- Warm, bassy sound
- Windows Phone compatible remote
- Slightly narrow sound
- Lacks treble sparkle
- Tend to work their way out of your ears
- Review Price: £67.81
- 20 - 20,000 Hz frequency response
- Windows Phone-compatible remote/handsfree
- Dynamic driver
- Carry case
- Five pairs of rubber tips
If you’re going to team up with a brand to make licensed earphones, you could do worse than Monster. It’s behind the ludicrously successful Beats by Dr. Dre line-up, as well as tie-ins with all-time musical greats like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. Next for the Monster mauling is Nokia. In all honesty, we haven’t thought all that much of much of Monster’s output, but can it pull it back for Nokia?
The Nokia WH-920 Purity is the in-ear entry in the Nokia-Monster partnership, sitting alongside the Purity HD on-ear headset. Available for around £70, they’re not disastrously expensive, but unfortunately you can get better sound for less.
In true fashion earphone style, the WH-920 Purity In Ear come in four colours – black, white, pink and blue – and all are bold, block shades that cover the earphones from head to figurative toe. We were sent the black pair, which came as a relief after having to walk around town with the bright orange Sennheiser HD 229 and earmuff headphones in recent months.
However, they’re not exactly normal-looking. All angles and bulges, they’re not a million miles off the Heatbeats earphones Monster produced for spandex diva Lady Gaga. Given the block-colour finish, there are also quite a few splits and seams across the bud, as well as both glossy and matt finishes. Neither out there nor particularly demure, we’re not quite sure what Nokia or Monster were trying to achieve besides a somewhat distinctive look (that’ll be it then).
Control Talk Universal
The functional raison d’etre for these earphones isn’t their style, mind. It’s the handsfree and remote housing – hence why Nokia refers to these buds as a headset rather than earphones or headphones. Where most remote controls are made for iOS devices, and might cobble-together some sort of functionality for their Android and Windows Phone “poor cousins”, the Purity headset will work perfectly with Nokia Lumia phones, which use the Windows Phone OS.
Using other smartphones you’ll be able to take calls, but not control music or volume. With an iPhone 4, pressing the buttons during playback did precisely nothing. Nokia is rather overselling the thing in calling it Control Talk Universal, but it’s good to see Windows Phone get some love for once – even if it is coming from Nokia.
Back to the earphones, though. They use a thin flat cable that claims to be tangle-resistant, although we found it certainly wasn’t immune – better than some, worse than others but fundamentally nothing noteworthy. It’s also fairly microphonic, causing rumbly noises as it rubs against clothing while you’re on the move.
Much more annoying, the Purity In-ear headphones also tend to work their way out of your ears while you move around. It’s because the tips used require being pushed in, then pushed out a little to get a seal, resting on the entrance to your ear canal rather than as far as they can reach down the winding aural road to your brain. The combo of the earbud design, cable style and perhaps the extra weight of the remote control – or something along these lines – makes this effect particularly noticeable. And it’s not something we complain about often.
Noise isolation and accessories
With a good seal, the Nokia Purity in-ear headphones provide decent noise isolation, although due to the way they tend to wriggle their way out of your ear canals, they need fairly regular re-seating. Five pairs of rubber tips are included, which helps to mitigate for the picky fit of these earphones a bit (many pairs only include three). The tips match the colour of the earbuds too.
A fabric carry case is included. Nokia calls it a “Hard Shell” carrying case, but it’s not really – being only very slightly reinforced. A big deal? Hardly.
The Nokia WH-920 Purity In-ear headphones have what we’d class as an enjoyable but not particularly high-end sound. They have an immediately obvious focus on low-end swell and low-mid warmth that’s easy on the ear. Given this signature, it’s good to hear that the bass isn’t lumpy. And while it can be nudged into boominess given the right track, the low-end emphasis isn’t destructive, as it is in some style-focused bassy sets.
It’s a sound that’s easily to live with, but ultimately not one that can compete with the best at £70, or even £50. Although the top-end isn’t muffled, it does lack refinement and detail, sounding a little veiled or rolled-off. Smooth and balanced to an extent, but compromised overall.
The soundstage isn’t impressive either, with a fairly narrow stereo image compared with most sets at this price. Bassheads may enjoy the low-end focus, but then bass performance isn’t entirely remarkable either. It’s reasonably well-controlled, but doesn’t seem to go all that deep or offer slamming impact.
The result is that the Nokia Purity in-ears end up seeming like good low-end earphones rather than good mid-range ones. When the excellent Phonak PFE 012 (admittedly, sans microphone) are available for £10 more and the Jays one series offers comparable sound quality for a less cash, they’re not all that compelling.
Of course, it’s tricky to get around that few headsets offer optimisation for Windows Phones. Earphone manufacturers may tell you the market isn’t there, but we bet there are many of you out there wanting to control your Nokia Lumia 800s using an in-line remote. We like the idea of the Nokia Purity in-ears, but they’re simply a little bit too expensive to be classed a great buy.
The Nokia WH-920 Purity In Ear headphones come from the same Monster stable as the Beats by Dr. Dre range, but they have a slightly more mature sound. They also use a remote control housing that it – unusually – fully compatible with the Nokia Lumia Windows Phone mobiles. They’re novel, but ultimately the level of fidelity on offer doesn’t quite match-up with the price.
Score in detail
Design & Features 6
Sound Quality 7
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.