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Beats Solo Pro Review

This on-ear model is a more compact option, making them excellent for city commutes and other short periods of wear
Beats Solo Pro
Credit: Laura Casner
Top Pick Award
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Price:   $300 List | $169.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Great sound quality, good active noise canellation, intuitive interface
Cons:  Expensive, uncomfortable to wear for long periods
Manufacturer:   Beats by Dre
By Michelle Powell and Max Mutter  ⋅  Apr 2, 2020
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 15
  • Sound Quality - 30% 8
  • Noise Isolation - 25% 7
  • Comfort - 25% 4
  • User Friendliness - 10% 9
  • Portability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

For those that prefer on-ear headphones (a middle ground between earbuds and over-ear headphones), we think the Beats Solo Pro headphones are a fantastic choice. Thanks to effective active noise cancellation, these cans manage to be much smaller and less prominent during wear than full over-ear headphones while still providing a high-quality listening experience. Pair that with a sleek user interface, and you've got a great and fashionable set of headphones that are perfect for commuting and travel. Our one complaint about these headphones is their comfort. The relatively tight fit, which is partially what allows the noise reduction to work so well, makes them uncomfortable for long periods of wear. If you're looking for all-day headphones, these probably won't fit the bill. That being said, the Solo Pro fits that "block the noise on the subway for an hour and then disappear into a bag" niche near perfectly.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Beats Solo Pro
This Product
Beats Solo Pro
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $300 List
$169.99 at Amazon
$350 List
$348.00 at Amazon
$400 List
$379.00 at Amazon
$299 List
$210.99 at Amazon
$60 List
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Pros Great sound quality, good active noise canellation, intuitive interfaceSuperb active noise cancellation and overall sound quality, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, auto-pause, relatively comfortable for most peopleExcellent sound quality, field-leading noise cancellation, comfortableGreat sound quality, relatively small and portableInexpensive, powerful bass, effective active noise cancellation, comfortable
Cons Expensive, uncomfortable to wear for long periodsExpensiveExpensiveCan be uncomfortable if you have larger ears, noise cancellation lags slightly behind that of comparable modelsLacks some brightness in mid and vocal ranges, headband may be to large for smaller heads
Bottom Line This on-ear model is a more compact option, making them excellent for city commutes and other short periods of wearTop-notch in terms of both noise cancellation and sound quality, it's hard to find a better listening experiencePillowy comfort and one of the best personal listening experiences we've enjoyed from any deviceA great choice for those that place a premium on sound quality over active noise cancellationImpressively inexpensive given the sound quality, active noise-canceling performance, and comfort
Rating Categories Beats Solo Pro Sony WH-1000XM4 Bose Noise Cancelli... beyerdynamic Lagoon... Soundcore Life Q20
Sound Quality (30%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Noise Isolation (25%)
7.0
10.0
10.0
7.0
6.0
Comfort (25%)
4.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
User Friendliness (10%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
Portability (10%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Beats Solo Pro Sony WH-1000XM4 Bose Noise Cancelli... beyerdynamic Lagoon... Soundcore Life Q20
Type On-ear Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear
Noise cancelling Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Manufacturer reported battery life (hours) 40 30 20 45 40
Measured weight (ounces) 9.5 8.8 9.2 9.9 9.3
Included case Soft case, no padding Semi-hard case Semi-hard case Semi-hard case Lined drawstring pouch
App No Yes Yes Yes No
Earcup padding cover material Leatherette Foamed urethane/leatherette Leather Protein synthetic leather Leatherette
Charging cable length (inches) N/A 7.9" 42" 27.5" 40"
Microphone for voice? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth version 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.2 5.0
Onboard buttons Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling, voice assistant, power/bluetooth, answer/decline calls, toggle between sound modes Volume, change track, take/make calls Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling, voice assistant, power/bluetooth, answer/decline/mute calls Volume, play/pause, forward/back, fast forward/rewind, noise cancelling, voice assistant, power/bluetooth, answer/decline/mute calls Volume, multifunction, power, NC

Our Analysis and Test Results

The biggest advantage of on-ear headphones is that they pack smaller and look less gangly than larger over-ear headphones. However, most of these headphones block out so little ambient noise that you might as well go with even more portable and discrete earbuds. The Solo 3 is a rare exception thanks to the effective noise cancellation, providing a smaller on-ear profile that can still block much of the din of a crowded bus or subway car.

Performance Comparison


The Solo Pro headphones are our favorite on-ear model, ideal for...
The Solo Pro headphones are our favorite on-ear model, ideal for commuters.
Credit: Laura Casner

Sound Quality


Considering the on-ear design of the Solo Pro doesn't provide the same flattering acoustic enclave that over-ear headphones do, we were impressed that these headphones kept up with many of our favorite over-ear models in our sound quality test. Overall, we think pretty much anyone will like how these headphones sound.


Like most of the Beats line, the Solo Pro emphasizes the low end of tracks, bringing bass lines to the forefront of any composition. While the bass is certainly highlighted with these headphones, we never felt it to be overpowering either, even in tracks that call for over-the-top bass.

We thoroughly enjoy the Solo Pro's bass-forward sound.
We thoroughly enjoy the Solo Pro's bass-forward sound.
Credit: Laura Casner

We found the Solo Pro's overall clarity to be quite crisp at moderate volumes. The headphones clearly like bass more, thus the low end receives better clarity and separation. However, vocals and instruments in higher registers still enjoy an overall clear expression even if some subtle notes get a bit lost in crowded or overly bass-heavy compositions. Playing music at louder volumes, in our experience, tends to degrade that clarity quickly. Higher pitched vocals took on a noticeably fuzzy quality when played loud during our testing. While this really had no impact on the majority of our listening experience, those that like to blare soprano vocalists may be slightly disappointed.

