The mere mention of the words “Beats Headphones” is likely to cause an emotional response, from those who spend any amount of time committed to listening to music. Usually two camps will form. Those who think Beats are awesome, and those who think Beats are overpriced junk. While both camps have good points to make, the insistence of adhering completely to one opinion over the other only causes further confusion about what exactly these headphones are, and whether or not they are really worth the pile of cash it takes to procure them. I’ve had a pair of Beats Studio headphones for a couple of months, and I’d like to share my opinion about these polarizing headphones. Please bear in mind that I am a music head not an audiophile. It’s important to understand the difference, to know where I’m coming from as I review these “cans” (it’s easier to type “cans” than “headphones”).
Musichead: “Someone who is an avid music listener. They listen to music ALL the time, and usually are the type of people who know about the latest music, and they are always trying to put you on to a new artist.: (urban dictionary)
Audiophile: “A person enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction. Audiophile values may be applied to all stages of music reproduction: initial audio recording, production process, and the playback.” (wikipedia)
So the audiophile cares much more about the quality of recording, whereas the musichead’s focus is on the music itself (based on lyrics, vocal quality, etc). Beats offers several models of headphones, at varying prices, from the “urbeats” earbuds for $90 to the “Beats Pro”, which go for $360. My model is the Beats Studio (wired), which will run you $299.
The Cup Half Full
The Beats Studio headphones offer great sound. I say that as a musichead, and also as a guy who spent the past five years with either Apple earbuds or $15 Sony cans. Those options gave me good sound. They weren’t junk. The Sony’s were actually surprisingly good, but over time they have started falling apart, which isn’t surprising considering how cheap they were. If you want great sound, without the perfection an audiophile looks for, you will be pleased with the Beats Studio headphones. These cans are “over-the-ear headphones”, meaning your ears will be nestled down inside the soft “leather” of the earpads. I tried the “Sol Republic” headphones, which uses an “on-ear” design, but I found that they were pinching my head to the point that after 30 minutes or so I had a headache. Moving to the Studio design, I’ve found that I can wear these headphones for six straight hours without any discomfort, and that is a huge selling point for this design of headphones. The Sol Republic’s offer great sound (on par with Beats) but that on-ear design wasn’t working for me.
The Beats Studio’s offer noise-cancelling, which is internally powered. I’d never used this type of headphone before, and I really like the functionality. While not entirely noise-cancelling, the headphone completely cancel out all “white noise/ambient sound” and muffle everything else. I work in an office complex, and I finally feel like I’m not surrounded by a bunch of people. The noise-cancelling function is powered via micro-USB, providing up to 20 hours of listening between charges. This is both a good and bad thing. The older models required batteries, which would have to be changed frequently. But the charging design means that when you’re battery is drained, not only will the noise-cancelling not work, but the cans will not work entirely. So now you have another device to manage in regards to battery life and charging schedules. You can also use the headphones as glorified earmuffs, as they have a physical power button on one ear, allowing you to engage the noise-cancelling piece without actually playing music. I use that feature more often than I thought I would.
A couple of notes about the case, and design for travel. The headphones collapse to make them easier to carry around. That said, they are still pretty big headphones, so even in their collapsed state, they will take up a good chunk of your bag or purse. Beats includes a carrying case. It looks like a big egg and it’s intention is obviously to protect the headphones, not make them any easier to pack in said bags. The case is just large enough to house the collapsed cans, the headphone cable, and the charging cable/wall charger).
Finally, a great feature of these headphones is the detaching cable. By not hard wiring the cable into the headphones themselves you will have a much easier time replacing the cable part should they become damaged (it happens!). Also the cable functions as the “power button” for battery element of the cans. When you put the plug-in place the battery starts, as does the noise-cancelling. Pull the plug, and you’ve effectively, turned them off.
The Cup Half Empty
First off these headphones are certainly a premium product. You are paying for the name brand and the “cool factor” that is associated with the Beats line. I was actually avoiding these headphones strictly because I didn’t want to give into the hype. I have audiophile friends, who insisted that there are cheaper cans with better sound. I just needed to do some homework. But I didn’t want to do some homework! I’m a musichead. I just wanted to listen to the music, and have the sound be “great but not perfect”. I tried many pairs on before settling on the hyped up/admittedly over-priced Beats headphones. And I have no regrets. The need to manage charging, as mentioned, can be a bit of a pain. And the case is large, meaning it’s always in my computer bag. If you want a small set of headphones, these are not the one’s for you.
Finally a note about Apple’s purchase of Beats. The headphones come with both a standard audio cable, and an enhanced cable with phone buttons and volume. That enhanced cable will only work with iPhone/iPad devices. If you are on Android, or using any other type of music device (any Walkman listeners out there?), you might as well chuck that extra cable out, because the standard cable is the only one that will work for you. This will only become more the case, as Apple integrates the Beats line into their portfolio of products.
The Whole Cup Summed Up
The Beats Studio headphones offer a great music listening experience (assuming you aren’t too picky about perfection). Noise-cancelling, both while listening to music and even when unplugged is awesome. Finally, the design works very well for long listening sessions, which for me was the most important factor. Are Beats headphones overpriced? Of course they are; all name brand products are. You can certainly get a Hawaiian Shirt for less than the $120 they charge at Tommy Bahama, but people often buy for brand. Beats are no different. So if you are a musichead looking for a great listening experience, and you’ve got the extra cash or Christmas money, consider these as a decent option. I’ve definitely found them to be superior to anything I used previously, and I am enjoying my music every day. And there are other advantages to them as well…
Note: If you are looking for a cheaper options, here are a few good sets, that won’t even set you back $100, let alone $300.