Hands-On With the DiddyBeats Earbuds - Sleek, Suave, Manly
It's becoming clear now that Monster wants to take over the headphone world one artist at a time. There's the ultra-audiophile Miles Davis Tribute pair and, of course, the Beats line featuring 'phones designed in collaboration with Dr. Dre, Lady Gaga, and now P. Diddy. Yes, P. Diddy. Stay with me here.
Let's set aside the discussion of the artist-specific headphone thing for right now and examine what makes the $179 Diddybeats in-ear speakers worthwhile (or not) aside from their connection to the Puff Daddy.
I don't own any music by Diddy, so I opted instead to warm up the Diddybeats by listening to some Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. Unlike the Lady Gaga HeartBeats, the bass here is more balanced and doesn't overwhelm the mid and high-ranges of the music.
I must have listened to West's Graduation 10 times a day just trying to envelop myself in the music with these 'phones. They definitely shine when delivering this flavor of hip-hop. After Kanye I moved on to Alicia Keys, whose music is less bass-heavy but no less robust and varied. Here again the Diddybeats performed well and didn't allow the bass to overwhelm Alicia's voice or the other instruments. We've got to hear the piano, right?
Beyond the realm of hip-hop and R&B the Diddybeats propensity toward bass sometimes hindered audio quality. I fired up some Guns n' Roses (old school GnR -- there is nothing worthwhile after The Spaghetti Incident), Slash and Fergie, and even Kerry Ellis singing "Defying Gravity" while Brian May wailed away on guitar. Frankly, when I first started using the Diddybeats, rock sounded terrible in them. But after a week of breaking them in with hip-hop, the 'phones settled in a bit. But in each case the bass took over more than I'm used to, crowding out the guitar and vocals somewhat.
Nevertheless, the Diddybeats didn't make me avoid non-hip-hop tracks, it just made me appreciate those even more. If your MP3 player is majority R&B, hip-hop, or rap, then you're going to get the most out of these earbuds.
Style and Fit
Like the HeartBeats, the Diddybeats have a bit of an unusual shape. Thankfully they're not as big or difficult to keep in as Lady Gaga's pair. The housing is shaped like the top part of a Djembe drum and wrapped in a thin strip of leather. The Diddybeats db logo is subtle and distinct, so it doesn't look too gaudy printed on the outside. I much prefer the black pair to the white as the chrome trim stands out more, and the pink ones manage to be un-feminine even with that baby pink . Overall the style comes off as industrial, manly, and smooth. I will not go so far as to say that the headphones reflect the namesake, but if you want to draw that conclusion, you go right ahead.
Monster also did well by packaging multiple eartips with these buds. Not only are there three sizes of round tips, but also two cone-shaped tips with triple flanges and a set of foam tips. Even people with difficult ear canals should be able to find a set that will keep the Diddybeats snug.
Overall these headphones feel a little heavier than the pair I'm used to (Turbine Pro Gold) which made for some slipping every now and then. The ControlTalk remote added to the weight, meaning the left bud was more prone to slipping than the right. When I used the included clip to keep the weight from the cord off of the buds the pair did much better.
Unfortunately you can't get the Diddybeats without ControlTalk for now. While the volume control/mic addition wasn't a major hindrance, it does add weight to the cord, as I mentioned. And unless you have one of the compatible MP3/PMPs, it's a useless lump on the cord. I wasn't able to get it to work with my Droid (the connector didn't even stay in the phone's jack), I tried it with the HTC Evo 4G. Volume control didn't work, but the mic/headphone did for calls. Still, I hope Monster offers a ControlTalk-free version in the near future.
$179 is a lot to pay for a pair of headphones, but to squeeze the very best audio quality out of your MP3 player (especially if it's an iPod), you should set yourself up with a quality product. Diddybeats delivers great audio and a fashionable look. Still, if you're not an R&B/hip-hop kind of person, you're not going to get the best out of these buds. Give your playlist a quick assessment before you pick up a pair.