Noise Isolation


The Solo Pro offer some of the best active noise cancellation we've ever seen in a pair of on-ear headphones. Though they certainly don't match the same level of overall noise isolation of fully over-ear models, they are a great choice for those looking for sleeker on-ear headphones that can still combat ambient noise.


Right off the bat, the Solo Pro creates a better seal on the ear than the vast majority of on-ear headphones on the market. This is thanks to the relatively stiff padding and the tight fit afforded by the headband (more on that in a bit). This seal alone lets these headphones passively block more ambient noise than most of their on-ear siblings.

That seal also makes the active noise-canceling much more effective. Where most on-ear noise-canceling models let in so much noise that the active cancellation is about as effective as stopping a flood with a chain-link fence, the Solo Pro creates a predictable seal against that outside noise. This lets the internal microphones and noise-canceling drivers actually do some great work suppressing any of the noise that does make it through that seal.

The Solo Pro offers impressive active noise cancellation, but most...
The Solo Pro offers impressive active noise cancellation, but most of our testers found it uncomfortable to keep them on for extended periods while working in a noisy cafe.
Credit: Laura Casner

That being said, the Solo Pro's noise cancellation is about on par with that of most budget over-ear noise-canceling models. Background chatter and the clicking of rails on a subway car are still noticeable when listening to music at low volumes, but so much less conspicuous than it would be otherwise. Perhaps more importantly, you can almost completely drown out that type of noise by playing music at a moderate volume rather than blaring it as most over-ear models would require.

The Beats Solo also offers a transparency mode, which actively uses the microphones to pipe outside noise into your ears. This is mainly for times when you want to be able to hear an announcement or generally be aware of your surroundings, but don't want to take the headphones off.

Comfort


Unfortunately, the tight seal that allows the Solo Pro's earcups comes at the price of overall comfort.


Beats has opted for a borderline clamp-like tightness on the headband in order to facilitate that tight seal. Reactions to this tightness in our comfort testers ranged from, "It's kind of annoying but I don't mind it for an hour or so," to "My ears are instantly itchy; I dislike this, please let me take them off." We think most people will fall into the former category and be able to wear these headphones for about an hour, long enough to keep you entertained and block out noise on your commute, before needing a break. However, since we did have some harshly negative reactions to the fit we would strongly recommend that you either try these headphones on before you buy or purchase them from a retailer with a good return policy.

The Solo Pro blocks out so much noise through a tight headband and...
The Solo Pro blocks out so much noise through a tight headband and stiff padding. While this creates a good seal against sound, it can get uncomfortable after a while.
Credit: Laura Casner

User Friendliness


As they are owned by Apple, Beats knows how to create a great experience for iOS users. The Solo Pro is still friendly for Android users as well, but loses a few special features when used without an Apple device.


To turn the headphones on and off you simply unfold and refold them — no need for a power button here. If you're an Apple user you just need to open the headphones next to an unlocked iPhone and they will pair automatically, thanks to Apple's proprietary H1 chip. Android users will have to put the headphones into pairing mode and then dig through their Bluetooth menu.

Beats kept the on-headphones controls sleek and simple for the Solo Pro. One small button on the left earcup toggles between noise cancellation on/off and transparency mode, which actively transmits outside sounds to your ears. The large "b" logo on the right earcup also serves as a play/pause button. Pressing long on this button can also summon virtual assistants, though Apple users can also just say, "Hey Siri."

The Beats logo on the right earcup is actually a large button.
The Beats logo on the right earcup is actually a large button.
Credit: Laura Casner

This logo button can also skip tracks, with two quick presses skipping forward, and three presses skipping backward.

Buttons just to the top and bottom of that logo can raise and lower the volume, respectively.

The Solo Pro charges via Apple's lightning port. Notably, there is no other port on the headphones, not even an auxiliary audio connection. This is a bummer for those that want the option of using the headphones in wired mode if the battery is running low, but don't want to pay extra for a lightning adapter.

Portability


The relatively slim and double-hinged Solo Pro packs down smaller than most headphones. The included recycled felt case is somewhat floppy and offers little protection beyond minor scratches. We had no issue throwing the headphones in their case into the top of a daily bag but got nervous stuffing them into an overpacked carry-on. Also, the lack of rigidity in the case can make getting the headphones inside and correctly oriented somewhat difficult.


While we would have hoped for a better case considering the price of these headphones, it's an easy fix. Multiple companies are already making more protective cases designed for these headphones at fairly reasonable prices.

The Solo Pro packs up small but the carrying case isn't particularly...
The Solo Pro packs up small but the carrying case isn't particularly protective.
Credit: Laura Casner

Value


While the Beats Solo Pro offers field-leading performance in on-ear noise cancellation, it occupies a relatively narrow useful niche — city commuters that want to block out noise on the subway without overly large over-ear headphones, but that also don't like having earbuds in their ears. If your use case fits that scenario exactly, then the premium price of the Beats Solo Pro is well worth it. But, if you want headphones that can do anything beyond sound good and be bearably comfortable for stints no longer than an hour at a time, these headphones will end up being a waste of money.

Conclusion


Possibly the perfect city commuting headphones on the market right now, the Beats Solo Pro shine for morning subway rides, but fail as all-day companions.

Michelle Powell and Max Mutter