Monster Beats by Dr. Dre Pro
Not long ago I lamented not having heard the Beats Pro. Brian at Headphones.com took note and sent me pair, noting that he thought they sounded okay, but were hard to wear for long periods of time. Damn, that means I’m going to have to have long listening sessions with them.
Monster Beats by Dr. Dre Pro ($449.95)
$449.95!!! Holy F#@&!!! That’s a lot of dough. You can buy two pretty good headphones for that price; or one really good one. I really had my doubts at the beginning of this review --- actually I was warming up for a rant --- but these cans sorta won me over in the end.
A Good DJ Headphone
Read the web copy at Dre’s site and you’d think they meant to be a professional reference headphone; but read the device I had in my hands for two weeks, and it’s pretty obvious these headphones are for DJs. Either earpiece rotates back off the ear, and is quite comfortable and stable in this position. The cable can be connected to either earpiece, and is relatively short at about five feet, with a tightly coiled section that allows it to extend about two more feet. It should work great for DJs not wanting the cable underfoot, or jerking the turntables when you hit the end of the rope, so to speak.
Durability is impossible to test with borrowed headphones in the course of a fortnight, but it appears these cans a built like a brick outhouse. Mostly solid aluminum construction with machined and screwed-together assembly gives these cans a very solid looking construction.
Unfortunately, these headphones do not isolate very well. At clubs and raves it gets very loud, and it may be difficult to cue up next tracks without better isolation. Fortunately these headphones do a great job playing loud well. (See may article “Loud Music Sucks” on more of this topic.) The Beats Pros are very efficient (they will play as loud as you want from just about any source), and they sound quite good when played loud (more notes on sound quality in a moment). You should be able to hear these cans in quite easily in loud environments.
A Lousy Headphone for Pros and Audiophiles
My main gripe is no so much the sound of these cans (we'll get to that), but the comfort: there’s too much clamping pressure and the earpads squish you ears too hard to be comfortable for long. Though these are full-size headphones, they are more “on the ear” than “over the ear.” Also, while the solid aluminum construction may be durable, it’s also heavy. At 401gr the Pro outweighed all but the weighty planar magnetic HE-6 (495gr) headphones in my lab at the moment. (Sennheiser HD 800 – 389gr; Denon AH-D5000 – 355gr; AKG K 701 – 312gr; Sennheiser HD 600 – 257gr. All weights without cable.) So, unless you need these headphones stable on your head because you’re dancing around behind the turntables, they’ll probably be too uncomfortable to wear by professionals and audiophiles during long listening sessions.
The Sound I think the best way to characterize the sound of these cans under normal listening conditions is boring. There’s no sparkle in the highs; the mids are sort of matter of fact; and the bass tends to be a bit wooly. On the other hand, I’m happy to report the accentuation of the bass is modest --- and not ham-handed bloat like other cans in the Beats line --- and though a bit inarticulate, the bass remains dynamic and tuneful. The bass extension into the lowest octaves is quite good for a headphone of this type.
Over all, a mild wooliness with a warm tilt characterizes the sound of these headphones, but otherwise the response is well balanced and remarkably well behaved. Very often headphones have a notch of missing information in the mid-treble, and a peak in the upper-treble resulting a biting or zingy sound. I found the Beats Pro free of strident brightness or areas of coloration.
I’m going to say something I don’t like saying: these headphones sound quite good loud. I DO NOT advocate loud listening, but for a DJ, I can see the need. I found that at elevated levels these headphones worked very well. They were dynamic and enunciated the tunes with clarity. I didn’t experience any harshness even with tracks that I know would be ear-bleeding on many headphones.
Fig 1 shows the 300Hz square wave response of some common headphones of this type.
I’ve begun to notice a pretty clear correlation between headphones sounding “sharp” or “biting” with increasing amounts of overshoot on the leading edges of the 300Hz square wave response. If you look carefully at the graph above, you will see that the amount of overshoot in the displayed cans is arranged from lowest at the top, to highest at the bottom. You can see that the Beats Pro is not nearly as “quick” in it’s transition, which is indicative of the slowness I heard in these headphones. But you’ll also notice the first overshoot is not as high as the others, matching up with the lack of biting sharpness heard on some cans. The Aviators are both measurably and subjectively quicker sounding than the Pros, but not as overshot as the cans below it on the graph. I definitely hear the Aviators as smoother sounding than either the SRH840 or AT M50. I like the Shure SRH840 and Audio Technica ATH-M50, but do hear in both these cans having overemphasized treble peak. This graph reinforces my perception of the Beats Pro as a headphone that won’t drill hole in your ears with biting treble.
At the top of the article I said I thought the Beats by Dre Pro hit one and a half of their four target audiences. For DJs, full marks; the other half is the half of “hard core music lovers” who don’t care about the health of their ears, these headphones will do a great job of playing music loud for them while their hearing lasts. DJs however, will appreciate the excellent ergonomics, apparent durability, and great sound in loud environments of the Beats Pro. I heartily recommend these headphones to the guys behind the turntables.
For the rest of us who enjoy all detail and color of our music, and for audio professionals and musicians who need to hear what’s going onto the tape (well … nobody uses tape anymore, do they), I find the Beats Pro overpriced underperformers. Not recommended … but I have to add that if they were really made for DJs, it doesn’t much matter.
Again, big thanks to Headphones.com for the loan of the Beats Pro.