Lindy Cromo NCX100 Noise Cancelling Headphone Review

Want to keep the world out on a limited budget? Lindy has what you need

by Ed Selley
Hi-Fi Review

6

Best Buy
Lindy Cromo NCX100 Noise Cancelling Headphone Review
SRP: £100.00

What is the Lindy Cromo NCX100?

Some product categories represent a specific challenge to manufacturers because although the technical input required to produce the product is very high, the price categories that the product goes on to occupy are not commensurate with the amount of expenditure required to develop the product in the first place. A classic case in point are games consoles. There has been a flurry of excitement that the present generation of models hover around being revenue neutral or even making a small amount of money rather than losing cash as was the case with the previous generation. The investment is huge but the market won’t take a price tag that allows for a significant profit on hardware - just ask NeoGeo.

Games hardware offsets this problem against sales of software but there are other AV categories that don’t have this luxury. The TV market is seeing a reduction in the number of companies that are developing technologies and more and more companies with a rich heritage in TV design are resorting to buying larger and larger bits of ‘their’ TVs in from other companies. Against this noise cancelling headphones seem like a curious parallel but many of the same problems persist.

Noise cancelling designs are more complex to design and build than their passive brethren. There is a requirement for amplification, microphones and battery storage on top of all the other parts needed to make the headphones work in the first place. This is an issue because the market for such models does not really encompass the high end - indeed it is something of a point of pride that more expensive models such as Oppo’s mighty PM-1 have little resistance to outside noise at all. Into this mass of contradictions comes Lindy, who’s IEM75 earphone was a solid and impressive performer. The NCX100 noise cancelling design, offers a lot of potential for £100 but does it deliver?

Design of the Lindy Cromo NCX100

Lindy Cromo NCX100 Noise Cancelling Headphone
The NCX100 is a closed back over ear headphone built around a pair of 40mm dynamic drivers. With these two statements in mind, the actual dimensions of the Lindy are relatively compact. The construction of the drivers is not completely explained but they make use of a pair of neodymium magnets for propulsion. The driver is mounted fairly forward in the enclosure but a deep pad ensures that there is a gap between it and your ear.

The noise cancelling section of the Lindy is impressive given the sensible asking price. Four microphones secure information on the outside world and these work with on-board amplification to generate up to 95dB of noise reduction. As with most modern noise cancelling headphones, this is not tied to the NCX100 replaying music at the same time. The noise cancelling facility can be activated and used to block out goings on around you. This facility is active and draws power from two AAA batteries that are mounted in the left hand earpad. By the same token, the NCX100 can be used as a conventional headphone with the noise cancelling section switched off. The noise cancelling is switched in and out via a control switch on the right hand earpad. This has three settings, off, standard noise cancellation and a third ‘boosted’ setting, more of which later.

Lindy Cromo NCX100 Noise Cancelling Headphone
Given that for most of us, the issues we seek to noise abate are outside the home - at least if they aren’t you may need more assistance that a pair of headphones can supply - the NCX100 has been designed with portability in mind and by and large, this has been achieved rather well. There are a pair of steel hinges, one either side of the headband that allow the Lindy to fold in on itself. Once you have done so, the NCX100 will fit inside the supplied hard shell carry case. This is one of the best accessories I’ve seen supplied with a headphone at this price.

It was clearly designed from the outset to go with the NCX100 (something which sounds blindingly obvious and yet is not always the case with accessories of this nature) and as a result, the headphones fit perfectly along with all of the accessories. This is as well because Lindy supplies a fair quantity of them. You get a detachable chord with inline remote and mic, an adapter suitable for making use of said microphone on a laptop. There is also a quarter inch jack adapter and most intriguingly, a tiny karabiner. As shrunken versions of climbing accessories go, it’s a beaut but I’ve no idea what it is actually for. The resulting pack should be easy enough for most users to fit into their existing bags and looks able to keep the NCX100s protected at the same time.

The construction of the Lindy is good too. Areas that might potentially prove to be weak on design of this type are all built solidly and carefully. As mentioned previously, the hinges are solid and parts like the battery door have all been built with a view to trying to avoid idiot breakages. The quality of the materials used is high and everything is solidly built. The soft touch plastics are slightly prone to picking up fingerprints but this is nothing a cleaning cloth won’t sort. The styling is modern with the solid hemispherical headband that leads into the earpad without there being a defined break (and as a result, there are no exposed cables or anything else that might snag or shorten the life of the product). Thanks to Lindy avoiding painting the NCX100 a gaudy colour though, it is fairly subtle to look at.
Lindy Cromo NCX100 Noise Cancelling Headphone
the NCX100 has been designed with portability in mind and by and large, this has been achieved rather well
It is comfortable too. The contemporary styling that the Lindy uses could be a triumph of form over function but here, the headband is well sprung and the padding both on the earpads and the inner liner of the headband is well arranged and manages to keep the NCX100 in place on the move without squashing your head. There are home headphones that are more comfortable but none of these would be anything like as much use at home. This is complemented by an all up weight of 258g that is far from featherweight but still not the sort of thing that will induce a neck workout. A final neat touch is that the weight distribution is even across the whole headphone despite the battery compartment being on one side.

