Monoprice TripleXXX In-Ear Headphones


Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $49

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great sound on the cheap!
Triple driver design
Nice and comfy
Minus
Ho-hum looks

THE VERDICT
The Monoprice TripleXXX’s sound quality definitely ups the ante for budget-priced in-ear headphones.

The Monoprice TripleXXX may be the most affordable headphone I’ve ever reviewed for Sound & Vision, but I took it seriously. So much so, it was my go-to headphone for NYC subway rides for weeks, even when I wasn’t in reviewing mode and just listening to the TripleXXX for fun. That says a lot about these headphones, so don’t let the low price throw you. These little guys sound plenty good enough for audiophiles looking for a set of budget-priced travel headphones.

With just a little prodding on my part, Monoprice told me they invested little design time in the TripleXXX. Instead, they took an off-the-shelf design from an OEM Chinese headphone maker and tweaked the sound balance and the earpieces’ shape. Their finished product, the TripleXXX, won’t win any beauty contests—the basic black plastic earpieces are as no-frills as they come. The yellow and black cardboard box is stone- cold generic, but who cares about the packaging? You’re just going to throw it away.

The TripleXXX is, you guessed it, a three-way design with a 10mm dynamic bass driver, plus balanced armatures for midrange and treble. There’s no crossover network per se; the drivers are tuned to work only over their assigned frequency bands. The 48-inch-long cable isn’t user- replaceable, but it does have a decent-sounding mic. Warranty runs one year, so if the cable or earpieces break, Monoprice will replace the TripleXXX, no questions asked. After that, if something happens you can just toss them and get yourself another TripleXXX.

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When it came time to judge sound quality, I listened au naturel with my iPhone 6S, without any extra gizmos or digital converters. I’d say the Triple- XXX wins first by doing nothing wrong; it doesn’t sound like a cheap set of headphones. The bass-mid-treble balance is reasonably smooth, and the sound is clean as a whistle.

Mandolinist Chris Thile and pianist Brad Mehldau’s self-titled new album sounded good, and right there that’s noteworthy. The recording’s mix does an amazing job of balancing mandolin and piano, two instruments that don’t naturally sound good together. Rock music was also more than credible over the TripleXXX.

Things were going so well, I upped the ante with full-frontal immersion with Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, with Sofie Von Otter and the Weiner Philharmoniker with Pierre Boulez. OK, the TripleXXX weren’t the most transparent, detailed, or dynamic headphones around for this kind of music, but they didn’t have any irritating distortions or fatiguing bad habits. Mahler was a joy to listen to.

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Did I wish I had something better plugged into my ears? Not enough to pop the TripleXXXs out mid-Mahler, though my inner audiophile some- times struggles with these contradictions. But I can shut them off, so the TripleXXX stayed put. Stereo soundstaging was commendably broad, not the least bit stuck inside my skull. Oh, and the bass plumbed the depths while maintaining definition.

Isolation from NYC subway noise was about average for in-ears, but nowhere near as good as my $349 Etymotic ER4 SR noise-isolating in-ears. Note, I said noise-isolating, not noise-canceling headphones that use battery-powered electronics to hush noise. The best of them block noise more effectively than noise- isolating headphones, but dollar for dollar, good NI headphones always sound better than NC headphones. And for $50, as we say in Brooklyn, fugedaboudit!

Monoprice has made perfectly acceptable headphones for years but has just recently started to make some really good ones. Their new Model 1060 planar magnetic full- size headphones are bona-fide contenders for $299, and I have a hunch the TripleXXX will be joined by even better, only modestly more expen- sive in-ear models later this year. Stay tuned.

COMPANY INFO
Monoprice

COMMENTS
John Sully's picture

I would kill for a Bluetooth version of these.

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