While we covered the Beats by Dr. Dre headphones back in July 2008, it took a trip to the Monster Audio booth at CES 2009 for Gizmag's Tim Hanlon to get his ears on a set. So how do they compare with the benchmarks set by the German engineering coming out of companies like beyerdynamic and Sennheiser? To put it bluntly, he was blown away.
The first thing I noticed was the how comfortable the cans are. They hug your head enough to run for a train without issues, but don't clamp too tightly, and there's a lot of room in there for my big ears that often cause issues with over ear designs.
Given Monster's heritage of selling needlessly expensive audio and video cables to people who don't know any better, I wasn't expecting above-average audio performance - but as always, I went in with an open mind. Initially, I was listening to some completely unfamiliar music provided my Monster through a PreSonus HP4 headphone amplifier. Everything sounded pretty good, but the real litmus test for anything audio is listening to a track you know inside out, played from the player you're going to use, without assistance from additional gear. For me, this was a tune from British techno producer Si Begg, playing off my iPhone 3G.
My jaw was soon on the floor after witnessing a crisp, clear high end and jaw dropping levels of bass with surprising clarity and a stereo image to match. For fans of bass-heavy music like hiphop, techno or breakbeat who are in the market for a new set of headphones, Beats are well and truly in the "must try" category.
Thanks to the in-built amplification of the Beats, my iPhone was capable of reaching tinnitus-inducing levels at around 95% volume - for me, the right balance of oomph and comfort was found at around 85% volume. Of course, it's hard to gauge how fatiguing these cans are after a five minute listen, but I'm guessing the noise cancellation will help with this significantly - it did a great job of whisping me away from a noisy CES hall.
Monster has since released an in-ear version dubbed Beats by Dr. Dre Tour, with a flat, tangle-free cable that rolls into a neat circular carry case. The thing is, I just wasn't game to test them out after spotting the large chunks of ear wax graciously left on the demo models by various journos and buyers who were obviously less germophobic than myself. We have a set en-route to the office, so stay tuned for an in-depth review.
For more information, visit beatsbydre.com.