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nocs NS800 Monitors review

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Last year, I wrote about the NS400, a pair of $100 headphones from the Swedish brand Nocs. They recently sent me a pair of NS800 Monitors, a pair of $200 monitoring headphones. The NS400 have amazing sound that are a bargain at their price. Lets find out how the NS800 compare.

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The box is nearly identical to the NS400’s.

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Nice window to look at the actual headphones.

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The package includes the headphones, a carrying case, 2 pairs of each size of sleeves, a clip, and an airplane adapter.  

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The first thing you notice is how much smaller that NS800 are. This review was quite difficult to photograph as macro photography isn't the X100's strong point. The 800’s drivers have a stainless steel housing that have a cleaner finish than the titanium body of the 400. Titanium also seems to be more prone to finger prints.

 

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The headphones are so small that the strain relief on the cable looks massive. The finish on the steel is top notch and the build quality world-class. Great job from Nocs again.

 

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What makes these twice the price of the NS400 its use of a balanced armature speakers as opposed to the more traditional dynamic drivers in the 400. Balanced armatures typically offer more precision and clarity due to their unique architecture. The real advantage here is the size advantage of this technology - which is clearly evident in the packaging of the NS800. In fact, balanced armatures can be so compact that some premium headphones (not the NS800) use multiple drivers to cover a wider range of sound. One of the things this design requires is a tight seal - the reason why the NS800 doesn’t have acoustic vents like the NS400.

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As you can see, the minuscule size make them almost invisible. You can understand why hearing aids often use balanced armatures.

 

 
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So how do these sound? The thing to keep in mind is that balanced armatures are all about clarity and accuracy. Also, the NS800 are marketed as monitoring headphones. It makes sense that the sound from these are extremely neutral and safe. Everything is presented with clarity and no detail is left behind. The NS400 feel muffled in comparison. Where the NS800 falls short is in punchiness. Yes, the sound is accurate and pleasant. but it’s almost too flat. I wanted to hear a bit more aggression from the treble and more power from the bass. If you enjoy bass, these aren’t the headphones for you. Nevertheless, I find myself listening to music on the 800 more than the 400. I love the purity and honest sound it delivers.
 

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The NS800 features a handy iOS compatible remote and mic combo. Perfect for Siri.

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Improved design from the 400 - no more dangerously tight cable-bending.

 
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Nocs also includes a clip. I use this quite often to keep the wires under control. The NS800’s clip has four slots for the cable to sit it. No idea why.

 

 
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There’s also a more substantial Y-splitter and headphone jack design. It’s not very visible in the photo but my year-old NS400 is beginning to show some serious yellowing. I would buy the black version. We’ll have to see if the NS800 shows the same problem in a year.

 

 
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Something that the headphones still lack are nice cables. Nocs is sticking to these cables similar to Apple's headphones. Feels too thin and fragile for me.

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All in all, these are great if you prefer accuracy over power. People wanting more bass and lively sound should save a $100 and get the NS400. I would happily pay the extra for the NS800. I love lying in bed and listening to the smallest nuances in my favorite music before going to bed. I appreciate these headphones based on pure principle too. I’m tired of seeing bass-biased headphones with a frosting of marketing like Beats by Dr.Dre. They sound like garbage, don't buy them. The NS800 is a listening tool for people that truly appreciate music.

Summary:

  • NS400 are a bargain at $100. Recommended for everyone.
  • NS800 are all about precision. Recommended for people that prefer accuracy over punchiness in sound. There could be better choices out there but these offer a nice balance of clean Swedish design and premium sound. Not cheap, but worth $200.