In this review, I will be introducing what I believe to be Noontec Zoro's brother, the Zoro HD. The Zoro was a very successful headphone that get positive reviews on several big audio forum/website like the Innerfidelity and CNet. While I personally have not tried the Zoro myself before, but today, a big thank you to Noontec for sending in me their Noontec Zoro HD for this review.
To summarize the Zoro HD in short, it is a great sounding headphone for $100 and I will not hesitate recommending it to anyone looking for closed, portable headphone with detachable cable and foldable design. If the Grado SR60i/80i is among the best starter open headphone, then the Zoro HD should deserve, at least, one of the best portable headphone at $100 headphone. However, we should all keep in mind of the on ear design on all the headphones mentioned so far as it does brings some downside, especially those who wear glasses as the clamping force may be too high. The good thing is that, the Zoro HD is very forgiving and does not need an amp to sound good.
The Zoro HD comes in a nice, yet simple box featuring a carrying pouch, a detachable cable with inline mic and a button, manual guide and finally, the Zoro HD. The cable that it came with is anything but a volume control. Everything came in nicely and well presented. The design of the headphone itself as well as the red color cable reminds me a lot of Beats headphones.
The design, features, isolates, comfort and the sound quality of Zoro HD reminds me a lot of Ultimate Ears UE4000 which I too, like. While I do not have the UE4000 to compare side by side, but my memory tells me that the Zoro HD is a better pair of headphone though not by a day and night difference. The Zoro HD as mentioned, lacks in-line volume control, but in return, you get an foldable design which makes things much smaller for portable. As an on-ear headphone, I find the clamping force can be way too strong to listen to for extended hours even with the glasses removed. Due to the thin padding at the bottom of the earpads probably due to the folding patent, some leaking may be there, but adding some stuff at the back of the earpads may improve comfort as well as isolation. It is a reversible mod, but I am not responsible for any damage that may occur due to the mod. The mod also increases body as well as bass quantity.
In terms of sound, the Zoro HD that I have, has been given roughly 100 hours of burn in though no difference were detected to my ears. The bass goes deep, very well textured and pretty full bodied. Bass is, indeed, slightly above average in quantity, but it is well controlled and does not dare to leak into mids nor highs who gets softer and softer as you go higher in frequencies. In comparison, the Jabra Vox bass is much stronger but less controlled and compared to the ATH-M50, the ATH-M50's bass sound far more boomier and less controlled. The midrange is very detailed like the highs, it is not as vivid as the Grado SR60i, not as recessed as the ATH-M50 nor is it neutral like the Shure SRH-440. The upper midrange of Zoro HD is far more natural than UE4000 but by no means the most natural headphone but for $100 in closed headphone category, I believe it arguably is. The highs are where all the magic comes in hand. It is darker than the originally bright SR60i and ATH-M50 but the details it captures, is really good and definitely better than ATH-M50.
Neither the SR60i, ATH-M50 or Zoro HD offer perfect imaging, but the ATH-M50 did best among the three and the SR60i comes next with Zoro HD last although the difference in imaging between SR60i and Zoro HD are pretty comparable. Both ATH-M50 and Zoro HD lacks soundstage and instrumental separation compared to SR60i but it would be unfair to compare a closed headphone to an open headphone specially in terms of soundstage and instrumental separation. I find it acceptable to have Zoro HD to lack in soundstage and instrumental separation as it is, after all, just an on-ear headphone. Clarity wise, I find the Zoro HD did extremely well and surpass ATH-M50 and SR60i. It puts both the headphone to shame, revealing the grainy sound. Personally, I find it fatiguing to listen to ATH-M50 but that just me, as I am not a fan of huge bass and the upper midrange emphasis. The Zoro HD in terms of sound, is easier to listen to. If only ATH-M50's build quality and comfort can combine with Zoro HD's sound quality and detachable cable.
All in all, the Zoro HD is a near perfect headphone for $100 or less. I find it excellent with pop, electronic, dance, RnB, Hip-Hop, Rap, etc. But does not do quite well with genres which specially need great soundstage and instrumental separation like Classical, and Jazz. I find it decent with rocks and aggressive music, it is able to clearly play the sound of the guitar, though nothing compares to Grado when it comes to rock and aggressive genre. Unless you are a Basshead or/and wish to have brighter highs, the Zoro HD for $100, is a no brainer in terms of sound quality, I would personally take it over the ATH-M50.
Edited by BillsonChang007 - 3/14/14 at 6:07am