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Monster Diesel Vektr Headphones Review

on September 13, 2012 11:27 am

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.

 

Product Information

Price:$279.95 US
Manufacturer:Monster Cable
Retailer:Monster Cable
Requirements:
  • Audio source
Pros:
  • Sound surprisingly good, better than Beats!
  • Noise canceling very good
Cons:
  • Design not for everyone
  • Plugs are "design over function"

Comments

  1. 1
    Karl says:

    I’ve been in the market for a new pair of headphones, ones that would be a little more portable than my Sennheiser HD600s with there 3m cable. What struck me with the Vektrs was the design. Since I am looking for something to wear out in public, I also want something that looks attractive and sleek, of course sound is a must. Hearing that these headphones are less bass heavy than the beats and more suited for instrumental harmonies is definitely a plus.
    I would also like to thank the author of this review, although you did lean me towards not getting this pair, you did give me more in-depth review of the sound suitability than anyone else. As for why I am not getting these, simply put, is because I already have audiophile headphones and want something more suited for the bass heavy music that my Sennheiser’s aren’t the greatest for.

  2. 2
    Bill Henderson says:

    Karl,
    It’s hard to compare the HD600 to the Vektr, mainly because the Senn’s are open-backed and the Vektr is not. It’s apples and oranges. Because the Vektr is a closed design, I would think that they naturally have more noticable bass. I have not heard the HD600, so I can’t be sure.

    You may want to look at the Aiaiai TMA-1. They are incredibly well made and bassy.

    Bill H.

  3. 3
    Jia Jie says:

    Bill,
    Sorry to bother, I have been hesitating which headphone I should get later on this year. I hope I can have some tips from you while I selecting them. Would you recommend harman kardon(no matter cl or bt), diesel vektr or the cross fade lp2 and m100 from v-moda. I have never have a such fancy headphone before,so I think I really don’t know about how to pick the best for myself. Please reply my question to the email I leave for you. Much appreciated!

    Jia Jie

  4. 4

    Jia Jie,
    It’s not a bother, I am happy to help.
    I have not heard the Harman Kardon headphones, so I can’t give you my opinion on those.
    I have reviewed the V-Moda Crossfade LP here and the M-80 here. I should be receiving the M-100 soon for review.
    The V-moda headphones exhibit more bass than the Vektr, so it comes down to what your taste in music is which will determine what headphone you prefer.
    I hope this helps.

    Bill H.

  5. 5
    Dan says:

    I bought these headphones based on this review and others.

    Initially I was disappointed with them, they sounded thin and very quiet. I had just packed them back up in the box to send back, but thought I should give then a second chance so tried them again.

    On the second try, I tried them with all my devices, not just my iPhone 5. On my iPad 3 and computer audio interface they sounded stunning. A really balanced sound with plenty of volume, depth, and amazing clarity. Very impressive.

    On some digging around and further testing, I rebooted my iPhone. Suddenly the volume and quality matched my other devices. It appears that my Navigon SatNav software lowers the volume of the iPhone headphone output, and also alters the quality.

    Just thought I’d add this in case any iPhone owners also experience this issue.

    Thanks for the great review!!

  6. 6
    Ansin says:

    Bill- I too was born with a large noggin’… So after I read your review I decided to pounce when BestBuy had it on clearance.

    Sound is great. Fit- not so much. I love the look and the angles, however I feel the top band should have been made wider.
    So because of its bottom-heavy design, I find them a bit twisty and they don’t feel stable on top of my head.

  7. 7
    Matt says:

    The review is as correct as can be. But one thing I feel I should add to that, is the bass doesn’t necessarily have to be soft. My HTC Windows 8x has beats audio enhancer, which takes the default sound quality and boosts it through the roof. Basically what I’m trying to say, if you have a taste for more bass heavy music, these can also destroy other products with the right audio enhancer. I downloaded a bass tester, turned on beats audio, and the bass literally shakes your face. Its unmatched by anything else I’ve heard in my life. Other headphones my friends and associates own can’t even play it without peaking out and crackling, and I’ve also tested Beats with the same tester and enhancer, they just couldn’t stand up to the Vektrs. These headphones have very good response frequencies, low to high, at maximum volume, with no lessening in quality that I’ve experienced. But with beats audio on, with less bass intense music, such as metal or anything else described in his initial review, the enhancer not only boosts bass, but everything else as well. Its really quite stunning. Long story short, with the right enhancer, these headphones will give anything a run for they’re money, or completely blow the competition out of the water. I can honestly say these headphones are the very best purchase I have made in the music/headphone industry.

  8. 8
    max says:

    I read your review i just bought these headphone for $89.00 dollars from best which matched walmart ad price. I was looking for more bass friendly headphone with clearity. I saw the reviews that if you adjust the bass and the mids and high with my htc one equalizer that i downloaded from the app store would make a difference. im crossing my fingers. i also will try with my Fiio E11 amp. If i dont like these i will send them back to best buy and try something else.

  9. 9
    irfan says:

    hi!
    i loved that review:)
    but i still have a question: are these good for studio use or would the monster dna be better?

  10. 10
    Bill Henderson says:

    Irfan,
    For studio use, I would look at the Sony MDRV6 Monitor Series Headphones. They get rave reviews and are less expensive.

    Also, I will be reviewing the Focal Spirit Professional Headphones soon. These are very neutral phones specifically made for studio use. However, they are more expensive than the Vektrs.

    Bill H.

  11. 11
    irfan says:

    Hello again, sorry for disturbing again, and thanks for the reccemandation, I will try to get some Sony MDR-V6 headphones, but I still need headphones for my free time and for portable use. Any recemandations? I can go as high as about 120 euros. Please excuse my english, I am german.

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