I noticed a thread on here a few days back talking about being able to get a set of the Monster Turbine earphones for a demo. Being that I had just broken my Shure SE110’s and I was less than excited about my SCL3’s, I thought this would be a good time to try out a new pair of headphones. My other headphones are mainly for home use due to price and size.
As life is getting progressively busier, I find myself using headphones more often than my car audio system or even my home system. Mainly, I use headphones while riding my motorcycle to and from work and than daily at the gym. The headphones above all need to sound great, block out the outside sound; and be comfortable. A secondary is durability. I like headphones to last but I do understand that the brutal punishment I put them under and usually just expect them to last about a year.
I filled out the online form at http://www.monstercable.com/turbine/ and within 3 days I received a box in the mail with the headphones.
The attention to detail that is put into the box design blew me away. Very Applishly inspired, in my opinion. The outer shell slides off to a solid black inner box.
The box folds open and the earphones are inset into the center of the box. Behind that are the accessories that normally come with high-end headphones. This kit comes with multiple sizes of ear buds, to accommodate all ear sizes. Also, a travel bag for storage and transportation. I attempted to use all of the buds to try to find the best sound for me. I found the standard mushroom style medium worked best for me.
Fit and Design:
The earphones themselves are heavier than I am accustomed to. The weight of the buds causes the earphones to pull the suction slightly causing the bass to all but vanish while doing bench press. The sound returns without any interaction from me once I stand or sit back up. They are balanced well, but it does take a bit of time to get the buds to sit correctly in your ears. The wire itself is very different from what I am used to as well. My Shures have very thick wire and a hardened plastic case around them that allows for a bit easier over the ear placement (my preferred method). The Turbines have a more elastic-like rubberized plastic that I would imagine is more likely to withstand temperatures (none of my other headphones do well going from Ohio winter in the car to the gym without a warm up period). The wire is usually brittle with my normal headphones; I would imagine this would do much better. The wire on the headphones is slightly shorter than my other headphones. Initially I thought this was going to be an issue but actually a good deal of research must have been done in this. The length is perfect for everything that I do. I find that at the gym, the cables are always getting in the way (especially with dumbbells). The length of these actually is enough for movement, but short enough that I have no problems with the cable being unplugged from my Ipod.
The standard plug is a direct plug rather than the 90 degree plug that I am accustomed to. I am a bit concerned that this will snap during workouts, but my wife really liked this better and she feels that this will more than likely be more dependable in the long run. We shall see.
A small complaint that I would like to bring up to Monster is that the “left” and “right” identifiers are very small and under the speaker near the cable connection. I would prefer to see this on the back of the bud integrated into the Monster design.
Initial Listening Impression's:
Let me just say that after getting the right buds in and putting the headphones into my Ipod to go to the gym, I almost took them out and put back in the SCL3’s. These headphones require break-in. My suggestion is to not even use them the first day. Give them about 8-12 hours of running before listening. I decided for the sake of the demo (and that fact I was late to the gym) to keep them in. My first reaction was BASS. Just endless BASS. I’m not a bass junky; I was starting to think these were not for me. I switched from the song that was on the Ipod at the time (Kanye West Love Locked Down) to Shiny Toy Guns (Ghost Town) and the highs really kicked in. There was a strong bass and an even better high frequency response. The problem I was running into was mid-range. The mids were washed out and no where near the level of the lows and highs. Thus my suggestion on leaving the headphones break in without you.
Days into the demo:
As stated above, the earphones are just awful the first day or so (depending on how many hours you use headphones a day). There is an abundance of bass and the highs are very bright with a washed out midrange. About the third day into the demo I noticed that the mid range had really caught up to that overpowering bass and very apparent high frequency range. I did something that I have not done in a very long time with headphones, I turned down the source. The sensitivity of these headphones is such that I don’t need to overpower the driver in order to get sound, you can get very enjoyable sound without loud volumes. Many headphones require more power than you should have in your ears to get that well balanced sound, these do not follow suit. They sound more like a nice speaker than an overpowered earphone.
The balance of the entire range of frequencies are balancing more and more and becoming almost seamless. Impressive for a 150 dollar MSRP headphone. I’ve used headphones costing twice this that don’t blend the mids and highs this well.
Reading through the marketing and the “reviewer’s guide” it’s very obvious that Monster is gearing these towards bass junkies. I can understand that as the bass is very apparent and most likely priority one. Overwhelming for some songs, but they do actually give a sense of a larger speaker inside of your head. Almost a subwoofer of sorts. The bass initially caused the soundstage to be forward, which I did not mind, but I am used to a balanced and centered sound. After the break-in, this really became centered and balanced. I somewhat miss the forward sound.
Mid-range has improved drastically, but is still not to the sweetness that is the SE530 by Shure. Well above Ipod buds or any of the Sony solutions I have around the house, but I would say my number one complaint would be a sub-par midrange. Perhaps filters in future releases could help to increase this lacking area?
Highs continue to be the strong point with these. Really well pronounced and very accurate. I have been enjoying a bit of techno lately due to these headphones. Also, I’m really getting back into some Muse and Self as the vocals are really well established with these headphones. I believe it is due to both lead singers having an upper range when singing that keeps out of the midrange and focuses a bit more on the strong point of these drivers.
Overall, I am very pleased with these headphones so far. They are a very efficient, require less power, and sound just as “loud” and powerful as all of my other earphones. Fit is good, although a bit longer to establish a solid fit before I can begin working out. These may be more of a slightly active headphone that are really good for trips on the subway, walking around campus or just enjoying at home.
I would say that Monster has made a very good first attempt in the headphone market. They have designed a headphone that you almost forget is a headphone with the right music and allows you to just enjoy the music. Their goal of making a headphone that acts more like a speaker is very close to being a reality.
I plan on using my headphone amp here at my house when time allows, but for now this is my assessment of the Monster Turbine in-ear headphones:
-Bass! If your into this, it’s here and you’re not going to find many in-ear headphones with this much bass.
-Well defined highs
-A very nice centered soundstage
-Efficient allowing you to not play the music as loud to get the desired effect of a full range speaker (I believe this was also a goal as they wanted to create an “in-ear speaker”)
-Great buds, very comfortable even after a few hours of listening
-The very best length of wire I have seen, kudos here Monster!
-Very comfortable, even after extended usage.
-Bass! Just not my thing. I added it to a pro because if you like bass, this would be one of the headphones that you need to try. I think that it's just slightly more than what should be in the headphones for my preferences.
-Initial break-in period is rather extended. It would add some time (and possibly cost) but I would prefer the drivers be run-in before being shipped out as part of the QC process.
-Weight as the buds are much heavier than I am used to. Although this did not impact anything in my current evaluation, I would like to either see a redesigned driver that utilizes a bit more surface area against the ear, or a reduction in weight by using a different housing material.
-“L” and “R” could be in a better place. I would put them on the back of the driver. They are color coded, but I don’t really ever remember Blue = left and Red = right.