Beats by Dre Solo2 wireless headphone review

Stylish and convenient, but lacking what it takes to play songs back with emotion

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Beats by Dr. Dre Solo2
  • Beats by Dr. Dre Solo2
  • Beats by Dr. Dre Solo2
  • Beats by Dr. Dre Solo2
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Excellent design that hides electronics
  • Wireless music playback over Bluetooth
  • Beats is a recognisable brand

Cons

  • Lesser detail than similarly priced rivals
  • Firm headband
  • Cups heat up over long sessions

Would you buy this?

Immediately there’s a sense the design brief for the Solo2 must’ve been ambitious. Beats has earned a reputation for making stylish headphones attuned to the low end of the sound spectrum. The Solo2 headphones would have to stay true to this identity, and then go one further by integrating wireless technologies and a rechargeable battery — all without defacing the headphones’ design.

Little trinkets hint at its wireless skill-set. A row of five LED bulbs on an earcup indicate the battery level. Sitting adjacent is a microUSB port, tucked behind the cup’s faux leather.

There are volume controls on the left cup, but you cannot see them. They are not advertised with labelling or by donning a different colour. People wearing the headphones wouldn’t be able to see them, anyway.

Kitting these headphones with wireless technology has barely phased the design. Light weight plastic accounts for most of its construction, stemming from the headband to the circular arms of the cups. The underside of the headband is cushioned by an accommodating material, the likes of rubber or some kind of elastomer, which Beats has not shared. And the cushioning on the leatherette cups upholds the band’s level of comfort.

Whether these headphones can be worn for hours depends largely on the size of your skull. The plastic band has little give and the cups are pressed snugly against ear lobes for a soundstage as barren as a white canvas.

Most people will be able to listen to music for hours — Beats claims the battery will last 12 hours. A dead battery isn’t much of a problem because the Solo2 ships with a 3.5mm aux cable that can be used to listen to music between charges.

Folding arms and a matching pouch make the Solo2 a worthy travelling companion. These headphones have ‘on-the-go’ personalities in mind, with a light 208 gram weight and a small footprint.

Going wireless is not without its shortcomings. Bluetooth playback requires sound files to be compressed and this affects the overall audio quality.

Older Beats headphones would manipulate how songs were played back by exaggerating the bass. Using them was like driving around in a car that had a trunk consumed by a woofer.

The Solo2 is more mature and aims to play a track back transparently, just as the artist intended.

And it is played back with gusto. The Solo2 headphones can reach volume levels so high that they border uncomfortable. Sixty per cent to max was our sweet spot.

The cost of this volume is detail, and it’s a high price to pay. The various instruments populating the mid-tones often sound muddled together. Rivalling headphones around the same price differ by precisely layering instruments. These include the $449 Bowers & Wilkins P5 and the $299 Sennheiser Momentum.

A tangled mid-range is the by-product of a narrow stereo image. Some headphones successfully create the sensation music is bathing the listener from every direction. The Solo2 is less successful in this pursuit.

All genres are wanting for clarity. The bass in 112’s Peaches and Cream came off as monotone as it lacked nuance. It sounds softened and less textured.

The vocals in Dash Berlin’s Man on the run was robbed of its emotion. There’s a moment ahead of the climax where all the electronics and instruments wind down. Artist Jaren Cerf alone begins singing. The Solo2 captures only Cerf as it struggles to communicate the ambiance. Its aforementioned rivals give the impression she is singing in a hall, distilling the silence, and this difference is profound.

Beats’ Solo2 then is more focused on style and convenience than it is on sound quality. Most won’t notice the subtleties of its audio playback, until they’re standing in the headphone section of a retailer, maybe JB Hi-Fi, and try on a pair that does fewer things, only better.

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