Beats Solo Pro review: Too close for comfort
- Surprisingly good sound quality
- Great material design
- Fast pairing
- Can often be uncomfortable
- Not properly sweat resistant
By making every other part of the package feel exceptional enough, the familiar problems that plague the Solo Pro become the sort of inconveniences that you’re willing to live with rather than outright deal breakers.
Price$ 429.00 (AUD)
Should I buy the Beats Solo Pro?
Your mileage with the Solo Pro is ultimately going to be funneled towards a single question.
How do you feel about on-ear headphones?
If you’ve relished the recent trend towards the combined comfort and freakish fidelity allowed by modern over-ear designs, the Beats Solo Pro are going to inevitably feel like a step backwards across both fronts.
They sound good but they rarely sound as good as something with an over-ear design sounds. Likewise, they’re comfortable but rarely as comfortable as something with an over-ear design would be.
On the other hand, if on-ear headphones are your poison of choice, then the Beats Solo Pro make for an impressive cocktail. By the wider standards of the category, they’re nothing short of exceptional. As far as this particular form-factor goes, they get more than enough right to earn an easy recommendation.
These headphones won’t change minds but they do speak to your heart. I’ve always found the fit of on-ear headphones to be a little too close a fit for comfort but if you’ve been looking for something like the Beats QC35s in this particular form-factor, you’ll probably be thrilled with what the Beats Solo Pro have to offer.
Price when reviewed
In Australia, the Beats Solo Pro are priced at $429.
Beats Solo Pro full review
In Australia, you can buy the Beats Solo Pro for an RRP of $429 through:
Design & Build
Compared to earlier iterations and when it comes to aesthetics and material design, the Beats Solo Pro reflect a major leap forward for the brand.
Gone are the cheap and disposable plastics of the past. Left in their place is a combination of rubberised headband, padded leatherette ear cups and a durable metal frame that seamlessly and literally bridges the gap between the two.
The new Solo Pro use a combination of clever design and minimalist buttons to get the job done. The headphones automatically turn on when unfolded and there’s a single button on the left earcup that toggles between noise-cancelling and transparency modes. There are also three physical buttons built into the right earcup, which allow you to raise and lower the volume or pause a track.
Up front, the Solo Pro skew premium in a way that helps them feel immediately comparable to stuff like Bose’s 700-series noise-cancelling headphones and Sony’s WH-1000X M3. The Solo Pro arrive bundled with a fabric carry case and charger cord but no power brick. They also support the same fast-pairing tech found in the AirPods.
Of course, there is a key difference between the Beats Solo Pro and these alternatives that goes beyond their sense of style.
In recent years, over-ears has become the dominant and default form-factor for noise-cancelling headphones for a pretty easy-to-understand reason: it just makes everything easier. It’s easier to make a set of noise-cancelling headphones cancel out more noise with an over-ear fit, since they naturally form a better seal against outside noise. It’s easier to make a set of noise-cancelling headphones that are more comfortable for longer if they utilise an over-ear design, since they put less pressure on your ears.
Nevertheless, the Beats Solo Pro defy this trend. Aside from AKG, I can’t think of any other audio brand that’s seriously trying to deploy noise-cancelling tech in an on-ear form-factor in the consumer space. A lack of competition here makes it easy for the Apple-enshrined appeal of the Beats Solo Pro to stand out.
There are, of course, some caveats to note here. Firstly, while Beats say that the new Solo Pro headphones are built to be durable and can be worn at the gym, they don’t really have any sort of formal water resistance.
That’s not quite a deal-breaker but it’s definitely a wrinkle that stuck with me during my time with the headphones. If Beats know people are going to wear these to the gym, why not go take that little extra step and ensure their headphones can live up to that kind of wear and tear?
Then, there’s the actual comfort-factor. While the earcups on the Solo Pro have a really appealing squishiness to them when held in your hands, the headband itself pushed down and created a lot of pressure on the top of my head when worn. This made these headphones uncomfortable to wear for anything more than fifteen minutes at a time.
It starts with an itch you can’t scratch but quickly spirals into outright pain as the Solo Pro hold you in their vice-like grip. Pretty much every experience I had wearing the Beats Solo Pro ended with this timely and sobering reminder of why the over-ear headphones have become so popular.
Features & Sound Quality
The big shame here is that, if and when you can put the discomfort of wearing them to the side, the noise-cancelling offered by the Beats Solo Pro is actually surprisingly impressive.
I found them to be much better at passive noise-isolation than any other on-ear headphones I’ve used before and while they didn’t quite match the highs of Bose’s or Sony’s latest - they often got a lot closer than I expected them to.
For as long as you’re willing to make the familiar and fundamental compromises that Beats Solo Pro ask of you, they deliver a surprisingly decent playback experience. Up until the pain arrived, these headphones sounded great.
I could listen to a song through the Beats Solo Pro and have a great time but listening to an album would prove a trying experience.
Heard through the Beats Solo Pro, Sturgill Simpson’s genre-defying “Sing Along” was all hum, roar, sturm and drang. Likewise, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Boy Problems” delivered a bouncy and bopping banquet of beats. Finally, the self-indulgent verve of the Weeknd’s “Heartless” proved well-suited for the Beats Solo Pro’s natural tendency towards emphasizing bassy and distorted sound signatures.
Audiophiles are unlikely to be sated by the Beats Solo Pro but, then again, they’re probably not the target market.
On-ear headphones are more of a lifestyle choice than one driven by quality of life and while the Beats Solo Pro do little to cancel out the usual shortcomings, they do manage to delete enough noise to lay the foundation for an impressive listening experience.
The last thing to note here is charging. The Beats Solo Pro charge via a Lightning port on the right ear-cup. They support fast charging to the sum of three hours of playback from a 10 minute charge.
All in all, the Beats Solo Pro offer up to 22 hours of playback with noise-cancelling enabled and up to 40 hours of playback with noise-cancelling disabled. This isn't category-leading but it is broadly comparable with what you’ll get out of something from Sony or Bose.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve been after a set of on-ear headphones that deliver all the modern perks you’d usually find in a set of over-ear noise cans, you’ll probably love the Beats Solo Pro. And I’m happy for you. Honestly. But the thing that sticks with me here is that for as much as the Solo Pro get right, they never truly find the momentum needed to escape the gravity well of problems that plague their form-factor.
Beats and Apple haven’t attempted to solve many or any of the issues that have driven the trend away from on-ear headphones. They’ve merely disguised them. By making every other part of the package feel exceptional enough, the familiar problems that plague the Solo Pro become the sort of inconveniences that you’re willing to live with rather than outright deal breakers.
If you’re been looking for something like the Beats QC35s in this particular form-factor, I suspect you’ll be a fan of what the Beats Solo Pro have to offer but if you’ve always found on-ear headphones to be a little too close a fit for comfort, don’t expect that to change here.
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