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The TOZO NC9 wireless earbuds rest in the open case on top of a synthesizer.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys

TOZO NC9 review

Good noise cancelling at the expense of all else, but for cheap.
By
November 1, 2022
6.7
TOZO NC9
The bottom line
If you're willing to live with the annoyances of the TOZO NC9 such as an inconsistent touchpad, and issues with hiss, the noise cancelling and battery life outperform the price. Keep in mind, you'll have to deal with large earbuds, no standard listening mode, and subpar mic performance. Then again, where else will you find this ANC performance for so little money?

TOZO NC9

If you're willing to live with the annoyances of the TOZO NC9 such as an inconsistent touchpad, and issues with hiss, the noise cancelling and battery life outperform the price. Keep in mind, you'll have to deal with large earbuds, no standard listening mode, and subpar mic performance. Then again, where else will you find this ANC performance for so little money?
Release date

June 23, 2022

Price

$39.99 USD

Dimensions

Ear tip diameter:

10mm to 16mm

Weight

130.4g

Model Number

NC9

Waterproof

IPX6

What we like
Price
Battery life
ANC for cheap
IPX6 water resistance
A lot of color options
What we don't like
Audible hiss
Mic quality
Large earbuds
Not super durable
6.7
SoundGuys Rating
7.6
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Sound Quality
7.4
7.3
7.0
Bass
4.6
6.5
7.0
Midrange
9.7
7.0
7.0
Highs
7.8
7.0
7.0
Isolation / Attenuation
6.9
8.0
8.0
Active Noise Cancelling
8.1
9.0
9.0
Durability / Build Quality
8.0
5.5
6.0
Value
8.0
4.5
5.0
Design
5.0
10.0
10.0
Connectivity
4.0
4.0
4.0
Portability
8.5
10.0
10.0
Battery Life
6.4
9.5
10.0
Feature
4.8
9.0
9.0
Comfort
5.0
8.5
9.0

Everyone likes to find a deal, or discover a hidden gem. Is the niche brand TOZO the latest in budget-friendly wireless earbuds, or should you look for a sure thing instead? Let’s see if the TOZO NC9 can really nail active noise cancelling (ANC) and have long battery life for under $50 USD.

Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

About this TOZO NC9 review: We tested the TOZO NC9 over a period of 10 days. SoundGuys purchased the unit for this review.

For the person who wants to try one of the cheapest entry points into noise cancelling earbuds, the TOZO NC9 provides pretty effective ANC. Anyone looking to grab a backup set of wireless earbuds will like the price and battery life of the TOZO NC9. Finally, fans of loud bass and treble might enjoy the exaggerated tuning of the earbuds too.

What’s it like to use TOZO NC9?

TOZO has several versions of the NC9: the basic, Pro, and Plus—our test unit is the “updated” basic NC9. Presumably, if you’re buying a set of the basic NC9 buds, it’s this one, and the box ought to say so upon arrival. The NC9 buds are somewhat large, although the contours taper reasonably well to the ear. There are also a generous six sets of ear tips (five additional to the one already on the earbuds) ranging in diameter from 10mm to about 16mm.

On a synthesizer keyboard rest the ear tips, USB-C cables, and case of the TOZO NC9.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
Interestingly, the ear tips don’t just vary in size, but also in shape with one style that has a flatter top and another with a curved dome.

It feels average for comfort, if a little hefty. After a couple of hours the ear canal experiences that trademark dull achy fatigue from having all the security of your fit depend on the nozzle and ear tip holding it in place. In addition, the housing can rest some of its weight uncomfortably on the antitragus. On smaller ears, the NC9 sticks out a bit. The thump you feel each time you tap the capacitive control panel does not help comfort either.

Relevant here is the price of the TOZO NC9, at just shy of $40 USD. The IPX6 rating on the NC9 is great to see at almost any price point to protect against water, and after getting caught in a downpour the buds still work. After all, plenty of flagships only have a lesser IPX4 rating.

The NC9 has a more impressive water resistant rating than earbuds that cost much, much more.

The case is a standard pill shape with four white battery indicator lights. Its lid has virtually zero flex or hinge play. The hinge itself doesn’t inspire confidence against drops. An accidental drop can result in the case opening and launching the buds out, which is not ideal, but it’s better to drop the $40 USD earbuds than the expensive ones.

You could potentially use the TOZO NC9 for gym workouts, so long as you dial in your fit (because it lacks stabilizers or wings), and if you’re not doing a lot of dynamic movements. However, it’s not the best candidate.

How do you control TOZO NC9?

