Today we’re taking a “quick” gander at the Massdrop x NuForce EDC, just one of the many, many, many Massdrop teamups now available to registered Massdropers.
My interest in the EDC was first piqued back in April or May when a few popular Head-fi’ers were giving it some pretty darn positive feedback. Since it utilized a 6mm microdriver, I jumped on that drop like a lyger on a lama as soon as I could. It was a long wait from June 2nd to the unit’s arrival at my home on October 11th, 2017, but for the most part the wait was worth it. While it’s certainly not the best earphone I’ve heard in this price range, the EDC has a lot going for it and very little going against it.
Let’s see what makes the EDC’s (Every Day Carry) name so fitting, shall we?
I purchased the EDC off Massdrop for 59.99 USD using my own hard-earned dollars and felt like sharing my thoughts. As a result, the opinions within this review are my own and do not represent Massdrop, NuForce, or any other entity.
The EDC seems to drop pretty frequently. If you are a Massdrop member you can check it out here; https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-NuForce-edc-in-ear-monitors
If you’re not a member, I recommend signing up. It’s completely free and while most drops aren’t the best deal in the world for us Canadians due to shipping and conversion fees, you can get some interesting items at great prices if you’re patient. Their community forums also lead to some entertaining and helpful discussions.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer unique examples of signatures I enjoy.
For at home use the EDC was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, Walnut V2s, or Shanling M1. The Walnut F1 also made it’s way into the rotation at times. Even though the EDC doesn’t need to be amped, like many microdriver-based earphones they aren’t overly sensitive. They seem to really come alive and sound more vibrant and engaging with the additional power. Amping recommended.
- Impedance: 16Ω
- Headphone sensitivity: 90.5dB +/- 3dB
- Frequency range: 20Hz – 40kHz
- 0.77mm 2-pin cables
Packaging and Accessories:
At this point I’ve had a few Optoma NuForce products cross my path (spoiler: more NuForce reviews incoming!), and something the brand really seems to excel at is giving you a lot of stuff for your money. The EDC is no exception. Things start off well with a very clean looking package. It’s nothing overly elegant, made with fairly thin and delicate cardboard but it gives you a lot of information, both visually and written.
On the front you of course find some Massdrop branding, expected given these are a crossover product, along with your typical NuForce branding and model details. You also find the Hi-Res Audio logo because this little guy’s treble extends to that “magical” 40 kHz number. Between all this is a glossy, detailed image of the EDC’s left earpiece that shows off the included foam tips, removable cable, L/R marking indicators, and that this earphones has a low profile fit. The left side simply states “Massdrop x NuForce” while the right shows off the silicone tip design, 90 degree angled jack, and the y-split which doubles as the inline control module and mic. You also get a glimpse of the useful chin cinch. Flipping to the rear you are bombarded with information which includes a list of features, a diagram advising how to plug the cables in correctly, a diagram of media control functions, and an exploded image of the construction and constituent parts that make up the EDC. I always appreciate those diagrams, simply because I enjoy understanding how something was put together. The majority of you probably couldn’t care less I’m sure.
Inside you are immediately greeted by the carrying case. Sliding out the insert beneath it you see the EDC displayed in a foam/cardboard hybrid cutout. The case holds all of the accessories of which there are many. In all you get;
- EDC earphones
- Two cables (braided “hi-fi” cable and a “mobile” one with a mic/remote)
- Three pairs of silicone ear tips (s/m/l)
- Two pairs of foam ear tips (m/l)
- Compact, semi-hard clamshell carrying case
- Shirt clip
Ignoring the ever so basic shirt clip, everything feels really nice and of good quality. The carrying case especially impresses, though it’s construction suffers from some half-arsery that affects overall quality. At first glance the construction is great. Everything is stitched together nicely with a durable canvas material used for the exterior. The zipper moves confidently and feels like it should last a while. Inside it’s lined with a soft fabric and there is a handy net to hold all the extra tips and bits. That net is where the aforementioned half-arsery comes into play.
Instead of being sewn in place like you would expect, the net is attached to a fabric covered strip of cardboard that it glued to the rest of the case. In my experience and apparently those of many others on Massdrop, this insert has come loose or fallen out. To fix this you can either glue the insert back in yourself or just set it back in place and it still does what it’s supposed to do. In the grand scheme of things it’s a relatively minor issue because the case still does it’s job, however, it’s little details like this that can get to a consumer if it’s not addressed. On the plus side, NuForce does have a presence on Massdrop and they seem keen to assist buyers who run into this problem, so good on them.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
An earphone named EDC, which stands for ‘Every Day Carry’, needs to be durable, comfortable, and isolate well to meet my expecations of what a daily driver should accomplish. It should not be a product I have to worry about and baby to ensure it lasts. Based on my experiences with the EDC over the last couple months, I feel NuForce has crafted a product that does the EDC name well.
