Although most high-end headphones try to offer balanced audio, Monster’s new NCredible N-Tune cans have given bass precedence. That’s great if you like hip-hop, pop, dance music or anything else that’s heavy on the bass. But it isn’t going to make these the headphones of choice for audio professionals or fans of anything softer.
Monster, the company that until last year made Beats by Dr Dre, manufactures all manner of audio equipment and cables — from HDMI and console-specific cables to USB and Ethernet cables — in addition to a wide range of its own headphones.
The company, which made its name manufacturing Beats headphones between 2007 and 2012, prides itself on premium products. When the five-year contract between Monster and Beats expired, it continued making high-end headphones under its own brand.
Considering their glossy finish, detailing and the Superman-like NCredible logo — along with the prominence of the bass they produce — the N-Tune headphones are clearly targeted at the youth market. Available in a range of colours, the pair we reviewed were clad in black and gray, and thus subtler than the rest of the range.
The rubber-padded headband is adjustable and comfortable and we found the on-ear cans of the N-Tunes more comfortable than expected, but still would have preferred over-the-ear cups.
What really impressed us, though, was the fact that despite being devoid of electronic noise cancellation, the N-Tunes offer excellent incidental noise cancellation because of their snug fit. By the same token, sound leaks are kept to a minimum, even at high volumes.
The N-Tunes packaging is as minimalist as the included accessories. Monster supplies only the headphones, a short 1m cable and a cleaning cloth. There’s no case or carry bag included, and it’s disappointing that Monster doesn’t include a 3,5mm to 0,25-inch adaptor, particularly given their R1 999 price tag. Also, not doing so seems to reinforce the message that the N-Tunes are not for audiophiles, but for those who prize form over functionality.
It’s also frustrating that the included cable is so short. Because it has plugs on each end — rather than being permanently affixed to the headphones themselves — Monster could easily have included a second, longer cable to give consumers greater flexibility and choice. This is all the more annoying given that cables are Monster’s core business.
The cable includes a built-in controller with a microphone so it can be used to field phone calls, but infuriatingly, control is limited to play/pause using the single button and doesn’t include buttons for altering volume — another oversight.
Apart from the excessive emphasis on bass, the N-Tunes sound as good as you’d expect them to given their price. Sound is rich and full, midtones and highs are crisp and well isolated, and if you use an equaliser to tone down the bass, they can stand their ground against anything similarly priced.
But considering how many corners Monster appears to have cut while keeping the cost of the headphones high, they’re impossible to recommend over the likes of Marshall’s superb — and half the price — Major headphones or a pair of midrange Beats.
Frankly, despite their audio capabilities, Monster’s N-Tunes leave the impression they’re intended for those who are more concerned with how headphones look around their neck than the sound they produce. We’ll trade aesthetic considerations for functionality and accessories any day. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media