Nocs isn’t a name that rings a bell in the US, but the Swedish headphone and speaker manufacturer is well-known internationally. You’ve likely seen their products grace the pages of culture-driven publications like Hypebeast and Highsnobiety, as well as with high-end consumer sites like Uncrate. Now, the brand is ready to disrupt the mid-range wireless earbuds category with their latest release: the Nocs NS1100 Air.
The audio and active noise cancellation on these buds is attention-grabbing, along with their minimalist, sleek design. Sadly, the limited feature set and pairing issues hold them back from a higher score.
Let’s see whether these drawbacks are enough to keep the NS1100 from making our best wireless headphones list.
Nocs NS1100 Air availability and price
The $150 Nocs NS1100 Air is sold exclusively through Nocs and only comes in one color: Black. Inside the box are a charging case, USB-C charging cable, and five sets of different sized tips.
By comparison, it shares the same MSRP as other popular ANC models like the Beats Studio Buds ($149) and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($149). These buds are also cheaper than category leaders like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279). If the price seems steep for your budget, consider the recently launched OnePlus Buds Z2, which offers solid sound and ANC for under $100.
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Nocs NS1100 Air design and comfort
The Nocs NS1100 dons an all-black plastic frame with its logo placed front and center. It bears a resemblance to some of Jabra’s past releases, though I find Jabra’s choice of materials and two-tone colorways more appealing. Either way, the NS1100 captures the look and feel of premium wireless earbuds. IPX4 nanocoating also keeps this model splash- and sweat-resistant.
The pill-shaped charging case stands out more than the buds, thanks to details like the debossed logo on the top and four tiny LEDS on the front. It’s compact and easy to carry around. Plastic makes up the entire body, and though it has a nice soft-touch finish and stores the buds safely, the surface is prone to scuffs.
You can tell Nocs spent time constructing these buds with optimal fit in mind. The angled sound port slides easily into the canal and the tips create a tight seal that minimizes slippage. Furthermore, several ear tips are included with the purchase to accommodate different ear sizes.
Comfort is just as rewarding. The buds rest pleasantly on the concha for about 2 to 3 hours before any fatigue sets in.
Nocs NS1100 controls and digital assistant
The controls are basic with input methods limited to single/double taps and touch-and-hold gestures. Commands for playback, call management, digital assistance, and listening mode activation are split between the buds. Nocs’ touch panels are responsive, but often misinterpret double taps for a single tap. Not having motion sensors also means no auto-pause/play when removing or placing the buds on your ears.
Google Assistant, Siri, and Bixby are all compatible with the NS1100. All three work well and execute commands as quickly as they receive them. The mics are also able to capture words and long-winded requests accurately.
Nocs NS1100 Air audio quality
Nocs engineered the NS1100 Air with several technologies to ensure listeners get a premium listening experience. A combination of 9.2mm graphene drivers and Audiodo Personal Sound are used to optimize audio based on an individual’s hearing perception. The results are sonically charming. I think the depth and low end are more satisfying on higher-end models like the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 and Sony WF-1000XM4, but these buds are no slouch either.
Sound comes flat right out of the box, which is fine since it delivers solid frequency range, but enabling Personal Sound refines audio output. For records like Prince’s “Gett Off,” bass was emphasized to give snares more punch. Vocal range remained crisp, and even distinctive elements like the saxophone squeals and curdling wail at the start of the track sounded bright.
Handling the speaker-rattling bass on Method Man & Redman’s “Da Rockwilder” is a huge ask for any pair of sub-$150 wireless earbuds. The NS1100 Air won’t leave your eardrums throbbing like the Jabra Elite 7 Pro does, but it handles the heavy synths and pounding bassline well enough to keep lows impactful and mids clean.
I also recommend pulling up Jazz classics like Art Blakey’s “Along Came Betty” to hear how great orchestral recordings sound on these buds. The deep double bass and tinny hi-hats demonstrate the NS1100’s impressive reproduction.
Codec support is limited to SBC and AAC. This is somewhat of a shocker, especially since aptX is available on most wireless earbuds these days.
