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On-Ear item created by lin0003, Sep 23, 2013
Pros - Good clean sound with tight bass!
Cons - Comfort is so..so..., frankly the design is a disservice to its sound!
The Noontec Zoro is a new headphone in the market and with a price that makes it immensely appealing and with an attractive styling to suit. Soundwise, Noontec has also decided to take a balanced presentation, opting out of the “boomy bass” approach of several of its counterparts.The build is very respectable for a budget headphone. The Zoro feels good when you hold it your hands, though the folding hinges seem a little under-built in my opinion. The headphone is very light and may not be able to take too much of a beating. The headphone competes strongly in the looks department and there is no missing the “semblance” to another popular brand! Though I believe this was done for its marketing potential it also tends to mislead the consumer in a good or bad way.
The detachable cable is very convenient, considering a portable headphone usually experiences a lot of stress on the cables. The flat cable is not unique but is catchy and helps with avoiding cable tangle. The headphone can be adjusted to fit different head sizes; the extension mechanism makes a satisfying click and has clear markings. The Zoro folds up conveniently and can be carried around in the provided pouch which actually keeps the fingerprint prone glossy plastic cleaner. Comes in three colors (red, black & White), of which I prefer the white – shows less finger smudges. The provided carrying pouch is handy to carry the headphones in, when folded. The folding setup makes it more convenient to carry and adds to it’s appeal.The earpads are on the smaller side from my perspective and I had to experiment with the fit. The headphones had no problem holding onto my slightly larger than average head. After about an hour of continuously wearing the Zoro, I did feel a distinct pain developing in my ear lobes. I had to take a break! I have also heard instances of similar experiences from some other Zoro users on the HeadFi forum. After several days of using the headphone I was able to narrow down the problem to the way one places the earpads on the ear. The problem only affects users with slightly larger than average ear lobes, though the best way to judge this is to just buy it from a seller that accepts returns!
Let me start by saying that I am able to forgive what little disadvantages the Zoro has for the lovely sound it pleasantly surprised me with! The Noontec Zoro has a very neutral presentation but yet manages to keep the music pleasurable. Ideally I would be saying these words about much higher end headphones with suitable prices to match. I keep reminding myself that this is an entry level model priced as such! The bass is tight and well-fleshed with a satisfying texture. In fact the the Noontec Zoro has one of the best bass for the price. The Creative Aurvana Live! (CAL) comes close, the Zoro edges out the CAL with slightly better definition in my opinion.It is also without doubt the best bass presentation I have ever heard at this price point! bass response is very precise and tight with good texture and doesn’t get overbearing at all. So is this a bass head’s headphone? if you are looking for the presentation I have described above, then sure! but don’t expect the bass to be bloated and flowing into the mids and generally creating a “boomy” signature as most budget basshead phones do.As a part of its neutral presentation style, the vocals are clear and there is very little to no bleeding of other frequency ranges into the mids. I like presentations where the mids are slightly pushed forward in the soundstage which I believe envelops the listener in music, but the vocals on the Zoro are slightly recessed or rather in line with its neutral nature. This presentation of mids keeps the listener interested in the whole audio spectrum providing a balanced style. There is generally something special about the mids that one gets easily absorbed by that part of the sound spectrum, the Zoro doesn’t add any magic of its own though presents the mids in a satisfying flavour.The highs are well etched out compared to the other headphones in this price range. The highs retain enough detail to provide good tonality to all genres of music.
The Zoro does not compete with the Vmoda M80, the Sennheiser HD25 1 II & company (but is definitely going to pull some of this crowd) but establishing a niche of its own at a price point that generally does not provide this style of audio presentation and quality. The soundstage is good, nowhere near the Vmoda M80 but for a closed can at this price range, it is very satisfactory.The true competitor to the Zoro (in my opinion) is the Creative Aurvana Live!.
Read the full review on my blog.
Pros - Bass, Midrange, Price/Performance Ratio, Quite Comfortable
Cons - Slightly Rolled Of Treble, Not Many Accessories
Noontec is a relatively new audio company and are quite well known for their Zoro line. Previously they had been making media players and other stuff but as far as I know, the Zoro is their first headphone. When I first read that their company was based in China and what it looked like, I immediately thought that it was a crappy Beats Solo HD (sounds atrocious) copy and lost interest. It wasn’t until I was looking on Head-Fi and the internet that I ran across Tyll’s Innerfidelity review which was rather positive. Overall best headphone under $100? I just had to give this a try. This was burnt in for around 100 hours before review and no change was detected. Sorry for not taking my own pictures.
In Oceania, the best place to buy it is from Noontec's website: http://www.noontec.com.au/
**Disclaimer** I am in no way affiliated with Noontec.
The 3 colour options for the Zoro.
