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Monster Inspiration (Black) review: Monster's Inspiration headphones beat the Beats.

The cover on the headband can be changed. Sarah Tew/CNET

One cord, which has an inline Apple ControlTalk remote and volume controls, is designed for iPhones, while a second cord has a "universal" ControlTalk remote that leaves off the volume controls and is geared toward non-Apple phones. Both let you answer and end calls. Finally, for audio purists, Monster includes a third cord that has no inline remote.

While Beats headphones are targeted at a more youthful crowd, Monster seems to be going after more mature professionals -- sort of a slightly hipper version of the crowd that Bose is targeting with its headphones. In that sense, the Inspiration's sound profile probably has more in common with the Bose sound than the Beats sound, but these are a little faster and more aggressive than Bose headphones (I'm speaking generally) and the bass is slightly tighter.

The headphones fold up to fit in the carrying case (click to enlarge). Sarah Tew/CNET

I got a chance to compare the passive Inspiration model with the more expensive active noise-canceling Inspirations, and unsurprisingly this passive model sounds a bit better. While I liked the active noise-canceling model (I thought the noise cancellation worked well), this model offered slightly cleaner sound. It's worth noting that you can use the step-up "active" model without engaging the noise-cancellation circuitry, which is powered by two AAA batteries -- meaning that if the batteries die, you can still use the headphones. However, even when I turned the noise canceling off, this model offered cleaner sound.

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Both passive and active noise-canceling models of Monster Inspiration headphones come in titanium, white, or silver. Sarah Tew/CNET

There are a lot of strong headphone models in the $200 to $300 range, and you can argue over the degree to which they are overpriced. The list price on this passive model is $299.95, but its street price at the time of this review is $249.95, while the active model streets for $299.95. I can't tell you that's a bargain and I think the Audio-Technica ATH-M50s deliver sound that's a bit better, for $160. But that model is less suited to on-the-go use.

I also like the Harman Kardon Classic (also known as the CL) headphones, which retail for $199.99. The CL is a somewhat lighter, on-ear model that's got a distinct look and can be used at home and on the go. The Bowers & Wilkins P3 ($199) and P5 ($299) headphones are also in this price range. They both have really nice designs and offer very good performance, though their sound tends to be a little creamier and lush than the models I've mentioned here. Of course, everybody has slightly different sound tastes, and whether you like one model over another is usually a matter of taste.

What I can say is that overall the Monster Inspiration is an impressive pair of headphones. They're comfortable, seem well-built, and offer rich, detailed sound and bass that while not superdeep is tight and punchy. I can't call this model the ultimate $250 headphone, but I do think a lot of people who are looking for full-size headphones will like it, especially those who are trying to avoid headphones with overpowering bass.

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