I was at the CES press conference where head Monster, Noel Lee, unveiled the Miles Davis Trumpet Headphones with much fanfare. He said something to the effect that these headphones are for those that listen for nuances within music. These are for professionals, he said. That was code to me that they probably sound like garbage to the average listener. But after several weeks of testing, I’m pleased to report that I was mostly wrong.
Monster markets the Trumpets as “musicians’ headphones.” They praise the detail and clarity and I agree for the most part — if you can get can them in your ear correctly and don’t care about lossless audio.
These in-ear headphones are designed slightly different. The drivers are placed closer to the tips and actually sit within the canal rather than outside. This removes the natural tendency to pull out on their own as most of the weight is inside your ear. It’s not uncomfortable. The design is just a bit unconventional upon first inspection but they feel great when you start wearing them. The thicker ends, along with the gel-filled tips, makes for a tighter fit but are a tad difficult to insert. I have to twist and push the earphones like a Q-tip. If I didn’t, they don’t sit correctly, resulting in a sound free of low bass. The headphones ship with 10 different tips and none of them really fit me well.
In fact, during my first testing session I hated the earphones. They fully lived up to my expectation that they would sound like overpriced garbage. There simply wasn’t any low-end response and I quickly wrote a review with that message. But then the following week while I was A/B testing the Logitech Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10, the Trumpets suddenly sounded dramatically better. There was plenty of bass and clarity. They were finally fitting in my ear properly and “Smack My Bitch Up” by The Prodigy pounded like it should.
The Trumpet’s strongest attribute is the immense virtual soundstage they can produce. The music is wonderfully spread out. Wilco’s “I’m Trying To Break Your Heart” sounds amazing through these headphones. The vocals are neatly placed in the center while the large virtual soundstage seemingly puts the accompaniment on either side. This visualization is why would you buy these headphones. Close your eyes and it sounds like Tweedy is 8 feet in front of you, surrounded by the rest of the band.
I question Monster’s tag line that the Trumpets are the musician’s headphone. The headphones simply didn’t justify their price when playing back lossless audio. There was very little difference between a FLAC encoding and the same track from RDIO. There wasn’t the sudden awakening that usually happens when listening to lossless audio. The Trumpets, in a sense, failed the most important test.
The Trumpets have amazing audio imaging and produce a huge soundstage. The audio is tight without being overly harsh, and, if they’re properly seated in your ear, they produce solid bass. But when fed high-quality audio, the Trumpets do not light up. There’s nothing here, in short, to warrant a $350 price tag. I guess the Miles Davis Trumpet earphones are for musicians who listen to MP3s and don’t care about quality source material.