VJJB N30: Alien Engine

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out the N30 from VJJB.

A few years back VJJB was one of those brands that often came up in conversations about top tier budget friendly earphones. The K4 was a beautiful wooden model with a wonderful finish and a warm, bassy sound that still impresses people to this day. My personal favourite, the K2, was a 6mm micro driver model with an aluminum shell and a flat cable that was actually good. It also offered up a smooth, well-balanced sound that keeps it near the top of my favourite micro-driver models. They also had a number of dual-dynamic models (V1 and N1) in the vein of the JVC HA-FXT90 which were generally well received, however, at that time 1+1 hybrids were just hitting the mainstream so dynamic based earphones were overshadowed in favour of newer tech. Lastly, there was the C1 ear bud.

The N30 we’re looking at today takes a little bit from everything in VJJB’s back catalogue and brings it up to date. It is a triple driver hybrid with two dynamic drivers (6mm and 8mm) and one balanced armature mounted backwards in the nozzle, something I had not seen before (or at least noticed on other products). With a stunning design and uncommon driver lineup, the N30 peaked my interest. Is the N30 going to return VJJB to the spotlight?

Let’s find out.

Disclaimer:

Thanks to Le Yoo with AK Audio for agreeing to provide a sample of the N30 for the purposes of review. The thoughts here are my subjective impressions of this earphone after having spent a fair amount of time listening to it. They do not represent VJJB, AK Audio, or any other entity. At the time of writing the N30 could be picked up for 29.59 CAD:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/33001765869.html?storeId=119089&spm=2114.12010612.8148356.4.23ca3754kBtG2O

Personal Preference:

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.

Sources:

Mobile: Shanling M0 with the Periodic Audio Nickel amp, or, ZiShan DSD by itself

@home: ZiShan DSD or Asus FX53V laptop plugged into a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp

Specifications:

  • Driver: 6mm + 8mm + 1 balanced armature
  • Impedance: 20ohms
  • Sensitivity: 96dB
  • Frequency Response: 10-22,000Hz
  • Power: 5mW

Packaging and Accessories:

The N30 arrives in a wide, flat, white cardboard box. On the front is a profile shot of the N30’s ear piece in silver foil along with the text “Line Change” and “Two moving rings of a moving iron”. I presume that meant to say, “Two dynamic driver and a balanced armature”. Flipping to the back you find the all important specifications along with contact and location information for VJJB.

Lifting off the lid you find a large manual spanning the width and height of the package. It’s quite an impressive manual with card stock for the front and back and high quality paper within. I have no idea what most of the content says though, since as it’s all in Chinese characters. Translating that is a job for the Google Translate app!

Lifting out the manual reveals the interior split in to two sections. On the left is a plastic tray with the tips neatly laid out in rows, secured on pegs. The VJJG logo is pressed into the middle. On the right is another plastic tray, this time holding the earpieces. Lifting out the tray reveals the cable and remaining accessories. In all you get:

  • N30 earphones
  • Removable cable with DC connectors
  • Fabric carrying bag
  • Vecro cable tie
  • Single flange silicone tips, wide bore (s/m/l)
  • Single flange silicone tips, medium bore (s/m/l)
  • Foam tips (m)

Overall a perfectly fine accessory kit. I quite like the carrying bag. While it doesn’t provide any protection from being crushed, scratches won’t be an issue and it is very much pocket-able. The included tips are pretty generic but the quality is good and they work to provide a consistent seal. I’ll be avoiding the foam tips though. They stained the plastic pegs. Not sure I want that in my ears… Lastly, I was surprised to see the cable using DC connectors when MMCX is advertised. That’ll be a rude awaking for someone expecting MMCX. At least the stock cable is pretty decent and isn’t something that needs replacement out of the box.

Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

The N30’s shells are all plastic. The inner half is clear acrylic akin in quality to that which is used by TFZ on the Series 2. It feels fine but not as high a quality as some other products, like the KZ ZSN, as it lacks the same feeling of density. Since the material is clear, you can see the drivers and crossover and neat soldering job. The outer half of the shell has a metallic blue coating which looks quite fetching. There are three ovular viewing windows that allow you to see the 6mm and 8mm dynamics, as well as the cable port. Overall fit and finish is good, though there is a bit of an edge around the rear of the housing where the clear acrylic meets up with the metallic blue plate. Didn’t effect comfort thankfully.

