Monster Cable Turbine Pro Copper Edition (Playback 31)

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Monster Cable Turbine Pro Copper Edition
Monster Cable Turbine Pro Copper Edition (Playback 31)

Monster Cable’s Turbine Pro Copper Edition headphones ($399.99) may look similar to the firm’s Turbine and Turbine Pro Gold models, but they are based on different technology and sound considerably different from their siblings. In fact, the Copper Editions claim, along with Monster’s Miles Davis Tribute.

headphones (reviewed in Playback XX) the top two slots in the Monster Cable lineup. As I mentioned in my earlier Miles Davis Tribute review, the defining characteristic that distinguishes both of these two top-tier Monster models from their Monster siblings and from other would-be competitors, is their exceptional sonic resolution, detail, and focus. Astute readers will surely want to know which are the superior performers, the Turbine Pro Copper Editions or the Miles Davis Tribute models. That’s one key question I’ll attempt to answer in this review.

In a recent conversation with Monster founder Noel Lee, I gleaned some insights into the key differences between the Miles Davis model and the similar but definitely not identical Turbine Pro Copper Editions. Despite the fact that the products share similar technology and overall appearance Noel Lee asserted that they do not sound exactly the same. By design, the Miles Davis Tribute model offers a subtle touch of midrange emphasis (intended, in a very subtle way, to complement classic jazz recording of the late ‘50’s and mid-‘60’s), whereas the Turbine Pro Copper Edition offers a more nearly textbook-flat (or neutral) frequency response curve.

Both the Miles Davis Tributes and the Copper Editions use single, full-range balanced armature drivers, since Lee believes that multi-driver in-ear headphones, while appealing in theory, tend to have audible problems with driver blending and thus with overall sonic coherency. Given this, it was not too surprising to find that Lee likened the sound of the Copper Editions to that of hyper-revealing electrostatic loudspeakers (such as the MartinLogan CLX), which also use a single driver to cover most of the audio spectrum. If you’ve ever heard a pair of statement class electrostats in action, then you know that Lee’s performance claim is a very ambitious one, to say the least. Can a set of $400 in-ear headphones really go toe-to-toe with multi-thousand dollar world-class loudspeakers? That, too, is a question I’ll try to tackle in this review. With that thought in mind, let the listening begin.

OVERVIEW

Consider this in-ear headphone if: you seek an in-ear headphone that arguably does all things well (actually, exceptionally well). The Turbine Pro Copper Editions headphones offer neutral tonal balance, remarkable purity and coherency, and exceptional levels of resolution, detail, and focus. If you had to sum up the Copper Edition’s performance in one word, that word might be “immediacy.” These ‘phones draw you right into the center of the music as few others can.

Look further if: you prefer headphones that give you a somewhat more distant and relaxed perspective on the music—or that emphasize smoothness at the expense of losing small amounts of sonic detail. This isn’t to say the Copper Editions are not relaxing or smooth, but rather to point out that they are all about being accurate and revealing, sometimes conveying more musical information (sometimes pleasant, but sometimes not) than the listener might have bargained for.

Ratings (relative to comparably-priced headphones)

  • Tonal Balance: 9.5
  • Frequency Extremes: 10
  • Clarity: 9.5
  • Dynamics: 9
  • Comfort/Fit: 9
  • Sensitivity: 9
  • Value: 9.5 

 

SONIC CHARACTER

Listening through the Turbine Pro Copper Edition headphones is a little like looking at an ordinary household object through the lens of a microscope. It’s a heady experience, really, because the exact nature of small edges and textural details suddenly becomes clear and explicit, while details that were at the limits of acuity for the naked eye suddenly snap into focus, becoming plain as day. This is, by way of analogy, precisely the same kind of heightened focus and resolution that the Copper Editions bring to fine audio recordings. If there is any catch, here, it is that the Copper Editions also bring the same scrutiny to not-so-fine recordings. But, if your tastes are like mine and if you are by nature inquisitive, you may find the resolving power of the Copper Editions downright addicting.

