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Hands-on Gear Review
Beats Solo3 ReviewPrice: $300 List
Pros: Lightweight, good sound
Cons: Expensive, especially considering their relative performance
Bottom line: Decent performance that doesn’t quite match the expectations set by the list price
While the Beats Solo3 are good headphones, they don't quite live up to the high end pedigree suggested by both their price and their advertising. The sound quality is good but not exceptional, they do not offer active noise cancellation, and they're not the most comfortable headphones we've tested. They are exceptionally light at just 7.5 ounces, are available in many different colors and have a nice, minimalistic design. If those things are at the top of your headphone buying checklist then these are a worthwhile buy. However, we think most users that are willing to spend ~$300 on a pair of headphones will be better served by the superior sound quality and active noise cancellation of the Bose SoundLink Wireless II or the Sony MDR1000X.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Beats Solo3 offers decent all-around performance, but in many areas they fall short of other similarly priced headphones. If the Beats Solo3 fits your price range, we would suggest looking into the Bose SoundLink Wireless II and checking if the Sony MDR1000X is on sale before making a final decision.
The Beats Solo3 earned an average overall score in our testing. Below we detail the different tests the we used to calculate those overall scores, and how the Beats Solo3 performed in each.
In our testing the Beats Solo3 sounded better than the average pair of headphones, but not exceptional. This earned them a slightly above average score of 7 out of 10. Where the Beats Solo3 really shines is it clarity. In our testing everything from crowded guitar riffs to swung notes on ride cymbals sounded crisp and clear. In this capacity these headphones were just shy of the clarity of top scoring models like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and the Sony MDR1000X.
The major downside to the Beats Solo3 is its bass, which was very weak when compared to other high end models. In fact, its bass was weaker than that of the TaoTronics TT-BH22US, which cost only $70. This robbed some degree of depth from most music. Overall, this sound profile makes the Beats Solo3 great for things like podcasts and acoustic music, but it makes things like bass heavy rock or hip hop sound a bit flat when compared to other high end models.
This is one area where the Beats Solo3 really falls short of other high end models. Whereas most of the high-end models scored 8 or 9 in this metric, the Beats Solo3 earned only a 4 out of 10. This is mostly due to the fact that the Beats Solo3 lacks an active noise cancelling feature, something that is standard for most models in this price range. Though the headphones themselves do a decent job of muffling ambient noise, even with loud music playing we could still hear a slightly quieter version of most of the surrounding noise. This paled in comparison to the almost complete sound isolation of the active noise cancelling models. Even the TaoTronics TT-BH22US, which cost less than half of what the Beats Solo3 cost, provided better noise isolation.
The Beats Solo3 was again lacking in our comfort testing, earned just a 5 out of 10. These are the only on-ear headphones that we tested, so they put some pressure on your ears by design. While this is fine for short periods after time, after using them for an hour or two our ears were aching for a break. In contrast, over-ear models like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II stayed on our heads all day without any complaint.
The Beats Solo3 is fairly easy to use, but can be a bit finicky. This earned it a score of 6 out of 10 in our user friendliness testing. The headphones have a single button that functions as a play/pause button. You can also quickly press twice to skip forward a track, or press three times to go back a track. To fast forward you press twice and hold on the second press. Once you get passed the play/pause functionality, none of these commands are particularly intuitive, so there is a slight learning curve.
One plus for Apple users is the fact that the Beats Solo3 uses the proprietary Apple W1 chip. This makes pairing with Apple devices even easier than usual. It also means that once you pair these headphones with one of your Apple devices, every other device logged into your Apple account will immediately recognize the headphones.
The Beats Solo3 were the most portable headphones that we tested, earning them the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric. These headphones weigh just 7.5 ounces and fold up into a tiny, padded carrying case. These things will certainly not weigh you down when you carry them on to your next flight.
Unfortunately the Beats Solo3 price to performance ratio isn't particularly good, even when you take into account the fact that they often sell for up to $100 less than their $300 list price. The TaoTronics TT-BH22US sound just as good and offer active noise cancellation for just $70. The Bose SoundLink Wireless II sound significantly better and list for $280. We think both of these headphones would offer a significantly better value than the Beats Solo3 for the vast majority of people.
The Beats Solo3 are fairly good headphones that still fail to live up to their list price. If you're considering spending $300 on wireless headphones, there are much better options available.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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