The second theme can be described as involving a “u” shaped response. Bass and treble are elevated to a degree, relative to the midrange. The Beyerdynamic DT 990s and the Denon AT-H5000s clearly fit in this category, with the Sennheiser HD 650 being a somewhat less obvious example.
Of course there are headphones that try to offer wide range frequency response and genuinely balanced sound, but there are fewer of these than one might think. This might seem odd, but since headphones remove some of the cues we’re accustomed to in normal live or speaker-based listening situations (primarily because they convey less spatial or imaging information and less bass impact), a headphone designer could reasonably want to employ some artistry to compensate and thus to persuade the listener that the sounds on offer are more “realistic.”
In the case of Monster’s Beats Pros, we have what might be called a “tilted” response curve rather than the more commonly encountered “n” or “u”-shaped curves. The bass is elevated, the midrange is pretty flat and the treble is slightly rolled off. Basically, output declines somewhat as frequency rises.
The first thing that strikes you when listening to the Beats Pros is their elevated level of bass output. In the range from say 70 Hz to perhaps 150 Hz, where bass guitar, drum and synth have plenty of action, the Beats Pros have strong output—stronger than live music typically would have. If we’re talking about reproduction of acoustic bass instruments, the output difference is big, not small.
For example, on my Jack Johnson bass test (tracks 7-9 from On and On), you hear the rhythm section loudly if not clearly. There is a lot of warmth and bass power on display. At the same time, you know there is a bump in the response curve because the clarity and definition of these instruments is blurred.
That said, many headphones that sound “clear” also have somewhat diminished bass. If a sense of warmth is key for you, with bass/mid/treble all present and accounted for on every track, the Beats Pros may trump many a headphone that, in a strict technical sense, might be more accurate. The fact that the Pro’s bass might seem a bit imbalanced and less than perfectly defined at times becomes secondary because their inherent bass warmth allows you to focus on the overall flow of the music.
This view is supported by the evenly delivered midrange of the Beats Pros. As I’ve noted before, many headphones that strive for even top-to-bottom balanced across actually struggle to deliver critical midrange frequencies evenly. Often, there can be bumps and dips in midrange response that make voices in particular sound a little off. In the case of the Beats Pros, however, the ‘phones offered much greater midrange smoothness and freedom from uneven sound than is common. Through the Pros, voices and acoustic instruments like guitars sound whole and natural.
The treble on the Beats Pros is smooth and clean which is not the norm with bass-heavy headphones, where it is much more common to see slightly upturned treble response. With the Pros, however, the opposite is the case, in that their mid-treble response is slightly diminished in level, which makes some instruments sound sweeter than they might in reality. In addition, this kind of presentation means there is a somewhat reduced sense of air and space around the players. Fortunately, the Beats Pros do an admirable job of conveying micro-detail, which suggests they have extended high frequency response, though this response sounds as if it gradually rolls off at the upper end of the treble region.
• Consider this product if: Bass warmth and power are essential to your sense of music, yet you’d like smooth midrange and treble.
• Look further if: you live for acoustically accurate bass; you wear your headphones for extended periods during the day
• Ratings (relative to comparably-priced competition):
⇒ Tonal Balance: 7.5
⇒ Frequency Extremes: 9.0 / 8.0
⇒ Clarity: 8.5
⇒ Dynamics: 9.0
⇒ Comfort/Fit: 7.0
⇒ Sensitivity: 9.5
⇒ Value: 8.5
• Summing Up: For the non-audiophile, the Beats Pros may sound more right and interfere less with the music than many other headphones—even ones that, in a textbook sense, are theoretically more accurate. If big bass is what you want, the Beats Pros offer an attractive alternative to other punchy headphones that tend, more often than not, to add bright, sizzly treble response to the mix.