Be Music, My Friend
- Unique sound sensation due to the beryllium diaphragm.
- Quality of construction.
- Quality of accessories, cable and case.
- Tuning does not extract the full potential that the driver is capable of providing.
- Copper wire may not be the best choice for «improving» the sound.
Link to the Store
At this point NiceHCK needs no introduction. It’s already more than just an audio shop on AliExpress, because it has been selling its own products for a long time now, be it cables, earbuds or IEMS. Now even Bluetooth devices, such as the new HB2. But, this time, we’re going to talk about their new top-of-the-range IEM. We are talking about the beautiful Lofty. I must admit that NiceHCK knows how to prepare a product to be at the premium level expected of it. And so it is, the Lofty is exquisitely crafted. First and foremost, it has a 10.1mm dynamic driver, whose diaphragm is made of pure beryllium. It is not easy to find IEMS made of this material, although, in fact, its characteristics make it seem predestined for this use. Second, the capsule is perfectly designed, machined and polished, made of aviation-grade aluminium alloy, which gets its final shape thanks to a 5-axis CNC machine. Thirdly, the classic NiceHCK star occasion cable is a 6N OCC, coated in braided fabric yarn. In total there are 4 thick strands, which are fitted with pins and very shiny metal sleeves to match the capsules. All this without forgetting a simple but beautiful presentation, with a leather box with a magnetic clasp. And the best thing is that their price is not to go crazy, given their final performance. These and other more relevant issues will be discussed below. Come on in.
- Driver Type: 10.1mm dynamic driver with pure beryllium diaphragm. Dual 1.8T magnetic circuit system.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 26kHz.
- Sensitivity: 108dB/mW
- Impedance: 16Ω
- Capsule material
- Cable length: 1.2m±5cm
- Cable material: 6N OCC.
- Jack Connector: choice of 2.5mm/3.5mm/4.4mm
- Capsule connection type: 2Pin 0.78mm
- Choice of Colours: Grey and Rose Gold.
NiceHCK Lofty comes in a medium-sized white box, measuring 171×127.5x54mm. Its exterior is covered by a sliding cardboard sleeve. In the centre of the main face is a realistic photo of a product capsule. Underneath is the name of the model, written in lower-case, cursive, gold lettering. At the bottom, in black ink, is the product description, in Chinese and English. Finally, the brand logo is in the top left-hand corner.
On the back side, at the top, approximately ⅔ have a clear grey background. On it is a soft drawing of the exploded view of a capsule and some specifications. The rest of them are on the remaining white third, plus other notations such as company address, website, EAN13 code and brand logo.
Removing the cardboard reveals a black textured box with the logo engraved in its centre. After opening it like a book or chest, the capsules can be seen stuffed into a thick protective foam mould, along with their cable and the gleaming blue leather box. The total contents are:
- The two Lofty capsules.
- 1 6N OCC cable.
- A blue leather box.
- One magnetised leather loop to hold the cable.
- 3 pairs of black silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- 3 pairs of white translucent silicone tips, size SxMxL.
- 1 pair of white translucent silicone tips, size medium, installed in the capsules.
- Several warranty cards and quality certification.
The glossiness of all the materials is outstanding. The leather case is of good quality, although a bit small for such a bulky cable. The EBX21 case, due to its size, would have been more suitable.
On the negative side, the set of tips is quite classic and there are no foam tips.
Construction and Design
The capsules are constructed from aviation grade aluminium alloy. They are machined on a 5-axis CNC machine. They are highly polished and very smooth. They are not exactly light, and with the cable, the overall weight is noticeable, although this is not a negative factor. As is often the case with similar IEMS, the great ergonomics save the weight. The shape of the external face is of African continent, but thinner in its lower vertex. Its curves are very rounded and the three waves on its surface are its hallmark. On the inner side, the Lofty have all the vertices and rounded edges to fit perfectly in all the nooks and crannies of our ears. There are a couple of holes, one located at the foot of the mouthpieces, the other on the edge, next to the 2Pin 0.78mm connectors. Next to it, there is a white ink mole inside which is the letter that identifies the channel. The mouthpiece is the classic H-profile mouthpiece, protected by a dense metal grille. The largest diameter of the mouthpiece is 5.9mm and its total length is 4mm.
The cable consists of 4 strands covered with blue braided fabric. It is 6N OCC. The connector sleeves are highly polished metal cylinders, gently depressed in the middle. This pattern is repeated on the divider piece as well. The pin is a transparent ball that fits perfectly. You can choose between 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced plugs, also in the classic 3.5mm SE. For the cable management there is a classic purple leather strap with magnets, which has the brand logo engraved on it.
Finally, on this occasion, the case is made of blue leather, with dimensions of 96x73x43mm. Its closure is magnetised and its top cover has a padded inner protection, in addition to a rigid interior.
