NHT SuperBuds earphones review: A sub-$100 in-ear headphone for bass-centric music listeners
The SuperBuds may not be the most accurate-sounding in-ear headphone, but the bass is big and fat, and the lows are balanced by a sweet midrange and forgiving treble.
NHT, the company known for making quality speakers, has -- like seemingly every other audio outfit -- gotten into the headphone business with a well-priced $100 in-ear headphone called the SuperBuds.
While they come in their own cannabis-themed packaging, the SuperBuds don't include any smoking-related accessories or coupons to local marijuana dispensaries in states that permit that sort of establishment. No, except for the artwork on their box, the headphones are drug-free and look like your typical earphones, albeit ones with aluminum-clad housings.
We've seen other in-ear headphones from other headphone companies that look similar to this model (we assume they're based on some sort of Chinese reference design that's then tweaked by NHT engineers). They seem well built and while they weigh more than your standard plastic in-ear headphones, they're comfortable to wear and fit snugly (by which we mean they offered a tight seal and good noise isolation).
We liked the braided, shoelace-like cloth cord -- it remained pretty silent when rubbing against clothing -- that terminates in an almost L-shaped plug (it's at a 45-degree angle). For mobile-phone and tablet users the headphones are equipped with a one-button inline remote/microphone that allows you to answer/end calls and both pause and skip audio tracks forward and back on iOS, Android and Windows devices. There are, however, no volume controls on the remote.
In terms of extras, you get a decent little carrying case, five sets of latex ear tips (in various sizes), as well as two sets of Comply T-200 memory foam tips (we actually got three sets in the box).
The SuperBuds may not be the most accurate sounding in-ear headphone, but the bass is big and fat. The lows are balanced by a sweet midrange and "forgiving" treble, so harsh sounding MP3s go down nice and easy.
Take the National's "High Violet" album, even on CD it can sound aggressively harsh and grating, but here on the SuperBuds the grit subsides and the music sounds better for it. The softening doesn't totally rob better sounding recordings of detail, LCD Soundsystem's "Beat Connection," for example had plenty of energy and texture. The SuperBuds sound best played fairly loud, and that's when you really feel that deep bass massaging your eardrums.
Satisfied with what we heard from the SuperBuds on their own we switched over to the $80 Hifiman RE-400 in-ear headphones. Big difference. That one has a lot more detail and texture, with less prominent bass fullness. The National's album's edge was back and just as irritating as we remembered it. Adult Jazz' "Gist Is" with its ethereal vocals and snappy percussion lit up the RE-400, the SuperBud diluted detail.
With that headphone the low-end weight deepened, which is great, but we lamented the missing clarity. On the upside, stereo imaging is admirably open, not stuck inside our heads. The SuperBuds really shined with electronica, EDM and any bass-centric music.
The more we listened, the more we focused on the low-end. There's bass, and there's really deep bass, and the SuperBuds reach down to the very bottom -- bass fiends will find lots to enjoy. The RE-400 is a comparative lightweight in that regard, but it makes up for its low-end loss with a livelier, more vivid sound.
In recent months we've tried several quality in-ear headphones in the $100 price range: the Beyerdynamic DX 160 IE , Klipsch R6i and Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear , to name a few. The NHT SuperBuds are right there in the mix. They're good value and well worth a long look, particular if you're someone who listens to a lot of bass-centric music.