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iBeats by Dr. Dre

January 16th, 2011
The Beats by Dre line to first time iPhone and iPod upgraders.

The premise of the Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones from Monster is that people "arenít hearing all the music;" much of the time, however, that has meant premium audio out of the range of most listeners. The iBeats earbuds are targeted squarely at the army of white-earbud-wearing iPhone and iPod owners making their first leap beyond the pack-in earbuds. We'll find out in an iBeats review if the lower $120 asking price still provides a good trade-up from Apple's iconic audio. Design and box contents

Included with the iBeats are five sizes of ear tips, a carrying case, and two sets of triple layer "airlock" ear tips. The standard sized ear tips pre-installed on the iBeats happened to fit just right for us; your mileage will vary, but we usually have to opt for a larger size. We tried out the larger pair of airlocks and didnít like them as much as the traditional buds, but to each their own. Some listeners might like them, but we thought they felt more like Q-tips than headphones.

The iBeats come in four standard colors, each contrasted with Beats' signature red. If black, silver, white, or black aluminum arenít your style you can always opt for the JustBeats set of earbuds which are essentially a purple and gray pair of Justin Bieber themed iBeats. Most of them look good, but we're not sure we'd opt for the JustBeats if we wanted something that would stay fashionable in the long run.

The earbuds are constructed with a solid metal housing and the cabling is as durable as any Monster product weíve tested; it doesn't use the flat, anti-tangle ribbon cables of other models, however. Most of the construction of the iBeats feels like it should survive daily use, if not necessarily abuse. As an iPod/iPhone centric set of earbuds Monster integrates play, skip and volume controls into a dongle near the left earbud which Monster dubs ControlTalk. The ControlTalk dongle also has a built-in mic for iPhone users to make calls.

Testing and sound quality

We tested the iBeats under both workout and casual listening situations. We often have a hard time keeping earbuds in place during high energy workouts, but the iBeats stayed put remarkably well, even when we tried to shake them loose. The lightweight but solid design was very comfortable to wear over long periods.

Audio quality on the iBeats is excellent and certainly among the best weíve heard from all of the earbuds weíve tested in the price class. Keeping in mind the sales pitch, we focused on listening for detail in our testing. The audio definition on the iBeats is quite good; it's not as good as a full sized pair of over-ear headphones, but very good for earbuds. Bass is appropriately deep given that the product is promoted by a rap producer, and the mids and highs have good tonal separation. Tracks that would normally sound muddy on cheaper earbuds have much better clarity and acoustic detail.

Wrapping up

We would tend to agree with Dr. Dre that the standard headphones that come with MP3 players (even the venerable iPod line) just donít do music justice, and most listeners donít even know it. For $120 iBeats buyers get stylish earbuds, excellent sound quality, ControlTalk controls, and a small degree of brand image if they care for it. For some users the bragging rights alone are worth the $120, though we'll be frank and note that it's a lot to pay if you're looking for flash. Consider Etymotic's mc3 or Shure's SE210m if you're looking for a subtler alternative.

Bragging rights arenít the only reason we would recommend the iBeats, though the construction is top flight and the sound quality is good for the money without focusing too much on bass. If $120 is in your price range for a new pair of earbuds,then the iBeats at least deserve a listen.

- Good but not overwhelming bass.

- Sturdy construction.

- Mic and remote.

- Stylized, comes in colors.

- $120 still expensive for some.

- No ribbon cabling.