A Monster Minus the Cable

Monster is a company brand name known to consumers for its lines of premium priced audio and video cables. Notice we mentioned “premium price” not “premium quality.” Monster Cable, now going by “Monster,” has long been at the ire of the computer hardware enthusiast primarily due to its products being seen as overpriced and overmarketed by the community, not to mention its public and perceived as overzealous attempts at controlling “its” trademark(s). All of this makes buying a pair of its Beats by Dr. Dre $250 headphones all the more interesting. On one hand we have high expectations due to the cost, marketing, and Dr. Dre’s endorsement, but on the hand, we know Monster Cable is involved. This should be a fun ride at the very least.

Three years ago, Monster began a partnership with rapper, actor, and music producer Dr. Dre and producer Jimmy Iovine in order to create a new line of headphones that could perform to their standards and still be very stylish at the same time. The different models and styles of Beats headphones and ear buds seem to be everywhere: business offices, sporting events, college campuses, libraries, and even LAN parties for PC and console gamers.

All of the product boxes and marketing materials in Monster’s ‘Beats’ line carry the same quote from Dre which says:

People aren’t hearing all the music……With Beats, people are going to hear what the artists hear, and listen to the music the way they should: the way I do.

Dre and Iovine have a total of sixty years’ of experience and success in the entertainment business, so they should definitely know how things should sound.

Today, we will tell you if we like hearing what Dre says we should while we play games, watch movies, and listen to music on our PCs. Is it possible that we have simply overlooked these very popular headphones until now?

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Product Pricing

NewEgg.com lists the Beats Studio headphones for $299.95 with free ground shipping. Amazon.com usually sells this model of the Beats for the same price as Newegg, but it currently has them for $259.99 with free ground or prime shipping for an indeterminate amount of time.

Monster sells the Beats Studio headphones for $349.95 with free ground shipping through its own website. All of the Beats’ headphones and in-ear headphones carry a one year manufacturer’s warranty. For a product as pricey as this one, we would like to have seen a warranty lasting two or three times longer.

Genuine Beats Studio headphones are only available in solid white, black, or red colors and a special Red Sox edition. We purchased the solid red pair at a local Best Buy store in Texas for $324.74 including tax.

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Counterfeits

We usually list the cheapest price that we find for the product and then move on to rest of our review, but the Beats headphones warrant further explanation; these are one of the most counterfeited items in the world.

We went to several local flea markets and swap meets and found many counterfeit pairs like those pictured below for less than $200.00. Some of the vendors displayed tattered and fake-looking “Authorized Monster Dealer” banners above their booths.

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Monster has a long list on the Beats headphones section of its website of the genuine, authorized dealers as well as the most well-known counterfeit ones for its products. Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy are all on the “authorized dealer” list. If you find a retailer or individual selling any of these headphones for a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Every genuine pair and style of Beats’ headphones and ear buds has its own serial number that can be checked for authenticity under the “verification” section of Monster’s Beats website. We verified our pair by both store and serial number as genuine. The process only took a few seconds.

If we transposed or omitted a few digits of our serial number, we received a message stating that our pair may be counterfeit and that we should report the seller directly to Monster. While it is by no means foolproof, it is good to see that Monster has a number of safeguards in place to protect its headphone customers both before and after they make a purchase.

Product Packaging

When we went to a local store to shop for a pair of the Beats Studio headphones, its retail packaging truly set these apart from many other manufacturers’ products. Many of the competing brands we found are simply shrink-wrapped in hard, clear plastic, and are displayed generically next to each other, regardless of price.

The front panel of the large, flat-black colored box has a larger than life-size picture of one of the headphones’ two ear cups.

The sides and back panels have a lot of marketing speak in six languages and a calm and thoughtful pose of the well-known Dr. Dre. We would much rather see a complete listing of the product’s technical specifications, but those are nowhere to be found on or in our package.

The back of the box pictures an exploded view of the headphones’ ear cup design followed by the Beats’ marketing slogans in four languages beneath.

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The outer packaging sleeves a crimson colored tri-fold box which contains the Beats Studio accessories and the headphones packaged and secured in its carrying case beneath.

