The Inexpensive and Terrific Noontec Zoro Page 2

Sound Quality
The Zoro slays the Solo! So, I had to break out a few headphones that compete well at around the $100 mark to see how good they really are. I compared the Zoro with the Skullcandy Aviator, Philips Citiscape Downtown, Creative Aurvana Live!, and Koss TBSE (DJ100). The Zoro held it's own in this crowd of $100 over-performers, I came away feeling it had the best balanced sound of the group. I detected a slight muffling in it's character relative to some of the other cans, but it pretty handily delivered the tightest bass, and seemed to deliver a heft and substantiality to voices the other cans couldn't quite pull off. The Creative Aurvana Live! hung in there close, but the Aviators poorer bass performance, and the poorer balance of the Koss and Philips had me preferring the Noontec Zoro as best of the bunch.

Well, let's throw Zoro in with the big boys.

I set up the listening station with the Sennheiser Amperior, Beyerdynamic DT1350, and V-Moda M-80. I listened to some test tracks with these three headphones and could easily hear greater control and balance with these than the previous set of $100 headphones. Maybe most noticeable was much better transitions from mids to treble---a more coherent and striking sense of realism (though the DT1350 was a little warm). When I returned to the Zoro I could now more easily hear it lacked some of the crunch of the electric guitar, some of the richness of trumpet and cymbal harmonics. It sounded a bit too laid back and slightly muffled.

Throughout, though, the Noontec Zoro showed that it was a very competent $100 headphone, delivering terrifically tight and well extended bass, a good sense of balance through the mids, and a polite and pleasing treble---uneven maybe, but overall at about the right level and not strident or biting in the least.


Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

Well, what a pickle we have here. This is a perfect example of one of those time where you can't really even interpret what's going on with with the measurements without listening as well. Ugly frequency and impulse response on one hand, terrific square wave and THD+noise measurements on the other. Weird.

Raw frequency response plots show the earpads on these little on-ear cans are coupling very nicely as they're repositioned for measurement. Compensated frequency response plots show a very well behaves bass and mid-range for a headphone of this type. Bass extension is very good, and the knee of the curve in the treble tries to push up to 2kHz, which I like. However, there's a huge notch at 4kHz. When I first saw this plot I was shocked as my listening had not lead me to believe there was a mid-treble dropout of this magnitude. I did notice a lack of rich treble clarity and heard the Zoro as very slightly muffled, but I expected nowhere near the notch I see in the frequency response. Looking again at the gray uncompensated frequency response and how flat it is has me worried yet again about how accurate the HRTF used is to compensate frequency response with headphones. Argh.

The 30Hz square wave response is truly excellent for a small, on-ear headphone. I was continually impressed as I listened to the quality of the low notes, the fairly flat square wave top speaks of it. The THD+noise plot does as well, staying below 1% in the bass all the way to 20Hz is quite a trick.

The 300Hz square wave is also very nicely shaped. It does look a bit rickety, and I usually like to see a bit of an overshoot on the leading edge, but it also shows this headphone is not going to tear you eardrum up with screeching highs. It is a bit slow on the rise, however, and coupled with the lack of some overshoot is indicative of the somewhat polite treble heard in listening.

Impulse response is a bit of a mess, but at least it doesn't ring for too long. I'm thinking the double blip comes from some porting of the backwave from the driver into the front resulting in a slightly delayed second pulse at the ear. My guess is the designers had a bit of trouble with something at 4kHz and just squelched it with a port creating the frequency response dip. A reasonable approach since a notch is far less audible than a peak at the same frequency. You'll also notice a rise in THD+noise at 4kHz probably from the same thing.

Impedance and phase plots show a 20 Ohm headphone with some modest resonances at 2kHz and 6kHz, likely originating from resonances behind the driver. With 16mVrms needed to achieve 90dB at the ear this is a very efficient headphone, and will easily be driven to loud levels from portable players. But the isolation plots shows that this headphone does not isolate well at all making this a headphone that can be used portably, but not for listening in loud environments. On the other hand, you will be able to remain aware of your surroundings, so using these cans portably in quite neighborhoods will work well.

While the Noontec Zoro physically isn't quite the headphone that the Beats Solo is at twice the price, it's certainly well built for it's price. More importantly, it handily trounces the Solo in the sound quality department. When compared with some of my favorite headphones in the $100 price range, it seemed to best the other cans with a well balanced and authoritative bass and mid-range doing great justice to the natural sound of acoustic instruments and vocals. An uneven treble with a notch at 4kHz cause the cans to seem slightly muffled and laid back, but this was a modest flaw and really only heard as a problem when compared to much more expensive and better sounding headphones.

I really loved the little Noontec Zoro. They're an absolutely great headphone for the price and I am going to put them on my Wall of Fame as a top performer in it's category. Their only downfall is that since they're a semi-sealed design they don't isolate very well, and they won't make a good can for noisy environments. They'll be great around the home or office, though ... just great!

Noontec corporate home page.
Noontec Zoro product website.
These are so new I had to start a thread on Head-Fi for them here.
As soon as I heard them I called Steve Guttenberg to give him the heads-up, he liked them too.

Building C,Zhangkeng Industial Park, Minzhi,Longhua
Shenzhen 518031 China.
+86 755 8179 8305

Alondite's picture

" I compared the Zoro with the Skullcandy Aviator, Philips Citiscape Downtown, Creative Aurvana Live!, and Koss TBSE (DJ100). The Solo held it's own in this crowd of $100 over-performers, I came away feeling it had the best balanced sound of the group. "

I think you probably meant "Zoro" there.


Tyll Hertsens's picture

Fixt. I just knew I'd do that sooner or later.

The Monkey's picture

Sorry, I'm a little behind, too. :)

dores's picture

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jerg's picture

Hey Tyll,


I'm fairly sure if a CSD / waterfall plot is done here, that massive gaping valley would be bridged significantly, as purrin's measurements over at his forum often indicate that valleys like that in FR correspond to nasty ringing at that same frequency range that extends through the time axis,

ultrabike's picture

Seems like amends reading Zory about your Solo.

drheadphone's picture

How does Zoro compare with the Exodus?

Lawk's picture

I recently got the exodus and took it on a 7 hours train ride, thought it isolates pretty well, but it's quite uncomfortable after only an hour or so, the pressure is very high, and the leather pads not thick enough.

The sound quality to me is very good though, maybe a little warm/full sounding but not overly dark, it's very enjoyable. I don't miss my HD25's much. I actually think the bass is better on the Exodus.

The noontec doesn't isolate as well I would assume, but I don't have them. It does have a detachable cable though, the Exodus fabric cable is horrible IMHO. Personally I would be a bit curious about that drop at 4khz, would listen first.

drheadphone's picture

Thanks. I also have the Exodus and find them very uncomfortable as well, though they sound great. Zoros seemed like a decent alternative but I went with the Phiaton MS400, instead. The Phiatons have excellent comfort and noise isolation and have good bass and mid performance (if sounding noticeably laidback compared to the Exodus). Right now they're on sale at newegg for $99. Now I wonder how the MS400 compares with the Zoros

donunus's picture

great review. Its an exciting time for cheap closed cans

Long time listener's picture

Hi Tyll, in the review you mention, "My guess is the designers had a bit of trouble with something at 4kHz and just squelched it with a port creating the frequency response dip. A reasonable approach since a notch is far less audible than a peak at the same frequency. You'll also notice a rise in THD+noise at 4kHz probably from the same thing."

I'd like to throw out another possible reason for the simultaneous frequency response notch and and rise in harmonic distortion, to see what people think. Even though headphone drivers (assuming perfect pistonic motion) will be emitting all frequencies more or less equally from both their inner and outer edges, the sound arriving at your ear from the outer edge of a driver located close to your ear will be arriving from a far different angle than the sound from the middle, which will be aimed directly at your ear canal. This will affect the mix of frequencies heard in each case, and this is one important way that companies voice their headphones. (For this same reason, bass from a room speaker can be heard anywhere in the house, but treble is usually best heard almost directly on-axis, straight in front of the speaker.) So it is no coincidence that the visual appearance of the apertures in the plate above the driver on almost any headphone will match very well with the frequency response. On the Polk website, for example, you can see an exploded diagram that shows this plate on their new noise-cancelling headphone. It has a very even array of rings of holes gradually changing from larger to smaller as they move from the outside to the inside--exactly matching its almost linear drop from the bass to the treble region (this is especially clear in the way the graph is plotted on the Headroom site). On the Noontec site, the exploded diagram shows something very different, but that also corresponds to the response of the Zoro: one outer ring of very large holes, corresponding to the large, broad, bass-midrange curve, followed by a ring of much smaller holes toward the center, corresponding to the sharper treble curve. The large space in between--where sound waves break up as they hit all the solid plate--is both what creates the frequency dip and the corresponding rise in distortion at the same frequencies. This same measurement is seen in many headphones. I think Noontec was just doing what almost everyone does--creating a dip in the "presence region" (roughly 2-5 Khz) to prevent the sound from being overly aggressive, although they may have overdone it a bit. This is what created the unusually sharp rise in distortion, and I suspect the port has more to do with enhancing the bass response.

