Two years ago, we reviewed and liked Hearing Components’ Comply NR-10 Earphones, an $80 pair of in-canal earphones that were interesting both because of their special soft foam tips — ones also supplied by Hearing Components to other canalphone venors — and their good sound quality, which delivered nice bass and appropriate detail for their asking price. Today, we’re briefly reviewing NR-10i ($100), a sequel released this year.
NR-10i is, essentially, NR-10 with two changes. First, Hearing Components has replaced the first model’s in-line volume control box with a dual-purpose microphone and remote control button akin to the ones found on Apple’s original iPhone Stereo Headphones. Notably, this box hangs from the left earphone rather than the right, where it normally appears on Apple’s and many competing mic-equipped headsets. Second, though the company has preserved the two included sets of ear foams—capable of almost entirely sealing out ambient noise while you’re listening to music—it has replaced the prior carrying case with a new model that’s zippered and similar to ones previously used by Etymotic and Westone.
We won’t rehash the entire prior NR-10 review here, but it suffices to say that the earphones struck us two years ago as a good overall value for the dollar, though as earphone quality has improved since then and NR-10i’s sonic performance hasn’t while its price has gone up, we’re not quite as enthusiastic about this model. Sonically, the signature is still bass-heavy, with comparatively light highs and flat mids, so songs don’t pop as much as they do in some other earphones; they do, however, sound warm.
Callers ranked Hearing Components’ microphone a hint lower than the one included in Apple’s iPhone Stereo Headphones, preferring the slightly more natural sound of Apple’s first mic; similarly, they said that they preferred the Comply NR-10i mic by a little over the new mic found in the Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic and Earphones with Remote and Mic. These differences weren’t major, but the newer Apple models’ remotes offer more than the older single button design of the NR-10i; that said, we did like the rubber nub-like button on the NR-10i remote, which is elevated and a little easier to press than Apple’s play/pause/call button.
Overall, at a time when iPod- and iPhone-ready mic and remote features are getting added for zero or tiny premiums to prior headphone models, NR-10i strikes us as a little expensive given its overall sound quality, microphone quality, and design. This is still a good in-canal earphone and worthy of your attention if you’re a bass fan, but for the $100 asking price, there are more interesting pairs of earphones out there.
Company and Price
Company: Hearing Components
Compatible: iPhone, iPhone 3G, All iPods*