Many of the best headphones you've never heard of come from Sweden. Jays and Nocs produce some of the most attractive mid-range and high-end hearphones you could clap eyes on - but because they hardly ever grace high street shelves, they mostly go unnoticed. The metal-bodied Nocs NS400 are earphones that deserve better treatment than this.
With buds made of titanium, they differentiate themselves from most sub-£100 earphones instantly. They're a dead ringer for the Ultimate Ears UE700 (and UE400vi) and reminiscent of the Jays q-JAYS, but both of those pairs tend to sell for well over a hundred pounds. One point to Nocs.
Nocs has also lightly textured the surface of the titanium to avoid the slightly gaudy ultra-shiny look some metal earphones adopt, and - unlike the UE700 - the whole of the body is made of metal. They look fantastic; simple, not too showy (even the Nocs logo is very low-key) but with a design that clearly cares a lot about aesthetics. Unlike, say, Sennheiser's IE 6. They are painfully, clearly aimed at the Apple crowd though, thanks to the exclusive use of white and metallic finishes. However, Nocs does offer a snazzy-looking black edition if you're an iPhobe.
We imagine that many Nocs NS400 buyers will use at least one kind of Apple device, because they come complete with a remote control and mic housing designed for use with iPods, iPhones and iPads. It's a stylish traffic light-style three-button affair that lets you switch tracks and change volume while listening to music, and take calls. It sits around 15cm from the right earpiece.
The housing and the metal build of the NS400 do not have a negative impact on weight, helped by the tiny size of the buds themselves. Bundled with a pretty generous six pairs of soft silicone tips, it's easy to find a pair that provides a good fit. We felt no ear fatigue from these earphones, and happily wore them all day without discomfort. Another point for team Nocs.
The slightly rubberised and averagely thin cable isn't particularly remarkable in look or feel. However, it has been reinforced with Kevlar to make it more durable. It's non-removable, and while such a feature is far from the norm at the price, sets like the Shure SE215 are starting to introduce it to sub-£100 earphones. It's 1.2m long and intended to fall down straight from your ears, rather than to trail over them. They will fit comfortably worn over your ears but the remote housing will hang just a bit below your earlobe, like a dangly earring - probably not a good look.
Thanks to the noise isolating design, these phones could be prone to microphonics - especially if you plan to go running wearing them - but the cable itself is not particularly prone to creating these annoying rumbles. Also, as a last resort, wearing them over your ears will reduce microphonics even further. A belt clip is included alongside the rubber tips, but you don't get a case. The sound more than makes up for it, though.