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Nocs NS700 Phaser review: Decent headphones that don't stand out

The Nocs NS700 Phaser headphones are decent on-ear headphones that are hurt by the fact that they don't do enough to distinguish themselves from the competition.

David Carnoy
David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
2 min read

In case you've never heard of Nocs, it's a Swedish company, and it has a growing line of headphones, most of them in-ear models. I've reviewed the NS400 ($79.99) and the NS600 Crush ($149.99) and liked them both, but I was a little less enthused about the NS700 Phaser, the on-ear model reviewed here.


Nocs NS700 Phaser

The Good

The <b>Nocs NS700 Phaser</b> on-ear headphones offer decent sound for the money, fit snugly, and seem well built. They also have an Apple-friendly in-line remote/microphone,

The Bad

The headphones don't do much to distinguish themselves from the competition. Several other headphones have the same design and while the sound is decent, it doesn't exceed expectations for a $99 headphone.

The Bottom Line

The Nocs NS700 Phaser headphones are decent headphones that are hurt by the fact that they don't do enough to distinguish themselves from the competition -- from either the standpoint of design or performance.

Why didn't I like it as much? Well, for starters it's got a pretty ho-hum design. It's not a bad design, but there are several other headphones out there with the same design, so it does nothing to set itself apart.

To put another way, Nocs' engineers have taken a common, off-the-shelf headphone, slapped the company logo on it and presumably put a decent driver inside it and customized the sound to their liking. There's a little more to it than that, but that's the general snapshot of the situation -- or at least my impression of it. (Note: After this review posted, a Nocs rep informed me that, "They might look somewhat generic but it's not an off-the-shelf product. It's our own tooling and the headband is made of TR90 Dupont Nylon, which is nearly unbreakable.")

Several other headphone models have the same design as the NS700 Phaser. Sarah Tew/CNET

As I said, the design's not bad. While the headphones don't fold up in anyway, they're fairly compact and comfortable enough, though not supercomfortable. They have textured, soft-to-the-touch finish and an Apple-friendly integrated remote/microphone.

You'll be able to make calls with Android and other smartphones but the remote features are only guaranteed to work with iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Call quality was good in my tests with an iPhone 4S.

The headphones fit snugly but aren't supercomfy. Sarah Tew/CNET

As for the sound, it's decent, but it just doesn't distinguish itself in a market full of $100 headphones that sound decent but not great. The bass is ample and the headphones offer a reasonable amount of detail. Overall, they sound well balanced -- they don't overemphasize the bass or treble as some headphones do. However, they just don't come across as terribly dynamic or open.

The headphones don't fold up. Sarah Tew/CNET

At this price point, you have the Audio-Technica ATH-WS55, which offers richer sound with more bass (it doesn't have an integrated remote/microphone, however). And there's also the V-Moda Crossfade LP, which offers a more comfortable fit and better sound.

The in-line remote/microphone. Sarah Tew/CNET

With so many headphones out there, especially in the $75 to $100 range, a headphone really has to do something to distinguish itself from the competition. The only real fault of the Nocs NS700 Phaser is that it doesn't do that. There's nothing really wrong about it, but it has a me-too design and sound that meets but doesn't exceed my expectations for a headphone at this price. It's good that Nocs includes an integrated remote/microphone for cell phone calls, but more headphones do these days. At $60 or so, I'd tell you to take a longer look, but at $99, they're a harder sell.


Nocs NS700 Phaser

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7
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