Monster Beats Studio Headphones: Bass-y, Ballsy, but to be taken seriously
Aug 18, 2012 (Updated Aug 21, 2012)
Review by Rudi Xeno
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Surprisingly full-spectrum sound, excellent build-quality, beautiful not-over-the-top styling, excellent noise-cancellation
Cons:Expensive, they leak, can consume batteries quickly
The Bottom Line: If these headphones fit comfortably in your budget and don’t offend any sense of utility value you retain, go ahead and buy them.
Recommend this product?
About three weeks ago as I was finishing up my review of the Skull Candy RocNation Aviator Headphones, I announced that my daughter had just dropped off a brand new pair of Monster Beats Studio Headphones for me. At the time I said “Give me a few days with these uber expensive bad boys and I’ll tell you all about them”. Well, obviously it’s taken me more than a few days. I find that discussing Monster Beats Studio Headphones dispassionately to be a tall order. Fortunately, since I didn’t have to pay the $300 - $349 price for these headphones (and neither did she) I can resist any urge to justify my purchase. Let’s get started.
In the off chance that you arrived at this review because you entered “studio headphones” into the Google Search box, go directly to the back button of your browser now. These are not “studio headphones” in any conventional sense. These headphones don’t render music as it was produced, but to paraphrase Jimmy Iovine, CEO of Beats Audio, as the artist would like you to hear the music presented.
From the little I knew about Beats on the ear and over the ear headphones prior to my purchase of my HTC Rezound Android Phone that came equipped with both special Beats Audio Circuitry built into the music player and a pair of iBeats In-ear headphones, I might have expected a “thud-fest” assaulting my eardrums as I slipped a pair of Studios on my head. With their hip hop star Dr. Dre branding, the image of a car equipped with a 200 lb. sub-woofer pulling up beside me causing me to grind my molars while I watched the entire outer skin of the car (windows included) visibly pulse was not hard to conjure up.
I was pleasantly delighted to find this image instantly fade with my first listening experience. Indeed, Beats Studios favor music dependent on a deep resonant bass, but thinking about it that would describe the overwhelming majority of popular music recorded over the last half century.
That’s not to say you can’t crank these amplified bad boys up to a level that might have brain tissue leaking from your nose, but for the sane among us, listening at reasonable volume levels you’ll be treated to what I’d describe as full spectrum high fidelity sound that features a really full, rich bass without sacrificing quality mids and clear, crisp treble.
As packaging goes, Beats pulled out all the stops here. There’s little doubt that they know packaging and presentation sells. High quality packaging is also costly, so just looking at the graphics rich outer box you know where a nice little chunk of the purchase price has been spent.
Removing the package from the outer box exposes a bright inner box that when opened nicely lays out most accessories and documentation on the left with the headphones encased in the included touring case on the right. Unzipping the case I found my shiny black Studios folded within. Losing little time I unfolded them, gave them a quick visual look over before trying them out for fit on my head. My first impression was quite positive. Visually, there’s nothing ostentatious about them. They’re shiny, sleek and have only the “b” logo visible on the outside of each ear cup. On the top of the headband “beats by dr. dre” is screened in a subdued manner.
Included with the headphones you’ll find the semi rigid touring case, two sets of Monster Cables (one for use with your iPhone/iPad), two Duracell AAA batteries, a 1/4” plug adapter, a plane adapter and a polishing cloth. The expected user documentation and promotional materials are found in folding cardboard sleeves.
To start you have to place the batteries into the compartment on the left ear piece. The batteries power the noise-cancelling circuitry and I’d guess an included amplifier. Selecting the red Monster Cable I inserted the long tip into the left ear piece and the other into my HTC Rezound where I have a collection of mp3 files recorded at a minimum of 192kbs. The on/off power switch is found on the right ear-piece. With charged batteries it glows red. When batteries need replacing the switch glows yellow.
The Beats Studios are constructed almost entirely of a hard, flexible high impact plastic. Hinges, critical connections and ear cup extensions incorporate stainless steel. While some may question the overwhelming reliance on plastic I’ll say that this headset feels quite solid and well put together. It keeps the weight (9.1oz) manageable and keeps the ear pieces securely over your ears without subjecting your head to a painful vise-like grip. On the inside of the headband there is ample cushioning. Each ear piece has leather encased memory foam that fits comfortably over my relatively large ears, creating a good seal.
Just above each ear piece is a combination hinge/earpiece extender that when equally extended can provide almost an additional 3” in size allowing this headphone to accommodate most any size head.
While they may have been hip-hop inspired I find that the Studios produce a warm, clear, full spectrum sound that plays very well with most modern music. While there is an obvious favoring of bass, it doesn’t seem to meddle with the details of the mids and treble. The sound is energetic, but clear and crisp when playing music from a quality source.
As I stated at the opening of the review, these are not “studio” headphones in any conventional sense. Beats Studios color the music. And, while I might not have anticipated it, these middle-aged ears like the colors they produce. They might not be my choice if I chose to listen to a flute solo, but honestly I’m seldom in that place. Audiophiles in search of deadly accurate sound reproduction might not agree with me here. I’m clearly not an audiophile; I’m just looking for a good time.
I’ve listened to my recorded music at all volume levels using the Beats Studios and find them remarkably distortion free except at the most extreme top end. I can’t honestly decide whether that was a product of the headphone output or my hearing rejecting the extremely loud volume.
The Beats Studios feature active noise cancelling circuitry powered by 2 AAA batteries. Along with the well sealed circumaural ear pieces they isolate you from all but the loudest external noises. How effective really? In my case I find they pass the Miniature Schnauzer Test. My yappy little Schnauzer can do her worst, but unless she’s right on top of me she’s little more than a visual distraction with the volume amped up to about 60%. The right ear piece houses a mute function beneath the “b” logo that can be engaged to momentarily kill the sound if necessary.
If there’s an area where the Beats Studios are a disappointment it’s here. While listening to music at any reasonable volume level the Studios leak badly. With the volume set at 50% they can be heard by another person sitting across a small quiet room. Even at lower volume levels a passenger sitting next to you on a plane or in a car might become irritated quickly. The Studios are best enjoyed while you are alone or in open areas where they are less likely to be overheard. This could be a major purchasing consideration.
Early on I found that it’s very easy to remove the headphones without remembering to turn the power off. My first set of batteries lasted about 10 days before I received the yellow glowing low-battery warning. With continued use I’m finding that I’m slowly developing a habit of powering them down. While the Studios ship with alkaline batteries, rechargeable or longer life lithium batteries can also be used.
I’ve owned my Beats Studios for almost a month. Clearly that’s not enough time to gauge their toughness. I have however watched them torture tested on Youtube and feel pretty confident that they have been built to last. The cables which are often the most vulnerable points are detachable and easily and inexpensively replaced.
Do I like them? I can say yes without any hesitation. Are they worth $300 - $349? That’s a really tough question with no easy answer. If you read me often you probably know that I’m only a little less likely to attempt to remove my own appendix with a sharpened shoehorn than I am to part with that kind of money on any indulgence of this type. But then again, I live in Boca Raton, Florida where I see money spent in far more foolish ways.
So let me answer that question by saying if these headphones fit comfortably in your budget and don’t offend any sense of utility value you retain, go ahead and buy them. I’m pretty confident that most consumers will enjoy them and feel little need to apologize for their purchase.
Skull Candy RocNation Aviator Headphones
Share this product review with your friends