Wireless headphones are clearly the future with popular phones like the and dropping the 3.5mm analog jack. And while it’s a trend easily spotted in high-end handsets, even less popular phones like the have gotten rid of the jack.
Monster, most known for its not-exactly-affordable HDMI cables, has also released a line of wireless headphones like the Clarity HD Wireless, which we’ll be taking a listen to today.
The Monster Clarity HD Wireless buds feature an understated sporty, with rubberized driver housings. However, the Clarity HD Wireless aren’t sports headphones and are meant for more general listening. For sports, Monster offers its iSports line of headphones.
In terms of build quality, the Monster Clarity HD Wireless feel a little cheap thanks to its all-plastic and rubber construction. The benefit of plastic construction is that it’s extremely light and feel comfortable in the ear and around the neck for long periods, but that comes at the cost of being slightly more fragile and a lot less premium-feeling than its peers.
The headphones manage to feel robust even with an all-plastic-and-rubber construction, as critical stress points for the cable are gusseted by rubber. The remote, while not waterproof, is well sealed against dust and dirt – two of three main enemies wireless earbuds encounter in the gym.
As for comfort, they're just so-so. The earbuds themselves are quite large –understandably, this large stature is a necessary requirement for fitting batteries and drivers into the same housing. That said, Monster includes small, medium and large ear tips to help you find the best fit for your ear canal.
While we didn’t have any issues with fit, we did find the cable annoying in use. For some reason, Monster decided to include a non-removable cable keeper on the cable to help users snug up the cable behind their necks. This sounds like a good idea but ultimately the cable ends up being weighed down by the remote, jerking loose the left earbud from our ears during more active listening sessions on the go.
The cable also produces a lot of cable noise so if you’re listening to quiet music like classical or jazz, you’ll notice the thumping of the cable or even your heartbeat. It’s quite annoying and can’t be fixed by wearing the earbud “upside down” and wrapping the cable around your ears since its angled drivers are designed to only work in the down position.
But if you can over its fitment quirks, you’ll be treated with excellent sound quality. Monster nailed the tuning of the Clarity HD Wireless to create a balanced sound signature with a slight warmth to the bottom end. Bass has powerful slam but isn’t overbearing like headphones from Beats or Marshall. Battery life is equally impressive with 8+ hours of playback between charges.
The Clarity HD Wireless earn their name by providing good resolution, instrument separation and a wide soundstage. Music was engaging with good speed and attack. While these headphones won’t match the resolution and texture reproduction like audiophile headphones, they sound very good for $80 (€80, £79, about AU$105) wireless in-ear headphones.
After spending a week with the Clarity HD Wireless, we were continually impressed with the sound of the headphones but found using them quite cumbersome. In addition to the annoying cable, the headphones had an extremely annoying Bluetooth bug. The Clarity HD Wireless feature multipoint Bluetooth, which allows you to connect to two devices simultaneously but we constantly had to connect our second device manually.
The Monster Clarity HD Wireless nails the most important aspects of in-ear headphones: fit and sound quality. However, its annoying cable and buggy multipoint Bluetooth makes these headphones frustrating to use.
Compared to the competition, it’s difficult to recommend the Monster Clarity HD Wireless, especially when stacked against our favorite wireless in-ear headphones, the , which are the same price and feature metal driver housings. In terms of sound, the Clarity HD Wireless beat the BE Sport3 by a small margin, but the BE Sport3 win in terms of comfort, Bluetooth reliability, battery life (the NuForce gets 10+ hours) and water-resistance.
Monster has a good start with the Clarity HD Wireless but the headphones need a bit more polish. If Monster can address the Clarity HD Wireless’s buggy Bluetooth, annoying cable and increase the battery life for the second generation headphone, it’ll have a winner on its hands. But for now, there are simply better options on the market.