The Monster iSport Freedom are a pair of on-ear sports headphones packed with Bluetooth wireless connectivity so you can work out in the gym or go running outdoors minus the flailing headphone cable.
Like the rest of the iSport headphone range, the Freedoms are built to withstand the rigours of a tough workout but it does come at a price. At £229, it's a massive investment for specialist headphones especially when they are not without their faults in the design and the sound departments.
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It doesn't take long after you prise them out of the box to realise that these are undeniably sports headphones. The neon green running through the interior of the headband all the way to the earcups ensure the Freedoms truly stand out. That's before spotting the big reflective strip to aid visibility and make them ideal for night-time runs.
The Freedoms are made largely from plastic and rubber to keep the overall weight down and prevent them from feeling heavy or bulky to wear. The headband interior is made from a softer, squishy, rubber that sits secure and snug on the top of the head. The slim, black antimicrobial ear cushions also get the rubbery treatment with car tyre-like grooves and sets of holes to help ventilation when things get hot and sweaty. Like the iSport in-ear headphones, you can actually wash these under the tap without fear of frying the insides.
Connecting the earcups to the headphone frame is a springy, accordion-like mechanism which doesn't appear to have any noticeable benefits when the headphones are on. For a more compact and portable look, there are hinges on either side of the frames letting you tuck them inside the headband.
These are wireless headphones of course so there are onboard controls, which are all situated on the outside of the right earcup. Here you'll find a silver clickable button assigned to sync over Bluetooth and answer calls when used in conjunction with the inline microphone built into the removable headphone cable. The all-black cable measures in at 1.2m so when you forget to charge up the headphones, it can be quite long to tuck away or conceal underneath a t-shirt.
Surrounding that big button are dedicated controls embedded into the surrounding green trim that has a habit of getting a little grubby. Here you can turn the headphones on, crank the volume up or down and skip back and forward tracks. In the midst of a workout it can initially be quite tricky picking out the volume buttons as they are positioned quite close together, but it's generally easy to get to grips with the controls once you've worn the headphones a few times.
Connectivity is all taken care of over on the left earcup where small rubbery latches protect the ports for the headphone cable and microUSB to USB charging cable both of which are provided alongside a small carry bag and a cleaning cloth which will come in handy for the fluff-attracting ear cushions.
Wearing them in the gym and outside, the Freedoms are a mixed bag of results. Everything from the adjustable headband to the lightweight body make these on-ear headphones primed for a sweaty workout. For short 30 minute sessions, there's little to complain about. They are comfortable to wear and stay put. It's when you decide to workout or run for longer than an hour that issues begin to surface. The ear cushions can feel a little sticky and there's some discomfort near the top of the ears that's just enough to become irritating. They are more likely to slip slightly out-of-place which means you'll be re-positioning them on occasions as well.
After being so impressed with the bassy yet well-defined performance of the iSport Victory in-ear headphones, it comes as a disappointment that the iSport Freedoms struggle to reach the same heady heights. The 40mm neodymium drivers aim to provide the 'booming bass' however there's a distinct lack of power which is far more noticeable when outdoors. Mid range levels are decent enough and clarity is consistent even at higher volumes but the kind or rich, full-bodied audio you'd expect from a £200 plus pair of headphones is simply not there.
Sound isolation is usually hit and miss for on-ear headphones and these are certainly the latter. Unlike in-ear headphones it's more difficult to block out the ambient noise and the iSport Freedoms don't do a fantastic job of keeping that unwanted sound out. That usually results in cranking the volume up which in this case only reveals how much sound they leak. Whether you are in the gym or outdoors, people are going to hear your thumping sounds.
We can at least be more glowing about its Bluetooth capabilities. There's support for AAC and APTX high quality Bluetooth streaming and we had little problems of signal drop-outs or syncing with our iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8.
To prevent reaching for the headphone cable, there's a lithium polymer rechargeable battery that Monster claims provides 30 hours of music playback and calls. We certainly didn't use them for 30 hours straight but for a two or three-hour stints a day over an entire week, they can comfortably go the distance. When the battery is flat and you plug them to the nearest computer using a standard microUSB charging cable, it can take two or three hours to get back to a full charge.
As a pair of sporty on-ear headphones there's plenty to like about the Monster iSport Freedom. The surprisingly lightweight design make them perfect for the gym and the bright, reflective exterior is great for running at night. It manages a faultless Bluetooth performance and the water-resistance is a real bonus especially if you get a real sweat on.
If you are planning to spend more than an hour wearing them, though, you will start to experience some niggling issues with the design and quite simply the sound quality is not up to scratch for a £200 pair of headphones.
The problem with suggesting an alternative is that there simply aren't any really great on-ear headphones that can offer the kind of features the Freedoms can. If you are happy to go in-ear there are definitely some great options like the Pioneer SE-E721 or the Sennheiser PMX-685i, which do have a headband-style design. If you are willing to spend big, then the Monster iSport Victory in-ears do a much better job than Monster's on-ears.
Monster's first pair of sporty on-ear headphones are great for short gym or running sessions, but the underwhelming sound quality makes it difficult to justify paying over £200 to own them.
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