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Other Review

The NuForce HEM8 Earphones Are a True Winner

Other ReviewFouzan AlamComment


From the moment you unwrap the NuForce HEM8 earphones there is an unmistakeable feel of quality to them. The box and carrying case they come in is not only well built, but is an excellent value for protecting your purchase. The box comes with about six really nice ear tips, and some comply foam tips as well. They come in a waterproof hard case that is large and bulky, and includes a smaller, softer rigid carry case.

Design Philosophy

First of all, this is a quadruple balanced armature headphone, which means there are four little speakers on the inside. Each one is handling a little bit of the sound on its own, so that together, they form a cohesive unit. NuForce designed a proper crossover for these, and by taking steps to eliminate resonance within the casing itself, and design the crossover around such resonance. By paying attention to the casing, which many multi driver IEM's leave out, NuForce achieved a crossover that results in a far better balanced armature headphone than I've heard before. I would say overall, that this design results in a clean and cohesive sound that is as detailed as it is immersive. 

Accessories/build quality/comfort

The headphones comes with a hard case, a soft case, and six(!) different pairs of ear tips, meaning no one should have any problem finding ones that fit. And NuForce even went out of their way to include two separate cables - one with a mic, and a second one without the mic, both braided to reduce cable sounds. The cables are replaceable, and due to their quality it’s unlikely they’ll break or be damaged. but you have a replacement if you really need it. It’s a fantastic added value, and really makes a headphone that already feels better than its $500 price tag an even better value. 

The materials are exceedingly carefully chosen, and the entire package, from headphones to accessories, feels sturdy and high quality. When I first saw these, their small size surprised me. One of the unexpected side effects of designing these headphones like a larger speaker, with taking case resonance into account, is that you get a smaller speaker body than you would otherwise. The resulting package fits really comfortably into the ears.


First of all, the sound on these is PHENOMENAL. After letting them burn in for 24 hours came the song tests:

The first song we listened to was Eagles classic "Hotel California." The bass goes deep on the HEM8. Really Deep. But the genius behind them is that the bass doesn’t overpower the mids or highs. Rather, it warms the mids and compliments the crisp highs. The result is a cohesive and immersive sound, with a slightly fun signature - dark and deep bass, and a crisp, detailed treble. The HEM8 had me nodding my head to the beat, and smiling.

Our next listen to this was Arctic Monkeys' "Arabella" - another very tough song on most speakers, because the bass is complex and layered. The HEM8's handled it without any problems. The multiple layers were laid out in excellent detail over a 3-dimensional bubble that wrapped around my head. This is the result of a very even soundstage. The lows, mids, and highs are very clearly represented here.

Our third song on these was "Drive It Like You Stole It" by The Glitch Mob. Another excellent song with tons of little details that can get lost in the bass. This wasn't the case at all with the HEM8's. All the details and spatial cues came through without any problems and the representation the song was nothing short of jaw dropping.

After that came The Pixies' "Is She Weird." The separation between the softer and louder cymbals, and the guitar  was incredible. This song  truly demonstrates the capabilities of these headphones at the top of the frequency range. Every little detail is flushed out with sparkle, and without any sibilance (the really sharp hissing or "S" sounds).

Finally, for the mids and vocals, we listened to "Disenchanted Lullabies" by Foo Fighters. Vocals were clean and crisp, and the guitar, cymbals, drums, never intruded upon the words, instead flowing into a synchronous performance. 

Final Verdict

NuForce has a true winner on their hands with the HEM8. As expensive as they may be, they are an awesome value for the money and the best for their price point, and are for all intents and purposes a miniature version of the reference-level KEF speakers I have sitting on my desktop. The entire time I listened I found myself rediscovering little details in all my music, and was blown away by how great it all sounded along the way.

A Guide to Finding the Best Headphones for Your Money

Music List, Other ReviewFouzan AlamComment

In recent years it’s become harder and harder to find headphones that allow you to listen to music the way it’s meant to be heard, as more and more audio gear is made with heavy bias. The iPod explosion contributed to a saturated market for headphones, and so many companies felt the need to differentiate their products based on creating a unique sound. Unfortunately, this trend has made it much more difficult for purists to enjoy music in the best way possible - the way the artist originally intended for it to be heard.

Headphones that are unbiased may not sound very impressive when you first try them on in a shop. However, just like a good wine, you will notice that they provide more subtle details to every single track in your library in time, and that they aren’t horrible for listening to certain genres or more complex tracks, as biased equipment can often be. If there is bass or treble in the actual track, you will hear it in all its genuine texture and crispness, and if there is NOT, then you won’t have it added to the music in a bombastic, bloated manner, distracting you from the essence of the music. If you’re coming from sub-par headphones, it can be an unusual experience, but it will grow on you.

