First off thanks to haraakiri for arranging this loaner.
I was always intrigued by these Monster Turbine series IEMs, which unlike their ridiculously overpriced cables (or their fugly associations with celebrities like Justina) are well received in head-fi. So when an opportunity presented itself to try out Monster Turbine, their most basic version of the series, I accepted gladly. Little did I know that within that time constraint, I'd work on my monstrously (pun intended) long GR07 review or that most of my $50-100 IEMs would be out on loan. Instead of keeping the listening pleasure to myself, I thought I'd do a quick write-up with whatever limited resources (time, comparison IEMs) I've got. So, this is not a complete review, but just a quick listening impression based on the few hours I've managed to spend time with MT.
Build Quality, Microphonics
At the MSRP of $180, I'd have expected a fittingly great build quality.
The rubber cable is only thicker than the one on RE0 and terminated in a straight plug. The cable has some memory, but largely tangle-free. The strain reliefs and the Y-Split feel sturdy enough, but whether it is enough to stand serious abuse is to be doubted. Both with respect to the thickness of cable and the beefed up strain reliefs, the $70 Eterna V1 beats it easily. The cable also lacks a chin slider. Since I've only received the IEM, I do not know whether the accessories included a shirt clip or not, so I cannot put down Monster for the lack of chin slider yet.
The metal housings with their unique cuts which form the shape of a turbine (hence the name, Turbine, ha!) are well built. They are slightly heavier, which shows off even more in relation to the thin cable.There are no Left and Right ear markings, but just a blue ring and a red ring - nice touch.
Fit, Isolation and Comfort
MT is a little fit dependent. I tried various tips, but without the proper insertion depth, bass seemed a little inadequate. I finally settled on the fake Klipsch gel tips from LostEarBuds, which gave me a good fit, seal and isolation. But, it also gives me too tight a fit making removal a tad difficult. Isolation with these tips is very good. It did not block out all the noise like they say with Etymotics, but somewhat better than many I have used.
When worn over the ear, the weight of the shells is not felt as much. I can almost state that I never felt the IEMs in my ears, but I did not use it for more than a couple of hours at a stretch and I have only used it for roughly a week at the time of writing this quick review, so not sure how it fares with extended hours of use.
MT turned out to be one of the rare IEMs that got me excited of late. It was not because they "punch above their weight range" and beat all $200 IEMs out there, that would be sheer fan-boyism. That has a lot to do with my very low expectations. I expected nothing but a slightly refined bass monster. Let me explain why MT turned out to be better than expected.
I had imagined that MT's bass would be high on quantity, but low on quality, which turned out to be all wrong. Instead if I have to put a word to it, I'll say "pleasant". It's a good, quick, textured bass which extends well below with no mid range bleed. The bass is fairly tight, punchy and hits deep. The bass quantity is not huge, at least not to the levels I imagined. It has less bass quantity when compared to Eterna and FX700. The mid-bass quantity is in fact less than Xears TD100-II, the 'bass light' of the TD series. That is not to say that MT lacks bass, but it's focus is more on attaining a good balance between quality and quantity without being a boombox like MEElectronics M31. It's slightly thick and not likely to reveal all the micro-details in the bass region.
The mid range is neither forward nor recessed, but placed slightly behind. Due to the lack of bass bleed, the mid range remains largely neutral in tone with a bit of lushness. It also remains fairly smooth without a hint of sibilance.
The treble has good amount of sparkle and detail. While it would not match treble delights like RE0/ZERO or DBA-02 in clarity, crispness, extension and detail, it betters Eterna quite easily in this department.
The one clincher in favor of MT over Eterna and Xears is the snappiness. Most bass heavy IEMs tend to sound thick and sluggish, but not MT. Rather than sacrificing treble like Eterna, MT sounds very well balanced.