Bass performance is taut, powerful, and deeply extended—though to hear the Copper Editions at their very best, you may want to try Monster’s new double-layer, gel-type SuperTips (see my notes under the COMFORT/ACCESSORIES section, below).

Highs are fine-grained, smooth and also well extended in a way that can leave some competing headphone sounding “closed in” or even slightly rolled off by comparison. Much like the Miles Davis Tribute models, the Copper Editions reveal the high frequency air between instruments, effortlessly reproducing subtle reverberant sounds and spatial cues in music, and nicely capturing the “decay trails” you might hear as individual notes ring out for a moment and then fade to silence. The overall effect is to make the Copper Editions seem more informative, revealing and immediate in their impact.

The broad middle of the midrange is where the Copper Editions sound significantly different from the Miles Davis models. Where the Miles Davis models provide—by design—a gentle touch of midrange emphasis (which some might rightly consider to be coloration, albeit a benign one), the Copper Edition’s midrange is gently pulled back to a level that closely approximates ideal, textbook neutrality. To my way of thinking, this characteristic unequivocally makes the Copper Editions preferable to the admittedly excellent Miles Davis Tribute models. The longer you listen to and live with the Copper Edition headphones, the more you come to trust and appreciate their “what-you-hear-is-what-you-get” honesty, integrity, and purity. Good work, Monster Cable.

MUSICAL EXAMPLES

One of the pleasures of very accurate headphones like the Copper Editions is that they can do justice to virtually any type of music, not just to a handful of genres. This means you can put on very delicate pieces at one moment, just to savor their inner detail and subtleties, and then fire up blockbuster pieces a moment later, just to experience their grandeur, power, and overall impact. I tried just such a sequence with the Copper Editions, first starting out with the second movement of David Chesky’s “Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra” [Chesky/Symphony Orchestra of the Norrlands Opera, Chesky, SACD],

The Chesky piece starts slowly, with a somber and haunting string passage that sets the mood, punctuates by almost funereal bells chiming in the background. When the bassoon entered, its voice was captured with a kind of crystalline clarity that fully exposed the instrument’s evocative and at times plaintive sound. At first, the bassoon plays in its upper register, sounding almost forlorn and mournful, but then it gradually works its way downward toward its lower register—becoming more forceful and throaty-sounding as it descends. What floored me about the Copper Edition’s performance was its almost eerie quality of precision and focus. Bowing changes for the strings, for example, sounded spot on, as did the subtle reed noises and tubular body resonances of the bassoon. What was truly impressive, though, was the way the Copper Editions captured the almost subliminal “clicks” of the bassoon’s valves opening and closing, or the whisper-quiet sound of the bassoonist’s fingers flying over the surfaces of the instrument. Frankly, few headphones and not many high-end loudspeakers can offer this level of focus.

To try something a bit more raucous and less contemplative, I next put on “He Was The King” from Neil Young’s Prairie Wind [Reprise]. The track is an homage to Elvis Presley, and Neil Young’s sidemen created a powerful sound very much like that achieved by some of Elvis’s own more rollicking bands from the past. There’s a lot going on in the track, where you’ll hear a rock-solid rhythm section, explosive horns, pedal steel guitar and Young’s own howling harmonica—all serving as a foundation for Young’s penetrating yet insouciant vocals, and for his backing singers.

First off, I was wowed by Copper Edition’s ability to capture the sheer vitality, energy and drive of the band. Through the Monster ‘phones, the bass guitar, I soon discovered, had a kind of “journey-to-the-center-of-the-earth” depth and power, while snare and kick drum had terrific clarity and punch that pushed  the track forward with inexorable force. Similarly, the horns had a beautifully appropriate brassy bite, while the Copper Editions simply nailed the sustained “crying/singing” voice of the pedal steel guitar. And thanks to their superior resolution, the Monsters let me hear the subtly and expertly interleaved lines of Young’s team of female backing vocalists. But the biggest treat of all was Young’s voice, itself. The Copper Editions effortlessly revealed the cocky edge that Young brought to the song, while also showing off his sly humor, and while emphasizing the strength and depth of Young’s (and the bands’ ) sincere admiration for Presley and his achievements. It’s the Copper Edition’s special ability to dig beneath the surfaces and textures of note to expose underlying emotional themes that makes it so special and compelling.

