Beats by Dr Dre have taken the world by storm in 2012, with a celebrity following that has seen them become a much sought-after status symbol this Christmas. But forget about how trendy they are – we want to know if they sound any good.
Look and feel
Just a look at the packaging for Beats headphones assures you that this is a luxury product. Once removed from their fancy scarlet and black casing, I was wondering if the accessory inside would live up to all the hype.
The Solo HD headphones are less bulky than the Beats Studio version we see sported by many celebrities, but they bear the distinctive Beats by Dr Dre style stamp. They come in a variety of colours, the standard being a slick matte black with scarlet red and silver highlights, plus a scarlet red cord. There’s no mistaking: Beats look good.
In the box you get a handy pouch to carry the headphones in, plus a cloth for cleaning them (no, I’m not sure why either). They fold up for easy transport – so, no, you don’t have to wear them around your neck like the latest fashion accessory – and they’re crafted well in that they fold easily but are sturdy when unfolded, with not a hint of flimsiness.
They feel good, too. Both the headband and the alignment of the speakers can be adjusted for an optimal fit, and I can honestly say these are some of the most comfortable headphones that have ever graced my cranium. But enough about aesthetics and comfort – how do they sound?
Beats headphones promise a powerful signature sound and Beats Solo HD are the only set that come with not one but two speakers inside each can in order to deliver clearer highs, deeper lows and a high-definition, high-quality aural experience.
Unsurprisingly considering his chosen genre, Dr Dre’s prerogative appears to be on delivering a quality bass sound, and it certainly rumbles. Turn them up too loud and the bass will knock you over.
Beats seem, to me, calibrated perfectly for listening to the likes of rap, hip-hop, soul and anything with a bit of funk, but, when you get to more complex melodies, sometimes that powerful bass would overpower other elements of the track.
Being someone with a varied music taste, this let me down slightly. I loved the sound with some tracks, but I longed for something better with others.
Beats Solo HD also comes with an alternative cable that’s equipped with a remote and mic in one. This allows users to take calls on their smartphones or activate voice controls for their devices using the headphones, or to adjust the volume, play or pause a song. Unfortunately, the level of functionality this cord and remote provides varies by device.
For the sake of the mic, the remote is placed high up on the cord so it will rest near the user’s chin – which is good for picking up your voice, but not ideal for using the controls.
Both cords are a good length, too, at just under 1.4m. Not so long that you could get tangled up when wearing them, and not too short that you have to keep your music player at your hip.
I think if I had to have a pair of Beats headphones, the Solo HD set would be the ones for me. I prefer their more compact design compared to the original Beats Studio headphones and they come in at a about a third of the price (you can get this particular set for €179.99 from eMobile).
They don’t leak once you’re listening at a volume suitable for humans, and the comfort factor was a winner with me for long-term listening. That said, I would prefer to have headphones suited to all genres, not perfected for a narrow scope. If you have a varied taste in music, I reckon you would be better off with an alternative.
All images shot using Panasonic Lumix G5X