The NA3 comes in a square box with a clear window on the front. The box has a retro game vibe with the old game-style font used on the front. You can see the IEMs inside seated in a circular piece of foam which I first mistook for a CD-ROM. Here’s what’s inside the box:
NF Audio NA3 IEMs
Detachable 2-pin cable
3x pairs of “balanced” silicone eartips
4x pairs of “atmosphere” silicone eartips
Faux leather carrying pouch
The NA3 shells continue with the same retro gaming vibe that’s on the box: the faceplates are occupied by pixel monster graphics and are available in either red, white, black or grey. The body of the shells is white and made from sturdy polycarbonate material. I really like the feel of the shells in my hand and my ears.
There’s a small vent near the base of the nozzle and another one just in front of the 0.78mm 2-pin sockets. The nozzle itself has a proper lip to hold eartips securely in place. Overall, the build quality is really nice and the polycarbonate shells feel more durable than the more common resin ones we normally see.
In terms of comfort, the NA3 feels great to use. Or, maybe I should say I hardly feel them at all. They’re really lightweight and seem to disappear in my ears. Noise isolation is about average for this kind of shell and I don’t feel any “cabin pressure” building up in my ears.
The included 5N OFC cable, unfortunately, handles quite poorly. It’s stiff, bouncy and suffers from microphonics (cable noise). If you get these earphones you might want to swap out the cable for one with better ergonomics.
The NA3 has a mild V-shaped signature. It’s got more punch in the lows than many of the IEMs I’ve reviewed recently. It’s not a basshead tuning but it’s got enough power to satisfy bass enthusiasts. The NA3 is an efficient IEM and doesn’t require any additional amplification so you can use it with any source.
The NA3’s bass is elevated, as I indicated above. It has a fairly even transition from the sub-bass to the mid-bass so you get a good dose of both. Fortunately, the quality of the bass is pretty good. So, even though it bleeds a little into the lower mids, it adds to the sound, rather than burdens it.
Bass notes have a pleasing texture that makes bass guitars a treat for the ears. Kick drums have slightly rounded leading edges, resulting in a mix of thump and slam. Thus, it’s not the fastest bass but is snappy enough for most music genres.
The lower mids are imbued with a warmth that carries over from the bass. As a result, male vocals and lower register instruments sound rich and full-bodied. While not the most transparent of midranges, it doesn’t sound overly saturated or bloated: It’s more akin to a latte than an excessively sweet caramel macchiato.
Female vocals and the upper midrange are more forward but don’t get shouty. The tone of the mids sounds natural albeit somewhat smoothed over by the underlying presence of the bass. This is a good IEM for vocal lovers: it brings the lush, romanticized voices to the forefront.
The treble is defined by two peaks, one at 4kHz and another at 8kHz. This gives the highs some energy but a large dip in the middle means some details are smoothed over. Furthermore, it results in the mids having a slightly darker tone.
The upside to this treble tuning is a fatigue-free sound. You can turn your music up loud without fear of being blasted with shrillness. There’s no sibilance or stridency in the highs and the timbre of the treble sounds quite natural.
Soundstage and Technicalities
The soundstage has average dimensions, but the space has a nice natural roundness. Sounds don’t reach out beyond the headspace but there’s a pleasing depth in front of the listener. As such, the imaging is surprisingly good. This is an effect of the depth combined with good overall resolution and instrument separation. It’s not the most detailed sound but the overall technical performance is pretty strong.
Moondrop Aria 2021 ($79)
The Moondrop Aria (review here) has a single dynamic driver. It’s quite similar in tone to the NA3 but has less bass presence. As a result, Aria has a leaner note size and bass notes have better definition albeit with less texture.
Aria’s midrange is leaner and more spacious but the NA3 has better note density and instrument separation. The Moondrop’s vocals aren’t as rich but they have better articulation and clarity.
Aria has a lighter sound and better definition in the highs because it has less bass and a milder dip in the core treble region. Hi-hats and cymbals sound crisper on the Moondrop which, in turn, creates a larger soundstage. However, the NA3 has stronger positional cues and imaging.
Whizzer HE01 ($79)
The Whizzer HE01 (review here) has a single dynamic driver. You can see how similar it graphs to the NA3 above but in reality, they sound very different. The HE01 doesn’t sound as warm nor as bassy. Its bass is slightly faster and has a cleaner leading edge compared to the NA3. NA3 has more bass weight and impact.
HE01’s midrange is leaner and has a lighter tone than the NA3 with its thicker note weight. While the HE01 has slightly better detail retrieval, the NA3 has better resolution and instrument separation.
The Whizzer has more energetic highs, giving it more overall clarity and definition. It’s a bit edgier to listen to, making the NA3 better suited for treble-sensitive listeners. HE01’s soundstage is larger and wider but the NA3 has a blacker background.
The NF Audio NA3 is yet another solid sub $100 IEM. I really like the polycarbonate shells, which feel a step up compared to regular resin housings. The cable is a bit of a letdown but it can be easily replaced if you don’t like the way it handles.
As for the sound, I think NA3 performs really well for the price, although I would have preferred a smaller dip in the core treble region. This would be a good IEM for someone who is sensitive to treble but still wants good technical capabilities.