The cable is pretty decent with one notable flaw. First, the good. The clear sheath showing off the wiring within, while a little stiff, feels durable and is quite tangle resistant. The straight jack, y-split, DC plugs, and chin cinch are all made from the same flexible green rubber that provides decent grip. Strain relief at the jack, leading into the y-split, and at the DC plugs is well designed giving the cable excellent protection from bends and tugs. Where the cable falters is in the preformed ear guides. VJJB formed the first bend but it seems like they forgot to form the rest. As a result, the cable wraps up and around the ear but the guide fails to complete the rest of the bend which would normally hold it behind the ear. This results in the cable popping up and over the ear unless you pull the cinch tightly up and under the chin. This is one of those rare cases where memory wire would have been a better option.

Despite their pudgy design, the N30 is actually a really comfortable earphone. The smooth shape reminds me of a stone smoothed by the sea and as such is about as inoffensive against the ear as it gets. If you have small outer ears you might run into problems due to the size, but everyone else I suspect will have a good time. The light weight afforded by the all-plastic design helps too.

Isolation is not great. Even with music playing, plenty of outside noise makes it’s way inside. I guess it’s a good thing the N30 performs at it’s best at higher volumes, because should you plan to take these with you on the bus or other noisy areas, you’ll need to crank the volume to compensate for outside disturbances.

Sound:

Tips: The N30 doesn’t seem too sensitive to tips, but there were some minor changes I noticed. Small bore tips raised mid-bass and made the treble a bit less well controlled. Wide bore tips, my preference, balanced out the bass and reduced the overall quantity too. Foam tips acted much the same as small bore tips, but without the loss of treble control. They also bumped up isolation which is otherwise pretty poor. Not a bad choice.

The N30 has been saddled with an l-shaped signature to my ears. Treble and midrange play second fiddle to the bass, though not by a large margin.

Treble is fairly well extended with decent control. Cymbals are a tad on the splashy side as noticed when listening to Skindred’s “Cause Ah Riot”, but not enough to be a distraction. Detail is also quite good, but due to the fairly mellow presentation isn’t something that really stands out. Decay is typical BA and as such is quite snappy letting the N30’s treble region keep up with busy tracks. Really though, this area provides an experience that is not memorable. Not necessarily a good thing, but not bad either since it in no way detracts from a listening session.

The midrange has a fairly natural tonality with a hint of an artificial edge to the timbre as noticed when listening to King Crimson’s live recording of “Cat Food”. It’s well in line with what is expected from a product in this price range and better than what I’ve heard from some significantly pricier planar-based iems I’ve heard. So, while not ideal it’s far from a deal breaker. Both male and female vocals are evenly represented without either taking precedent. Clarity is again quite good, though some micro details are glossed over slightly. Acoustic guitars have adequate bite to them with heavy metal riffs provided by electric guitars chugging along in an entertaining way. I quite enjoyed this earphone with Havok, though I wouldn’t say the N30 is one of the better iems out there for metal.

Bass is prominent with a good lower and upper region balance. While it digs deep, sub-bass roll off is noticeable and mid-bass slam fairly reserved which keeps these from being a good option for bassheads, in my opinion. That said, listening to a track like Infected Mushroom’s “Groove Attack” could sway my opinion at high volumes where the N30’s low end performs at it’s best. Texturing is solid as evident when listening to the crunchy basslines on tracks from The Prodigy and Tobacco. The low end is reasonably quick too, handling Havok’s rapid double bass well.

The N30’s sound stage is unexpectedly large providing a fair bit of width and depth to your listening experience. More depth than width, opposite of my usual experience with budget gear. Running through BT’s dreamlike album that is ‘If The Stars Are Eternal Than So Are You And I‘ with the N30 results in you being dipped into and engulfed by the music and effects. Imaging is fine, but not super accurate. It’s usable for gaming, but not ideal. The N30 effectively layers tracks and separates instruments so that congestion isn’t an issue.

Final Thoughts:

Going back to a question posed at the beginning: Is the N30 going to return VJJB to the spotlight? Honestly, probably not. It’s still a good earphone though, and one that buyers wanting a stylish product with an easy listening, bass forward sound should consider. The N30 isn’t going to break the bank either since it is plenty affordable, coming in at under 30 CAD.

I’m glad VJJB is back and while the N30 isn’t the complete slam dunk I was hoping for, it’s far from a failure and offers an uncommon signature that caters to a specific crowd.

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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