There are still headphones in every price range that were made with the goal of achieving this transparency, and we have reviewed and sorted them below by price range and in-ear v. over-the-head categories.


In Ear:
VSonic VSD1S ($49)

VSonic came into the audio world with a splash, and provides a wide range of headphones, from the cheap yet quite clean sounding VSD1S to the more expensive products like the GR07. This particular model is the best you can do for an in-ear headphone at this price. For those on a budget, this will handle everything you throw at them.



Sony MDR ZX100 ($32)

If you’re looking for strong headphones for this price range, Sony has your back. They make the most well balanced and clean sounding headphones that won’t break the bank.




In Ear:
Sure SE 215 ($99)

Ah, Sure. They’ve done an amazing job with their in-ear monitors, and the SE215 is the first place you start to see a good dual driver earbud. These are also the first balanced armature headphones on the list. Balanced Armature drivers are smaller, and produce a more accurate sound, but across less pitch. Sure got around that by sticking two balanced armatures in each earpiece. One for the highs, and one for the lows, contributing to a nice clean sound, with plenty of detail to boot.

AKG ATH M50X ($150)

If you search around online it's not hard to find a lot of people who really love the ATH M50X. They are an improved model of the ATH M50, and are most people’s
gateway drug into audiophilia. Comfortable and noise cancelling, they also have excellent sound quality. If you're the type to close your eyes and imagine your favorite band playing in front of you, this is the way to do it.


In Ear:
Westone UM2 ($250)

Like Sure, Westone has done some wonderful things for in-ear lovers. Again, using a dual balanced armature system, but with better tuning and more detail, Westone creates a winner at this price point for those who want every detail in their music, from their morning commute, to their daily run.

Sony MDR1R ($223)

Big brother to the other MDR mentioned earlier, these headphones have some of the clearest, crispest sounding instrumentals and vocals you can find for
this price. The are also one of the first headphones in this list where you start to get some real soundstaging. The music feels 3D, and the sounds of an orchestra
will envelop you.


In Ear:
Logitech Ultimate Ears 900 ($349)

Ultimate Ears was its own company until Logitech bought them a few years back. While their lower end models aren’t really anything special, the UE 900
stands out as one of the best sounding in ear headphones I’ve heard at this price. Sporting an impressive four balanced armature drivers per ear they have separate drivers for the mids, highs, and bass. The soundstaging on these is beautiful, and when you walk around, it feels like the band is following you through
space. It’s a wonderful feeling. Oh, and as an added bonus, the cables are removable.

Sennheiser HD 600 ($340)

Sennheiser has long been regarded as the king of headphones, until they were usurped by Audeze a few years ago. Even then, at this price range, you simply
cannot get anything better than the HD600. This is the stage where the sound you get out of MP3 files starts to feel like it’s not quite enough, so switching to some lossless audio, or more detailed sources, such as CD or Vinyl is suggested for maximum enjoyment. Keep in mind that these are open back headphones, though.
People will be able to hear what you’re listening to. But don’t worry too much - everyone will appreciate some Tchaikovsky.


In Ear:
InEar StageDiver 2 ($450)

There’s a lot that could be said about German engineering, but the only thing I will say is that these are the first In Ear headphones I've heard that match the
soundstage of over-the-head headphones in their price category. There are two things that balanced armatures tend to struggle with. First, they have trouble doing
bass, and second, they have trouble with the 3D nature of sound, simply because they’re so close to your ears. The StageDiver 2 is not held back by either of these, and has two precision tuned balanced armature drivers. It
presents a beautiful sound that’s perfect for portable users, with some of the most perfectly balanced bass, mids, and highs in a 3D setting. These are the holy grail of in ear monitors.

Oppo PM3 ($399)

Now we’re getting into some interesting stuff. with the Oppo PM3, for the first time, we see a planar magnetic headphone under $500. Planar magnetic headphones are the “next level” of speaker technology, too big to be placed into tiny in ear units, but perfect for large headphones. The Oppos are comfortable, and
impeccably detailed. They leave nothing to chance, and just present clean, beautiful, smooth, and perfect sound. The bass is not overpowering, but it reveals texture as it goes low... so, so low. It doesn’t feel like someone is playing in your head, it feels like they’re in the room, revolving around you.