Most of my listening was done with a DX50, but from what I read, these don’t need a good source to sound good so I tried it with my Samsung Galaxy S3 international version and while it still sounded very pleasant, it lost some of that magic that was there in the DX50. There was more clarity, soundstage opened up and the bass had more impact and became less flabby. These definitely scale up very well to better sources, but they do not ned a good source to sound good.
Unboxing & Accessories
The packaging really does look very nice and the box is one of the nicest that I have seen in this price range. However, if you look at the Solo HD’s packaging, you will realise how much better it is, but I am perfectly happy with the simple and nice packaging. One gripe I have is that I ordered a black model and they did send me a black model but on the box was a red one. I’m not sure why this is but whatever. I don’t really care.
Not my picture, but this is what my Zoro came in.
It really doesn’t come with a wide array of accessories like the Beats range, but again, I don’t mind at all, because it has all the accessories that I need. There is a removable cable, soft pouch and last, but definitely not least, the Zoro. The cable does feel a bit flimsy, but being flat, it is tangle free. The pouch is soft and not offering much if any protection at all, acting more as a place to store them when not using them. While there aren’t a lot of accessories, the stuff that it comes with gets the job done and I am perfectly happy with that.
Design, Isolation & Comfort
I actually quite like the look of this headphone, but I don’t like that it is a direct copy of the Beats Solo HD. Wearing it outside may result in you looking like you want Beats, but can’t afford them so you settle for a random fake brand which is certainly not the case. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing them out on a street, especially in school.
The isolation is acceptable, but isn’t great. It will block out enough noise for you to enjoy your music, but I wouldn’t recommend these if your main use for them in the train and the like.
I usually do not like on ears for the reason that they are hardly ever comfortable for me. My ears are quite small and most on ears sit on the sides of my ear, causing discomfort. However, the comfort of the Noontec Zoro is actually quite decent and I can wear them for around 2 hours before I have to adjust them or take a break from them. I thought that the adaptive earpads was just an advertising gimmick, but it really works!
Picture of the earpads.
Thank god these do not sound like the Beats Solo/HDs. Those sound pathetic and I am glad to say that the Noontec Zoro sounds substantially better. As per all of my review, the sound section will be split into 3 main parts – the bass, midrange and treble.
The bass is a bit exaggerated to my ears, but only a bit and definitely not like the Beats line of headphones. Speed is very good and there isn’t any bloat. One reason why I like the bass of the Noontec Zoro so much is that the bass never affects the mids and it is very controlled - no flabby bass at any time. At no time does the bass dominate the song when it isn;t supposed to. I feel like the detail is a notch above other headphones at the $100 range and comparing them to a pair of Skullcandy Aviators (actually decent) it was really easy to tell which bass was of better quality. Overall the bass is quite neutral with nice impact and good speed.
The midrange is very neutral and not recessed at all like the Beats; on the Noontec wesite, the frequency graph actually shows a slight peak in the midrage. Vocals sound just right and not distant and the amount of clarity and detail is good, but not as good as more expensive on ears such as the Sennheiser HD25. I do feel like there is a bit of warmth in the midrange which makes everything sound just a touch lusher and have more weight. This is rather good for male vocals, but affects female vocals a bit, but not so much that they start to sound like there is a veil. Overall, the midrange performance is very good with a bit of warmth.
From the frequency graph, there is a massive dip in the lower treble and to be honest, I was expecting a very rolled off treble and a rather dull sound, but this is certainly not the case. Yes, there is a dip there, but not nearly as bad as what the graph suggests and what you get is a slightly laid back, but still very exciting treble. I don’t know much about frequency graph and personally, I trust my ears much more than a graph and at times like this, I do feel like the sound coming from the Zoro is quite different from what the graph suggests. The treble has sufficient sparkle and still has a lot of detail for me to have a pleasant listening experience.
Soundstage & Imaging
I’ve never really heard a closed headphone have a large soundstage, let alone an on ear and this is no different. While it isn’t very big, I do feel like it is large enough for me to be immersed in the music.
Imaging actually surprised me. I did not expect it to be this good at all, especially because of the small soundstage. On more congested songs, it can be harder to tell where different instruments are, but on less complex songs, the imaging is very impressive.
Instrument Separation & Details
Instrument separation wasn’t mind blowing, but it is quite good for its price. It struggles with complex music, but it does hold its own in the ever growing sub $100 budget headphones.
Detail levels are good, and if you are coming from stock earbuds or IEMs, you will hear some things that you didn’t know were there, but they do not have the detail retrieval that higher end cans offer, but these are only RRP$88.
Pic of the black Zoro.
The budget headphone world has grown rapidly in the past few years and companies have made great headphones and priced them more competitively. This is exactly what the Noontec Zoro is – a great budget headphone and a perhaps the best headphone under $100.