Pros: Loads of bass, winning sound signature, supurb at low volumes
Cons: Loads of bass, winning sound tires over time, lacks mid-range
I was on the road last week and wanted a mid to low priced headphones for working out and quick listening. I own many in-ear headphones now, and after reading review after review how Beats by Dr. Dre where over-priced hyped headphones, I thought I'd check them out for myself.
What I was expecting was a muddy pair of headphones with tons and tons of bass suited for hip-hop. And that's what they are, sort of.
Beats have so much bass it blows your mind out of the box. I tend to shy away from bass heavy headphones, so these were a bit of a treat for my ears. They THUMP. Forget about nuance, you won't find it here. My main headphones are Ultimate Ears IERM's. And they handle bass in a realistic and natural way-- the bass supports the music without dominating the music. So hearing this much bass is a system shocker.
But what the iBeats get right is the don't obliterate the high frequencies at the expense of all this bass. If you took a graphic equalizer and created a massive V with the settings, this is what you get with these.
What does suffer are the mids. They get buried in the mix.
The headphones give a 70's FM hi-fi sound. They're clean, quiet, tons of bass, decent upper frequency response (though not as pronounced as the bass), and muted mids.
Soundstage is decent, but not wide. Open ear headphone people won't be jumping for joy. They bring a decidedly closed sound. "Natural" isn't in this headphone's vocabulary, they sound processed.
But that processed sound has a distinct advantage-- low level listening. It's like the loudness button is built in. They shine at low volumes, and are worth it for this "feature". Late at night, some cool jazz-- these will hook you up.
They are comfortable, though a bit heavy. I don't think I'll be pawing at them, they fit similar to the old Shure EC4's extending in and supported by the rubber earpiece entirely.
Looks wise, they're kinda trendy, as you might expect, but they really need to give a bit more cable length. Great for working out with an iPod or iPhone (they have a mic and control button built in). The cable won't get in the way.
So don't dismiss the iBeats, they have a purpose, and they're definitely NOT junk. Is there better sound available for the money? Sure. But they are enjoyable in the right environment. Pull out your Steely Dan FLAC files and give them a spin at a quiet volume. It's a nice experience.
UPDATE: A few months in and I have really grown to like the Beats Tour. I mentioned they fit similar to my old Shure E4c's. This is a good thing. This means they're unobtrusive with fancy over ear clips or wires the drag over my ears and annoy me.
The sound has seemingly mellowed a bit with break in. Another good thing. I find these an enjoyable backup to my UERMs. When my ears need a break-- they're fantastic. I also enjoy the cable. The short run means they work well with an iPod or iPhone.
Another great use is movie watching. The extended bass is terrific for a Batman or other action movie.
Needless to say I'm in "like" with these earbuds, and I would again give them a hearty recommendation.
They're kinda snazzy, too. And the volume rocker/microphone works well.
One final final note. Beware when purchasing that you buy from a reputable dealer. There are fake versions on the market (especially eBay) that look nearly identical to the real version-- right down to the box and packaging-- but they sound absolutely dreadful.