Time to Rethink Beats, the Solo2 is Excellent

A Fresh Look
With almost a quarter million views, a lot of people have experienced my opinion regarding the original Beats Solo in this video. I've been quoted in the New York Times, Huffington Post, and numerous places elsewhere expressing my distaste for their products. I now find myself with the unenviable task of reversing my opinion, at least in part, with the introduction of their new Beats by Dre Solo2—a very fine headphone indeed. Unfortunately praise doesn't seem to get the attention that negative criticism does, but I'm going to try. With the release of the Solo2, Beats deserves an open minded second look, and with this—and some subsequent reviews and opinion pieces—that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Beats by Dre Solo2 ($199.95)
It's fairly safe to say that the original Beats by Dre Solo is one of the most—if not the most—popular headphones in the world. I found its performance abysmal. This saddened me tremendously because I felt that a whole lot of people bought the Beats Solo on the basis of claims that you would be getting the music as the artist intended, but their experience would be fairly poor. This would leave a bad impression in Solo owners minds that really good sound on headphones (which is what they thought they were getting) was no big deal when, in fact, really good sound on headphone is a pretty terrific experience. Solo users just weren't getting it, and didn't know they weren't getting it. A sad state of affairs for headphone audio.

Well, I'm very pleased to report that the new Solo2 does, very much, deliver on the promise of great sound on headphones. And with it's introduction we will see many people in the general public having their first experience with very good sound on headphones. Beats has not only developed an excellent headphone at a very good price, but with it they will now likely become the most important source of terrific user experiences with headphone audio. Thank you, Beats by Dre, the new Solo2 is one of the best things to happen in the world of headphones this year...and maybe ever, in my opinion, due to the incredible market share that will be enjoyed by this model.

Beats_Solo2_Photo_Colors

Physical Description
The Beats by Dre Solo is a moderately larger than average, on-ear, sealed headphone, and is available in the six colors shown above. Materials are mostly synthetic, though there are some strategically placed metal parts (headband slider, hinge detents) but there is very little of it showing in the completed product. The synthetic materials seem to be very well chosen, however: ear pad cushions apear to be a high quality protein leather; the cushions themselves are memory foam with just the right degree of softness; the gray headband pad is a soft, grippy material that seems to work very well; and cable and connectors feel substantial and durable. The only minor niggle is that the gloss black plastic of my pair, while appearing to be a quality material, picks up fingerprints instantaneously. I suspect this will be less of a problem with the lighter colors, but it's pretty obvious with the black.

The quality of construction seems very good as well. Adjustment sliders are appropriately detented, and adjust fairly easily but stay in place securely when adjusted. The headband folding mechanism holds the arms open in place firmly with little if any creaking, the detent mechanism is positive and nicely adjusted. The earpads swivel at a central point, and range of movement, though relatively small, seems very well suited to the task. Some modest creaking exists when manually moving the ear cups, but I experienced no noise when worn.

The comfort of the Beats Solo2 is quite good. The headphones are light weight and the shape fairly ergonomic. The headband does touch in a relatively small patch on the top of your head, but the light weight and the nicely firm clamping force tend to have most of the support provided at the ear pads. The ear pads are fairly large (2.65" x 3") with a good size hole in the middle (1.4" x 1.6"). The top surface of the pad is quite flat and the softness of both the protein leather and underlying memory foam are seemingly ideal as the combination was very comfortable for me.

At 53" the included cable is, what I consider, just the right length for a portable headphone. The 3.5mm plug going into the left ear capsule does insert into a small recess, so aftermarket cables will need to have a plug housing diameter of 0.23" (5.85mm) or less. The 3.5mm plug at the player end of the cable has a 90 degree angle, which does provide for a small amount of "reach" through protective cases, but I would have liked a little more. Plugs on both ends of the cable are plastic, but nicely designed and executed. The three-button Apple-compatible remote is a bit unusual, but works quite well. The central button is indeed a button, but the outer button are actuated by squeezing the remote end. I had no problems correctly identifying and actuating the buttons accurately. Cable, plugs, and three-button remote are color coordinated with the chosen headphone color. The Solo2 folds to a compact size and can be stored and transported inside the included soft-sided case.

Styling
I've broken this part out separately because I find the styling of the Beats Solo2 rather...um...humorous. Not that they look funny, they don't. In fact, they look quite handsome in an understated way. The Solo2 says to me, "Hi. I'm a headphone." No flashy bling; no celebrity pretentions; it doesn't scream to be worn as a necklace. It's just a nice, conservative headphone.

