Massdrop is one of our favorite group buy sites.  Not only do they tend to offer good deals on good gear, but they also leverage their community to figure out what people really want.  Then they collaborate with manufacturers to make those fantasies reality.  The latest collaboration is a solid buy: the Massdrop x NuForce EDC3 in-ear monitors.  Headphones, for you folks like me who have no idea what IEMs are.

massdrop x nuforce edc3 iem review

Specs – Massdrop x NuForce EDC

  • Driver units: 3 balanced armature drivers per ear
  • Earphones matching: +/- 2 dB
  • Housing material: Lexan polycarbonate
  • Color: Smoky translucent blue/gray
  • Impedance: 16 ohms
  • Maximum input power: 2 mW
  • Microphone sensitivity: -42 dB +/- 5 dB
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz–40 kHz
  • Sensitivity (at 1 kHz): 100 dB +/- 3 dB
  • Cable length: 54.3 in (138 mm)
  • Connector: 2-pin
  • Plug: ⅛ in (3.5 mm) TRS (braided cable) or TRRS (remote/mic cable)
  • Remote/mic cable compatibility: Apple and most Android devices
  • Remote/mic cable functionality: Play/pause; start/end call; next/previous song; start Siri, Google Assistant, or Cortana (functionality varies between Android devices)
  • Weight, IEMs with braided cable: 0.2 oz (5.7 g)
  • Weight, IEMs with remote/mic cable: 0.3 oz (8.5 g)

Audio Experts?

Not exactly, but in a few past lives, I’ve been a club DJ and EDM producer and I spent a lot of time hanging with the owner and speaker designer at Green Mountain Audio over three summers in college.  I retained a few tidbits about stereo imaging, sound stage, frequency response, and other technical mumbo-jumbo.

Massdrop x NuForce EDC3 Review

Currently, I swap between a pair of Bose QC20 buds for travel and general use and some waterproof Philips buds for sweaty pursuits.  Once upon a time, I had a pair of Shure IEMS.  I don’t know what model.  They broke.  So, not being any sort of expert in headphones, I took to testing the EDC3s by using them how I would use them every day.  I listened to music.  Selections included Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ – TajMo, J. Boog’s eponymous EP, and some Major Lazer to test the bass.  I don’t have any sophisticated audio players, so sound came from the Amazon Music and native Music apps on my iPhone.

On All Around the World (TajMo), I could instantly locate Taj Mahal’s ukulele in space.  Strangely enough, the engineer decided to center Taj Mahal’s vocal while keeping his uke off to the left.  J. Boog’s Waiting on the Rain isn’t as sonically sophisticated, but the EDC3s reproduced it with balance and grace.  Switching to electronic production, Major Lazer’s Aerosol Can was a revelation.  I noticed samples I’d never heard before.  I could hear that the deep kick on the track was sampled from vinyl – the analog static was still there.  Just to torture myself, I went back and listened to some of the tracks I produced back in 2002 or so.  I can’t say it was good; the EDC3s revealed every flaw.  I compressed way too hard, overdrove the bass, and settled for a flat midrange on those tracks, probably because I didn’t have any way to really listen to what I was making.  And, I threw a random Funky Drummer sample in there.  Oops.  But, the EDC3s handled my massive 808-style sub-bass without issue and still reproduced the hats, snare, and even the kick without issue.

massdrop x nuforce edc3 iem review

I’ve always found in-ear monitor comfort to be extremely hit or miss.  Even with multiple silicone and foam covers, I tend not to find the right size.  The EDC3s came with medium silicone buds installed, which didn’t stay securely or isolate noise.  I swapped them out for large and, for the most part, had no issues, but they never disappeared into my ears.  Then I tried the foam buds.  The mediums fit well and were much more comfortable than the silicone buds.  Lesson learned.  Foam feels better.  I also gave the small silicone buds a shot – they were comfortable, but didn’t isolate sound well either.  If I were using these as everyday headphones, I’d probably go with the small silicone buds.  Walking around in the city, I like to be able to hear what’s around me.  For home use, the medium foam buds definitely win.

A similarly priced pair of IEMs from Shure gets you only one driver and lower frequency response.  The EDC3s have three drivers.  If you want three drivers from Shure, you’re spending $450.  Neither comes with a remote and microphone.  Etymotic’s hf5 costs the same, but doesn’t have detachable cables, lower frequency response, and no mic/remote.  Point is, the Massdrop x NuForce EDC3s are a good deal for solid performance.

Final Thoughts

At $99 shipped, the Massdrop x NuForce EDC3s are a solid buy.  They sound great, have good accessories, and do everything you need a pair of headphones to do.