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Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphone - Black

Rating:
4/5,
  • With up to 40 hours of battery life, Beats Solo3 Wireless is your perfect everyday headphone. With Fast Fuel, a 5-minute charge gives you 3 hours of playback. Enjoy award-winning Beats sound with Class 1 Bluetooth wireless listening freedom. The on-ear, cushioned ear cups are adjustable so you can customize your fit for all-day comfort.

Recent Reviews

  1. MICHAELSD
    Beats Solo3 Review from an Audiophile -- Apple, not Dr. Dre, has created the first practical wireless headphone. (Beats by Dre? Beats by Apple.)
    Written by MICHAELSD
    Published Dec 5, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - W1 chip, 40+ hours of battery life, portable, understated design, best-in-class comfort and isolation for an on-ear headphone, fun sound signature
    Cons - Slight lack of clarity in the highs, bass bleeds into lower mids at times (rarely), low-end could be a tad more detailed
    Apple is really doing it: they're taking a brand that has the dominant marketshare in the headphone marketplace despite having had subpar audio quality, and greatly improving it while adding groundbreaking features that will take the competition a year or two to catch up with. It's a bit of a genius proposition: purchase the most popular headphone brand that people buy solely for the branding and marketing despite abysmal audio quality, then rebrand it so that consumers are actually getting a quality product with innovative features. The Solo3 is a solid buy for most, even if its audio presentation isn't perfect.

    Design

    Appearance
    The matte black Solo3 I'm auditioning is classy and understated. They're stylish without screaming "Beats" in a gaudy way like they did in the past. Unfortunately though, the two glossy options do cheapen the design. The rest of the options, particularly rose gold, are tastefully done.

    Build quality
    Despite being lightweight, the Solo3 manages to feel substantial. There is no flexing, and the headband seems reasonably reinforced. The earcups do rattle, but they also swivel for a better fit so it's a fair trade-off.

    Comfort/fit 
    Plush leather earpads make the Solo3 more comfortable than anticipated, while also being softer than expected making the Solo3 feel more like a cushion pressed against the ears. Very surprisingly they're the most comfortable pair of headphones I own, even more so than the huge ATH-700 with its velour pads. Perfect for glasses wearers as the earpads can be adjusted in a manner that's completely unaffected by frames. The headband is also soft and grippy enough that the Solo3 will stay in place no matter what. For the purpose of this review I can shake my head in any direction and the headband won't move, which makes it reassuring for use at the gym or for a run. They're a rare combination of being on-ear, comfortable, and fixed on the head.

    My ears can tend to get red and burn a bit after having these on for a while, but the pain is mostly felt after the fact and I'm working on adjusting the fit to prevent this. On the plus side, I can wear these longer than my other headphones with less pain.

    Isolation is excellent as well considering there is no active noise cancellation. (I dislike ANC anyway as it can muck up the sound and waste battery life.) At around 60-70% volume the outside world can be mostly blocked out, at least enough so that speech is completely inaudible.

    Bonus: even the driver (the part that emits sound) is padded better than I've ever seen, if you have extremely small ears then you're in for a treat. They really thought over the comfort design of these headphones.

    Packaging
    Premium Apple unboxing experience reminiscent of any other Apple product, with a bit more flair. The single complaint I have is that the included carrying case could be a tad more padded and premium.

    Sound

    Beats' Sound Signature
    This is where the review gets a little less glowing, though bear with me. I'm an audiophile, I've studied to a greater extent than I'd care to admit what makes for good sound. These aren't the type of headphones where a listener is going to hear every little detail in a song, but that's okay for listeners who haven't owned a better pair of headphones before; for better or worse, the mass market may not notice the flaws in the Solo3's sound.

    The sound signature is a colored Beats presentation with a massive low-end accentuation, forward mids, and a very laid-back treble. But you know what? Apple's Beats sound signature is exciting, fun, and sounds good with most modern music. Mids are nicely present, so voices and guitars will still be front-and-center alongside the bass. Some songs do sound off, and no amount of EQ is going to fix those that do. Nowhere else are you going to find such an accentuated bass with forward mids, but the faults are glaring:

    Issues
    The problem is the bass and and treble aren't accurate. Not even the bass is going to sound as it was intended to by the sound producer, and some drums have a bloated if not addictive-at-times sound that makes drum kits lose their detail. If you're going to be listening to music with mostly real instruments and no modern production, the Solo3 may not be the best option. However, the bass is mostly fine though it is accentuated and loses a bit of detail in the process. The low-end also bleeds into the mids a bit too much, which causes some details like a guitar in the background to potentially be lost.

