The Monoprice Enhanced Bass Hi-Fi Noise Isolating Earphones (MSRP $7) may have the worst product name ever, but hold your judgement: For a mere fistful of dollars, these unsuspecting in-ears deliver distortion-free listening, very detailed sound, and healthy overall balance.
Of course, for such a paltry price, buyers can't expect the full works. The sound quality is pretty spectacular, but the comfort level isn't—and don't expect durability or any fancy extras, either.
One of the most critical tests we run on a set of headphones is the frequency response test. We run a frequency sweep through an amp and the headphones reproduce it. Our software then measures the way the product emphasizes various frequencies along the audible spectrum. This data tells us if a set of headphones boosts bass, underemphasizes the midrange, and so on. Basically, looking at the frequency response reveals how detailed a given soundscape really is.
When I ran this test on these dirt-cheap Monoprice in-ears, I had to look twice at the results: These dinky headphones produce a beautiful soundscape. Unlike most of what's on the consumer market, these Monoprice in-ears don't blast bass at all. In fact, the bass range is almost completely flat, which is generally what audiophiles prefer for equalizing music. From there, it all falls perfectly into place: The midrange, upper midrange, and highest range are balanced very judiciously, so that every single note in the book is quite audible and balanced.
Just note that if you're a bit of a bass hog—don't feel bad, plenty of people love extra helpings of bass, and with good reason—these headphones won't suit you at all. A flat bass response is great for people who use their own EQ, but everyone else will probably complain that there isn't enough bass.
A sharp enough look, but not particularly comfortable
For seven bucks, Monoprice actually delivers a spiffy-looking product with its Enhanced Bass in-ears. The speaker backs are rounded and sporty, and users can find these little headphones in a bouquet of likable colors: pink, black, white, and gleaming silver.
Not so likable is the fit. The plastic protrusions on the speaker backs tend to graze parts of the ear, causing occasional aching and discomfort. At least the Enhanced Bass headphones ship with two extra sleeve sizes, however, to help listeners find a snug fit.
Look no further, because that's all she wrote for design. Evidently, $7 doesn't buy you a mic/remote or a carrying case.
This is well beyond $7 performance.
The results I found after testing the Monoprice Enhanced Bass in-ears aren't just good for the money, they're just great test results in general. As I executed trial after trial in the audio lab, I kept waiting for the ball to drop—yet result after result came back positive.
This product's soundscape is spectacularly detailed. I'll begin by flagging the fact that the bass range is almost perfectly flat. Hobbyists love this kind of thing, because it means they can tinker with tunes in an EQ without creating loads of distortion. However, if you're a fan of brain-rattling bass, you won't like this soundstage at all.
Anyone can appreciate the sheer detail here, though: The whole range sounds forth clearly and cleanly. Every musical texture holds its place in the balance, from the lowest growl on a bassoon, to the snap of a stick on a snare drum's rim, to the airy sibilance of a violin's highest reach. This is not what I expected to find on a $7 set of headphones.
And the quality sounds clean, too. Testing revealed not one spec of audible distortion—so don't worry about added noise or damaged harmonics hampering your music.
Isolation didn't wow me. Outside noise definitely breaks past the sound barrier at times, so these Monoprices aren't a flawless companion to travelers and commuters. They might cause trouble in the office, too, because these in-ears leak a fair bit of sound. If you have a deep, dark Miley-Cyrus-related secret, better keep the volume down—lest your coworkers find out and judge.
Okay, Monoprice, you nailed the frequency response test—but will you drop the ball on distortion? Apparently not. These things again just blew me away. I found less than 3% total harmonic distortion (THD) from A to Z here, which is a fantastic result. Listeners will enjoy nothing but clean, clear tunes—no added junk or clipped harmonics to bring everything down around your ears.
Even better, if you practice safe listening and keep volume below 109dB, distortion will never climb above that 3% mark.
All things considered, these are a dynamite deal.
There are a handful of reasons to pass over the Monoprice Enhanced Bass Hi-Fi in-ears: You pine for booming bass and you never use an EQ; you're searching for above-average noise isolators; you'll settle for nothing less than Royal-grade comfort.
If none of that describes you, grab a handful of dollars and scoop up a pair of these headphones. If the $7 price tag isn't motivation enough, the spectacularly detailed, distortion-free soundstage should be.
Meet the tester
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email