Massdrop x NuForce EDC3 In-Ear Monitors

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If you're going to use your gear every single day, it's worth upgrading to something that's built for the task. Yes, even your earphones. Whether you're gaming, listening to a podcast, or tuning out the world with the newest bop you can't get enough of, a pair of quality earphones can help open up a whole new level of enjoyment. Plus, they tend to feature better build quality, comfort, and usability for a better overall listening experience. NuForce and Massdrop collaborated on such a pair that was designed specifically for everyday carry, aptly named the EDC. They've teamed up again to bring you the EDC3 as an upgraded bigger brother to the original. It features much of the same great design that made the EDC such a success, but now offers three balanced armature drivers at a compelling $99.99 price point.

Before even getting into how they sound, it's worth noting all the little features on the EDC3 that tackle the challenges of EDCing a pair of earphones in the first place. For many of you, the biggest issue is probably dealing with wires. Cheap wires often tangle and fray, rendering the 'buds useless. The EDC3 comes with not one, but two removable cables depending on your needs. The first is a sturdy yet comfortably flexible braided cable for quality listening sessions, complete with a right angle 3.5mm plug to minimize stress and breakage, as well as built-in cable management for easy carrying. The other cable boasts in-line controls and a microphone to use with your smartphone. It's easy to carry the other cable as a backup even on the go thanks to an included hard zip pouch with an internal mesh pocket, too.

Like the original EDC, the EDC3 uses a durable Lexan polycarbonate to house its internals. The EDC3 housing is both lightweight and compact, making it comfortable to listen to all day. This time around, the entire body is a transluscent dark navy to showcase the arrangement of the EDC3's triple balanced armature drivers. They work together to provide a detailed, all-around experience that still leans towards musical than analytical thanks to its slightly warm sound, defined mids, and controlled bass.

Whether you're an EDC-minded audiophile or looking to finally upgrade your current pair of 'phones, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better value than these. It's not often you see triple balanced armature IEMs under $100. Get them before pre-orders close at the Massdrop link below.

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I'm an audiophile and have been a reviewer on HeadFi (nmatheis). Massdrop sent me both EDC and EDC3 prior to release, and I've got to say I'm really impressed with the work they've done with NuForce on both. I've got a history with NuForce, having been sent their portable audio lineup for review in the past. While the NuForce branded In Ear Monitors were hit or miss in terms of matching up with what I consider to be a good sound signature, these Massdrop x NuForce collaborations have both been rock solid and address some of the issues I had with the NuForce gear I've reviewed.

Starting with commonalities, both the original EDC and EDC3 use the same Lexan material for the earpieces that NuForce used in their HEM lineup of In Ear Monitors. The earpieces have a highly comfortable, ergonomic shape that's great for long listening sessions. Both a simple braided cable with mic and controls and a more conventional non-braided cable with mic + controls are included. The connectors are an industry standard 2-pin, but both earpiece and cable sides of the connectors are formed such that my aftermarket cables don't fit. One difference in cables is that the EDC3 has a slight modification to the braided cable's y-splitter that should make it more durable than the cable the original EDC uses. Branding is fairly subdued on both earpieces and cable, which is my preference.

Moving on to components, the original EDC used a single dynamic driver, which are the type of driver most of us are used to seeing in headphones, speakers, etc. The EDC3 uses three balanced armature drivers, commonly referred to as BA drivers. BA drivers used in earphones are an industry adaptation of hearing aid speakers. While the BA drivers used in hearing aids focus in on human speech frequencies, the ones used in earphones are specialized and can be broadband or localized to certain frequency bands. So for the EDC3, you get an unspecified mix of three BA drivers that provide the sound signature Massdrop and NuForce were after.

One thing to note is that earphones with multiple BA drivers don't always play nicely with mobile phones. This issue has to do with a technical issue called impedance matching across the different BA drivers in use. I won't go into the technical details but suffice it to say that if your source has a high output impedance rating (a rating that isn't always easy to find outside of the audiophile world) which is fairly common with phones, the sound signature of your multiple BA driver earphones will be altered. This usually results in bass reduction and treble emphasis, making the earphones sound thinner than they would with a low output impedance source (by low, I mean 1ohm or less). How much change there is and how much it bugs you is different from each to earphone because they're all engineered differently, so a good low output impedance source matters with multiple BA earphones.

The impedance matching issue mentioned above is absolutely no concern with the dynamic drivers used in the original EDC, making that pair more plug n play across a wider range of sources.

Sound isolation will be a bit better with the EDC3 because using BA drivers allows for a completely sealed earpiece (besides the sound tube) which results in less sound intrusion. The EDC's dynamic driver requires a small hole in the earpiece to allow the driver to move air which results in a bit more sound from outside bleeding in. Both provide good isolation overall, though.

Sound from the original EDC is what I'd call the more natural, relaxed sound signature of the two. The low end fills out more, providing not only more bass but more warmth. The upper end is present but relaxed to limit treble fatigue. Soundstage is on the smaller side. All of this means the original EDC is an earphone you can put in place and listen comfortably for long stretches of time both from ergonomic and sound signature standpoints.

Sound from the EDC3 is what I'd call more neutral and precise, without the added bass and warmth. This allows the upper mids and treble to stand out a bit more in the mix. Bass is quick and is punchy but won't be as meaty as you'd get with the original EDC. Soundstage and sound placement is a step up.

If I were to go with just one of the two, I'd choose the original EDC for the warmer, more natural sound and higher compatibility across sources. Just my two cents...
I'm just excited EC is featuring something other than a flashlight ;)