64 Audio Nio Review

The 64 Audio Nio is the latest hybrid model from the Vancouver-based audio firm. The $1699 IEM packs in the highest number of drivers out of their hybrid line-up with a total of 9 drivers per each monitor. A single 10 mm dynamic driver is used for the lows and an array of 7 balanced-armature drivers (including one tia) outputs the mid-high frequencies. Vitaliy Belonozhko, chief sound engineer and CEO of 64 Audio, developed the Nio with the original N8 in mind. To this extent, the 64 Audio Nio aims to appease with its warm and musically rich sound.

Featuring a striking blue abalone faceplate and adjustable APEX modules, the Nio stands out from the 64 Audio’s other universal line-up. The Nio incorporates 64 Audio’s proprietary flagship technology including the apex pressure-relief modules, open tia driver and Linear Impedance Design (LID) circuitry.

While some of this technology may seem familiar, the Nio is one of the more versatile propositions with its new MX module designed for an open and ‘clearer’ tonality compared to the more musical and bass-rich M15 & M20 modules.  

64 Audio Nio

The Box & Accessories

The 64 Audio Nio arrives in a redesigned and more compact box compared with 64 Audio’s other flagship products. Rather than a slide out sleeve, the box has a cut-out lid which opens to reveal a foam insert containing the earphones, modules (MX, M15 & M20) and a soft round leather carry case.

This case is much more preferred to 64 Audio’s old carry case since it is now much easier to store the earphones in the ample space provided. The soft edges also prevent accident clipping of any loose wires compared with the snap latch mechanism of the previous protective case. Also included within the accessories are the following: a dehumidifier, shirt clip, cleaning tool, eartips (TrueFidelity foam & Silicone), a round sticker and product manual.

The Design & Build

The design aesthetic of the 64 Audio Nio is perhaps their best yet with a faceplate that incorporates a stunning blue abalone. The pearlescent material matches particularly well with the silver shell and 64 Audio logos. Interestingly, the Nio is the first of 64 Audio’s hybrid creations to feature interchangeable modules (an element which would have been equally welcomed with the Tia Fourte & Tia Trio). However, the Nio still sports the same design contouring and two-piece aluminum suit as its predecessors.

The Technology

The Nio incorporates a 9-driver topology with a dynamic driver for the bass and 8 balanced-armature drivers for mid-high frequencies (with a tia driver for the highest).

The Tia (Tubeless In-Ear Audio) technology uses an open balanced-armature single-bore driver design to enable unadulterated sound playback. The Apex (Air Pressure Exchange) technology uses a vent which in the Nio’s case also doubles as a sound filter to reduce pneumatic pressures allowing for a more comforting extended listen. Together, these two constructs make up the 64 Audio flagship line-up and is one of the reasons why their releases have held a lot of acclaim.

The newer Linear Impedance Design (LID) feature is a tactful addition which enables a consistent and reliable sound regardless of source. This is achieved via a proprietary circuit which corrects non-linear impedance preserving the desired sound signature.

The Fit & Isolation

The 64 Audio Nio is ergonomically designed and generally very comfortable in the ear. This is helped by the angled and relatively shallow nozzle coupled with the provided foam tips. As a result, the 64 Audio Nio does not protrude a great deal out of the ear.

Isolation levels are dependent on the module with the M20 providing the best form of isolation (measured at -20 dB) and the MX with the least amount of isolation (-10 dB).

The stock cable included could generally be improved owing to the strain points introduced with the memory hook. However, the cable is quite lightweight and easy to yield.

Sound impressions

Tonality

The 64 Audio Nio offers an interesting tonality which captures the essence of the original 64 Audio N8 and their newer U12t model. There is a mild L-shaped signature with more emphasis on sub-bass compared to mid-bass and frequencies higher above. The supplied modules do alter the sound signature with the M15/M20 rendering larger volumes of bass whereas the MX module leans more towards neutrality with a subdued bass presence. In any case, the Nio house signature remains organic, dynamic and smooth. For the purposes of this review, the Nio will be evaluated with the stock M15 module (unless specified).

Bass

The Nio’s low-end is powerful, authoritative and deep. In ‘NICE’ by The Carters, this is notably demonstrated with the Nio harnessing bass with visceral depth and subwoofer-like palpability. The sheer volume and mid-bass is reminiscent of Campfire Audio’s Atlas which presents with similar levels of low-end emphasis and extension. However, the Atlas has a more enveloping bass note size with slightly faster decay; likely owing to its amorphous diamond-like carbon treated 10 mm dynamic driver. The M20 module brings the experience closer to the explosive Atlas bass but does so at the expense of added mid-bass bloat and bleed into lower midrange frequencies. One thing worth noting is that the Nio has fantastic bass texturing with a rumble that is particularly addictive in sub-bass heavy tracks. Having said that, the Nio’s signature is best suited for those who prefer an elevated low-end without being concerned about the rapid decay and detailing of a reference IEM.

