Having conquered the portable market with offerings such as the Jamz, Monster has now set its sights on the DJs and producers of the world, with a bigger and badder (and pricier) pair of headphones — the Monster Beats by Dr Dre Pro. At AU$699 you're not paying solely for the performance of the headphones but also for the combination of durability, build, style and name.
The first impression is of the sheer size and heft of the headphones. They feel quite heavy on the head, and maybe not ideal for the casual user. The oversized look will certainly turn a few heads, and note that indulging in too much head-bopping will give the Pros enough momentum to slide off your ears.
The build quality is solid — these will stand up to a few knocks and tosses on the couch, or on the floor — they feel extremely durable. The large padded headband attaches to adjustable brushed aluminium sides, ending with full-size ear cups that rotate upwards for storage or for live monitoring. Each ear cup is rounded and padded in a leather-like material that is exceptionally cushy, and includes an input/output port. The ear cushions can be removed for washing, which is handy given white leather will stain quite easily. Black leather is also available as an option.
The Beats Pro uses a single red audio cord cable with a secured connector that locks into place on the bottom of each ear cup and can be used on either side. The unused port then becomes a second output for hooking up another set of headphones and "daisy-chaining" the sound from the Pros to the second set for communal listening. We found daisy-chaining other headphones to the Beats Pro decreases the sound level a bit on the Pros themselves, but not to the point where it dramatically hinders performance. Two sound sources, besides headphones, can also be plugged into the Pros — one into each ear cup — if, for whatever reason, the need to listen to two songs simultaneously comes up. The possibility for amateur mixing may fit somewhere in there, but most DJs use mixers with cue channels for this.
The cable cord is thick and rubberised with a coiled section, giving some extra extension if you need to be an extra foot, or two, away from your music source for a moment. It does take some conditioning to get them to stretch further out, without stopping short, when you first get them out of the box, as the cable is initially coiled very tightly.
Even with an adjustable headband, the Beats Pro are a tight fight on the ears and can cause some discomfort after an hour or so of continuous use. You may find you need to shift the headphones so the cups surround your ears rather than sit on them. Like most headphones you can bend the top part so they don't squash down as much.
We tried the Pros with both mixers, hi-fi equipment and portable players and found that they worked fine with the majority of sources of players we used. Only the pint-sized iPod Shuffle wasn't able to muster the oomph needed to power these headphones.
In use, the bass is booming; no disappointments there. From what we'd expect, the genres that really shine are electronic (dub, drum and bass), dance, hard rock and hip-hop. Strong kick drums and wandering bass lines were always prominent and delivered a proper thump. The lows are great, the mids are clear and the highs are crisp without being tinny.
Other genres were also very good for the most part, and while the bass doesn't dominate as much as you'd expect they aren't as neutral as a proper pair of "hi-fi" headphones — such as the comparatively priced Sennheiser HD 600.
If you have a weaker-powered system you may find that the bass can overpower the highs and mids, making the overall sound muddled and messy, but we noticed no such issues on the majority of players.
The Beats Pro offer a reasonable amount of sound isolation in heavily trafficked environments (public transport, for example), and the headphones don't leak much in the way of sound, so they are suited to office listening.
The headphones are sold in both black and white versions, and each is bundled with a cleaning cloth (although the headphones are basically smudge-proof), and a threaded 1/4-inch gold-plated adapter — which is tethered to the 1.8-metre cable to avoid being lost.
Although the price is relatively high for the casual consumer, it is consistent with how much professional DJs spend on headphones. At the same time, these headphones probably won't satisfy the hard-core audiophiles who demand uncoloured, accurate sound. For faithful, accurate, natural response in your headphones, you need to look elsewhere. What they do offer, however, is a massive amount of swagger. We see these headphones satisfying aspiring DJs or anyone with a good deal of spare cash who really enjoys blasting the wax out of their ears.