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Review: Monster Turbine Pro In-Ear Monitors (IEM)

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shaizada

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Introduction:

First of all, I would like to take the opportunity for a genuine thanks to Monster for giving me the chance to listen to and review the Monster Turbine Pro IEMs.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was picked to be one of the four reviewers and given the time to really listen to the earphones for an unbiased and honest review.
This really is my first attempt at a review which can easily be a double edged sword. I am extremely open about the music I listen to not limiting myself to genres and such. Therefore, really giving me chance to hear what these headphones are capable of with all sorts of music.

Equipment to me is just a means to an end, as I snatch any opportunity to learn and understand more about the music we all love. I believe every artist has an opportunity to express himself/herself and every piece of equipment serves a purpose to that end.
And on that note, lets move forward.

Packaging and Presentation...the sense of sight

In one word IMPRESSIVE. Having owned many a high end piece over the years, I'm quite familiar with how things are and should be presented. It seems as equipment gets higher end and more boutique, the less the emphasis on packaging and presentation. Not here as clearly Monster is selling a high end earphone and it looks the part. The box is beautifully packaged with a magnetic closure as you dig in to get to the goodies. Then there it is, beautifully and simply laid out in front of you with the drivers facing each other.

Most earphones in this price bracket come in plastic moulds that are a pain to open up. Cutting them open, you have to be careful not to cut yourself and it's not really a great experience....but we put up with it because it's all about the sound right?
Monster provides a beautiful moulded velvet case that is a treat for the sense of touch.

Dig in further and you get an assortment of tips and fittings to help you find your perfect seal. The attention to this detail is clearly demonstrated in the number of ear tips Monster has included with the package. They completely understand that to get a good seal and understanding of the performance these headphones provide, they need to help the user get their right fit. A great headphone can easily fall to the bottom of the users pit if the physical logistics are not addressed. Case in point the famed Sony Qualias. Getting the right fit is a nightmare and there is no guarantee you have the perfect fit until you try the others. Hence the listening experience suffers and it's a point scratched against the headphone. What a person actually understands about the sound presentation can ONLY come if the headphone has a chance to fit properly as designed in its optimum state.

With accessories are a plenty and really make you feel that you are holding a premium product in your hands.

I was a little worried about the gold plating the earphones come with as I thought they would be too flashy for my taste. I was wrong, so much for preconceived ideas. The gold plated looked quite smart au contraire and fit just fine with my aesthetic sense.
So tips...check, 3.5mm to 0.25 inch adapter...check, carrying case....check, manual and warranty card...check. Great so lets see what these things can do!

"Life is too short to listen to bad headphones" - The Head Monster

Completely agree with that! However, life would be so much simpler if we all agreed to what good headphones are ;) And therein, is the spice of life. The variety, the colors and shades, the good the bad...it is all this that makes any listening experience unique and rememberable for every listener. Each person has an opinion, a thought and a feeling which accumulates as ones personal listening experience.


Build quality...the sense of touch

Make no mistake about it, the ear pieces are absolutely solid. Beautifully crafted, turned gold housing. There is a heft in the earpieces that reassures your feelings about the build quality of a premium product aimed at a certain clientele. This customer cares about the durability and wants to see his money being used for all aspects of the earphones physical and auditory. Monster delivers on this aspect and really lets you feel the happiness of holding a quality product in your hands.

The cable extended out of the earpieces has rubberized feel to it. I am sure this plays a significant role in the quietness when the cable is touched. It is actually quite interesting. The wires coming out of the earpieces converge at a what Monster calls the "Turbine Pro Cable Management System". Basically it is the cable splitting junction which you can adjust to control cable slack from the earpieces down. Quite thoughtful and allows you to manage how much of the cable flaps around. Coming back to the cable micro phonics, there is very slight noise when you touch the cables from that junction upwards. It is very low and I've heard much worse in other IEM products. Doesn't detract from the experience especially when the music is playing. However worth mentioning. From the junction downwards towards the cable plug, the cable has a thicker rubber sheath and there is absolutely no noise when tapped.

