I was given this headset to put through its paces by @Nokia_Connects during CES, and since then I have been giving them an on-and-off usage schedule to see how they compare to the headset I currently own and 'phones I've used in the past. I'm by no means an audiophile, but I would say that my sound preferences are very neutral and balanced. Listening to music out of most laptop speakers makes me cringe from their lack of body whilst sitting in a friend's car with it's rattling body components on account of an over-zealous subwoofer gives me a headache.
My favorite "style" of headphones is over-ear, followed by in-ear and lastly on-ear. These buds, if not already obvious, are of my second favorite style, which usually is more than okay in my book since either of the other two do not travel well or get smashed into a pocket very happily. They also have a nifty "feature" which makes that latter activity just a little bit more enjoyable. Without further ado, here's the best I could do.
From the moment the box is held in-hand, it is clear that these headphones are trying to set themselves apart from your me-too copycat buds littering the shelves of a Best Buy near you. The box certainly gives off a premium feel, with the user of thicker cardboard and a clever-yet-nice-if-gimmicky magnetic flap for holding the entire package together. Typography, graphics and colors picked for the box are all relatively premium in nature, though not quite as eye-touching as many of the designs in which the product is suspended in what is essentially an acrylic box. It all falls into line with Monster's typical packaging, which makes sense, of course.
Once the inner box has been slid out of the outer shell, the magnetic flap opened and flipped over, the headphones are laid out in a stylistic manner. This is a nice touch since most earbuds are quite simply tied up and thrown in a box for the most part. Not saying that I have a problem with that simplistic approach, but the breath of fresh air is arguably needed here. The plastic hugging the earbuds and the gratuitous carrying case (nice touch!) could be of higher quality, but there's very little that could be done here and let's not forget that one is buying the headphones, not the packaging.
The headphones themselves comes in four different colors, each matching an available hue of the Nokia Lumia 800: black, blue, fuchsia and white. The last of those four hasn't yet been released by Nokia, and there are no plans to do so as far as I know, but a certain iconic fruit-labeled company has driven it into peoples' heads that white is cool, so the demand for it obviously drives this color's inclusion.
From the get-go, there's something unusual about these headphones that set them apart and it doesn't take a long time to recognize what exactly I'm getting at: the cable. Instead of being circular in cross-section, the cable on this headset would appear rectangular with the same vantage point. The documentation for the headset call this a no-tangle cord and, in practice, it manages to help with the inevitable cable knot. There is only so much that can be done, obviously, so don't hold them too strongly to their own words.
Apart from a very premium and solid feeling plug on one end, the rest of the the package's composition is very much what you might expect. An in-line remote with volume control and a singular play/pause button are the only thing found on it while farther up, on the shorter lead coming out of the remote towards the left ear is a in-line microphone, allowing these buds to work double duty. The buds themselves are quite sizable and admittedly a bit heavier than your average pair of in-ear headphones, with Monster and Nokia branding on each bud.
Sound / Usage
In a few words: quite nice. Neutrally balanced yet full bodied. To my untrained ears I would assume there to be a very capable driver located in the somewhat sizable bodies of each earbud, though I can't say for certain. I've been using a pair of Sony Ericsson in-ear buds for a few years now, and to me the sound out of the Nokia is noticeably nicer. It's as if they have managed to capture a sound that might be more expectable from a quality set of speakers and put it into some earbuds. The bass is present yet not overbearing while the treble doesn't distract. Mid-range is full-bodied as well.
There were a few problems I encountered, namely using these earbuds with a Nokia C7. ("Accessory not supported." immediately popped up on-screen.) For some reason, the audio was entirely treble unless I depressed the play/pause key and held it that way. Confusing, annoying, and ultimately unusable in that scenario. Perhaps Nokia Belle will solve this issue, but till that day, I'm SOL apparently.
Also despite the fact that the headset comes with more rubber eartips than I know what to do with, I couldn't find a pair that actually fit properly. Either too big and would never get settled, so they'd fall out, or too small and they'd slide out the moment I let go. Strangely enough even when I found a middle-ground that matched the rubber tips on my Sony Ericsson headset, I still had to remain still otherwise the headset would instantly fall out. Compared to the actors in Nokia's promotional material, jumping around and walking down the street, I definitely had a different sort of experience.
However I know from my fellow bloggers at CES that I appear to be alone in my issues with this using a phone with this headset. (I'm admittedly attempting to use a phone that has a much smaller premium-phone user-base, which is exactly the type of people who would buy this headset, so the majority of that group would never run into an issue.) I've tried a few other Android and WP7 phones, different computers and the like, and had not a single problem with compatibility, though occasionally the play/pause button wouldn't function as expected. I also know, from the same group of bloggers, that I appear to be the one at fault in getting the headphones to stick, as they've thus far had no issues, none that I've been told about at any rate.
At last we come to the part everybody is waiting for. What do I say about this headset? Should one buy them? For me, the answer is no. I simply can't justify spending $135 on a pair of in-ear headphones. Keep in mind I'm a college student, a bit frugal, and more than capable of finding a great deal on an entire phone for the same cost. If you've got the money to spend, then give these headphones a look. But for now, these headphones simply have yet to win me over from my freebie yet probably $20-from-Best-Buy buds. I'm no audiophile, but these headphones simply didn't quite work with the shape of my ears. Sad, since they could have gotten more time to show off to my friends had I decided to deal with them falling out every few minutes.