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CES 2012: Monster ditches "Cable," dives head-first into pricey headphones

Consumer Reports News: January 09, 2012 04:08 PM

At a press conference that was more pep rally than information session, the folks at Monster Cable — strike that, they are just "Monster" now — didn't show a single inch of the high-priced connectors they are (in)famous for. Instead, the company rolled out a whole host of top-dollar headphones and other products.

Many of the Monster headsets cheered on by "Head Monster" Noel Lee are co-branded with celebrities from various fields.

There are the iSport Livestrong headphones that will, of course, be cyclist Lance Armstrong's signature yellow color. Unfortunately for your wallet, they will also be priced at $180 and be sold through RadioShack.

Then there are the Gratitude in-ear headphones, developed in cooperation with... Earth, Wind & Fire. Those will set you back about $230.

Nick Cannon, best known for hosting America's Got Talent and standing behind Mariah Carey in paparazzi shots, appeared via Skype from his hospital room to talk up two co-branded headsets. These were the least expensive of the products being shown, with the NTune on-ear sets retailing for $130 and the in-ear Nergy headphones going for around $70. This last item does have a somewhat nifty-sounding feature of magnets on the earbuds that allow the user to keep them attached to each other when not in use.

The spendy denim divas of Diesel have partnered with Monster to create Vektr headphones, which are marketed to people who feel the need to pay $250 (or $150 for in-ear) for headphones that match your jeans.

The crown jewel of this morning's event was the noise-cancelling Inspiration line of headphones, which didn't have a celebrity attached, though they did drag rapper Xzibit out of bed to say hi to everyone. These sets start at around $280 for the over-the-ear version and a bit less for the Inspiration Lite on-ear version. But the real feature — and where Monster hopes to really make a lot more money — is the interchangeable headbands that let users customize the look of their pricey cans. Each new headband will set you back about $30, so being fashionable doesn't come cheap... at least if you buy from Monster.

In the non-headphone world, Monster did show off a new addition to its line of power strips and outlets. The HDP1250 G+ GreenPower PowerCenter will set you back about $230 but the company says that in addition to remote on-off for connected items, it actively monitors the line, neutral, and ground power lines for electrical surges and automatically disconnects any plugged-in AV equipment from AC power when conditions exceed a safe level, the reconnects when it determines conditions are safe.

We haven't had a chance to get hands-on (or on-ears, as the case may be) with these products to see if any of them come even close to justifying their high price points.

Chris Morran

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