It's the era of Beats headphones, of statement audio wear. That's why big and sometimes brash over-ear cans are a popular move at the moment. Enter Nutz, a relatively new brand - it's only been around for 18-months - that has seemingly taken its inspirational design cues from Beats-esque headphones in creating the Nutz Pro Headphones.
But it's a company that has not gone down the crazy-expensive route all too familiar with the former Dre brand. The wired Nutz Pro over-ears cost £139, and if you're a wireless fan then a £179 wireless pair complete with built-in battery is also available.
In a world bustling with over-ear audio options, can the brand - and its large silver acorn symbol logo - deliver on its "pro" promise? Indeed, would you be nuts to pass up this new brand?
Mute the design
When we first pulled the Nutz Pro Headphones out of their box we were surprised how large they were. These cans have a broad reach over the head, complete with thick plastic headband and considerable earcups that, frankly, don't add up to something that looks "pro" in terms of aesthetics.
Of course this will be a matter of taste, but the excess sheen of the plastic used in the design and the faux-silver edging finish isn't something we'd want to cart out and about. Much the same can be said for the large acorn logo to the side - it's all a bit big and brash, and we're far greater fans of subtlety.
Even so, and if premium materials haven't been used in the frame construction - although the claim of "shatterproof moulded exterior" does sound a bit more glam - then the brand can't be accused of ignoring comfort. The large earcups are big enough to totally immerse the ears and are covered in a soft memory foam, coated in a comfy padding. That has meant even long-term use is no problem - and we've been donning the Nutz Pro at our office desk for weeks now.
That large scale also means the earcups don't press into the skull as so many competitors' clamp-like fittings do. And at 250g they may sound weighty, but we didn't find them overly heavy at all - nothing like the excessive weight of the premium Beats products that rile the neck.
Turn up the audio
The other primary that Nutz has focused on is the audio output. These headphones really do cut it when listening to electronic music, and we've been head-nodding along to flowing bass lines and striking beats aplenty. That 5-33,000Hz frequency range means plenty of low-end has been daubed into the listen - too much, some might say, but not us.
Switch genres and while those 40mm drivers are still capable, depending on what you listen to, we found Bonobo's mix of organic and electronic sounds sounded spot-on, while even the haunting vocals of Natasha Khan on the Jon Hopkins collaboration Garden's Heart soared while still remaining open enough for the low-end atmospherics and cutting kick drums.
For more classic rock we didn't obtain the sort of separation that we'd hoped for. Listening to Foals' Everytime, for example, left a muddied linger of kick drums, and lacked the open sparkle of the greater expanse of the mix. But then that album's dense mixdown is partly to blame, but it's something that, in our opinion, would be handled better by some other headphones.
We also picked up on a hint of mid-level distortion at times. Not to excess, and not constant, but a little on occasion at some volumes.
Overall, though, the Nutz Pro deliver big audio at a volume even bigger - far louder than anything else we've plugged in over recent months. And given the number of headphones we see and listen to here at the 'Lint that's quite a statement.
In the box the Nutz Pro Headphones come with both 1/4in and 2.5mm jack converters, in addition to a choice of two cables - one 1.5m and a second 3.5m one that's coiled - both with the more common 3.5mm fitting. No complaints here.
We've used the headphones with the standard cable a lot, but neither cable has a mini controller for use with smartphones. Instead there are volume control and track skip function buttons on the left earcup's outer shell. We couldn't get used to these and didn't find them as innovative as they may (or may not) sound. But we understand why they've been designed as so - it's to remove the need to take that smartphone or other device out of a pocket when listening wirelessly.
We wouldn't opt for the £50 premium the wireless headphones command over the wired ones, but you'll know in your own mind what you want. Whichever you opt for it's possible to listen with a wired connection, even if the built-in battery of the wireless model has depleted. No worries about buying new batteries either - just plug the mini USB cable into the headphones and slot that into a laptop or similar device to charge up and then you're ready to go.
To look at, the Nutz Pro Headphones aren't our favourite over-ear cans by a long margin. But once sitting over the head they're comfortable and deliver immersive audio that's spot on for electronic music at an affordable price point. We've enjoyed having them for listening while at our desks for long periods of time, but as on-the-go headphones we wouldn't opt for them as our primary choice.
With such a wide range of options - from the lightweight Sennheiser Momentum to the metal Sol Republic Master Tracks - in the market, every aspect of both design and audio matters. If Nutz aimed for a more premium finish in then we'd be a little more nuts about. As it stands the aforementioned competitors and other well-known brands are stand-out while Nutz runs the risk of being buried for not just the winter, but for good, if it relies on a plastic build like this.
That's the long and short of it. Nutz isn't going to convince lovers of all musical genres that these are the right choice in our view, but as we've spent stacks of time listening to all manner of bass music the warm low-end frequency and huge volume output certainly deliver. Add in a fair price point and the positives outweigh the negatives to deliver an audio over-head product that pleases.