Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Nocs has been quietly producing a lineup of “high-performance” audio products that include a wide range of IEMs, headphones, and to a lesser extent, speakers. Its products combine a simple minimalistic design that features durability and quality with a superior sound that Nocs is “wholly committed” to achieving. The company cites its extensive experience with professional musicians as enabling it to create products that will please audiophiles, musicians, and DJs alike. While that may be a tall order, it goes to show just how intent Nocs on producing high-quality audio products.
The NS-800 is Nocs’ flagship IEM, and features a single balanced armature driver. Currently priced at 150 USD, the NS-800 lies in the awkward 100-200 dollar price range where offerings are somewhat limited when compared with the multitude of products that occupy the sub-100 and 200-plus dollar price ranges. However, there are several aspects working in the NS-800’s favor, and why these earphones may be a fairly compelling option.
DISCLAIMER: This unit was provided by Nocs for the purposes of this review. We are neither affiliates nor employees of Nocs. All media rights are reserved.
The NS-800 comes packaged in relatively simple cardboard box. A small window on the back showcases the NS-800’s stainless steel housing in its entirety (eartips did not come attached by default). While I’m generally not a fan of see-through packaging, I do have to say that in this case the clear window is rather well executed. The NS-800s are housed in nice precision cut foam, and the overall feel of the box inspires confidence. My only complaint is that the earphones are placed flush next to the window, meaning that they could be rather easily damaged in cases of poor shipping and handling.
The included items for the NS-800 are well thought out, and each accessory serves a purpose. 2 sets of each size of eartip are included (6 total), which I think is excellent foresight on the part of Nocs. Too many earphones in this price range simply neglect to include a spare pair of mediums, which often makes it hard for the casual listener to find a replacement in the case of the inadvertent loss of one eartip. All too often, casual listeners will simply revert to using a larger or smaller size of eartip, which makes for a less than ideal seal. A soft velvet case will help to keep the NS-800 safe, and is amply sized to store the earphones. The airplane jack adaptor and the clothing clip are also great additions that should be standard on more earphones at this price point.
Moving on to the build quality, the NS-800 features a finely machined stainless steel housing. It’s a testament to what can be achieved for a mere 150 USD, and really puts many other less well-built earphones in the same price range to shame. The cable that comes with the NS-800 is nondetachable, but is coated with Kevlar to ensure long lasting durability. In addition, the cable features good strain relief (what a relief). My only complaint is that it does retain quite a bit of memory, and also gets tangled rather easily. The inline remote does its job, but it certainly isn’t something to write home about either.
The overall design of the NS-800 is very sensible. There are no “gimmicky” features or crazy fitting gadgets to entice the average consumer. However, it is this utilitarian design philosophy behind the earphones that makes it so appealing. The NS-800 is extremely small and fits stealthily into one’s ears. Because of its diminutive size, it is also very easily transportable, and suits active listeners very well. In fact, I found myself carrying the NS-800 around with me much more often than some of my other earphones simply because of the convenience factor. Overall, props to Nocs for creating such a sensibly designed pair of earphones.
The original NS-800 seemed to have some issues with SQ, and many users reported an overly lean sound with high levels of sibilance. However, with V2, the NS-800 got a bit of a retuning that has since restored some warmth to its SQ, making for an overall better listening experience.
Starting with the bass, the NS-800 demonstrates performance that is highly commendable for a single BA-driven earphone. The quality of the bass is good, and the NS-800 is able to produce low-frequency notes with a fair amount of speed and precision. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as it does utilize a balanced armature driver. What sets the NS-800 apart from other competitors then is the quantity of bass available. There is enough impact in the bass to create an engaging low-frequency performance that all users can enjoy. Bass extension isn’t particularly good, but what notes the NS-800 can reach it renders excellently. Listening to Savanna by Tobtok, I was taken aback by how successful the NS-800 was creating a lively “party” sound that makes house music so enjoyable.
The mids on the NS-800 are fairly good. They aren’t veiled, and do provide a rather competent presence. However, they lack a certain “fullness” and can sound rather flat at times. I believe that a little bit more energy would definitely have helped in this regard. The treble is crisp and clear, and adds a sparkle that might just remind longtime users of how the original NS-800 sounded like. However, it is not a disjointed sound segment, and works well with the bass/mids to help create a comfortable, warmer SQ.
The soundstage leans toward the intimate side of things, and at times instrument separation is slightly compromised. While listening to L’amant by Gabriel Yared, I found that the NS-800 did have some trouble resolving between differences between the violin soloist and the rest of the ensemble.
The NS-800 is a compelling product at its price point. Offering a good (if not safe) SQ and an excellent all-round package, the NS-800 performs very well for its price range, and is great for day-to-day use. Not having to fumble with hard-case containers or worry about achieving a good fit on a regular basis really helped to make the NS-800 one of my everyday carry items. In general, if you are looking for a pair of earphones that can hold its own SQ-wise while providing good aesthetics and general convenience, then the NS-800 is just the thing for you.
TYPE: Single BA Driver
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20 Hz-20, 000 Hz
SENSITIVITY: 106.6 dB
IMPEDANCE: 25 ohms
PRICE: 150 USD