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The foot long, oval-shaped carrying case has a raised letter “b” on the front of its padded exterior. A carabiner’s hook at the top can be used to hang or attach the case to whatever you wish.

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The case has rigid interior walls that protect the headphones and maintain the case’s shape. A long, black zipper circumscribing the case keeps everything inside when not in use. It is obvious that Monster spent a great deal of time creating the packaging and presentation of this product for consumers, but it is the quality of this product’s construction and function that concern us the most.

Design and Appearance

When stored or not in use, the ear cups of the Beats Studio headphones can be collapsed inward, one ear cup on top of the other. When a listener is ready to use them, he can simply rotate the ear cups and its housing outward and then extend or collapse these as needed for sizing. Its rounded shape and appearance are very striking and unique.

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Both ear cups expand and collapse along sturdy metal rails that give users another inch of headroom on each side. It seems that these should fit large and small heads alike.

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The headband of the Beats Studio headphones is exactly ten inches long. The lowercase “beats by dre” logo appears directly in the middle in small grey and white letters. The underside of the headband has a six-inch long faux leather covered cushion to provide comfort for the top of the wearer’s head.

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The headband is a single piece of very thin, curved plastic attached to the headphones’ frame on both sides with small hex screws and metal branding plates. The hinges that allow the ear cups to fold inward for storage are barely visible. When we flexed the ear cups inward and outward, we saw obvious signs of stress throughout the frame and headband. We had to hold the headband above the ear cup securely and then we slowly positioned the ear cup. We felt as if we were going to bend these too far or break these if we were not extremely careful. The Beats’ user guide does warn buyers to be cautious when adjusting the headband, but that warning does not instill much faith in us as to the product’s long-term durability.

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The Beats headphones house 40 mm drivers in its ear cups with black faux leather ear pads on the outside for comfort. There is a very thin layer of black foam rubber between your ear and the driver in each ear cup.

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Both ear cups swivel inward and outward fifteen degrees, almost too freely, which allows them to contour to the sides of the wearer’s head.

The exterior of the right ear cup houses the Beats’ noise-cancelling circuitry, power switch, and mute button. The power switch is normally illuminated in red when the Beats are turned on and it will become amber when the batteries begin to run low. The “b” logo plate on the right ear cup can be depressed and held to mute the headphones’ sound. We found the brushed metal logo plates to be a very clever way to brand the product and also disguise the mute button beneath.

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The left ear cup houses the batteries required for the product’s operation with a removable cover on top. The inside of the battery cover is where we found our authentic serial number (which we obscured for the photo). Here we see some of the most obvious examples of the cheap plastic used throughout as well as overspray and underspray from the crimson red paint job. The two plastic locking tabs that secure the cover in the ear cups’ retaining grooves feel thin and flimsy. Not surprisingly, Monster offers replacement headbands and battery covers on the “replacement parts” section of the Beats’ website.

Of all of the items and components packaged in the Beats Studio box, the only ones that felt sturdy and well-built were the two included stereo cables and the gold-plated airline adapter used to connect the product to its sound sources.

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While we very much liked the product’s appearance, shape, and color, but the build quality of these premium priced headphones is no better than that of any budget-priced headphones or gaming headset.

Features and Specifications

Box Contents

  • Beats Studio High Definition Powered Isolation Headphones

  • Gold plated airplane adapter and 1/8″ to 1/4″ stereo adapter

  • Monster Cable headphone cable (1.3 meters/4.26 feet)

  • Monster iSoniTalk cable for iPhone, Blackberry and other music phones (1.3 meters/4.26 feet)

  • Touring case

  • Monster Clean Cloth with advanced Aegis Microbe Shield technology

  • Two AAA batteries

  • Warranty, safety, and product setup and usage guides

The two AAA batteries power the noise cancelling and amplification circuitry of these headphones. Without them, these headphones will not function.

The cleaning cloth included with these shiny plastic headphones is very necessary. Their slick, glossy finish shows fingerprints after the slightest touch. We are glad to see that all of the optional stereo, airline, and cell phone adapters are included so these could theoretically be used with nearly any music source supporting stereo connectivity.

With this product’s premium price, we would have liked to have seen some longer audio cables included as well. We do not like having to stay within four feet of our sound sources because of a short audio cable.

Technical Specifications

  • Speaker: 40mm

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz

  • Sensitivity: 110dB (+/- 2dB)

  • Total Harmonic Distortion: < or = 1.5% at 1kHz out 1mW

  • Maximum Output: 115dB (+/- 2dB)

  • Active Noise Reduction: -14dB at Max

  • Operation Voltage: 3.2V

  • Rated Wattage: L + R: 60mW

  • Weight: 250 grams, 270 grams with batteries

  • Type: Over Ear

We had to find the technical specifications for the product in its marketing brochure. We obtained that brochure from a trusted source as it is no longer available in stores or downloadable from Monster’s product website.

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The 40 millimeter drivers in these headphones are very common in size. We were hoping they would measure 50 millimeters or larger as those usually give a more visceral punch with low frequency sounds and a wider sound stage in general.

The frequency response above is the standard “normal range of human hearing” figure. We expected to see a larger response range with these or any premium-priced headphones, but there is no guarantee of it.

Lastly, we see no impedance requirement listed. Should we assume that any stereo device, portable player, or cellular phone should be able to adequately power these headphones to the full potential? We have no way of knowing. We will comment later in our review about our experiences with Monster’s sales and tech support departments when we tried to find the answer we required.

Installation and Burn-in

Installing the Beats Studio headphones should be very easy for any of our readers. We removed the battery cover and placed the two AAA batteries inside. We replaced the cover, plugged one end of the standard audio cable into our PC or stereo receiver sound source and the other end into the recessed stereo jack of the headphones’ left ear cup. We then moved the Beats’ power switch to the “on” position. Very simple.

The Beats can also function as typical noise cancelling headphones with no audio source plugged in. They must simply be turned on.

To give these headphones a proper break-in or “burning in” period, we connected the headphones to an Onkyo stereo receiver. We played a continuous lists of songs and pink noise clips for one hundred hours at a comfortable forty percent volume level

The break-in process gave us a chance to gauge the product’s battery life as well. We used five sets of batteries, receiving twenty-two to twenty-five hours of battery life per set. If you use these headphones often, you will probably be able to use them for an average of three to three and a half hours per day for seven days before the batteries need to be changed. The more volume you use, the less battery life you will receive.

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Movies

True Grit (2010)

In the film’s opening scenes, the story’s heroine, Mattie Ross, is riding a steam train into town. We hear and feel the heavy train pulling into town from our left, its brakes squealing, and its engine venting steam. Mattie begins walking through the old west town to make a deal with an undertaker to bury her father. The two meet to exchange terms of a burial back and forth, but there dialogue stays in one place: slightly above our heads. Usually onscreen dialogue can be heard panning from character to character as they speak.

At the movie’s four minute mark, we see crowds of people gathered in the middle of town as they watch three men about to be hung. The condemned men begin speaking and we can hear each one expressing his last thoughts. Rather than hearing the men speaking from three positions directly in front of us, their voices seemed to come from slightly behind and above us. There were townspeople both yelling and whispering at the men from all sides, but there voices seemed to be coming from the same three people standing together instead of from all over the crowd.

When the men are finally hanged, we can hear and feel the floor beneath them falling away. Their necks snap as they reach the end of their ropes, but again, these sounds come from the wrong place: above and behind, rather than far in front of us.

At the movie’s thirty-three minute mark, Mattie is pursuing Marshall Coburn, but she has to cross the river in front of her to reach him. We can hear water running quickly to our right and the sounds of locusts in the air all around us. Sitting high on her horse, Mattie argues with a man below her and to the right that she needs to cross soon. We should be hearing the two bicker back and forth, left to right, and right to left. Instead, the conversation seems to come from one direction, farther away than our point of view. It simply does not track well with what occurs on screen.

Mattie flees so that she may cross the river. As her horse approaches the water’s edge, we can hear and feel its hooves quickly striking the ground below. We hear Mattie and the horse enter the water, make a large splash, and begin to swim for the far shore. The movie’s classical score begins to play and Rooster Cogburn spies his young pursuer. Mattie and her horse reach the shore and we hear it in front of us struggling and gasping to climb onto dry land. Cogburn begins to scold Mattie from directly in front us, but his voice simply does not stand out. We hear the water rushing and locusts chirping clearly in the background, but dialogue continues to sound distant.

