Monster Audio's DNA Pro 2.0 over-ear headphones ($299.95) are an all-around upgrade to the original model we reviewed last year. Monster makes a lot of blingy, trendy headphones, but the DNA line are their (successful) attempt to appeal to a more serious listener.
They're incredibly well-made and come will a full complement of accessories: flat, tangle-free cable with iPhone controls, coiled cable for home listening, 1/4" adapter and sturdy travel bag. You can use the cable on either side: each earpiece has its own connection port and you can also let a friend share your music by plugging into the open port.
The come in Matte Black, White Tuxedo and a herringbone pattern that Monster calls "Carbon Fiber." You can find them online for $279.95 but make sure you're getting the 2.0 version: there still seem to be some of the original version out there in the retail pipeline.
Monster is going for a more tasteful version of the booming low end popularized by Beats (a brand that was originally developed in partnership with Monster). The 2.0 headphones offer more detail than the original DNA Pro and even less ear fatigue. It's impressive how good these sound after a long listening session, making them perfect for use in a noisy, crowded space like an office or barracks.
I've been using these for a couple of months now. I still wouldn't choose them for critical studio listening (go for something with a more flat response like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X or the Sony MDR-7506) but these are versatile and great for real-world listening in a wide variety of environments.
But, wait: there's more. Monster has also created the Pure Monster Sound Experience app for iPhone, an audio processing app that's tuned for the DNA Pro and DNA on ear headphones. You can download it and use it with any cans you choose if you want to try it out, but it's definitely designed for use with the company's own products.
I met Monster founder Noel Lee last fall at an event planned to show off the company's new Bluetooth SoundStage wireless speakers but Noel was a lot more interesting in demoing an early version of this software, a project that he obviously cared a lot about.
This is an incredibly eccentric project from a major player in the home electronics business and I mean eccentric in the most positive way possible. This software was made to entertain the people who made it in hopes that others would enjoy it as much as they do.
There are genre settings: Alternative, Classical, Country, Electronica, Hip Hop, Jazz, Oldies, Pop, Rock, etc. and then there's an eclectic list of artist-inspired presets that include 50 Cent, Billie Holiday, Coldplay (2 settings), Taylor Swift (2 settings), Dave Brubeck, Drake (3 settings), Frank Sinatra, Iggy Azalea, Luke Bryan, Motley Crüe, Prince, Robbie Dupree (?!?!?!?!) and four different Tower of Power settings. That's both weird and amazing. There's no focus group marketing here: it's just a bunch of artists that interested the people who made the software.
Like most processing software, it aims to compensate for the deficiencies built into portable listening. Unfortunately, due to restrictions imposed by Apple, the app can only play music that's living on your device and accessible via the iPhone Music app. But, on the songs I could match up with the appropriate artist setting, the Experience app definitely created a more immersive experience. Motley Crüe's "Kickstart My Heart" was even more kicking with the Crüe switch flipped, Taylor Swift's 1989 revealed more detail on the Taylor Swift 2 setting and recent albums by The War on Drugs and The Black Keys benefitted from the Alternative switch. The settings automatically switch based on the song's genre.
This is definitely a skunkworks project that is never going to get promoted on billboards or with national TV advertising, but it is creative, fascinating and a lot of fun to play with.
So, the Monster DNA Pro 2.0 are excellent casual listening headphones that travel well and deliver the boosted low end that most mobile listeners want these days. The Pure Monster Sound Experience is a weird bonus that can provide hours of fascination if you still download songs to your iPhone.