Review: Monster Turbine In-Ear Speakers

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by thegoldenmackid, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas
    Today I post a thorough review of the Monster Turbine earphones. I will state a couple of things that you can take with varying grains of salt for evaluation.

    I listen to something (headphone/earphone/speakers) for what probably averages to be about five hours a day. My preferred means of listening are my home monitor set-up (KRK V8 Series 1, KRK V88, KRK Exposé and a KRK S12.) My list of headphones that I have owned includes some favorites such as, Shure: e2, e3, e4, e5, SE530, UE11, Westone UM2, Grado: SR80, RS1, GS1000. Currently I own the e4, e5, SE530s, UE, SR80 and GS1000 (save the insults to yourself please.) My next purchases will likely be the PS1000s and the Westone 3. My musical collection is mainly digital and for listening purpose with the exception of a few couple iTunes only EPs is at a minimum of 320kpbs MP3 to AIFF at 2822kpbs converted from Flac, but mostly in Apple Lossless. My musical collection is rather eclectic, with the exception of little "hard rock" or country. I will note some of the songs that I tested the earphones with. I listen to music through a variety of different sources including through my Grado Amp, Alesis Multimix, straight out of the MacBook Pro and my iPhone. The SE530s are the earphones that are in my pocket, the GS1000s sit on my desk and are used in differing applications as compared to the KRKs.

    I will be happy to answer any questions you might have about the headphones, but for the sake of this forum I will limit down the technicalities, as this is not another headphone only forum.

    Ironically before getting the opportunity to test the Turbines I was looking for a set of earphones just like what they seemed to be advertised as. While I have very few complaints about the SE530s as a daily earphone, I wanted something that was much more bass-heavy as I do listen to a lot of Hip-Hop, especially for some reason through the iPhone. While the UE11s are bass heavy, I wanted something that was slightly more immature about the way that it handled the bass in about the price range that the Turbine falls into. (When I say "immature," I wanted something that was artificially bass heavy; I didn't want two JL Audio 12s)

    Some basic information about the Turbines. They are Monster's third venture into the highly competitive and over-flooded consumer earphone market. They are single-driver $150 earphone. They claim noise-isolation and also to be "in-ear speakers." They have also received a lot of mixed reviews from the normal crew of online bloggers and reviewers, with some ranging about complaints about ear buds and isolation to others raving that they could take on the best of the best (specifically the UE10.)

    The best way to describe my feelings for these headphones is that it looks like the graph of the price of a barrel of oil for the year 2008 (I will attach a picture if one feels the need really to view what I am talking about.) Before the headphones even arrived at my door I was skeptical for a couple of reasons. First, Monster's first two dives into this world through the Beats by Dre were in my humble opinion, awful. My feelings about the Beats by Dre were simply that the Bose headphones were substantially better in nearly every category. (You can do some searching around to determine my overall opinion of Bose headphones, but in short, I am heavily opposed) The Beats by Dre were overpriced, lacking decent sound, noise-cancelled half-heartedly and shockingly didn't provide very deep bass. If it is in fact true that Dr. Dre records with these things it explains why Detox is taking so long. The IEM version of the $350 headphone wasn't any better to my ears. The second thing that made me extremely skeptical was Monster's blatant challenges to consumers to take on any other headphone. I could not believe that a pair of $150 earphones from a company that has: a. little experience in this portion of the industry and b. is known for making extremely overpriced goods would ever come close to what is the top.

    So my expectations were rather low to start with. When I took them out of the brown box they were delivered in, my expectations rose dramatically (see July in the oil graph.) Shure packs the SE530s in a unique metal square box that is sorta annoying to take out, but looks really cool; but the packaging for the Turbines was incredible. The box opened beautifully, the headphones were presented extremely nicely. I became quickly in love with what was the Monster turbines.