We heard plenty of small sounds to tell us the movie was taking place outside at a river setting or in the middle of a half-built town, but we never felt a sense of small or wide distances from sound placement. Dialogue was muddy and plain and we were not immersed in the movie. The Beats sounded absolutely terrible with this film.

Jumper (2008)

In one of the movie’s first scenes, we see David Rice trying to save a school bully from drowning in an icy pond. We hear the ice cracking in front of us, the bully struggling beneath the cold water, and the heavy roaring of David’s teleportation power whisking him and the bully away. They immediately materialize in the middle of a quiet library Throughout the scene, we liked that we heard and felt the steady rumbles of David’s powers surfacing for the first time. What we did not like was that we did not hear any subtle differences besides the water in the envirornments as the scene changed from outdoors to indoors.

At the movie’s twenty minute mark, we see David having a confrontation in his apartment with his new nemesis, Roland. We know the two are about to fight, because we can hear drums from the movie’s score beginning to pound slowly and steadily. The underlying music let us know by its quickening tempo that a confrontation is about to happen. Roland begins tazing David repeatedly to make him talk. We can feel every shock, crackle and impact from the weapon. The Beats headphones reproduce a series of deep punches as David summons his power to teleport himself. David suddenly materializes in his childhood bedroom.

While we liked feeling and hearing the most vivid sound effects in each scene, we never felt that we could detect a scene change by sound alone. The Beats Studio headphones are a closed back set so we did not expect as wide of a sound stage as with open headphones, but both movies sounded awful. We have had better experiences in our reviews of closed gaming headsets that cost under $100.00.

TV Shows

We used an episode of The Closer downloaded from ITunes for this test. TV shows are usually more dialogue heavy than movies, but there are occasional bits and pieces of of physical action.

In one of the episode’s key scenes, a police chief is interrogating a suspect in a busy conference room full of policemen. The camera pans from the policemen, to the suspect, and then to the chief, but all of the different voices involved in the conversation seem to come from a single point on screen, in front or above us.

The show’s musical score begins to play as the tense situation becomes more heated. We can hear an organ, snare drums, and a piano all playing. The score simply overwhelms the dialogue.

We just could not focus our attention on the show’s characters. Their dialogue was not clear or distinct. We heard the sounds of phones ringing, printers printing, and people talking. Instead of hearing them all around us, which would give us a sense of the show’s setting and size of the environment, the sounds all came from right in front of us.

We were more distracted more than we were interested when watching this show and both of our movie choices with the Beats headphones.

The Beats emphatically reproduce special effects in both movies and the tv show, but we never heard or felt an accurate sense of where the sounds or dialogue originated from. We were simply bored by our experience. The mid-range reproduction of the Beats definitely sounds recessed compared to the low and high frequency sounds we heard. If you are accustomed to a flat EQ setting, we felt the Beats highlighted highs and lows but de-emphasized the mids. We compensated for it with the EQ setting below.

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After our changes, dialogue in all three of our test choices was much better. Our overall sound playback was much more balanced, but stereo imaging was still very poor. We were constantly reminded that we were watching a computer monitor instead of immersing ourselves in what we were watching.

Testing-Music

Our testing playlist will consist of current hits from Billboard’s June Top 100 as well as older music from Creed, Queen, Mariah Carey, Lil’ Wayne, Jamie Foxx, Static-X, Counting Crows, Ray Charles, Brian Setzer, AC/DC, The Planets, Nirvana, Metallica, Armin Van Buren, The Sound of Dubstep, and some of Rap and Hip Hop’s Top 500 singles of all time.

PC Playback

For PC usage, we began our testing with a flat EQ setting in our sound card’s software. The headphones were plugged in to the front channel out jack of the X-Meridian 2G sound card. The headphone cable is only four feet long, so we moved our test PC closer to give us more freedom of movement.

