Review Price £38.94
Having banged-on about how the Noontec Zoro are not quite the carbon copy of the Monster Beats Solo HD they appear to be, it's time for a change of tact. The Zoro have a far more balanced sound than the Beats that's much easier on discerning ears. In fact, they sound nothing like them, in a good way.
Noontec gives a nod to this split off in inspiration on its website. In a spectacular feat of English language mangling, it reads "better sound quality than German headphone", presumably referring to Sennheiser rather than Monster - which is an American company.
The sound signature of the Zoro headphones is not at all bass-skewed as we first expected, but fairly neutral, boasting excellent clarity for an entry-level set. From a pure audio perspective, it's a much more accurate style than the bass-heavy styling of the Beats headphones. However, if you're looking for Beats on the cheap, you may be disappointed by the relative paucity of low-end bloat on offer here. Bass performance is a highlight, however. It's not thunderous, but is perfectly incorporated and has a delightful plummy smoothness.
These headphones' sound also benefits from a covert semi open design. Open-back and semi-open headphones usually have fairly clear grills on the back of each earpiece, but here the sound ports are hidden underneath the join between the headband and ear cups. They make the sound that little bit wider and more open, making the Zoro seem like an even greater sonic bargain at the price.
However, the open style does make these headphones thoroughly unsuitable for plenty of situations that might seem a natural fit. They don't isolate you from the outside world enough, and the relatively delicate, neutral sound loses much of its impact when subjected to lots of noise. For the office they'll do the job, but take them on the train and they start to struggle.
This is at odds with another part of the design. Why making a folding, portable headphone if its sound can't cope with being taken about and about - unless you live in the middle of nowhere?
Noontec Zoro - foldy, but not truly portable
There are several contradictions to the Noontec Zoro, but if you wipe away all the preconceptions they insinuate, they provide good sound quality for under £40. Mid-range performance is unremarkable, there's distinct roll-off at the top end and they lack some of the fidelity of a more expensive pair, but - surprisingly enough - they represent good value for money. That is, as long as A) you don't mind people asking "are they Beats?" B) you won't use them on public transport C) you're not out for bassmonster cans. Passed the test? These headphones are worth considering.
Looking like the Beats by Dr. Dre Solo HD headphones and costing a third of the price, the Noontec Zoro sound like a bargain. It's not quite that simple, though. They're not as comfortable or well-made and the semi-open design makes them useless for noisy areas. They sound nothing like the Beats, either, but that's no bad thing. With a clear, fairly neutral sound they're a good buy if you can live with their odd design contradictions.
Scores In Detail
- Design & Features
- Sound Quality
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