- Bags 'o' fun sound
- Can be washed
- Unrefined treble
- Suspect build quality in part
- Review Price: £130.00
- Can be washed
- 4 pairs of multiple-sized SportClips and Eartips
- Protective spring-clasp pouch
- Tangle-resistant cable
- Right angle jack
Why would you want to wash you earphones? You might ask, if you’ve never worn a precious pair for a workout and felt slightly perturbed at quite how soaked every part of them had become by the end. By allowing you to wash the iSport, salty sweat residues can be removed and minds eased. Moreover, if you forget to take them out your shorts pockets, they won’t come a cropper when you chuck the whole lot in the washing machine.
To help their exercise cred, the iSport earphones also use a rubber in-ear stabilising arm to help keep them in place when you’re moving. This rests against the ridge just above your ear canal. Use the wrong one and you’re in for a world of discomfort, as even minor cartilage irritation can become very uncomfortable very quickly – unless you are one of those odd people who have compulsively folded their earlobes since the age of five.
As long as you find a pair of arms that fits, the iSport earphones are perfectly comfortable – and five are included in the package. It’s with these little on-ear extensions that we find the first of this product’s problem, though. Within just a few days, we found that one of the inserts had started becoming a little loose on the earbud, without any mistreatment or continued removing and re-placing of it.
From the start, the connection between the bud and this blue extension has a little give. The join is easily strong enough to keep the two parts together, but just this slight wonkiness is enough to evaporate the sense that this is a real premium product – which it needs to be given its high price. We have concerns about the longevity of these earphones, even if you can wash them all day long. More parts, more to break.
These aren’t the only unconventional parts of the iSport buds. Pull off the rubber tips – five pairs included – and you’ll find that the earphone nozzle can be moved around, independent from the bud’s metallic shell. This is a most unusual design. Quite what purpose it has is something of a mystery, when we can’t imagine it adds much to waterproofing, but it should help to ease fitting problems within wearers’ ears. A bit.
Let’s leave the overall weirdness of the buds for a minute and head down the cable. Just over 10cm down the left earphone cable sits a remote control and handsfree housing designed for iOS devices (iPod Touches, iPhones, iPads) and BlackBerrys. It’ll let you take calls and control your music, switch tracks and so on. The button surface is rubberised, giving some extra friction when your fingers are sweaty from pounding all that iron.
The three buttons are also very clearly signposted with heavy embossing, so you don’t need to see this control housing to be able to use it effectively. We’ve seen prettier, sleeker control units, but as something for the budding sportsperson, it’s thoughtfully designed.
Tangle-resistant does not mean “immune to tangling”
The iSport earphone cable is flat rather than round, which is often claimed to result in a less tanglesome cable. Having now used these earphones for a month, we can confirm that it positively does not get rid of tangles. They tend to build up around the cable splitter in a headache-inducing knot. Standard, then.
Using a traditional rubber-tipped design, the Monster iSport Immersion earphones offer a reasonable level of noise isolation, physically blocking out the sound of the outside world. They’re not the most aggressive isolators we’ve heard, giving a less vacuum-like seal than some competitors unless some extensive wiggling is done, but the level of noise reduction is easily enough to make listening while on the tube perfectly enjoyable. And as these buds are fairly bassy and powerful-sounding they have no trouble trampling over any remaining ambient sound.
They’re much more accomplished than most sports headphones, which come second only to DJ headphones as purveyors of sonic compromise. It’s worth considering when spending this much money on a sport earphone, though, that the noise isolation design isn’t entirely helpful. Not only could it lead to you crossing the road mid-run into the path of an oncoming vehicle, whose driver’s senses have been dulled by cataracts or Cinzano, it tends to emphasise other noise too.
The thud of your feet on the ground (it’s especially bad when running across tarmac) and microphonic noise, created when the cable rubs against your clothing, means its worth considering a pair like the iGrado Street Style instead, or even the ultra-cheapie Koss KSC75. That said, up the volume a bit and wear the earphone cable under a layer of clothing to avoid impact and they’ll perform well enough. Also, if you do make sure to look left, right and left again the noise
isolation provided does allow you to listen at lower overall volume than more open-air earphones, saving your
ears from damage – especially useful if you regularly run passed busy
The sound signature is well-suited to exercise. It’s punchy, with a strident bass presence that’s surprisingly well-balanced – and honestly a whole lot of fun. The soundstage isn’t as wide or as warm as the Bowers & Wilkins C5, which use a similar ear-hugging design, but the low-end is better-controlled here. You wouldn’t guess to look at them, would you?
Give the Monster iSport earphones a beat to thump out and they’ll keep you working out at the right pace with the ferocity of a 280lb drill instructor, without the awfulness that would involve. They’re not massively high-fidelity earphones, though. The treble has a reasonable presence, but the top end is not as well-mannered and sweetly-resolved as we’d expect at the price. As such, they are prone to harshness at times.
The Monster iSport sound rather fab for sport headphones, but considering the fairly high price and the rose tint drains away from this picture. It’s not just the sound, which is bags of fun but roundly beaten in the hi-fi stakes at the price, there’s a design issue too. They just don’t quite feel robust enough, given you’re paying more than £100 for the set. Being able to stick them in the wash along with your sodden gym kit is a significant plus, but isn’t something that we feel quite justifies such a premium.
Take the H2O Audio Surge earphones – they cost around £45 and offer the same level of waterproofing, and can be submerged in up to 3.6m of water. The Monster iSport may sound better, but when sport and hi-fi listening don’t really mix, they’re tough to recommend.
The Monster iSport Immerse sound rather great – for sports earphones. That’s an important clarification, because if their waterproofing doesn’t mean much to you, better sound is on offer for less money. However, their bassy sound is great fun and complements a workout well. The design is fairly comfortable too, although the lightweight build quality and easy-to-break in-ear stabilisers mean they don’t feel like they’re worth the asking price.
Score in detail
Design & Features 7
Sound Quality 7
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