Another day, another pair of Beats but this isn’t just a paint job, they’ve changed the original recipe for the new Dre Beats Studio
The success of Beats by Dre headphones has been immense and hasn’t faltered in years, fueled by fashion friendly reboots and an ever expanding range.
Beats Studio headphones are the original noise-cancelling model and this new update ditches AAA batteries and gets a cosmetic overhaul too. Now almost five years old, can the new Beats Studio keep up with rivals desperate to get a slice of Dre’s sales figures?
New Beats Studio: Design
The biggest change on the Dre Beats Studio is that the compulsory noise-cancelling doesn’t rely on AAA batteries as a built-in rechargeable battery takes care of that. Quoted at 20 hours battery life, it’s more like 15 hours with medium volume and there’s five handy LED lights which show how much juice is left.
A useful extra is that once the cable is detached, the headphones automatically turn off if you forget to manually hit the off button. A MicroUSB charge socket is neatly located under the right cup.
The problem of charging or using batteries for headphones is an accepted hassle with noise-canceling models but the bigger issue for traveling Beats fans is that you can’t buy a new pack of batteries at the airport or train station.
Instead, you’ll need the charge cable which is easily attached to a laptop or power socket but you’ll need to get into the habit of taking it with you.
Happily there’s room for the cable in the pill shaped carry case, itself slim enough to fit into a normal bag when the headphones are folded down. The folding mechanism is still a brilliant piece of design work that addresses the process of carrying big headphones in a small bag.
New Beats Studio: Comfort
Shinier, smoother and more lightweight are the key points here. While remaining over-ear in style, there’s less sharp edges, softer cups and a bigger feeling of comfort which means Bose are no longer the most comfortable noise-cancelling cans for your commute.
The cosmetic overhaul is a winner, feeling noticeably lighter around your neck and losing the sharp edges means you can stuff in a bag with risking the rigid plastic scratching something important.
New Beats Studio: Durability
The strong plastic design, thick cable and rubber headband put these at the front of the pack where durability is concerned. Fold, twist, drop and abuse and these headphones will still be fine. The ear cushions are softer than before and a little less durable but that's a small price to pay for the comfort. The carry case is a nice touch and there's a spare cable too, though the ends of each are as rugged as we've seen.
New Beats Studio: Sound quality
The first thing you’ll notice is the noise cancelling hiss that blocks outside noise - it’s louder than before and while that means less outside chatter for your ears, it means soft tracks will be joined by an audible hiss. This hiss is always more audible when sat in a silent room, however.
Turning the volume up helps lose the hiss and there’s a good argument for saying Beats are for pop, rock and hip hop rather than Sting playing a mandolin in his pants on a balcony in Spain. Play Next Girl by The Black Keys and detail is impressive - you can make out the quiet distorted vinyl sample during the first few seconds and the bass line sounds predictably gigantic.
Similarly Forever by Haim shimmies with pop joy and it’s clear that there’s more detail in the new Studio model. The makers point to a new Beats Acoustic Engine piece of software which helped tune the new model and, whether it worked or not, the audio has been enhanced, even if the hiss affects some softer songs.
Roman’s Revenge by Nicki Minaj sounds epic and shows how the bass no longer threatens to slap down sharp electronic samples and melodic pop interludes. The strings on Don’t Need A Reason by Beth Orton are detailed and deep too.
Daily use proved that they are brilliant travel companions. Comfortable and small over ears, they’re rugged and reliable whether on a plane, train or in a crowded cafe. Yes, they’re now officially better than Bose offerings and no, they can’t compete sonically with the likes of the Philips Fidelio L1s or the B&W P5s but then you can’t take those outside and they don’t do noise-cancelling or er, folding.
Comparing home headphones with headphones designed for travel and city life is ultimately fruitless, like comparing a pair of new Nike Air Max trainers with Paul Smith brogues.
New Beats Studio: Verdict
Still as exciting as walking into a wild night club, this time with extra consideration for bigger sonic detail alongside bass blasts. The new design means they’re brilliant for use on the go when killing background chatter takes precedence over ultimate sonic performance.
We’d like less hiss for quieter environments and an off button as well as the option to live without the powered noise-cancelation skills but that’s defeating the purpose slightly. Overall, if most of your listening is done on the go or in noisy areas, these are great headphones that - importantly - are far more rugged than rivals.
New Beats Studio release date: 14 August
New Beats Studio price: £269