Up until recently I had never heard of Noontec as a brand, had I not been shown more details then these headphones would have passed me by otherwise! I have listened to RF and bluetooth headphones in the past and the technology just wasn’t good enough back then to offer high enough quality music or for audio to be in sync with what’s happening on screen for those who watch movies or play games.
I checked the details of the Zoro on the Noontec website which labels them as “Fashion” headphones (I’ll come to this later on) and that they also have a HD version which appears to have a $20 lower RRP but is an older model.
The majority of buyers who are looking for wireless headphones today will no doubt be using them on their smartphones and tablets, so for the bulk of this review I will be basing my findings from a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 which is the best of both worlds, better known as a phablet. I’ll also be adding additional thoughts on the performance when connected to a Hi-Fi amplifier with the supplied cable.
Will this new Noontec model offer a solution to those issues or will they disappoint, let’s find out!
The Zoro comes neatly packed in a folding cover box. Without focusing at the logo or brand name you could be forgiven for mistaking the headphones on show as a pair of Beats by Dr Dre, they have clearly taken some inspiration from the good Dr, not necessarily a bad thing for attracting a wider audience.
The presentation is good, not excessive but not cheap looking or feeling either. These headphones can be bought for around £40 and I feel the packaging and presentation quality exceeds what other headphones offer in this price range.
In the box are the headphones, 3.5mm detachable ribbon cable and a soft satin pull lock pouch. The ribbon cable, for when you don’t want to connect wirelessly.
A Closer Look
When I had the headphones in my hand a mix of things ran through my mind. At first I was surprised, they actually felt very good. The glossy plastic felt high quality, the whole thing didn’t feel cheap and lightweight but was nicely balanced.
The headband adjustment had the right about of friction so as not to lose your size setting when simply carrying or hanging around a neck, the supplied cable was not only gorgeous to look at but felt like it would last.
The earpads are well padded with surface material offering anti allergy properties and the finish is nice on the side although there’s no escaping fingerprints and smudges on the glossy plastic finishing.
The brushed aluminium touches on the headband extenders and earcup backs are a nice touch, adds a bit of class and smartens up the otherwise all plastic and glossy finishing elsewhere. There is a but, though, the glossy plastic outer bits are fingerprint magnets. The above photo shows just how finger marks and smudges show up only after a few minutes of handling the Zoro. Thankfully it’s easy to wipe away but still looks a bit of a mess especially if wearing outdoors. The headband padding is soft like silicone but not sticky or rubbery like bare silicone, it is comfortable and almost feels like memory foam, this will definitely increase long term use comfort levels.
The left ear cup has a blue LED which blinks when connecting and stays static once connected. Let’s also look at how compact the headphones are when folded.
Fit & Features
These are Supra-aural headphones which means the earpads sit on your ear. I’ve owned and listened to many headphones of this type before and have always preferred Circumaural which sit around the ears for the best blend of sound isolation and comfort. To get comfort out of Supra-aural headphones the earpads have to be the right material on the surface and the right level of sponge on the inside.
Noontec say the Zoro uses protein based earpad covers which help combat any allergies that wearers might have, useful information to know for sure and I found them to be comfortable enough to listen for a good couple of hours although I will say that they’re still no match for Circumaural for comfort.
The cable does not have any buttons or in-line volume control on it so what Noontec have done is put those controls on each earcup directly, these are play/pause, skip forward/backward and volume up and down. The only other button is the power button which also, once held down, initiates the bluetooth pairing function.
If you are pairing this with an Android smartphone or mediaplayer then it is worth mentioning that how the media buttons work may depend on the media player app you are using. I use PowerAMP which has button settings in its options that you can configure and I found them to work well in this configuration.
There is a mini USB port on the bottom where you can charge the internal battery from any USB power source, laptops included. You can use the headphones while it is charging.
This was the most surprising of all. The Zoro actually sounds very very good and I made a point of quoting “Fashion” in the opening of this review because you don’t often expect something to be of high quality in performance when referred to as fashion in the personal gadget context.
