Over the past 8 months of so I have been using a headset made by a company called NOX Audio. Alucardblack did a review of their ear-bud type headphones, called The Scout, about a month or so ago. I thought it would be prudent for me to follow up with a review of the NOX Specialist given that we are all console and PC gamers here. These headphones are a great alternative to those bigger more expensive ones out on the market and given my time with them, and how I feel about them, I thought a review was due. I was lucky enough to get a chance to review the Specialist headphones as well as the Negotiator Universal Optical Gaming Adapter.
Once you purchase the Specialist headphones you’ll find the following contents inside:
- Specialist Stereo Headset
- Carry Case
- 3.5 Detachable Cable
- PC Splitter
- User Manual
- Warranty Card
One of the neat features on the headset is that there is also a retractable microphone on the left earpiece which allows you to use these for online gaming, Skype, and cellular phones. This microphone is pretty unobtrusive and it is an added feature given that you can take these on the road with you for some mobile gaming or music listening, not look like a geek, and should you need to use these for some online gaming, or Skyping, the microphone is readily available to use at home.
Given the multi-use ability of the Specialist, specifically the console gaming aspect, you’ll have to use the Negotiator Universal Optical Gaming Adapter. This unit allows for the headphones to connect to your Xbox 360 and/or PS3 and their respective controllers. Upon purchasing this adapter you’ll find the following in the box:
- 12 ft. Negotiator Universal Optical Gaming Adapter
- Negotiator Controller plug for XBox 360 or PS3
- 2ft. Optical Cable
- 6 inches Standard PC Headset Adapter
- USB Dongle
I should note that you can purchase both the Specialist and the Negotiator in a bundle, which in the end is more cost effective. If you choose though, you can purchase the Specialist headphones separately and then the Negotiator at a later time.
One thing that I always look to when thinking about using headphones is how comfortable they are. Expensive headsets are usually large, cup the whole ear, and can be quite heavy. They are designed to cover your whole ear and block out all sound from the outside. These can get uncomfortable as my ears will get warm and sweaty, and long sessions of gaming are also affected by the weight. On the other end of the spectrum, the much cheaper alternatives barely cover any of your ear, don’t have much padding, and they feel very flimsy. Well the Specialist headphones fit right into the middle.
The headphones are portable, even with their moderate size. The earpieces fold in and up and they can be stored in the in the included travel case. Kudos to NOX Audio for including a nice sturdy carrying case. The headphone jack cable is also detachable for more portable convenience. Overall the Specialist is quick and easy to get ready to use. No physics degree required.
The Specialist’s earpieces use memory foam that is covered by a nice breathable cloth. The whole unit weighs very little and at no time do they ever feel heavy when using them. I found them to be very comfortable over long periods of time. I was writing a review earlier this week and I used them while listening to iTunes on my laptop and they never became uncomfortable. During my extended playtime to check out the gaming aspect of the Specialist, my thoughts were exactly the same. It is worth noting that although my ears could get warm, they were not sweaty and the warmth was not bothersome. The headband that allows for the Specialist to stay on your head is comfortable as well. A lot of headsets literally clamp the earpieces to your head in an effort to stay on, as well as to keep a tight fit to isolate the sound. Not these headphones though. Given the size, shape, and fit, the Specialist does not need to clamp down and they still manage to keep much of the sound isolated. Overall I really appreciated the ability to use these over long periods of time be it listening to music or playing games.
Using the Specialist with a mobile device or PC is as simple as it gets. Most mobile devices have a 3.5mm headphone jack, and just by plugging in you’ll get sound coming through the headphone’s speakers. Connecting to a PC is just as easy, as you use the included PC splitter cable, attach it to your PC, and that is it. There is a volume control on the right earpiece, which allows for easy access and control of the earphone’s volume.
Hooking up the Negotiator to your consoles, which in turn allows you to use the Specialist headphones, is not that difficult, but it can take some time to make sure all is hooked up right. This is due to the fact that the Negotiator is a multipurpose adapter for your both the Xbox 360 and PS3. It utilizes a USB dongle and a toslink cable (fiber optic) that connects to your console of choice, then it feeds a cable to the Negotiator adapter which can connect to a Xbox 360 or PS3 controller. Overall it is not that troubling of a process, just make sure all your settings in your consoles are right and you should be listening to the Specialist within a few minutes.
