Being surprised while reviewing audio gear can be both wonderful and not so great. The fun is in the discovery of a gem. Even though I am familiar with the Turbine and Turbine Copper earphones (and like them a lot) from Monster, I have been (much) less than thrilled from what I have heard in the Beats line of headphones. They are way too bass-heavy for me. So, based on that knowledge, I was a bit hesitant when I was asked to review the new Vektr headphones Monster developed with the Italian lifestyle company, Diesel. Was I going to be forced to bow at the altar of the bass god and be assaulted by headache-inducing thumping? Would I want to chuck them in the nearest trash can?
Not on your life.
I am stunned how good the Monster Vektr sounds. While most headphones I get need a “burn-in” period lasting from a few hours to a few days, these sounded good right out of the box. Burn-in is nothing more than leaving the headphones connected to an audio source at regular volume 24/7 for 1-3 days. This allows them to loosen up a bit and sound even better than brand new.
To describe how the Vektr sounds is to un-think all you know about Monster headphones – the Beats version, anyway. Bass heads will not like the Vektr. Yes, bass is present, but only in the amount the recording has already. Nothing sounds boosted or enhanced. Nothing. That’s one of the reasons you can comfortably listen to the Vektr all day long. Enhanced bass can be audibly exhausting. I just didn’t expect a headphone designed this boldly to sound this refined.
FYI, I used the Vektr headphone with an external USB digital audio converter (DAC) connected to a Mac and also plugged straight into an iPod Classic.
Whether I’m listening to anything from Pink Floyd to Steely Dan to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) to Beethoven, the Vektr headphones rendered everything smoothly and accurately. Only at painfully punishing volumes, did I notice a crack in the audio. That’s saying something.
The Pink Floyd song, “Fearless” from the “Meddle” album mutates from a folksy sound to an acoustic rocker complete with a soccer-crowd chant at the end. David Gilmour’s acoustic playing is in fine form and each note rings true on the Vektr.
“Tomorrow Started” from the achingly beautiful 80s Talk Talk album “It’s My Life,” features a slightly reverbed Mark Hollis vocal backed by a howling, distorted guitar and purposely toned-down trumpet along with the required 80s synth. There is so much going on in this song, it almost requires listening with headphones. The Vektr phones are perfectly suited for this song. While the soundstage is not all that wide, it’s also not claustrophobic, which leaves a nice, airy balance. Keep in mind that the Vektr is a closed-back headphone design, so any sense of space is going to be somewhat diminished. Then again, only you – and not your neighbors – will hear your music, no matter how loud the volume.
The Vektr handles songs with a lot of bass very well… as long as those songs aren’t overly-compressed modern mixes. As much as I like Bryan Ferry, his collaboration with Groove Armada on the remixed song, “Shameless,” is a disaster with its lower-than-low bottom end. No clarity and knee-deep mud in the mix drowns out any dramatic potential. It becomes even more apparent when compared with the original version of “Shameless” on Ferry’s “Olympia” album. The Vektr headphones couldn’t save the remixed version, but the original was fun to listen to. I discovered that most remixed songs with enhanced bass didn’t fare so well with the Vektr phones. If hip-hop or dance music is your fave, you should look elsewhere.
However, if your tastes lean to a more sophisticated and balanced sound, you would be hard pressed to find a better sounding headphone than Vektr.
Then there’s the design…
Apart from the ear cups, there is nothing soft about the Vektr headphones. The design resembles a Lamborghini Aventador supercar. There are hard, directional angles all over. It all looks a bit silly to me, but then again, these are designed to be seen and to look cool on someone much younger than I am.
The shiny black plastic exterior is a fingerprint magnet. I had to wipe them down carefully before shooting the photos. The plastic is mounted on an aluminum skeleton, so they should hopefully hold up for quite a while. At least they feel like they will.
The on-ear cups have an unusual shape. I guess they’re supposed to conform better to the ear than round or oval cups. The seal is one of the best I have encountered with on-ears at any price. In fact, the Vektr fits my ears so well, that if it had active noise canceling, it would be a waste of money. I can almost feel a slight vacuum form around my ear when I first put them on. It’s a strange sensation. They are also extremely comfortable with hours of use. I never experienced undue pressure at my temples, even wearing glasses; and since they’re lightweight, there was no downward pressure either.
The one comfort gripe I have is that the hard, non-slip rubber headband could have been padded. It wasn’t particularly uncomfortable for me, but others may want a softer headband.
The Vektr folds up neatly and easily. The cord is removable which makes replacement easy and affordable. The cord has an unusual, triangular shape which reduces – but does not eliminate – tangling and visually matches the angular look to the headphones. The right-angle mini plug housing is awkward because its triangular shape makes it difficult to grab. That’s what you call design over function. An included soft case has plenty of room for the phones and cords and will protect against the elements, but not breakage.
The attached mic allows for incoming and outgoing calls along with volume/skip for iPod adjustments. These work as advertised, but I personally never use them. Plus, using a smartphone with full headphones is just weird. You can plainly hear the person you’re talking to, but you can’t hear your own voice very well, so you compensate by speaking too loudly. Ugh.
When I review headphones, I swap models around to give myself a feel for the different sound signatures from many competing brands. It’s easy to get used to a certain sound and forget that there are other – and sometimes better – sounding headphones available. However, lately, I’ve been listening to the Vektr almost non-stop; not because I felt I needed to, but because I wanted to. Underneath that hard-edged, Italian exotic car look, Monster has created a killer sounding headphone that you can wear comfortably all day. Now if Monster could put this sound into a more conservative, portable upscale model headphone…
As I said at the beginning of the review, I like surprises. I always thought Monster got it just right with their earphones and oh so wrong with their headphones. After hearing the Vektr headphones, I don’t think that anymore.