Tech: Headphones Review – Beats Solo2

June 3, 2014
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Now that everyone everywhere knows that Beats has been bought out by Apple, the main detritus beyond Dr. Dré’s swollen checking account is the sheer number of rappers – even the guys from the 70s – popping up like mushrooms out of goat poo to testify on the talk show circuit, people like Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, Queen Latifah and the utterly creepy Arsenio Hall talking about keepin’ it real, paid ghetto dues and showing off their bullet wounds. It’s actually pretty cool to get reacquainted with Afrika Bambaata, what’s left of Run DMC, LLCoolJ, Nazz and my personal favorites, A Tribe Called Kwest. Rap, y’see, is now legit. Unfortunately, in the eye of this newfound legitimacy may lie the seed of it’s own self-destruction.

Tech: Headphones Review - Beats Solo2

Anyway, only slightly apropos of all that comes Beats Solo2, four years after their first hit entry into modern low-priced, big bang headphones, the Beats Solo1. The success of the original brand is without question, and its successor will be a hit, too. This is the Beats Solo2, a redesigned on-ear model with re-tuned audio that does much to combat the “too trebly/too much bass” argument.

Let’s start with the sound. As I’ve already mentioned, Beats touts “updated and improved acoustics” that boast “a wider range of sound and enhanced clarity.” That summary is pretty much spot-on. When I unboxed the Solo², I was quick to queue up some bass-heavy tunes to see if the company would remain consistent with its affinity for the low end. Well, the best way I can describe the sound here is “more balanced.” Don’t get me wrong… There’s still plenty of bass when tunes call for it, but you can also clearly pick up other elements – things like hi-hats and snares stand out.

As recently as March, 2014 when Dré’s the Pill XL hit the stores, the extra bass was generally judged to be big, loud and muscular. Great for some genres, like gritty rock and hip-hop, but rather gruesome for those who don’t like distortion, especially in jazz. This is not so with Beat Solo2, however. After switching from hip-hop to metal, and then on to something jingly-jangle mellow, like British folk, each tune I tested on the headphones resonated with a fine clarity and a wide range of tonality.  Nevertheless, should you be looking for greasy, grab-ass Bootsy-type bass, that does come along for the ride, too. Where Beats didn’t excel with the new model is comfort.

Tech: Headphones Review - Beats Solo2

So here’s a question. How important is comfort? The Spec sheets can talk the talk about ergonomics and convergences of the air, all kinds of rhetoric that turns out to be bullshit because Beats seem to have no regard for the concept of comfort. Simply put, I just don’t like how these headphones fit. Sadly, the Solo2 is more of the same. “Blah… Blah… Blah… pivoting ear cups,” it says on the website. “Blah… Blah… Blah… New headband.” But honestly, the headphones feel like my ears are being pinched between a pair of seamed-vinyl thumbs and pinched viciously. I’m okay for about a half hour, but then I start to get painfully distracted. Same with the old Solo HD set, too.

This new model is 45g (1.6 ounces) heavier than the Solo HD, and while it’s 25g (0.88 ounce) lighter than my usual beautiful, comfy and expensive Sennheiser B6’s, at US$299 there’s truly no comparison.  To their credit, the Beat Solo2 has added some new kind of material to soften the wrapping on the earcups, which will help dissipate heat and sweat.

So be sure to try these babies on before you commit to a serious investment of cash. This is the way it should be for any kind of headphones. Sample your goodies before making an investment!

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