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Hands-On Review: Monster N-Ergy Headphones

Monster Sound At Modest Cost

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Hands-On Review: Monster N-Ergy Headphones

Monster N-Ergy

With so many people now enjoying their music and movies privately through headphones instead of out in free air through loudspeakers, there's been a boom in the headphone market that's been hard to miss. Pre-iPod, this category was dominated by a handful of brands, but it's now the wild west; there are literally hundreds of choices for in-ear, on-ear and over-the-ear playback.
With so many people now enjoying their music and movies privately through headphones instead of out in free air through loudspeakers, there's been a boom in the headphone market that's been hard to miss. Pre-iPod, this category was dominated by a handful of brands, but it's now the wild west; there are many hundreds of choices for in-ear, on-ear and over-the-ear playback.

One company that deserves a lot of credit for this boom is Monster Cable (which prefers to be simply called Monster).  Through a combination of thoughtful technology and savvy marketing, the company hit a home run with the "Beats" line of headphones endorsed by artist/producer Dr. Dre back in 2008.  Today the Beats 'phones are ubiquitous, and a multitude of me-too models backed by other celebrities and designers has entered the market, with endorsements and tributes ranging from the too often with us to the no longer with us.

Monster now offers a very broad line of such headphones and earphones, and sent along a set of their N-Ergy models, which happen to be endorsed by Nick Cannon, the host of "America's Got Talent."

Styling and Functionality

Unlike many of the more outlandish cosmetics that are supposed to make today's headphones stand out from your standard Apple whitey buds, the N-Ergy earphones are a stark black, with a small ring of metallic red and blue color coding for right and left, respectively. 

One thing you'll like about these earphones is the convenience.  To begin with, the backs of the actual speaker "barrels" are magnetic.  Simply join them together and they'll stay put until you pull them apart.  That's a lot less tangle in your pocket or bag, which is nice, because these phones do not come with a carrying case.

Continuing along the usability front, the cable for these phones is a high-quality flat design from Monster, which doesn't tangle nearly as easily as conventional round wires and is more supple to wrap and unwrap than conventional cables. 

The N-Ergy also includes a Monster feature called Control Talk, which gives you one button access from a small tab on the cable that lest you pause the music while you take a phone call, so you don't have to fumble for your phone switch functions. 

The plug that goes into your phone is angled, which makes for a nice flat line and secures the connection, and there's ample strain relief for the cable-to-plug connection; a plus, since this is where most earbuds eventually fail.

Finally, you get three different sizes of ear tips so that you can really get a proper fit.  The seal that the eartips make inside your ear are absolutely crucial to the performance you get from earphones, and Monster's "SuperTip" design works quite well.  I recommend experimenting with each size to make sure you get the right fit and acoustic seal. It'll take a few extra minutes, but you won't be sorry.

The Sound

Perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised by the sound of the N-Ergy but for the $69 asking price, I thought these puppies sounded smashing.  Great clarity and spacing across the board, a very full soundstage with a lot of detail, and surprisingly good bass reproduction.  This isn't the lowest, deepest bass I've heard from Monster "in-ear speakers" -- that honor goes to one of the company's more expensive Turbine models -- but there really is good bass here.  It's not deliberately overemphasized (as is often the case) nor one-note thumping; this is bass (and drum snap) where you can really follow along with the rhythm section.  For most popular music, that's basically the ballgame right there.

Vocals were extremely present; not the smoothest I've heard but again, these are moderately priced models.  Compared to what you're used to from the dross that comes with your iPod or phone, this is a significant upgrade.

Conclusion

There are about a zillion headphone/earphone wannabes out there that would love to replace your phone's stock models.  Most of them are commodities that sound no better than what came with your music player; you might as well be replacing one set of shoelaces with another.

There are other in-ear models (tons of them) that bring you to a higher level of audio fidelity and are priced accordingly.  These can run to astonishing price points of $500 and up, and if you want custom-fitted models, you can go even higher.

The N-Ergy earphones from Monster occupy a very nice niche in between.  They sound substantially more lifelike and musically convincing than the cheapie replacements that hang on the pegboard at your local store.  At $69 they're affordable and reasonable for an upgrade, and well worth a listen.

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