Rock

During playback of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” we really enjoyed hearing cymbals and solid kick drum that we often miss with other brands of headphones or headsets. Guitar sounds were very sharp and vivid, but vocals had a scratchy or hoarse sound that we did not like at all. Bon Scott seemed to be singing from behind the band. We were able to identify every instrument played on the Queen album, but vocals were very poor and not upfront. We did not hear the choir panning left to right either. It simply remained in one place behind the rest of the music.

On Counting Crows’ “Big Yellow Taxi” and Creed’s “One,” we usually do not notice the prevalence of the bass guitar throughout both tracks and the albums themselves, but the Beats highlighted it very well. With vocals though, we heard an occasional hiss or sibilance that was very distracting. The Nirvana and Metallica choices showed very similar playback as well. We constantly heard guitar, cymbals, and drums so clearly, but vocals were awful. The sound stage presented by the Beats was very small. It seems that these headphones can reproduce instruments or vocals, but not both together, well.

Blues/Jazz/Big Band/Classical

With the Ray Charles’ album, we were very pleased with his deep vocals heard with the music. The tracks we chose were full of piano and organ riffs, and each one sounded very rich and relaxing. Our big band choice did not fare so well though. Once again, we could distinguish saxophone, cello, and guitar solos very easily throughout the tracks. When vocals and instruments came together, we lost separation and clarity.

When we listened to the classical fare on The Planets, we were really surprised how clearly we were able to identify individual instrument solos and locations of the musicians playing them. When the instruments came together to play at the same time, we lost all separation just as we did above. The classical presentation was one of the worst we have heard.

Dubstep/House/Trance

Initially, we were really enjoying the Dubstep and House tracks we listened to, but the longer we listened, the more we noticed that some of the low frequency sounds were decaying too quickly. We expected a beat to keep going lower and lower, but it simply faded in comparison to the bass extension we found on other more capable headphones. In this case, the frequency response numbers we had to find would have been handy to have had on the product box. If we were big fans of these genres and we wanted to know if these headphones were capable of reproducing the necessary frequencies, we would simply have to gamble on our purchase.

Hip Hop and Rap

No matter which song or artist that we listened to for these genres, we became very lost and enthralled in the music. We listened to “old school” N.W.A, De La Soul, D.J. Quick, Method Man, Too Short, Young Jeezy, and 2 Pac. From the beginning of each song, the Beats gave us solid, deep punches and low rhythms. Vocals fit in above or behind the music to narrate each track perfectly. We literally just kept listening. The newer artists were just as good. The Jamie Foxx and Lil’ Wayne albums were simply fun to listen to, no question. In the newer albums, we heard a lot more synthesizer-based high frequency sounds, but they were always clear, not shrill or piercing.

The Beats have noise cancelling circuitry and when it is paired with Hip Hop and Rap, it is very effective. We stayed relaxed, tapping our feet, moving our heads, and literally forgetting about the outside world. For these types of music, no sound stage was required.

When we see the term “Studio” on the box or contained in the literature for pair of headphones, we usually expect a balanced sound signature or uncolored blend of lows, mids, and highs. With the Beats, it definitely means, “Dre and Iovine’s studio, no one else allowed.”

Billboard Top 100

The Billboard songs have a very diverse group of artists: Blake Shelton, Chris Brown, Lady GaGa, Bruno Mars, Brad Paisley, Maroon Five, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Seether, and Steven Tyler. When we listened to all of these artists and tracks, we never heard the sibilance that we heard in our older music choices from five years ago or more. Everything was very rhythmic and simply fun to listen to. With these modern songs, we felt that popular music, regardless of genre, is being produced and mixed in the same style. The Beats Studio headphones are obviously specifically tuned for that style.

From all our listening tests, we can say that the Beats perform best with Rap, Hip Hop, Blues, and modern Pop music. For other genres and most types of older music, you should look to other more-capable and/or balanced headphones without question.

MP3 player and iPhone Usage

We did not know the impedance requirement for these headphones so we were unsure if we could use just any music player or capable cell phone source. We tested music playback with a Creative Zen Mozaic and an IPhone 3G. We had absolutely no problems driving these headphones at low volume levels. That is usually an indicator of low impedance/high sensitivity headphones which are very easy to power or “drive.” We would think that Monster would want its customers and potential buyers to know this provided that it were true.