I found that bass went down low and at maximum volume on the phone there was no distortion at all. As mentioned earlier, I use PowerAMP for music playback and have the bass and treble tone controls tuned to my liking. high frequency details were present without overpowering the lows or mids. I played various genres of music just to make sure they were not favouring certain styles only. From acoustic to blues, electronic and hip-hop, the results were consistent.
Stereo imaging was good, not as good as my Sennheiser HD595 which I was switching back and forth with but I certainly would not expect them to be either. For headphones costing £40 they certainly do deliver a lot of bang for buck here.
For all phone tests I used bluetooth. A lot has changed over recent years in this area of technology. Bluetooth once used to be poor at faithfully streaming music but these days it is very hard to tell the difference between a wired connection and bluetooth. The only tell with the Zoro is that for a couple of seconds after stopping playback you can hear an electronic whistle, it’s very faint and only those with sharp ears might notice but it is there.
The one thing that I did find a bit lacking was the stereo imaging, or soundstage. While all the details are present in music, stereo imaging felt too centred and not wide enough to feel live. For long periods of music listening this could cause problems for some people where fatigue sets in, a bit like nausea or sea sickness. I’ve had that before with a pair of Grado SR60i headphones but everyone’s ears are different so it’s worth trying to see what works for you.
These are closed back headphones so for those looking for that open-air feel to sound, I would advise looking at other brands! These are good for closed back but not a patch on open-air
I watched a few HD trailers on Youtube and also a movie or two and found that what the Zoro lacks in sonic performance in music it makes up for in movies, especially action movies. Explosions and actor voices are cinematic thanks to how low the bass can rumble on these headphones. I think these will find a comfortable spot on desktops of avid movie watchers who want closed back headphones so as not to disturb those around them still sleeping but not sacrifice the movie experience.
Avid music livers will have no problem connecting the Zoro to their Hi-Fi set-ups. Just a note though, the cable is not very long so you will have to use a longer 3.5mm to 3.5mm stereo lead if you intend on sitting away from your equipment.
I then connected the Zoro to my stereo amplifier to see if it could maintain the excellent results from the phone tests in a more natural listening environment and found that it certainly could. This time though there was an audible difference in the treble section of music, it wasn’t as detailed but still very acceptable.
What we have here is a pair of headphones that offer a blend of characteristics from more expensive headphones that will leave you wondering how they can be priced at the £40 mark. If you are in the market for an affordable set of headphones like the Zoro, you’ll find them stocked at CCL Online where you’ll find black, red or for a bit more money the more desirable white.
I’ve had a lot of fun spending time with the Noontec Zoro. These headphones offer wireless freedom with several hours of listening in a professional looking and feeling package. I’ve pointed out a few gripes but realistically, for the asking price, I don’t think you can get better for headphones in this class which have this kind of seamless performance.
Wireless is definitely the future, we are now living in a time where wires just get in the way of our lives and it’s nice knowing that products such as this exist and they work so well out of the box and on that merit alone I would happily recommend the Zoro to anyone who wants good quality headphones for mixed usage. It would not be unreasonable to include gaming in that as well since I found no perceivable delay between onscreen actions.
- Excellent bass response on low frequencies. Not boomy but tight and detailed. It gets even better if you fine tune your tone controls on your music player.
- Treble is detailed and not tinny like many headphones in this price range, I have no complaints here.
- High attention to detail on quality of materials and placement of controls on each ear cup.
- Seamless Bluetooth connectivity and performance. I could not tell the difference on CD/FLAC music played between wired or wireless.
- The mids are a little distant but this seems to be quite common for closed back headphones in this price bracket.
- Soundstage is quite central instead of being spacial. This is a personal on the most part but many people complain about fatigue after long periods of use with headphones that don’t have a wider soundstage.
- The cable only plugs into one ear cup, the other cup has the USB port for charging.
- The power/connect button is a single button. To turn the headphones off you need to hold the button for several seconds which felt too long to me. Having the power as a switch on its own would have been more logical.
“I think Noontec have a winner here with the Zoro sitting alongside 4 other headphones and 1 earphone in their product range. What we have here is a wireless headphone that not only delivers crisp and detailed sound but also the build quality and battery life to back it up at a price point that’s very appealing.”
Thanks to Noontec for providing us with this review sample.