Once upon a time Monster was known only for its over-priced audio cables, backed by questionable claims about them offering better audio than cheaper equivalents. Then it made Beats by Dr Dre headphones, before a disastrous contract and other missteps saw Beats go it alone after five years and kick Monster to the curb. Now the company has teamed up with sportswear brand Adidas to try and tempt the same people who shop for Beats into buying a pair of Monster headphones instead.
With their R4,500 price tag the Monster Adidas Originals compete directly with Beats, Bose, Sennheiser and, well, every other premium brand of headphones. That makes them a tough sell, because no matter how good looking they are or how good they sound there are so many other options out there, which leads us to think the most likely buyers are Monster or Adidas loyalists with substantial disposable income… a niche market segment, to be sure.Look good in black
The plain black pair we had to review were fairly attractive, but not traffic-stoppingly so. An Adidas logo is emblazoned on each ear cup, with a smaller Monster logo higher up each ear cup beneath the headband. The cans are a good size, with simple lines and a distinct lack of superfluous design flurries that dog some of Monster’s rivals’ offerings.
Blessedly, the iconic three Adidas stripes that adorn the headband are a gloss black on matt black, and thus barely discernible. What can we say? We’re not ones for blatant branding, which is why we were less enamoured with the multicoloured variants, all of which struck us a tad too chavtastic for such premium cans (innit?). That said, we’re notoriously uncool, and as headphones have largely become as much about fashion as they are about function we’re sure plenty of people will disagree on this point.
Sound good with anything
Almost as important as how a pair of headphones look is how they actually sound (we wish the reverse was true, thanks for that, Beats) and here the Monster Adidas Originals perform as we expected them to. We threw rock, metal, classical, shoegaze, jazz and, briefly, bagpipe music at them and were pleased with the results across the board.
The headphones produce beautiful, balanced audio that seems to treat highs, mids and lows with equal respect, rather ratcheting the bass up at the cost of everything else. But then, given their price, they ought to. Sadly, despite their price there’s no active noise cancellation built in, but the padded ear cups do a decent job of keeping ambient noise out and whatever you’re listening to in.
The Monster Adidas Originals are comfortable. Incredibly so. We donned them for up to six hours at a time and felt like we could’ve slept with them on if necessary. This is thanks to the padded headband and ear cups and the size of the ear cups, which completely covered even the largest pair of ears we had to hand in the office.
Monster’s also made some excellent design decisions with these headphones. For a start there are 3.5mm jacks on each ear cup, means you can plug in on either side, or plug the audio source into one ear cup and another pair of headphones into the other for easy audio sharing. This ability to daisy chain headphones together while connected to single audio source might well be our favourite thing about the Monster Adidas Originals.
It also means you can replace the cable entirely, something most premium headphones now offer and something that we welcome as it’s usually the connection to the ear cup or the 3.5mm plug that tends to wear out first.Monster supplies two ribbon-style, anti-tangle cables, one with only a 3.5mm plug on each end and one that includes volume and play controls and a microphone that’s compatible with Apple products. The headphones fold up and are supplied with an Adidas-branded travel pouch complete with carabiner for attaching to luggage, your butler’s belt loops or a passing pair of hoop earrings.
We do wish, though, that Monster had sprung for materials that look and feel more high-end than the matt plastic that encases the headphones. Sure, it means they’re lightweight, but it also means they don’t feel deserving of the hefty price tag they carry.
We like the simple design (albeit not the colour schemes), the audio quality is great and the included extras are a pleasing touch. But we still can’t help balking at the price. For R4,500 you can buy plenty of alternatives that offer equivalent audio quality but still send you home with a wad of change. But then, those alternatives don’t have the Adidas logo on them. If that logo matters to you (and Monster and Adidas are hoping it does), these are the cans for you.