Published on September 4th, 2015 | by seanbutnotheard1
Review – Monoprice Hi-Fi DJ Style Over The Ear Pro Headphones
Disclaimer: A review sample was provided by Monoprice for this review.
How’s that for a mouthful of a product name? Well I have to admit, it says what they are on the box: the Monoprice Hi-Fi DJ Style Over The Ear Pro Headphones are high-fidelity, they go over your ears, and they are in fact headphones.
Reviewing these has turned out to not be as straightforward as their name, however. If I’ve learned anything from having a bit of a background in mixing music, it’s that the human ear is not an impartial judge… mainly because it happens to be connected to the human brain, which does not form opinions in a vacuum. By that I mean, the brain and ear together have the amazing ability to grow used to whatever EQ curve you throw at them, as long as they have some time to adapt. What sounds good to you one day can sound terrible the next, depending on what sounds you were exposed to in-between.
So to make sure I was being as fair as I could, I did some side-by-side comparisons: Listening to a variety of music and games, I switched back and forth between my Mackie HR824 studio monitors, AKG K271 MkII headphones, a super cheap pair of Koss headphones, and the Monoprice pair. While there were of course noticeable differences, precisely qualifying the strengths and weaknesses of the Monoprice cans was a challenging exercise.
Packaging and First Impressions
So if there’s anything that Monoprice knows how to save money on, it’s the packaging. The outside of the box was nicely printed and certainly aesthetically pleasing, but that’s where the fancyness ended. I’m perfectly ok with that. The packaging did just what it’s supposed to: it cradled the headphones safely during transit, no more, no less. Overly-fancy packaging, to the point of serving no real purpose, has always bugged me a bit. Opening this box was a nice change in that regard. Let’s just say the box is worth holding onto for storing them, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it got tossed.
The cans themselves feel sturdy… much sturdier than expected for being in the $20 price neighborhood. They seem like they’d hold up for a long time under normal stresses. Though the first thing I noticed was actually not on the headphones, rather it was the cables: there were two 3.5mm cables included: a short one (about 3 feet) and a longer, slightly heftier one (about 8 feet). The small one, presumably meant for using with a music player of your brand preference, seems a bit on the flimsy side, and I could imagine it getting damaged easily. The longer cable is the one I’d go with for everyday use, though perhaps the small one would be useful for traveling.
In addition to the two cables, there is also a 3.5mm to 1/4″ TRS adapter, allowing for easy connection to pro-audio gear (which usually uses the larger standard). This is a great thing to include and I’m happy that it seems to be standard for most headphones now.
What I really liked immediately though, was the connector on the phones themselves: this might seem like a small point, but where the cable connected to the phones was just a normal 3.5mm jack, not some weird proprietary connector as is the case with my AKGs. This means that in a pinch if you break your cable, you probably already have a replacement sitting around that will do the job (if you, like myself, are a PC nerd and have a pile of 3.5mm cables somewhere). It also means that if someone trips over your cable and yanks the connector out, it will pull right out rather than giving you whiplash or a repair bill.
Aesthetically, the cans looks nice too… a clean, professional look for lack of a better description. The black finish has a timeless simplicity that I greatly prefer over flashier looking products (*cough* beats *cough*). The all-plastic finish does cheapen the appearance of them slightly, but again for this price range, and also in higher price ranges, I’ve definitely seen much worse looking headphones.
Comfort and Sound Quality
When it comes to wearing the Monoprice Hi-Fi DJ Style Over The Ear Pro Headphones, I feel that the comfort level is adequate at best. My main complaints in this area aren’t with the actual pads which seem like they’d be comfortable if it weren’t for the size of the earcups and head band. The ear cups seem just a bit too small to remain comfortable for extended sessions. What’s worse, the head band across the top is quite narrow (less than 1 inch), meaning the pressure from their weight gets concentrated into that small area. The effect of this isn’t noticeable in the first 10-15 mins of wear, and at first they are quite comfortable, but after a while that pressure makes the top of my head sore. The head band on my AKGs, by comparison, is actually not even padded, rather it is about 3 inches wide so their weight is spread out, making for more comfortable extended listening sessions. (The AKGs also have a much larger ear cup, and I barely even feel them touching my ears when they’re on.) I’m not an expert in manufacturing, but I think the easiest way these phones could be greatly improved without jacking the price up would be to address these comfort issues by making the ear cups larger and the headband wider.
With that in mind, the sound quality of these cans is definitely a high point. They are closed-back cans, which might not be every audiophile’s thing, and it’s certainly the case that the sound stage is a bit confined. Rather than seeming stuffy like some cans, however, they end up sounding intimate. The noise isolation of the ear cups is very good, leaving you alone with your music. You’ll feel as though you’re in a club with your favorite musician, as opposed to being at an outdoor concert. Additionally, even though they are only 40 ohms, they seem to handle a fair amount of level from my audio interface’s amp without getting crunchy. (Not that you should be listening to music so loudly that it’s crunchy.)
Make no mistake, I would not want to mix music with these headphones. Their EQ curve is not honest. They have a low and high end boost (the ol’ smiley-face curve) that is clearly designed to make whatever is thrown at them sound good. The result is pleasing though… and casually listening to music is a different matter than mixing. The curve does not seem overly harsh in any obvious areas. The high end is pleasantly smooth and clear. There seems to be a bit of a hole in the vocal area of the midrange spectrum, but it’s fairly minor and only affected some of the singers I listened to. The bass borders on being on the boomy side for me… some of the lower midrange detail gets lost behind the boisterous bass response. It’s not enough to be off-putting, but it does make music in particular sound a bit “thick” and could warrant an EQ tweak depending on what kind of material you’re listening to.
These are good cans — surprisingly good, given the price range. I’d recommend them as a great entry-level option to the professional headphone world. They won’t blow your socks off, but if you expect your socks to be blown off for $20 you’re clearly on the wrong gaming community’s web site.