Under the Radar

Review: Monster DNA Pro Headphones

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Right up front: if you want a pair of over-ear headphones that work well with your iPhone but sound good when plugged into your home stereo, the Monster DNA Pro is a serious contender in the under-$300 division ($279.99 direct from the manufacturer but you can find them for $249 online if you shop around online).

Monster has backed off the bass-heavy sound that was the signature back when they collaborated on the Beats brand. Dr. Dre took his brand elsewhere and Monster has worked to define its own identity by branding their headphones with the Pure Monster Sound tagline. 

Monster very much profiles itself as a lifestyle brand and company founder Noel Lee has done endorsement deals with a host of high-profile athletes and entertainers to keep up the star power. The company showed off a prototype sound system for the Lamborghini Veneno Roadster at the CES Show in Las Vegas. Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is pictured on the DNA Pro webpage, but poke around the site and you'll find images of Drew Brees, Nick Cannon, Shaquille O'Neal and a couple of product lines aimed at kids who don't know about audio quality and probably couldn't care less.

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The DNA line is a focused effort to build headphones that compete on their audio quality. The original DNA on-ear headphones have been a big hit and we liked them when we reviewed the "Hire A Vet" special edition a while back. The new DNA Pro offers much better sound for not that much more money.

What's to like here? There's a slight emphasis on the low end but there's not nearly as much bass boom as has become the fashion after the success  of Beats by Dre. There's a lot of clarity in the upper-mid range. I usually prefer speakers and headphones that have a flat sound (i.e. they reproduce what's coming from the audio file as neutrally as possible) but I've really come to enjoy the approach the Monster engineers have taken here. I've used these things for a couple of hours at a time with minimal ear fatigue. I've also found them comfortable.

The ear cups echo the distinctive triangle badge design that's on the outside of each speaker. If there 's a potential flaw with the DNA Pro, it's how the triangle cups fit on most ears. You're not going to get a tight fit that prevents audio leakage: these are not going completely filter out the world around you, nor are they going allow you to blast Metallica when someone's trying to sleep next to you. I never like headphones that have a complete audio seal, so this isn't a big issue for me.

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They come with two audio cables, one a traditional coiled cable that can be used with a 1/4" adapter to plug into an old-school receiver and the other a microphone cable with controls that work flawlessly with iOS devices. There's also a carrying bag and a cleaning cloth. There's a second cable plug on the right speaker that allows a friend to share whatever music you're listening to.

You can check out the Monster DNA Pro line (currently only available in black or white instead of the vast array of colors you can buy in the original DNA line) at a lot of Best Buy stores. There's also a more expensive wireless Bluetooth option due soon.  These go on my "recommended" list.

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