Here at MajorHiFi, we test a lot of headphones. And by a lot of headphones, I mean pretty much everything. Probably because we’re headphone people – we love seeing what is out there, and just what kind of sound it delivers. So, naturally, when the cheap-as-chips Arkartech Nubwo N11 arrived at our review office, I couldn’t wait to dive in.
Recently, high-end gaming headphones have taken off. Brands like SteelSeries have doubled down on their high-end consumer offerings, and even Audeze has released their much-hyped Mobius headphone. But what about those cheap gaming headphones you see online? I’m not talking about a $100 pair of Sennheiser gaming headphones, but the ones on Amazon retailing for less than $50. Manufacturer Arkartech has a flood of these all over the internet. Their website alone offers no less than 27 budget-minded options. But can models like the $26 Nubwo N11 even compete with other gaming headphones?
Arkartech Nubwo N11 Review
The Nubwo N11 comes in a simple box. Besides the headphone, you’ll also find a simple adapter for splitting the mic and headphone inputs.
Build-wise, the Arkartech Nubwo N11 smacks of cheap, with a largely plastic build. However, aluminum extenders and rubberized padding on the headband do add some extra resilience and comfort.
Once situated on my large head, the N11 feels surprisingly comfortable. The gooseneck mic features a heavy-duty rubberized sheath, and can be twisted any which way for the perfect pickup pattern.
Inside the earcups, a 53mm driver handles audio and delivers bass extension.
A fixed 4 ft (1.2 m) cable with volume attenuation and mute button round out the build.
Frequency Range: 20-20,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 98 dB
The specs reveal a fairly standard headphone across the board; there is little need for amplification here, and by all accounts the sound should come across as fairly standard with plenty of volume.
The low end sports a refreshing amount of detail – especially when considering how little this headphone actually costs. A meaty, churning bass response adds extra weight to the lows, delivering plenty of impact right where you would expect it.
Some compression and distortion rears its head in the mids. These aren’t necessarily horrible mids, but they always seem overshadowed by the vast low end. It’s enough for atmospherics and cues while gaming, but it falters when handling music of any sort.
A little thin in terms of detail, the highs still work in relation to that intense low end. Orchestral music or game soundtracks will not sound anywhere near great on the Nubwo N11, but electronic music and some other genres don’t sound too bad.
In terms of the soundstage, the Nubwo N11 offers an interesting contradiction. Playing my favorite games, I’m impressed by the sense of depth and realistic sound. But the minute I cue up some music, the soundstage seems much more cramped and confused. It’s not that this headphone really lacks soundstage (or detail, really), but that every aspect of its sound has been crafted to gaming use.
As a gaming headphone, the Arkartech Nubwo N11 succeeds. Sure, it doesn’t look as svelte as some other offerings I’ve seen. It’s certainly no Audeze Mobius. But, almost shockingly, it sounds downright decent for gameplay. Add to this some decent comfort, a good mic, and the low price of just $26 and you’ve got a pretty impressive headset.
For less than $30, I’m stumped to really offer any alternatives. The Nubwo N11 is proof that a gaming headset doesn’t necessarily need to offer a world-class sound to deliver an impressive performance. Are there better-sounding options out there? Of course. But for those who need something cheap and passable, you’d be hard pressed to trump this bare-bones Betty.
Priced at $26 and with a perfectly good sound for gaming, the Arkartech Nubwo N11 offers real value for money. It may not be the headphone for music lovers, but as a headset for blasting zombies or saving kingdoms from dark wizards, this cheap pair of cans does it all.
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