Review: OneOdio's Monitor 80 headphones offer professional performance for a surprisingly low price

OneOdio's Monitor 80 headphones
We tend to be suspicious of cheaper, imported brands - could OneOdio show we're being a little precious? Photo credit: Newshub

OneOdio has a range of very affordable audio devices on offer to New Zealanders from the previously tested wireless earbuds at just $50 a pop to high-end studio models aimed at audiophiles.

We often think of imports from lesser-known brands as a risk, with a strong chance of poor quality compared to what we know.

But great quality wired headphones don't tend to be cheap - particularly if you're as clumsy as me and regularly pull wires out by accident.

Could OneOdio's top-end wired headphones be a perfect purchase for the budget conscious?

I've been using the OneOdio Monitor 80 open-back headphones for a few weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

For a cheap set of headphones you would be forgiven for thinking the overall package would be a little meagre - however nothing could be further from the truth.

Along with the headphones I received a hard carrying case, two cables (a 3.5mm to 6.25mm coiled cable that stretches for 3.5m and a three metre 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable) and a stand.

Without even trying them out, I was already thinking that seemed decent value for money.

Open-back headphones are designed so you can listen to an audio feed as well as whatever is going on in the environment. This means no noise reduction or active noise cancellation, but a system designed for professionals and musicians who want to monitor the quality as close to how it really sounds as possible.

OneOdio's Monitor 80 headphones
Photo credit: Newshub

I haven't DJ'd since I appeared on a Wednesday night at the Links nightclub in Montrose, Scotland and got increasingly fed up by the same person coming up and asking me to play Will Smith's 'Men In Black' again and again.

Should I ever consider heading back into that world, I'd definitely be happy to wear these for extended periods in a sweaty club.

The velvet ear cups are incredibly comfortable. I don't know why my pillows aren't made from the same material, honestly.

I'm willing to give up a small amount of overall audio fidelity to ensure no pain from wearing headphones and earbuds - but you don't have to make that trade off here.

I've been using the OneOdio Monitor 80s in two particular ways. The first is with my electronic drum kit.

As part of learning how to play, I'm using an external software package and Bluetooth audio connections cause a slight delay which makes it impossible to play along, so I've been using the OneOdios instead.

OneOdio's Monitor 80 headphones
Photo credit: Newshub

With these, not only can I play for hours without worrying my ears are going to end up crushed and sore, but also when I sweat they don't going to get all clammy and slippy.

I can hear my amateur banging loud and clear and there's no other headphones I currently have I'd rather wear for this purpose.

The other way I've used them is by plugging them into my amplifier or digital analogue converter (DAC) in my home hi-fi setup.

There, the sound is just terrific.

I would say the vocals are quite forward, but there's no question that you are able to hear the other instruments with clarity and fidelity.

I didn't need to amend my presets for other headphones to be able to kick back and enjoy some quality vinyl and digital music with the OneOdios even if the bass maybe wasn't quite as thumping as I'd like.

A range of hard rock to pop tracks were given a decent run and there was nothing that convinced me the OneOdios weren't just great value for money if you've already got a decent audio setup.

When plugged into a laptop the sound isn't quite as impressive, as you might expect. The volume level was a little low and the vocals were even more pronounced, but it certainly wasn't bad.

I threw on my old favourite, Ozzy Osbourne's 'Crazy Train', and was able to enjoy the overall sound even though that's not exactly what they're made for.

OneOdio's Monitor 80 headphones
Photo credit: Newshub

Streaming movies and television shows also showed up fine, if not ideal.

With some hearing problems on my left side, I didn't actually mind the speech being forward too much, as it meant I heard more of what was being said and didn't have to rely as much on subtitles. But still, I have better headphones for such uses.

Throw in ear cups that can both rotate by 180 degrees and the ability to use the two cables at once so you can share what you're listening with someone else, you've got a brilliant, value for money package that puts more expensive devices to shame.

The bad

There's simply nothing inherently bad with OneOdio's most expensive wired headphones - they really are an absolute treat to wear and use.

That said, the downside to the open-back style is that you really have to use them in a situation where there isn't a lot of background noise, or if there is it's because you definitely want to be able to hear it.

I also found a downside to using them to listen to my home audio system with my partner in the room.

I closed my eyes and listened to the brilliant Foo Fighters song 'Everlong' as loud as I could, singing along to Dave Grohl's vocals and playing along with the late Taylor Hawkins' drums to a live version of the classic track.

However she heard almost every word of the song, and was able to tell me my drumming was particularly bad and out of time.

OneOdio's Monitor 80 headphones
Photo credit: Newshub

If using them in company is going to be part of your use case, then you might want to find some headphones that have better sound insulation.

If you're a bit of a loner? Suddenly that lack of insulation doesn't seem like a problem.

The verdict

If you just want to plug your headphones into your laptop for binge-watching the latest Netflix drama you're not going to get the best out of the OneOdio Monitor 80s.

But at just $150 for one of the comfiest sets of headphones I've ever worn, it would still be incredibly tempting, just for that plush velvet ear covering alone.

And if you who have a dedicated amplifier setup in your home, or are intent on getting into mixing or recording your own music, then these feel like a real bargain.

There's a snobbery attached to headphones, particularly for people who identify themselves as audiophiles.

It's the only way I can explain why people will pay thousands of dollars for just a few metres of cable and convince themselves it sounds so much better than one that costs significantly less.

OneOdio's Monitor 80 headphones
Photo credit: Newshub

It might mean some people look down on me should they ever see me wearing them in public, but I really don't care.

The OneOdio devices I have tested offer low-cost, good quality sound for those on a budget, these included.

I'm not going to pretend these are better than the top-of-the-range open-back headphones from the biggest brands. I just don't think that matters much to anyone but a very small number of people in Aotearoa.

For the rest? Enjoy the bargain and save the rest of the money you'd budgeted.

Newshub was supplied with a set of OneOdio Monitor 80 open-back headphones for this review.