Monster Thrives on Yao Power

A life-size mannequin of Chinese basketball wonder Yao Ming was the most visually striking element of Monster Cable's typically eventful pre-show press conference. This "aspirational figure" says he integrates technology into his busy life because "music helps me achieve." He promo-toured China with Monster last summer, but what really raises an eyebrow is that Monster has opened 10 Yao stores in China. Entire stores devoted to a single marketing idea. Wow.

Monster now has 34.9 percent market share in headphones, thanks to its Beats line, with only Bose even coming close. Last year's Miles Davis Trumpet earbuds have gone into a second generation at a lower $299 price point. The "world's smallest" in-earphones achieve their small size by building the driver into the tip, not the body. Trumpet-valve-like controls are built into the cord. A release of Davis' classic Sketches in Spain in surround complements the product.

Another software tie-in is with Tron, a relationship that is expected to last the next five years. Products will include headphones, iPod dock, a "surround sound amplifier," and PS3 charging station. "We're going to keep surround alive," said Head Monster Noel Lee, and apparently he's going to do it by adapting it to headphones and earbuds with High Definition Headphone Surround 360 technology. This effort extends into software including a recently Grammy-nominated George Benson disc. A quick squint revealed a Dolby logo, so we're guessing Monster's approach to headphone surround uses some form of Dolby matrix or other technology.

In HDMI news, the ever quotable Lee stated: "Monster is no longer just about high performance and high prices." Pricing for HDMI cables is now as low as $29.95, with the top-line model at $99.95. The SuperThin HDMI cables complement flat displays. A representative from Crestron briefly took the stage to say the company had "experienced warranty issues" with cheap generic cable, so Crestron and Monster are now holding hands.

Not much was said about Monster's burgeoning powerline conditioner line -- but a major announcement is expected for Earth Day, so stay tuned for that.

Finally, it was announced that Monster's Vision Max 3D glasses -- which work with any 3DTV brand requiring active shutter glasses -- will ship January 30 at $150 for the glasses and $229 for the full kit.

That isn't everything that happened at the Monster event, but a lot of it. More than ever, in this tough economy, Monster has the aura of a survivor.