Do the NC9’s minor tradeoffs make for a bargain champion?
TOZO and I have some history now. Several years ago, our relationship began with me looking to buy a ‘budget’ (less than USD$50) pair of TWS (True Wireless) Bluetooth earphones for the gym, outside exercising, at work, etc. After doing comparison homework I decided on TOZO T10s. After receiving them, I was completely surprised — in a good way. With the NC9, they are certainly keeping that trend alive with me. What exactly was surprising? Let’s find out…
- Ready for immediate use out of the box
- Light and comfortable with a secure fit
- Easy operation via earphone faceplate touch controls
- Product fit and finish
- Bluetooth performance
- Exceptional sound quality
- Excellent value / low cost for quality, sound, and features
- 18-month warranty with complete registration
- Microphone performance for calls is lacking
- No specific percentage battery level indicator on the charging case
- No single earphone battery level indicator
- No built-in advanced ‘smart virtual assistant’ functions
- No smartphone app or sound customization (which they don’t really need)
Visually, these NC9s are simple and elegant with no sharp edges anywhere. They are small and very light (more below).
1st Surprise! They sit very well in my ears, proving to be comfortable and secure. Adequate noise isolation is achieved through a snug fit. Given how well they fit, I wasn’t tempted to use memory foam replacements. Given the unusually large array of included size and shape silicone ear tips, most buyers will find a fitting pair. It is comparatively easy to swap out the tips, and not once have I had a tip pry loose of the nozzle.
Removing them from their case (which already had a charge along with the earphones), they pair with each other immediately and enter pairing mode. A single connection to any transmitting device is super fast and easy.
The ANC mode is by default on when they power on. There is virtually no audible hiss with no audio transmission, or when connected to most high quality BT devices.
If you read on, there are more surprises in store!
TOZO bills itself as “…a leadership and lively 3C [computers, communications, and consumer electronics] digital accessory and electronic brand. TOZO provides innovative and powerful products to customers, transmit[s] the brand culture of “Essential Product Life” and [tries] to meet the customers’ requirements.”
TOZO integrates the latest science and technology, environmental materials, and fashionable elements into product design with the goal of creating products that are unique, durable, and personalized.
TOZO’s official company name is BKC INTERNATIONAL TECHNOLOGY LIMITED, Shenzhen Worgo Technology Limited (Shenzhen Wogou Keji Youxian Gongsi). The head office location in China is in Shenzhen, with a United States office located in Ontario, California.
- Transducer Driver: 9.2mm Dynamic Driver
- Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 KHz
- Style: TWS (True Wireless Stereo) earphones
- Bluetooth Version 5.0
- Codec Support Type: HSP/HFP/A2DP/AVRCP
- Transmission Distance/Range of 15 meters+ (approximately 50 feet+)
- Portable Charger Battery Pack Case: 500 mAh
- Charging Case Input: 5V/0.25A (USB Type-C, no wireless charging)
- Charging Case Dimensions: 73 x 37.9 x 31.35mm
- Earphone Battery Capacity: 55 mAh each
- Phone call/music play time (witthout ANC): 8 hours
- IPX6 Waterproof Nano-coating
- Keeps earphones safe from jets of water, splashes, rain, and sweat (not for submersion or swimming)
The compact and well designed packaging is consistent with all TOZO earphones. Their materials, while very clean and attractive, are not wasteful at all and utilize plastic only for the case that holds the silicone ear tips and the thin outer wrapping. Many buyers will likely keep the packaging for these reasons. Minimal packaging is greatly appreciated from a consumable/recyclable standpoint.
In the box
- 2 TOZO NC9 TWS earphones
- 6 (yes, six!) pairs of black silicone ear tips plus a holding case
- 1 Rechargeable Charging Case (USB Type-C)
- Printed instruction and information pamphlet that provides clear, thorough, and helpful basic information in a multitude of languages
The NC9 earphones are simple, smooth, and elegant. They are understated with no logo outwardly visible while wearing — only an encircled letter ‘L’ and ‘R’ to indicate the proper side. TOZO is ink-stamped only on the inside.
