The Monster DNA Max is a no-frills Bluetooth speaker that combines solid sound with ease of use—and it’s now available in lots of fun colors.
The wireless speaker market is packed with lookalike and lackluster Bluetooth models that can be hard to tell apart. The Monster DNA Max is an outstanding alternative to the crowd, with a unique design, impressive features, and excellent audio performance.
Monster Audio first made its name in premium audio cables and power supplies before revolutionizing the wireless headphone and speaker markets as the company that first developed and manufactured Beats by Dre. The company recently dropped the over-ear headphones from its lineup, but it continues to find success with wireless speakers and earbuds.
Monster has just announced five new limited-edition colors for both the DNA Max and its smaller DNA One Bluetooth speakers, describing the new tones as striking blue, vibrant green, bold orange, royal purple, and fiery red. Those are in addition to the white and black versions already available.
Design and build
The DNA Max is designed to stand on one end, with a narrow base. The speaker measures 8.7 x 4.4 x 3 inches (HxWxD) and weighs just 2.43 lbs. There’s no built-in handle, and the circumference/weight combo can make the DNA Max a bit hard to pick up and carry. Fortunately, there’s a post for the matching carry strap. Unless you have very large hands, you’ll want to use the strap. An even better option might be Monster’s $39.99 molded carry case with strap.
The top, bottom, and side of the DNA Max are made from a sturdy rubber material. If you’re concerned about long-term appearance of your speaker, the white unit seems destined to pick up stains and marks that wouldn’t show up on the black one. The fabric grille is made from plastic and not cloth, making it feel relatively indestructible. The DNA Max has an IP67 waterproof and dustproof rating. It also floats in water, so it’s safe to use by the pool or on a boat.
The speaker has a 4,400mAh Li-ion battery that delivered just over 12 hours playback on a full charge, and it took five hours to get there after its battery was emptied. The DNA Max is designed to work with a custom Qi wireless charging base, although I had no problem getting a charge out of other Qi bases around my house. Monster includes a USB-C cable and a wall charger. The USB-C port on the side of the unit can also be used to charge the speaker or act as a charging port for a phone.
The DNA Max has omnidirectional sound generated by two 15-watt drivers and a pair of passive radiators. That design means you’ll need to use the speaker vertically, something that can be a bit of an issue because the DNA Max is a bit top heavy. You’ll need a flat surface, or the speaker might fall on its side.
There are four buttons on the top of the unit, including large “plus” and “minus” ones to control the volume. Users can skip to the next track or go to the previous track by pressing the plus or minus button for two seconds. There’s a multifunction button that powers the unit on and off and controls the play and pause. The M button controls the Monster Share Party Mode, which allows users to sync multiple Monster DNA speakers.
You can take phone calls while the speaker is connected, thanks to a built-in microphone. Answer or hang up calls with a single press of the power button or reject an incoming call with a two-second press.
There are audio and voice prompts that let you know that status of the speaker when powering on or off and connecting. Those prompts are loud, so loud that some users might find them annoying.
A smaller alternative
The $150 Monster DNA One speaker measures 6.1 x 4.4 x 3 inches and weighs 1.5 lbs. That reduced height and weight makes it much easier to handle, but it still includes the post and strap that comes with the DNA Max. There’s also a $29.99 molded carry case. It’s got a smaller battery but delivers similar playback time because of its dual 10-watt drivers. The two models use the same charging base.
The DNA One has a lower center of gravity, so it’s less likely to tip over. It’s easier to carry than the DNA Max but can’t quite match the larger speaker’s performance at the highest volumes. If forced to choose, I might pick the smaller unit despite the DNA Max’s more powerful audio.
Having a party with the DNA Max
What’s the best way to get users to buy a fleet of your speakers? Add a function that allows them to daisy chain up to 99 speakers for an audio festival. Monster Share Party Mode is the version of this feature included with the DNA Max.
Turn on your main speaker and let it connect to your Bluetooth source. Turn on all the other speakers you want to include in your array, then press the M button on your main speaker for two seconds. Single-press the M button on all the other speakers and they should connect.
This kind of feature can be balky no matter which company made the speakers, but the Monster pairing was more consistent than what I’ve encountered from other brands. Monster helpfully notes that users should restart the process if the pairing hasn’t completed within 30 seconds.
The DNA Max is a mono speaker and pairing with another DNA Max or other compatible Monster speaker does not create a stereo pair. You’re just replicating the mono playback from the main speaker.
Listening to the DNA Max
Monster doesn’t tout any wireless specs for the DNA Max speaker because this unit’s not going to appeal to anyone who’s looking to max out the specs on their Bluetooth. The speaker uses Bluetooth 5.1 and only supports the low-res SBC codec. There’s no AAC, LDAC, aptX, or any codec that promises a “hi-res Bluetooth” experience.
Monster did not build an app to control the speaker, which means there’s no way to adjust the EQ or tweak any other settings. The experience you get will always be the one that you enjoy the first time you turn it on and connect to a source.
I don’t have a problem with this, and I’ll go so far to say that it’s a welcome antidote to the myth that monophonic wireless speakers need the same features that high-end stereo components or even mid-level earbuds require.
The DNA Max isn’t designed for critical listening, but it does an excellent job with Spotify playlists, streaming radio, audiobooks, or podcasts. Listening to music, the sound is pleasingly thick with excellent lower mids and no distortion in the high end at normal listening volume.
If you’re looking to pump up the bass at maximum loudness, you’re going to get distortion without any noticeable increase in the low end. Physics gets in the way here. If you’re looking for that booming bottom, you’ll need more power and discrete woofers or a larger passive radiator.
Should you buy the Monster DNA Max?
The DNA Max features reliable Bluetooth connectivity, solid mono sound, Qi wireless charging, and a wide variety of arresting colors. Press the power button and you’re ready to go after the speaker connects. You can identify the controls by touch and never have to worry about water or dirt if you’re using it outside.
There’s no support for more advanced codecs, no app for EQ adjustment, and no stereo capability when the DNA Max is paired with another speaker. There’s an argument that the absence of those features makes this speaker easier to use. Over the past few weeks of testing, the DNA Max proved itself to be a no-fuss listening option with excellent sound.
Neither the DNA Max nor the DNA One speakers will cut it as party speakers. Their optimal volume is more suited for personal or small group listening. Taking that into account, I might give a slight edge to the DNA One for my own listening even though I’d give the two speakers the exact same rating. If the feature set appeals, both the DNA Max and DNA One are excellent wireless speakers.