Big Hype, Big Sound: Monster Turbine Earphones in Review

The Monster has Emerged!

The Monster has Emerged!

Monster make Earphones!
Known the world over for car audio cables, Monster are now gunning for the growing portaphile audience who demand their mobile audio to be pristine.  The Turbine, is Monster’s first high-quality earphone and is a fabulous entry into the crowded inner earphone sub-genre.  Monster’s competition are the stalwart sellers: Shure, Westone, Etymotic, Sennheiser,  Futuresonics, Bose, Apple, Phonak, Klipsch, Sleek and many more. For Monster’s Fanfare thread at Headfi.org, click here. Feel free to Monster Turbine Earphones in Review – Big Hype, Big Sound.

(For those of you wishing for a clean and simple conclusion:  get them, they sound great, look great and perform well in the under 200$ USD price bracket – otherwise, read through for an exhaustive but exciting review!) ** Nice White Photographs:  From Monster’s webpage**

Packaging
The Turbine at 179$ USD have outclassed many inner-ear phones at any price.  No other product has come in such a sturdy, well-laid out box that is both easy to open and great for keeping accessories safe and clean.  Instead of sharp plastic moulds, the Turbine phones are laid out like kings in a sturdy and velvety carboard box and graphic art sleeve.  A usable soft-sided folding earphone case is also included but does little to protect the Turbine other than from scratches.  Overall, the package has looks good and adds to the feeling of quality that helps the purchase seem worthwhile.

Monster-Packaging-homeshot

Monster Fit
Silcon flanges are becoming staple kit in low and high-end earphones.  I see them all over.  Flanges are magic-makers as they are cheap, not easily destroyed and washable.  Since the Turbine sits inside your ear canal, it blocks out a certain amount of noise, allowing you to lower your music volume, save your ears and listen to your music – not your neighbour’s essay on the state of the automotive industry.

Monster include five sets of silicon flanges, some triple and some single.  They are soft, flexible and comfortable. Also, the flange mouth is not as wide as many competitor’s designs which is a relief for those with smaller ear canals! Remember, with inner-ear phones, if you cannot get a good fit, you cannot get bass.  With a good fit, the Turbines provide quality bass healthy portions.

turbine-flange-diagram

Saying that, I will admit to only using the silicon flanges for about a week before changing to my old Etymotic ER4 foam-based ear-tip.  It was not easy since Etymotic uses a smaller sound tube, so I had to first remove the inner rubber support tube and then crop the foamie slightly so that its end would not bunch up inside my ear, creating a boomy, bassy mess.  Monster should include foamie based ear pieces for those like me who prefer a plush fit and a slightly different sound! (More on that later).

Monster Design – Turbine Driver
In purely aesthetic terms, the Turbine is beautiful.  The outer cork-screwed casing is cold brass and the inner sound tube portion is a turned aluminium – it is a carnage of industrial design and attention to detail.  Lovely!  The Turbine earphones are easy to insert into the ear, but hard to tell apart. The left and right units are identical in shape, and other than slight colour difference indistinguishable one from the other.  In other words, without adequate lighting, you won’t know which piece to insert into which ear – resulting in hearing your music backwards!

dsc_7670

Monster Cable – Frightening
Sadly, the cable is a bouncy, microphonic mess in comparison to the wonderful Turbine design.  If you wear the cable hanging down, earphone style, you will hear all your footsteps, the sound of clothing, rucksacks – anything and everything, snagging its way into your music.  Looping the Turbine cable over the ear eliminates most of the microphonics, but the cable, full of flex and energy, may bounce off from the top of your ears, recreating annoying touch-sounds. Finally, strain relief at the most sensitive parts of the earphones is ignored.  From the straight-angled plug to the tiny rubber bead that secures the cable at the base of each driver unit, the solidly constructed earphones are hamstrung by a frail but charismatic achilles cable. For the price, I would have expected better; and, from a cable company, this complete lack of protection isn’t acceptable.

turbine-jack

Monster Bass – Subwoof[ears]
Firstly, Monster’s claim that the Turbines perform like subwoofers is a bold statement about in-ear technology.  Because all earphone and inner ear phone units sit inside the ear, no vibrations, (tingling mids or thumpy bass) make it to the outer ear which is not the case with a real subwoofers.  That said, the Turbine plays music deeply with well-resolved bass and a great emphasis on depth and detail. This is not another adolescent and ‘thumpy’ earphone for the casual listener. Though no in-ear or circum-aural phone can mimic the impact of a subwoofer’s bass on your body, the Monster Turbine produces top notch bass that is engaging and profound and easily matches the quantity of another king, the Futuresonics’ Atrio.

