If you’re reading this article, I highly suggest checking out my initial review of the pre-production Opera here first where I detail the company history, technology and characteristics of the Opera in detail. This review will be quick and simple, more of a PSA than anything. To summarise, I walked away very enthused with the Opera and was certainly sad to see it go. The earphone specialised in exceptionally sharp imaging and a very natural vocal presentation. What it lacked was bass slam, with essentially zero sub-bass pressure meaning that its sound could lack substance at times. The retail units look to append this based on popular feedback, implementing a copper plate to mass load the woofers similar to the Basso. This should theoretically lower distortion and permit a punchier, heftier bass. My impressions follow.
The preproduction unit arrived without packaging nor the finalised accessory set. The retails unit is a nice surprise, the box presents well, and the unboxing experience is very professional. Inside a magnetic hard box, the user will find the earphones and tips nestled within a protective foam inlet. Below is a leather-textured zippered case containing a carabiner and cleaning tool in addition to a foam scaffold to keep the earpieces protected inside. NXEars include a variety of ear tips – 3 pairs of silicone and 2 pairs of foam in addition to an extra medium set pre-installed on the earphones.
Despite some revision to the internal design, the earpieces present identically at face value. This is the same smooth and immaculate 3D printed shell that, to me, is very ergonomic and easily worn for hours on end. The faceplates do vary between units, subjectively, I prefer the contrast provided by the more prominent blue swirl on the pre-production units but that shouldn’t matter too much to consumers. So it’s only under scrutiny that it’s possible to see the brass plate just beneath.
They’re also immediately noticeably heavier in the hand and it’s clear that some revision has occurred. The smoke housings do a great job of showcasing the intricate 8-driver configuration and 3D printed acoustic chambers inside. The cable has also received subtle tweaks, it has a smooth jacket as opposed to the rubbery and tacky preproduction unit, in addition to pre-moulded ear guides as opposed to memory wire.
My sound impressions essentially mirror my thoughts on the changes in design; this is very much the same earphone, however, just a little better. Unfortunately, I did not have the pre-production unit on hand to compare directly as that had to be sent back to Casey beforehand. However I was able to measure both under identical circumstances.
The retail Opera is a touch more balanced and definitely introduces a heftier bass as promised, while retaining the same qualities that I found so charming on the original. I was surprised that it actually measures slightly differently to the original too, we can observe a noticeable sub-bass boost and a slightly more prominent lower-treble with a fairly identical midrange. The changes within the middle-treble are likely due to the fit depth being slightly different between measurements as I do not hear substantial changes here.
In listening, the difference is also apparent but not overwhelming. There’s still minimal sub-bass pressure, but more than before alongside better extension. This manifests audibly as a more solid, concise and authoritarian slam at the very bottom and also a slightly more aggressive note attack. Bass notes present as bolder in turn, and the presentation comes across as punchier and more well-weighted to me. It remains quickly decaying and highly defined, being focused more on detail retrieval than fun-factor but there’s greater balance here than before and the low-end is noticeably more engaging. I think listeners will appreciate the revision here though take note that it is still appealing to the same preference. This is not a bassy earphone.
Though the rest of the sound is said to be unchanged, I do hear a slightly more full-bodied vocal presentation – perhaps a by-product of the retail unit’s fuller bass. Vocal definition and separation remains very high so I would not consider balance to be overly affected. What may be contentious is the more aggressive lower-treble, contributing to a more vibrant sound overall. There’s now a hint of over-articulation, but the added clarity does help to offset the increase in low-end body. That said, vocals are no longer quite so smooth and silky. The top-end itself remains appealing to me. It wasn’t the brightest earphone to begin with so though a touch crisper, it remains very clean and never came across as sharp or uncontrolled. The soundstage presentation does not appear expanded or enhanced but retains the very sharp and accurate localisation that I loved on the original.
The Opera is a bit of a slept-on flagship and one that comes in at a more palatable asking price than most too. With the launch of NXEars full retail units, it’s great to see that the company has been receptive to early criticism and the new Opera is embodies this perfectly. Casey has effectively mitigated its weaknesses without offsetting the original character and balance of the pre-production samples. Of course, those wanting full, impactful bass still won’t find it here, but the experience is certainly improved for the better. Similarly, revisions to the high-end mean that the vocal presentation isn’t overshadowed and that the timbre remains just as appealing as before. Subtle tweaks such as the revised cable also make the earphone a little easier to live with. Ultimately, buyers wanting a fun, engaging sound will still want to investigate other options. However, those interested in the Opera who were on the fence due to their bass performance may now consider the retail version which represents an appreciable step forwards in both balance and quality.
The Opera is available from on NXEars for $799 USD. I am not affiliated with NXEars and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.