Midrange

There is a good amount of warmth worked in the lower midrange of the Nio from the voluminous bass. As a result, vocals sound rich and smooth with a more analogue character compared to some of 64 Audio’s other reference monitors. Fans of a more colored sound will be pleased with the thicker note presentation of the Nio. While not the most resolute in-ear monitor nor the most micro-detail orientated, the strengths of the Nio lie with its slightly dense and musical sound which works well with the underlying bass. An upstroke of upper midrange frequencies give some necessary air and sparkle to track. However, the Nio is tuned towards a darker signature and evades upper midrange glare with its more laidback sound. In Jim Croce’s ‘Time In a Bottle’, vocals are rounded and rich without suffering from harsh leading transients which some other monitors can predispose to.    

The Treble

Despite featuring a tia driver for the higher frequencies, the 64 Audio’s treble follows suit from the rest of the frequency spectrum. The overall sound is laidback and less bright in tone compared to the likes of the 64 Audio Tia Trio & Tia Fourte. This is a monitor that surfaces well on the macro-dynamic front with a treble which is both fatigue-free and inoffensive. To this extent, the 64 Audio Nio treble is similar to the Andromeda 2020. However, the latter demonstrates better perceived detail and a touch more sparkle likely as a function of the more subdued bass and upper midrange recess. All in all, the Nio’s treble is arguably the most cohesive out of the 64 Audio hybrid line-up with the higher frequencies complementing the intended rich, musical and smooth sound signature.   

The Soundstage & Imaging

The soundstage of the Nio is decently sized with good projections in the domains of width, depth and height. An important point worth noting is that the modules do alter soundstage proportions with the M20 essentially sounding the most ‘closed-in’ and the MX the most ‘open’.

Owing to the note size, the Nio is not the airiest of IEMs. The large bass does introduce some density of notes within the lower frequency range but separation and layering is restored in the upper frequencies. The MX module has the best separation and ‘reference’ layering whereas the M20 module is opposite with its sound-isolating bass.

Comparisons (w/ M15 module)

64 Audio Tia Trio

The Tia Trio is the more recently released hybrid model from 64 Audio without adjustable APEX modules. Compared to the Nio, the Trio has the better technicalities with a leaner midrange presence and more extended highs. The Nio, on the other hand, conveys a more dense, rich and musical sound with a less fatiguing treble. On a scale of Trio to Fourte, the Nio lies closer to the former in-ear monitor with a more well-rounded and mid-forward sound. Nevertheless, the Trio shares the Fourte’s passion for extended highs and detailing. Of the three, the Nio is the most cohesive hybrid with a midrange and treble that matches the warmth of the bass section. 

Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020

The Andromeda 2020 has a more balanced presentation next to the 64 Audio Nio with a signature that is airier and more resolute. While the Andromeda 2020 has a more neutral-warm delineation of sound, the Nio resides on the warmer side of things. Overall, while the Andromeda 2020 achieves higher responsiveness of its drivers, the Nio is the smoother and richer IEM with a more powerful bass.

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

Both the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 and Nio herald interesting tonalities. The Solaris 2020 more notably for its engaging sound with a central lower mid focus and extensive highs whereas the Nio for its prominent bass and smooth tonality. Comparing the two, the Solaris 2020 boasts better technicalities with a better separation of sound. However, the Nio is more linear from the lower midrange upwards hosting a more coherent signature. In the low-end, the Nio has the more authoritative bass albeit with less articulacy compared to the Solaris 2020’s.

InEar ProMission X

The InEar ProMission X and the Nio portray quite different sound signatures. The ProMission X presents a more neutral sound with a hint of warmth whereas the Nio bathes in a darker presentation with its deep and enveloping bass. Comparing the midrange, the ProMission X has a lighter note size with a more liquid tonality whereas the Nio has a richer, denser and more analog character. In the higher frequencies, the Nio has more of a lower-treble focus whereas the ProMission X has better extension and height as a result of its upper-treble focus.

Conclusion

As it stands, the 64 Audio Nio is an immensely enjoyable in-ear monitor that makes it that much easier to get lost in tracks. Yes it may not have the best in-class technicalities but the sound signature suits a more relaxing listening where immediacy and top-of-the-line micro-detail may not be a priority. The provided modules also help to fine tune the sound enough for a versatile listening experience. Overall the sound is rich and well-rounded with a large and deep bass to boot. I particularly enjoy it for sub-bass dominant tracks where the dynamic driver seemingly possesses a mind of its own. Having said that, the rest of balanced armature set-up align themselves to create 64 Audio’s most coherent hybrid to date. The accompanying soft leather case also makes a surprising difference where portability is concerned – I do hope 64 Audio continue using it for future products. For these reasons, the Nio is an easy recommend for those in search for a more musical sound with an involving and committed bass.

64 Audio Nio

Retail: $1699

Specifications

  • Driver Type/Count: Nine
  • Driver Configuration: 1 tia high, 1 high-mid, 6 mid, 1 dynamic low
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 20kHz
  • Sensitivity: 105db dB/mW
  • Impedance: 6Ω @1kHz
  • Crossover: Integrated 4-way passive crossover
  • Isolation: -10db w/ mX module, -15dB w/ m15 module, -20dB w/ m20 module

For more info see:

64 Audio

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