The Monster Turbine Pearls definitely place an emphasis on design. We wouldn't say that their ""elegant pearl styling for the perfect accessory to any wardrobe, but that's because we're imaginative and can think of several wardrobes where these headphones would be a less than perfect accessory. Also, we don't see pearls when we look at these. Maybe diamonds, which are probably more marketable, but not pearls. In any case, yes, the Turbine Pearls look good.
The speaker element is protected by a mesh gate (in the picture below the headphones' sleeves are removed).
The side of the headphones show off the slits that form their unique, turbine-like design.
The Turbine Pearls have a cord that's about 3.73 feet from cord guard to cord guard. That's a good length for a set of in-ear headphones.
The Turbines' cable ends in a standard 1/8-inch plug.
The Turbine Pearls don't have the best cord guards, but they're adequate for a set of in-ears. The only in-ears that really go above and beyond on cord guards—and durability in general—are Shures.
The headphones also feature an in-line remote and mic that features shaped like a gemstone cut you typically wouldn't associate with pearls. You use the inlaid power crystal to control playback.
On the back of the power medallion contains a tiny microphone hole.
In the Monster Turbine Pearls' box you'll find the headphones, two travel pouches, two baggies of sleeves, and two curved rails that can attach to the buds and loop around the back of your ears.
The headphones themselves seem pretty durable for a set of in-ears. They don't have the sturdiest cord guards, and the cable itself isn't a particularly thick gauge, but overall we didn't see any issue with them. Those ear fin things don't seem to be constructed as solidly, however, as the little vestigial rubbery bit popped off of our review unit as we were extracting it from the travel pouch.
Check out the neck split, which is one area that typically breaks down.
Aesthetics are an important element of the Turbine Pearls' value, and they do manage to look good. At a quick glance they do appear to be diamond earrings, but then you notice they're in the wrong spot and not made of diamonds and feature Monster branding and the whole illusion breaks down. This being said, they're a classy-looking set of in-ears.
The Monster Turbine Pearls had a somewhat interesting dynamic response. The bass is boosted quite a bit, which is nothing new, but the bass takes a good, long while to taper off. There's a bit of a boost to the 5kHz range, after which the response dies down a bit. They really cut back on the sibilance frequencies—this is the area where the spoken "s" sound typically falls. There's a bit of a boost at 10kHz for some brilliance, but then the response trails off. These headphones look like they primarily care about bass, and don't throw a lot of decibels at the mid or high-end frequencies.
Keep in mind that not all of these sleeves are normal sleeves, either.
That's right: Super Tips. Or SuperTips. We're not sure if it's branded as one word or if we're getting thrown off by the kerning. In any case, the different between SuperTips and boring, normal, properly kerned sleeves is they're filled with a gel.
The other customization option are these little ear railings, or EarRailings.
You affix these bendy little bars to the ear buds.
Then you twist them around the back of your ears for added support. These help the headphones stay secure, but we still ran into the "they're not totally in place, but they're not going to fall out" situation while out for a jog.
Here's how they'll affect your ear's aesthetic appeal.
The Monster Turbine Pearls' cord is just under four feet long. This is a good length for a set of portable in-ears, since it lets you easily ball them up and shove them in a pocket.
The Turbine Pearls are very portable. They're four feet of thin, forked cable that dead-end in tiny plastic bulbs. You can easily fit them in just about any pocket, even those tiny ones that can barely fit parking meter change.
The Pearls also come with two pouches to aid in portability. The first one looks like a change purse and is good at holding the thousands and thousands of sleeves. There's no compartments, though, so they'll get all jumbled up.
The Pearls also come with a case that's meant for the headphones themselves. It has a magnetic clasp, which is nice, but it doesn't feature anything to keep the cable from tangling up on itself.
Like most in-ears, there isn't a whole lot to do to maintain the Monster Turbine Pearls. If you lose a sleeve, there are a few hundred more to choose from, so that's not a huge issue. If something in the cable gets frayed, though, you're out of luck. There's also grating over their nozzles that'll keep garbage from gunking up their sensitive neodymium innards, but those grates aren't all that easy to clean.
The Turbine Pearls don't require a battery to work. We think batteries are a pain to maintain and award points to any headphones that circumvent their stored energy.
Remote & Mic
The Turbine Pearls have an in-line remote and mic. The remote is a single button that you click one, two, or three times to play/pause, skip, or reverse skip respectively.
The back side of the control pendant has a tiny microphone hole.
The Monster Turbine Pearl headphones definitely feature a better design than the Sennheiser PXC 250-IIs. The PXC 250-IIs feature a much more casual aesthetic (primarily because they do not feature an elegant pearl styling).
The PXC 250-II has a slightly more even frequency response, but features a drop in the 5kHz range where the Turbine Pearls feature an emphasis in that same region. If you are a love of the 5kHz range—and let's face it, who isn't!—you will LOVE the Turbine Pearls. If you don't even know what the previous sentence means, the PXC 250-IIs will offer a much more even sound overall. They do cut down a bit on the 5kHz range (protip: this is the range where the spoken "m," "b," and "v," sounds happen), but are otherwise offer a much more balanced frequency response.