Nocs NS1100 Air active noise cancellation
Few wireless earbuds at this price point can do ANC right and the NS1100 Air is one of them. Nocs employs Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation to analyze surrounding sounds and produce “anti-noise” to “eliminate the buzz around you.” The technology won’t compete with what you’ll find on both the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM4, but it’s effective for blocking out most background interference.
Common household distractions like family chatter, home appliances, and the occasional doorbell ring went silent. Rumbling sounds from the laundry room didn’t break concentration either. However, it’s the level at which the buds neutralize high frequencies that caught my attention most. Walking past the nursery to barely hear my infant crying felt relieving. His highest-pitched screams did come through when the door opened, but that was to be expected. Using the buds outside was just as rewarding. Bird chirps, landscaping tools, and sirens weren’t distracting when out on walks.
Transparency Mode also comes as part of the package to gain greater awareness of your surroundings. It’s OK. I found it useful for keeping tabs on the baby or oncoming traffic at night. Unfortunately, the mics don’t do the best job of picking up vocals, which was frustrating when trying to communicate with the missus.
Nocs NS1100 Air special features and app
All the NS1100 Air’s biggest features have been discussed, including ANC, Transparency Mode, and Personal Sound. Everything else, which is very little, is tied to the Nocs Design app. The app focuses more on style than substance.
All you’ll find are battery level indicators, toggle controls for the listening modes, and a sound graph showcasing the decibel levels on each bud when enabling Personal Sound. Don’t get me wrong, the presentation is attractive, but the app pales in comparison to its competitors.
Nocs NS1100 Air battery life and charging case
According to the product page, battery life is rated at 9 hours on a full charge, but a company rep stated that the buds offer up to 7.5 hours without ANC and 6.5 hours with ANC on. Testing showed the buds lasting around 6 hours with ANC on, which is sufficient for about 3 days of moderate listening (2 hours daily). This is also a higher playtime than some mid-range noise-cancellers like the Studio Buds (5 hours) and Galaxy Buds 2 (5 hours). Disabling the feature extended playtime to 7 hours.
The charging case stores up to 30 hours when fully charged. Any case that outperforms the AirPods Pro case (24 hours) is fine in my book. On the flip side, it doesn’t support quick or wireless charging, two features that should be standard for 2022 wireless earbuds.
Nocs NS1100 Air call quality and connectivity
The NS1100 Air is a decent calling headset. It’s serviceable for voice and video calls that are taken indoors, though a few people mentioned muffling issues. Outside is where the buds struggle most. I was able to converse with clients when in the backyard, though moving towards the front porch presented challenges; ambient noise and wind caused lots of interference.
Bluetooth 5.0 is middling on the NS1100. The initial pairing process left me irate because neither my MacBook Pro or smartphones (Samsung Galaxy Note S20 Ultra and Google Pixel 6 Pro) recognized the buds when Bluetooth was turned on. Removing the buds from the case didn’t seem to enable pairing mode, and the instructions to touch and hold the sensors for 3 seconds wasn’t working either. The buds weren’t dead since I could still switch the listening modes, yet they required a full charge to establish a connection between devices.
Once completed, there was no dropout during voice and video calls. The range was excellent at 40 feet before stuttering occurred. It would have been nice if Nocs considered Google Fast Pair for one-touch pairing and multipoint technology to pair the buds to two devices simultaneously.
ANC and sound quality give the NS1100 Air some clout in what’s already an aggressive true wireless market. Intuitive features like Personal Sound cater to your listening taste without having to manually adjust frequencies via custom EQ or presets. The buds reduce external sound at a high level. Nocs commitment to developing stylish hardware is also appreciated, as exhibited by brand design staples such as clean aesthetics and an all-black paint job.
But comparing the NS1100 to other $150 wireless earbuds only encourages debate, especially since there are numerous rivals that provide similar sound and many more features. The pairing issues are frustrating, plus the lack of modern functions like control customization and wireless charging are turn-offs.
That begs the question: is the Nocs NS1100Air worth the price? Yes, but only for music lovers that want premium sound at a relatively affordable price. Everyone else will want to play the field.