They're renowned for their bass, but are Beats headphones finally getting serious? Read our Beats Solo 2 review to find out
People knock Beats headphones, but they sell in ridiculous numbers. That's despite there being better options out there for the same price. However, Beats has really upped its game with its latest generation of products, including these new Beats Solo 2 headphones.
What we need to find out is whether this new generation can compete with rivals like the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear and much cheaper Bose AE2.
Beats Solo 2: Size and build
Design has always been a winning factor of the Beats headphones. Not everyone likes the look, but it has become iconic.
The Beats Solo 2 calm down the design a bit, with smoother curves and fewer jutting edges. You can still get the headphones in a bunch of loud shades if you like your design as loud as your music, though.
These are on-ear headphones, meaning they sit in the mid-ground size-wise between earphones and giant full-size heapdhones. Beats has aced the lines of this pair, making sure they don't jut out too far from your head. This is the single most common reason why big headphones can look silly.
The Beats brand alone already elicits strong enough reactions to put some people off buying them. But abstracted from all that nonsense, these are quite good-looking headphones. A bit shiny for some, perhaps, but the contours and lines are all on point.
Beats Solo 2: Comfort
As with previous Beats Solo heapdhones, the Beats Solo 2 trade away some comfort in order to become more versatile. The headband is much tighter than that of the Bose AE2 or Samsung Level On, in order to keep a firm grip of your head should you take them to a gym.
To match this, the headband uses squiggly rubber instead of soft foam, which again increases grip. They are not as comfortable as a pair of headphones with as easier-going approach, and glasses-wearers may find their ears getting sore after an hour or so.
There are much worse examples of this, though. The Beats Solo 2 have quite well-padded fake-leather ear pads, and the cups are angled to match the tilt of most people's ears. They are pretty good at blocking out sound too, making them a sensible option for the commute. The cups fold in, for that extra bit of portability.
Beats Solo 2: Durability
The Beats Solo headphones are often criticised for their plasticky build, and the shiny-shiny finish doesn't help out in this respect either.
However, the actual build quality of this latest pair seems perfectly good. The skeleton of the headphones is steel, and while the plastic frame doesn't feel too expensive, it doesn't creak away when you flex it either.
The Beats Solo 2 also use a removable headphone cable, letting you replace it easily should the connector go a bit dodgy after six months. As part of the package you get a cable with a 3-button remote designed for iPhones. But the central play/pause button works with Androids too.
Beats Solo 2: Sound quality
Down to what really matters, how do the Beats Solo 2 sound? Are they still bass monsters? Yes, they are. Beats headphones going non-bassy would be a tech identity crisis worthy of an intervention.
However, Beats has significantly improved sound quality since the muggy-sounding Beats Solo HD. Treble is a bit sparkier, bass is a bit less bloated.
The Beats Solo 2 are quite forward-sounding headphones, with a good bit of punchiness to their sound. Like the latest Beats Studio, they can sound quite exciting.
It's an improvement, certainly. However, just look at the sound next to the price, abstracted from the brand, the marketing and the snazzy look, and it doesn't add up entirely.
Bass is still a scene-stealing influence that spoils the coherence of arrangements, making everything sound a bit claustrophobic. Using EQ, we found that bass and mid-bass are probably about 3dB more pronounced than they should be. And the low-end doesn't have the taut punchiness of something like the the Nocs NS900.
The bass focus leaves mids sounding recessed, demoting vocals from the top spot they should (usually) be given. Treble is nice and smooth, but if sound quality is a top priority, you'll find headphones with much better detail retrieval at the price too. Or more importantly, you can spend a lot less and get similar sound quality, from something like the AKG K451.
Beats Solo 2: Verdict
The Beats Solo 2 are a big improvement on the old model sonically, with greater clarity and less destructive bass. They'll sell by the truckload. But if you care about sound more than anything else, they're still not the headphones for you.
Beats Solo 2 release date: Out now
Beats Solo 2 price: £169