Monster Mids and Highs
Despite the raw bass power and resolution of the Turbine, vocals and energy from other frequencies are not muffled or distorted.  Music is not too warm or dark and is not polluted by a bad echoing inside the driver unit.  The midrange is beautiful – music is rendered in lively tones with just the right amount of colouration and treble shine, though not too much.  The Turbine drivers must be exceptionally thin and light in order to achieve such a powerful and natural sound. However, customers who are really into vocal music may be put off by the slightly tepid mids of Monster’s Turbine.

Monster Speed – Monster Attacks and Decays – This Monster Loves Music
The Turbine sound is full of deep and punchy resonance, but retains the speed and detail I have come to expect from more expensive armature based canal phones such as the Etymotic ER4 series and the Audio Technica CK10.  While not as detailed nor quite as fast, the Turbine has a fuller, more immediately attractive sound.  My favourite music is Trance and I am well versed in the world of Armin van Buuren, Paul Oakenfold, PVD, Markus Schulz and many other DJ’s progressive and original works.

Trance is a fast paced music that relies on all wavelengths of sound to achieve euphoric and sometimes eerie audio experiences.  Bass, treble, speed, attack, space and separation – all are important.  In every one of these areas, the Turbine excels.  Bass is a no-brainer – these are bass kings.  But for a dynamic-based in-ear phone, the Turbine is fast and controlled.  My previous Denon, Atrio and Victor suffered from either slow bass that congealed in between beats or violent reverb that gave me headaches. The Turbine is a little less focused than the latter, but at the same time, an easier, less fatiguing listen.

Just to be a well-rounded reviewer, I tried some old favourites:  U2, Nick Cave, The Cure and Depeche Mode along with some popular music: Daft Punk, Justice and some 90′s dance tracks. Everything sounded great from my iPod touch and especially on heavily voiced tracks, I found the Bass Reducer setting to be a great middle ground for my tastes.

Monster’s Turbine is an incredible earphone for trance music. Its bass is bit, but not bloated, and it has pace and is smooth. Its full sound may be too much for some people, but I think it will capture most headphone fans’ imagination. That said, it fails ever so slightly in one area:  sound stage. In my experience, dynamic based earphones have provided a wider and sometimes taller spacial situation of instruments and sounds, if worse instrument separation than balanced armature based inner-ear phones like the Etymotic ER4 or Audio Technica CK10.  However, I was surprised to find that the Turbine had a more closed-in feel than other dynamics, no matter which silicon tip I used.  When I hacked my Etymotic ER4 foamie, I discovered a wider stage and more lucid bass than I had discovered with the silicon flanges.  Alas, foamies are not included in the package but I am told that Monster are listening to Turbine users and may include foamie eartips in future packages – let’s hope they do.

Conclusion
I am an audiophile.  I admit it.  But I am sensible.  I don’t buy what I don’t need (anymore) and I am not usually swayed by FOTMs (flavours of the month), but I am a sucker –  A real sucker.  When my Turbines arrived, I was ecstatic but tense:  would they be another marketing toy?  A big-name company bringing big hype, but low-quality to the masses?  Luckily, the Turbine is neither.

It is fun, detailed, well constructed, and does my favourite music very well.  They are also praised by people who don’t care for trance or hip-hop: jacks-of-all trades that don’t suffer when compared on sonic virtuousness with their competition.

However, for the price of 179$ USD, I would have expected a much better cable.  Futuresonics Atrio cable is easily one of the best cables included on an earphone for under 200$ but the total price is as low as 130$.  I was excited by the great packaging and layout of the Turbine, but what a listener really needs more than a box is assurance that their product will last, without interruption, till they feel it is time to upgrade.

With those caveats aside, the Turbine is well worth its MMSRP of 179$ USD and is a welcome entry into the rabid and competitive world of inner-ear phones and is an easy Grab! Be sure to read our Interview with the Monster – David Leung Project Engineer of Monster says words about the Turbine earphones.

