Technology

Diddybeats Gets the Bass (And Lots Else) Right


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Editor's Rating: star rating

Monster's most recent addition to the Dr. Dre line of headphones is pricey but offers listeners comfort and great sound

In-ear headphones have always given me a headache. It's not for the obvious ear blast they produce when turned up too loud but the time I often waste working to untangle their mass of wires no matter how careful I think I was putting them away after each use.

Monster Cable's Diddybeats earbuds, the latest addition to its hugely popular Beats by Dr. Dre headphone family, does one of the best jobs at answering this downside to wired in-ear headphones. Rather than the rounded cables you typically get with such products, Diddy Beats designers opted for a flat cable with rubberized coating that lets you shake out any tangles in just a few seconds.

The Diddybeats unique styling extends to the earbuds themselves. Each cone-shaped bud sports a "db" logo and a leather-wrapped aluminum housing. The design lends certain sophistication and understated elegance that its more eye-catching cousins, Beats by Dr. Dre and Lady GaGa Heartbeats, do not. Buyers looking for a little more flash can also get Diddybeats in two other colors, white and pink.

My one quibble is that the truncated cones with regular buds attached are very short in the ears; move around a lot, and they easily fall out. Competitors such as Shure solve this problem by recommending you wrap the cable around the ear before placing the bud into the canal, but the rubberized cable in this case makes it more awkward.

The $180 Diddybeats ($150 online) are priced in the range of premium headphones sold by Bose, Sennheiser, Shure, and other rivals. The good news is that Monster throws in its ControlTalk technology, which is incorporated on the left cable to let you, with its built-in microphone, answer calls and control music from Apple (AAPL) iPhone, iPad, and iPod models, along with other types of smartphones.

How Big Is Your Ear Canal?

Providing the experience you get from buying an expensive product, Monster delivers Diddybeats in a stylish black box with felt lining. It contains a generous assortment of sleeves that fit on the earphones and are placed directly into the ears. The eight pairs include sound-isolating foam and regular buds in an assortment to match different ear-canal sizes. A triple-flange type more firmly seals in the sound but requires a larger ear canal. Unlike some other cases I've gotten with earphones, the palm-size black case included in your purchase actually lets you stash your earphones quickly, without having to cram them in.

The short instruction manual also includes an unusual tip: Don't expect your first few experiences with the headphones to be the best ever. Instead, it advises, everything will sound much better after 20 hours of play. I've been using them for a couple of months now and can hear more of a difference than I expected after the recommended break-in period.

You're more likely to notice the difference in sound quality right away depending on the compression rates of the digital songs you're playing. The Diddybeats really shine when you're listening to tracks encoded in the upper end of the bit-rate choices, from 192 kilobytes per second up to lossless audio. As with most earphones, booming low-range bass shows up in all bit ranges, but treble, or the upper range of the music scale, and midrange sounds can be washed out at lower ones. Subtle sounds, such as organ and piano notes in Alicia Keys' song, Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart, were much more evident. What's more, I never had to move the volume above the midway mark, even over the blaring music at my gym.

The Diddybeats are expensive. With its wide choice of ear sleeves, however, they provide comfort and quality sound that make them worth the price.

Edwards is a correspondent in Bloomberg Businessweek's San Francisco bureau.

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