The dynamic driver is 10.1mm, has a pure beryllium diaphragm and a dual 1.8T magnetic circuit.
The construction is completely premium. The shape and design, although very neat, cannot be said to be very original, but it is very effective and totally durable. On the negative side, the overall weight of the set, more of the cable than of the capsules, is worth mentioning. Also, the size of the box is a bit too small for so much cable and its magnetic tape.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The fit is trivial and simple. The lower apex fits very well, as do the curves of the inner face. It is possible that the upper slit of the inner face may rest more than necessary on the lower branch of the antihelix due to its weight. This may cause some discomfort during long listening in sensitive ears. Personally, I feel this contact, but its rounded curves make it not very annoying. The fit is very good and they do not move once in place. The cable is a little heavy and, together with the connectors, may contribute to a slightly over-ear feel, as this weight can make the rubbing a little more pronounced.
In the end, these are subtle and slight drawbacks, which add up to a negative, within a much more positive total. The insulation is very good, despite the fact that the insertion is not more than superficial to medium.
I find the Lofty’s profile somewhat classic. To think that one of the most advanced materials to make a diaphragm is tuned with a soft V-profile, with more predominance in the upper mids, is something I didn’t expect. I would have preferred a higher sub-bass, freeing up more of the first half of the midrange, so that the midrange would be more emphasised and linear. Meanwhile, I was also hoping for a less clipped treble, with a little more sparkle and liveliness. If I am honest, perhaps the criticisms received with the NX7, precisely in that area of the upper mids and treble, which I joined, may have made this tuning more conservative, shall I say. And I don’t blame them.
The profile of the Lofty is something that many people may like, but other enthusiasts may not find it very daring. This is something that happens with successive iterations of TFZ models, where the bass gets better with each driver, but the profile tends to change little, leaving it in a niche for fans of the brand (and I include myself in it). A good bass punch, together with apparent, but well controlled treble, seasoned with extra clarity, the result of a soft emphasis on the high mids, never makes me bitter in a good music session. Especially when it comes to the unique sonority produced by a beryllium driver. And here lies the crux of the matter, in the uniqueness of the sound this driver produces, a very exclusive touch, with a distinctive tone and timbre, coupled with a very particular note development and execution. I could go so far as to say it is the Beryllium sound, but I have no others to compare it to.
I would also like to comment, although I am not a great believer in burning, that the Lofty, right out of the box, sound very bland, so much so that I think what have they sold me here? Actually, the initial sound is extremely congested, with no sense of air, no dynamics, no elasticity, all very concentrated. I don’t usually burn IEMS, I just listen to them for hours on end. And after two weeks of intensive use, I don’t think the sound is going to get any better, but now it is very good. I’m going to keep trying to describe it.
As I have already mentioned, the bass is rounded in its curve, emphasised in the upper part of the sub-bass, leaving the lower sub-bass area slightly orphaned and renouncing the benefits that a greater emphasis there would have brought: a more sensorial, powerful, deeper, more complete and complex sound. In this way, the bass is a little more limited in the description of texture and the development of sound layers. The bass goes from being more physical to being more palpable, or rather, listenable. It is the difference between feeling a bass and hearing it. Once this lack of authority in the low end is assumed, the bass is very pleasant, never lacking in power and with a good punch. It’s not a delicate bass, but it feels like it’s in a «black tie» dress, but without a «licence to kill». The low end of these NiceHCKs is rather gentler and more polite. In this way, the bass is reproduced in a totally canonical way: if there were a reproduction guide for how a bass should be played, the Lofty would be very close to it. This, which seems like a great virtue, sometimes becomes a liability: at times, the low end calls for war, for a wilder, rounder, more visceral side. But don’t expect the Lofty to play that game. They possess a good balance of speed, resilience, poise, decay, roughness and descriptive aptitude. All this, together with that unique feel that beryllium seems to be endowed with. It is no longer a question of whether the bass is tuned one way or another, but that its tone, timbre or whatever it is that produces that sensation, is there and not in other IEMS. Part one of the uniqueness of the Lofty.