    Now we are in the middle of July, the first song I played was Jay-Z Unplugged rendition of H.O.V.A. The bass was definitely deeper then that of most earphones I have played around with and it seemed that I had found the headphone that I had been looking for. I wouldn't say that it reminded me of having a subwoofer, but it reminded me that there was a lot of bass in the song, something that I miss a lot with my SE530s. The bass became a centerpiece of the song (note, I appreciate balanced music, sometimes though you just want to be dirty and listen to a hip hop song and hear the bass, with that being said if given an ultimatum I would without hesitance choice the ability to have a balanced earphone.)

    "Rising Expectations" Unfortunately or fortunately for me, I had only started listening to H.O.V.A. two minutes into the song, right when the bass was starting. I put on a newly made playlist, that included:
    Times' are Changin (Dylan)
    the AOL Sessions version of Wyclef's Sweetest Girl
    Pride and City of Blinding Lights by U2
    I don't like Monday's
    Marley's Jammin'
    I Fought the Law
    Changes by 2Pac
    Be My Girl by Jet
    Stolen Car by Springsteen
    The General (Dispatch)

    After spending an hour doing multiple things, but paying attention to the music, I ended Nas' Ether early and put on Aerosmith's Sweet Emotion. By this point I was already having some second thoughts about the earphone, but this song summed up one of my two largest complaints: lack of depth to the sound. The bass is deep, but it's not really that "deep." There is about as much "sonic boom" as there is the iPod headphones. Sure, the bass will pass a frequency test with flying colors and the hi's are stable to pretty high levels, but the actual quality of the sound is lacking. Monster definitely spent a large amount of my time tweaking the hi's and what I would imagine was a significant amount more time tuning the bass. But there is little depth to any of the sound and that became quite evident during Sweet Emotion. Never before I have ever thought that I was listening to colored sound. With my three normal listening devices, you can pick out any instrument easily in the music, but they are hidden. Hidden in the sense that you can either try to find them or they will randomly appear to you and you can have the revelation of "I was hearing things that weren't there before." With the Turbines it's hit and miss, but largely is the problem that one instrument because of the overall depth takes over the sound stage. There are a lot of people that complain that studio monitors can sometimes be hard to listen to for long periods of time, but never before have I been this uncomfortable both in terms of physical comfort, but also in the pain induced by the sound.

    That brings me to complaint number two. These things hurt. I will say that many people complain about a variety of earphones causing them discomfort, but that has never been a problem for me. Maybe Shure (and Westone) know how to make universal fit buds for my ears, but these things are not comfortable. I found myself taking them in and out constantly because of how much irritation they were causing my ear, this has never been the case with any of my prior earphones. I went through all of my normal steps, including giving them two or three days to set in, but ironically I didn't notice the discomfort until a week after owning them. I tried all of the different tips and while it produced different isolation rates, never produced any more comfort. I don't really know what else I can offer for that, I will say that over the course of the past couple weeks (see three or four) they have become no more comfortable.

    Isolation was good. They are definitely not in the same category as the Shures or the UEs (my discomfort) might have something to do with that, but they are definitely not as bad as they are made out to be by some of the other online reviewers. My experiences were that they were not that far off from the Shure's, but there was definitely some sounds that got into that required the music to be a little bit higher to block out the noise. On that portion I would give them probably a 7.7 out of 10. I feel that they are definitely near an 8, but not quite there, the SE530s would get a 9 for blocking out nearly everything.

    That leads me to another claim about low vs. high volume. I don't have very many opinions about this, never could I imagine an instance in which I would need to turn up whatever I was listening to "full" volumes. Nor am I sure why Monster makes such a large deal about this given the consumers that I imagine that they are targeting (I will talk about my stereotyping below.) To be honest, to produce the same levels of sound, they could be a little bit lower then my Shure's, even lower then the UE's; but as I just mentioned, to get the isolation levels where I wanted them, I had to turn them back up. With that being said, once again, I am not sure why this is such a big deal.

    The other sound features were predictable. I don't think that they provide me with in-ear speakers, and if they do, not very good speakers. They are a set of decent earphones, and should be treated like that. Like mentioned above, I don't feel that there is either a vivid reproduction of sound, nor do I find an accurate balanced one. I find one that while is probably sufficient, seems more probably lacking. The bass is by far the strongest point of the Turbines, but I do not think that it necessarily overpowers the rest of the headphone. I watched limited amounts of movies and television shows with these. I saw no real benefit from them as to what I owned, nor do I think that they would be preferable, except maybe for action movies with a lot of explosion.

