Review: Apple's Beats Solo Pro are the best Beats yet
Apple has continued to refine the Beats by Dre brand with new designs and features. Beats Solo Pro is the latest incarnation of that effort, and does a great job pushing the popular brand forward.
In the box — and what isn't
Apple has always had a widely-revered skill in its packaging prowess and the Beats Solo Pro shows Apple at its best. The packaging of the Solo Pro 3 was truly a marvel and just shows the attention to detail the headphone-maker has.
Other than the thin wrap that covers the paper box, there isn't a lick of plastic devoted to the packaging at all. The thin paper slipcover comes off a thicker — but still paper — folded box. It is held together by a pair of paper pegs that stick into holes on the top flap of the box. Once popped free, the entire box falls to the sides, revealing the headphones in their case.
The bottom flap has the accessories housed inside such as the charging cable, the carabiner, Beats stickers, getting started guide, and other literature. It's impressive that even the carabiner and cable aren't even ensconced in any plastic, still using creatively manipulated paper.
Apple's environmental focus extends to the product as well — the soft carrying case is made of largely recycled materials and it is apparent the plastic usage on the product has reduced.
The cable Apple included is not the same USB-C to Lightning cable that it chose to include with the AirPods Pro — but rather a USB-A to Lightning cable instead. It's quite disappointing that USB-A stuck around for another product, but it is likely one of the last times it will make its way into an Apple product.
Not present, however, is any form of an audio cable. These headphones are designed to be used primarily wireless, but for times that they need to be used wired, a cable would have been nice.
If you want to go wired, you'll need to pony up another $35 to Apple for the privilege.
Oddly, if you want/need to use them wired with your iPhone or iPad Pro, you will have an awkward setup. You need Apple's Lightning to 3.5mm cable then a 3.5mm audio adapter to Lightning or USB-C. Clearly, wired is not how Apple wants these used.
Just like with all of its other recent headphones, Apple has chosen not to include a wall power adapter in the box.
Build quality and design
Build quality on the Solo Pro has vastly improved from the Solo 3. Gone is the glossy plastic exterior for a handsome matte finish. The exposed rails on the sides when extended are now anodized aluminum and color-matched to the headphone's color.
Under the headband is soft silicone which is comfy, though it did pull at our hair a bit as we adjusted them. The earpads are larger than the Solo 3 which makes them more comfortable and they are covered with faux leather.
Compared to many others, the Solo Pro is very light. We had no issues with that, but because they are on-ear headphones and have active noise canceling, they need a good seal. This yields a slightly tight clamping pressure which was uncomfortable, but those who consider themselves to have larger heads may feel fatigued after a few hours of use.
The bottom of one side of the headphones is equipped with a Lightning port for charging and the other has a single button for controlling the ANC.
Features and abilities
The main flagship feature of the Solo Pro is active noise cancellation. Very similar to what is found in AirPods Pro it can be toggled between off, on, and transparency mode.
Unlike other big-name ANC headphones, the level of noise cancelation is not adjustable and it does so on its own. In quieter environments, it is reduced and in loud environments, it ratchets up.
We found in our testing over the past week that the Solo Pro did an adequate job drowning out most external sounds from busy streets, passing planes (I live near an airport), and general background noise. It wasn't outstanding and falls short of the high bar set by Bose and Sony in their latest ANC headphones.
What most blew us away was the capabilities of transparency mode. These headphones did a phenomenal job of allowing external audio to be passed through in a subtle, natural way. It didn't sound overly processed, loud, or mechanical. We use this quite a bit in the office but was helpful many other times as well, such as taking a dog for a walk down a busy street.
Switching between these modes is simple — done from the Bluetooth settings, the Control Center volume widget, the button on the bottom of the headphones, or simply using Siri.
There's no power button on the Beats Solo Pro, like the Jabra 85H we recently reviewed, they turn on when they are opened and turn off when they are closed, greatly simplifying the user experience. If you ever take them off, but don't close them, they enter a low power state to preserve battery further.
Though there are many similarities between the Beats Solo 3 and the Beats Solo Pro, the internals were greatly reworked to not only provide better sound but improved sweat resistance for long bouts at the gym.
Within these headphones is Apple's latest H1 audio chip — the same found in AirPods and other recent Apple headphones. It still relies on the seldom-used Class 1 audio for great range and strong signal connection. We never had any issues with Bluetooth connectivity. It also is what powers the incredibly simple setup process where they are just opened near an iPhone and a modal appears to pair them.
They also then sync across all your other Apple devices that are signed in to your Apple ID. That includes your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV. The Bluetooth profile is synced to each device and doesn't require any additional pairing or setup. Don't worry, they also can be used with any non-Apple device as well.
With ANC or transparency mode turned on, users can expect a solid 22 hours of use or 40 hours with both of those turned off. These aren't industry-leading numbers, but they aren't bad. Just average numbers that will likely be suitable for most users. When they need to be charged, a 10-minute juice up will yield three hours of playback time.
Another great feature unique to Apple is Audio Sharing. Audio Sharing arrived as part of iOS 13.2 and allows users to share their audio between two sets of headphones. Say a friend is listening to music on their iPhone with their AirPods. You just bring your Beats Solo Pro near and they will be able to share the audio with you temporarily. Listen to music, watch a movie, or play a game with two sets of headphones.
Beats Solo Pro support "Hey Siri" for hands-free control through a set of physical buttons hidden behind the earpiece also function as playback and volume controls.
Beats have historically had a well-deserved reputation for excessive bass at the expense of everything else. But this hasn't been the case for some time. Following the Apple acquisition, audio has started to become more balanced. The Beats Solo 3 had a great sound profile and it got even better with the Powerbeats Pro.
With the Solo Pro, it is the best sound we've heard yet from a set of Beats. The sound is very balanced and quite enjoyable to listen to. There isn't excessive bass though there is a good amount of bass present. They don't have quite as large of a soundstage as others, but they are nice to listen to, even for extended durations.
Much more detail comes out as we went through our AppleInsider testing playlist on Apple Music. There was no harshness or anything that gave us pause. These aren't audiophile quality, but an audiophile isn't picking up a $300 set of Beats.
Should you buy the Beats Solo Pro?
As always, it comes down to whether or not you should pick up a set of Beats Solo Pro of your very own.
If you are looking at Beats headphones and you like the style, then they are absolutely worth the purchase. These are the best Beats headphones we've used to date.
Coupling the new refined style with significantly improved audio, Hey Siri support, audio sharing, and active noise canceling, there aren't many drawbacks against them.
The only real reason to shy away from the Beats Solo Pro is if you are specifically looking for the best ANC or the longest battery life.
- Refined design with exposed metal and matte finish
- Active noise cancelation is good
- Transparency mode for external audio
- Improved audio quality
- Audio sharing
- Hey Siri support
- Strong Bluetooth connection
- Still mostly plastic build
- Not the best ANC on the market
- No audio cable included
Rating: 4 out of 5
Where to buy
Beats Solo Pro headphones retail for $299.95, with Amazon now shipping the wireless headphones in your choice of six colors.