On your mark, get set, rock out! Monster has set its sights on the fitness-conscious music lover with the iSport Freedom Headphones. The brightly colored, over-ear headphones ($249) deliver big bass with lightweight, drop- and shock-proof durability in a weatherproof, anti-microbial frame. And did we mention they're wireless? Read on to learn if the Freedoms are worth the sprint to your nearest store.
One thing's for sure: you won't miss the Freedoms in a crowd. The anti-microbial silicon underbelly of the headband and earcups is colored a green so bright it's practically radioactive. But that's not a bad thing, particularly for joggers who run in heavy traffic areas or at night. Not only is the material bright, it's also reflective and weatherproof. The headphones are available in black, too, for those who prefer a more low-key look.
Once we got over the initial visual shock, we admired the black-and-gray matte plastic that lines the top of the headband. We were particularly fond of the gray because of its textured graphene feel.
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The black-and-gray strips extend down the length of the headband and wrap around the ear cup. The rest of the cap is comprised of a neon green rubberized ring surrounding a dark gray chrome cap stamped with a Monster logo. Wireless controls (including Power, Forward, Back and Volume) are located on the right earcup. The central earplate functions as the play/pause button. A 3.5-mm port for the optional audio cable and a microUSB port are on the bottom of the left cup, secured by port covers for a sweat-proof seal.
Sliding the lower part of the band up or down along the pair of metal and plastic extenders adjusts the headphones' fit. The cans fold upward along a metallic hinge, creating a more compact frame to fit inside the included carrying pouch.
Even though the iSport Freedom is wireless, Monster was nice enough to include a 51-inch audio cable in case the battery dies.
Comfort and Durability
The Freedoms can endure quite a beating. In addition to being anti-microbial and weatherproof, the headphones are shock- and drop-proof in the unlikely event they fall off. We say unlikely because once we put the cans on, they had a pretty firm grip.
The silicon ear cups are soft and relatively comfortable at first. However, after wearing these headphones for two hours (including one hour at the gym), we experienced uncomfortable pinching along the tops of our ears.
Despite that eventual discomfort, the headphones are very light, weighing a barely there 7.68 ounces compared to the 8.32-ounce Soul Combat+. Best of all, you can wipe the headphones down with a wet rag after a workout to keep them fresh.
Bluetooth Pair and Touch Controls
Pairing the iSport Freedom to a compatible device is a quick, straightforward process. After turning on the headphones via the power button on the right earcup, we held down the button for three seconds. The small LED sensor located between the volume buttons flashed red and blue, signaling pair mode. It took approximately two seconds for our Nokia Lumia 928 to discover and connect with the headphones.
During our testing, we appreciated the firm feedback from the touch controls. The buttons' raised surface made it easy for us to find the right button when we were using an elliptical machine.
The iSport Freedoms can take just about anything you can throw at them, but how do they sound? The headphones' 40-mm neodynium drivers pack quite a punch, particularly on the low end. Monster says the headphones need to be "broken in" for about eight hours for the sound quality to "mellow" out.
After 20 hours, the cans should be at their optimal performance level. We heard some hissing and pops initially, but those sounds dissipated after an hour. We also noticed that the highs did indeed mellow out somewhat after several hours of use, but they were still harsh for our tastes.
The cans held up under our exercise routine (30 minutes elliptical, 30 minutes circuit training), effectively blocking out the gym's ambient noise. The Freedoms are noticeably louder than the Soul Electronics Combat+ headphones, but not enough to hurt your ears.
We started off with Lil Wayne's "Let the Beat Build," which delivered crisp snares and hi-hat, with deep bass. The same track on the Combat+ sounded slightly muted. However, when we switched over to Kanye West's "The New Workout Plan," a rather harsh violin greeted our ears. The bass was heavy, but not enough to overwhelm or distort the track. For this song, we preferred the more balanced, albeit relatively muted, performance of the Combat+. On most tracks, though, the Freedoms delivered a richer, warmer listening experience than the Combat+.
The iSport Freedoms successfully drowned out the considerable background noise of New York City. The trumpet on Jennifer Lopez's "Get Right" was grating at full volume, but at mid-range, the headphones did a capable job of delivering booming bass and warm mids and highs. The Freedoms also ruled the roost on bass-heavy tracks like Tyler the Creator's "Trashwang."
We made several calls to both landlines and cellphones via the iSport Freedom, and they were loud and clear as a bell on both ends. Background noise was negligible in the gym and on the street, thanks to the sound isolation from the closed-ear design.
Battery Life and Bluetooth
Monster claims that the iSport Freedom headphones can last for more than 14 hours of battery life when the user is talking on the phone and listening to music; the company says you get 100 hours of time on standby mode. We used the headphone for four hours straight with no signs of the cans conking out. Similar to the Combat+, the Freedom headphones have an automatic shut-off feature that activates after 10 minutes if the cans aren't paired with another device. The Combat+ shut off after 10 seconds.
We tested Monster's claim of 100+ feet of Bluetooth range within line of site. We walked the length of our office (225 feet) and managed to get to 105 feet when the sound began to cut out. We lost the signal completely at 109 feet.
If you like the idea of giving your workouts a soundtrack but you don't want to deal with wires, Monster's $249 iSport Freedom will definitely satisfy. These headphones deliver loud audio with deep, throbbing bass in a highly durable frame that's both weatherproof and drop-proof.
The cheaper Soul Combat+ headphones ($199) deliver a more balanced audio presentation. However, you'll lose the cable-free experience and more durable design that the Freedoms deliver. Overall, the iSport Freedom headphones are a great choice for exercise buffs looking to get one more mile or rep.
Lightweight, highly durable frame
Loud, clear audio with big bass
Highs can be grating at greater volume
Long battery life
Accessories Type: Over-Ear, Sport Headphones
Battery Type/Life: 14+ hours talk/music time, 100+ hours in standby mode
Size: 6.125 x 7 x 2.75 inches
Weight: 7.68 ounces
Company Website: www.monstercable.com
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