Review: Beats Electronics Solo2
Company: Beats Electronics
Compatibility: All iPads, iPhones, iPods
Solo2 ($200) is the first product to come from Beats Electronics since Apple confirmed that it would be acquiring the company, released the day after Apple's official announcement. A sequel to the company's original Solo on-ear headphones, as well as Solo HD, Solo2 benefits from a refined mostly glossy plastic construction, clearly fitting the family's aesthetics. Available in six distinct colors, including a PRODUCT (RED) edition, the headphones feature a padded headband and earcups, and can be folded for travel. An included pouch and carabiner clip help protect Solo2 on the go. The cable, with its three-button remote and microphone module, is detachable.
The original Solo may be one of the most iconic products in Beats’ product lineup, originally launched when the company was still collaborating with Monster. This new pair doesn’t completely reinvent the look, but instead takes the same general design and updates it with more organic and visually pleasant curves. Solo2 is still mostly plastic, but the company does a great job with the material: instead of looking cheap or junky, it looks quite nice. We appreciate how the vibrant colors are presented in different ways, from the glossy outer band to the soft earcups, and the slightly glittery metallic plastic in-between. Of course, no pair of Beats would be complete without the iconic “b” icon in the center of each earcup.
To accommodate heads of all sizes, both the left and right sides of the headphones are adjustable, extending to add about 1.25” on either side. Doing this exposes the metal support band inside, and this is also where the headphones fold; separate chrome badges indicate “R” and “L” sides, and unlike some of Beats’ headphones, the cable can only be connected on the left side. The cord is 50” long, with a straight plug that connects to the headphones, and one at a 90 degree angle for connecting to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Thankfully, the material around the plug is narrow enough that it shouldn’t pose too much of any issue with most cases. The soft earcups are comfortable, though sound leakage from the headphones is obvious when music is playing.
Famously, Beats headphones have become better-known as fashion accessories than great audio products—despite Dr. Dre’s claim that “people aren’t hearing all the music,” his company’s headphones don’t do much to address the problem. Bass isn’t all that’s missing from other headphones, but over the past few years, it seems to have been Beats’ main solution. As a direct comparison of fashionable on-ear headphones, we contrasted Solo2 against Scosche’s RH656 on-ear headphones, which earned an A- when they launched at $130, and now cost only $100. We weren’t totally surprised to hear that the Scosche headphones sounded better: while the bass level is about the same between the two, RH656’s treble is better, making the overall sound profile clearer, more balanced, and more pleasant with a wider variety of musical genres. To be clear, Solo2 sounds legitimately good, and bassheads may prefer their heavier focus on low-end, but the sound isn’t as clear or balanced as two-year-old headphones that cost half as much. It’s worth a brief note that the microphone inside Solo2’s cord is obviously clearer than Apple’s EarPods, with more treble and detail.
Compared to the first Solo and Solo HD, Solo2 has been improved across the board. The headphones feature better audio, and the industrial design is really impressive; we truly like the way they look and feel. Although they’re still not great, they’re good enough to warrant our general recommendation. With Apple’s acquisition, there’s no question that Beats aren’t going away: these are headphones people want for various reasons, and there aren’t any glaring strikes against them other than the unnecessarily high price.