Noontec Zoro HD headphones review: Audiophile sound, bargain price

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The Good The affordable Noontec Zoro HD headphones mimic Beats Solo styling, but the Zoro HDs sound better, delivering clean, well-balanced sound that will appeal to audiophiles. They're also comfortable to wear, they fold up to stow away in an included carrying pouch, and they have an inline remote/microphone for making cell phone calls.

The Bad The plastic hinges don't inspire confidence in their long-term durability.

The Bottom Line While their build quality is nothing special, the Noontec Zoro HD headphones improve on the original Zoros, offering audiophile-grade sound in a $100 pair of headphones.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Sound 8
  • Value 9

It's easy to mistake the Noontec Zoro HD for the original Zoro on-ear headphones, which became a budget audiophile favorite when they were introduced in 2012. The Zoros offered similar styling to the on-ear Beats Solo headphones but cost a lot less and sounded far more neutral (less bass-heavy) -- an appealing trait for those seeking headphones that sound good with a wide gamut of music genres.

The original Zoros, which remain in production, can be found for around $70 online, while the new Zoro HD headphones will set you back about $100. The two models look nearly identical, but the Zoro HDs deliver more refined sound with plumper, higher-quality bass and have an inline remote/microphone for cell phone calls. While their "new" sound probably still won't satisfy users who crave really big bass, they are excellent budget audiophile headphones.

Design and features
The shiny plastic headphones' build quality is nothing special. The Zoro HDs fold up into a fairly small bundle for compact storage, but the plastic hinges are the obvious weak point in the design. After folding and unfolding the headphones many times they still seem fine, but people who treat their headphones roughly may have problems with this or any $100 hinged headphones.

The comfortable headphones feature nicely padded earcups. Sarah Tew/CNET

At 5.3 ounces the Zoro HD headphones are lightweight and I found them more comfortable to wear than the original Zoros. That's strange, because when you look at them side by side, the old and new models' earcups, cushions, and padded headband look identical, but they don't feel that way on my head. The Zoro HD earpads also produced a better seal, so they blocked out a little more environmental noise, and the improved seal may also be responsible for the Zoro HDs' fuller sound balance compared with the standard Zoros.

The headphones have a similar design to the Beats Solo -- but sound better. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Zoro HDs have neodymium 40mm drivers and impedance is rated at 32 ohms, so they're easy to drive with phones and other portable music players. The flat red headphone cable that plugs into the left earcup is resistant to tangles. Both ends of the 48-inch-long cable are fitted with 3.5mm connectors. On the cord is a one-button remote with microphone, something the original Zoro model lacked. A soft carrying case is the only accessory.

The headphones come with a one-year warranty, and Noontec's importer, ERG Distributors in Carteret, N.J., handles all claims. Note that you'll need proof of purchase to make a warranty claim.

The flat, tangle-resistant cord is detachable and has an inline remote/microphone. Sarah Tew/CNET

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