAQ: NXEars Opera & Sonata IEMS
What makes NXears Opera unique?
NXEars is unique because it focuses on reducing the negative aural effects caused by the “occlusion effect,” or pressure buildup in the ear canals of listeners due to low frequencies. To correct this problem, all NXEars use a unique acoustic/mechanical innovation called “Aperiodic Ground Loading” (AGL). AGL works at below 10Hz and is asynchronous with the frequency response of earphones.
NXEars claims that this innovation significantly benefits hearing health and reduces the fatigue associated with listening. The inner ear is freed from self-distortion, which results in a clear, distortion-free, delicate and revealing musical experience.
What is Better NXears Opera, or Sonata IEMS?
NXEars is a company that has set out to create an IEM line to deliver balanced and expansive soundstages to the world.