Beats Solo2 Wireless Headphones Review
With Beats, you don't always get what you pay for
Beats aren't the most popular headphones, but they're probably the most noticeable. In a world of white earbuds and black headbands, standing out isn't a bad thing; the Apple-owned company is known for its colorful cans that are as much a fashion statement as they are audio equipment.
The new Beats Solo2 Wireless headphones (MSRP $299.95) are the Bluetooth-powered, wire-optional version of the company's signature Solo series, and the follow-up to the Beats Solo2 on-ear headphones from a couple years ago. Like pretty much every other pair of Beats headphones, the wireless Solo2s will draw opinions from lovers and haters alike; you're either on board with the stylish, bass-heavy cans, or you're anxious to tell everyone that, you know, they don't even sound that good.
The reality is that, like most Beats headphones, the wireless Solo2s sound good, but the sound profile isn't for everyone. Like other Apple devices, the Solo2s' steep price tag has more to do with the branding, and if you're dead-set on a pair of wireless Beats, chances are my criticisms and the price aren't going to sway you.
Design & Comfort
The Beats Solo series is one of the most recognizable around, but depending on who you ask, these on-ear cans are either stylish or garish. Like the wired incarnations before them, the wireless Solo2s are available in a ton of colors. You've got uniform red, your rose gold-on-white, and the unit we received—a two-toned blue-and-gray variant.
They're comprised mostly plastic with metal accents beneath the band's adjustment points and faux-leather padding for the on-ear pads. The look is simple, symmetrical, and sleek, but not particularly good-looking (at least as far as objects of fashion go). This is, of course, entirely subjective, so all that matters is how you feel about 'em.
Just above the headphone band's adjustment points are hinges that allow the Solo2s to fold up with one of the loudest, most mechanical-sounding clicks I've ever heard a pair of headphones make. It's not particularly elegant, and it feels like the type of mechanism that's destined to fail at some point.
On the whole, the plastic construction and flimsy hinges add up to a pair of headphones that feels altogether chintzy, which is not the first thing you want to come to mind when handling $200-$300 cans.
Aesthetics aside, the important thing is how a pair of headphones actually feel on your head, and unfortunately, I really struggled to keep the Solo2s on my noggin for an extended period of time; the way the headband's designed creates a tight clamp on my ears.
If the vice-like grip wasn't bad enough, often times the hot build-up of sweat on my ears would ultimately get me to take the Solo2s off my head in favor of a different pair of headphones.
Sound & Performance
The most frustrating aspect of the wireless Solo2s is that they actually sound quite good, despite them feeling like they're going to crush your skull.
A lot's been written about the signature bass-heavy Beats "sound", so I won't get into it at great length. Suffice it to say, if you don't like your music with a good amount of punch from the low-end, I wouldn't invest in anything from Beats. Here's the thing: The Solo2s sound good, they just emphasize bass more than traditional studio headphones. Chances are you'll like what you hear if you're a casual listener in need of a pair of cans to wear on the train, but purists and audiophiles will find the experience a little too heavy-sounding for their purposes.
With that in mind, there are a couple of objective weaknesses to discuss when it comes to the Solo2s' performance. Despite the fact that they squeeze your head like there's no tomorrow, the on-ear headphones don't make much of a seal to keep music from leaking out into the space of those around you.
Sound isolation is a similar story; the Solo2s do very little when it comes to keeping out the rolling subway car, the honking of car horns, or the general hustle and bustle of a metropolitan city. Drowning out the ambient noise with music obviously helps to cover up the noise pollution, but since the Solo2s leak so much, you might be bothering people nearby.
They also suffer from the garden-variety connectivity issues that most Bluetooth-enabled headphones struggle with—pairing is often inconsistent and the signal occasionally drops out. There is, at least, a series of lights on the ear cup which act as a battery "fuel gauge," which is not always a guaranteed feature for Bluetooth headphones.
But if your battery goes kaput (Beats says you can expect about 12 hours, which checks out based on my estimations) you can always jack in the 3.5mm headphone cable for wired, battery-free use.
Should You Buy It?
From a purely performance-based standpoint, the wireless Solo2s do a pretty OK job delivering the sound one might expect from premium headphones, provided you don't mind a bass-heavy audio profile and music coming in and leaking out. That said, if faithfully-rendered music is important to you and wireless functionality is a priority, you may want to look into the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless, which cost about a hundred bucks more than the Solo2s, but don't crank out the bass quite as aggressively.
There's also the issue of comfort; the Solo2s just don't fit as painlessly as they ought to, especially given their price tag. It should go without saying that your mileage may vary when it comes to a comfortable fit, but most of the people I polled in my office seemed to be just as dissatisfied with the Solo2s' tight fit as I was. The wireless Bose Quiet Comfort35 over-ears are nearly double the price of the Solo2s, but in terms of comfort, they're unmatched.
With the Beats Solo2 Wireless headphones, you're not paying for the audio quality of the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless over-ears, and you're not paying for the noise-cancelling comfort of the Bose Quiet Comfort35 headphones. What you're paying for is a solid pair of headphones and the Beats brand. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
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