Less noise, more music: so says the official blurb for the Monster Inspiration noise-cancelling headphones. Who could argue with that?
Hell is other people after all, and we welcome any opportunity to shut out the unpleasantries of a commute.
So how do these headphones sound? We start the test in quiet conditions with the noise-cancelling off, and the performance is fine.
There’s a decent amount of detail on hand. The timing is fairly accurate and the dynamics are adequate, although we could do with greater clarity.
There’s a good tonal balance – thankfully not the exaggerated low-end found on some of Monster’s Beats by Dre headphones.
We flick on the noise-cancelling, and it works. Listening in the office, we couldn’t hear the idle hum and occasional clatter of our printer.
More after the break
Next we went outside and walked by a river, and the noise-cancelling was… sufficient. We could hear the water during the quieter tracks of our playlist, but it didn’t interrupt our music significantly.
Then we stood in traffic for a while, and found the limits of these headphones – they didn’t do much to reduce the noise of engines idling at traffic lights.
We weren’t too keen on the effect the noise-cancelling mode had on our music. The sound hardens up, the bass gets boomy and subtlety is sacrificed in order to out-shout everything else.
These headphones do the job, but they don’t come near the multi-Award-winning Bose QuietComfort 15s, which offer a more detailed, punchy and spacious sound with far stronger noise cancellation.
The Inspirations come in a padded case, which has a handle as well as a belt clip because Monster really doesn’t want you to drop them. It would probably be fine if you did, because they feel very well made.
They’re solid and weighty. Some would call 330g heavy, particularly as that’s 35g more than the latest Google Nexus 7 tablet. The body of brushed metal and glossy plastic folds up nicely, swivelling inwards on sturdy hinges.
The earcups and headband have very soft padding, with foam coated in faux-leather. We could do with slightly less clamp force, but it never gets uncomfortable.
From its ‘Beats by Dre’ days, Monster has kept the notion of headphones as an item of fashion. The Inspirations look smart, and we wouldn’t feel silly using them in public.
It goes further, however: the top of the headband has a replaceable strap. In the box you get a fairly standard strap of faux-leather, as well as a mildly fetishist one of PVC.
There are plenty of options to buy separately, ranging from spikey to bright orange.
On the more practical side, there are three cables to plug into the left earcup: plain, universal one-button, and Apple three-button. The padding in the right earcup snaps off to fit two AAA batteries, which last up to 40 hours.
The Monster Inspiration noise-cancelling headphones are a mixed bag. They’re good-looking and comfortable, and we like the extended battery life.
The sound and the noise-cancelling are decent too. For the money, however, you can buy better sound and more effective noise-cancellation. It’s a solid enough purchase – just not quite inspiring.
MORE: Best headphones 2014