First, we’ll hit you with the key details you want to know about this new piece of kit, then we’ll get into exactly what we think of them. First, they’re over-ear headphones that work in stereo and have one driver in each ear. They have both noise isolation and noise cancellation, connect wirelessly and have handy inline controls.
Now you know what’s in the box, let’s take a look at whether they’re worth the investment. Apple has certainly felt benefits from their investment in Beats over the last five years, with the headphone brand’s hardware going from strength to strength on both the design and audio fronts, as well as adding useful features as they’ve developed.
You can really feel the Apple influence in Beats Solo Pro, particularly since the same chip powers these are the new AirPods. Priced at $299.95, you’re getting the best meeting point of the two companies yet; good looks, great sounds, and powerful features.
Amazing sound quality
Looks loads better
Effective active noise control
Not so comfortable, especially for larger heads
No wired option
Lacks an app so no customisation
We’re seriously impressed with the Solo Pros from Beats, the features and tech are really packed in there. There’s solid noise cancellation, the ability to use Siri hands-free, and of course the sound quality is fantastic. What’s not so great is the head pinch that is all part of the on-ear design, needed to form a seal; this is going to get uncomfortable pretty quick if your head is on the bigger side.
Although there has been a slow evolution in the design on the Solo line over the years, the new Pro is a full overhaul of the Beast on-ear model. The first change you notice is the headband; it now adjusts with a slider rather that the old exposed metal band. This makes them look sleeker and enhances the premium appearance – no cheap-looking parts here. You can get them in either white or dark blue, with the white being our pick for the clean and simple look, whilst the folks over at Appleinsider were more into the blue ones that they reviewed. Check out their full video review below.
Just like with the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless, the Solo Pros are turned on by unfolding them and turned off with a fold. There’s no power button weighing them down: call off the hunt.
The next thing Beats aficionados will notice is the change in the earpads. Compared to previous models they’re much thicker which makes them more comfy to wear. The headband has had it’s cushioning enhanced so there is less pinching of your head. They’re still far from perfect and some would go as far saying they’re downright uncomfortable, still. Of course you need a good seal in the ears for effective noise cancellation, and that needs pressure, but these could get irritating real fast.
If you can put aside the lack of comfort in these headphones, there’s plenty still to like here. Inside is the H1 chip from Apple, which enables fast pairing and the hands-free version of Siri. It can be tough to overlook a lack of comfort, but there’s a ton to like here. The Solo Pro has Apple’s H1 chip inside, so features like fast pairing and hands-free Siri are included. We use wireless headphones and earphones pretty much constantly nowadays, and Bluetooth menus and pairing issues get tiresome quickly – quick connect gets rid of all the usual messing. Having Siri on full voice command is pretty cool; no more having to free up a hand to push a button, which can help when you’re doing more active tasks like cooking.
The best bit about the Solo Pro is the sound, as you’d expect with a set of headphones. The audio quality and noise cancellation are great, and just like other recent Beats releases – we’re thinking the Studio3 Wireless and Powerbeats Pro – the tuning is much better than older models.
The bass is plentiful but it doesn’t get in the way of the overall experience. There’s a pleasant thump that comes with music that’s got tone at the lower end, like hip-hop, electronic, and booming heavy metal. Further along the spectrum, your highs, brights, and mids are well represented, making a full and rich soundscape; you’ll clearly get your guitars, drums and vocals coming through. The sound also has a decent depth, which is a saviour for dense tracks that can become messy and chaotic.
To give an example, think about the Led Zeppelin classic, Stairway to Heaven. The guitar riffs are intricate, the drums get heavy, and Plant’s vocals go from harmonious the screamy and back again. The dynamics in the track are broad too, so there’s lots that needs to be handled. Play it on your Solo Pro and the track still comes across as neat and allows every element of the song to be appreciated – whether the gentle first verse or Paige’s hectic solo. You get the same clarity with genres like folk, bluegrass, and country, which get their instrumentation shown off well. The acoustics and raw vocals of Tracy Chapman’s first album work well with these too, allowing you to be surrounded by the sound rather than just sitting next to it.
The Noise Cancellation
For when you’re trying to block out the world and focus on your favourite tunes or podcast, the active noise cancellation (ANC) works nicely. Since these are on-ear headphones, they’re never going to match up the cancellation levels you’ll get with Bose or Sony, but the Solo Pro does a decent job of getting rid of ambient distractions. There’s a handy transparency mode that let’s take a sneak listen into your surroundings, like a quick chat or listening out for your train stop. The audio is always being adjusted based on your environment thanks to the Beats Pure ANC.
Even with this, after about half an hour of use, we were ready to put them down again; the reviewers at Appleinsider felt the same, too. The headphones need to sit really snug around your head to get good ANC and this creates a lot of pressure, which can get tiring after prolonged use. If you’ve got a big head, this is going to be even more pronounced.
To really get to grips with the noise cancelling feature, check out this video for tips and tricks from Appleinsider.
To change the volume on deck, there are controls on the outside of the right earcup, it’s pretty intuitive with the top button going louder and bottom taking the volume down. In the centre of the rig is a multifunction button with the now-iconic “b” logo. You can play and pause with a single tap, skip forward with a double-tap, and triple tap will skip back a track. If you have another virtual assistant in your life, a long hold will summon them for you, too. These are actual pushbuttons instead of touch controls making them more reliable and easier to control.
The only other control included is the single button on the bottom edge of the left earcup. This is the key to toggling between ANC and transparency modes, as well as putting the headphones into pairing mode with a long press.
Sadly for those who like to be able to still listen to their headphones whilst they’re on a charge, there’s no 3.5mm jack to use. There is still a wired option, but you need to invest in a Lightning-to-whatever you need cable to be able to do it. Apple is on a mission to murder the headphone jack, and it’s making Beats its accomplice.
With ANC on you can expect up to 22 hours of playback, and 40 hours without, according to Beats. When we had our hands on them, the Solo Pro lasted nearly a whole working week before needing to get juiced up. A normal week for us shakes out at three to four hours of music and podcasts as well as using them for conference calling. With the folding to turn off the feature, they didn’t always get powered down when we took them out and even then we got nearly five decent days to use out of them. There’s a Fast Fuel feature that gives a super quick charge of three hours use in ten minutes plug-in time. Worth noting is that they don’t auto-pause when you take them off, which could be a bit of a battery drainer if you’re not careful.
The Value for Money
Coming in at $299.95, the Solo Pro is a bit heavy on the wallet but nothing out of the ordinary for other top-level, over-ear models. The next Beats model up, the Solo3 Wireless, is $50 more and comes with most of the same features, but without the hands-free Siri. Our current pick of the over-ear headphones is the Sony WH-1000XM3; better sound and better ANC, but at $350 much pricier than the Solo Pro. Up one more price bracket is the very nice Bose 700, with a price tag of $399. They might be more expensive, but the comfort alone makes either of these choices worth the extra outlay, in our opinion.
We were definitely impressed with the Solo Pro from Beats. They have plenty of features we love like the Pure ANC that constantly adapts, and an always-on Siri, making them a very good all-round set with decent audio quality to boot. The biggest downside is the comfort; we keep coming back to it because it’s a bit of a dealbreaker for people with big heads, problems set in within the first hour of use. When you use your headphones for long stretches of time, comfort is a big priority and it’s something we can’t overlook here. For on-ear headphones and small-headed people, the Solo Pro is still one of the best options available.