Polk Nue Voe review

It's like Warby Parker got into the headphones game

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

Whether you're into style or not, there's a lot to like in Polk's fashion-forward in-ear headphones. The price might be prohibitive to some, but a focus on value never wavers, what with strong sound performance, quality build and inline controls.

For

  • Novel tortoise pattern
  • Awesome sound
  • Inline controls
  • Tons of goodies included

Against

  • iOS-only inline controls
  • Style tacks onto the cost

Headphones usually don't make grand fashion statements, but the Polk Nue Voe tries its hardest to do just that. By matching the looks of trendy eyeglasses, these in-ear headphones are more appealing than most.

A $129 (about £112, AU$160) retail price is rather expensive for the limited set of features you're getting with the purchase. Yet, the Nue Voe has undeniably fantastic audio chops and build quality. At the end of the day, even if style isn't an absolutely essential element of your tech, these earphones are still a treat.

Design

If it weren't for a few flashy design decisions on the part of Polk, the Nue Voe would have a hard time sticking out in the flooded market of options. But with the slick tortoise pattern and golden details, these earphones are clearly after an audience that cares about looks.

Polk Nue Voe review

The earphone units are the main attraction in terms of design. Starting with the driver housing, it's clear that a lot of care was put into the build. Each piece of translucent, tortoise-patterned polymer resin features a wing that extends its shape to fit comfortably right outside your ear canal.

Polk poked a hole right through each of the jutting wings to ensure a breathable listening experience. The Baltimore, Maryland-based company also stamped its logo onto the elegant gold plastic pieces found on each of the earphones. The letters "L" and "R" are painted onto the bottom of each earpiece, so that you know which one goes into what ear.

Lifting off the silicon ear tips reveals the small speakers and a bronze-colored, cylindrical plastic piece where you can snap the included ear tips into place, of which Polk generously included seven different pairs (two sets of black memory foam tips, two sets of three-flange tips and three sets of clear silicon tips) to ensure that you can find the right fit.

Polk Nue Voe review

Moving down from the right earpiece of the Nue Voe, you'll encounter a set of inline controls. These buttons are housed in a curvy, matte-textured unit. Each button (volume up, play, pause and volume down) are detailed with the same tortoise pattern that offers up some seriously fine looks.

The buttons are rounded off with a glossy, golden ring of plastic. Flip it over, and the built-in microphone reveals itself. The cable is a little over a meter in length and it white all the way down to the glam 3.5mm plug.

Polk Nue Voe review

Again, Polk included a generous assortment of ear tips in with the Nue Voe. However, that's not all that's inside the box.

There's also a tote that's, quite honestly, much nicer than it needs to be. Made up of soft canvas, the pull-string bag can fasten shut with leather laces and is stitched on its front with a leather logo. It can easily fit the headphones and multiple sets of tips with room to spare.

Performance

The question on everyone's mind when they see an appealing product boils down to whether it can actually walk the walk. Polk's fancy in-ear headphones can do more than just sit pretty, they can provide a hearty sound with its tuned, balanced armature drivers.

In case this is the first time that you're hearing the phrase "balanced armature," it's simply a different type of driver design. Put up against dynamic drivers, like the ones found in the Shure SE215, the balanced armature design typically boasts a few benefits, but also a con by comparison.

Polk Nue Voe review

The balanced armature driver design puts through a sharper sound with more attack in the mids, but lacks the heavy bass that dynamic drivers can pump. Despite the supposed limitations of the driver design, Polk's Nue Voe has no issue pushing vibrant, bass-filled sound.

The ear tips play a large part in helping the headphones sing to their full capacity. It was an easy fitting process for me to find the tips that suited my ears best. But strangely, a size that slid with ease into one ear couldn't stay still in the other.

To remedy that, I mixed-and-matched a different, bigger eartip on one side. Through extended use, these in-ear headphones are comfortable. Though, if you're hopping over from a set of over-ear headphones, the tight seal will take some adjusting to.

Polk Nue Voe review

Using the inline controls and microphone work as expected. The buttons are easy to push and transmitting my voice was never an issue on an iPhone 5S. That said, the Nue Voe only offers limited controls (play, pause and the microphone still work) on Android or Windows Phone. It's a definite limitation, but Polk is pretty upfront about it on the packaging, so there shouldn't be any surprise disappointments.

Final verdict

While not especially feature-packed (especially if you aren't an iOS user), the Polk Nue Voe are a visually-striking set of in-ear headphones that rock the house with a specially-tuned, balanced armature driver design.

It's easy to make these tweeters sing with any genre you throw at them, and having the option to adjust volume or change the song on the fly is fantastic.

The price is a little high for someone just looking for a set of replacement earphones, but the value here is clear, especially considering all the extra goodies included inside the box.

Tags