You’ll have to memorize the controls and work within the confines of what the TOZO NC9 actually does, rather than what it’s supposed to do. Some commands are intuitive, like a single tap to play or pause audio on the right earbud, but others are a bit weird. Putting the left earbud into the case and then taking it out is supposed to shut ANC off. (To turn ANC back on, you’d need to turn the earbuds on and off to restart ANC). However, this does not actually work, which means you’re effectively stuck with either ANC or transparency modes, like Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones. Below is what the NC9 is supposed to do.

ACTIONLEFT EARBUDRIGHT EARBUD
ACTION
ONE PRESS
LEFT EARBUD
Answer call
Toggle ANC/Transparent
RIGHT EARBUD
Answer call
Play/Pause
ACTION
TWO PRESS
LEFT EARBUD
Previous track
RIGHT EARBUD
Next track
ACTION
THREE PRESSES
LEFT EARBUD
Virtual assistant
RIGHT EARBUD
Virtual assistant
ACTION
PRESS AND HOLD (1ish second)
LEFT EARBUD
Volume down
RIGHT EARBUD
Volume up
ACTION
PRESS AND HOLD (2 seconds)
LEFT EARBUD
End call
Reject call
Cancel call
RIGHT EARBUD
End call
Reject call
Cancel call
ACTION
PRESS AND HOLD (3 seconds)
LEFT EARBUD
Power on
RIGHT EARBUD
Power on
ACTION
PRESS AND HOLD (5 seconds)
LEFT EARBUD
Power off
RIGHT EARBUD
Power off
ACTION
REPLACE IN CASE
LEFT EARBUD
Turn off noise cancelling
RIGHT EARBUD

The touch panel is unreliable. Light accidental contact can trigger a command, but intentional direct taps sometimes do nothing. Even overly hard (and unpleasant) taps can go unregistered or misinterpreted as a different command. The skip to the previous track command does not seem to work at all. Strangely, skip forward—also a double tap—on the right bud works fine. So, below are the actual controls of the TOZO NC9.

ACTIONLEFT EARBUDRIGHT EARBUD
ACTION
ONE PRESS
LEFT EARBUD
Answer call
Toggle ANC/Transparent
RIGHT EARBUD
Answer call
Play/Pause
ACTION
TWO PRESS
LEFT EARBUD

RIGHT EARBUD
Next track
ACTION
THREE PRESSES
LEFT EARBUD

RIGHT EARBUD
Virtual Assistant
ACTION
PRESS AND HOLD (1ish second)
LEFT EARBUD
Volume down
RIGHT EARBUD
Volume up
ACTION
PRESS AND HOLD (2 seconds)
LEFT EARBUD
End call
Reject call
Cancel call
RIGHT EARBUD
End call
Reject call
Cancel call
ACTION
PRESS AND HOLD (3 seconds)
LEFT EARBUD
Power on
RIGHT EARBUD
Power on
ACTION
PRESS AND HOLD (5 seconds)
LEFT EARBUD
Power off
RIGHT EARBUD
Power off

The press-and-hold gesture feels a lot longer than you’d think to adjust volume, especially if you want to adjust it more than one step at a time. Also, do not try adjusting volume while on a call using the NC9, because you’ll risk hanging up the call. Gripes aside, at least you’ll know which mode you’re in because a voice tells you and a little beep indicates the volume command was registered.

Yes it’s safe, with a caveat. Here’s your public safety announcement to highlight one thing for your hearing health. If you decide to manually turn off a bud (rather than putting the bud back in the case) to listen in mono, pause your music first. Otherwise, trying to shut off the right bud will just make the music get louder and louder. This is because a press-and-hold for 5 seconds turns off an earbud, but a press-and-hold for about a second alters volume. This isn’t as big a concern for the left earbud, where the press-and-hold command decreases the volume.

Volume level controls for the TOZO NC9 only activate when media is playing, so pausing the music will make attempts to shut it off a lot more consistent. Of course, you can always just put an earbud you don’t want back in the case to shut it off automatically. That may seem like the more common-sense approach, but dummy proofing falls under the umbrella of good design. This kind of issue should not crop up.

Sometimes three taps on the right TOZO NC9 earbud only will activate the assistant on your device. There’s a narrow window of time for whether the earbud registers your intention as three taps, or one tap and then two.

How does the TOZO NC9 connect?

The inner and outer facing housings of the TOZO NC9 are shown as they sit on top of a synth keyboard.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
You can connect the TOZO NC9, even if you don’t have the case handy, which is unusual.

The TOZO NC9 uses Bluetooth 5.0, and stays connected. When pairing and re-pairing it can take anywhere from a couple to 10 seconds to connect. It is pretty much automatic after you initially pair it, which is a plus because we all know how annoying trying to reconnect earbuds feels.

