First Nox Audio product impresses with innovative touches. (August 4th, 2010)
Nox Audio has entered the audio and gaming peripherals market with its debut product, the Specialist headset. The company is untested but promises a rare design that can accommodate gamers and even some cellphone users. The modular over-the-ear headphones impressed with some original and useful features, while delivering respectable sonic performance.
Product Manufacturer: Nox Audio
- Strong value.
- Simple, intuitive ergonomics.
- Retractable, adjustable boom microphone.
- No music or advanced phone controls.
- Standard included cable could be longer.
What's in the box
Included in the package was a hard, fabric-covered carrying case, a 1-foot PC splitter for connecting to desktop and notebooks that enables use of the built-in retractable microphone and the removable 4.5 foot audio cable that connects to the headset using a micro USB connection and to the source device using a 3.5mm audio jack. The jack housing is thin, fitting into the recessed audio input of an original iPhone without issue.
Build quality, comfort and design
First impressions were good, as the build quality was solid. There are aluminum-look and feel plates surrounding the earpads, which house dual 26mm Mylar drivers for each ear. The headset's foam cups are thankfully comfortable, as we didn't take off the headset for two hours and didn't feel any pain.
Tucked into the design is a retractable microphone; it pulls out quickly for a conversation. Unfortunately, there are no music controls built into the headset, so answering the call had to be made using the phone itself. The choice is an odd compromise and could set those back who are increasingly used to remotes even in over-ear headsets.
The way the volume control is integrated into the headset is unique and impressive. It's intuitive and doesn't require users to fumble around for the cord and find tiny buttons. That it's a rotating knob like that found in a home theater receiver rather than a digital button also makes it feel like it was designed by an audiophile. The opposite earpod retracts the flexible boom microphone, safely storing it out of the way. A microphone mute switch is also found on the volume side.
Nox Audio encourages users to bring the headset with them on their travels, as it folds away nicely into the supplied hard carrying case. The headset's memory foam cushions should stand the test of time fairly well on their own.
Audio output quality
We tested both on the iPhone and an older BenQ Joybee 130 MP3 player. The iPhone was solid, but the Joybee was less impressive, likely due to its lack of built-in amplification. As a result, peak volume, bass and sonic performance in general was less than ideal, with both the volume controls of the Joybee and headset at maximum. Still, in a quiet room, it's more than adequate and when some classic AC/DC tracks came on, it was, once again, hard to imagine taking them off.
The Specialist offers a nice balance of lows and highs, though at higher volumes and faster tracks, the audio can get a little muddy. The four separate drives help to avert this, however, and considering the price tag, we find little to fault with the aural performance.
The lack of any sort of music controls is a downside, but it does help to keep the price reasonable. The retractable microphone boom is a great feature, and makes the headset much more usable. Thanks to the included splitter, it's possible to make Skype calls through a splitter, with clear sound heard from both ends. The omni-directional 4mm microphone is very sensitive, so adjusting the flexible boom a few inches away from the mouth is advisable. There also isn't any sort of noise-cancellation built-in, so conversations in loud environments may not be so well received. Still, this is an entry-level headset with a focus on gaming, so this is to be expected.
Pricing and variety is important with the Specialist: it comes in four colors, including standard black, green, blue or red, all priced at $80. The Negotiator adapter costs $50 as an add-on and lets gamers use the headset with their PS3s and Xbox 360 gaming consoles. It includes a 12-foot Negotiator universal optical adapter, controller plug for Xbox 360 or PS3, a two-foot optical cable, a six-inch standard PC headset adapter and a USB dongle. Those who wish to use the headset for gaming purposes right out of the box are better off purchasing the $100 bundle that includes the headset and the gaming adapter.
For the money, the Specialist represents very good value. Its unique, smart design details such as the retractable microphone and volume knob, coupled with its relatively strong audio performance, make this an easy recommendation for those looking for an all-around headset used mostly in the privacy of a home.