    A couple of other random things:
    1. Monster claims that these things don't tangle. That is just a blatant lie. While the Beats by Dre earphone models have a quite interesting way of chord management and tangle, the Turbines use thin rubber cables, these tangle (or at least the pair that I got.)

    2. The (thin rubber) cables also worry me somewhat; while they never broke or anything on me, they seem rather cheap and for a $150 headphone I wish that they would have gotten tad bit thicker cables. With this being said, flimsy cables really don't seem to be that large of an issue, just a fear that I seem to be in the minority with. However, this sort of fear is only magnified by the disproportionally heavy weight of the actual earphone.

    3. The earphone itself is heavy as compared to most, and while the complaint with the Beats by Dre earphones is "they are big enough to hold three drivers, but they only hold one," my question is more along the lines of, "why does it weigh the amount of five drivers, but only has one." I imagine why the weight is so heavy is due to the construction of the casing which is a nice metal, as opposed to plastics and rubber that we see on most earphones, this is just a thing to note.

    4. On a positive note, one of the most interesting and my personal favorite feature is the sort of chrome mesh that is in the canal of each bud. This is obviously to keep out the earwax and it seems rather effect, something that the Shure's in my opinion could benefit from.

    With all of this being said, one would think that my review would not be very positive at all. However, I'll give these a 5/10. These aren't the headphones for me, and I realize that. My ears, unlike most, seem to take a unique discomfort to these earphones and therefore the majority of the rest of my opinions were negatively biased. With that being said, the sound is one of the best that I have heard for the price range, that being said, if this sound is the one that you desire. If you consider yourself an audiophile or are looking for a balanced earphone, forget it. If you consider yourself finally fed up with the Apple earphones or the $50 overpriced pair of Phillips or JVC ear buds that you bought from Target, this is probably a step in the right direction.

    The Shure E2 and the other entry-level models from the high-end earphone companies are not made for the average consumer, mainly because they lack the disproportionate (and sometimes even balanced) bass that the average consumer would want. These headphones provide just enough punch, while not distorting the high's that they seem ideal for the "average" consumer. If your "credentials" (i.e. past ridiculous purchases) are near mine or include similar items, these are probably not for you, however, if they had been more comfortable to my ears I would be happy to keep these in the collection. I would (and have) recommended this earphone to others, with the one common understanding that these earphones didn't fit me comfortably. Monster sort of hit and missed with the Turbines, but for their Junior (third) venture into the highly competitive portion of the electronics industry that is earphones, I would say, without doubt, they are in the right direction.

    Once again, I will be happy to answer any more detailed questions you might have.

    I will try to take some quality pictures...
  2. P Mentior macrumors regular

    Sep 20, 2008
  3. Darth.Titan macrumors 68030


    Oct 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Seriously, resize those pics. It's really annoying to have to scroll horizontally
    just to read your post.

    In the end I chose not to.
  4. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    just came from the "post your headphones" thread, nice review!!

    i have a question that isnt really related to this review, im not sure if you can answer it but its worth a shot :)

    are you familiar with the sennheiser IE6's? i recently got a pair and im blown away by their sound, they are definitely worth it. do you have an opinion on them?

    thanks !
  5. thegoldenmackid thread starter macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas
    Yes, I tried out the IE6's and was impressed, but not blown away. For the sub-$150 market they are def. one of the top choices depending on how cheap you can find the Shure e-series at the time. AI have no experience with the IE7's, but I almost bought the IE8's, they were the closest thing I have seen to the SE530s.
  6. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    thats excellent news!! makes my choice sound even better :) i knew they were good, but not 'one' of the best!! thanks heaps :)

    i only have two small gripes, one being that they hurt if they are put in slightly wrong, and the other being that i cant get the right size to fit my right ear and that will let background noise in - when i play drums its EXTREMELY annoying. but ah well :) i love the bass :)!!!!

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