Day One Review: Monster Dr. Dre Beats headphones, your iPhone's new best friend

Dr. Dre isn't just a world-class hip hop artist and producer — he’s a perfectionist. That must be why these Dr. Dre Beats headphones took seven years for him and overpriced-cable maker Monster to design. These $349 cans were built with iPhone users in mind, as evidenced by the two sets of cables with 3.5mm jacks included, one of them equipped with an microphone for phone calls. Similar to the iPhone's included earbuds, the cable has a pause button that lets you interrupt music to answer calls.

Because they include these iPhone-friendly niceties, we played all the tunes for our listening tests on an iPhone 3G. We compared them with a couple of comparable models, but our main question was: Do the Beats really sound $349 better than the earbuds you get for free with the phone?

Dr. Dre says these cans can closely reproduce the sounds heard when creating his bone-jarring masterworks, so we’ll test them with one of Dr. Dre’s biggest hits, “Nuthin’ But a 'G' Thang,” from his album The Chronic. We’ll also discover how they sound with a variety of other types of music, too, so hit Continue and we’ll try to describe the formidable sounds of the Monster Dr. Dre Beats.

Throwing Them a Curve
Taking a contrarian’s tack, we first put on a piece of namby-pamby music that’s the opposite of hip hop, just to see how these cans function out of their element. Yeah, let’s dust off a 500-year-old piece of chamber music, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” by The King’s Singers. Our first impression: we needed to pick up our completely dropped jaws off the floor. Even in music with no bass at all, the Beats’ clean and clear midrange and wispy highs sounded closer to perfection than we’ve ever heard an iPhone sound. By comparison, the iPhone earbuds sounded tinny and weak.

Now for Some Real Music
On to some Dave Sanborn R&B, and it was time for our socks to be knocked off. While the highs the phones can reproduce are near-perfect, it’s the bass that elicits the astonished gasps from all who listen to the Beats. We heard things we’ve never heard before, even on an excellent stereo system. One impressive feat of these phones: They're extremely LOUD. We like to crank the iPhone’s volume up to 11, and the Beats seem happy to oblige, playing it clean all the way up.

Rock The Chronic
Next it was time to hear the music the way Dr. Dre mixed it. Cranking up “Nuthin’ But a 'G' Thang” instantly put us in the back seat of that kid’s car down the street, rattling our world to its foundations and sounding like a $5,000 car stereo with gigantic subwoofers. The Beats actually rocked our skulls, a strangely pleasant sensation that was lost on all the other expensive phones we compared them to, and especially the now-completely pwned iPhone earbuds. They even sound better than our $400 Ultrasone Pro 750s, our favorite midpriced headphones — until now.

Are the Beats Worth it?
Yes. Monster Dr. Dre Beats deliver astonishing sound. They're light and comfortable. They reduce outside noise, but they can't cancel it like the Sony MDR-NC500D noise-canceling cans we reviewed a few months ago. The mic works exactly like the one on the stock earbuds for iPhone calls, and it makes your voice sound just as good if not slightly better. They're so efficient that your iPhone's iPod music will sound almost too loud for your own good. They roll nicely with any music — from classical to vocals to acoustic guitar to jazz to R&B to salsa. But it’s playing hip hop that makes the Beats excel, smacking that thundering bass and crispy-crunchy clean high end right up in your face. We think they’re just what the Dr. ordered.