Review: NOCS NS200 headphones

NOCS offers up basic iPhone and iPod listening. (November 6th, 2010)

NOCS is unique among headphone manufacturers : its Swedish founders are self-confessed Apple addicts. Partly as a result, its range is iPod- and iPhone-friendly and spans the "sweet spot" between $69 and $200. Today, we'll see how the entry-level NS200s fare and if they're a perfect fit for those looking for their first step up in audio.

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Product Manufacturer: NOCS

Price: $69

The Good

  • Good build quality for the price.
  • In-line mic and remote for iPhone and iPod.
  • Good call quality.
  • Two-year warranty.

The Bad

  • Mediocre music quality.
  • Short cord.
  • Volume control issues on our sample.

Design and pack-ins

The NS200s, and the entire NOCS line of earbuds for that matter, have a very simple, clean, even elegant design. Other than the NOCS logo on the top of each earbud and the left and right indicators on the bottom of each earbud, there is nothing remarkable about the earbuds at all. Even the three button control module has no markings on it. Everything about the design feels minimalist and straightforward.

The build quality of the NS200s is very good for the $69 price. The earbuds themselves are housed in aluminum, and the audio cable is reinforced with Kevlar. We would have liked the audio cable to be a little longer, though; the Apple in-ear headphones have nearly an extra foot of additional headphone cable compared to the NS200s. In our testing, some of which was done in the gym on an elliptical, we kept feeling like the cable was simply too short. This would work well for an iPod nano or shuffle clipped further up, but you may require an extender.

Accessories in the box are simple and include a clip for securing the headphone cable to your shirt, four sizes of earbud sleeves, and a small carrying pouch. For those who feel the need to match their headphones to their gadgets, the NS200s are available in both black and white. NOCS guarantees the NS200s with a standard two year warranty, which should cover most early wear-in but may be an issue if you tend to wear in earbuds over several years.

Listening, calling and controls

We tested the headphones with both an iPhone 3G and a second generation iPod touch. Listening quality was merely average, but the phone call quality was very good. We tested the NS200s with a wide variety of music. Since the NS200s have just a single speaker instead of a dual speaker design, we didn't expect them to have a significant acoustic range, but they also didn't compensate for thos as much as we'd have liked. The bass felt underpowered, and the highs were unsatisfying.

Our test phone calls with the iPhone 3G were much better. We asked several people we were speaking with if they thought we were on a headset, and no one could notice. The call quality on our end was equally as good.

The controls on the NS200s are quite simple and line up with most any iPod-ready headphones. The top and bottom buttons adjust the volume, while the middle button starts and stops either calls or music depending on the context. During our testing, the middle button worked fine for both phone and music functions. We were not able to get the volume controls to work, however; this may just be a test unit issue, but it's not reassuring.

Wrapping up

The NS200s are somewhat of a mixed offering. Their design is both simple and stylish, and the materials used are top notch. Audio quality, however, is very mixed. As good as it is for phones, it's disappointing for music and doesn't have enough cord; we're also a bit worried about the volume controls, too. If making calls is more important than the quality of your music, then the NS200s would be fine -- especially as an upgrade to the basic Apple iPhone or iPod earbuds -- but if you're looking for good headphones that can also take calls, you should probably look higher up in the NOCS line, where audio and build quality both go up, or check elsewhere.

by Kelcey Lehrich


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