Lindy Cromo NCX100 Setup

The Lindy was mainly tested as a noise cancelling design with my Nexus 5, iPad 3 and Lenovo T530. While some listening was done at home, I also tried them on the train, on some general trips out and during some particularly high power singing lessons. Some domestic listening as ‘normal’ headphones was undertaken with a Chord Hugo introduced to the system as a reference point. Material used was the standard lossless and high res FLAC, Spotify, Grooveshark and on demand video material such as Netflix, iPlayer and Sky Go.

Sound Quality

Lindy Cromo NCX100 Noise Cancelling Headphone
The review sample arrived new and was given the obligatory 24 hours of running before any listening took place. Having done so and with the noise cancelling initially switched out of the system, the Lindy was able to spring a few surprises. To be clear, as a closed back headphone that is optimised in the most part for use on the move, the NCX100 is not going to have Oppo PM-1 owners veering off at the last minute to save themselves a thousand pounds but the Lindy is a very agreeable performer. The presentation is both neutral and impressively controlled with no trace of aggression even with compressed or poorly recorded material.

It is important to put a sense of perspective on this. The Lindy would be outperformed by the Grado SR60i (to say nothing of the supposedly further improved SR60e) as those closed backs and smaller earpads can’t rival the effortless sense of space that the Grados generate as a matter of course. The counter to this of course is that the Lindy - even without the noise cancelling engaged - is effortlessly superior to anything the Grado can muster. The performance might be a little more constrained but it never feels truly closed in or robbed of the scale that larger pieces need.
Lindy Cromo NCX100 Noise Cancelling Headphone
This is good news and it gets better still when the noise cancelling is engaged, initially with no music playing. The effect is proportionate to the noise the Lindy is experiencing and while it is like most systems of this nature in that is more effective masking lower frequency noises that are at least consistent rather than continuous - it will do better with a rumble than a whine - but the cancelling is effective without being disorientating. There is sufficient attenuation of outside noise that the Lindy will make the difference to a long trip on public transport. When this is used with music playing, the effect is genuinely impressive. The basic presentation and tonal balance is not seriously affected and the same effective cancellation of the outside world is maintained. The Lindy makes for an interesting comparison to the PSB M4U2 I tested some years ago. This still represents the best implementation of noise cancelling technology I’ve seen but I’m impressed at how close the NCX100 can perform at one third the price.

Where there is some deviation between the NCX100 and the rather more expensive PSB is when the third augmented performance setting is activated. This is supposed to offer a degree of bass boost but the overall effect is more akin to knocking out the frequency response above 12kHz or so and putting a massive and totally unnatural boost in below 250Hz. The result is almost completely unlistenable and I have no idea at all what purpose it is intended to serve. Ultimately though, you don’t have to use this mode and the performance of the NCX100 is sufficiently good in the other two settings that I’ve chalked this up to someone having a bit of a funny turn on the Lindy design team. If you really want to listen to an augmented setting on a noise cancelling headphone, this is where the PSB goes some way to earning the price premium.
Lindy Cromo NCX100 Noise Cancelling Headphone
there is sufficient attenuation of outside noise that the Lindy will make the difference to a long trip on public transport
The final advantage of using the Lindy in the noise cancelling setting is that like most designs of this type, the headphone is superbly sensitive when used in this manner. There is no headphone output I can imagine - not even the Nexus 5 - that is going to struggle to drive the Lindy to high levels in this mode. The added bonus is that the power requirements of the NCX100 are lower and this in turn means that the power consumption of the devices running it will be lower. With a good ten to fifteen hours available from the on board batteries, the Lindy should be able to help you out on a long haul flight - and it is comfortable enough to contemplate wearing it for that long too.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Engaging and refined performance
  • Well built and well specified
  • Excellent value

Cons

  • 'Bass Mode' is horrendous
  • Finish attracts marks

Lindy Cromo NCX100 Noise Cancelling Headphone Review

Active noise cancelling as a concept is something that takes a headphone from accurate close range monitor to a device which is half audio product and half ear defender. The process of making a headphone become a noise abatement tool will affect the performance and depending on the balance you want to strike between music and peace and quiet, you may find that the Lindy is not as good as some more expensive rivals at completely locking out the outside world.

Taken as an effective portable headphone with well implemented noise reduction though and the NCX100 makes a lot of sense. For many journeys you make on the move, the standard headphone setting is more than good enough and once noise cancelling is engaged, this is an effective travel headphone. More importantly though, it is good fun and easy to listen to for long periods of time and more than up to the task of a little home listening as well. When you consider the more than reasonable asking price, solid build, comfortable design and more than reasonable supplied ancillaries and you have yourself a bit of a bargain.

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Ease of Use

.
9

Sensitivity

.
9

Design and usability

10

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Value For Money

10

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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