The right-angled 3.5mm plug has a nice solid build quality matching the gold plating of the earpieces. It is slim and very easy to use without putting excessive strain on the headphone jack. It goes in very nicely, tight and snug with no play.


And let there be sound...

All listening is being done through lossless AIFF files on an external 6 Terabyte Drobo managed via iTunes on a Macbook Pro. The digital USB signal is routed into a PICO USB (DAC only), connected through an RnB Mini to Mini to a Ray Samuels Shadow amp. Monster Turbines Pro connected to the Shadow and given the duty to "pleasurize" my ear canals ;)

NOTE: The headphones are based on a single dynamic transducer. These DEFINITELY needed some burn and I have about 100 hours on them through various burn in CDs. Opened them up nicely which was a must for a somewhat proper listening experience.

The Monster Turbine Pros have a dynamic transducer compared to a balanced armature design in other IEMs such as the Shure E530, Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 pros, Ultimate Ears UE11 which I also own. This is a completely different sound presentation as all sound is emanating from a single point source as opposed to dedicated balanced armatures that are dedicated to bass, mids and highs through a crossover network.

Very much like 2 way, 3 way speakers etc, a balanced armature design employs a crossover network which tells each driver what frequencies it will play. This is obviously a more complicated design and has its own advantages and disadvantages that I won't get into for this review. However, going through many speaker systems and settling on single driver, crossoverless, Alnico magnet drivers in my main stereo system, I have a good idea of the sound a single driver attempts to portray.

Single drivers have a sense of coherency and sound presentation that comes very naturally as part of the design. The amplifier driving the driver sees a very simple load in the form of a speaker. This coupling is very pure and very simple, but putting a lot of pressure on the quality of the driver being used. Hence, single driver speakers design is very critical and involved as the designer has to voice the driver to really sound great. Add to that fact how demanding most audiophiles are, there is a lot of pressure on the product to deliver musically.

The Bass:
The quality and quantity of bass these headphones provide is directly related with the seal you are able to achieve through the fit kit. I had to go through a few to figure out what was best for me and finally settled on using the smaller of the two tri-flanges provided. However, I had to cut of the front piece to make it into a bi-flange and it was PERFECT. The comfort, the sound and the overall presentation just clicked and I knew I had found my fit. This is a VERY important part to achieve a good listening experience with these earphones so do experiment with your fit kit and get it right. You will definitely be rewarded.

The bass quality in the Monster Turbine Pros is very high. The bass is textured and accurate while providing very good heft. Many earphones do this to varying degrees, but the finesse and refinement these Turbine Pros do it with is very commendable. The bass evolves in every note, does it's job and moves back into silence very neatly. This allows for a very nice foundation for the music to progress with.

For example, with Jay Seans new RnB disc "All or Nothing", the track "Ride It" starts a very nice drum intro with the cymbals integrated within. The bass quality is solid and really excites you to hear what comes next. The foundation provided by the bass is clear and exciting.

On the album "Breaking Silence" by Janis Ian on Analogue Productions 24k Gold Limited CD, the track "All roads to the river" the natural tonality of the bass can be clearly heard. The bass guitars heft and amplification comes through like her band was playing right there for you. Bass isn't exaggerated or bloated in any way. It is JUST right as you would be hearing in reality if someone was playing a bass guitar JUST for you. The bass doesn't try to unnaturally seek your attention. It just let's you feel it's presence and simply integrates with the rest of the sonic spectrum. Nicely done Monster.

On the the CD layer of Analogue Productions masterpiece SACD Jazz album "Page One" by Joe Henderson, the pure energy and cohesiveness of the earphones bass shine through. "Blue Bossa" has a beautiful tonality which lets you hear and feel the brass-iness of Hendersons Trumpet. The soft subdued tonal palette is laid bare for your aural pleasure. The percussive and beautiful touch of McCoy Tyner's piano reaches deep within your ear, right into your auditory cortex. Drums played by Pete La Roca accompany the quintet by letting you really hear the textures of the drum skins and soft brushes of the cymbal work. This is an aural ecstasy realized for us mere mortals by the exemplary work of Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman who remastered the original Rudy Van Gelder session from the analog master tapes. The Monster Turbine bass quality absolutely shines in this musical extravaganza by providing a rich, accurate and natural presentation. There is so much to simply hear in the bass work and the sub 500Hz textures of the audio spectrum. Oh, please do pick up this album if you have even the remotest interest in jazz. Have a turntable? Get the 45rpm 180g vinyl and you will have the definitive pressing of this album.


