Fashion-forward designs have recently been making significant headway in the headphone space. It doesn't take much effort to find a pair that matches your MP3 player or that can be co-ordinated with your outfit, although manufacturers with true eyes for design take things a step further.
Take Monster Cable's Beats by Dr Dre headphones, a super-stylish set of cans announced at CES 2008. The company has now added to the fashionable line with the Beats by Dr Dre Tour in-ear headphones, an ultra-portable set that sports the signature red and black colouring. This £110 pair once again proves that hip hop-branded headphones won't necessarily offer an overwhelming low-end response, and also leads us to believe Dr Dre may have the deepest ear canals known to man.
These Tour in-ear headphones have perhaps the longest earpieces we've ever seen. The 'buds measure a full inch from end to end, and half of that length is made up of the arms that hold the eartips. Half an inch isn't that long for most gadgets, but you don't have to stick most of them into your ear. As a result, fit can be an issue.
Although Monster includes five sets of silicone eartips (three sizes of standard and two sizes of triple flange), we found the Tour earphones to be fairly uncomfortable and could never really get a secure fit. Plus, the ends of the 'buds tend to stick out pretty far from the head.
Of course, fit is highly personal. One could make that argument for style too, but there's no denying that the Tour earphones will add plenty of flair to your listening set-up. The entire design is unique, from the flattened, disc-shaped earbuds -- decked out in the signature lower-case 'b' logo -- to the red ribbon of a cable.
The cord, which terminates in a gold-plated straight plug, is like few we've seen -- flat and thick, it appears to be more durable than most earbud cables, which is definitely a plus. Monster also includes a hard-sided zippered case for storing and protecting your investment when it's not in use.
The Tour headphones may not present an overwhelming low end, but bass is not lacking and it's good and tight. As with their full-sized siblings, they offer an impressively crisp high end with good detail. If anything, music tends to sound rather cold for our liking, with the headphones slightly lacking in the rich and buttery mids that add the desired warmth.
We were generally impressed, however, with the clear and balanced audio response during testing, although a few songs sounded harsh. Hip hop, electronic and pop are genres that shine, and even classical sounds good.
If you can get a good fit and want the most stylish earbuds you can get your hands on, the Monster Beats by Dr Dre Tour in-ear headphones are a worthwhile option.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet