Phoning It In

Since I listen to a lot of music, I wear headphones a lot.  Headphones have come a long way since I was a kid and you had things like this:

The sound quality was terrible and the foam over the earpieces would always end up wearing away (and wasn’t that comfortable when it was there).  We’ve come a long way baby.  Even the earbuds that come with an iPod today are better sounding and more comfortable than these.  However, the iPod earbuds lose a lot of sound when they don’t fit your ears well, requiring you to crank up the volume.  All this really does is make it possible for everyone in your immediate vicinity to hear your musical choices, which is about a daily occurrence on my bus ride.

If you don’t want to go the route of huge over-the-ear phones that are generally on the expensive side and can be cumbersome, you can try sound-isolating earbuds.  That’s the route I decided to go when I recently purchased a pair of Nox Audio Scout earbuds.  I was looking for a replacement for some Sennheiser buds that I had loved until they developed a short that made their performance hit-or-miss.  I had never heard of Nox, but a glowing review that a friend sent me from CNET convinced me to give them a try.  The “audiophile” who wrote the review was very impressed with the sound which obviously is the most important aspect of a headphone’s performance.  A quick word on audiophiles.  Is there some sort of test you have to take to get this title?  Are they born with super hearing?  Do they wince when they hear dog whistles a la Teen Wolf (and yes I did just spend 10 minutes watching clips of Teen Wolf on youtube to see if I could find the scene I’m referencing)?  As you can see, I’m skeptical anytime someone says they are an audiophile.  Anyways, enough about that.

The sound is very crisp.  It is not really bass-heavy, so if you’re looking for that thumping bass that some phones provide (usually with an accompanying loss of other tones), these probably aren’t for you.  But, if you’re looking for headphones to give you a replication of sitting in a quiet room while listening to your favorite music, these are great.  Coming with three different sets of molded plastic bud covers, the medium-size gave me a good seal over the ear, which is the key to keeping the sound in your ear and not escaping out so that everyone around you can hear you listening to “Baby One More Time” (how embarrassing).

The other benefit to this seal is that you can keep the volume down on your device and still hear your music loud and clear.  I only have to put my iPod on quarter volume and that’s plenty loud.  While these do drown out some outside sound these aren’t Bose Sound Isolation headphones.  You are still going to hear some ambient noise.

Anther features that I like: two tabs (that can be removed if you wish) that help keep the bud in your ear.  I’ve never seen this on another set of headphones, and it works very well.  Riding the bus to work, you often are brushing up against other people, and the tabs do a good job of keeping the buds from popping out.  The cord from the jack to where the headphones split is unique as well, instead of a thin cord it is flat and resembles a piece of fettuccine.  This seems to be a sturdier design than previous headphones I’ve had, I’ll have to see how it holds up over time.

These aren’t perfect though.  The black material on the phones pick up lint very easily and the aforementioned cord creates a lot of noise when it rubs against clothing, so I wouldn’t recommend these for anyone looking for a headphone to go running with.  The jack is straight rather than the 90 degree angle jack of the Sennheiser earphones I previously owned which creates a smaller profile when stuffing your portable device in a small pocket.  I also miss the Sennheiser’s behind the ear cord, which allowed you take the buds out and have the buds sit around your neck rather than just falling down.  But these are all minor quibbles and the sound quality outweighs any of these shortcomings.  The only potential real issue I’ve noticed that on a few occasions I’ve had them in my ears for extended time (2+ hours) my left ear was getting a little achy where the buds rest against the ear canal.

Overall, given the price point and performance so far, I’d give these a B+.  I’ll update in a few months to let you know how they are holding up.

The Most Interesting Man In the World also got a pair of these, so expect to see a review from him soon too.

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One Response to “Phoning It In”

  1. Seeking Balance « Beat Dead Horse Says:

    […] The Nox Audio Scout (also priced at $79) came highly recommended by CNET audiophile guru Steve Guttenberg while simultaneously was berated by the folks at Engadget.  My friend and I got these around the same time and he release his personal review. […]

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