Putting my flame suit on: a (hopefully) proper review of the Beats by Dre
Jul 25, 2009 at 1:54 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10


New Head-Fier
May 24, 2009
Well, I didn't know if it was a wise idea to start yet another thread on these, but I thought it was a topic that might as well be addressed. I'll do my best to give what I think are as unbiased a review I can on this pair of headphones. I was browsing this board a while ago and noticed that I couldn't really find an objective, level-headed review of these cans from people who actually own them - most of the comments were from people who were clearly influenced by the brand and its association and not about the actual quality of the headphones. I recently had a chance to get these for about $150, and being curious about whether these were actually that bad in terms of SQ or if it was just a matter of price/value ratio and brand perception, I decided to pick these up and give them a shot.

Now, to avoid being called an uninformed buyer and a marketing sheep right away I'll give you a frame of reference here. My main set of cans are a set of audio-technica ESW10JPNs, so as new as I am on this board, hopefully that gives you a sense of what I've experienced in terms of audio quality and qualifies me at least a little bit to give you a review of these cans.

I'll start off by immediately making clear what these headphones are not. They are not, by any means, worth their retail price. That's not a sentiment of negativity towards the headphones, it's just a statement that for what you get in both build / audio quality for the price, they don't live up to the regular $299 billing. They're not for serious audiophiles like you'd find on head-fi (for the price) and should not be considered professional grade headphones. Again, this shouldn't surprise anybody simply because Monster products are generally overpriced.

If price is taken out of the equation, however, and we focus solely on the sound quality of the cans - to put simply, they're not bad. They have a surprisingly decent soundstage, manage to put a Dre-like emphasis on the lows without completely muffling the other aspects of the music and the sound is, in general, quite lush.

There's definitely emphasis on the bass and lows, but in my opinion, it isn't so much that it overbears the rest of the music. From the 100 hours or so I've spent listening to them, the bass is actually quite punchy, lively and crisp. I would actually recommend these phones to hiphop / rap lovers based on the surprisingly decent lows.

The mids are also surprisingly clear. There might be more emphasis on the lows, but the mids are cool and should sound very serviceable even to audiophiles. The mids here don't sound as full and as pronounced as head-fi regulars would probably like, but they're very decent and don't deter from the sound quality.

The biggest problem, in my opinion, comes in the highs. Again, this should come as no surprise given the target market of these headphones, but they don't deliver high frequencies very well. I found them much too harsh and abrasive when listening to tracks with predominant highs, and given the relative warmth and balance in lows, they really didn't translate too well with upper-midrange and high frequencies.

I would go so far as to say that the huge discrepancy between the quality of the lows and highs bars the phones from being considered a balanced, musical, and all-genre set of cans - what's clear is that these have a target market and genre and are engineered to sound good when listening to tracks that fit those requirements. For those looking for an incredibly musical set of headphones, they're not for you.

That being said, however, the deficiencies in the Beats aren't so evident enough to make you want to take them off in disgust. They're minor flaws for what should be considered a decent set of hiphop / bass-lover's headphones and the sound quality is definitely there.

My biggest gripe with the headphones would actually have to be the build quality - these feel much too fragile for what is marketed as a set of high-end headphones. They're not sturdy, the plastic casing feels very cheap, and it feels like the metal hinges could snap off very easily if I don't take care of them. I have to baby these much more than I do my ESW10s, and my ESW10s are very small and portable. Bottom line, these certainly aren't phones I would reccommend based on build quality.

In all, the problem is that these cans are priced at $300 when they should be priced more around the $150 range. If price / brand association wasn't a factor, I strongly believe that a lot of the naysayers on this forum would actually rethink their opinion about these cans. While they're not the best in terms of sound quality, they're very acceptable if they are used with their intended genre of music, and shouldn't be immediately cast off in the same calibre of Skullcandy and Bose, simply because I don't think they're bad cans for sound quality. I just think they're not the best choice when considering value.

Inevitably, though, price and brand association do play a factor, and keeping that in mind, I would hesitate to recommend these as a set of $300 headphones. For audiophiles like us on head-fi, there are way better options. But for those of you who value an aesthetically-pleasing headphone, don't mind not getting $300 sound quality, but still want acceptable sound, by all means, go for it.

Bottom line - they're not worth the price. But if we were to solely judge sound quality (as audiophiles rightly should), they're not as bad as the Dre and Monster branding make them look.
Jul 25, 2009 at 2:20 AM Post #2 of 10
Oddly enough, on the IEM front the Monster Turbines are pretty well-regarded at their going price.

The argument that the MSRP just isn't worth it runs true for Bose as well (not sure about SkullCandy).

Otherwise, neat. Sounds interesting. I've never heard them myself or seen them in person, though..
Jul 25, 2009 at 2:38 AM Post #3 of 10
Heard these at my local Future Shop and from a schoolmate who got it for his birthday. I totally agree with how clear the mids were and the emphasis on the bass. Also agree with how they are not worth 300...

On a side note, its interesting how in future shop, the cans are incredibly loud, and the only volume control button at the showcase was "louder" lol
Jul 25, 2009 at 2:48 AM Post #4 of 10
What 150 dollar headphones have you heard? I thought that both the ESW9's (225) and the ES7's out performed these cans in all aspects.
Jul 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM Post #7 of 10

Originally Posted by Scott_Tarlow /img/forum/go_quote.gif
What 150 dollar headphones have you heard? I thought that both the ESW9's (225) and the ES7's out performed these cans in all aspects.

I've had both the Sony MDR-7506 and the V700 (both retail for $100+ here). My IEMs are the Sony EX90s.

If the ESW9s are at all similar to my 10JPNs (which they should be, they're just a more refined version) I would completely agree with you. The ESW9s probably sound much more musical and involving. The Beats, in comparison, just aren't as balanced and that probably makes it much harder to listen to genres other than hiphop / rap.


Thanks for the review. Do you normally/often listen to the genre that the beats are targeted at?

Yeah, I do - huge hiphop / rap lover here. I listen to all kinds of music, but that's my favorite genre and I think the Beats do really well with it. But then again, they should anyway because that's what they were built to listen to.
Jul 25, 2009 at 5:48 AM Post #8 of 10
I think you should compare the mids to other headphones in the Beats' price range. Or even headphones costing $150. I think you'd change your assessment.
Jul 25, 2009 at 6:26 AM Post #10 of 10

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I think you should compare the mids to other headphones in the Beats' price range. Or even headphones costing $150. I think you'd change your assessment.

Interesting. I've compared them with my ESW10s and there is a significant difference, but I thought that had more to do with the quality of my ESW10s than the deficiencies of the Beats.

While the mids aren't crystal clear, I didn't think they were bad either.

I'll give them a closer listen and see if I agree with you.

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