Thus, when Monster Cable's N-Tune headphones arrived, I looked them over with squinty eyeballs and thought back to this year's CES: The marketing monsters never seemed to let the products do the talking for them—the company usually leaves that to its famous friends.
Yet the N-Tune surprised me. These headphones aren't timid when it comes to style, with glimmering bands and colorful offerings, but they don't neglect their primary function either: quality sound. The N-Tunes aren't a perfect 10, and the price is steeper than I prefer for a pair of on ears—$149.95—but they delivered above-average results, and big sales were easy to find online.
Great looks to match great sound
On ears don't usually raise brows in the lab; but the N-Tunes did. The sound production on these headphones is just what most casual consumers want: big-time bass, but with mids and highs that can roll with the punches. A response like this won't satisfy studio requirements, but other buyers can enjoy booming bass notes accompanied by the texture that appropriately loud mid and high notes add—so even though bass is emphasized, vocals, guitars, violins, and the rest won't get lost in the mix. The blaring bass isn't for everyone, obviously—it was definitely too loud for my tastes, at times.
The N-Tunes aren't without blemish, though. Listeners may notice that bass notes are louder in the right ear. This blip isn't a huge annoyance, however. Another issue is that the N-Tunes only do half the job when it comes to noise isolation. On ears often prevent a fair degree of mid range disturbances, but these headphones won't do much at all, so noises like low voices, rumbling engines, and the like will easily disturb you.
Happily, though, high voices and other upper range pests don't stand a chance—the N-Tunes easily block them out. From there, it's smooth sailing: no audible distortion pollutes the sound, and leakage is extremely minimal.
Generous with bass, but without neglecting the rest
Audio engineers chase nothing short of the market's heart. Since many casual listeners don't spend their days in studios, a flat response just doesn't suit their tastes—and that's why consumer headphones tend to follow an equal loudness curve. Basically, since humans perceive different frequencies in various ways, the loudness of each frequency along an equal loudness curve shifts around; on an ELC, frequencies are all perceived as equally loud to the human ear.
Incredibly, the Monster N-Tunes follow this contour very, very closely. From low, to middle, to high frequencies, there are very few deviations from the ELC. As such, listeners will enjoy very prominent bass, but mid and high frequency gems like singing voices, harps, guitars, snare drums, and the rest won't be overcome by low notes. This frequency response will satisfy many, many listeners—but not flat-response-loving audiophiles.
"Tracking" tests, which investigate the balance of loudness between the left and right speakers, revealed one mildly noticeable error: The Monster N-Tunes sound louder in the right ear than in the left throughout most of the bass range. The 4dB difference is not such that this should ruin your beats, but a more practiced ear may notice the flaw.
A pretty Monster
These Monsters come in multiple, sparkly varieties: grassy green, beaming blue, fiery orange—the list goes on. The glossy, glittering bands make for a fashion-forward feel, and gleaming silver details flash around the ear backs. I can't flatter the materials, though. The parts are predominantly plastic.
As far as practical design goes, there are some nice touches. The ~4.6-foot cord is detachable, for one thing. That way, if you crush your cord with your office chair, at least you aren't stuck replacing the entire unit. The cable also seems to resist tangles, just as the company claims. Users may plug the cable into either the left or right ear cup, as there are outlets on both. A remote and mic come in handy for taking calls and changing songs, but users can't control volume—an annoying omission.
Lastly, the band channels Gumby with its super-bendy abilities, twisting this way and that without damaging its form; but packing it up to-go isn't fun at all, since it doesn't collapse into a more compact shape.
Plight of the on ear
I was happy to find a good-looking, soft carry case when I unwrapped the Monster N-Tunes, but since there isn't a folding function of any kind, packing them up is annoying. Popping these into a small purse is out of the question.
As for the fit, there are many who just can't enjoy on ears because of the constant pressure that such designs apply to the outer ear, but at least the N-Tunes pivot for a more suitable fit. The cushy ear cups are moderately comfortable at first, but in my experience, extended use tends to cause aching.
One big perk? Leakage is so minimal that you can turn your tunes up, up, and away without fear of bothering neighbors. I should say it outright: Whatever your questionable musical habits are, no one will hear them. Is it Hootie? Creed? Some sort of 97' jazzercise mashup? No one has to know...
On sale, these might just do the trick
Anyone on the hunt for a flat, studio response will need to keep on searching, but the Monster N-Tunes definitely serve up the big bass that so many buyers love—and mids and highs that keep up, too. Sometimes bass is louder in the right ear, but the error isn't very noticeable, and common problems like distortion and leakage aren't issues at all.
In a word, if comfort is everything to you, I recommend investing in a plush set of over ears instead; but if on ears don't bother you and you find these $149.95 N-Tunes on sale (like we did), you'll score big, balanced beats in a stylish package.
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Virginia is a former Managing Editor at Reviewed.com. She has a background in English and journalism. Away from the office, Virginia passes time with dusty books & house cats.See all of Virginia Barry's reviews
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