Beats Solo Pro review: Caught between AirPods Pro and hard place (2024)

Beats got a lot right with the Solo Pro ($300, £270, AU$429), its first on-ear headphone to feature active noise cancellation and the first full-size Beats headphone to charge via Lightning. It's a very good headphone, one of the best on-ear wireless headphones I've tested. But the one thing it got wrong was to fail to include a cable so you can use this as a wired headphone.

Beats Solo Pro review: Caught between AirPods Pro and hard place (1)

7.7

Beats Solo Pro

Like

  • Better looking, more comfortable and better sound than Beats Solo3 Pro.
  • Solid active noise cancellation.
  • Good battery life.
  • Always-on Siri.

Don't like

  • No headphone cable included.
  • A little too pricey
  • Their fit isn't for everyone.

That may not sound like a huge deal. After all, this is a wireless headphone, and most of the time you'll use it as a wireless headphone. But it's also a noise-canceling headphone that you'll want to travel with and plug into a plane's in-flight entertainment system. Unfortunately, since the Solo Pro doesn't have a standard headphone jack, you'll have to buy an optional $35 Lightning-to-3.5mm Audio Cable to do that.

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Beats Solo Pro review: Caught between AirPods Pro and hard place (3)

If this were a $150 or even $200 headphone I'd be more willing to forgive that omission. But this is a $300 headphone, so it seems absurd that a cable that costs no more than a few bucks to make -- and maybe less -- isn't included. I can't tell you whether Beats or Apple, which owns Beats, made the decision to omit the cable, but I find it cynical and have lowered my rating by half a point as a result of the omission. (The latest iPhones no longer include a Lighting-to-3.5mm adapter in the box to accommodate standard headphone cables -- you need to shell out $9 for that -- but a set of Lightning EarPods are still included).

That gripe aside, as I said, this is a very good headphone and an improvement over its predecessor, the Beats Solo3 Wireless. And not only in terms of its design: Its features and performance also seem significantly improved.

It uses the company's Pure Adaptive Noise Canceling (Pure ANC), "derived from the over-ear Studio3 Wireless, with updated tuning to accommodate the on-ear form factor," Beats says. With a tap of button, you can turn off that noise-canceling to save battery life or hit the button a second time to enter a transparency mode that allows you to hear the outside world. The headphone is equipped with six microphones, two of which are beamforming mics that are designed to hone in on your voice when making calls or talking to your voice assistant.

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Most of the top noise-canceling headphones offer similar multimicrophone arrays to monitor and filter noise. But as you might expect, Apple-owned Beats is also touting the inclusion of Apple's new H1 chip -- the same one found in Apple's second-generation AirPods and Beats' own Powerbeats Pro true wireless earphones.

According to Beats, not only does that chip allow for easy pairing with iOS devices (Android users get that feature via an app) and more stable wireless connections, it's the engine that drives the advanced sound processing and noise canceling. It also allows for always-on Siri, soyou can call up Apple's voice assistant simply by saying "Hey, Siri."You can use your voice to skip tracks forward and back or raise and lower volume.

Additionally, as with the AirPods and Powerbeats Pro, these headphones are compatible with Apple's new Audio Sharing feature that allows you to pair two headphones simultaneously to any compatible Apple device running iOS 13 or higher, so you can listen to the same music or watch the same video with a friend.

Read more:Best noise-canceling headphones of 2019

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All those upgrades -- along with new drivers -- are on the inside. Beats has also made some big changes on the outside, but it's stuck with physical buttons for volume and track controls instead of moving to touch controls. With a design that's slightly reminiscent of the company's entry-level wired EP headphones, there's some metal in the headband.

Beats reps told me the Solo Pro is a sturdier headphone than the Solo3 Wireless. It's certainly heavier than the Solo3, weighing 9 ounces (255 grams). The metal also adds some rigidity, alleviating some of the pressure or clamping feeling you often get from on-ear models. I only tried the headphones for about 20 minutes, but they seemed comfortable -- right up there with the most comfortable on-ear models I've used. That doesn't mean it will be a perfect fit for everyone -- some may still find it clamps a little too firmly for their tastes -- but I liked it how it felt on my head better than the Solo3 Wireless.