The ear piece housings are very well-constructed with great fit and finish and are made from Lexan, a lightweight, polycarbonate known for it’s durability. The exterior half of the shell is a dark, translucent blue while the inner half is a solid, matte black. EDC is printed on the inner right, while Massdrop can be found on the inner left. In addition to the color-coded L and R markings on the exterior of the shell, you can use these details to easily determine which channel is which. While the lipless nozzles are overall fairly slender at 3mm (average is usually 5mm in my experience), the thickness of the nozzle walls is fairly impressive at around 0.5mm, leaving only enough room for a Shure-style tuning filter to be tucked within. I wouldn’t want to sit on these just in case, but I honestly believe they could take it.
The two cables are also quite nice, though one stands above the other as superior in my opinion, partly due to intented use of this product and partly due to what it does to the EDC’s sound. That’s start with the lesser of the two; the braided cable.
NuForce’s braided cable has a number of positive qualities to it. Despite almost never being used and spending almost all it’s time folded up in the case and wrapped tightly by the included Velcro strap, it’s surprisingly resiliant to memory and within a short period of use straightens right out. The subtle performed ear guides are a nice touch and keep the cable in place behind your ear, even under heavy activity. Further down the cable is a chin cinch added in the style of high end custom earphones; a piece of tubing. I don’t get why this is so popular as it really takes away from the premium look and feel of the cable in my opinion. That said, it works well so I really can’t complain. Lastly we work our way down to the 90 degree angled jack. It’s crafted from a combination of dense rubber and metal and is quite compact. It has decent strain relief too, though a touch on the stiff side. This jack should be compact enough to fit in all but the most beefy of cell phone and player cases.
The mobile option is more of the same but trades up the braided cable for a more traditional one. I don’t know what it is about this cable, but I absolutely love the way it feels. It’s pretty flexible with a touch of stiffness to it that really helps with tangle resistance. Microphonics are minimal, strain relief is improved at the y-split and jack when compared to the braided cable, and of course the inline remote is very convenient when using the EDC with my phone. Another big plus is that it retains these qualities in the cold whether we’re seeing right now in Ontario, something I find quite problematic with most earphones. In the end it’s just a great experience using this cable, and I kinda wish you were given a choice; braided cable and traditional cable w/ remote, or the same traditional cable with and without a remote. This wish is also helped along by the fact I think it sounds better too.
I’m normally not one to swap cables for sound changes. I’m more shallow than that and make my choices almost exclusively based on looks, comfort, and durability. However, in the case of these two cables I do notice a change in sound. The braided cable must have a higher impedance as it requires notably more power to achieve the same listening volumes as the mobile cable. Even once you’re there, it sounds to my ears less exciting and somewhat dull. As much as I like the cable, I think it sucks the life out of the EDC so I hardly ever use it.
Dynamic driver earphones often give up some isolation to their balanced armature based counterparts. Be this due to the size and shape needed to accomodate a larger driver, or maybe ventilation in place for tuning or simply to prevent driver flex, whatever the reason they generally let in more sound. The EDC is completely sealed as far as I can tell. How NuForce managed to avoid driver flex I don’t know, but I am very happy about it. As a result of this sealed, low profile design the EDC isolates quite well, especially with foam tips. This would work just fine for commuting, or if you simply want to shut yourself out from the outside world.
Tips: I experimented A LOT with different tips on the EDC, even trying some of the more creative tip mods found over on Head-fi. In the end, I always came back to the stock, preinstalled medium silicone tips. They seemed to provide the most consistent and pleasant experience. The foams tips were great for traveling, but they added additional focus to the low end which hindered the EDC’s comparatively neutral signature. Stock all the way for me, sorry.
In the past I’ve said that I like microdrivers more than any other driver type because they offer the best of both worlds. You get most of the speed and detail of a balanced armature with most of the low end qualities of a larger dynamic. Over the years I’ve gotten to listen to a swath of earphones that use these two driver types in a variety of configurations, and for the most part the EDC supports my theory.
Despite the excellent extension of this earphone’s little microdriver, I’d be hard pressed to belive anyone if they called it bright. The EDC’s treble is clear and prominent, but fairly reserved and free of any uncomfortable peaks. Attack and decay is quick yet natural, but I would prefer if they had a slight peak in the brilliance region as they lack some of the shimmer and sparkle that makes other earphones more vibrant and entertaining. That said, I think NuForce struck a smart balance here between prominance and long term listenability. That’s especially beneficial at higher volumes where these will likely be played if using them during every day activities. Overall clarity and detail in the treble is on par with what I would expect from a microdriver giving the EDC decent air to it’s top end.
