We were at Monster’s ‘Diversity of Monster’ press event yesterday, where they unveiled lots of new products and, despite the title, made some regrettable remarks about women.
‘Head Monster’ (that’s CEO to you and me) Noel Lee mentioned in a section called ‘Lady Tech’ (yep) that when it comes to headphones, “sound quality isn’t top of the list” for women, because we’re more interested in something that looks good, is lightweight and “won’t mess up our hair.” The avuncular Lee – speaking from his flame-emblazoned Segway – presumably intended this as a joke, but with the furore about sexism in tech being louder than ever before, yesterday was not the right time to make this particular jape. We’d try 1955.
Still, Monster did unveil some interesting products. They passed around their 24k gold over-ear headphones, noting that they were last year’s most popular product, and displayed some slides showing famous rappers and artists wearing said cans. At this point, a white male journalist in the front row put the headphones on and declared, “You can only wear these if you’re black.” Yes, really.
Truly, this event was the stuff of farce, but at least that one wasn’t Monster’s fault. The journalist went on to note that one of the women modelling the headphones on the screen wasn’t black after all (she was), followed by briefly debating her ethnicity. Meanwhile, we were facepalming so hard we knocked the headphones off our cringing heads.
Monster 24k rose gold headphones
The point of passing around last year’s product, though, was to set the stage for this year’s upgrade: Monster’s 24k rose gold headphones, which are very well-placed to capitalise on this year’s thirst for all things pinky-orange.
Retailing at £279.95, the rose gold version of the 24k DJ over-ears will be limited-edition and launch this Autumn. They offer swivelling ear cups, deep cushions and a microphone for taking calls. The spec sheet also mentions “Advanced Audio Technology” but doesn’t go into detail. They’re being released in conjunction with hip-hop artist Meek Mills, who we’re too old to have heard of.
We tried the rose gold 24k headphones on and found them surprisingly light for their size, but sadly we didn’t get to test sound quality as they weren’t plugged into anything at the time.
Monster Superstar Backfloat speaker
The other high point of Monster’s presentation (product-wise, at least) was the Superstar Backfloat speaker. An update to the existing Superstar, the Backfloat is a waterproof Bluetooth speaker that you can safely submerge in water. It floats easily, and the demo unit put out strong, clear sound even when sopping wet and floating around a rubber duck-shaped paddling pool.
The Backfloat is designed to be all-weather and robust (we were encouraged to throw it on the floor), and Monster even showed a video of them setting the silicone-clad speaker on fire. Promptly followed by being questioned by the NYPD (don’t start fires on the street in New York).
By far the most interesting thing about the Backfloat, though, is its capability to create water fountains. If there’s water on top of the speaker (or you pour water on it for theatrics), the speaker repels it in tiny fountains that pulsate to the beat of the music. After a couple of awkwardly sub-par demonstrations (“Get ready for the Bellagio! …Oh”), Monster told us the effect works best if you use alcohol. Coloured alcohol even more so, apparently.
The Superstar Backfloat speaker is out this summer and costs £129.95. There’s also a smaller version that can’t be submerged, but still offers the fountain effect.