Given that the NC9 is a basic affair, it only connects with the lowest common denominator SBC codec or over AAC, which is good for iPhones, but imperfect for Android. This is sufficient with Android but, not high quality. The latency is low enough with an iPhone that syncing streaming video isn’t an issue. Your results may vary depending on several variables like your device type and video quality.

The TOZO NC9 ought to automatically enter pairing mode when you remove the buds from the case. If you have Bluetooth enabled, it’ll show up on the list. Tap it and you’re connected.

If for some reason this does not go smoothly, here is another way to pair the TOZO NC9.

  1. Tap and hold the touch panels at the same time for 5 seconds.
  2. You’ll know it’s in pairing mode when the buds alternately flash blue and red.
  3. Ensure Bluetooth is enabled on your phone.
  4. Remove the buds from the case.
  5. Select it from the list. It can take up to 10 seconds.
  6. If it takes longer, the buds will time out, in which case replace them into the case and start over.

How long does the TOZO NC9 battery last?

The pill shaped case of the TOZO NC9 in black rests on the keyboard of a synth.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
The NC9 can charge wirelessly with a Qi pad, or via the included USB-C cable.

With ANC on the TOZO NC9 battery lasts 6 hours, 38 minutes per charge, while playing music continuously, peaking at 75dB(SPL); this is all part of our standardized testing. For ANC earbuds that figure is quite good, especially when you consider that flagships like Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro don’t even reach 5 hours. Still, TOZO claims 10 hours of battery life per charge with ANC, which is a bit of a tall tale.

Let’s note that the TOZO NC9 can charge wirelessly with a Qi pad, but also that it makes an unnerving sound occasionally while charging wirelessly. The sound is reminiscent of air slowly leaking from a partly opened soft drink bottle, with a quiet rhythmic ticking almost like a computer’s background processing noise—highly strange.

How well does the TOZO NC9 cancel noise?

Chart shows the TOZO NC9 isolation and ANC performance.
The low attenuation is quite good.

Noise attenuation in the lower frequencies is very good and outpaces a lot of other capable noise cancelling earbuds. Despite the excellent ANC rating and good isolation in the upper frequencies (provided you can achieve a good fit), noise between 100-1,000Hz is not as well attenuated. There’s also a discernible hiss when listening with ANC engaged, which likely corresponds to the regions in the chart above where the dashed cyan ANC trace dips below the pink isolation trace, showing the amplification of noise at 3-5kHz and around 15kHz.

Added hiss is not unusual in transparency modes, because the mics pipe in the sounds of your surroundings, but these days it’s surprising for a noise cancelling mode to introduce noise. This can distract you from enjoying your music. On walks, this shows most obviously with the sounds of traffic. Again, it’s certainly quieter and a lot of the low rumbling sounds are almost muted, but don’t let the rating fool you into thinking the NC9 can compete with the ANC on the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) in real life.

How does the TOZO NC9 sound?

Charts shows the frequency response of the TOZO NC9 versus our ideal curve.
You’ll hear too much bass and too much treble.

People who enjoy a lot of bass and treble might get along with the TOZO NC9 tuning. At 100Hz it has about 8dB more bass than our curve recommends, which carries through sub-bass as well. A dip in volume around 500-900Hz below our target curve ordinarily wouldn’t make or break the listening experience, but with such loud bass and treble (particularly at 3kHz and higher) some fundamentals will be difficult to hear. There’s also an uncommonly high output in the uppermost octave, above 10kHz. The boosted upper frequencies only exacerbate the added hiss noise in ANC mode.

Highs, mids, lows

A man looking down and to the left in a faded purple shirt wears the TOZO NC9 indoors with guitars in the background.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
The mic sounds passable in quiet, controlled settings only.

When listening to Black and White by The dB’s the TOZO NC9 works pretty well with the energetic genre of 1970’s power pop, even if it’s not perfect. The bass is too loud, as the kick drum sounds really in your face, and the same goes for the floor tom and bass guitar. Meanwhile, the vocals cut through for the whole song, also too loudly. Hi-hats, cymbals, and drumstick hits chk chk with too much volume. If you focus on it, these trebly percussive sounds can become irksome like a loud metronome.

The acoustic guitar is clearly audible, although some of the detail is overwhelmed by the bass and vocals, and the lead electric guitar sounds fine, but again it’s just kind of quiet in relation to the bass instruments. The keys play too quietly relative to the bass at 1:13, which affects the dynamics of the song. Honestly, it doesn’t sound bad with some genres, but this level of exaggeration causes a kind of fatigue after some time.

Can you use the TOZO NC9 for phone calls?

The frequency response chart of the TOZO NC9 microphone is fine.
The mic response is pretty accurate to around 1kHz.

