Review: Monster Turbine “In-Ear Speakers” (You may know them as “earbuds”)

photo_Turbine_basic_pair2.jpg

The Nut: If you like high-end earbuds, give the Monster Turbine a look. They’re surprisingly good for the price. But for most, something in the $30-50 range will do just fine.

High-end earbuds like those from Etymotic, Shure, or Ultimate Ears tend to use balanced armature drivers to produce sound, an old but reliable technology that centers the armature transducer directly inside a magnet, producing a considerable amount of sound without a lot of power—the low impedance is perfect for portable music players which don’t have the luxury of power pouring limitlessly from the wall. Nicer earbuds might use more than one driver to produce different frequencies.

That’s not what’s inside the Monster Turbine earbuds. Instead, Monster has crammed a driver inside more typical of a bigger speaker—TK*. Hence the branding line “in-ear speakers”.

The Monster Turbine earbuds do not sounds like in-ear speakers. I’m not even entirely sure what that would sound like; good headphones have a space to themselves, blasting right out of the pineal gland, but leaving the rest of the body relatively untouched. But they do sound extremely clean and crisp. Not miraculously so, but at least as nice as some models costing in the low hundreds. Bass is round but not overwhelming, although you might Considering that the Turbines sell for $150 and the most shocking thing about the Turbines becomes apparent: these may be a relative bargain from the same company that charges $60 for an HDMI cable.

They also look and feel ace. The metal feels good in the hand and ear (if they are perhaps a tad easy to pull out of the ear), there are a variety of silicone tips (no foam) to make a good shape in the ear (I had to snip the end off a tree to get it to stop tickling my ear canal, but that’s no big deal; every ear is different), and the red and blue stripes that denote left or right are just understated enough.

The lack of a in-line microphone for iPhone, iPod Touch, or other standard three-line minijack connections is a real shame. For that reason alone I’d suggest phone users skip over the Turbines entirely.

Other folks seem to like them, too, with a few caveats: “Monster’s Turbine is the best dynamic based earphone I have heard when paired with Trance music, full stop” [Touch My Apps]

“In fact, the Turbine’s bass, midrange, and treble tonal balance were remarkably consistent. And all this from headphones that cost half as much as the Etymotic and Klipsch headphones–the Turbine earphones definitely offer the best bang for the buck in this test group.” [Steve Guttenberg]

“The Turbines are certainly attractive, with their serrated black chrome housings reminiscent of the back of an F-14 Tomcat.” [Aric Annear]

“Is a hard-core audiophile going to love these – probably not.” [Chip Chick]

“The Turbines impressed me because the highs snapped hard without any distortion, but the low-end just drops out.” [Peter Ha]

* I’ve asked Monster exactly what they’re using, but they haven’t had time to respond yet. I’ll add it back in later.

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11 Responses to Review: Monster Turbine “In-Ear Speakers” (You may know them as “earbuds”)

  1. Zak says:

    I’d be curious how they compare to equivalent or less expensive Shure models. I’ve got an older set of the 2xx, and they’re pretty much everything I’d ever want. The only real downside is that they make it too easy to listen to music at a volume level that leaves me cotton-eared.

    On the other hand, I’d kind of rather see no reviews of Monster products by anyone legitimate until the company stops selling hyper-pure gold entangled ungulate bezoars in micro-acoustic gomphosis. It starts looking a little bit like their decent products exist to provide cover for their larcenous business model.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have these but want to upgrade to the Monster Turbine Pros… http://www.monstercable.com/productdisplay.asp?pin=5466

    Anyone test these out?

  3. dculberson says:

    Monster’s cables are certainly overpriced and they have a lot of silly foofaraw in their ad copy. But they don’t begin to compare to the truly evil audiophile companies like Siltech with the $6,700 power cord and $32,000 speaker cable.

    I guess Monster sucks a bit more in the “my relative is more likely to be taken in by them” category. Since nobody I know is rich enough to be stupid enough to spend $6,700 on a power cord.

  4. dw_funk says:

    You must’ve really meant that post; it’s made the entirety of your site more bold.

  5. mdh says:

    I don’t buy many expensive gadgets, but I would buy a second pair of my Bose ear buds.

  6. Siamang says:

    Are you really serious? Boing-Boing is recommending Monster products?

    *checks date*…. no, it’s not April first yet.

    I’ll be interested to hear BB’s article about positive aspects of the DMCA, the RIAA, the MPAA etc soon.

    I would never, and will never buy a Monster product, do to their shameless hyucksterism, their penchant for preying on consumer ignorance, their reliance on promoting general irrationality within the audiophile community (golden ears), their predatory litigious nature (I’ll probably get sued for saying that one) and their general artlessness.

    I’m sure these earphones function as specified, and actually play the sounds of your recording in your ears. If Monster is true to form, there’s nothing special or magical about them, their contacts will be plated with gold or platinum, they’ll sound just as good as the headphones that came with your mp3 player, and they’ll sue the shit out of anyone who uses the word “Monster” to refer to anything other than them.

    Good to see Boing-Boing has gone over to the dark side.

  7. O_P says:

    Third paragraph “Bass is round but not overwhelming, although you might Considering that”

    I think your sentence dropped off there, much like the bass of these headphones. Was that intended?

  8. strider_mt2k says:

    I’m keeping to my 15-Dollar Sony’s.

    Thanks to Monster I don’t think the trucks are that cool any more, and just the other day I asked a vampire for credited test results proving her performance was as-claimed before inviting her into my home.

    That’s how bad it is:

    They’ve ruined being a monster for actual monsters.

  9. Joel Johnson says:

    No doubt Monster has done completely pathetic things, but these headphones actually sound pretty good. It’s not my job to let a company’s past actions cloud my objectivity when it comes to actually reviewing a product on its own. That’s the job of the person actually buying the product.

    But thanks, Siamang. If I don’t read at least one comment a day about how Boing Boing is ruined then I get worried that I’m not doing something right.

  10. Siamang says:

    Sure, but you might have brought some of that up. Or linked to previous BB posts about them that cover the points, at least in a buyer-beware mode.

    “It’s not my job to let a company’s past actions cloud my objectivity when it comes to actually reviewing a product on its own.”

    This is where I don’t think “objectivity” is necessarily good, because I’m of the general opinion that more information is better than less, and knowing how the company operates can actually inform me a bit about how I’m likely to have to interact with them should I have problems with the product.

    Sometimes ignoring the past actions of companies, people or political parties in the name of “objectivity” does little to serve the reader, and all to serve the past wrongdoer. As Dr. Phil likes to say “the best predictor of future behavior is ….(dramatic pause)… past behavior.”

    “If I don’t read at least one comment a day about how Boing Boing is ruined then I get worried that I’m not doing something right.”

    I’ll concede it’s an overused expression.

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