Monster DNA Pro Over-Ear Review

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Brief: The newly-released big brother of the Monster Cable DNA on-ears

MSRP: $299.95 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $250 from amazon.com

Frequency Response: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A
Form factor: over-the-ear | Space-Saving Mechanism: Collapsible
Cord: detachable, est. 6ft (1.8m) coiled + 4ft (1.2m) straight w/mic & 3-button remote

Build Quality (9/10): The DNA Pro is made mostly of thick plastic with metal reinforcement of the headband below the hinge. It shares the triangular design of the other sets in the DNA line, though the aesthetic is more striking on the larger DNA Pro. The earcup pads are of excellent quality; the rubber pad on the headband less so, but still adequate. The DNA Pro boasts a detachable cable with a slightly recessed 3.5mm plug. It has ambidextrous cable connectors, so the cord can be plugged in on either side of the headphone. The remaining jack can be used to “daisy chain” a second headphone to the DNA Pro in order to share a signal. The stock cable of the DNA Pro is coiled, but still lightweight enough to be used portably. A straight headset cable with mic and 3-button remote is also included.

Comfort (7.5/10): The cups of the DNA Pro are deep, easily encompassing the entire ear. The triangular shape of the pads works well and the imitation leather is soft and smooth. However, the earcups don’t have quite as much freedom of movement as I would like and, for me at least, seal better at the bottom than at the top. In addition, the headphones are a bit on the heavy side and create a pressure point at the very top of my head – not a big deal, but noticeable compared, for example, to the more lightweight Creative Aurvana Live! 2.

Isolation (8/10): The passive noise isolation is quite good as long as the cups are sealed around the ear – on-par with most DJ-style headphones.

Sound (8.25/10): One may expect Monster’s flagship over-ear headphone to follow in the footsteps of Beats by Dre or offer a logical progression to the warm and bassy sound of the less expensive DNA on-ear. However, the DNA Pro is a different beast altogether. Its tuning focuses on clarity and resolution, and the resulting sound signature is brighter than I had anticipated.

The DNA Pro is not a bass-heavy headphone. The bass is present and not lacking in punch, especially at higher volumes, but the slightly v-shaped overall response of the headphone is tilted up, in favor of the treble, instead of down towards the low end. Bass extension is good – deeper, for example, than with the Sennheiser HD428. Bass control is even better- the bass is much tighter compared to that of the Creative Aurvana Live! 2, Velodyne vTrue, and most other mainstream headphones in the price range.

The excellent bass control and bright tonal tilt afford the DNA Pro no veiling whatsoever in the midrange. The Sennheiser HD428 is noticeably veiled in comparison, the CAL! 2 even more so. The overall response is a little v-shaped, but the mids aren’t particularly recessed, just lacking some fullness at the bottom. The upper midrange and treble of the DNA Pro have plenty of energy.

In comparison to the brighter DNA Pro, the Sennheiser HD428 and CAL! 2 sound smoother through the upper midrange and top end and both – but especially the Creative unit – appear to be almost too laid-back at the top. Due to its treble energy, the DNA Pro sounds best to me at low to moderate volumes. Its sound is detailed and technically very proficient, just a little off tonally compared to what I consider neutral. The presentation, likewise, is very capable, with good width and no congestion, but a more balanced response would provide a slight improvement in imaging and overall dynamics.

Select Comparisons

Monster DNA On-Ear ($150)

The new DNA Pro provides a listening experience very different from that of the On-Ear DNA model – a clearer, tighter sound that is probably less well-suited for the average consumer (which at least partly justifies the “Pro” label). The on-ear DNA has a bassier, warmer sound but isn’t recessed in the midrange. Nonetheless, its boomy bass has a strong tendency to muffle the mids. The DNA Pro is much clearer and has tighter bass. It also sounds more v-shaped in comparison to the DNA. Its treble is significantly brighter, but also cleaner and more crisp next to the smoother, more forgiving on-ear DNA. Tonally, it’s hard to say whether the brighter, colder DNA Pro is more natural than the warm and smooth DNA, but the Pro model certainly has more of the things we normally associate with higher-end headphones – clarity, sonic space, and detail resolution.

V-Moda Crossfade LP2 ($200)

V-Moda’s DJ-oriented Crossfade LP2 headphone is warm and very bassy – an extreme contrast to the Monster DNA Pro. The LP2 is much bassier, with a low end extends deeper and produces sub-bass notes with greater authority. However, the bass is also much more intrusive. This makes the overall sound – especially vocals – extremely muddy in comparison to the DNA Pro. The Monster set, on the other hand, has much tighter – albeit lower in quantity – bass and significantly clearer, more resolving sound. Tonally, the LP2 is much darker than the DNA Pro, lacking all of the sparkle and most of the treble energy of the latter. The presentation of the DNA Pro is more impressive mostly due to the lack of congestion-causing bass boom. In terms of actual sonic space, the pricier Monster headphones aren’t far ahead.

Sennheiser HD25-1 II ($200)

Sennheier’s DJ-oriented HD-25-1 II is more similar in form factor the on-ear DNA, but the DNA Pro is closer in performance. In comparison to the DNA Pro, the HD25-1 has more emphasized, slightly boomier bass. Its mids are more recessed and end up sounding a little muffled. The DNA Pro has its tighter bass and clearer midrange, but the upper midrange and treble emphasis causes vocals to sound more nasal on it and the brighter tonality often appears less natural overall. The HD25-1 is tonally darker, but its top end is still splashier compared to the DNA Pro, so in the end neither set wins in treble quality. The DNA Pro has a wider presentation – the HD25 is more similar to the on-ear DNA in that regard.

Value (8/10): The Monster DNA Pro is a clear-sounding headphone with very controlled bass and a somewhat bright tonal tilt. This makes it not only unique in its class, but also the best-sounding headphone I’ve heard from Monster. Sound aside, the DNA Pro loses a bit of ground to some over-ear headphones in the comfort department but is well-made and has good noise isolation with a proper seal. All in all, those looking for an over-the-ear set with good clarity and controlled, accurate bass will be well-served by the DNA Pro. 


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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