COMPETITIVE COMPARISON

Let me compare the Turbine Pro Copper Editions to three strong competitors: the Klipsch Image Image X10i, Shure SE 530, and Sennheiser IE 8.

Monster Cable Turbine Pro Copper Edition vs. Klipsch Image X10i

  • The Klipsch Image X10i’s retail for about $349 while the Copper Editions are slightly more expensive at $399.99.
  • The Image X10i provides headset functions with a built-in iPod/iPhone remote, where the Copper Editions do not.
  • Sonically, both designs leverage similar strengths in terms of high resolution and sonic purity. That said, however, I think the Copper Editions enjoys a clear-cut edge in terms of retrieving even finer levels of detail.
  • Tonal balance between the headphones is generally similar, but with the Image X10i offering a slightly warmer, “darker” cast than the Copper Editions. By comparison, the Copper Editions offer better (and also more accurate) extension at both frequency extremes, and a more taut and focused presentation overall.
  • Both headphones are compact and comfortable, and come with a useful array of eartips, though the range of standard eartip options offered by Monster is much more elaborate. That said, however, there is no dodging the fact that the Image X10i’s are smaller, lighter, and significantly more comfortable for long term use than the Copper Editions.
  • Eartips: The Klipsch headphones come with patent-pending elliptical eartips said to more closely mirror the real-world shape of human ear canals; the elliptical eartips work like a charm. On the other hand, Monster Cable has done considerable research into the sonic effects of various eartip materials and configurations, and their double-layer, gel-type Super Tips are hands down the best sounding eartips we’ve yet tried.
  • The Turbine Pro Copper Editions carry Monster’s unbeatable “lifetime” warranty, which provides one-time free replacement of the phones “even if YOU break them.”  

 

Turbine Pro Copper Edition vs. Shure SE 530

  • The Shure SE 530’s retail for $499.99 without the push-to-hear control option, or $549.99 with the option, while the Copper Editions are less expensive, selling for $399.99. Research suggests, however, that the street price for the SE 530’s may well be lower than that of the Copper Editions.
  •  The Shure is a two-way, three-driver design, whereas the Copper Editions feature a single, high-performance, full-range balanced armature driver. Shure proponents argue that the three-driver design allows for driver specialization/optimization by frequency range, where Turbine Pro Copper Edition adherents contend that its single-driver design eliminates any possibility of driver-to-driver textural discontinuities. While I think the Shures handle driver blending as well or better than any other multi-driver in-ear headphones on the market, I would say that the sheer purity of a good single-driver design is tough to beat. Some listeners may find the Monster’s offer superior sonic purity to the Shures (I do), while others might not feel the difference, if any, is significant.
  • The Shure’s greatest strength is rich, natural, and thoroughly neutral tonal balance coupled with a good measure of resolution and detail. My sense is that the Monster headphone is fully the equal of the Shure in terms of accurate tonal balance, but that it also offers slightly higher levels of resolution as well as an elusive quality of “cut from whole cloth” sonic integrity from top to bottom.
  • The SE 530’s route signal cables up and over the ear, where the Copper Editions do not. Some users are perfectly comfortable with over-the-ear cable routing, while others find it uncomfortable and annoying.
  • Again, Monster’s unique warranty gives added peace of mind.

