Noontec Zoro HD headphones review: Audiophile sound, bargain price

The Zoro HDs consistently delivered good sound with all genres of music, and that's not something that you can count on with most $100 headphones. The headphones are considerably better-sounding than the original Zoro 'phones; I heard more and better bass, and the midrange was better, too, so vocals, guitars, piano, and horns all sounded more natural with the HD model.

The heartbeat pulse that propels the ambient techno of Aphex Twin's "Wet Tip Hen Ax" was profoundly deep in ways the original Zoro headphones couldn't match. It wasn't even close, so we next compared the Zoro HDs with headphones known for their low-end muscle, the Sol Republic Master Tracks. Those made even more bass, but the Zoro HDs' bass was balanced better with the rest of the sound. With acoustic jazz CDs, the Master Tracks' boosted bass dominated the sound too much, and pushed back the sound of the piano, horns, and guitars, so they sounded far away. The Zoro HDs restored the bass-midrange-treble balance. In classical music on the Master Tracks, strings lacked clarity compared with how they sounded on the higher-resolution Zoro HDs.

The headphones fold up. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Professional Studio Monitor Headphones have long been a favorite in the under-$200 full-size headphones category, so it made sense to compare them with the Zoro HDs. With Bob Marley's music, the two pairs sound different; the M50s are a tad more spacious, but the Zoro HDs' bass fullness and definition are right up there with the M50s'. With voices the Zoro HDs' sound has a little more body, so they sound more realistic than they do over the M50s.

The ATH-M50 and Master Tracks headphones are both more expensive, but the Zoro HDs weren't decisively surpassed by either one.

The included carrying pouch. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Noontec Zoro HD headphones' sweet sound is tough to beat for the money. Durability may not be the best, but for anyone seeking a pair of audiophile-quality headphones for around $100, the Zoro HDs would be a great place to start.

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