Well, this has been quite the turn of events! I had auditioned a full-sized Monster headphone, which I felt rather negative about, but the Turbine Pro Gold (TPG from here on) caught me quite off guard. Overall, the TPGs are excellent sounding, have superior build quality to many earbuds and IEMs I’ve owned/seen and offer a wide array of tips for fitted comfort, so let’s explore what makes these so special! …After I make some tea.
Sorry, I made some toast too. Let’s put it this way, the majority of headphones, earphones and IEMs have are largely made out of plastic and other hilarious materials that make folks cry when they’re paying large sums of money for them, but when an enclosure is mostly made of metal, even if you can’t be sure of any sonic benefits, it makes you more confident in the design and stability—which I definitely feel in this case.
The cable is quite standard looking, although thicker than all of my other IEMs and earbuds. I’m fairly hopeful the cable should be secure given Monster Cable’s more prominent and common product next to the Monster Beats would be the, well, Monster cables… Did not see that coming!
Like opening a present on Christmas day… Without the socks! A sexy suede-like stitched envelope pocket and a snapping mouthed coin purse of sorts made out of the same material. Along with that, you get 11 pairs of Super Tips (gel and foam), 3 pairs of regular bulb tips and 2 pairs of triple-flange tips. As if it weren’t exciting enough that Monster is throwing all these goodies at you, they also include a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter and a very fine cleaning cloth. I feel it necessary to mention that my box had a new car smell upon opening; I had hoped they included a car in there too, but no luck on that end.
So many goodies!
Sound, Tips, Super Tips and Tipping the Pizza Guy
Now for delicious the cream filling of the review!
Upon arrival, I had a wee issue with the Super Tips... I think my post office kept the package in some odd heating area, and well, the tips sweat all over themselves or perhaps the box has a miniature built-in sauna I was unaware of. After scrubbing the tips down, I tried the array of them and found the smaller of each tip fit best. The gel and foam Super Tips gave me the best isolation and bass, so much so I turned on my TV to a loud volume, stood next to the speakers and could barely hear the news report. Although the Super Tips technically gave me the most sonic benefits, their snug fit became a bit too snug after a while of listening and thus I tried the smaller triple-flange tip which did not isolate nor allow as much bass, but damn, it gave me one fine fitting-- the best I've ever had for an IEM period. Chances are no matter what size of ear-hole you have, you'll find a tip that will fit... Yes, even you with the funny ears.
Let’s start at the bottom and move to the top. I was told the low end on the TPGs was exaggerated when compared to the Pro Coppers, but I definitely find that the bass quantity is very dependent on the tips used; for example, I found a heavier bass quantity while using the thicker foam or gel tips as well as better isolation, likely due to a more snug fit. However, I found the smaller of the triple-flange tips to fit best and sound more to my liking. The bass does indeed go low and one of my favorite albums supports this:
Ketama ft. Toumani Diabate & Danny Thompson – Songhai (FLAC)
Spanish flamenco and Mali kora
The final track on the first disc, Ne ne Koitaa, has a very subtle bass line (Danny Thompson, up-right bass) that comes in about 30 seconds into the track and the notes extend from below 50Hz to near mid-bass. The lower notes are very hard to hear clearly on headphones without a clear bass and even when heard on many headphones, don’t seem to mix as well as they do on the TPGs—the notes are pronounced and don’t simply murmur or sound like a tonally low act of flatulence. One of the first things I noticed with the TPGs was the treble; now I’m not one to get excited about a “sparkly” treble, but the treble was really, really enjoyable for me and I love me some fine kora (African string instrument) and in this case, Toumani’s kora sounds great! The kora is an instrument that can sound bright at times, but the TPGs do an amazing job of taming brightness while keeping life in the music.
Muse – The Resistance (320kbps)
Rock-pop w/ electronic aspects
Muse likes to toss a lot of ambient noises and heavy bass rhythms in their music headed by a strong vocal spectrum. Again, the most likeable aspects of the TPGs I find in this case are the lively treble and prominent bass. As opposed to my test with Ketama’s Songhai album, the vocals are now much more relevant and I find a short fall for the TPGs, the vocals don’t entirely sound fully encompassing or acoustically real on this album, however, I ran into a similar issue with my Sennheiser IE6s, so I can’t be sure if that’s really a particular issue or an issue that plagues IEMs in general; I’ve confirmed this issue over the past month or so while swapping between circumaural headphones and my IEMs. Soundstage/headstage becomes apparent in many of the tracks off this album with the help of those ambient noises I mentioned earlier and as most IEMs and earbuds give an inner-head soundstage, the TPGs mostly exist in there but I find a lot of ambient noises will still appear in different directions outside the head. I think most folks will enjoy the bass more than anything off this album while using the TPGs.
Flogging Molly – Float (FLAC)
I love the violin and banjo in this album, especially in the title track Float, which I coincidentally must correct myself that this song is able to create that encompassing sound I spoke of while going over the Muse album. Near the end of the song, there’s a background vocal over the chorus that is placed upward and downward on the soundstage giving a more encompassing sound. The way that the violin flows across this entire album, and doesn’t sound shrill (as I’ve experienced with some headphones), brings a blissful smile to my face every time.
Kenny Dorham – Quiet Kenny (FLAC)
With the treble standing out so much on both the album and TPGs, I was a wee bit worried on how this album would stand up given that I’ve had some sad encounters making this album nearly unlistenable due to how shrill Kenny’s trumpet can sound at times and, sadly, my favorite track, My Ideal, is a prime example of being too bright for comfort on some headphones. Thankfully, the TPGs fall just short of being too bright for my liking with Quiet Kenny—but “just short”, is still worrisome for prolonged listening.
With prominent bass and treble these are awesome in-ear monitors, however, the mid-range is slightly buried under the two, kind of like a Boston Cream doughnut with only a dab of cream inside instead of a sea of deliciousness to match the icing and dough. I didn’t experience any sibilance that I couldn’t blame on the album’s recording and nor was I entirely fatigued at any time.
The MSRP is a bit high, but like every other headphone out there, there are authorized dealers out there that you can score a good price from. My Sennheiser IE6s were found for less than the average street price of the TPGs, but I would easily pay the difference for the Turbine Pro Golds. Between the myriad of accessories including the array of Super Tips, hefty 6.3mm adapter (which I shall use for just about any applicable headphone) and envelope pouch (that I haven’t left home without), I would highly recommend the Turbine Pro Gold IEMs.
8/10 - Like getting hugged in the ear.
Edited by Landis - 5/19/11 at 3:28am