Turbine Pro Copper Edition vs. Sennheiser IE 8

  • The Sennheiser IE 8’s retail for $449.95, while the Copper Editions sell for $399.99. Research suggests, however, that the street price for the IE 8’s may well be lower than that of the Copper Editions.
  • The IE 8 offers a user adjustable “sound tuning” feature, where the Copper Editions do not.
  • Tonal balance for the IE 8’s and Copper Editions is similar, though the Copper Editions do sound just slightly more extended at the frequency extremes (though this is a subtle difference that some listeners might not notice at first).
  • Both designs offer very high degrees of purity and coherency, though I would say the edge goes to the Copper Editions. That said, however, note that ultra-high levels of transparency and detail are not necessarily what all listeners are looking for (one man’s “excellent resolution” can be another man’s “too much information”). Listeners who crave resolution, detail and focus will probably gravitate toward the Copper Editions, while music lovers who want their sonic details be presented with absolutely uncanny smoothness might possibly prefer the IE 8s.
  • Both headphones offer an excellent array of eartips, and both require considerable trial-and-error experimentation to find out which eartips work best for a given user. In an absolute sense, Monster’s dual-layer, gel-type Super Tips are among the most sonically effective I’ve yet heard, though their somewhat stiff consistency means not all users will find them comfortable for long term listening session.
  • On the whole, the compact Copper Editions are easier to fit and more comfortable for very long listening sessions than the somewhat more awkwardly shaped IE 8’s. In part, the Copper Editions benefit from the fact that they do not require over-the-ear cable routing, though the IE 8’s are helped by the fact that their earpieces are very light. By comparison, the Copper Editions metal earpiece housings, though compact, can seem a bit “chunky” at times.
  • Once again, Monster’s unique warranty gives added peace of mind.

COMFORT FACTOR/ACCESSORIES

Monster’s Turbine Pro Copper headphones come with two carrying cases (a flip-top magnetic closure case in suede, and spring-clasp pocket pouch), and a very extensive set of eartips (including five sizes of gel-type, double-layer Super Tips; five sizes of foam-type, multi-layers Super Tips; three sizes of conventional rubber eartips, and one pair each of conventional triple-flange eartips and foam eartips). Also included in the package is disc-like rubber eartip carrier with spaces for up to six pairs of eartips (the carrier looks a little the cylinder of a classic six-shot revolver), a shirt clip (to keep the signal cable from flopping around loose), and a ¼-inch phone jack adapter.

As a special perk, owners also receive a special Monster Cable headphone test/demonstration CD, which provides a variety of test tones and an assortment of musical selections spanning a number of genres. 

Do make a point of trying Monster’s very special dual-layer, gel-type Super Tips. Once you find the right fit, you may find (as I did) that these eartips offer sonic performance second to none. One small caveat, however, is that the Super Tips are a bit stiffer in consistency than some silicone rubber tips, and for this reason Monster provides an assortment of Super Tips in very finely graduated sizes. Take the time to find the exact right fit for best results.

The Copper Editions are compact and easy to position for a good fit. They are among the most comfortable in-ear headphones I’ve tried, though they are not quite the equal of our all-time comfort champs—the Klipsch Image X10i.

BOTTOM LINE:

Let me come right out and say it: Monster Cable’s Turbine Pro Copper Edition headphones are one of the three finest “universal fit” in-ear ‘phones I’ve ever heard, and they are personal favorites of mine (I would certainly put them on my short list for “desert island” earphones).

They offer excellent resolution, terrific dynamic expressiveness, and a neutral sound that I’ve come to prize for its unfailing openness and honesty. If you what headphone that can show what’s really in your recordings and that present their findings with a powerful and addictive quality of immediacy, the Copper Editions could be an ideal choice for you.

 

SPECS & PRICING

Monster Cable Turbine Pro Copper Edition In-Ear Headphones

Accessories: See above
Weight: Not specified
Sensitivity: Not specified
Impedance: Not specified
Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects, plus additional coverage where Monster offers a one-time replacement of your Miles Davis Tribute ‘phones, “even if YOU break them.”
Price: $399.95

MONSTER LLC
(415) 840-2000
www.monstercable.com

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