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Beats Solo3 Review

Decent performance that doesn't quite match the expectations set by the list price
Beats Solo3
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Price:   $300 List | $137.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Lightweight, good sound
Cons:  Expensive, especially considering their relative performance
Manufacturer:   Beats by Dre
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Jan 8, 2018
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59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 15
  • Sound Quality - 30% 7
  • Noise Isolation - 25% 4
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • User Friendliness - 10% 6
  • Portability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Beats Solo3
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Beats Solo3
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Price $300 List
$137.99 at Amazon
$350 List
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$400 List
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$299 List
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$60 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lightweight, good soundSuperb 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, especially considering their relative performanceExpensiveExpensiveCan 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 Decent performance that doesn't quite match the expectations set by the list priceTop-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 Solo3 Sony WH-1000XM4 Bose Noise Cancelli... beyerdynamic Lagoon... Soundcore Life Q20
Sound Quality (30%)
7.0
10.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Noise Isolation (25%)
4.0
10.0
10.0
7.0
6.0
Comfort (25%)
5.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
User Friendliness (10%)
6.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
Portability (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Beats Solo3 Sony WH-1000XM4 Bose Noise Cancelli... beyerdynamic Lagoon... Soundcore Life Q20
Type On-ear Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear
Noise cancelling No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Manufacturer reported battery life (hours) 40 30 20 45 40
Measured weight (ounces) 7.5 8.8 9.2 9.9 9.3
Included case Padded soft case 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 N/A 5.0 5.0 4.2 5.0
Onboard buttons Volume, play/pause, forward/back 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 Solo3 offers decent all-around performance, but in many areas they fall short of other similarly priced headphones.

Performance Comparison


Good headphones, the Solo3 doesn't quite live up to its price tag in...
Good headphones, the Solo3 doesn't quite live up to its price tag in our opinion.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Sound Quality


In our testing, the Solo3 sounded better than the average pair of headphones, but not exceptional. Where the Solo3 really shines is in its clarity. 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.

The major downside to the Solo3 is its bass, which was very weak when compared to other high-end models. This robbed some degree of depth from most music. Overall, this sound profile makes the 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.

The Solo3 sounds good, but at this price point we'd expect a bit more.
The Solo3 sounds good, but at this price point we'd expect a bit more.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Noise Isolation


This is one area where the Solo3 really falls short of other high-end models. This is mostly due to the fact that the Solo3 lacks an active noise-canceling 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-canceling models.

Comfort


The Solo3 was again lacking in our comfort testing. 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 from Bose and Sony stayed on our heads all day without any complaint.

It's somewhat personal preference, but we felt the on-ear design of...
It's somewhat personal preference, but we felt the on-ear design of the Solo3 was much less comfortable than the over-ear designs of other models.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

User Friendliness


The Solo3 is fairly easy to use, but can be a bit finicky. 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 past 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 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.

Portability


The Solo3 was the most portable headphones that we tested. 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.

The Beats Solo3 packs up the smallest of any of our models.
The Beats Solo3 packs up the smallest of any of our models.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Value


Unfortunately, the Solo3 price to performance ratio isn't particularly good. Today's standard expects active noise cancellation in this price range.

Conclusion


The Beats Solo3 are fairly good headphones that still fail to live up to their list price. If you're considering spending this much on wireless headphones, there are much better options available.

Max Mutter and Steven Tata