The Mids and Highs:
The all important midrange is where the heart of the music lives and beats. This critical set of frequencies fall about in between the 500 Hertz to 2 Kilohertz range and if you nail this area well, you will have a piece of equipment that can recreate the musical performance in its unique way. Every headphone we own provides its own unique perspective of what the musical event sounds like. Unless you were right there in listening to the performance in the studio or live, you don't have a reference of what the event sounded like. Even if you did, our auditory memory is so weak, we can't possibly recall the event accurately. However, with all our musical equipment, we can approximate. We can dwell into a unique culmination of the music, the presentation of the equipment and finally your own imagination and listening biases. That...then will be a listening experience unique to you in that moment of time. The Monster Turbine Pros have their unique musical interpretation of the midrange that is different and immensely satisfying.

There is an idea of naturalness that very importantly falls within the scope of the midrange. This idea lets you, as a person, relate to the musical piece. The timbres of instruments (most likely that you will subconsciously relate to your past listening experience of that instrument), the decays of notes, the transient hand off from one sound to another and the overall integration of these ideas is what is HEAVILY represented in the midrange. If the earphone makes a mistake here, it will fail you in recreating the experience and hence, your perception of musical enjoyment. The Turbine Pro absolutely NAILS this. That small driver somehow is able to convey a very natural presentation of this midrange so that you stop evaluating and just start losing yourself in the performance. That, to me is the hallmark of a quality piece of equipment doing its job correctly.

On Norah Jones's new CD "The Fall", we get to experience a very intimate listening session with Norah. Her voice is very beautifully rendered in the mix. The Turbine Pros let you develop a very intimate relationship with Norah's musical chops. Any more intimate and I would have to stop the review and concentrate on entertaining her so that she never stops singing! Norah's voice is raspy, sultry and drop dead gorgeous. Her past works have always sounded great, but the quality of the mix on this CD is so different that it lets you experience Norah in a completely different way. This time you will REALLY get to know her ....ummm....vocally ;)

Transient response can really be nicely demonstrated by the highs in a given recording. How the cymbal hits are rendered from one hit to the next. Is is a hard stroke or a light brush testify to the resolving power of the earphone. This is where the resolution of the earphone should really come through. The highs of the Monster Turbine pro's do NOT have the resolving power provided and heard with IEMs like the Triple Fi 10 pros or the UE11 pros. That is in a different league with those earphones, but what the Turbine Pros provide is a well integrated and well represented resolving power. It melts into the soundscape and feels whole with the rest of the spectrum. Again, a very natural representation of music and it's wholesomeness.


Conclusion

The Monster Turbine Pro is very clearly an IEM that rightfully demands its place amongst the upper echelon of the IEM market. It carves a niche for itself and looks for a user who can appreciate it's strengths of naturalness, fast transient response, good note decay and a intimate, yet vivid sound scape. When listening, I look for a earphone that lets me connect with the music on my terms without forcing it down my throat. I want an earphone that I can listen to for hours on end without any discomfort and uneasiness. Add in the qualities I look for mentioned in the review above and you have an earphone that gets so many aspects right. It might not be the best out there, but a universal IEM that immediately lets you get past the typical audiophile traits and straight to the heart of the music....well thats Monster Turbine Pro's forte. I don't need another headphone as I normally tend to listen to my speaker system now. However, I find myself reaching out for the Monster Turbine Pro more often. There is a musical journey to be had and I'm glad these golden nuggets are by my side.

High quality music can be enjoyed by the masses and that brings joy to my heart and mind. Available for $249.99, this is definitely a piece of ear candy that users must experience and has a high recommendation from me. Enjoy at your own risk...I have some Porcupine Tree to listen to now.
 
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