20
Apr
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Lately, I've been listening to a lot of headphones as part of my hardware review routine. I've listened to expensive ones. Slightly less expensive ones. Hilariously cheap ones. You get the picture.

So when a Swedish headphone company by the name of Nocs got in touch with me, I was a bit surprised - because I didn't know they existed. And there's a good reason for that (sort of): Nocs has specialized in making solely Apple-friendly headphone products. Until now.

The NS200 earbuds represent Nocs' first Android-compatible headphones (basically, just minor changes to the 3-button controls), and are a variant of the company's standard NS200 iOS earbuds. Aside from the inline controls being optimized for Android, in fact, they're exactly the same. This is something companies like Klipsch and Etymotic have been doing recently, as well - more audiophiles are buying Android phones, and a market for higher-end headphones that are Android-compatible is emerging quickly.

So, are these the real deal? In a word, yes. For $70, the NS200's provide a sound experience of significantly pricier headphones. If you're looking for a high-end Android headphone with inline controls that won't break the bank, I can't think of a better choice.

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Nocs NS200 Aluminum (Android): At A Glance

  • What is it? Earbuds. With inline controls and a microphone. You probably already got that. (official website)
  • How much? $69 (and if you can live without functional inline controls, the Apple ones can be had much cheaper).
  • What's in the box? The headphones, and 4 sets of earbud tips. And a shirt clip thingy!
  • Do I want them? Do you have $70, and not a lot more? Do you not have a set of good earbuds? Then the answer to this question is "yes."

The Good

  • Sound: Holy crap, that sound. The Nocs NS200's provide a level of fidelity I'd associate with a headphone closer to twice their price. To elaborate, I'd describe the sound signature of the NS200's as energetic - highs are piercing and bright, and bass is strong without being overbearing. The thing is, while I say "energetic," compare these to headphones with much more colored sound characteristics (such as Ultimate Ears, Klipsch, Beats, etc.), and they feel more flat and neutral in some ways. Compared to my primary headphones, the Etymotic Research hf2's, though (which are absurdly flat and neutral), the Nocs definitely add little flourishes to your music. The takeaway is this: sound comes through very crisp, clear, and generally balanced. These aren't reference headphones, but nor are they meant to be. They provide a very tasteful interpretation of most music, and are well-suited to almost any genre, in a way that truly belies their price.
  • But: There are two sides to every coin. First off, those bright and energetic high notes can throw some songs out of balance, with vocals getting overshadowed by pianos or guitars that, as mixed, would otherwise be a little more subdued. Still, it's that kind of character that makes the NS200's very, for lack of a better word, "fun" to listen to. They're so feisty.
  • Comfort: The NS200's are tiny. You can't really tell in the pictures, but the actual earbud housing is extremely short and stubby (and made of aluminum), and they're also very light. This means they sit in your ears with unusually good weight distribution, and combined with their low weight to start, I'm pretty sure I've found the most comfortable pair of headphones I've ever worn. You will actually forget they're in your ears.
  • Other Thoughts:
    • The box they come in is kind of cool.
    • The price is certainly right.
    • The 3-button controls should work properly if you have an HTC or some Samsung phones.

The Not So Good

  • Bass: If you need strong bass, the NS200's do a pretty good job for their price, but if you're looking for phones that really give a deep, resonating thump, they just aren't built for that. It's also worth noting that while they get plenty loud for my taste, they top out significantly quieter than other headphones I've tested.
  • Isolation: Isn't very good. I place the blame squarely on the absurdly comfortable fit of the NS200's - no matter what tips you use, you just don't feel like you're getting a solid seal (even when you are). The tips were also not interchangeable with any of the 4 other sets of earbuds I had on-hand. So, if you want a headphone that can drown out all ambient noise, look elsewhere. The below-average isolation also means you have to turn them up higher in loud environments, and that's bad for your ears.
  • Controls: They didn't work with my Motorola phone for anything but answering/ending calls and play/pause. Track skipping was no dice. Nocs claims they've tested with a bunch of HTC phones and a few Samsungs that the controls fully work with, so check out the product page to see if your device is on the list. The microphone is decent, by the way - you still have to hold it up to your mouth and look like a moron doing it, though.
  • Other Thoughts:
    • Despite the cool, sleek, minimalist design (and the aluminum, and the claims of Kevlar-reinforced cable), I can't help but feel the NS200's are fragile. The cord connected to each bud is absurdly thin and flimsy, and the flex joints do not inspire my confidence. But hey, they have a 1-year warranty.
    • The upmarket NS400's, which cost just $30 more and aren't in an Android-friendly flavor yet, are just kind of taunting me. For that extra money, you get titanium-coated diaphragms - and that sounds fancy. They also come with a better microphone, and titanium housings. I want.