What's also impressive is how the soft, memory-foam-filled earpads seal out sound passively. Even wearing the headphones without noise canceling turned on, ambient sound is remarkably muffled because your ears are tightly (but comfortably) covered.

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The Solo Pro's noise canceling isn't quite on par with theBose Noise Cancelling 700 Headphonesor Sony WH-1000XM3, but it's not far off. I used the headphones in the streets of New York and on the subway, and it was satisfyingly effective in those environments. It also did a good job muffling simulated airplane cabin noise in a Beats demo I experienced.

As for sound quality, the headphones sound smooth and well-balanced with punchy bass that isn't boomy. A few years ago, Beats took to heart the complaints about the sound quality of its headphones -- particularly the bloated bass -- and has tightened things up. You're still going to get plenty of bass, but it's more defined.

Compared to the Sony WH-1000XM3, which also costs around $300, this is a little bit more forward-sounding headphone (particularly in the midrange) and just doesn't sound as big or open as the Sony. For listening to pop music, which tends to be inherently compressed, the Beats are going sound quite good (and yes, the majority of people who by this headphone are probably going to be listening to pop or hip hop music). But the WH-1000XM3 offers richer, more textured sound.

A couple of other things worth noting: Like the Solo3 Wireless and Studio3 Wireless, these headphones fold up but don't fold flat. Folding -- and unfolding -- them is how they turn on and off. The new Sennheiser Momentum 3 has the same auto on/off feature, which is kind of nifty, but some people won't like that there's no power button.

The protective case is more eco-friendly. Made out of recycled plastic, it's got a felt-like feel to it, and I liked it better than Beats' previous cases -- particularly the Studio3's uninspired hard case that takes up too much room in a bag.

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Beats Solo Pro review: Caught between AirPods Pro and hard place (12)

If you can overlook the cable omission and somewhat high price tag aside, the Beats Solo Pro are an appealing headphone. They have an attractive, streamlined design and more premium look and feel than the Beats Solo3 Wireless. They also sound better than that model.

Eventually, of course, these will go sale, and that's probably the time to buy them. Unfortunately for Beats, these compete directly with another Apple product, the AirPods Pro, which costs less ($250). Yes, the Solo Pro sound better and have more effective noise-canceling. But while the tiny AirPods Pro also don't plug into an in-flight entertainment system, they're a lot easier to carry around, and I'd rather drop $250 on them than $300 on these.

Solo Pro's key specs

  • Apple H1 chip delivers faster, more stable wireless and is also compatible with both iOS and Android devices.
  • Always-on (hands-free) Siri for iOS users -- activate Siri without touching a button.
  • Get up to 3 hours of full-featured playback with a 10-minute charge using the included Lightning cable.
  • Up to 22 hours with Pure ANC (noise canceling) or Transparency turned on.
  • Up to 40 hours without Pure ANC (noise canceling) or Transparency turned off.
  • Weight: 9 ounces (255 grams).
  • Colors options: black, ivory, gray, dark blue, light blue and red.
  • Price: $300, £270, AU$429
Beats Solo Pro review: Caught between AirPods Pro and hard place (13)

7.7

Beats Solo Pro

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Sound 8Value 7

See full specs See all prices

Beats Solo Pro review: Caught between AirPods Pro and hard place (2024)

FAQs

Are Beats better than Airpod pros? ›

Both the Apple AirPods Pro 2 and the Beats Fit Pro perform well during calls, with the users voice being broadcast clearly. If anything, the AirPods are a bit better, likely thanks to the processing capabilities of the H2 chip. Sound quality for music really comes down to personal preference.

Did Beats Solo Pro get discontinued? ›

In November 2021, Beats discontinued the Beats Solo Pro, which is a shame since it was the best noise canceling Beats headset to date. If you can find it on promotion from an outlet vendor, the Solo Pro is worth buying.

