Now going back to my original thoughts, if this was like the original NS800 IEM in 2012 this review was going nowhere fast given it’s hot treble and sibilant response noted by most reviewers. Thankfully, although still displaying some traits of a single BA setup, the NS800 V2 is actually much smoother and rather more weighted than my interpretation of the reviews of v1 without loosing any of that detail one would expect to find in an armature driver. Now I am not sure if they threw out the V1 BA for a new one or they changed the tuning or filter but in just about every setup I had the the NS800 came out shining with a warmish to neutral tonality and excellent detail and resolution. I would have loved to to see a special edition with detachable cables just to see what higher cables could achieve but out of the box I doubt those looking for detail, clairity and articulation are going to feel short changed.
Comparing the NS800 with some dual BA knowles setups in similar price territory was quite reveleaing. While the Rock-it R50 has a touch more solidity to the bass the N800 is far smoother and more refined in the lower treble displaying a really natural timbre and well above average if slightly forward mid-range and a top notch vocal stage. Ayo’s “What is Love” displays virtually no sibilance to speak off and a well centered powerful and detailed vocal display using the AK100. The FA DBA MK2 was brighter and too energetic and felt rather harsh in comparison to the more refined NS800.
For the most part I tested the NS800 with vocal driven tracks and felt it to be really natural and smooth and realtively easy to listen to for long periods. Changing to more modern pop and beat orientated genre the single BA was far more capable than I thought it would be initially. High impact bass is still not the BA strength but the NS800 managed to keep everything relatively coherent and tight making the slightly bass lite presentation far less noticeable and possibly more enjoyable as a result. This is how the Westone UM1 should have sounded like in my mind. The BA architecture should and can scale pretty good if well implemented and it doesn’t have to be seeringly bright either in the case of the Knowles driver type IEM’s. Give me clarity, accuracy and good timbre any day over huge wads of bass coloration.
I did notice that the NS800 does require just a little juice to get the best out of it. The AK100 volume was around 55-60 for best results and throwing it onto my BB Q10 dulled the dynamics and resolution significantly with the volume sitting at 8/10 for flac. Using my Muse PD1+ USB/DAC amp from the PC the bottom end felt a little more colored and the hiss levels increased a bit with the volume hitting around 12 noon before it got uncomfortable.
Actually if I am being honest I noticed just a bit of hiss also from the AK100 but slightly less from the FiiO X5 though the X5 didn’t quite have the detail, expecially in the vocals, that I felt I got from the AK100 but it did a pretty fine job regardless. I didn’t have the X3 on hand sadly to confirm if its older DAC warm and lush tones were a perfect match which is where my mind was drifting.
Click on next page for final thoughts…