In a world where headphones are worn almost like jewellery, rather than be fine examples of craftsmanship and audio balance, it's no surprise to see brands like Monster take advantage.
The company's latest wireless offering, the Elements over-ear, is so bling even Mr. T would think twice before adorning his neck with them. However, the big question is whether or not the quality of these headphones - in both design and sound terms - can match the ostentatiousness.
Monster Elements review: Design
Monster has a reputation for building big, plastic, inelegant headphones - and the latest wireless Elements set don't do anything to go against that trend.
These are chunky headphones built almost entirely from plastic and PVC. Most available finishes are chromed - whether that's the silver, gold, rose gold or platinum black - meaning a shiny faux metallic appearance. They're hardly the most premium looking cans we've tried.That said, the plastic does mean the earphones are relatively lightweight and easy to wear.
Unlike other companies - like Audio Technica who try to use plastic, but in a more stylish and thoughtful manner with good fixtures and hinges - the Monster earphones are rattly, and creak a lot when being handled. The hinges, which can fold inwards to stow the headphones away, also click loudly, as do the adjusting arms when shortening or lengthening them to fit your head.
Hardly the quality of experience we expect from a £300 pair of headphones.
As an "A+ for effort" the earcups pivot upwards away from the ears, just in case you need to have one ear uncovered while listening to audio. Call this "DJ mode". Sadly, like the rest of the build, it feels almost as though you'd break the headband when attempting to swing the earcup around.
Despite this, the perfectly circular ear-cups are padded with a generous layer of memory foam stuffed inside a leather-ish ring and offer a comfortable feel.
The same can't be said of the rubber coated padding on the headband, though: it's decidedly uncomfortable when sitting on top of your head. It's not as forgiving as a soft leather lining might be.
From a purely design-focused perspective, if you're looking for fashionable headphones that you might see adorning your favourite sports person's neck, then these are ideal. If you want something better made, or more subtle and attractive, there are plenty of other options out there for the same price point.
Monster Elements review: Features
While the design may leave a lot to be desired, the feature list on the Monster Elements earphones is certainly worthy of attention.
Firstly, these are wireless and use Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX technology to ensure the connection is reliable and consistent. In our testing, they performed well and didn't cut out at any time. In fact we had to walk two rooms away before the connection started showing signs of cutting out.
If the battery dies, or you just prefer the zero-latency qualities of using an old-school wire, you can use the included 3.5mm audio cable, or a micro USB to micro USB cable.
Just above the right ear cup, at the base of the headband, there's a touch-sensitive panel. You can play or pause with a single tap, skip forwards by double-tapping or change the volume by swiping up or down.
We didn't find this to be a very reliable experience. Often times we'd double-tap to skip, and have to do it multiple times before it was picked up. Other times, it misunderstood the gesture as a swipe upwards, then adjust the volume instead. Clearly the capacitive sensor isn't as accurate or sensitive as it should be. Or, perhaps is too sensitive.
Another downside to these controls is that none of them work when you're plugged in using an audio cable. They only work when the headphones are connected by Bluetooth.
One element that is superb with the Monster headphones is battery life. We listened to at least three or four hours of music a day over the space of a few days, and there was still barely a difference in the available capacity. Monster claims you can listen to more than 24-hours of music on a single charge, and we're inclined to agree.
Monster Elements review: Sound
If you like bass in bucket loads, you'll be pleased the level of low-end is about as ostentatious as the shiny chrome finish. In that way, these really are Monster headphones with the sound you'd expect.
The advantage of having so much bass response at your disposal is that music of all kinds feels really full and immersive. It's especially desirable listening to bass-heavy dance or R&B tracks, yet equally welcome folky ballads from the likes of Foy Vance.
Other times that much bass is about as comfortable as pressing your ear directly against the skin of a bass drum.
The obvious disadvantage is that with so much emphasis on the bass leaves the other frequencies feeling lost and a little muddied. You can still hear the highs and mediums, but they don't ring out and aren't given prominence.
Apart from using your music app's built-in equaliser (if it has one) you can change the sound profile by switching between "Natural" and "Club" modes by double-clicking the single multi-function button on the base of the right earcup. This basically switches between "lots of bass" and "even more bass".
With all that said, the aptX Bluetooth connection and support for High Res audio quality means you could still hear the fine details in your music - if you've got the file quality and a capable output device.
If your preference is to have loud and pumping low-level bass then the Monster Elements delivers that in bucket loads. Likewise, if you like to wear big, shiny headphones around your neck like your favourite athletes, these over-ears certainly fit that profile too.
However, with a build quality as plastic as it is and audio output that's unrefined, it's hard to recommend these Monster headphones - especially at their £300 asking price.
Overall, there are plenty of other options out there with a similar or better experience at lower prices... you just won't get the Monster logo. But if the battle is on with Beats then it ought to be an epic showdown.
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