Long-term readers of Playback and those who downloaded free copies of the Playback Headphone Buyer’s Guide know that we think quite highly of Monster Cable’s Turbine in-ear headphones (priced at $150). They are generally well balanced, comfortable to wear, and expressive—in short, one of the better ‘phones we’ve heard at their price point. Since the Turbines have few shortcomings, and their “sins” are mostly minor sins of omission, it’s only in side-by-side comparison with even higher performance (and, of course, more costly) models that one realizes that it’s possible to push the sonic performance envelope even further than the Turbines can go. For me, this realization led to one key question: what might happen if Monster pulled out the stops to build an even higher-end in-ear headphone?
No sooner had I posed the question than I discovered, at CEDIA 2009, Monster Cables announcement of a new top-tier model called the Turbine Pro (MSRP, $299.95), which is billed as a product “designed for serious audiophiles and audio professionals.” From the outside, the Turbine Pros look for all the world like deluxe, gold-plated versions of the Turbines. If you are skeptical, as I sometimes am, this might lead you to ask: how different are the Pros, really? Monster Cable isn’t terribly forthcoming with detailed design information, but their basic description of the Turbine Pros does give some hints. Specifically, the new model:
Promising though these changes appear in theory, the real question is how or if these ostensible improvements enhance the Turbine Pro’s sound? And a good follow-up question would be, how do the Turbine Pros compare with the best models in their price class? I’ll address both questions in this review.
Consider this headphone if: you like the basic sound of Monster’s $150 Turbines but would appreciated heightened levels of detail plus even more extended bass and treble frequency response. Also consider the Turbine Pros for their robust build quality and their outstanding warranty, which provides for one-time free replacement should they ever fail (even if you break them). Finally, consider the Turbine Pros for their inherent comfort and noise isolation.
Look elsewhere if: you seek the very last word in sonic detail, nuance and textural finesse. Excellent though the Turbine Pros are in each of these areas, they nevertheless can be narrowly outperformed by some of the top competitors in their price class. Though it may seem like splitting hairs, some top competitors convey just a bit more low-level musical information, inviting you to savor subtle inner details in the music.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced headphones)