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Monster makes an array of headphones, including plenty of new ones designed to compete with Beats models, which carried the Monster label until the two companies severed ties in early 2012. While Monster has heavily promoted its DNA and Inspiration lines, what's getting the most attention these days is a flashy, female-friendly model called the Diamond Tears Edge On-Ear.
How hot are the Diamond Tears? Well, the list price for the headphones apparently started out at $299.95, but due to high demand, they has since risen to $349.95, though you can get them online for $300.
As with most brand-driven products, you can argue over whether the Diamond Tears are worth $300, and the short answer -- as far as performance goes, anyway -- is no. You can find headphones in the $150 to $200 range that sound as good. Along others we like the Harman Classic, the Bowers & Wilkins P3, and Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones, all of which offer excellent sound for around $200 or less.
High price aside, I do like the Diamond Tears -- and I like their sound better than other Monster on-ear headphones such as the
That said, if you're looking for a creamier, smoother-sounding headphone, something like the Bowers & Wilkins P5 would be more up your alley. And at the $300 price point, we're also big fans of the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 earphones, an over-the-ear model that earned a CNET Editors' Choice.
All about the aesthetics
Of course, for a lot of folks, the sound of these headphones is of somewhat secondary consideration -- or at least looked at through a different lens -- since the Diamond Tears' eye-catching aesthetics are arguably the main attraction. They obviously won't appeal to everyone, but the headphones certainly are unique-looking and loaded with bling factor. Women like them. Or at least, most of the women I showed them to did. Men, less so; some guys expressed the opinion that the Diamond Tears represented a case of fashion over function.
At the time of this writing, the Diamond Tears come in two colors -- a "crystal" model with white earpads and a bluish/purple model with black earcups. But several more color options are due to arrive in 2013.
They ship with three headphone cords -- one standard straight cord with no integrated remote or microphone for audio purists, one ControlTalk cable for Apple iOS mobile products, and a ControlTalk Universal cable for Android and other mobile phones. The three-cord combo is becoming a standard feature for Monster's higher-end full-size headphones, and it's certainly appreciated.
Along with a soft carrying case -- yes, the headphones partially fold up to fit in the case -- you get a couple of accessories not normally included with your typical pair of headphones: a Monster Clean Cloth and a small spray bottle of Monster Shine for buffing your cans up to look their light-refracting best.
To be clear, what you're polishing isn't some form of special glass, just plastic -- even the little diamond stud on the outside of each earcup is far from precious. But while the headphones are mostly made of plastic, they do seem sturdy and well built, right down to the cords.
I also liked the texture of the headband, though I don't know how practical it is. It's some form of polyurethane and has a firm yet gummy feel. I can't tell you how well that band will hold up over time -- and I did notice some dust particles adhering to it, so you'll have to wipe it down occasionally -- but it's a nice change from the typical padded leather headband.
As for comfort, the Diamond Tears are pretty comfy for an on-ear model, but they do fit very snugly, and the teardrop shape of the earpads seems better suited to those with smaller ears; some folks with bigger ears may not be able to wear them for long periods.
Despite their tight fit, they do leak some sound. Not much, but some. On the flip side, they don't let much sound in -- they passively seal out a lot of ambient noise.
Another plus: each earcup has a jack, so you can have a second person plug his or her headphones into the open jack and daisy-chain your headphones to listen to the same music or movie through the one device. This feature isn't unique -- more headphones are offering it -- but it's still relatively rare.
People will invariably have very different reactions to the design of the Diamond Tears, with some folks finding them striking and supercool while others are repelled by their gaudiness. Whatever the case, that they are able to provoke a strong reaction is a win for Monster and its designers. While models like Sony's Simon Cowell-backed MDR-X10 headphones are clearly more comfortable, aesthetically the X Headphones don't make as strong a statement as these and are just funky-looking -- and not so much in a good way (a new, smaller X Headphone model is on the way that isn't as bulbous).
While the Diamond Tears personally aren't my style and seem more geared toward women -- and not just real housewives from New Jersey -- some dudes, I suppose, will rock these with pride. I could also see a few guys ostensibly buying them for a girlfriend or spouse and then "borrowing" them when they didn't get used enough.
As for their high price, well, they clearly aren't a bargain. That's par for the course for so-called status headphones, and while I can sit here telling you that they're overpriced, if people keep buying them at $300, apparently they aren't. On a more positive note, at least they seem well-built and sound good. In other words, there's some substance to go along with the flashy looks, which may surprise some folks. That's not enough to make me want to drop $300 on them, but I'm not the target market.