But, it's normal sound stage would lose out to the wide space portrayed by Eterna. MT's sound stage is only about the size of RE-ZERO in depth and width. Imaging and separation are good. MT has a slightly darker tonality to the overall sound and has slightly less clarity for my liking.
In the end, defying my expectations of yet another bass-head junk, MT ended up being a snappy, balanced IEM and one of the rare ones that rose above my expectations. But then, it's easy to jump over a brick than a 6ft wall (my usual expectation levels, that is).
Should you consider it? Well at the steep MSRP, I definitely won't. At the current Amazon price of $100 or so, it is a decent choice for those who like bass and at the same time, don't want to sacrifice other ranges. I'd say that at about $80 and below, it becomes a good value for money IEM. I have noticed that it goes even below that ($60, I think) in Amazon deals. At those prices, it's hard to think of IEMs that are as much a bargain as MT.
Would I buy it? Based on my experience with MT, I might go for MTPG or Miles Davis should time, price, bank balance and mood - all come together. For now, the loaner pair goes back and I move on to the next IEM.
Why would any one in their right mind review an IEM which is old? It doesn't help any hype since that died long ago. A film critic is better served talking about newer releases than a 1930's film, because not many care. But, I am no reviewer, just a crazy enthusiast. And for someone who feels that a 1928's silent film is clearly better than the recent explosive, CGI laden, noisy Michael Bay film, it's not odd to be reviewing old stuff.
But then, IEMs are not exactly works of art that we can emote or connect with to treasure. Sure! Among headphones, there are survivors like HD600, not to forget the recent revival of interest in Orthodynamics. Even with the top-end of IEMs, there's still SE530 and TF10 which have their fair share of supporters. But, the budget range of IEMs is not the same. Every now and then we witness the emergence of a new IEM that re-arranges value for money perspective. It's just that odd curiosity on my part to see how well a budget IEM from yesteryear holds up in today's scenario that lead to this quick impressions.
The first thing I checked when I got the NE-7m was body part check - Right angled plug with decent strain relief, shirt clip and chin slider, decent cable - all good so far. But, the housing does not exactly feel like it fits there. The design is not bad at all, as I am able to easily insert it into the ear, but it somehow does not feel sturdy to me. The mic control on the left side is positioned very well since it hangs a little below the ear when worn in over the ear fashion. The Left and the Right markings are on the back of the housing, which is of little consequence as mic helps easy differentiation.
Isolation is good and comfort is not an issue either. There is only little microphonics when worn straight-down, but with the slider adjustment and shirt clip, even that should not be an issue.
If MT defied my expectations, on balance, NE-7m exactly met my expectations. But, not in the way I expected.
I've read a lot about NE-7m's famed bass. But, I was a bit disappointed with it. Being used to Eterna, NE-7m's quantity was not as much as I thought it would be - my bad! But, there's something wrong - the drums don't sound alright, they sound sort of thick, not thick, but a bit muddy? With some more tracks and a little bit of A/B revealed that NE-7m's bass has a slightly longer decay, resulting in a thick mass of notes. It's not quick enough to reveal subtle information in the bass region. Otherwise, it carries very good extension and impact.
The mid range is slightly recessed, but was far better than I imagined. It's warm, thick, non-fatiguing and does not intend to surprise you with transparency or micro details. The treble continues a similar pattern of thick note and not much sparkle.
The next thing that took me by surprise was the sound stage, which has both good width and depth. Imaging is good. The phone is efficient enabling lower volume listening. Though it has spikes at 5 and 8 Khz, the sedate presentation at lower volumes restrains it from biting the ears like MEElectronics M6.
Even though it's an old IEM and not exactly gold, NE-7m turned out to be one of the few IEMs which are suitable for casual listening without worrying about all the technical nitty-grittys. What about it's place in today's IEM world? I do like the $25 (at least that's what I paid - $18 shipped) Xears XB120 better as it offers better timbre, treble, sweeter forward mid range, despite lesser bass quantity.