When you live in a small condo with your fiancee, it's important to have a listening solution that not only blocks out annoying TV shows running in the background that you hate, but also to keep the awesome music or video game you are enjoying within your own personal space. It is for this reason, as well as just merely wanting better sound, that I began looking for a pair of headphones to replace my basic, $20 Sony studio pair.
In my online research, and through some advice from my father (who happens to be an audio engineer) I came across several sets that I liked, but was held back from each for one reason or another - ranging from "they're really ugly" to "I won't get a chance to hear them before I buy them" or "they're way too expensive." In addition, the further you delve into headphones and the audiophiles who love them, things get even more complicated - do I need a separate headphone amp, for example?
I eventually just decided to go around listening. I tested a pair of Sony "EXTRA BASS" cans that looked like a crazy strap-on Princess Leia 'do. I tested a pair of plasticky, ok-sounding AKG's. Then, I ran across the Beats Solo headphones by Monster, and was (unexpectedly) blown away by them. Plus, Best Buy had them on clearance for $89.99 - half of the $179.99 retail - so I bought them on the spot. I had never expected to love these so much. Read on to find out why.
Unboxing the Beats by Dre Solo's
Clearly, a lot of attention went into branding this product, from the consistent color scheme to the very high quality packaging. This, no doubt, figures into the normally inflated price of $179, and of course has nothing to do with the sound quality, but is cool nonetheless.
The outer cover slides off, revealing a bright red inner box, which is held together by a flap. Altogether, very solid. In the above photo, you can see the included headphone cable, ScreenClean cloth, manual, and warranty card.
Additional investigation reveals a (quite nice) custom carrying case, complete with inner pocket, handle, and Beats logo, as well as the headphones themselves.
I was immediately impressed by the weight and feel of these headphones. They are constructed of a very solid plastic with metal hinges, and the cups rotate on two axes. They look great when worn, and are free from funky, superficial design elements - other than the logos, of course. They fold extremely well on the metal hinges and are easy to adjust.
Although it's a bit of an adjustment coming from a lighter, cheaper set of 'phones, the Beats Solo's wear pretty easily. Even with my admittedly sizable and bony cranium, the Beats fit comfortably. Given that I am quite large of dome, they do clamp on my ears a little more than they might for others, but not so much that it detracts from the listening experience. I never had the "ear sweat" problem, and they rest nicely on the top, although some additional padding would have been nice. All in all, these will result in little listening fatigue and are a pleasure to wear.
Listening to the Beats Solo Headphones
This is where it gets interesting. First of all, let me say that I am by no means a headphone expert, and I don't want to be, either. The deeper one delves into the dungeon of headphone knowledge, the less one comes out with - you'll be met with more questions than answers. You might just be better off listening to headphones to find what you like the best, and get those, which is exactly what I did. As such, you won't find any details stats, signal to noise ratios, or any audio voodoo here.
What I will tell you is that sound fantastic, but they definitely color the music you are listening to; these are by no means professional studio headphones, don't listen to the marketing. These, to me, are a consumer-grade, everyday listening headphone that performs their job admirably.
Bass is rich, deep, and tight - so much so that even with my iPod EQ set to "flat," Fabolous and Eminem literally make the ear cups vibrate. Seriously. Highs are clear without sounding shrill, vocals are clear and beautiful, and midrange is deep and smooth. Small details reveal themselves, even in 192 kbps MP3 recordings - like Diana Krall's lips parting before she begins to sing, for example. I found that for all the types of music I listen to, the Beats Solo were perfect. (The types of music I tested include: deep house, house, techno, jazz, funk, hardcore, and metal.) Movies didn't disappoint, either - watching several movies through Netflix on my iPad was a great treat, with explosions booming and voices ringing out loud and clear.
All of this is punctuated by the tight seal these headphones form on your ear, blocking out the majority of background noise quite well and also doing a good job of blocking others from hearing what you are listening to.
Finally, included with the Beats is a ControlTalk cable & microphone, which interfaces directly with several types of devices, most notably iPhone and iPad. I can not only adjust volume through the cable but even take Skype calls, a nice bonus.
First of all, I cannot recommend these headphones enough for general listening for music, video games, and movies. I think I would be hard pressed to find someone who "hates" these cans.
That being said, they are not for everyone. If you're looking for a pair of studio headphones that don't color the music at all, don't buy these. With these headphones, MP3's DO NOT sound like MP3's. They sound rich, vibrant, and almost CD quality, but that is not achieved by representing them accurately. Bass seems to be "artificially" boosted on these headphones, to great effect, rendering most rock and rap preset EQ's useless and overkill.
All in all, if you can accept these headphones for what they are and the awesome sound they provide without getting caught up in voodoo and audiophile hangups, and if you listen to a lot of hard rock, metal, hip-hop, house, or dance - you'll probably love the Beats Solo. Additional value is provided to owners of most iDevices, so they're great for Apple lovers like me, too!
- Make MP3's sound totally amazing
- Comfortable to wear
- Block out a lot of outside noise
- They look great when worn
- Come with nice accessories including a case and ControlTalk cable
- Build quality feels great
- Dramatically overpriced at the $179.99 retail cost (which is why I only bought them on clearance)
- Color the audio significantly to provide a "consumer-friendly" sound (in my opinion)
- Padding on the headband is a little thin
- Slightly more ear fatigue than some other circumaural headsets
- Did I mention that $179.99 is way too expensive for these?
Buy.com has these right now for about $179 USD, and Best Buy is still listing these on their site as $179.99, so I'm not sure how I scored such a good price - so you should check your local brick and mortar Best Buy stores to see if you can get one at the sweet $89 price.