"What's so funny about that", you might ask? Well, for the last five years or so, headphone manufacturers world-wide have been attempting to play catch-up with Beats. The rallying cry has been "We've got to make cool/fashionable/celebrity-endorsed headphones to do it!" Sennheiser stepped up their game with the Momentum—a very good looking headphone; B&W's offerings are sophisticated and sexy; Sony's MDR-1R is a terrifically good looking headphone. Headphones today look much different than they did ten years ago, and it's almost entirely due to the sense of having to compete with Beats, as I see it. Beats market dominance in the past has had very little to do with sound quality—the original line-up was pretty mediocre in that department—and has had everything to do with the coolness factor. What's so funny to me is that everybody has stepping up their game with stylish headphones and striking designs, and now Beats is producing what I can only see as a fairly ordinary, though tasteful, product. Beats, it seems to me, has just juked everyone out of their sneakers again.

And then, as if pouring gas on the fire, the Beats Solo2 sounds absolutely terrific! Which we'll talk about on the next page...

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COMMENTS
mark4197's picture

can u compare those headphones for me?

p.s : how much did dr.dre payed you for this review?

Seth195208's picture

.

funkmeister's picture

Last year I went to the store to listen to the Beats to finally hear what all the complaints were about. It wasn't 10 seconds into it and the Solo came back off my head. Yuck. Then I tried others. The only other one I actually liked was the MIXR. I really liked it and hoped the sound improvements they demonstrated would find themselves into newer models. Glad to hear they finally got a winner with the Solo2.

bronson's picture

I'm curious to which solo model you checked in Apple store as the previous model to the solo2 - the solo HD monochromatic, is actually superb (IMO)

Mixr Beats are so an amazing DJ headphone - I absolutely love that can - BIG time

http://cb3723.deviantart.com/art/Full-Mixr-beats-Flavour-401034447

But getting back to the beats solo2 - I honestly think that outside of classical music, these cans are good to go with most genres, however, they do soar with dubstep and glitch hop and even sound amazingly good with YouTube music videos like this:

http://youtu.be/rw27fCwhBJE

What Up Detroit ;)

From what I gather, the new beats mixr2 is due out shortly, so let's hope Tyll is hot to trot with a review?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I actually think the Solo2 is superior, but the HD25 is a DJ headphone and has ergonomic features that cause it to be somewhat in a different class. Soundwise, I've always felt the HD 25 (Amperior, Aluminum, et al) have tended a bit toward the strident side. I like the Aluminum best as it seems least harsh of the family. They're also a bit more uneven sounding than the Solo2.

Dre nor Beats paid me nadda. The cans were sent by the PR department on loan with return shipping labels. I do have the entire line here at the moment, and will probably review a couple more of their cans...though I find none of the others as good as the Solo2. (I'll be reviewing other Beats product not because I'm particularly enthralled, but because they are very important headphones due to the popularity and I think my comments will be useful to consumers.

mark4197's picture

i really want to try them out now..
thanks for the review, as always you are the best =)

Mr.TAD91's picture

I'm not a "hater" but I'd like to say a few words...

All of your reviews to this point have been top notch and thorough. This one, however is totally inaccurate.

Like I said in a previous post on one of your other articles, I auditioned these headphones in the apple store. I was unimpressed to say the least. They're too warm sounding, the mids are artificial and the treble isn't articulated at all. I think that you may be misleading audiophiles, the general public, and aspiring audiophiles into believing these headphones are worth $200. And for you to say that they're better than the headphones mentioned above is something I wouldn't expect from you.

Next thing you know, you'd be calling the TAD CR1 "substantially coloured." And talking about how "smooth" a Cardas cable sounds. Cables shouldn't impart any character of their own on gear, period. They should be perfectly transparent. That's why you buy pure copper cables and now CCAW.I'm worried for you Tyll, and I really hope you get your hearing checked.

Cheers!

MR.TAD91

Tyll Hertsens's picture
You know, I would get my hearing tested again after finding the Solo2 to sound good except for one thing...the measurements. Measurements don't lie...they don't tell the whole truth, and things must be listened to to know what they sound like, but the measurements are not biased and do tell a significant part of the story. And the story those measurements tell is that these cans are competent performers.

"All of your reviews to this point have been top notch and thorough. This one, however is totally inaccurate."

Thank you for the complement, but why do you think my methods and results would be so erroneous in this case?

I suspect your experience with the Beats at the store is heavenly subject to expectation bias. I suggest you go have another listen with an open mind.

