Recently we reviewed the-- monster cans from, er, Monster that rattled our eyeballs clean out of our skulls. They were huge, and cost over £300. Happily, those looking to permanently impair their hearing also have the choice of these -- the Monster iBeats by Dr Dre in-ear headphones. They cost a much more palatable £80, giving them great I-just-bought-an- -and-I- -than-these-horrible-white-earbuds upgrade potential. But are they worth it? We'd better review 'em and find out.
Engine of war
The headphones themselves look pretty tasty. Each 'bud puts us in mind of a very tiny turbine engine. Ours came in a tasteful black finish, but chrome, black and black-aluminium versions are also available. Whatever colour you opt for, there's a strip of red that surrounds the back of each bud, forming the Beats 'b' logo.
One bud has a blue strip around the front, while the other has a red strip, which looks cool, and might help you remember which is left and which is right (though little 'L' and 'R' symbols are also stamped on). Ultimately, this detail will be obscured by the side of your face. All things considered, though, these are well-designed, distinctive-looking headphones.
There's no fancy earloop involved in getting these things inside your head -- simply stick 'em in. There are upsides and downsides here. On the one hand, there's no faffing about tying your arms up in loops trying to get the things on. Pop them in and away you go. On the other hand, these are pretty weighty earbuds, so they don't always stay securely in your ears. The brutal power of gravity may well cause them to slide out over time -- a loop would've solved that.
If you're using an iDevice that supports phone calls, part way down the red cabling there's a remote with two volume keys, a 'call answer' button and a microphone around the other side, so you can take calls without removing your phone from your pocket. Lots of headphones offer this feature, but it's still pretty useful.
So how do the iBeats actually sound? Well... reasonable is the answer. These mini buds aren't a patch on the larger, more expensive Beats cans, but they sound on par with other headphones in their price range.
Beats are famous for their low-end kick, and while these buds deliver a decent thump, they won't liquify your eyeballs (our benchmark for technological excellence across the board). Listening to Pendulum's The Tempest, we felt every kick drum, especially as we cranked up the volume, but there's not a great deal of clarity in the low end, so things can sound slightly muddy.