I love me some surround sound headsets and big ol’ open-cup designs for when I’m at home, because nobody can see how dorky I look there, and I don’t have to worry about the cables getting everywhere. But for traveling around, putting in a quick game at a cafe, or playing your DS on the bus, you definitely want a more compact pair of cans. The Specialist and the Scout, from (relative) newcomer Nox Audio, are a pretty good solution for that, but also hook right up to your 360 or PS3.
Nox has been around for a while, actually, but mainly as a supplier. This lineup is their first direct-to-consumer line, and it’s not a bad debut.
I gave them a whirl here at E3, and found myself pleasantly surprised. Audio quality is pretty much impossible to gauge, since we’re on the show floor of E3, and it’s extremely noisy, so I won’t say anything on that front. But the Specialist, which is a traditional foam earcup style, was refreshingly light and plenty comfortable. Nothing out of this world, but certainly pleasant. The Specialist’s main feature is the volume control built into the right earcup’s shell. The round bit you see there spins — I would prefer the dial to be a little grippier, as I had to press a bit to make it spin, but it’s a nice subtle place for the camouflaged dial. There’s also a retractable microphone in the left cup, which you use the left earcup’s dial to reel in. Not bad at all — I even like the colors.
The Scout is an in-ear set, not particularly remarkable except for a little silicone flange that rests on the outside bit of your ear and prevents the headphone part from moving around too much in your ear canal when you’re moving or the cable gets jostled. They’re equipped with an in-line mic for calls and such, which looked pretty standard. Lastly, there’s also the world’s smallest send/end button, and it really is small:
Notice the flat cord. I like that, it prevents tangles.
The Specialist costs $80 and the Scout $90, which I think is probably fair, though without giving them a good listen in a quiet place I can’t tell for sure. The Specialist comes with a handsome carrying case. The Negotiator costs $60 on its own (!) but can be gotten in a bundle with the Specialist for $100. More info can be found at Nox’s site.