Mr.TAD91's picture

Measurements are nice but they're not always necessary. Here's an example: I go into a store and listen to some demo headphones. They sound articulate and are fairly neutral to my ears. Then I go home and read some reviews and look up measurements. The measurements and reviews indicate that the headphones I auditioned objectively are "terrible performers, with annoying colorations."

Would it be wise for me to purchase the headphones?

The same can be said for speakers.

I don't have a brand bias, or expectation bias. I just listen objectively and my conclusions are reached proceeding a cold and emotionless listening session. This said, my subjective side is calcified completely.

I actually don't know you reached your conclusions. I'm puzzled.

Magick Man's picture

10 minutes testing headphones in a store means nothing. FYI.

Of course you have bias, and the more you claim otherwise, the more it shows. We all do, whether we care to admit it or not.

Mr.TAD91's picture

I'm certain you don't know how long I actually spent listening to the solo 2s. FYI, I spent a little over a half an hour in the Apple store listening to them. The source was my smartphone – The Sony ZL.

I objectively auditioned them with Wav. and a few 320s. I went through quite a few tracks ranging from orchestra pieces, from pop to mainstream, and even some rap (to test the bass impact and quality of course)- such as biggie smalls "Get money." where the bass is inherently dense and air pocket tight.

I don’t have bias. I don’t know why you and Tyll suggest that I have bias. It’s strange because his previous reviews have all been astoundingly brilliant; stomping over all other headphone reviews on the net as far as quality and valuable info are concerned. And from them, I’d say even a novice audiophile/average joe could make an educated purchase.

I have nothing against Beats headphones. However, I do think they’re a terrible value for the money and I wouldn't drop cash on them myself, but I couldn’t care less what the general public does.

MR.TAD91

AsSiMiLaTeD's picture

You're obviously free to disagree with Tyl (I have several times), but your abrasive approach leaves a lot to be desired. It's one thing to disagree, it's another to insult and questions someone's skills or ability to do their job.

Tyl obviously spent quite a bit of time with these, listening and measuring. But hey, you spent a few minutes listening to them in a retail store so your opinion MUST be valid. Unbelievable...

Mr.TAD91's picture

Why wouldn't my opinion be valid? And how was I abrasive? I spent a little over a half hour listening to them objectively. Isn't that why they're there, out in the open?! So that people can hear them, and if they like them, they buy them. Umm.

I don't know why you guys are all coddling Tyll so much, it really isn't necessary. I've commended him a number of times already and I think he's stellar as a reviewer. That's the truth. I'm not attacking him and never was.

I am anticipating his next review...aren't you?

To ass (didn't want to type your whole username)

AsSiMiLaTeD's picture

You don't think telling someone whose job it is to review audio gear that they need to get their ears checked because their opinion is different than yours is abrasive?

You really think that your opinion, formed while listening for half an hour in a store full of noise and distractions, is as valid as a proper review with measurements?

If that's truly your stance then I guess there's not much else to discuss, those who don't get it generally don't know that they don't get it.

That's a BRILLIANT use of my screen name to call me an ass, I've NEVER seen that before! The ironic thing is that from your first post in this article, you're the one being an ass the rest of us are just calling you out on it.

Jay_WJ's picture

one with a personality disorder....

sszorin's picture

Understand that Tyll's brain auditory cells have personal preference for mildly 'dark' sounding headphones. The lack of well extended treble does not bother him as much as it does you. That's his thing and nothing can be done about it. You have to adjust his reviews in light of this fact. So for someone like you or me, who cannot stand dark muffled sound signature, the new Beats are still substandard. It all also depends what kind of music one listens to - with bass and beat music the screwed up tonality that is due to the lack of treble is not that annoying or important. The different thing would be classical music or music on acoustic instruments where the Beats would be exposed as second rate headphones. So remember, to each his own, remember that the Beats are not headphones to be used to listen to good music but to peculiar one and for those applications Beats may do their job rather well. Tyll was simply addressing certain audience, it just should have been mentioned in his review. There was no need for the unpleasant exchange you were involved with. Make peace.

shootermacg's picture

I was listening to them today and I must say the treble is noticeably rolled off.
They sounded warm, they lacked attack and ended up sounding a little dull / muffled, maybe it was the demo tune or something, but that's my opinion from today. Also the instruments sounded a little far away, which is weird considering the sound stage was not spacious at all.

drm870's picture

...because on-ear is my least preferred headphone type. (For me, it goes IEM>around-ear>on-ear.)

sifu's picture

i'm a bit suspicious as well, especially what Tyll said at the end here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcpIba9SSjE#t=596

Tyll and John are definitely the top people to listen when it comes to headphones/amps, but beats....cmon, a recommendation from Tyll could very well double their sales, thats why i'm bit suss. and we're well past april 1st.

bronson's picture

I don't know what you are implying, but Tyll has given a review of a good, solid performing headphone regardless of its brand.

