Voice assistants are all the rage these days, right? Monster recently announced a partnership with Speak Music to activate their voice-activated personal music assistant app on Monster’s lineup of headphones, including the new Monster Clarity Around the Ear Bluetooth Wireless Headphones. From music app accessibility to true hands-free living, Monster is looking to cut wires and offer listeners a little help with Speak Music’s voice-powered AI music assistant, Melody.
The Monster Clarity Around the Ear Bluetooth Wireless Headphones have tapered super-soft cushions that prove to be very comfortable. However, we did note that the earcup was a bit loose towards the bottom of the ear. The headband is collapsible, adding versatility and offering a compact form for storage while remaining firm. While Monster still categorizes these as over-ear headphones, this model is smaller and quite lightweight, which makes them good travel companions. Not to keep recent boxing matches in the news, but featherweight comes to mind when describing these headphones!
Sound adjustment and management takes some getting used to. The sound control buttons are located on the right cup and the user can feel out the unique commands: volume up (plus), volume down (minus), track forward (arrow), track back (arrow) and the multifunction button that can play/pause, power on/off, pair and manage call settings. In order to activate the microphone, you must push the multifunction button. Learning the placement and firmly pressing the button has a bit of a learning curve. You can’t simply tap, you actually have to apply a bit of pressure to execute the command.
Despite the button adjustment, the Monster Clarity Around the Ear Bluetooth Wireless Headphones earn their name. The clarity and balance offered is astounding despite the smaller size of these over-ears. We tested jazz, rock, rap and instrumental and found that all genres sounded crisp. As far as noise cancellation, exterior sound is reduced, but not entirely eliminated. However, we found that it did not disrupt the music experience.
For call quality, the sound is quite clear. While using the iPhone 6S for testing, we found the call speaker does not default to a Bluetooth connected device, which means the user will have to select Bluetooth audio on their phone when answering a call. To add one more layer to the mix, if the Melody app is opened while on the call, music will play over the voice call. This can be a little tricky to handle.
The headphones connect easily with your phone as long as Bluetooth is enabled. Even in underground or enclosed environments, like in a metro station or a building, the Bluetooth connection is never impaired. From our testing, when away from the mobile device, the signal strength decreases substantially. We found the ideal range for these headphones to be about 20 feet, which in most circumstances should be more than enough for most folks. Monster says the headphones should last 24 hours on one charge, but as usual, this will be higher or lower depending on how loud you play your music and how often you take calls.
And now to the most exciting feature for Monster and Speak Music — the unveiling of Melody. The Melody app, or simply Melody, allows consumers to enjoy their music experience with ease and completely hands-free across most music platforms all at once. Melody syncs effortlessly to iHeartRadio, Spotify, NPR, and iTunes, with Tidal to become available soon. Melody uses the combined knowledge of all your favorite music apps to make educated recommendations. These were actually spot on and added to the value of the headphones.
One weird quirk is that Melody will only work using your phone’s cellular connection, not Wi-Fi. This would have been more annoying a year ago, but fortunately, the major carriers have now all moved back to unlimited plans. But, if you’re on a a prepaid plan with data caps on 4G LTE speeds, it’s not great that you’ll have to run down your allotment even when using the headphones at home.
When using Melody, there are some interesting additional features users should note. For example, when memorizing those physical buttons, it will be a lot easier with the button directory at the bottom of the app screen. When using voice control, you’ll definitely want to enunciate. We found it was difficult to get the desired result if we didn’t speak very clearly. If you combine the multifunction button and voice command feature to play a set song or genre, the initial command will default to Siri and not connect immediately with the Melody app. If iTunes is enabled, the voice command will open that app instead of the Melody app. Unfortunately, this was the one quirk that we found was not entirely helpful.