Comfy, but that’s about it.
With gaming headsets, as with life, the little things often matter more than you think. With Noz, Roccat’s latest gaming headset (See it on Amazon), the German peripheral-maker has shifted its focus towards making a sub-$100 cross-platform headset that is light and comfortable on your head. It’s far from perfect, even for a simple wired headset, but it has an elegant look, some useful quality-of-life features, and, most importantly, is one of the only gaming headsets I’ve ever worn and forgotten I was I wearing.
Roccat Noz Gaming Headset – Design & Features
The Noz is, at first glance, a very basic, entry-level gaming headset. Plastic cans and mounting, leather across the top of the headband, a braided cable with a 3.5mm jack you can plug into a PC or console controller. There’s no lighting, no mixer, no configuration software. On the back of the left earcup bracket, there’s a single button that mutes the removable microphone, and a dial for adjusting volume. It looks surprisingly elegant for gaming gear. If you removed the mic and found a way to stash the cable, you could probably wear these outside like standard headphones and no one would bat an eye.
The mic, which slots into an embedded 3.5mm jack on the front of the left earcup, is attached via a small tube of bendable plastic, making it easy to move it as close or as far from your mouth as you want. The mic’s design – no frills, but very functional – is like the entire device; everything works about as well as it needs to.
The main advantage of the Noz is its weight. At 210 grams, it is far lighter than most gaming headsets out there, particularly ones made from molded plastic like HyperX’s Cloud Stinger (275g) and Astro’s A10 headset (310g).
The main advantage of the Noz is its weight.
The elliptical-shaped earcups are also quite wide, making them very comfortable to wear while giving sound coming out the speakers a little more room to bounce around. Unfortunately, the padding on the cups and band isn’t so pleasant, which can undercut the overall fit: The padding has a polyester scratchiness to it and tends to get itchy in a hot room. Overall, though, the Noz felt good on my fairly wide head. While using the Noz with my PC, particularly while writing or browsing the web, I forgot it was on my head a few times.
Despite the simple appearance, though, there are a few little extra features that make the Noz stand out in the budget headset crowd. For starters, it features 50mm drivers, which allow for deeper bass. (A nice thing to have when you’re playing a video game with lots of explosions). Though bigger drivers aren’t exactly fancy, most headsets under $100 feature 40mm drivers. Though the casing is all plastic, the Noz does have an adjustable stainless steel frame in the band, adding extra durability and, when needed, a little flex.
I particularly appreciated that the cable includes an inline Y-splitter. The cable, which runs 2.45 meters (just over eight feet), features a single 4-position jack, but you can remove the end of the cable, breaking up the jack into 3-position audio-in and -out connections – one connects the headphones, the other connects the mic. As with the drivers, more expensive wired headsets will include an adapter, since many PCs require you to use the split cables, but some companies skimp on the part with a cheaper headset. Roccat, by contrast, created a very graceful solution, which I hope more headset-makers adopt.
Roccat Noz Gaming Headset – Gaming (Sound Quality)
Bells and whistles aside, it’s hard to get too excited about the Noz, as its core competency – audio quality – is among its weakest qualities. The audio generally sounded fine. Just fine. That’s a pretty serious condemnation, even for a comparably inexpensive piece of gear. The sound generally felt kind of washed out. In a game like The Division II, where bullets whizz past your head and explosions are going off every minute, you want sound that conveys a sense of place, not only to immerse you but to help you keep track of what’s going on. While I could tell the left side of the field from the right, I never heard those sharp pings or raspy booms as clearly as I expected.
Outside of games, I noticed some unwanted scratchy mid- and high-pitched sounds, particularly in videos with some background noise. Similarly, in YouTube videos with a person talking over background music, the tracks tended to bleed together a bit more than with other, similar priced headsets. Listening to music, I found that most vocals carried a little echo that muddied other elements of the song. The general picture I gathered, across all media, was that the sound tended to get a bit muddy. You won’t necessarily notice the problems unless you look for them, but once you hear them they very apparent.
On the comms side, the microphone comes through quite clear under ideal conditions; there’s a bit of fuzz around the edges, but I’ve heard much worse from far more expensive headsets. That said, the mic is really only able to pick up your voice when the receiver opening is positioned directly in front of your lips. It’s pretty easy to get it into the right place because the mic wire is so flexible, but it is still more finicky than I’d like it to be.
The Roccat Noz has an MSRP of $69.99 and it’s the same price online.