The outer faceplates are finished in matte black, attached to the inner body, which is a high gloss black. The nozzle is integrated into the body with a small retention ring for the ear tips. Build quality appears to be high, with no rough surfaces and all parts fitting perfectly.
The compact pill-shaped clam shell style case is easy to open and close, and feels secure due to a magnetic closure (not mechanical). There are also magnets in each earphone cup which help to draw them into the case properly for charging. When charging and not plugged in, the earphones each have a charging indicator light and the case’s indicator lights intermittently flash approximately every three seconds.
When the case is plugged in and charging, up to 4 lights on the front of the case illuminate to indicate how much charge the case’s battery has stored. These tiny lights are not distracting, and very much appreciated.
The bodies are made of lightweight plastics or a composite material, resulting in a very light 5.5g each including an ear tip. Passive noise isolation is good with a proper seal. I found that they generally remained sealed well despite jumping rope, talking, chewing and jaw movement, etc. (not all at the same time!). The silicone ear tips are flexible and comfortable for extended periods of time; the weight does not become noticeable after hours of listening.
The NC9s sit snugly in the ear without pressure points and are small enough to not overly stick out of your ears. The nozzles insert enough to create a good seal and at a depth that most people will find comforting.
Even better, they can be physically adjusted in your ears as needed without accidentally triggering the touch controls.
TOZO NC9 Performance
Pairing the NC9 is a painless one-step process: remove the two earphones from the charging case and they pair with each other automatically. Then enable the Bluetooth connection on your mobile phone to pair the device with your earphones. Bluetooth connectivity, stability, and range (easily 50 feet in clear view) were very good in all of my testing.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
As mentioned, with the proper seal, passive noise isolation is good. This is partially due to the shape of the earphones, the depth in your ears they go. Coupled with the ANC turned on, the effect is even better. I found myself on many occasions just keeping the earphones on and in, without listening to any source, just appreciating that I can better concentrate on my tasks at hand.
How does ANC work in simple terms? The TOZO NC9 mainly focuses on cutting out the lower frequency, fairly constant noises produced by planes, trains, and automobiles, constant environmental background noise (like busy offices or inside environments, etc. The ANC works well enough that you don’t have to crank up the volume as much as non-ANC earphones to overcome your surroundings. It most certainly helps you to enjoy what you want to hear — music, movies, videos, etc.
And how does it do that? Essentially, the NC9 ANC works by employing a 2-microphone noise reduction system. With active noise cancellation, an outward-facing microphone detects external sounds which your earphones then counter with anti-noise, canceling or reducing the external sound before you hear them. An inward-facing microphone listens inside your ear for unwanted internal sounds, which your earphones also counter with anti-noise. Amazing!
By default, ANC mode is enabled when the earphones are powered on. Touching the left earphone faceplate toggles between ANC and Transparency Mode, which is confirmed for you by a pleasant voice.
I tested these a number of times without sending any audio signal to the earphones. In my home office, the gym, or out on walks, the ANC did a nice job of lightly muting outside noises and making them less harsh, tuning them down to a lower grade distraction. My music sounded much clearer and more present to me at a lower volume than with other non-ANC earphones. This may save your hearing in the long run.
In windy outside environments, many earphones, especially those that do not sit so snugly in the ear, result in a great deal of unpleasant wind noise howling. With the NC9, it was greatly reduced — due in part to the ANC, the ear tip seal, and the fit of the earphone body. I have been happy with the ANC performance — very good, without overfunctioning.
In this Covid-19 era, where most of us around the world are wearing face covering personal protective masks, the ear loops never interfered with the fit of the NC9 earphones.
Much to my surprise, ANC mode significantly improves overall sound quality and enhances bass and sub-bass without reducing or muting mids and highs.
