Monster's DNA headphones are like a party you wear. The supra-aural (on-ear) headphones offer a funky, futuristic design with a number of customization options. As a bonus, you can share the music with a friend using the dual analog ports. The audio quality isn't quite pristine, but if you like big bass in a head-turning package, the DNA headphones will win you over.
One thing's for sure: The DNA stand out in a crowd. The headphones' ear plates sport an unusual triangular shape that sets them apart from other cans on the market. The unique shape is accentuated by a trinity of triangles, starting with a dark-gray, metallic, triangular plate. A 3.5mm audio port is concealed at the bottom of each ear plate.
When we were done staring at all the triangles, we checked out the DNA's black-and-gray plastic frame. The exterior headband comprises a glossy, black band with a slim, gray border. Emblazoned with Monster's logo, we found the band was prone to picking up fingerprints.
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The underside of the headband is made of a matte-gray, rubberized plastic wrapped around a thin layer of foam. The ear cups fold upward via a large hinge, allowing them to easily slide into the included black-felt drawstring pouch.
The DNA's ear cups are made of foam wrapped in a dark-gray pleather. However, depending on the color scheme, the ear cups can be black, white, neon green, neon pink, or teal and cobalt.
Despite being made of plastic, the DNA don't look cheap or chintzy. However, we prefer the V-MODA XS' leather-and-aluminum frame that's both sturdy and stylish.
The DNA come in 14 different color schemes, including black on laser blue, silver on neon green, and black on black. The black, white, cobalt, teal, and black-and-red versions of the headphones can be customized even further with one of 11 optional skin overlays (including leopard, carbon fiber and steel), for an additional $29.95.
Comfort and Durability
Thanks to their primarily plastic frame, the DNA weigh a relatively light 9.8 ounces. We wore the cans for 4 hours, feeling no discomfort during the first 2 hours. There was some slight pressure along the sides of our ears during the last half of our session. The 6.87-ounce V-MODA XS provided a more comfortable fit.
Monster packages the DNA with two gray, flat, tangle-free audio cables. One cable has an inline remote with a built-in mic; the other is a simple cord. We appreciate that Monster used a three-button remote, but were disappointed that it's iOS-specific.
We couldn't adjust the volume or skip tracks when we attempted to use the remote with our Samsung Galaxy S4 and Motorola Droid Razr HD Maxx. We could, however, play/pause tracks and answer/ignore calls. Unfortunately, the DNA's remote didn't work at all with our Windows Phone-powered Nokia Lumia 928.
The supra-aural Monster DNA headphones deliver full, bombastic audio and big bass using Pure Monster Sound technology. However, the cans lost some of their definition at higher volumes, distorting the bass. The highs also became screechy and grating.
The DNA headphones and V-MODA XS were almost an even match on Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." Both headphones delivered a bombastic guitar with sharp percussion and a brassy vocal. However, the DNA were much louder than the XS, even on lower volume settings.
We started to notice more of a difference when we played Beyonce's "Flaws and All." While both sets of headphones produced a clean acoustic guitar that gave way to crisp piano and a soft vocal, the cymbals were more pronounced on the DNA. The bass was also fuller, but sounded a little distorted at higher volumes.
The bass and percussion proved to be the DNA's undoing on Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing." Once again, the DNA were louder than the XS, but we heard some muddiness on the mids. The cowbell on the DNA was also harsh and sounded more like a blacksmith striking an anvil.
Sharing is caring. The DNA's dual audio ports allow users to share their music with a friend using Monster's Music Share technology. We conducted a listening party with a colleague by simply plugging the DNA's spare audio cable into the XS' empty port.
From there, we were instantly, simultaneously jamming to the tunes provided by Xbox Music on our Nokia Lumia 928. We listened to a number of songs, including Lil Mama's "Lip Gloss" and The Isley Brothers' "Between The Sheets," without hearing any deterioration in sound quality.
The V-MODA XS also allow musical daisy-chaining via their dual audio ports and SharePlay technology. Setup is just like on the DNA — just plug, play and go.
Phone calls made and received on the Monster DNA on-ear headphones were loud and plenty clear. Due to the lack of active noise-canceling technology, background noises from a busy New York City street made their way into our phone calls. Our caller said the racket wasn't bad enough to disrupt the call, but it was definitely noticeable.
Monster has gone big in a relatively small package. The $199 Monster DNA on-ear headphones offer a bevy of color options that can be expanded further via optional skins. On the audio front, the headphones offer bold, loud audio that can be shared with a friend. However, the sound quality can get muddy and distorted at higher volumes.
For a little more money, discerning audio aficionados can purchase the $212 V-MODA XS. The headphones offer a sturdy yet stylish frame with excellent audio and some solid customization options. Overall, the DNA headphones are a good choice for music lovers looking for a flashy set of headphones with big bass.