NiceHCK P3: Pearlescent

Greetings!

NiceHCK is an online retailer that started developing earphones and other products under their own brand, conveniently named NiceHCK. They have recently seen a massive jump in popularity in online forums thanks to what feels like a big push to get their products into the hands of reviewers. Hi! I’m B9Scrambler and today we’re checking out the NiceHCK P3.

The P3 is a triple driver hybrid with two balanced armatures handling mids and treble, and one dynamic driver running the show down low. Budget hybrids seem to get a lot of flack for shoving the armatures in the nozzle. Worry not, for NiceHCK thought of this. They’ve nestled them back into the housings with visible sound tubes to channel sweet nothings into your ear holes. People often complain about the use of 2-pin cables because of the various sizes, among other things, that make finding suitable 3rd party alternatives challenging. The P3 is equipped with standard MMCX connectors, so fear not young forum goer for replacing the cable will be easy as pie. How charming.

We know so far that the P3 addresses a number of complaints people routinely level against wallet friendly hybrids. That’s great and all, but is it any good? Let’s find out.

P1000130

Disclaimer:

The P3 was sent over by Jim with NiceHCK, free of charge, for the purposes of review. The thoughts here are my own subjective opinions based a month or so of use. They do not represent NiceHCK or any other entity. At the time of writing, the P3 was retailing for 48.07 CAD/36.00 USD. You can check it out here on AliExpress (not an affiliate link).

Sources:

The Shanling M0 and LG G6 / Radsone ES100 combo took turns running the P3. I didn’t hear any benefit from amping with the Walnut F1, Auglamour GR-1, or my desktop option the TEAC HA-501.

Personal Preferences:

I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.

Specifications:

  • Drivers: 2 balanced armatures + 1 dynamic
  • Impedance: 12ohms
  • Sensitivity: 106+/-2dB/mW
  • Frequency Response: 20-40,000Hz

Packaging and Accessories:

The P3 didn’t arrive with any form of retail packaging. Just a carrying case inside a plastic bag with the earphones and all accessories tucked in the case. In all you get:

  • P3 earphones
  • MMCX cable
  • Single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • Bi-flange tips blue (m)
  • Bi-flange tips white (m)
  • Foam tips (m)

Not a bad kit overall. The case is a good size and well built with the NiceHCK logo neatly pressed into the top. The single flange tips are a bit on the thin, flimsy side, but they work perfectly so no complaints there. The bi-flange tips are a welcome inclusion, but including two sets of the same size is a bit redundant. Even though I think foam tips are the wrong choice for an earphone with this signature, for those times you need extra isolation I’d much rather have them than not so props to NiceHCK for their inclusion.

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Comfort, Build, and Isolation:

The P3 will have a familiar shape to anyone that has been following the Chinese earphone market the last few years. Brands that may come to mind upon looking at the P3 are KZ and TFZ since they use very similar shells on a number of models; ZST, ED12, ZSN, King Experience, My Love II, etc. etc. I think that’s a good thing because it’s pretty darn comfortable. All the edges are rounded and the body fits naturally in the outer ear, though those with small ears might find the P3 a bit snug. Regardless, I don’t have your ears and in mine the P3 is wearable for hours on end without experiencing any discomfort.

Along with a familiar shape, the build is like many of those models too. My particular P3 is blue with a gorgeous pearlescent back plate and in my opinion it looks pretty stunning. This isn’t detracted from any due to the mostly plastic build. For the most part the plastics feel good with what looks to be a clear coat filling the gap between the face plate and main body of the earphone. Such a gap is common on KZs using this style of shell and hides vents for the drivers, whereas here on the P3 the only vent sits beneath the dynamic. On the bottom there is a half moon shaped molding line that takes away from the feel a bit since it breaks up what is otherwise a perfectly smooth shell, but it doesn’t get in the way or cause any problems. If anything it is an aesthetic qualm that 99% of people wouldn’t notice and/or care about. The nozzle is a separate metal piece with a fine fabric or plastic mesh covering the hole to protect the drivers within. From a visual standpoint these nozzles look great, but there is always a worry they will pop off when changing tips. The P3’s looks to be well glued so that’s not something I’m going to be worrying about.

The cable is quite nice and should please most users. It feature a thick, two-core twisted design with a copper colouring. It is flexible, memory resistant in regards to bends and kinks, and doesn’t transmit much noise. It even performs fairly well in the cold, only stiffening slightly in -16c weather. The 90 degree angled jack is a mix of metal and rubber with an effective strain relief in place to protect from aggressive bending. The y-split serves only to hide where the cable untwists and sends the two stands to opposing ear pieces. This is a great design since you don’t have to worry about solders in the y-split acting as a weak point. Just above the y-split is a plastic chin cinch that works well. When in use it doesn’t slide down the cable on it’s own. Leading into the ear pieces are some preformed ear guides that are smooth, naturally shaped to wrap around the ear, and do a great job of holding the cable where it needs to be. The MMCX plugs are black painted metal with coloured rings at the best to denote the two channels; blue for left, red for right.

Isolation is slightly above average. Thanks to the lack of ventilation the P3 isolated slightly better than its KZ and TFZ counterparts, but the shallow fit means you’re still going to hear some sounds bleeding in. The included tips go a long way to rectifying this and while I don’t like how they sound with the P3, I do recommend using them if you need the improved isolation.

P1000126.JPG

Sound:

I had mixed expectations going into the P3. Normally I avoid reading reviews prior to writing my own. However, this wasn’t something I was expecting to hear at any point so I read the coverage and came to the conclusion that it was pretty average at best. Now that I’ve spent a few weeks with the P3, I’m pleased to report that it has an intriguing signature that, while not something I would expect to be universally praised (and it hasn’t), is something a slightly niche audience would enjoy; i.e. Those that dislike both elevated treble and elevated bass.