Just my observation; hope it adds to the thinking on this subject, or at least gives others a chance to tell me how wrong I am.

NA BLur's picture

Looks like a nice inexpensive semi neutral sounding headphone.  If they did not have that dip at 4k they would probably be up there with some other top portables.

The THD% shows a clear resonance at the exact location of the dip.  This is most likely a consequence of seal or resonator design.  Opening the headphone in some way would give a clue if it were resonator or driver design.

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drheadphone's picture

double post

iMatt's picture

I ended up buying a set off of tanga for $59.99.

These are absolutely fantastic little headphones. The build quality nothing to write home about, but sweet mother of bass response. These things put out some of the most ridiculous bass impact I've heard on a headphone. Even in comparison the XB-1000's running on my amped rig, (it doesn't extend as deep obviously), but they can really pack a punch. As Tyll was saying throughout the review, the bass retains a very tight response. It never really feels like getting car sub-woofer flat note which a lot of "bass-heavy" cans fall into.

The mid-range is relatively neutral where it doesn't feel aggressively in your face. Comparing directly with the aviators they're a little more laid back in general, but for an on ear they hold up fantastic against it sound-wise.

The treble is slightly rolled off for sure, but that's not a bad thing when you're need a nice chillout headphone. It's relatively smooth, but don't expect to be mixing vocals with these guys. 


Overall build, they're plastic-y like the Beats Solos with identical metal hinges with a steel core that runs all the way through the headband. Passable flexibility, but these things are not an M-80 headband by far. Not a deal breaker, but you'll want to treat them with a little bit of love. The seal is comfy enough to where you really don't feel pressure on the ears, but at some points you wish it'd be a bit more head hugging when you're moving around. As Tyll had pointed out, the earpads themselves are protein leather and it's quite fantastic. I found myself going for longer periods without them heating up and picking up ear sweat. 

Thanks Tyll for review, I will second his recommendation. These guys at sub-$100 are a fantastic on ear headphone with RIDICULOUS bass response.

tom22's picture

hi there i noticed you bought the noontecs, i was wondering how was the headphones isolation wise? especially in the gym? im going to be commuting a lot and i was wondering if you may have tried anything to improve the noontec's isolation?

tom22's picture

hi there i was wondering if anyone here has tried different earpads to increase the isolation on the noontecs?

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Woot!    It was this headphone review that got me to both buy the Noontecs AND discover     Woo Hoo!

Ive bought alot of mid-price-ranged cans in the last year but these have one of the fullest and most rewarding sounds...definitely a pleasant surprise!    Hopefully noontec will throw a few more bucks at the build quality for the next version as if you could combine this sound with the fit/form/feel of the Beats Solo,  you'd have an incredible setup.

Peace .n. "Ours go to 11"




Three Toes of Fury's picture

PS;   Tyll...HUGE thanks for the tip on the Vmoda replacement cable...i ordered up a bunch for several of my headphones...its a wonderful a huge fan of the cloth style insulator as well as the 45 degree plug (straight plugs are the enemy of mp3 players in ones pocket)

hpscout's picture

Hey PS,

    Not sure which phone you use, but does the v-moda cable work on Android?



hpscout's picture

Hi Tyll,

    Thanks for the eyeopener. I was about to order SOL Republic's Tracks HD!

    The V-moda cable tip was the icing on the cake as I'm also looking for cans with mic & button controls for phone use. Would you recommend SOL's ClearTalk cable though? While SOL's 3-button variant works only on i-devices, their 1-button variant is meant for Android. I love it for the fact that it's flat and tangle free.

    Please advise.



muneer ahmed's picture

PS;   Tyll...HUGE thanks for the tip on the Vmoda replacement cable...i ordered up a bunch for several of my headphones...its a wonderful a huge fan of the cloth style insulator as well as the 45 degree plug (straight plugs are the enemy of mp3 players in ones pocket)


Metalollie's picture

How do they (or the newer Noontec Zoro HD) compare against the AKG-K451.. I'm torn between the two, and also considering the Audio Technica ATH-M50, but I think they are a little more expensive than I can afford realistically, unless they are dramatically better. I gather they have quite a narrow soundstage and can sound a little clinical, which puts me off slightly. The AKG get mixed reviews, but did come out on top in What HiFi, especially for the price.. While most of the reviews are positive on the AKGs, the negative reviews all seem to suggest they are overrated, so I'm at a loss as to which to go for.. It's such a minefield, with so many to choose from, so any advice gratefully recieved!


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