What is better AirPods Pro or Beats Solo 3? ›

The Apple are in-ears that are easier to take with you on the go. They have a more comfortable and stable fit, a better noise isolation performance, and a longer total battery life. However, some users may prefer the Beats' on-ear design.

How can you tell if Beats are fake solo pro? ›

No box, manual, or warranty documentation: Auction sites offering products with no box, manual, or warranty documentation are counterfeit. Suspicious packaging: Cheap, faded, damaged packaging or labeling, strange markings, or misspelled words are all sure signs of counterfeits.

Why choose Beats over AirPods? ›

Compared to the AirPods Pro's squeeze-based gesture controls, the Beats Studio Buds operate on taps and holds, requiring less effort to play, pause, skip tracks, and pick up phone calls.

Do Beats last longer than AirPods? ›

The Beats Powerbeats Pro's battery life laps the AirPods Pro's battery life, which makes sense seeing how the former doesn't use ANC (a power-hungry technology). The Powerbeats Pro lasts just over 10 hours on a single charge, while the AirPods Pro lasts just over 5 hours on a single charge.

How long do Beats Solo Pro last? ›

Solo Pro's key specs

Get up to 3 hours of full-featured playback with a 10-minute charge using the included Lightning cable. Up to 22 hours with Pure ANC (noise canceling) or Transparency turned on. Up to 40 hours without Pure ANC (noise canceling) or Transparency turned off.

Why did Apple stop selling Beats? ›

Apple hasn't issued any statement on the discontinued products, but looking at the entire Beats lineup, its prices, and the products no longer offered, it seems likely that Apple is just simplifying the lineup by removing a few products that no longer fill useful spots in the product lineup.

How old are Beats Solo Pro? ›

The Solo Pro was announced on October 15, 2019 and began shipping on the following October 30th. They feature "Pure" active noise cancellation (ANC), Transparency mode, and support for Siri voice commands through the Apple H1 chip.

Are Beats better quality than AirPods? ›

Apple's second-gen AirPods Pro outperform the Beats in sound quality and noise cancellation, but the Beats Fit Pro have some strengths of their own — especially if you've got an Android phone.

Which Beats Solo is the best? ›

Best Beats on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3 hasn't seen a proper refresh since 2016, but still remains our best on-ear headphones pick for good reason. It offers competitive audio quality, a thoughtful design that blends sleekness with useful functionalities and better than average battery life.

What is the difference between Beats Solo Pro and Solo Pro 3? ›

The Beats Solo Pro Wireless are a nice upgrade over the Beats Solo3 Wireless. They have active noise cancelling, which is very useful in public transit or at the office. However, the Pro are a bit too tight for some, and the Solo3 feel more comfortable. On the other hand, the Pro feel more high-end and more durable.

Can Beats Solo be tracked? ›

In the Beats app for Android, tap , then tap Locate My Beats. Follow any onscreen instructions to set location permission to “Allow all the time,” then turn on the “Use precise location” switch (if available). Note: Permissions menu options may vary on different versions of Android and on different Android devices.

Does Beats Pro have a tracker? ›

If you lose your Powerbeats Pro, Beats Studio Buds, Beats Studio Buds +, or Beats Fit Pro, you can use Find My to locate them.

Do Beats Solo Pro cover your ears? ›

On-ear headphones sit with the cushions pressing against the ear, as opposed to the larger over-ear headphones that enclose your ear and sit against the side of your head. The Solo Pro are fairly large for on-ear headphones, with the cushions covering my ears.

Are Beats worth buying? ›

Beats tend to shine compared to other headphone brands in their design. They have sleek, premium-looking headphones that stand out with bold color schemes. While they may not all feel as durable as other brands, their more recent models have a sturdy build quality that further emphasizes their premium price range.

Do Powerbeats or AirPods have better sound quality? ›

The Powerbeats Pro have better sound and battery life than the AirPods and will stay on your ears securely. They offer all the same basic conveniences of the 2019 AirPods, including fast pairing, rock-solid wireless connectivity and always-on Siri voice-recognition for iOS users.

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