In the middle zone, the description of the Be sound becomes more complicated. Or I’m simply not able to express it. We come from a low end that sounds quite compact, but it doesn’t completely free up the midrange. Therefore, the warmth comes through without fail. But, this is where the beryllium technique comes to the rescue. Its ability to discern bass lines from bass voices is very accomplished, being able to introduce air and separation between such close zones, both in hertz and in volume. This is also true in other parts of the sound spectrum. Part two of the uniqueness of the Lofty: its ability to stratify both in volume and frequency, giving the sound a micro three-dimensionality that confers a minimal body to the main parts of the music. It is a very particular recreation capacity, to which it is easy to get used to and which one takes for granted when using other IEMS. And this is not the case, that feeling of «extra» body does not flourish in just any product. But, on the other side of the scale, the ad hoc, warmly sourced timbre still doesn’t get out of line, even when the upper mids are perceived as excited. In this way, the central zone possesses great musicality, sweetness even, and is still enveloped in that patina of soft haze, which is never lost. There is no risk, but is there excitement? It depends, if one is looking for a well-crafted, matured and respectful sound, the Lofty can be a real end-game in this budget. It possesses a great capacity to unravel the detail, but without being analytical, it is part three of the Lofty’s uniqueness. But if one is looking for risk and excitement, the cut, the space, the chasm, the gap, the blackness, the absolute darkness hand in hand with the light… There is some of that, but it’s not what I know. This is what I am not able to describe, something that is there and that others don’t have, something that unites softness and definition and wraps it in a different sonority, surrounds it with air and shows it as a floating hollow, that nothing touches and doesn’t disturb. Definitely, a distinctive and special sensation.
But when you get to this zone, everything becomes more normal. The idea of canonical reproduction persists, although this time it is too controlled. It is here that the emotion, the risk, the spark and the brilliance are truly missing. Only a little of that appears and it is where the timbre loses its naturalness, too warm, too calm. Some will congratulate themselves and think that this high zone is the culmination of a good idea. Others, like me, who think that the true art of the best tuning also lies in the treble, find this range too low and are left wondering what the beryllium would have sounded like at higher hertz levels. And all this means that there is no uniqueness of the Lofty in the upper range. Or not, there can always be a second part. I think NiceHCK has always been sympathetic in that respect, taking good note of what reviewers comment. So be it, for beryllium’s sake, part II.
If one thing is clear to me, it is that beryllium has physical characteristics that favour the technicalities of sound. I find that the Lofty has a great ability to recreate excellent resolution, definition, detail and nuance. But all this would be even superior with improved treble extension. In this way, the micro detail coming from the high end becomes a little pale due to its warm tuning.
On the other hand, the facility to give body and generate isolated sound spectra enhances the spaciousness of the stage on all its axes, but without the scene feeling enveloping, although it does feel quite high and spacious. A certain sense of an invisible halo prevents the background from being darker, although the separation between elements is high and a very remarkable point in the sound of these IEMS. Still, both soundstage and separation are clearly excellent, so I’m just very critical of IEMS whose potential surpasses the vast majority of products in their range. That’s the great pity.
Rose QT9 MK2
One of the best IEMS I have tested to date, in a price segment very similar to the Lofty. With totally different philosophies, the Rose is a hybrid with 4BA + 1DDD built in ultra light polycarbonate. The Lofty, on the other hand, is a metal construction comprising 1 DD with a beryllium diaphragm. In terms of size, the Rose are very small, incredible to hold so many drivers, besides, they are very comfortable. The Lofty, without losing comfort, are heavier and a bit bigger. In these respects one can opt for the lighter weight and size of the Rose or the bulletproof durability of the Lofty.
In terms of sound the Rose is more balanced, with a more complete and deeper low end, even a little more emphasised and with a higher point of power. Their punch is forceful, perhaps a little longer, with a greater amount of substance and texture. But the real changes are felt in the mid-range, where the vocals are closer, fuller-bodied, wider and more predominant. The Lofty’s male vocals are a little thinner, less warm and a little cleaner, with a little more sparkle. On the Rose they are perceived as more neutral and flat, but very complete throughout. In them, the low end and mids blend very well, coexisting in presence and power. In the Lofty, the mids are a little more loose and their facility to separate elements and groups gives them a greater sensation of separation, but also isolation. On the Rose, that sense of fullness contributes to a more exciting and intimate sound. On the other side, the Lofty’s more V-shaped profile gives a cleaner sound, a more panoramic and somewhat more distant feel. Their high mids and first highs are more emphasised, while balance and neutrality fall on the Rose’s side. They are even softer and more restrained at that point where the Lofty has the second apex of the V. And this is something you notice, that initial sparkle is not as present in the Rose, hence they seem more neutral, even bland in some situations. Then, in close extension, I could say that the Rose is better matched, elongating a less emphasised, but wider treble. In the NiceHCKs, it’s the other way around, the near treble grows upwards, rather than in width. This sharpens them, but also shortens them. At the end, in the air zone, the Lofty feels quieter and more detached than the Rose, whose top end is perceived as more muted.