    What needs finer tuning is the treble. Cymbals that have a fine detail on a pair of better-tuned headphones can be reduced to sounding more like a hip-hop "ticking" sound. The treble is frankly abysmal. I don't mind it being so laid-back but good treble needs to retain its detail.

    There is a positive to having such a lacking treble, and that is that there's less listening fatigue. Perhaps Beats was looking out for its customers who listen to these loudly, as the lack of higher frequencies make it possible to listen to these loudly longer.

    Bottom-line
    HEY, TIM, APPLE, DR. DRE, AND JIMMY IOVINE: THE SOLO SERIES COULD SOUND FANTASTIC IF YOU FIGURE OUT A WAY TO RETAIN THE BEATS SOUND SIGNATURE (ACCENTUATED LOW-END) WHILE STILL HAVING A DETAILED BASS AND TREBLE. KEEP THE TREBLE LOWER THAN THE OTHER FREQUENCIES, BUT ACTUALLY MAKE CYMBALS SOUND LIKE THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO.

    These aren't for analytical listening, but for enjoyment they work well with most songs and genres. While most songs aren't going to sound exactly as they were intended, I'd recommend auditioning these yourself to see if it suits your personal music taste if you do listen to modern music (pop, hip-hop, EDM) alongside a mix of other genres.

    W1, baby

    Wireless Connectivity

    Works as well (better in my book since there's no cable noise... or wire) as using a wired headphone with an iPhone. Pairs instantly out-of-the-box. Pressing the button on the Solo3 while it's unpaired will connect it to a modern iPhone/iPad seamlessly within two seconds. 2012 Retina MacBook Pro is a bit more hit-and-miss as it can tend not to show up as an immediately connectable option, though I'll look into that. Rock-solid connection though. I can move to another room and experience no cutting out. I was also able to watch an episode of Halt and Catch Fire with no lag and perfectly in-sync audio.

    Side note: The Solo3 are excellent for watching movies/TV; the soundstage is precise, and not too wide or closed-in, so it provides a great surround experience that brings background details to the surface as well or better than my open-back Audio Technica ATH-700. Meanwhile the accentuated bass brings a subwoofer-like excitement to movies while voices are crystal-clear.

    Wireless Quality
    Apple worked some DAC magic into the Solo3 as they sound as good or better than they do using a wired connection. Oddly enough, I do find an extra bit of clarity using them with an iPhone 6s Plus than I do using them with a 2012 Retina MacBook Pro; it seems they both use AAC to transmit to the Solo3 but the iPhone's Bluetooth is 4.2 vs 4.0. However's there no need for ever using them wired:

    Battery Life
    It lasts as long as advertised. 40+ hours of battery plus ultra-quick charging.


    Conclusion
    Apple has managed to create the first practical wireless headphone on the market, lasting long enough to only need to be charged under a handful of times a month while also having best-in-class wireless functionality. All in an understated lightweight design that's portable enough to go anywhere and comfortable enough to wear for long periods. They put it under the Beats branding, which means a fun sound that lacks clarity particularly in the high-end. However, the Solo3 is the first very good headphone from Beats (with the first two good headphones being the Solo2 and the Studio 2.0). This gives me hope for the future of where Apple will take Beats, as they're already proving their worth and the future of the brand by releasing a headphone with groundbreaking features.

    If the Solo4 can greatly improve upon the detail of the sound quality while retaining Beats' signature fun sound, it could be an all-around winner. For now the Solo3 gets my recommendation for being a very practical daily driver wireless headphone. There aren't any other wireless headphones I'd recommend more as a daily driver, thanks mostly to the benefits of the W1 chip and portable design.



    Audiophiles: 
    The sound signature of the Solo3 is unique and pleasant despite lacking clarity in the bass and treble, though it isn't isn't an unlistenable experience like the old Beats by Dre. If you find value in the features of the Solo3, these could be a fun portable pair of headphones perfect for casual listening or the gym.

    Would I have bought the Solo3 if they were wired headphones? No. But the trade-off of some clarity is worth it for what the Solo3 does bring to the table, and the fun sound isn't unpleasant. In fact, I'm growing to like it and would be completely satisfied if they figure out a way to improve clarity without losing the addictive sound signature in future iterations.
      Mortalcoil, Hawaiibadboy and turbobb like this.
    1. Sonic Defender
      Yes, I hold out hope that Beats can start to clean up the bass quality a little more. If they do that Beats may start to make some in-roads with the younger audiophile community, which I believe is a growing segment of the marketplace even among the target group for Beats headphones. Thanks for the review.
      Sonic Defender, Dec 5, 2016

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