Bluetooth headphones are everywhere these days. Most of them – many of which sit in the affordable range – provide passable, mediocre sound and varying degrees of battery life. Both are oftentimes better than the earphone counterparts, but it is difficult to get excited about these products in general anymore. The last time I enjoyed a pair of wireless headphones was when I reviewed the Phiaton BT 390, which continues to be one of my top recommendations for anyone needing something under $100, thanks to its impressive battery life and solid sound quality.
For those who seek something a step above, and are willing to pay out a bit more cash, the Noontec Zoro II Wireless is definitely my next suggestion. While this pair is a bit older, it remains a great value at $129.95 ($119.95 for the black and red model; $150 original MSRP). It has some fantastic sound and amazing battery life — not to mention that it is a snazzy pair of headphones, too.
This is my new wireless audio daily driver. I take the Zoro II Wireless with me almost everywhere: to the gym, walking around downtown, and anywhere else I can get away with it.
Design and comfort
Headphones are, whether we like it or not, a fashion statement. You can certainly opt for an understated pair, like what Phiaton is usually good at, or you can get flashy with something from Beats, V-MODA, Monster, et cetera. Having this level of choice for something pinned to our heads is great, I think. When using the Zoro II Wireless, I found that it sits between the minimalist and flashy — it certainly draws attention from those who notice such things, but it does not necessarily stand out in a crowd. Being on-ear, and thus smaller, helps with the latter a bit.
Noontec offers two colors for the Zoro II Wireless: one with a glossy piano black paint job and red accents, and a plain black with a OnePlus-style, sandstone-like texture and “stainless steel” touches here and there. I received the latter, much to my joy, since the black/red version seems to be a fingerprint magnet. I quite like the texture on the unit I received, but that should not surprise anyone who knows me (I loved the Sandstone Black OnePlus One and have gotten the case for the OP3, OP5, and OP5T since). It adds a level of uniqueness to this pair of headphones; though still plastic, the black Zoro II Wireless sets itself apart from its competition, notably its glossy counterparts.
While I like the design, Noontec seemed to skimp on the overall build quality of the Zoro II Wireless. It feels cheap, with creaky hinges and loose ear cups, especially when compared to something like the Phiaton BT 390. When it comes to the cups, I understand that a bit of wiggle room is helpful for making sure the headphones sit properly on a variety of head shapes, but Noontec went too far, I think. I expect these sorts of things from a sub-$50 pair of headphones, not ones that launch at $150.
On-ear headphones bug me, mostly because they do not insulate against outside noise and they are uncomfortable. If you wear glasses, especially thick-framed ones like I do, then any pair will hurt after a very short amount of time. For me, I had just gotten my workout started before I got a headache from my glasses being crushed against my head. This is, by no means, limited to the Zoro II Wireless; rather, this pair falls prey to the problem that plagues many of the options on the market. One benefit, however, is that on-ear headphones do not make me as hot in the gym as over-ear ones do… so, that’s a plus, I guess.
The padding on the Zoro II Wireless cups is what I would call barely adequate, that is, the outside of my ears did not hurt from the pressure of the headphones itself. Bear in mind that they get pretty gross, too.
Sound and battery life
While the build quality and comfort are kind of hit-or-miss, sound and battery life are where the Zoro II Wireless makes a name for itself. For consistency’s sake, I will start with the former: sound quality is excellent, especially in this price range. The focus is clearly on the mids and lows, which lends itself well to any bass-heavy genre — I spent most of my time listening to metal (melodic, folk, and symphonic) and synthwave, both of which sound wonderful on the Zoro II Wireless.
This is not to say that this pair of headphones lacks in clear highs. It offers an overall comfortable and strong sound profile without distortion or any major problems. To some, the lack of anything outstanding in the audio quality is a good thing — this means that the Zoro II Wireless succeeds at providing a balanced experience that is sure to make most people who would be interested in a $120 – $130 pair of headphones happy.
The Zoro II Wireless also supports multi-point Bluetooth pairing, which lets it connect to eight devices and switch between them, and apt-X for better wireless sound quality. Bluetooth, however, is still Bluetooth (4.1 in this case); I had frequent issues with the headphones staying connected to four different devices, and range was very poor at random times (even with a clear line of sight at about a three feet/one meter away). I do not blame the headphones, per se, but I grew frustrated nonetheless. Noontec was kind enough to include a line-in option, if your phone has a headphone jack (or you happen to have the 3.5mm-USB-C dongle).
The only problem with the sandstone is that is gathers dust and dead skin very easily
After the BT 390 with its approximately thirty hours of battery life, I did not think I would find something that could impress me in that regard again. I was wrong.
Noontec says that the Zoro II Wireless will last thirty-five hours, which itself is no small feat. However, in my testing, I got closer to forty (an average of 37.5-38, actually). That is, in no uncertain terms, ridiculously good. Essentially, these lasted me almost two weeks worth of workouts, walks, and workdays without a problem. Part of what took me as long as it did to write this review was because I was trying to drain the battery (and I could not use them for very long periods of time) repeatedly to gather good data. Oh, the work I go through for you, dear readers.