There were low levels of distortion present in the Turbine Pearls' test results, but it isn't likely to perk anyone's ear.
While we wouldn't say the PXC 250-IIs had significant distortion problems, the Pearls did have a much more even tracking response.
Even with its active cancellation switched on, the PXC 250-IIs didn't isolate as much as the Turbine Pearls. If you're looking for isolation, forgo the fancy active-cancellers and just pick up the Turbine Pearls.
We thought the PXC 250-IIs were a bit more comfortable, if only due to simple virtue of their wear style. On-ears don't have to sit in your ear canal for hours at a time, which makes them more comfortable, at least to a significant number of our readers.
If you don't mind in-ears, and would describe yourself as "Today's On-the-Go Woman," the Turbine Pearls are a perfect fit. If you don't like in-ears, the PXC 250-IIs are worth the extra money for the more comfortable fit.
The Turbine Pearls definitely feature a more chic look. The CX 680is have a more casual look to them. In terms of construction, both sets of headphones are equally sturdy.
Both sets of headphones have a remarkably similar frequency response curve. The CX 680is are slightly more erratic, as the left and right channels separate a bit and its peaks are more exaggerated than the Turbine Pearls'.
The Turbine Pearls did have some low levels of distortion throughout the frequency spectrum, along with a few spikes. Chances are you wouldn't notice this, though.
The Turbine Pearls had a much more even tracking. The CX 680is started out louder in the right channel and the volume gradually drifted towards the left.
Both sets of headphones were good isolators, but the Monster Turbine Pearls were able to block out significantly more bass noise. If isolation matters to you, the Turbine Pearls are the better choice.
We didn't think either set of headphones were particularly comfortable or uncomfortable for in-ears. The Turbine Pearls offer significantly more options for customizing your fit, however, giving them a better shot at fitting you, specifically.
The Monster Turbine Pearls have slightly better audio quality across the board, but they're also significantly more expensive. If you don't want to spend extra money on a classy look and to upgrade the audio quality from good to great, the CX 680is are a good alternative.
While both sets of headphones look nice, the Monster Turbine Pearls definitely have a better, more together aesthetic going for them. The SE535s look kind of drab by comparison. In terms of construction, though, it's hard to do better than a pair of Shure headphones. They have a very thick gauge of cable and, just in case it does break down, allows you to detach the ear buds.
The Turbine Pearls and SE535s have similar shapes to their frequency response curves, but the bands they emphasize are a little different. The Pearls seem to favor the 5kHz range, while the SE535s feature a more modest bump towards the 8kHz range. Additionally, the Pearls feature a small bump at 10kHz while the SE535s underemphasize that area.
The Turbine Pearls had a little more distortion than the SE535s, but the average listener probably wouldn't notice it.
Neither set of headphones had issues with tracking.
Both sets of headphones were excellent isolators. The Pearls blocked out slightly more bass noise, while the SE535s blocked out more sound in the high end.
Both sets of in-ears were moderately comfortable for in-ears, and both come with a bunch of different sleeves to help customize fit. The Pearls come with slightly more sleeves, however, giving them a better opportunity to best fit your ear.
Both sets of headphones did well on our tests, offer myriad customization options, and were comfortable (for in-ears). The main difference between these two headphones is price: the SE535s cost $420 right now, which is more than twice the cost of the Turbine Pearls. When you buy the SE535s, it's more of an investment: they're super sturdy and if they do break, they're relatively easy and cheap to fix.
Etymotic Research doesn't usually put much into the aesthetics of their product. The hf5s are fairly indicative of this, with a very simple, clean design. While the Monster Turbine Pearls have a more upscale look, they aren't built any better than the hf5s: both headphones appear to be about as durable.
The hf5s have a much more even, less dynamic frequency response. They don't boost the bass like most in-ears, though, so if you're used to that you might think the hf5s lack the low-end punch of the Turbine Pearls.
The Turbine Pearls had a few small spikes of distortion. This wouldn't likely bother the average listener, but it might make audiophiles twitch.
Both headphones had very even tracking.
While both sets of headphones were excellent isolators, the hf5s blocked out a bit more noise. Really, though, either one would be a good choice for a noisy environment.
We thought both sets of headphones were roughly equivalent in terms of comfort. The Turbine Pearls come with significantly more sleeve options, however, which allows users to better customize their fit.
This match-up comes down to how much you value the Turbine Pearls' aesthetics. The hf5s offer better audio quality overall and cost almost $100 less than the Pearls. What they don't offer is a comparable design.
We don't often get in a pair of design-oriented headphones that are actually a decent buy. The Turbine Pearls didn't have the greatest audio quality, but it wasn't bad either. Additionally, unlike many other stylized headphones, the Pearls are actually fairly appropriately priced. Sure, there are headphones out there that provide better audio quality at a cheaper price, but they definitely don't look as good as the Pearls. Overall, while they're not a perfect pair of headphones, the Monster Turbine Pearls also don't overcharge for their appearance.
Meet the tester
Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.
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