Two years ago, Swedish headphone company NOCS introduced and then quickly withdrew from the market a $99 canalphone called NS600 — a minimalist but handsome silver aluminum-bodied housing with black rubber eartips and cabling. The NS600 contained one driver per earphone, and shipped with an in-line three button remote and microphone, plus a simple carrying case, shirt clip, and four eartips. NOCS has made a number of changes to the follow-up model NS600 Crush ($150), a more expensive version incorporating both functional and cosmetic changes; virtually everything has received an upgrade.
On the surface, the earbuds themselves appear to be pretty similar to their predecessors: they’re still rounded silver aluminum caps with black silicone rubber tips, with an in-line remote and mic capsule dangling from the right cable, and a thin black 3.5mm headphone plug on the bottom. This time out, however, each earbud contains two speakers—one more per side than the previous version—and there are now two pairs of each size of ear tips plus an anachronistic airplane headset adapter in the package, along with a shirt clip and improved zippered carrying case.
NOCS has also switched the cabling from opaque black to a translucent gray—a shade that’s darker than the earbuds, and further enhances the premium look of the headset. Though the cables look nice, they feel thin, so it’s a good thing that they’re reinforced with Kevlar; it’s an open question as to whether the plastic jacketing will stand the test of time as well as the wiring. Stresses are inevitable due to the earbuds’ small, take-them-everywhere design.
For users, the big change will be on the inside of NS600 Crush: the twin drivers are a 5.78mm diaphragm and 8mm twin magnet, which work together to deliver solid bass along with obvious treble and a somewhat recessed but apparent midrange. While it would be easy to categorize the initially ear-flooding sound as the type of low-end-heavy audio that some users will love and others will find overpowering, there was a difference here; unlike some bassy models we’ve tested, we found that we quickly got used to NS600 Crush’s bass levels, and found them to be fairly engrossing.
Songs played through NS600 Crush tend to lead with their bass, and though it’s not ultra deep—something that might make the sound more compelling—what’s there is clear, generally lacking in the muddiness and distortion that is commonly heard in single-driver solutions with similar range. There’s consequently no question whatsoever that there is a real benefit from the addition of the second driver in this model: you not only get that added bass, but the treble and midrange don’t really suffer as a consequence, except to the extent that the low-end tends to dominate them. Some users will like this more than others, but for what NS600 Crush is supposed to be, we liked it.
NS600 Crush’s microphone and remote performance weren’t particularly surprising. The three buttons work just as expected to control volume levels, change tracks, take calls, and play/pause music; they’re nicely separated from one another to increase tactility, though not differentiated in texture. Mic performance was basically the same as with most other three-button remote solutions sourced from Apple: one caller reported that the audio was ever so slightly muffled, but not in a way that dramatically impacted audio quality.
Overall, NS600 Crush is a very good canalphone, featuring a very nice industrial design, all the expected features, and sonic performance that will satisfy bass fanatics. While we lean more towards neutral or evenly-balanced earphones, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend his headphone to fans of strong low-end sound, particularly people who value small size and an Apple-like look and feel. NS600 Crush merits our B+ rating and strong general recommendation; it’s a big improvement on the original NS600, for sure.
Company and Price
Model: NS600 Crush
Compatible: iPads, iPhones, iPods