For actual phone usage, we connected the iSoniTalk cable included with the Beats Studio headphones to an iPhone 3G. To take a call, we simply pressed the button on the cable one time. To hang up, we did the same thing. The two people that called us said they knew immediately we were using a microphone rather than speaking directly into the phone, but our voice was still extremely loud and clear. Scrolling through playlists and picking songs on the iPhone’s playlist was very easy as well. We just pushed the single button on the cable the appropriate number of times. The sturdy cable was a great feature to include with these headphones.

The iSoniTalk cable and its microphone cannot be used with a PC sound card as a mic for the Beats. It has a tip-ring-recessed sleeve configuration designed specifically for cell phones.

Games

Call of Duty: Black Ops

For our first game test, we chose the multiplayer level,Jungle. As we began walking to find enemies, we heard the crisp sounds that our own footsteps were making on the leaves below us. We approached a teammate fighting an enemy in front of him. They were shooting at each other, left to right. A sniper was in a hut above them shooting at our teammate. His shots sounded as if he were directly behind the two players, rather than fifteen feet above and behind them shooting downward.

We followed a teammate to three huts where we found an enemy soldier in each one. If we shot the hut to our left or right, or the hut ten foot behind those, the distance our shots were traveling and eventually landing sounded identical in intensity. Sniper shots could be easily heard in the distance but we could not tell the direction of their origin. When a grenade was thrown at us, we heard and felt it land and explode, but we did not perceive it whistling towards us. The Beats have a recessed mid-range and because of it, things sounded far away or very nearby, but never in-between those two extremes. There was simply no depth to be heard and distance could not be determined by sound alone.

Explosions were vibrant though and we enjoyed the solid pounding that we felt against our heads. Those were the only things to bring us into the battle’s setting. Overall, our experience in this game was very poor.

Dirt 3

For this game, we began with a time trial in the free style-Gymkhana discipline at the L.A. Coliseum. Our goal here was to perform slides, donuts, and spins as well as breaking through as many obstacles as possible. With the Beats headphones, every collision could be heard and felt with a solid punch against our heads. We heard the gravel hitting our fenders, the engine revving beneath us, and the crowds cheering from the stands. With the Beats’ noise-cancelling feature, we could not hear much of anything from the outside world. We just kept driving.

We switched to a Rally Cross discipline at the Aspen Lakeside track and our experience was just as good. We felt and heard the road beneath us and nothing else. Everytime we hit a jump and flew through the air, we knew we were going to feel our car hit the dirt track beneath. If we collided with another car to our left or right, we would feel “the bump” on either side of our heads. Playing this game with the Beats was a great experience.

Unreal Tournament 3

We picked a multiplayer match in the “Eden Incorporated” map. We have run this map many times before so we were familiar with our surroundings. When we spawned into the match, we saw two enemies firing plasma rifles at each other in the distance. We heard each shot, but we could not hear the weapons’ fire as it trailed back and forth across the screen. We picked up a flak cannon and fired at one of the enemies and then the other, but again we heard no perception of left to right or how fire our shots had to travel.

This level takes place both inside and out, but there seemed to be no audible spatial differences of “open” or “closed” to indicate this. We would run up a ramp, but we could not hear our own footsteps. The sounds of machinery filled the level and rather than add to the mood and setting, we felt and heard its hum all around us over everything else happening. In past reviews, we have been able to simply stay in place and listen for enemies in the distance above or below us, but the only thing we heard with the Beats were the aftermath of explosions.

We could never play this game competitively with these headphones.

Left 4 Dead 2

We played through the multiplayer level, “Dead Air-Construction Site.” We had to pass through fenced off buildings and scaffolding on our way to the airport. We heard a witch but could not see her. We finally spied her above us on top of scaffolding. A boomer ran towards us and we liked that we could hear and feel his pounding footsteps. We knew he was coming, but those footsteps did not vary in intensity, so we had no clue if he was behind or in front of us until we actually saw him. We had to listen for our teammates to know that a spitter or jockey was nearby as we could not hear how far away they were either. Gunshots were crisp and vivid but we did not know if a teammate near us or far away had fired them.