The Rose’s soundstage is wide, somewhat flatter, basically because the elements feel closer together, not because of a lack of depth. Whereas in the Lofty the soundstage is more panoramic and concave, where the bass, high mids and first highs feel closer together. This also provides a greater sense of three-dimensionality and openness. Even the separation and cleanliness of the sound contribute to these characteristics. While the Rose’s separation, detail and nuance recreation are enhanced by its BA drivers, their finesse and delicacy, the Lofty’s are more sonically involved than just the technical capability of its driver. It is likely that a larger enclosure helps to recreate more air and decongestion, a more ethereal and three-dimensional space. In the recreation of details and nuances, although the sonority of both is different in profile and timbre, there are no major differences in quantity or extraction capacity. Each, in its own way, is capable of representing very small details but offering a different sound, flatter and more muted in the Rose, more vivid and with more sparkle in the Lofty.
I can’t say that the Rose’s profile is flawless, I would also have liked a larger high end, but both the bass and the midrange are complete to my liking, pending testing better ones, of course. The sound of the Lofty is not something I can overlook, despite the difference in profiles, when I try them I immediately recognise the quality of their sound and I think that few are up to their level. But the profile…
The Ikko OH10s have a very similar profile to what I would like the Lofty to become. But, of course, being equal to other IEMS is not the point. The Ikko’s have an emphasised sub-bass, virtually identical mids and more extended treble. Does that make them better? We’ll see. But first I’ll talk a bit about the externals. Construction-wise, both products are built like tanks, with the Ikko’s being heavier, they are also slightly flatter and their fit and comfort is noticeable, despite the heavier weight. But in terms of accessories and cable, the Lotfy is clearly superior.
Turning to the sound, in a quick comparison, one can realise the benefits of a higher sub-bass, something that not only affects the lower range as a whole, but also the vocals, especially the male vocals, as they have more body. When the bass sounds in the Ikko, it’s easy to realise the greater sensory capacity it possesses, as well as a greater and more pleasing rumble. It is that power that emanates from deep within that is capable of flooding the ears with waves of very low frequency waves. The punch is also superior in the Ikko, although both have a similar texture and also share technical capabilities, but the more complete body of the Ikko outweighs the overall lower range note in its favour.
In the midrange, as I have already said, the male voices have more body in the Ikko; but the female voices, however, seem clearer and more liberated in the Lofty. I think the higher sub-bass pressure negatively affects the upper midrange of the Ikko. On the other hand, the sound of the Ikko, as a whole, is cleaner and more transparent, the BA produces a very smooth and polished sonority, completely flat, although it lacks some of the punch and realism that the Lofty does have, achieving a more natural and not so satiny timbre and texture.
In the upper range, in the first treble of both, there are similarities, with the Lofty sounding subtly more emphasised. The performance is different, the BA origin of the Ikko is noticeable, with that slightly more analytical, but also clearly more extended sonority. The treble on the Lofty sounds more clipped in extension and, although there is an initial flare, it is less pronounced and disappears sooner. This detracts from its realism and also gives it a lower degree of resolution in the recreation of micro nuances and minute details of the high spectrum. On the other hand, in mid-range detail, the Lofty is likely to be superior in many instances, due to its better separation and ability to recreate individual details.
The Lofty’s sound is more ethereal, while the Ikko’s sound is more concrete and defined. As a result, the NiceHCKs have a more openness and a more pronounced three-dimensionality. The Ikko’s sound a bit flatter, even less wide and without as much headroom.
Overall, I don’t think the sound of one or the other is clearly superior. It is obvious that if you want to enjoy the potential of the Ikko, you have to use a better cable, whereas the Lofty comes with a better cable as standard. Perhaps a silver cable would have been more appropriate to improve the treble extension, but this could be a matter of subjectivity. The Ikko’s have a profile more suited to my tastes, in this sense they have what I miss from the Lofty’s and the Lofty’s have a bigger and more spacious sound. I would like to know how the Lofty would sound with the frequency response of the Okko OH10.
The NiceHCK Lofty are an IEMS that every audiophile should at least try. Basically, because the uniqueness of their sound alone is reason enough to support this claim. NiceHCK has managed to recreate a product that oozes «savoir faire» in all its aspects: from the materials, the design and construction of the capsules, to the absolute protagonist of the IEMS, its beryllium diaphragm, continuing with the cable and finishing with its case. On the other hand there is, surely more important than all of the above, the sound. And this is where its creators have taken a cautious approach, knowing that they could stake a large part of their reputation on something so valuable. And it can’t be said that they were wrong, I wouldn’t agree with anyone who said that the Lofty’s sound is bad. But yes, it’s not complete, it’s one step short of being superior and unforgettable. And this, my friends, is what causes me the unease that affects my critique of this great product. But, yes, let no one take these IEMS out of my ears while I’m lamenting.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- E1DA #9038D.
- Hidizs S9 Pro.
- Earmen Sparrow.
- S.M.S.L Sanskrit 10th MKII + iFi ZEN CAN.
- Burson Audio Playmate.
- Hiby R3 Pro.
- Tempotec V1-A + Hidizs DH80S