Beats Solo3 Wireless, PowerBeats3, and BeatsX Review Thread
There's not a ton of Beats discussion here, but I thought I would give a quick review a whirl.
Beats Solo3 Wireless
I was looking at a nice, non-noise cancelling pair of on the ear headphones for work. The non-noise cancelling and the over the ear are key, because to block out noise is to appear as though I am unavailable in a job where teamwork is commonplace. My current headphone arsenal includes a pair of Powerbeats2 for exercise (mostly for walking dogs, as I have three) and a set of Bose QC15s from when I traveled for work some years ago. Other than those, earbuds (Apple and otherwise) are coming out of every drawer, cabinet, or moderately large crack in the wall of my house. Overall, the Solo3 Wireless offer a good fit between my noise cancellers and my earbuds.
The positives of the Solo3 Wireless are many. In a room with moderate noise with your iPhone volume medium to medium-high, the headphones shine. Mainstream pop and hip hop sound just as intended. Listening to Beats 1 on Apple Music on the Solo3 Wireless is like completing a complex puzzle. Pop and Hip Hop and their affinity for high high and loud lows lend themselves perfectly to these headphones. In comparison, a more balanced electronic attack a la Tame Impala sounds a little like something is missing. As an armchair bassist myself, the bass emphasis is almost refreshing compared to a number of the speakers on the market, but I can understand how this could be off putting. To me, compared to other devices, the bass was just a great fit for me, but your mileage may vary.
Beats describes the noise mitigation in the Solo3 Wireless as “passive noise isolation”. For the lay person (read, non-audiophile), this means at a reasonable volume, most pedestrian noises wall to the background. For example, when I tried these in the Apple Store, they completely failed to cover up the crowd noise of 100 people in the Domain store. However, later that day in a thunder storm, the noise isolation was more than enough when the headphones were at the right volume. The isolation lives up to its name: the Solo3 manages to isolate your experience.
None of this is new though. The Solo2 and Solo3 sound the same. The Solo3 Wireless separates itself in its new pairing technology. The Apple W1 chip, which basically circumvents the headaches of pairing through bluetooth, behaves exactly as advertised. After powering on the device for first time use with my iPhone about 2 feet away, the pairing dialog appeared immediately. Clicking “Connect” not only paired the headphones, they also added “(NAME)’s Solo3 Wireless” to all of my devices under “bluetooth”. My iPad, iPhone, and Mac all connected seamlessly simply by choosing the device from the list of bluetooth devices. The only hiccups were software related. When pairing between devices, iTunes on my Mac didn’t play into the solo3 after pairing and I had to specifically output to Solo3 in iTunes (Ugh, iTunes).
As is tradition on any Beats device (as far as I can tell), Apple has blessed us with a case that is ALMOST too small for product storage. The box includes the aux cable (which doesn’t work with my iPhone 7) and a USB cable. Of course, getting all the parts into the case is as annoying as imaginable and I feel like the bag, the headphones, or some combination of both are going to break when I put them in my bad. Minor gripe, but come on, for $300, the case should be much better than it is.
Which segues into the absolute worst feature of the Solo3’s.: the price. These things are EXPENSIVE. Almost embarrassingly expensive (ALMOST…). My QC15’s were $300 new in 2012, but they included active noise cancelling. Buying them at the Apple Store without talking to anyone almost felt wrong because they were $300.
I still have not been able to take these to work, so I plan on updating this review some after more use. For work, these will likely work for me, which will be great, and while they were steep, I really do like them, I like the way they feel on my head, and the quality overall is significantly better than any of my other headphones.