Monster Turbine High Performance In-Ear Speakers ($149.99)

grab

App Summary
Title:Monster® Turbine In-Ear EarphonesDeveloper:Monster
Price:MMSRP:  179$ USD
  • Excellent Sound
  • Good looks and packaging
  • One of the best performers in the under 200$ price category for quality bass and control
  • Luxurious metal housing
  • The cable is underwhelming
  • No foamie ear piece in package

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  • Tom Starner

    Just a note, the Turbines are street priced at $149, for anyone thinking about buying them with budget as an issue. Amazon.com, among others, has them listed at $149.95. Great review, an certainly matches my experience with the Turbines, though I never listen to trance. I do indulge in hip-hop (The Roots, mainly) and other bass-oriented genres, and also love acoustic music as well. So thanks for the in-depth review.

  • shigzeo

    The Roots are a great hip-hop artist. I prefer MC Solaar and Guru but the Roots, I understand. How bout faithless? All of the above sound amazing with the Turbine.

    What can I say? Monster did everything except the cable exceptionally well and they are worth every penny of 179.99$ or 149.99$ and I would pay for their sound and construction and box up to 200$ without a problem.

    In that price range, they are a keeper. — thank you for the update on price: I’ll add that.

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  • mathias

    The left and right phones are identic?
    You haven’t noticed the red circle and the blue circle? I would say that is a difference
    Anyway, I’m gonna have these, and I’m looking soooo forward to it. Is the wire getting into tangles and that stuff? It’s really annoying when cables does that, so I really hope that they don’t get into tangles, and i reallt hope I get music for my money. Mathias

  • http://www.touchmyapp.com shigzeo

    I should have been more specific – sorry. They are identically shaped so that in low light, the slight colour differences are useless. Some of the other phones including the Zagg, Nuforce and SA6 (upcoming!), but the first two also have a mic to easily help differentiate left from right.

  • Peppe

    Can now be found for ~$100 at macmall (search: MHTRBIE) and onsale.com

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  • http://iphone.appspatrol.com iPhone app reviews

    While I am certainly envious of the sleek design and visual apeal of the turbines, I remind myself that they are not jewelry, but merely a device for listening to music. Secondly, I believe that trance music is more complicated and sophisticated than other types of music, but for classic rock, jazz, and alternative music, I think my standard $50 headphones will keep bopping my head for hours on end just as well. Just one music-lover’s humble opinion.

  • http://www.touchmyapp.com shigzeo

    Thank you for the comment. The Turbine sound good enough with any genre really, but are excellent even with trance which is notoriously difficult to render for dynamic earphones which may boom.

  • Evan

    Good review man. Have you tested the Monster Turbine Pros? Looks like they made some major upgrades! http://www.monstercable.com/productdisplay.asp?pin=5466

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  • JoshM

    I’m eager to test out the new turbine pros, I hope they are living up to all their hype, lots of good reviews though: http://reviews.cnet.com/headphones/monster-turbine-pro-in/4505-7877_7-33775385.html

  • http://www.touchmyapp.com shigzeo

    My friend, I think we are all looking forward to the new Pro. I see they have a slightly different frequency response than their older brother, but it may work out to be a great new sound.

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  • domez

    All you gots to do is buy a pair of comply foam tips for them. I’ll admit they are pretty pricey for jus 3 pairs of foam, but since it was hard for me getting a good seal with these, the foam tips helped me a lot. It increased my bass response which is always a plus for everyone. Also I really do love the sound on these guys, they are very well balanced and the bass is very present but does not distort the mids and highs. I will be using these for a looong time. I love my turbines.

  • http://www.touchmyapp.com shigzeo

    Domez,

    Tomorrow or the next day, the Turbine Pro will go up at TMA for review. Thankfully, sound and build quality is bettered in every way which is saying a lot since the Turbine already sound very good. Personally, I find the comply ‘darkens’ the sound -something I don’t like, but it is very comfortable and isolates very well.

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  • Francesca

    Great review! I’m on my second pair of Turbines (left earphone stopped working on first pair) so I know exactly what you mean by incredible sound quality for the price. As a trance junkie myself, I know how amazing the bass sounds while listening to Aly & Fila, Sean Tyas, Ronski Speed, or Jorn van Deynhoven, for example (the “punching” bass sound is heard perfectly). And now that you’ve pointed it out, it’s true… you don’t get that annoying reverb with these earphones.

