Polk recently released a couple of new in-ear-style headphones that should be appealing to the mobile crowd. Its Nue Voe headphones are the ones we're looking at here, and they have been designed in a way that makes them look more interesting than most of the other earbuds on the Australian market. Importantly, they also produce excellent sound.
The Nue Voe earbuds are supplied with differently sized tips so that they will fit most ears, and once you insert the earbuds in your ears, you need to twist them downwards a little so that they lock in place. They have little 'wings' on them that feature a pattern that’s reminiscent of a wood grain pattern from afar, though they are a see-through plastic (polymer resin). These wings sit just inside the ear and ensure that the earbuds won't come loose. As far as earbud designs go, this is among our favourites, simply because it means the earphones won't drop out of your ears each time you make a sudden movement. It also makes the seal between the earbud and the ear canal a little more secure.
As for comfort, we used the smallest tips for our ears, and didn't find them to be too annoying. They sat tightly in our ears, which meant that we did experience a little soreness after a few hours of listening, but it was nothing that couldn't be fixed with a slight re-adjustment of the earbuds, just to give our ears a little break from the pressure. In an interesting design choice by Polk, the wing part of the earbuds has a hole in it so that your ears can still get a little bit of air, and we think this plays a role in the overall comfort of these earbuds. It also makes them feel very light.
In comparison, Polk has also released a more affordable set of earbuds called Nue Era. These are solid, rather than having a hole in them, and they feel very heavy and bulky in the ears. In fact, we couldn't get the Nue Era earbuds to sit comfortably in our ears at all, even when we used the smallest tip. They were just too tight and produced noticeable soreness. We prefer the Nue Voe all the way.
The cord that comes with the New Voe earbuds is about 130cm long, and it has a four-pole, right-angled plug, which, in conjunction with the built-in inline remote on the right earbud, can be used to control an i-device (it also has a built-in microphone). You can still use these earbuds on an Android device (as we did for our testing), but it means that you won't reap the benefits of their full functionality. Only the play/pause button will work on an Android smartphone; the volume buttons won't do anything.
We found the overall sound quality of the Nue Voe to be excellent. In our tests, they produced a natural sounding output that wasn't overly biased to any particular frequency. At the same time, they still provided the necessary punch that some music required. For example, when we played Sietta's bass-heavy track 'What am i supposed to do', it sounded crisp, loud, and its heavy hits were reproduced in a heavy manner without being embellished. The Chemical Brothers' 'Under the Influence', with its long, drooping bass line that usually demolishes lesser quality speakers, was handled with relative ease, and the whole song played back as wildly as we expected.
Apart from electronica, other musical styles were reproduced equally well. Songs like Soundgarden's 'Loud love' sounded as clear as ever, with guitar riffs, growling vocals and drum hits all distinguishable, even at the loudest volume setting. All of the rock music that we played was reproduced with a good enough amount of oomph to sound pleasing to our ears. We never felt the need to play with equaliser settings except on some older material, but then again, we do that with other earbuds on those songs, too.
Basically, we think the sound of these earbuds is neutral enough to benefit all types of music. We tested primarily with a volume level of 75 per cent. That said, for older tunes, such as Gina Ravine's 'Love is a fire', we had to turn up the volume all the way in order for the wide range of frequencies in this track to be enjoyable. In the same vein, some of you might find that a lot of R&B tunes require a little more volume than other types of music, especially if they are tunes that are produced with a tilt towards low frequencies (such as some of Alicia Keys' early work, for example).
You have to remember to turn the volume down if you have a louder song in your playlist, because these headphones can really pump at high volume. The neat thing is that if you do turn up the volume, the headphones won't leak sound too far from the source. This makes them a good choice for office use when you want to block out the sound around you and just listen to a musical piece that will help you concentrate. People will only hear sounds coming from them if they are sitting uncomfortably close to you.
On the opposite end, the sound isolation on these headphones is also good — you can't really hear what's going on around you from about 75 per cent volume — though they don't totally eradicate external sound. Music with lots of lulls in it can end up exposing you to noise from your surroundings, such as people talking, or fingers hitting a keyboard in an office.
The one disappointing aspect of these headphones is the very light cord. If you are listening at a low volume and the cord accidentally hits your collar, for example, you'll be able to hear that noise clearly over the music. We would have preferred slightly thicker cord, and perhaps a little more length so that the cord could be routed over the top of your ears to stop the vibration from accidental hits being heard over the music.
These earbuds have a retail price of $279, but if you’re after a pair that’s stylish, that can sit snugly in your ear, and that can produce excellent sound, then we think they’re worth it. They work on Android as well as iOS, but their remote control will only work properly with iOS devices, so we’ll also say that you should consider these earbuds especially if you have an iPhone. They come with a soft pouch for transportation, and seven sets of silicone ear tips, including two that are flanges, and two that are memory foam.