Don’t buy the TOZO NC9 for its microphone. Even in ideal conditions the mic can distort your voice unnaturally, although when it doesn’t, voices sound mostly fine if slightly dull. The digital distortion and dropouts are likely due to a poor Bluetooth connection to the buds, resulting in a low data transfer rate. In an office setting, keyboard clacks will come through virtually unfiltered. In environments such as on the street or in the midst of a gust of wind, the NC9 mics can lose entire segments of speech and introduce numerous processing artifacts.

TOZO NC9 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

TOZO NC9 microphone demo (Office conditions):

TOZO NC9 microphone demo (Street conditions):

TOZO NC9 microphone demo (Windy conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

65 votes

Should you buy the TOZO NC9?

A hold holds the left TOZO NC9 bud, as indicated by the L with a synthesizer in the background and the open case.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
A steady blue light means you’re connected.

If you are not in a position to push your budget, the TOZO NC9 is okay for just listening to music. It feels like the budget nature of TOZO’s wide array of products means sometimes quality control is an issue, with inconsistent touchpad response, or bizarre command combinations.

Any ANC is impressive at this price point, and the NC9 does a good job, even with the hiss. You can only choose between ANC and transparency modes, which hasn’t stopped Bose customers. The transparency mode is quite noisy, which shouldn’t be surprising, given that the mics don’t sound so great on the NC9. If mic quality is near the top of your priority list, something else will serve you better.

TOZO NC9TOZO NC9
TOZO NC9
Affordable earbuds • ANC • IPX6 waterproof
Afforadble true wireless earbuds with ANC
TOZO NC9 true wireless earbuds provide Active Noise Canceling to remove background noise. They pair via Bluetooth and come with five different tips size.

Battery life is fairly impressive, especially when you consider the NC9 compares favorably with the runtime of some of the top ANC-equipped earbuds. Folks with hard-to-fit or small ears will probably encounter some fit issues. As for sound quality, it’s pretty bass and treble-heavy, so the sound is rather “hyped.” This combined with the IPX6 rating might suit gymgoers if the fit is right. Finally, you know, the TOZO NC9 costs under $40 USD which is worth trying out.

How does TOZO NC9 compare to TOZO T6?

Initial tests indicate that the TOZO T6 has a more reasonable frequency response, more closely following our target curve. It has a bit of a bass bump and some exaggeration and under-emphasis of treble. Plus in that 500-900Hz range where the NC9 is too quiet, the T6 is not. In terms of noise canceling the TOZO T6 doesn’t filter as much noise, especially in low frequencies as the NC9. The TOZO T6 is even cheaper than the NC9 and costs just $24.99 at Amazon.

What should you get instead of the TOZO NC9?

The JLab Epic Air Sport ANC being worn in an ear, with a finger pressing the touch sensor.
The JLab Epic Air Sport ANC has touch controls that you can change in the JLab Air ANC app.

The TOZO NC9 has some excellent ANC for a set of $40 USD earbuds, but maybe the sound isn’t for you, or maybe it won’t fit your ears. It costs a bit more money (most alternatives will), but the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC offers a more predictable fit with over-ear hooks, a robust IP66 rating, and a better default frequency response. It also has ANC comparable to the NC9. The touch controls are still fussy, which is a bummer. You can purchase the Epic Air Sport ANC for $89.98 at Amazon.

Folks thinking about skipping ANC altogether can find the JLab GO Air POP, which is actually cheaper than the TOZO NC9 and costs $17 at Amazon. It features a much better frequency response that gets pretty close to our ideal curve transmitted over AAC or SBC. Basically, it’s a no-frills package if you want a pared-down set of earbuds for music enjoyment at an attractive price.

Frequently asked questions

Presumably, this is a last resort because a factory reset will erase all the devices the TOZO NC9 has connected to. Also, this process is a little fussy, so if it doesn’t work the first time, replace the buds and try again.

  1. Remove the buds from the case.
  2. Press the touch panels simultaneously for 5 seconds, when the red indicator lights turn off.
  3. Now release and continue to hold down on the panel until the blue light turns on and off.
  4. Quickly tap the touch panels three times.
  5. If the light goes red, it worked.

No, the TOZO NC9 is not very sturdy. During the course of the review period, the case was accidentally dropped once from waist height and it opened, dumping the buds on to linoleum. This led to the NC9 having trouble maintaining a steady connection, and the buds cutting out or an inability to listen on both earbuds.

While drop tests aren’t part of our standard review methods, and we generally trust certifications for that (like MIL-STD-810G, found on the Jaybird Vista 2), drops happen in everyday life, which is why it bears mentioning here. For example, the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC fell out of this reviewer’s ears several times on concrete and it continues working just fine, so a single drop typically should not kill your earbuds.

Nope, the standard TOZO NC9 does not have a companion app. You need the Pro or Plus version of the NC9 for the companion app to work.