If there is one complaint in any of these areas, it is the fact that you will have a lot of wires running around if you are console gaming. Given everything requires wires for the Specialist and Negotiator to work, this is expected. There is a long 12 foot cable that goes from the USB Dongle to the Negotiator and plugs in, so there is there is some flexibility, but some people may prefer no cables at all and this comes down to personal choice. It was not an issue for me as I was in my media room gaming and testing this out. If you have small kids or pets, you may just want to be careful of the wires.
The meat and potatoes for any set of headphones is how good the sound is, and for the Specialist I have to say that they sound darn good. I had a chance to test them out using music, playing games, watching a movie or two, and chatting with some friends online. The latter was done using Xbox LIVE’s online service.
When testing these out using music I was very surprised with how different genres of music sounded so good. I listened to Eminem, Chemical Brothers, Dire Straits, Ozzy Osbourne, Rush, Journey, Lady Gaga, The Cars, ZZ Top, and even the two Video Game Live albums (orchestral) that are available on iTunes. Each type of music was crisp, clear, and reproduced without issue. Highs, mids, and lows were pretty much faithfully pushed out the dual driver set-up of each earpiece. A lot of headphones have issues with reproducing a wide mix of tones without distorting somewhere along the line, especially at the higher volumes. I did not find the Specialist headphones having any problems in this area as all the music sounded great. I purposely cranked the volume of the music source, as well as on the headphones, and there were no noticeable issues.
I spent some time playing my Xbox 360 to give the headphones a workout in gaming, and even gave a DVD movie or two a quick spin. In terms of the latter, I did give a quick play to Toy Story 3 that I just bought (I had the Blu-ray/DVD combo), as well as a few older DVD’s that I like, including Black Hawk Down and Tron to name two more. I was once again surprised with the sonic quality of everything, including some directional effects. In Toy Story 3, the scene where Woody escapes from the daycare by flying in the air; the wind was blowing all around the earpiece’s speakers. In Black Hawk Down, a key pivotal scene of a gunship flying around shooting a high powered side mounted chain gun at a building full of baddies was incredible. From the gunship flying around the building, the sound of the bullets hitting the building, to the distinct sound of empty shells dropping to the ground, it all sounded was impressive. Finally, the light cycle scene in Tron sounded great too. You could literally hear the light cycles going from side to side and the sound of an opponent and his vehicle de-rezzing was very familiar. All in all movies managed to sound great should you want to listen to them on these headphones.
I did manage to play a few games using these headphones. I played Medal of Honor on the headphones as I was playing it for personal enjoyment. Yes I know it has been out for awhile, but I have been playing it on my spare time for fun. I also replayed some Halo: Reach and played an XBLA title called Snoopy’s Flying Aces. As with everything else that was tested, the sound was great. From hearing gunfire, explosions, and team chatter in Medal of Honor, to the sound of grunts, jackals, and elites yelling as they attack you with alien weapons, the Specialist had no problems with anything. The Halo series has always had great music, and Halo: Reach is no different. When playing with the headphones I noticed how it surrounded my aural senses and it was really enjoyable this way.
I managed to do some online chatting with the Specialist and it’s retractable microphone. Overall the people I party chatted with had no issues with my voice quality and they sounded good too. If you actually game online with these headphones, you have to hear the game and your online friends through the same speakers in the headphones, and this forces you to pay attention to more then just one type of sound source. Overall the balance was pretty good, and you can control the volume of one versus the other via the Negotiator’s volume control. You will easily find the right mix.
After spending time with the Specialist Headphones from NOX Audio I have to say that I am impressed, especially given the price. From the versatility, portability, fit and finish, to the quality of the sound, these headphones are great for gaming, listening to music, and so much more. Sure, some may get annoyed with the its lack of a wireless feature, but given how you can use this headset for so many things I think that most will be willing to overlook this fact. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you consider picking these headphones up as you won’t be disappointed.