Monster DNA Pro 2.0 Over the Ear Headphones Make Your Music Come Alive (you’ll think you’re in the studio)
by Anthony Sabatini and Alison Blackman
Alison Blackman (Editor in Chief, advicesisters.com): When we write reviews of any product or service, our goal is to offer information about what the product or service is in detail, so you can decide for yourself whether you want to invest your money and/or time. We know your experiences may differ. We try to remain impartial. However, when products really impress us (e.g. these Monster DNA Pro 2.0 Over the Ear headphones) we will say so. Tech Columnist Anthony Sabatini and I look at headphones as both educated consumer and experienced tech editor and we were both “Monstrously” impressed! Do you agree?
Anthony Sabatini: We published a review of the Monster 24K headphones in the Fall of 2015. Those headphones are designed for optimal listening in an in-home environment. They are comfortable for long wear (or extended wear such as needed by a DJ) and provide very good environmental isolation. In addition, the 24K headphones by Monster are eye-catching in gold, rose gold or silver.
The Monster DNA Pro 2.0 Over the Ear Headphones ($279.95) build on this legacy, adding easy trans-portability (they fold), and extended base response and a little bit more treble to make a headphone which is perfect for use in a studio to check the quality of individual tracks being recorded, or for use in active or travel situations (they hug the head well and will stay in place) where you need a set of portable headphones. Other benefits to these folding headphones are dual audio ports (share your music with a friend). advanced noise isolation, and a tangle-free, control Talk cable (near-field voice pick-up focuses on speech while reducing background noise). Without active electronic parts to degrade the sound, you also don’t have batteries that will die down or be replaced.
People ask how do you review a headphone? How do you know what it is supposed to sound like? In the audio field, we measure and compare based upon known standards, specifically recordings where we know every note of every instrument and what it should sound like. We come to this by picking an excellently recorded piece of music and listening to it on literally hundreds of different playback devices from $30,000 speaker systems to $30.00 clock radios and from $6,000 headphones to $10.00 earbuds. You must love this song in order to be able to listen to it critically.
Since I have been in rock and roll for much of my life, my standard has been “The Chain” from the Fleetwood Mac album “Rumors.” (in fact the album is so well produced. many of the songs can be used for critical comparison ). I listen for each individual note of each instrument, listening for the highs and transience of the cymbals which will tell me about the quality of high frequency reproduction and the thump of the base drum (it is a “splat,” or can you actually hear the foot pedal hitting the skin of the drum)? In the mid range, does it sound like the singers are too far away, or do the sound reproducers overload when driven to their maximum which will call distortion in the “busy sections” of the song. By listening for these things, I can tell an awful lot about the headphones and about their construction. One can hear uncompensated resonance which causes distortion in certain passages. One can hear over-compensated base or bad transient response (the sharp strike of a cymbal, for example) by a dullness in the sound. This is important to you whenever you audition to buy any piece of sound reproduction equipment always take a known recording and listen to it on many of the speaker systems so that you know what they can handle. One last note to check is whether the sound reproducer sounds good at a number of different volume levels, or only at one particular volume level. Our ears are not linear. They respond less well to lower volume at certain frequencies than others (such as bass). A good sound reproduction system sounds good at many volume levels, not just one.
Using these criteria, we have come to love the sound of the Monster DNA Pros. They are close as you can come to the real experience of the music short of sound systems costing upwards of $20,000 and requiring an acoustically-designed room in which to listen in. If your primary use of a headphone is to listen as you travel or when waiting someplace, there is no better headphone for you as they combine port-ability with amazing sound with only a slight sacrifice in comfort and adjust-ability.
Alison Blackman: When I first heard the DNA Pros, it was at a dinner with “Head Monster” Noel Lee. The song was “Clocks” by Coldplay. The music started, and I gasped. I felt as if I was swimming in the “Pure Monster Sound,” I just felt completely immersed in it. As an “Fyi: The name “DNA” was selected because the sound is so intimate you can almost sense the musician’s “DNA” Adding to the excitement of the sound is the download-able (at no cost) “Pure Monster Sound” app for iOS or Android which lets you manipulate the sound even more.
I dreamed of these headphones for months, until I received a reviewer’s sample of the 2.0 DNA Pros. I might have just found my perfect headphone. Monster has a number of short, entertaining video clips on the Monster WebSite, showing young girls “styling” the DNAs and hip hop moguls at the flashy events. These headphones aren’t toys however. They’re designed for people who are serious about good sound as well maybe making a fashion statement.
You can feel the music throughout your body, even at low volume. When listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” I heard things in the music I’d never heard before, including the distinct sound of the whisk on the cymbals, and other instruments that on lesser headphones, simply blend together (with the DNA Pros you hear each item distinctly). Using the Pure Monster Sound app on my iPod touch made the the music even more alive. However, I’m still getting the hang of it as it’s fairly intuitive, but I couldn’t find any “how-to” directions.
Monster seems to attract a high profile crowd of music industry folks, and as with the 24K headphones, the DNA Pros look very distinctive even before you see the Monster Logo emblazoned on the headband. They have distinctive, triangular earcups with “pillow soft” noise isolation that works very well and are fairly comfortable (the earcups are soft and well padded, but more padding in the headband would have helped the fit and the comfort even more). Since the ControlTalk cable with a built-in microphone and remote control is designed for Apple devices but not for Android, you may find that some functions simply won’t work if you’re not into “i-devices.”
In my personal opinion, the DNA Pros are almost perfect, except for two things that aren’t deal-breakers. These headphones adjust from the headband, but they’re not quite one size fits everyone. I couldn’t adjust the band down enough so that the earcups would fit perfectly on my ears. The other is the included travel bag. It’s a soft, veleveteen, with a metal toggle to close the bag, and a carabiner clip in case you want to hang the bag on something. But the lined bag is small, with barely enough room to stuff the headphones plus two cords (one with a microphone, the other a long, spiral cord) into it. When you are paying this much for headphones, surely a slightly larger and more protective pouch or hard sided case would be welcome.
That said, Tony and I were wowed by them as well. Get more information at http://www.monsterproducts.com