Even when we were climbing down towards and shooting zombies below us, they could have easily been right in front of us. There was simply no difference in depth or height of sound. We could never play this game competitively with the Beats headphones.

Dirt 3 was very fun to play but it is more of a side to side 2D game and was perfect to play with the Beats. Multiplayer and single player FPS games though require the ability to pinpoint objectives and enemies with the perception of distance and depth by sound which we simply did not have. We would never choose to game competitively with these headphones.

Long Term Comfort and Usage

When we first saw the Beats Studio headphones, we thought that they might be uncomfortable with the narrow, thin headband and its slight padding. They were actually very comfortable for many hours at a time. The Beats only weigh a little over half a pound, so we felt no neck fatigue whatsoever. We tested these with a teenager with a 6 and 1/2″ hat size and an adult man with a 7 and 3/4″ hat size. The teenager had no problems resizing the Beats to his personal liking. He said he had a snug, yet comfortable fit. On the larger head, these were just as comfortable for long periods of wear. They only began to feel too tight or uncomfortable when a ball cap was worn underneath. We feel that 7 and 3/4″ would probably be the largest hat size that these headphones could accommodate comfortably.

The faux leather ear pads made our cheeks and ears only the slightest bit warm even after many hours of music listening or gaming. We liked the pads’ material most because it did not irritate beard stubble like fabric pads tend to do. Our only complaint was that we wish the hinges above the ear cups had a more reinforced construction. When we would take the headphones off, we had to do so very slowly and carefully. The Beats are not headphones that you would want to take off by sliding one ear cup off and then the other. Neither the headband nor the hinges will support that kind of repetitive force without some type of damage resulting.

The Beats are self-amplified, and, as a benefit, they require very little volume to maintain a comfortable and clear listening volume of their sound signature at any time.

Noise Cancellation and Isolation

The Beats Studio headphones are not primarily noise cancelling headphones that can also play music. They are advertised as music headphones with noise cancellation as one of its features. The active noise cancellation did a very good job blocking out ambient sounds, such as neighborhood children playing outside or people cooking or watching television in adjoining rooms to ours. The Beats removed just enough noise to give us personal isolation and keep us immersed in what we were doing. If friends approached closely to speak to us, we could still hear them fairly well. To hear best, we found it very quick convenient to be able to push the mute button located on the right ear cup.

The Beats are circumaural headphones. Therefore, the ear pads should fit around the wearer’s ears for a comfortable seal to keep the sounds being played inside and to provide some level of isolation from the outside world. This might sound practical in theory, but these headphones leak sound worse than any set we have reviewed in the last year. Friends and family members around us said that they could hear everything we were listening to. It was not just the occasional high note that would bleed through at the height of its intensity. It was the beats, the vocals, and all of the music in general. These are not headphones you would want to wear if you do not want to disturb roommates, friends, or a spouse nearby.

Tech Support

Monster offers tech support for its products by e-mail, phone, and live browser-based chat. We tried all three of these methods.

E-mail Support

We e-mailed Monster two identical requests, one week apart, asking for the Beats Studio headphones’ technical specifications. We received an answer to one, but not both, of those requests from Roneil N. at Monster five weeks after we submitted the first one. She apologized for the late reply and then informed us that the specifications we desired were not publicly available. If we were a potential customer that was waiting for a response from the company to confirm or negate our decision to buy these headphones based upon their specifications, we would have already moved on and bought another brand instead.

Live Chat

Monster’s live chat support is available on the company’s support website under the “Ask an Expert” banner. We checked the availability of live support over the course of one month, during the company’s normal business hours. It was unavailable more often than it was available. We live chatted with a representative on three different occasions. We were always connected to “Danielle.” According to the Beats Studio manual, it says to replace the ear pads if they are worn or damaged, so we decided to ask Danielle how we could obtain a replacement set. She asked, “Did yours fall off?” We said, “No, we simply wanted a spare set for the road.” She told us to call the sales department to purchase an additional set.

