Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Monoprice MHP-839 headphones

(image from Google)

Having never spent more than a $79 on a pair, I'm a admitted headphone cheapskate.  For work, I'm a longtime user of the budget Sennheiser HD-201, while for home use, the Grado SR60s get the nod.  At heart I will remain a speaker guy since the visceral gut impact of something like the UREI 813As just can't be matched even by the finest headphones.  But for listening to MP3s at my desk or while doing late night mixdowns of my amateur synth music, it's hard to beat the sonic solitude of a pair of headphones.

When I finally decided to give up the Sennheiser HD-201s, a good audiophile friend recommended the Monoprice MHP-839s.  He's a longtime Sennheiser HD-600 user, but commented that the Monoprice headphones were quite enjoyable with a nice overall sound for the price.  I ordered my pair from Amazon - hey, free shipping! - and got them a few days later.

After a few hours of break-in, I found the Monoprice headphones to be quite decent.  The lowest bass goes quite deep with more impact and slam than the old HD-201s.  They also have a richer midrange, making the Sennheisers sound a bit nasal and hollow.  Perhaps the Monoprices are a tad congested - for example, sounding like a doped paper woofer than something like Kevlar.  Their biggest failing is in the treble.  My middle-aged ears don't quite hear the higher frequencies like they used to, but even I could hear a steep roll-off here.  This isn't a big deal for MP3 sources or anything that was recorded a little on the hot side - like many Synth or Dance mixes, but could be a deal breaker for the serious audiophile.  With their open back design, I prefer the Grado SR60s - they have a clarity that is hard to beat for the price - but such a design wouldn't work for my workplace.

As far as design, the Monoprice headphones aren't quite as comfortable as the Sennheisers.  I notice my ears getting hotter quicker.  I have a fairly large noggin though, so perhaps I'm stretching the band pretty hard.  Compared to the HD-201s, the background noise of a busy office is muted more with the Monoprices.  This is good if you require noise suppression like I do - programming takes concentration.

Construction quality is good - these headphones are built with heavy-duty plastic.  The two different lengths of supplied cords are a nice touch.