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Despite a few drawbacks, the NS200's are a very good earbud at a very good price. Depending on your needs, it's possible they aren't the headphone for you, but for the vast majority of people, I think they're an excellent choice. Combining value with excellent sound, comfort, and good looks, it'd be hard to go wrong picking up a pair of these.

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • jordanjay29

    This doesn't exactly sound like a raving review, unfortunately.  Sad, I need a new pair of headphones and I was eager to see some positive reviews, but nothing here is convincing me to drop $70 on these.

    • rdr0b11

      Then I'm not sure what it is you're looking for in a pair of headphones, because these are easily among the best on the market at this price point.

    • enoch861

      If you want the most inexpensive best sounding armature driver earphones, I'd get the MEElectronics A151.

  • Alphabets13

    I have a brand new pair of beats that came with my rezound that i can sell ya! ;)

  • Jimmy Li

    The jays I heard are good on the mid range, but I am using SOL Republic's HD line. I have both the AMPS HD and Tracks HD. And they do rock. Both handle bass well IMO without being too overbearing. I mean they are on the bass-y side. I listen to stuff from Gorrilaz to Kimbra with a l Asher Roth mixed for good measure. I listen to club music mixes that dj's release on sound cloud a bit so I am a bit eclectic depending on my mood.

    The HD price points are retail 99bux for the earbuds and 130bux for the tracks HD that have a virtually unbreakable headband. However they do have a lower price point for the step below named AMPS and Tracks without the "HD". Still they sound great and their price point is 60 for the buds and 99 for the plain tracks headphones with the nearly indestructible headband.

    You can probably find them cheaper on ebay or amazon, but they are indeed clear when using the proper equalizer settings.

    To preface, these are made for iphones/ipods, but I use them for my Android HTC Sensation running a custom MIUI ICS V4 without an issue. However, I do use the jays headset app (free on google play) to make the center button work with different key presses. The + and - are not used for Android devices. I wholeheartedly believe that these headsets/headphones are the best for the money that I have tested so far.

    My prior fav which I still use is the V-Moda Crossfade LPs, which are a tad clearer and less bass-y. I use the V-modas primarily on the airplane because of the awesome exoskeleton case the Crossfades come in. :)

  • Elemetrix

    So how long before a company starts making inline button control adapters for android? I'm quite surprised it hasn't happened already.

    Price it at £10-15 and add button controls to any existing earphones/headphones out there.
    Personally i've built my own using the headset supplied with my old phone, so yes it even has a built in mic.
    Now I have Sennheiser HD25s, Sony MDR-XB700, Sennheiser CX300s and Phonak Audeo PFE012 all with inline controls!

  • ElfirBFG

    Heartbeats (GaGa x Beats) were $50 on Bestbuy.ca. Great bass, flat cord, awesome. Aesthetically, they could be a 'bit' much, but when actually being used, they don't stick out.

  • Gary Graf

    So correct me if I'm wrong, these and the beats earphones that come with htc phones are the only 3-button inline controls earphones designed for android?  If so, I think I'm going to purchase these.  I love the Klipsch ones, but they only have one button.  Sure, some earphones with 3 -button controlsthat were designed for iphones might work, but I dunno if I wanna risk it.

    • rdr0b11

      I'm not aware of any others out there, but there's a good reason for that: many didn't work with Android phones, because the phones couldn't support it. Only more recent HTC models (basically, any HTC phone with Beats) and a few of Samsung's very latest handsets support 3-button controls, so definitely be aware of that (no Moto phone support them).

  • http://www.facebook.com/dariusz.ro Dariusz Rogóż

    wow te słuchawki są niewiarygodne - widać świetne wykonanie oraz extra aplikację. chciałbym je mieć. 

  • GW

    Are there any foam tips that will fit these earphones?