I’m going to start out this review with a confession. Beats has never really been my thing. I really don’t identify with them musically, but they have amassed a cult following much like their parent company Apple. Unlike most other companies and products purchased by Apple, they have been able to keep their culture and their brand name separate from the mothership and I think that’s beneficial for both brands. Today I’m going to look at one of their latest products: the Solo 3 Wireless on-ear headphones.
Design & Features
The Beats Solo 3 Wireless feature two cans with speaker drivers and an adjustable headband… like every other on-ear headphones on the market. In all seriousness, there is a lot packed into these headphones. The design is iconic Beats combined with a lot of cues from their parent Apple. This time around they are available in Black, Gloss Black, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, Red matching the available colors of the iPhone 7 & 7 Plus plus a gloss white and violet. Very few headphones are available in that many different finishes. Depending on your color, you’re using going to get a while plastic and leather on the inside except for the two black colors which are understandably black. The (product)RED versions are also completely red.
You won’t find any visible buttons except for the ultra small power button. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any. There are full phone controls built into the cans, but Beats took great efforts to make the buttons functional without compromising the aesthetics. In fact, with the exception of a thin separation line on the outside, the can with the controls and the one without are almost exactly the same. There are two visible ports on the Solo 3 Wireless. On the control can is a standard 3.5mm TRRS jack (aka inline phone controls and mic) for optional wired operation. They do include a 1m TRRS cable with inline controls. On the Power can is a MicroUSB port for charging. It is slightly surprising that Beats is still using MicroUSB rather than Apple’s own Lightning.
For travel, the design folds down and Beats includes a case free of charge. Its just a soft fabric case, but it does have enough room for the headphones and included accessories.
While Beats has kept their own identity, they have access to the technologies that comes out of Apple’s massive and well funded R&D division. One technology developed there makes the Beats Solo 3 Wireless truly unique: the W1 wireless chip. Developed for the EarPods, the W1 is Apple’s next generation bluetooth chip. Not only does the Solo 3 Wireless have it, Beats has also released the PowerBeats 3 Wireless and Beats X in-ear headphones as well for someone who wants something more conventional than the EarPods. If you’re on a Windows computer or an Android device, you will not be noticing any real difference. If you’re plugged into Apple’s ecosystem, the W1 is truly magical.
The W1 is designed to work in tandem with iCloud and is automatically sensed by an iOS device. Think of it as sort of NFC pairing on steroids. That’s not the cool part either. Since it’s hooked into iCloud once you pair it with one of your Apple devices, the pairing information is shared with ALL your Apple devices: your iPhone, your iPod Touch, your iPad, your Mac, even your 4th Generation AppleTV. That’s pretty much how it works real world. It takes a few minutes for the Macs to get the information, but the iOS devices are pretty much instant. Switching between devices can be a pain with bluetooth earphones, but the Solo 3 Wireless switch between devices without a hiccup. I have yet to have to re-pair them when switching devices and I will switch regularly.
The W1 gives Apple and Beats a definite competitive advantage over other brands. So much so, that I wonder if Apple is missing a revenue opportunity not licensing it to third party headphones.
I have jaw disorder called TMJ. Because of this, comfort is paramount to me. I have a pair of Blue Mo-Fi active headphones that sound beyond amazing, but I can only wear them for a few minutes before the joint for my jaw begins to hurt. The Beats I can wear for hours. In fact, without the wires, I have actually forgot I was wearing them. Simply put, these are near ergonomic perfection.
Beats have typically been aligned with the hip-hop community since being founded by rapper Dr. Dre and Interscope Records founder Jimmy Iovine. And with the early examples of their devices were certainly voiced for this, especially during the HTC/ Monster days.
This is no longer the case. I find the Solo 3 Wireless to have a very balanced sound suitable for all types of music. They really make the music come alive whether its Hip-Hop, Metal, country, blues, bluegrass, or even a little down home Aretha soul. That said, they still shine in bass heavy applications. The opening to Judas Priest’s Dragonaut which features the rumble of thunder followed by heavy guitar riffs produced an all-out assault in my senses. This is how music is meant to be heard, like you’re there in concert with the artist.
The Beats are loud, but not unnecessarily so to the point of putting your hearing at risk. There is not a hint of distortion at any volume and honestly, these actually sound better the higher you go. I have to wonder if volume is electronically limited to the headphones’ sweet spot.
Overall, they don’t sound as good or as loud as my wired Blue Mo-Fi with active pre-amp. In my opinion, the Mo-Fi and its updated version called the Sadie, are the best sub-$500 headphones on the market. I didn’t expect them to be. However, it’s a lot closer than I was expecting it to be. Beats deserves a lot of credit for that.
Earlier, I said there was a 3.5mm TRRS cable. You won’t be using it. I actually found that headphones to sound a bit better wirelessly than they do plugged in.
Battery Life is rated at 40 hours. I think that might actually be a little conservative. You won’t be charging this more often than every couple of weeks.
Pricing and Value
At $299 regular street price, these are not entry level headphones. You can certainly find acceptable sounding on and over-ear headphones at a cheaper price. That said, when you add bluetooth and phone controls with microphone, you’re at about $170 minimum. These are rated for far better battery life than most of those. I find the $299 price tag to be fair for what you’re getting.
That said, Its far from unheard of for these to go on sale at Amazon and leading retailers. Play your cards right and you find yourself are really great deal.
- Great design.
- Feature packed.
- Very comfortable.
- Sound great.
Super long battery life.
W1 wireless chip makes connecting to all user’s Apple devices super simple.
- Price maybe? Don’t sound like even more expensive headphones? I got nothing. These are exceptional.
The Beats Solo 3 Wireless have quickly become my primary set of phones. They look and sound great, are musically flexible, have all the features I could ask for, feature amazing battery life, and if you’re in Apple’s ecosystem integrate with all your devices. $299 is not a price point all users can get to and these are higher end models on the market. Overall, I cannot recommend these enough.