You’re probably wondering by now whether or not all this foam tip business actually has any effect on the most important consideration of the NR-10s; whether they actually sound any good. The answer is: yes.
You see, having used Comply’s foam tips on a few other earphones I have to concede they definitely deliver on their promises. Noise reduction is definitely a strong suite of the NR-10s – it’s no surprise that the US Army and NASCAR number among Comply’s user base. However, I personally still prefer Shure’s style of foam tips for day-to-day use. Actually, I’ll go further than that. I’d prefer to have a set of Shure earphones, too.
Indeed, given that a pair of Shure SE210s fall at around the same price, in comparison the NR-10s deliver not only a very bass-heavy sound but one that also comes at the cost of high end response. In contrast, the Shure SE210s effortlessly provide both a clear accomplished sound but also one that spans the entire frequency range, offering clear highs and deep, booming lows.
That’s not to say the NR-10s don’t offer good audio, they just need to be of a certain type. Listening to Paramore’s ”My Heart” is a good example as the reproduction of the lovely Haley Williams’ vocals is as good as can be asked from a single driver, but you could almost be forgiven for thinking the band couldn’t afford cymbals as the songs more subtle audio nuances become lost in the mix.
Moving on to a smattering of Marylin Manson, the results were slightly better, but that’s to be expected of the band’s tendencies towards slightly heavier (and darker) music. ”Rock is Dead” came across very well via the NR-10s, although again the SE210s produced a clearer, cleaner sound. The more guitar and bass-heavy ”Dissociative” arguably swung things in the NR-10s favour, thanks to their bias towards low-end power.
Another niggle, though not enough to be a deal breaker, is that the NR-10s aren’t particularly loud. On an iPod I was listening at max volume near-enough all the time, and even on a more powerful Creative Zen X-Fi I was close to the limit, too. That I was able to listen to the Deftones with everything turned up to 11 without my brain bleeding out through my ears, should be all the explanation needed.
Overall there’s nothing particularly wrong with the Comply NR-10s in and of themselves. Were there no such earphones as the Shure SE210s or the Philips SHE9850s then the NR-10s would be a pretty decent offering. Sadly, though the competition has been in the game longer than Comply and it shows.
Drum ‘n’ bass aficionados might find that the NR-10 Noise Reduction Earphones fit the bill well, but if you value clarity and breadth of soundstage over straight-up bass power, Shure’s SE210s or Philips’ SHE9850s are better options at similar or lower prices.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 7