The other option is Transparency Mode, which enhances the human voice frequency band and improves the perception of the surrounding sound. As a result, you can hear what’s going on around you without taking out the earphones.
How is this different than simply pausing your music, you ask? The NC9 hears sounds around you, interprets and lightly amplifies them, and passes that on to your ears. Incredible! This will be an odd phenomenon if you’ve never experienced that — you will determine what you like best, and when. Ultimately, the point is to not have to remove your earphones to have a brief interaction or listen more fully to your surroundings (like crossing a street).
The NC9 has definite room for improvement with it’s voice microphone and voice call capabilities. Microphone performance seemed adequate for casual calls, though I would not recommend them for professional/business calls. My guess is that it may be a cost containment measure and not a priority to include CVC technology. There is no ANC for the onboard microphones used for voice calling.
The onboard microphones for your voice are very sensitive. Other participants on calls could hear me, with intermittent complaints of “chamber/tunnel” echo effects. To be heard well enough to make for a relatively complaint-free call, I needed to be in a virtually silent environment for background noise not to be fed through to the other(s) in a way that was more distracting for them than for me. Using them outside or in busy environments? No, just no…
The NC9 earphones are designed to last for over 8 hours’ playtime from a single charge. The case, when fully charged, will provide another 24 extra hours of recharge capacity.
TOZO NC9 Sound (Finally!)
For evaluation, I always listen to a great variety of music from numerous sources.
And now for our next surprise: it is unreasonable for such a reasonable earphone to sound this good!
TOZO has conjured some sort of technical, electronic, and audio engineering wizardry to produce sound that should simply not be possible out of TWS earphones with a single driver — and at this price.
I was happy to discover that the NC9s are good to go right out of the box, without the need for extensive burn-in time. They produce an overall reproduction that can be described as a smooth, warm, non-fatiguing sound. Translation: they are really easy to listen to, highly enjoyable, and don’t leave you feeling exhausted or that you really need a quiet break when you’re done with them.
They are excellent with almost all varieties of music. The sound signature is tuned for the consumer market — a flattened/stretched out U-shape, meaning heavy and full bass, with enough midrange to enhance coherence, and adequate, crisp treble to keep music sounding lively. The result is that the entire sound comes together well, another occasional advantage of a single driver.
The vast majority of buyers will not be using these for dedicated critical listening and I believe, will generally find these highly enjoyable and liveable for everyday use.
Channel separation is excellent and produced a fairly wide, above-average soundstage for TWS earphones. Imaging is better than I expected.
Bass! Simply astounding bass impact and extension for a single 9.2mm driver. It’s heavy and full without being boomy. You can feel it, not just hear it. Listening to multiple bass test tracks, I could hardly believe that a driver this size could produce this tactile experience.
Despite pushing them with very low sub-bass frequencies, they are not easily overwhelmed and do not demonstrate distortion. Accuracy seemed consistent across all reasonable volumes.The vast majority of listeners will be satisfied with these. If you really need more, stick with full size over-ear headphones or external subwoofers.
Midrange feels thick — in the best possible way. Music feels full when you expect it to, and vocals forward enough to still sound clear and present. The midrange manages to stay present and differentiated despite the strong bass presence.
Treble, while a bit rolled off in higher frequencies, results in good presence and liveliness, with good detail and clarity. Treble fatigue will not be a problem for most listeners. Surprisingly (there it is again!), treble is not overpowered or significantly reduced by the prodigious bass produced by the drivers.
The TOZO NC9 is super impressive at this price point (currently USD $59.99), and in my opinion, easily competes with TWS earphones costing 2x or more. These are, as of the time of this writing, my new daily ‘go-to go-everywhere’ TWS earphones.
Thank you once again to TOZO. If you’d like to purchase a pair for yourself or a loved one, you can buy them directly from TOZO or AMAZON. They are a solid value for their standout appearance, sound, and quality. Enjoy — let us know what your experience is!