Nuarl NB20c: Wireless
on a Budget
(This review was made possible by 셰에라자드, who set up 2-week loaner programs for people, who,
like me, were interested in auditioning the product. I was free to write my
honest thoughts on the product, and there was no incentive for a positive
My search for Bluetooth IEMs began a couple months ago when
I was looking for one to give as a birthday present. I disliked the issue that
true wireless IEMs shared in terms of their tendency to disconnect or play
audio with a delay. In addition, the form factor of standard Bluetooth IEMs seemed
superior for making sure they did not get lost during everyday use. At a budget
of <$200, I tried two products each from Audio Technica (ATH-CKR55BT, ATH-CKR75BT),
Jaybird (Freedom 2, X3), and Nuarl (NB20c, NB10R2) in store, finally deciding
on the NB20c as the IEM to give as a gift. When my local headphone store
announced their loaner program for these same Bluetooth IEMs, I jumped at the
chance to try them out in their intended use settings, including outdoors, in
public transport, and at the gym.
The NB20c was paired to my iPhone 6s Plus. I was able to use
these for ~20 hours over the past 2 weeks.
The unboxing experience was good but not exceptional. The
IEMs are visible through the packaging with the medium size ear guides and
eartips pre-attached. Also included are two additional sizes of eartips and
guides, a USB charging cable, and a carrying pouch. For these particular IEMs,
the packaging also included a 1-year Korean warranty card. Overall, the
packaging was neat, and the accessories were functional, though I would
personally prefer a hard case over a carrying pouch for the IEMs. (For budget
IEMs, in general, carrying cases seem to be fairly hit or miss – from my
experience, I have had $30 Tennmak Pros come with a very nice carrying case,
$50 KZ ZS10s come without a case or a soft pouch, and know that Westone’s $100 “budget”
offering, the UM1, also comes with just a carrying pouch).
At first glance, these IEMs, and most Bluetooth IEMs in general,
appear pretty flimsy. The cable is not detachable, and the cable
length-adjusting tool is a single piece of plastic that looks as though it could
easily fall off and get lost. However, the IEM unit itself seems sturdy, and from
anecdotal evidence (both my own over the past two weeks and from the person I
gave a pair as a gift to, who has used them extensively over the last two months),
the build quality leaves little to be desired. The IPX6 rating means that the
IEM is safe from splashes and in the rain, though unlike the NB10R2, with its
IPX7 rating, it cannot be immersed in water. The cable itself, is a fairly soft
rubber that doesn’t bother the user when exercising or during regular use.
Put simply, the comfort on the Nuarl NB20c is excellent. The
IEM itself is small and regularly shaped, and the accompanying ear guide and
eartips provide a comfortable yet secure fit. These did not fall off or get
bothersome over an hour-long run. Compared to other Bluetooth IEMs, the NB20c
is also extremely light at ~12g, which is noticeable when comparing these with
some of Jaybird’s offerings.
As a whole, Nuarl’s house sound seems to be a standard Japanese
tuning, with an overall brighter sound and more emphasis on female vocals.
However, the NB20c differs in that it possesses a more mainstream tuning than the
other IEMs in Nuarl’s product line. In other words, the bass is slightly
elevated compared to the rest of the spectrum. It does not overpower the mids
or the highs at all, as is the case in many budget IEMs, but there is a slight
emphasis here. This tuning is, in my opinion, preferable in a gym or noisy public
setting, but less so in a quieter environment. The midrange and treble are both
enjoyable, without any sibilance, and the soundstage seemed average for an IEM.
For eartips, I tried the NB20c with the original silicone
eartips, as well as a number of others that I personally own (Azla Sedna, Campfire
Audio Marshmallow, Comply Isolation/Sport, Final E type, MandarinEs SymbioW, Spinfit CP100, etc.). For Comply tips, T400
was appropriate given the large nozzle on the NB20c. Overall, though the basic
tips were satisfactory, I found myself using the Comply Sport tips more, and
the Spinfit and Azla Sedna tips were also excellent with the IEMs.
At ~75000KRW (~$70), the NB20c is an excellent option for an
all-rounder Bluetooth IEM. The battery life is good and comparable with other
IEMs like the Sennheiser HD1 with 6 hours of calls/music on a 2-hour charge, and
for those with an eye for design, the NB20c is simple and inoffensive. With 5
color options (black, gray, silver, rose gold, and champagne gold), it is easy
to pick one that suits your preferences – and it matches the iPhone quite well.
While I would not call its performance exceptional, though definitely not worse
than budget offerings like the Tennmak Pro or the KZ ZS10, the NB20c
effortlessly fills a niche for all-purpose Bluetooth IEMs on a budget, and I
will look to purchase one for myself in the future.