I didn’t find this earphone bassy nor bright, and while its not mid-forward either, the mid-range does stand out as it’s ace-in-the-hole, so to speak. The first thing I noticed was that the P3 has a very dry timbre, something that carries through the entire signature. Props to NiceHCK for matching tonality between the dynamic and armature drivers. This dryness combined with a lack of mid-bass warmth forces my attention to the vocals and how impressively detailed they are. Whether I was listening to Aesop Rock rap about his brother’s little league coach playing live whack-a-mole mid-game or Sarah Barthel sing about falling in love, the P3 performed equally well. With the P3, I was actively hunting through my library to find vocal heavy tracks just so I could listen to the engaging presentation.

The low end of the P3 doesn’t have amazing extension but it digs deep enough to provide some visceral feedback. Focus is mostly on the fairly reserved mid-bass which I found quite punchy. On The Prodigy’s “Thunder” the bass hit with authority and gave a pleasant little thump that other, more well-received earphones like the TinHiFi T2 fail to reproduce. Texture is nothing to write home about with the P3 smoothing out some of the more grungy notes found throughout Tobacco’s “F*****d Up Friends”. Again, this contributed to the vocal funneling I mentioned earlier.

People seem to enjoy complaining about budget Chinese gear being overly bright to make it seem like there is more detail present than there actually is. If you’re one of those people, give the P3 a whirl. The treble presentation here is very mellow and laid back with a nice upper end roll off that keeps it smooth and inoffensive. Cymbals and chimes ring with a light, relaxing smatter that remains easy on the ears even at volumes I’m generally quite uncomfortable with. Given the relaxed nature, micro details are something you have to listen for, but they are there. In find the upper ranges of the P3 quite clear and defined, just extremely laid back.

The P3’s sound stage comes across quite wide to my ears, but not particularly deep. It’s a bit two dimensional in that regard, but it rarely impacted things too negatively and I could enjoy my music without distraction. Using them for some PUBG (yeah, I still play that) it was easy to determine which side someone was coming from and to track their movement thanks to some great imaging. Determining distance was more of a challenge and often resulted in getting ambushed since they weren’t where I was expecting. I wouldn’t recommend these for gaming, at least not games that rely on spatial queues to be successful.

To me the P3’s tuning feels like a direct response to everything people commonly complain about in online forums when it comes to Chinese hybrids. Not a fan of bright earphones? No problem. Hate recessed mids? Won’t find that here. Detest bloated, overboosted bass? No way! So does the P3.

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Select Comparisons:

KZ ZSN (15-20.00 USD): The ZSN has a warmer, darker signature but shows greater extension in the treble with additional emphasis in the brilliance region. This makes it more airy and lively. The P3’s mid-range is more forward and clear, but doesn’t have as natural a timbre presentation. Bass on the ZSN digs deeper and provides a more visceral experience. It is also more textured, but not quite as quick. The ZSN also has a larger, more well-rounded sound stage. Imaging goes to the P3, but I found layering and separation more effective out of the ZSN’s dual-driver hybrid setup.

The ZSN and P3 feature similar shell designs, both with metal nozzles. The ZSN eschews a plastic face plate in favour of a metal one. In my opinion, this gives it a more premium feel thanks to the extra weight. I prefer the looks of the P3 though. The pearlescent back plate looks pretty stunning. While the P3 uses MMCX for it’s removable cable system, KZ rolls with 0.75mm 2-pin plugs. While 2-pin setups are usually more reliable, MMCX has a larger market for third party cables should the stock one need to be replaced. With a product in this price range, I’d say MMCX gives it an advantage since you could more easily personalize the P3, even if for my personal preferences I like KZ’s 2-pin system more, especially the one on the ZSN.

TinHiFi T1 (~25.00 USD): The T1’s single dynamic driver offers improved end to end extension over the P3. Treble on the T1 has a thicker feel to its notes and doesn’t pull detail quite as well as the P3, but it is more evenly balanced through the ranges. The P3’s mid-range is more forward a leaner but again offers more detail and greater clarity. The T1’s timbre is much more natural and accurate. The P3’s bass feels more nimble and textured, but falls off earlier than the T1. Sound stage on the T1 is wider and deeper. P3 images better but it lacks the same sense of depth and spaciousness leading to the T1 having improved layering and instrument separation. The T1’s biggest strength over the P3 is a more natural tonality and balanced tune than is much like the T2, but bassier.

Build on the T1’s ear pieces is vastly superior with perfectly machined metal parts. The P3 take it on looks, however. Plus it has a higher quality, removable cable. The T1’s cable is fixed and poorly relived so longevity is under scrutiny. Comfort is also better on the P3 thanks to a more natural shape. The T1’s low profile button-like housings are nice but hampered by short nozzles that require a careful tip selection.

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Final Thoughts:

Reviewing the P3 has certainly been an interesting process. While the tune is a little unorthodox, it comes together to provide an experience that can be quite engaging, especially with vocal centric tracks. It’s also beautiful to look at, comfortable, has decent isolation, and a good accessory kit. The main problem for me is value.

At 36 USD there are quite a number of products that have a more widespread appeal with their tune and are at least as technically competent, plus they improve on the P3’s material quality with metal shells and/or nicer plastics. At 25 USD I’d have no issues telling you to go ahead and grab a pair if interested. It’s a good product, but at 36 USD the competition is aggressive and the P3 just doesn’t have a killer quality you can point to that would set it apart, unless of course you really like how it looks. As is I do actually enjoy it quite a bit, it’s just hard to recommend at the price point.

Thanks for reading!

– B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

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)

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