Nocs are a Swedish company that makes a range of audio gear that is mainly IEMs but also with a headphone in the range and a pair of bookshelf speakers. They have actually bee round a fair bit but only recently have they updated their range completely adding new models and changing things with in the models. Changing things you ask? We this is the review for the new NS800 but actually the NS800 began to interest me about a year back when I was discovering TWFK IEM’s and trying to get my hands on as many as possible, at the time the NS800 used a TWFK but I never did get my hands on it. Now they have changed the driver configuration completely and replaced the TWFK with a single BA of which I do not know the name of. SO what we now have is a tiny single BA IEM from Nocs complete with 3-button mic and remote and costs a very competitive £150.
I would like to thank the guys at Nocs who got this unit over to me and allowed this review to happen!
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier. I also have paired these with a few other amps such as the MiuAudio MRB.
It also got to hook up with the Altman Tera Player which it sounded superb with!
The design is a wow design. I say this because you can show it to the mates and they will literally go ‘wow’. Why? For a number of reasons, one is because this is just so tiny, unlike anything else that ‘mainstreams’ earphones users will have ever seen and even the most keen IEM collectors. Secondly it is constructed from a stainless steel housing that is beautiful, strong and sophisticated and has appeal to everyone. This is not an IEM trying to be cool, it is an IEM that knows it is cool but also not overdone, and I love the design!
The cable of the headphones is nothing to write home about in terms of build quality. It is nowhere close to the likes of cables you get on Phonak or Vsonic IEMs which are just so much more ergonomic and flexible but this is not the worst of the bunch either. Straight ‘I’ plug jack starts it of and the cable is not the strongest or thickest but no major problems other than the mic and remote on the cable does not seem to be done that well with cheap feeling plastic and large seams. However the cables may actually be a lot stronger than they seem as they are reinforced with Kevlar so there is no messing with them.
The actual earphones them selves cannot be complained about. The build is phenomenal, the stainless steel enclosure does not worry me in the slightest as it has been done so well, right down to the nozzle. It also has a strain relief that does the job but is not the most flexible.
The accessories of these IEMs won me over for one reason, the tip selection. It is not the biggest by far and they are not the best tips I have ever used either but, the have 2 sizes, small medium and large but they all come in two sets, so you get two smalls, two mediums and two larges. Why do I like this? Well a big variety is always good so you can get the right fit but once you get the fit the other tips will not offer the right fit. So if you was to lose a tip that fits you the other tips would be no good because you only get one set but here you would have to back ups which I think is great!
You also get a little pouch with the IEMs; it is nicely sized with a mesh pocket inside for some spare tips while still be pocket friendly. It is velvet like material and is therefore not the most protective but then these do not need the most protection! You also get a cable clip and airplane adapter!
Getting a seal with these was no problem; obviously I went through the tip selection process and came to the decision that I got the best seal with the medium tips. Because they are so small though they easily insert to a nice depth (where the best sound is achieved with these) and fit ones ears however small will have to worry about these.
The comfort of these could not be any better. Their housing is so small that even though they are metal, they are very light. They are small and sit comfortable in but these clearly fit better and deeper being worn over the ear and the strain relief does not stop them getting a nice insertion depth. These perform best with a fairly deep insertion but nothing close to an Etymotic and a very comfy depth indeed.
The isolation is nothing that you should worry about but then again it is nothing that is unbelievably good. I have used it in noisy environments and had no problems with ambient noise getting and been left to peacefully listen to my music but then in the extremely noisy environments a little does get in, if I was to rate it would be a solid 8/10!
Microphonics (Cable Noise):
I have mentioned before that I wear these over my ears and this reduces microphonics very heavily from if they have the cable down and it leaves the IEMs with no problems. If you was to wear these cable down which leads to an overall worse experience then you will get some microphonics.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so don’t make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
The overall sound of this is very safe in the fact it is a harmless signature that will not harm anyone and be easily liked. It is a very flat signature which slightly humps when it gets to the bass but does not then dip back down as you get lower but maintains a strong flat bass response all the way to 20hz. The over frequencies are far from being far behind and they are greatly present, in fact the signature is almost perceived completely neutral so there is nothing to worry about there. It is genuinely harmless with the tuning and its overall smoothness and laid-back fatigue free attitude.
Soundstage and instrument separation:
Soundstage I have found to be small and congested, not expanding that far out of your headspace and everything tight together. In that small space though everything is well separated and well positioned, yes I have heard better imaging and presenting but at a lot more money and it does give a bonus considering the soundstage is rather small.
The instrument separation is airy and well defined keeping everything in its own space and allowing you to know that this is the case.
The bass on these is actually really rather impressive. Considering this is all coming from a single BA is a huge surprise and I have to give some credit to the tuning that Nocs have done. These have a mid bass that is boosted over the rest of the spectrum ever so slightly, in fact just the right amount, just enough so that we perceive it over the rest and which stops it being neutral but not enough too add more than a touch of midrange warmth and now midrange bleed or veil is caused. When I said that the mid-bass is boosted I do not mean to say that there is a mid bass hump like with many IEMs such as the IE8, not because the boost starts at the mid-bass and then carries on completely linear and flat all the way down too 20hz, no roll off not spikes or dips, just flat solid bass. How does this actually sound, very nice, the impact is a bit soft and does not slam at all but the texture is just great because it groans all the way down to the frequencies and nothing is more emphasized in the bass regions that are just great. It is also fast, not lighting speed like some BAs I have heard but quick enough to trounce most dynamic IEMs minus a few such as the Sony MDR-EX1000. You may know I am not a bass head and also not a fan over emphasized bass and even the slightest bit of veil or tampering with the mid and the highs and I will find the IEM hard to love and the bass on this does not do these things and that’s why I think they have positioned the bass so well.
The mids as I have already said are just behind the bass and this really is the case, they are far from recessed for the most part but they do dip when we get to about 3khz so the high mids to lack a bit of emphasis and are extremely soft, this is mainly women vocals that are extremely high and they actually sound pleasant this way being soft and all because if not they can end up sounding really piercing. What this drop causes though is the lack of an other all crisp sound which some can describe as the case of a sound that has loads of clarity. As for the rest of the mids they are very nice, smooth with a hint of warmth and male vocals are really the stand out feature positioned just right and easily hearable at all times. I did however find the slightest bit of distortion in the lower mids that made some instruments and vocals in this region sound a little shakey.
The overall tone of the mids though is generally quite soft which leads to it being very fatigue free although I would not say it lacks energy by any means, it really is a safe and enjoyable presentation.
I said that the dip starts at about 3khz and in the high mid region but it finishes of its dip at around 6khz and this means it feels a bit lost in this area and lacks detail and presences there. It does then jump up a bit at around 10khz that gives the feeling of sparkle that is only presences in the slightest amount. It then continues into its roll off. The detail is not to good and I think the soft presentation does not do much good to the highs and I wish they ad just a bit more presence and aggression.
What do we have here then? A very nice IEM, no it is not the best IEM I have heard or the best in the price range but it does have a unique housing and style that others do not have and its presentation may just be for you other any other IEMs out there. If you want a rather neutral iem that is relaxing and non fatiguing and has a great bass which extends all the way done deep with extreme flatness, then this may just be the package for you!
Edited by Swimsonny - 10/18/12 at 12:30pm