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Monster is making a push into the sports headphone market and doing a pretty impressive job of it. In 2012, it released its
Think of these as fancy, hard earbuds that have molded, removable rubber coverings -- Monster calls them OmniTips -- instead of silicone eartips. The design has a couple of advantages. For starters, the earphones are quite comfortable and will appeal to folks who don't like jamming silicone eartips into their ear canals. Like the
The other positive for some folks will be that the OmniTips let sound in. If you're a runner or biker who for safety reasons wants to be able to hear the external world -- cars in particular -- these allow you do that.
The downside to their open design is that sound quality is significantly impacted by your environment. If you're dealing with a lot of ambient noise, you lose a lot of the lower and higher frequencies and are left with pretty flat sound. (Note: From what Monster PR reps tell me, the slightly cheaper Strive model, which has a different shape to its OmniTips, lets in even more sound than the Intensity.)
Personally, I had good results listening to the Intensity earphones in the gym or at my desk at work. They don't sound incredibly clean or smooth, but the bass does have some kick to it and their sound is a definite notch up from Apple's earbuds, even the new EarPods, which just don't stay in your ears all that well. But outside in the streets of New York they didn't perform as well, with reduced bass response.
The bottom line is that they simply don't offer sound as good as you get from their noise-isolating cousins, the Immersions. Even in a quieter environment, there isn't quite as much bass and they're not as detailed. That said, they still sound decent and measure up to competitors like the Bose SEI2i series and cost $50 less (though the Bose models are arguably slightly more comfortable).
Monster says the Intensity earphones are "tough, durable, UV-protected, and sweatproof for your most aggressive workout." In my tests I used them for a week, running a little outdoors but mostly on a treadmill at the gym. They held up fine over that time and overall I came away most impressed by their fit. It's hard to find sports earphones that slip in and out of your ears easily and also manage to fit securely. These have both those attributes.
It's worth noting that they sport a tangle-resistant flat, linguine-style cord that terminates in a sturdy L-shaped plug. They also feature an integrated ControlTalk remote/microphone that's a Made for iPhone certified product, geared to users of Apple's mobile devices. The microphone features should work with other smartphones but the remote features will be more miss than hit (read: they won't work).
When reviewing sports headphones, design can end up carrying a little more weight than performance. The Monster iSport Intensity In-Ear Headphones' design clearly has its pros and cons. If you prefer not to jam silicone eartips into your ears and are looking for sports earphones that allow some external noise to leak in, these are an excellent choice. They offer a comfortable, secure fit, are easy to slip in and out of your ears, and seem fairly durable. Their sound quality is decent, particularly in quieter environments, but they don't sound quite as detailed or offer as much bass as Monster's noise-isolating sports earphones.
I can't say the iSport Intensity earphones are a steal at $99, but they're less expensive than Bose's similarly designed sports earphone models and they're not grossly overpriced. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but I have no problem recommending them, particularly to folks who are looking for a more "open"-designed sports earphone. Unless you're expecting incredible sound, you shouldn't be disappointed.