Monster iSport Freedom review

The Monster iSport Freedom is designed to withstand a serious workout, but this wireless Bluetooth headphone pair has a peculiar sound signature—and costs too much.

In an attempt to bring a touch of luxury and high performance to the realm of exercise headphones, Monster recently released the wireless Bluetooth iSport Freedom. At $279.95 (list), there’s nothing subtle about these on-ear headphones—the price is as eye-catching as the design. Exercise buffs will enjoy the iSport Freedom, which is built to withstand a tough workout. Audiophiles should steer clear, however—this is one of the more wildly sculpted, bass-boosted sound signatures we’ve heard in this price range, and the results are not always positive. The price seems high for exercise headphones, and especially a pair that provides such a lopsided audio experience.

Design
Visually, the iSport Freedom is very striking. Dark gray accents are offset by neon yellow-green, rubberized sweatproof material. The earpads are made of this same material, and are not uncomfortable but lack the plush, cushioned feeling many on-ear headphones go for. They opt instead for a secure, sweat-proof fit that should serve you well during intense workouts.

Controls for playback, answering calls, adjusting volume and skipping tracks are located on the outside panel of the right earcup. The Power button is also located here. Hold the Power button down to pair the headphones with your mobile device. The pairing process with an iPhone 4s was quick and painless.

On the left earcup, there are two covered ports: a micro-USB charging connection and a 3.5mm connection for the included optional audio cable. This cable is a nice touch, as it allows you to use the iSport Freedom as a traditional pair of headphones when you have no battery power. It also includes a single-button remote for easy control of playback and track navigation, as well as answering calls through the headphones’ built-in microphone. When it’s connected, Bluetooth streaming capabilities are disabled, so you won’t waste battery power when listening via the cable in passive mode. 

The headphones fold down easily, collapsing at hinges just above each ear. You get a drawstring carrying pouch, a USB charging cable, and the aforementioned audio cable.

Performance
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the iSport Freedom delivers serious bass response. At top volumes, it does not distort, and the deep lows are delivered with subwoofer-like intensity. It sometimes sounds as if the boosted bass lacks contour and definition, though. There’s such a tremendous presence in the very low frequencies, it seems that some of the low-mids and mids that help define these sounds are a bit lost in the mix.

This isn’t to say the iSport Freedom is muddy—if anything, it can sound a bit too bright. Basically, the very deepest and very highest frequencies seem overly sculpted. On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” we hear this plainly. Too often, his baritone vocals can sound muddy on this track if there has been a lot of bass boosting applied. But in the case of the iSport freedom, the bass boost, though tremendous, does little to his voice—that’s because it’s not boosting much in the low-mids. The drums, on the other hand, get a huge dose of deep bass, and sound overly bass-heavy and thumpy on this track. Callahan’s voice is never lost, however, because the high-mids and highs are so seriously tweaked. In fact, his voice and guitar strumming sound too bright and occasionally tinny.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the iSport freedom sounds a bit better. The attack on the kick drum loop here gets a bunch of added high-mid edge, and it cuts through the mix with intensity, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with booming low-end. The extremes of the crisp highs and deep lows make for quite a dynamic mix, but for the sound signature is extremely unnatural.

Classical tracks also sound a bit too bright, though they do get a bit of extra low-end richness. On John Adams “The Chairman Dances,” the higher register strings own the spotlight and sometimes sound too strong in the high-mids and highs, but the lower register strings do balance things out a bit, and the large drum hits that end this piece receive a nice bit of low-end roundness.

The iSport Freedom has a design that’s well-suited for exercise, and added versatility with the detachable cable. But the headphones cost too much, and come with a sound signature not worth the high price tag. If you’re an audiophile looking for headphones with a balanced sound signature, consider the Sennheiser MM 100 instead. It’s lighter, but streams via Bluetooth and provides a less sculpted mix. For workouts, you’ll probably be better off with in-ear models; the Monster iSport Immersion In-Ear Headphones, for example, does a better job than this pair of delivering deep lows without changing the sound of the mix completely.

Specifications
Wireless Yes
Phone Controls Yes
Connection Stereo 3.5mm
Removable Cable Yes
Type Supra-aural (on-ear)

Verdict
The Monster iSport Freedom is designed to withstand a serious workout, but this wireless Bluetooth headphone pair has a peculiar sound signature—and costs too much.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc