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Monster iFreePlay review: Monster iFreePlay

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MSRP: $49.95
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The Good Cordless headphones, thanks to an integrated iPod Shuffle dock in the left earpiece; no battery or additional power required; fit securely on ears, making them well-suited for sporting activities; fold up for travel.

The Bad Budget build quality; works only with second-generation iPod Shuffle; awkward to control Shuffle while docked; dorky look with a Shuffle sticking out of the left side of your head; slightly overpriced.

The Bottom Line If you have an iPod Shuffle and like the idea of cutting the cord on your headphones--and don't mind looking like a bit of a dork--Monster's iFreePlay headphones are worth a hard look.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 5

Review Sections

Monster's iFreePlay headphones are among a small number of models taking advantage of the size of the iPod Shuffle, and incorporating a dock for the diminutive music player into the headphones. You need to supply the Shuffle, of course--either the second-generation or third-generation iPod Shuffle clip-on versions will work, but not the original "pack of gum" version. Having it connected directly to the headphones cuts cords out of the equation, effectively turning the iFreePlay into a set of "cordless" headphones that don't require the high-tech wizardy of Bluetooth, or other wireless method. Since the headphones are powered by the Shuffle, no additional battery is needed--which is a big plus. (Obviously, you'll still need to make sure the Shuffle is juiced.)

The iFreePlay headphones ($50) have an around-the-back-of-the-neck ("street-style") design. They fit securely on your ears, are comfortable to wear, and don't mess with your hair. While they're not exactly sweat resistant (the foam earpads absorb moisture), they are perfect for the gym. It's nice not to worry about a dangling cord snagging on something and getting in the way of your workout. The only problem is with the Shuffle sticking out of the left earpiece: you're going to end up looking pretty dorky, particularly if your Shuffle's color doesn't match the silver color of the headphones. (If you've ever seen someone headphones with integrated radios, you'll get the picture--and it's not pretty).

Once you slip the Shuffle into the dock (it fits securely), you'll notice that the Shuffle is upside down. That's important to note because, if you're trying to blindly navigate tracks or raise and lower volume while you're wearing the headphones, the buttons will be reversed. The Shuffle's orientation makes it a bit awkward to control the Shuffle at first.

Aside from the integrated Shuffle dock, there isn't anything fancy about these headphones. They collapse and fold to become more travel friendly, but they look and feel a lot like a pair of budget street-style headphones that might cost $15 (don't let the Monster brand fool you into thinking this is a pair of high-end headphones). They also sound like a pair of $15 to $20 headphones: not bad, but not great either. They don't sound bad, but they don't sound great. In other words, this isn't about big, rich sound, but listening without cringing.

I came away liking the iFreeplay headphones, even if I wasn't sure I wanted to be seen at the gym wearing them. Running on my own wasn't a problem, but a public showing took a bit of courage. Arriva, a start-up in Telluride, Colorado, also makes a set headphones with an integrated Shuffle dock. While its headphones are arguably cooler looking--or at least less conventional--the iFreeplay headphones are guaranteed to offer a more comfortable, snug fit. They're certainly worth a look if you have an iPod Shuffle and like the idea of cutting the cord on your headphones.

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