Articles on this site contain affiliate links, meaning we may be compensated if you purchase a product or service after clicking them. Read our full disclosure policy here.
Last updated: 3 August, 2016
Music has always been a important part of my travels. It keeps me sane and calm in stressful situations, and creating connections with the places I travel and people I meet.
I’ve always travelled with a pair of over-ear headphones because, to me, the increase in sound quality is well worth the trade-off in size. I’ve never been able to justify spending more than $50-100 on them, however, so when Monster sent me a pair of Inspiration headphones to review, I was intrigued to see just how much of an improvement they could offer.
For me to able to be able to justify spending the money on a pair of these headphones though, they’d have to meet some pretty high expectations.
They would need to be lightweight enough to not make my bag significantly heavier, and compact enough to fit in my daypack while on the move.
They’d have to be robust enough to not break easily when shoved to the bottom of my bag in a rush, and the sound quality would have to be so good that I’d feel compelled to use them all day, every day — not just because I’d blown a ton of money on them, but because they were just that good.
The headphones have active noise cancellation, removing the majority of background noise while I’m wearing them. This is something that’s incredibly useful while I’m on the move, or trying to work in a noisy dorm room.
One of my favourite features of the headphones is their ability to fold inwards, taking up half the size they would usually would. When everything I own has to fit in one backpack, size is important and this feature makes carrying them easier to justify.
When I’m in a rush and need to throw everything into my backpack in under five minutes, I often end up not being able to fit it all in on first attempt. The headphone case has a silver carabiner so that I can attach them to my daypack or my clothes while I’m on the move.
The headphones come with two interchangeable bands that clip into place using magnets. There are dozens of different colours, patterns and country flags to choose from to personalise your headphones to your style (or country you’re travelling in!)
I have a smaller than average sized head and often struggle to find headphones that fit properly and don’t fall off every time I move. The Inspiration provided a tight grip on my head without being uncomfortable.
The headphones are comfortable to wear for hours at a time and don’t get sweaty, slippery and gross if worn in hot, humid climates.
Having travelled, and been impressed with, several pairs of over-ear headphones in the past, I wasn’t sure how much of a step up the Monster Inspiration headphones would be.
Answer? A lot. They offered a significantly higher sound quality than any previous headphones I’ve used. I found myself thinking on more than one occasion, “Wow, so this is how music is supposed to sound!”
The headphones gave a balanced, natural sound for users who listen to a wide variety of music types, delivering crisp highs, a detailed mid-range and a powerful, deep bass that wasn’t overwhelming. At maximum volumes bass didn’t crackle or sound distorted.
This was my first experience with noise cancelling headphones, and they took a bit of getting used to.
Switching on the active noise cancellation gave the bizarre sensation of being underwater, and felt like I was sticking my finger in my ear. I was surprised, though, at how well it worked at cancelling out pretty much all background noise.
You won’t hear anything if somebody tries to speak to you, but you’ll hear if they start screaming. This feature was especially useful on buses and trains (or in hostel dorm rooms to drown out snorers), and even canceled the majority of annoying white noise on planes.
You also have the option to switch the noise cancellation off to preserve battery life, and the passive noise cancellation still dulls much of the ambient noise.
Get Us in Your Inbox
Get our regular email updates with the latest travel tech news, tips, and articles. We'll also send over a free 5000-word guide to get you started!
Included with the headphones are three different cables. There’s one for Apple devices with volume controls, mic and remote button, a universal phone cable with a button to answer calls but no volume control, and a regular audio cable.
Also in the box is a zip-up leather protective case that the headphones fold up into, with a pocket for the cables as well as the included cleaning cloth.
The interchangeable magnetic headphone bands clipped on and off easily, and were scratch-resistant. They come in a variety of colours that enable you to personalise the headphones… for an excessive $25-40.
There are no major downsides, although with so many audio cables included it would have been nice to have one to fit an airplane socket as well.
To insert the batteries you have to pull off one of the ear-cups, which was a bit of a nerve-racking experience. You need to use a lot of force to remove the cover.
Are They Worth It?
When they came out, these headphones weren’t cheap — they retailed for nearly $300. That would certainly have hit your travel budget hard, and was too high for all but the most committed music-lover to spend.
These days, though, you can find them well under a hundred bucks on Amazon, which changes everything. At that price, they’re great value, and well worth the money.
If you love your music, and don’t want to compromise on sound quality while travelling, you can’t go wrong with the Inspiration. They’re comfortable, sturdy, lightweight and portable, and offer a truly excellent listening experience.