In this case it just so happens to be beats.

Why does any of this seem suspicious, to any other brand Tyll has put on the WOF before?

Impulse's picture

You're highly deluded if you think a positive review from Tyll would double Beats sales. Again, no offense to Tyll as I find his work invaluable, but a vast majority of Beats' target market has never even heard of InnerFidelity...

So a positive or negative review is quite inconsequential, audiophiles are just as likely to turn their nose up at these regardless, and it's not like mid priced on ear portables are the most popular category amongst enthusiasts and audiophiles anyway.

If the veiled assumption was that he's being paid off, I can think of several more high profile blogs and sites that would have a higher ROI (and probably the lax standards to accept a payoff) for a market leader as large as Beats.

They've done quite alright (arguably better than anyone else, by a big margin) without his endorsement or audiophile community's approval... I'm glad they're at least investing on what counts the most at the end of the day.

Mr.TAD91's picture

The general public is being mislead regardless. Tyll's review will not have much impact on their purchase even if his review were negative. Most average consumers despise audiophiles anyway.

Thr trouble is with novice audiophile's and wanna-bes who only know "Highs,mids,lows,and "base" lol. They'll read Tyll's review and make a silly impulse purchase.

lachlanlikesathing's picture

Great review Tyll! I just got my pair a week ago and I've been comparing against the XS, and I completely agree that the Solo2 is surprisingly good. I think this might cause an existential nightmare for some hobbyists.

Seth195208's picture

Where the hell you been?

donunus's picture

This is good news! I really hated it when people said that their beats was better than anything else even though it sucked balls. Finally the beats fans can say that their cans are better than many other cans and be right for a change :)

donunus's picture

Now I am intrigued at how much they improved their over the ear models.

bronson's picture

Thank you so much for making this awesome review of a worthy headphone that will hopefully significantly reduce beats from being the default whipping boy on audio forums such as head-fi - I really think this review will challenge even the most hardened of beats haters perceptions.
Also thank you for using my beats thread on head-fi as a resource - I'm honoured for you to find it somewhat useful in whatever capacity - just wow!
I've got the solo2's in every colour but white and pink and just love them by design and their sound which is beats most "neutral" sound signature from them to date, clearly they listen and react to constructive criticism to their benefit.

My lord! Who'd of thought a beats can could ever get such high praise and be entered into the wall of fame - just amazing.

Beats got me into this hobby, but I've always liked their fun sound and brand image and it's great to see their evolution of sound and form factor working to such great success.

Thanks for taking your time to make this review, maybe beats owners won't get treat like lepers as much or anymore off audio snob fellow site members on sites like head-fi?

This is a great day for beats owners, and more specifically solo2 owners and possibly the opening of ears and minds to beats as a credible headphone brand and not just a fashion accessory.

Thanks so much again - I wonder what Dre would say? LoL

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I enjoyed your thread, but to be truthful I linked to it because it was the only Beats Solo2 thread that was more than a couple of posts long, so it kinda had to be that one. However, it's a dandy thread and I'm glad it was there.

I too hope people will give Beats another look, but I wouldn't say that the turn-around is complete. These things take a lot of time, and ALL headphone manufacturers put up lemons...sometimes many. SO, you've got to take headphones one at a time regardless of the manufacturer. That said, that Beats has produced an honest to goodness solid performer is terrific, and indicates that they can do it again. Given the huge market share they have, they could probably pull it off pretty well if they developed the will to make more headphones with this level of sound quality (and better).

bronson's picture

One of the largest, if not the largest electrical device stores in the UK have there top four selling headphones listed as beats solo2!

1. solo2 in red
2. solo2 in pink
3. solo2 in black
4. solo2 in white

http://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/audio/headphones/headphones-3919-m.html

Currys and beats owe you money!

Pretty slick marketing of beats to do the full colour range that they do so well - funny to see the likes of Bose also doing a range of colours, playing catch up.

burnspbesq's picture

I wonder if a judicious use of EQ could solve those FR issues. Worth a try.

I'm not getting rid of my UERMs or my Aedles, but I will listen to these carefully and with an open mind. The original Solo really sucked; if these are even decent that's a hugely important development.

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