Dr. Dre regularly graces audiences to less-than-subtle bass booming hip-hop, so it was no surprise when I first heard about the Monster company doing a headphone line with the good Doctor that they would emphasise this bass. The line of headphones began with the Beats Studio set, which are a booming entry to the world at €299. We tested the Pro and Solo HD models, which cover each end of the scale away from the Studios (the upper & lower ends, respectively).
The model tested in the Solo HD’s are the much sought after product(RED) edition, which has been made exclusive to Apple in Ireland online and Premium Resellers, for a price of €229. Many reviewers will point out that a large part of the price with the Beats range lies with the design. They are undoubtedly some of the best designed headphones you will ever come across. The shiny red (or black, or white) plastic headband is stunning to look at, and hold. The ear pieces themselves tilt and swivel to accomodate all head sizes/shapes. There is a fabric strap underneath the headband too which makes them very nice to wear. They also, very conveniently fold into themselves to ensure ultra portability, and safety when they’re not being used.
They also come with a nice nylon carry pouch, which is a handy addition to keep your investment safe. Not only that, but they come with two typically-Monster esque cables. One standard audio cable, and another that features ControlTalk, which is a mechanism to allow users with iPhones to receive calls, skip tracks and control the audio volume.
Rather then sitting around the ear, they sit on top of the ear. Monster say this creates the perfect ‘drum’ to plough the audio through to your ears, and explain it with science in the instruction booklet. The design is superb, and they sit very nicely on your head – feeling very comfortable. They don’t push into your drums either, which is nice, and is also helped along by the fact that they are incredibly light.
Sound quality is good, but as anyone who has tested these before will point out, they emphasise the lower end of the audio spectrum far more then anything else. This gives a booming sonic scale when listening to electronic or hip-hop music. Try listening to Chopin and the intricacies will be washed out by the headphones trying to push out too much bass. That said, you can obviously tweak settings on your device to get the best out of the hardware.
The quality is quite good, but for less money you can get better audio experiences from other brands (Sennheiser is a favourite of mine) but no brand can beat the sex appeal of the design on Monster’s efforts. Bose, Sennheiser, AKG and others may have the edge on many parts, but none come near the effortlessly sexy design on the Beats.
Moving into more ‘prosumer’ territory, the Beats Pros are a whole other ball game. Your ears are surrounded by the foam on the removable, and washable, pads and the headband is also laced with leather and foam (either black or white). They feel a lot heavier then the Solo’s, but are a much slicker affair.
€400 is a lot of money for headphones, even if they are called “Pro” and come from Dr. Dre. The first disappointment is that the nylon pouch is replaced with a simple pleather, and you only get one cable (not the ControlTalk one), though the cable does have a rather useful coil effect.
The heaviness is something I’ve heard people complain about during testing, but that complaint is quickly forgotten when music is played. I’ve listened to many headphones over the years, and enjoy a huge range of music styles. However these are, by far, the best around. A friend of mine is a student of the same music course completed by Aphex Twin, and he agree’d with my sentiments.
They are flatly balanced, so both the bass, mid and treble are all represented as they should be. The friend I mentioned above listened to a track he produced himself, and said he’s never heard headphones get it so correct compared to the studio.
They’re not headphones you’re going to use when walking to work (for fear of them being broken/robbed) but when a user puts them on, literally no noise from the outside gets in, and vice versa (very little sound escapes the headphones). They are designed to be Studio Monitoring headphones, and as such can allow users to tether headphones.
I’ve literally never heard anything like them. Playing Daft Punk’s ‘Alive 2007’ live album made me feel like I was in the audience. Playing heavier dance music shatters your very soul with the bass. Listening to The Cinematic Orchestra sounds as tight and superb as you would imagine it would be to sit inside the composers head.
They are so good that, at that very moment, I went off and bought a pair. And I already own the Solo HD’s. Undoubtedly some people will say this is ridiculous and that the Pro’s don’t have the same specs-per-price compared to other brands, but hearing is believing with these. They sound stunning, and in my view are worth every last cent.