    I’ve had the Turbines for a couple of years now and never had any problems with the cord, but I hated like the tips that came with it. I went and bought the Comply tips but like you said, they do give a “darker” sound.

    Thanks for the in-depth review (literally covers everything) and I will definitely be repurchasing the Turbines (or maybe I’ll go Pro).

    Side note: Completely agree with what you said in the comments, “I believe that trance music is more complicated and sophisticated than other types of music…”

  • dutchdude

    first of all you made my day…
    if been in the market for some new in ear buds….and i was wondering what would match with hiphop and trance. you gave me the awnser.

    the thing you say about trance is so important to me, i listen to dr.dre and em and all but i am a huge sucker for trance.

    im still not shure which i am gonna get the klipsch s4 or the monster turbine. but i think that the true trance sound drowns in the klipsch….

    i can not tell you how glad i am i finaly found someone who listend to trance with the turbines… do you have any other tips?

  • http://www.touchmyapp.com shigzeo

    Hey mate,

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed the review. The Monster Turbine is a great earphone, and thanks to two years’ time, their price has been cut. They are bassy and a little polite in the treble, but overall, excellent. What impressed me originally, was that they never lost control as other bassy earphones can.

    Usually, I prefer earphones that aren’t thick sounding (probably because of bass echo problems). The Turbine are clean and clear and fun. For most music, I recommend them wholeheartedly, and even for Trance, a genre that requires more finesse, I give them 95% of two thumbs up. As for other recommendations, it really depends on your tastes. As you know, my tastes tend to lighter, quicker sounding earphones, but thick (when done right) can sound great.

    My personal favourite earphones are the Audio Technica CK10, but if you like American style duff duff rap and hip hop, they are not the best match. They are better for faster rap the likes you hear in Japan/England and France. Another thick earphone is the Mingo WM2 – also reviewed here at TouchMyApps.

    The problem with earphones in today’s market is that there are soooo many good options. Two years ago, the Turbine stuck out in its category with golden wings because of its overall excellence. Today, it is still a great earphone, but there are other great earphones. Good luck.

  • dutchdude

    is there a big diffrence between the turbine pro’s and normal ones?

  • http://www.touchmyapp.com shigzeo

    Actually, the biggest difference overall between the Pro and normal version is the build quality. Hands down, the Pro is better. Apart from that, both Gold and Copper versions are more balanced than the Turbine with slightly speed in the bass regions. I don’t really have a preference between the three as the Turbine’s price is so great for what it offers.

  • dutchdude

    yeah,it will be my first pair of high end earmonitors. i liked the cx300 by senheiser. but the break so easy. so im looking for some good quality. i think monster can offer me that.

  • Francesca

    Glad I could help! If you do plan on purchasing these, I highly recommend getting the Comply tips since I find the tips that come with it don’t seal well in your ear (from my experience).

    Another great thing I noticed with these earphones while listening to trance is that they tend to balance the sound better than other ones I’ve tried. It’s hard to explain what I mean… with these, you don’t get the “overwhelming” sound during the hands-in-the-air/climax part of a trance song. You are able to distinguish the different sounds as opposed to other headphones I’ve tried where everything sounds blurred together and the sound is just too “overwhelming”. I hope this is making some sense :P

    Anyways, I think they’re a great buy and you really won’t be disappointed.

  • dutchdude

    im a bid of a strange dude, i just choose the studio by dre the overear ones, but man,they are amazing. i can write you guys a review if you want in a couple of months.

  • dutchdude

    months = 2 weeks :P right now i am still in the haleluja mode.

  • dutchdude

    dutchdude Reply:
    December 22nd, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    im a bid of a strange dude, i just choose the studio by dre the overear ones, but man,they are amazing. i can write you guys a review if you want in a couple of months.

    [Reply]

    dutchdude Reply:
    December 22nd, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    months = 2 weeks right now i am still in the haleluja mode.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.touchmyapp.com shigzeo

    Hope you continue to enjoy your earphones! The big Dre model is pretty nice. Got to try them out at CES.

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