The EDC’s mid-range is possibly my favorite aspect. It’s quite neutral in it’s presentation sitting about even with the treble and just behind the slightly elevated mid-bass. I really appreciate just how textured and evenly represented both male and female vocals are. Calyx’s vocals in Calyx & Teebee’s “Long Gone” are full of emotion and character with deeper notes resonating quite well. The same can be said for Sarah Barthel’s vocals on Big Gram’s “Fell in the Sun”. They’re just so sweet and smooth. Vocal-boased tracks are simply a pleasure with this earphone.
Moving into the low end, the EDC loses me a bit, but only because it’s bass performance at the volume I typically listen at is lacking. At low volumes the mid-bass focus is prominent, texturing is minimal, and overall they just sound and feel soft and slow. Feed them some power and volume and, oh my, what a difference. The EDC’s bass really kicks in and tightens up when you up the volume. The sub-bass rumble is there, grit is on full display on my favorite EDM tracks, and there is little to no bleed into the lower mids. I simply cannot listen very long at the volumes needed for this, meaning the rest of you who listen at normal volumes should enjoy what these bring to the table.
I find the EDC’s soundstage somewhat compact, but unlike most microdrivers which do either one of width or depth really well and the other kinda meh, the EDC has a nice rounded, balanced stage. Imagaing is tight and clear with smooth, layered trasitions between channels. Separation is good, though the limited staging does detract from this on particularly congested or busy tracks like King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black”. Nothing to write home about here.
Overall I find a lot to like about the EDC’s sound. It’s an entertaining and fairly reserved tune that due to the mild mid-bass hump ends up working really well in a busy and noisy environment. I find it quite complimentary to the other positive aspects of this product, and fully in line with what I would want from a competent daily driver.
JVC HA-FXH30 (~50.00 USD): Since August 2015, the FXH30 has been my top dog microdriver and one of my favorite earphones of all time. Those lofty positions are held due to it’s unique design and the sonic qualities of it’s tip-mounted 5.8mm, titanium-coated microdriver.
Compared to the vibrant FXH30, the EDC’s signature is much closer to neutral and places it’s focus on a more balanced sound. The FXH30 is brighter, more detailed, and it’s bass digs way deeper. It’s also noticably faster top to bottom and is more accurate in terms of imaging qualities. The FXH30 can be tiring to listen to though as it’s has gobs of shimmer and sparkle to the treble. The EDC’s soundstage isn’t as deep and doesn’t throw sounds as far as the FXH30, but it’s more evenly represented and sounds more whole. In general I feel the FXH30 is a couple steps up in terms of overall sound quality, namely due to it’s speed and technical prowess, but as a daily driver the EDC is better.
The EDC’s isolation is notable more effective than the FXH30’s which is reduced by the ample ventilation in the aluminum top plate of it’s housing. The EDC is also more ergonomic with it’s low profile, cable-over-ear design and as a result is better suited to high movement. The fixed cable of the FXH30 is also a negative, even if it is a very nice cable. I think the FXH30 looks a lot more interesting, however. It’s odd shape, rubber protrusion, and contrasting colors simply make it more engaging on a visual level.
Meze 11 Neo (59.99 USD): I picked the 11 Neo as Meze’s top in-ear because when compared to the 12 Classics, it gave up little in terms of sound quality, had a more durable all-metal shell, and cost 20 USD less. It certainly makes for an interesting comparison with the EDC because the cost the same, they both have an inline mic and single-button remote, and they’re both very well-contructed. That said, the Meze has a few qualities to it that clearly make the EDC the better daily driver; a fixed cable and horrendous microphonics. Mostly due to the microphonics, the 11 Neo is relegated to stationary at-home use.
In terms of sound they are much more of an even match with the 11 Neo taking the edge. Meze’s offering is more detailed with better treble energy yet it retains great long term listenability. It also has a more prominent and forward mid-range, and slightly better bass extension and punch with less mid-bass emphasis. They both have a good, but not great soundstage with equivalent imaging, layering, and separation qualities. The 11 Neo sounds better to my ear, though not by a huge margin.
If the Meze wasn’t saddled with a cable that loved transmitting annoying noises as much as that glorious sound, I’d happily choose it over the EDC. However, until they swap out that cable it’ll only see use in the comfort of my home.
As a daily driver, the EDC makes for a great companion. For 60 USD you’re getting a versatile and durable product with two great cables and lots of quality accessories, though NuForce really needs to address how that case is constructed. While the EDC’s sonic performance isn’t quite as impressive as some of the competition, it’s no slouch, treating listeners to a refined and smooth signature that is non-fatiguing and near-perfect in it’s role as an ‘Every Day Carry’. Add to that a very comfy low profile design and impressive isolation and the EDC is a well-rounded package.
While they’re not the best sounding earphone in their class, I have absolutely no issues recommending these to anyone looking for a reliable all-rounder to take with them on their daily travels. They do pretty much everything well. Nuforce and Massdrop have themselves a content customer.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)