A day later, we chatted with Danielle again and asked her the hypothetical question,” How do we put an ear pad back on after one of our children had pulled it off?” She responded that the ear pads “don’t go back on” and suggested that we send the headphones in for service. She politely offered to arrange this for us. We said, “No, but thank you. We will try to replace it ourselves.” We were very confused by the two very opposite recommendations only one day apart.

Phone Support

We called the toll-free tech support number for Monster and requested the technical specifications for the headphones. A woman named Chandra forwarded us to an unnamed male associate in the sales department. He was having an involved conversation with someone next to him and he continued to do so while he spoke to us.

When we asked him for the technical specifications, the sales rep asked in a clipped tone of voice, “What do you want to do with those? We don’t give those out so people can just do whatever they want to with them.” We informed him that several of Monster’s positive product reviews linked on its website list technical specifications for the Beats Studio headphones. He told us that those third party links would or should be taken down immediately. Those links are still there one month later and all of the linked articles remain unchanged.

We went on to say that we simply needed to know if we could use these with any MP3 player, iPhone, PC sound card, etc. He said, “It should work.” We called the tech support number back and spoke to C.J. She said, “There are a lot of connectors and things in the box and you should just look and find the right one and you should be fine.” We thanked her and hung up.

Our experiences with Monster’s sales department and all three divisions of its technical support department for these headphones were disappointing and inconsistent, to say the least.

Comparison

When we searched for other headphones to compare to the Beats, none of them were remotely similar in appearance or styling. The Beats are quite unique in those two respects.

When we searched on Amazon.com in the $300 to $350 product price ranges, one of the most popular choices listed was the well-regarded Beyer-Dynamic brand and its DT770 and DT880 series of 32 ohm closed and semi-open headphones, respectively. Both headphones can be powered adequately with MP3 players, onboard sound, and certain cell phones without issue.

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We spent two weeks with both pairs, and we have to say that without any doubt, the DT770 has better low, mid-range, and high frequency reproduction than the Beats in music, games, and movies. Our experience with the DT880 was almost as good as the DT770 with the exception of its open-backed nature. Those leak sound, but only slightly less than the Beats Studio headphones do. They also have a much wider sound stage. The only drawback we found with either pair of Beyer-Dynamic headphones was that they do not have the current “cool” factor that Monster’s Beats series is so known for. Both headphones resemble silver and black pairs of ear muffs. They are both extremely durable and feel as if they would stand up to years of punishment, although we have no evidence to support that. Each pair only weighs 20 grams more than the Beats.

When we looked for headphones or headsets with similar performance, but much more affordable than the Beats, we immediately thought of the Creative Tactic3D Sigma headset that we reviewed in February. The Sigma headset has a recessed mid-range and very good impactful bass much like the Beats, but it looks like a typical, plain, black gaming headset. If you are a true gamer, we know you always demand product performance over looks.

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When we thought of the word “Studio” in the Beats’ product name, we immediately thought of the Audio-Technica M50 studio monitor headphones for comparison. The M50 are respected and well-known for being true studio headphones. They have a balanced, neutral, and closed sound. The M50 had everything the Beats Studio headphones lacked: good isolation, more prominent mid-range, and durable construction. We will have the full review of those very soon.

We looked to see if Monster had any headphones in its Beats product line that felt more durable than the Beats Studio edition. We found the Beats Pro.

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Monster sells these for $449.95. The Beats Pro have solid metal construction throughout the frame and genuine leather ear pads and headband. The downside is that these are heavier and cause fatigue more quickly than the Studio edition. It’s truly a shame that a consumer would have to consider paying more than $400 for a pair of Beats headphones before he would find any sort of lasting build quality or durability.

The Bottom Line

The Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones are by no means a bad product; these are truly unique in appearance and quite good in the musical genres these were created for, but these are far from a good product when you look at the overall value.

Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones’ high price, flimsy construction, lack of printed specifications, and poor technical support are four reasons for us to tell you that you should definitely look elsewhere for headphones at this or any price point. There are simply better, more capable products available in the same price range or much lower than the Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones. You are wasting your money on these unless you find the branding alone to be worth a couple hundred dollars.

Discussion

SOURCE:http://www.hardocp.com/article/2011/08/11/beats_by_dr_dre_studio_headphones_review/