For those that prefer on-ear headphones (a middle ground between earbuds and over-ear headphones), we think the Beats Solo Pro headphones are a fantastic choice. Thanks to effective active noise cancellation, these cans manage to be much smaller and less prominent during wear than full over-ear headphones while still providing a high-quality listening experience. Pair that with a sleek user interface, and you've got a great and fashionable set of wireless headphones that are perfect for commuting and travel. Our one complaint about these headphones is their comfort. The relatively tight fit, which is partially what allows the noise reduction to work so well, makes them uncomfortable for long periods of wear. If you're looking for all-day headphones, these probably won't fit the bill. That being said, the Solo Pro fits that "block the noise on the subway for an hour and then disappear into a bag" niche near perfectly.
Beats Solo Pro Review
Pros: Great sound quality, good active noise canellation, intuitive interface
Cons: Expensive, uncomfortable to wear for long periods
Manufacturer: Beats by Dre
Our Analysis and Test Results
The biggest advantage of on-ear wireless headphones is that they pack smaller and look less gangly than larger over-ear headphones. However, most of these headphones block out so little ambient noise that you might as well go with even more portable and discrete earbuds. The Solo 3 is a rare exception thanks to the effective noise cancellation, providing a smaller on-ear profile that can still block much of the din of a crowded bus or subway car.
Considering the on-ear design of the Solo Pro doesn't provide the same flattering acoustic enclave that over-ear headphones do, we were impressed that these headphones kept up with many of our favorite over-ear models in our sound quality test. Overall, we think pretty much anyone will like how these headphones sound.
Like most of the Beats line, the Solo Pro emphasizes the low end of tracks, bringing bass lines to the forefront of any composition. While the bass is certainly highlighted with these headphones, we never felt it overpowering, even in tracks that call for over-the-top bass.
We found the Solo Pro's overall clarity to be quite crisp at moderate volumes. The headphones clearly like bass more; thus, the low end receives better clarity and separation. However, vocals and instruments in higher registers still enjoy an overall clear expression even if some subtle notes get a bit lost in crowded or overly bass-heavy compositions. Playing music at louder volumes, in our experience, tends to degrade that clarity quickly. Higher pitched vocals took on a noticeably fuzzy quality when played loud during our testing. While this really had no impact on the majority of our listening experience, those that like to blare soprano vocalists may be slightly disappointed.
The Solo Pro offers some of the best active noise cancellation we've ever seen in a pair of on-ear headphones. Though they certainly don't match the same level of overall noise isolation of fully over-ear models, they are a great choice for those looking for sleeker on-ear headphones that can still combat ambient noise.
Right off the bat, the Solo Pro creates a better seal on the ear than the vast majority of on-ear headphones on the market. This is thanks to the relatively stiff padding and the tight fit afforded by the headband (more on that in a bit). This seal alone lets these headphones passively block more ambient noise than most of their on-ear siblings.
That seal also makes the active noise-canceling much more effective. Where most on-ear noise-canceling models let in so much noise that the active cancellation is about as effective as stopping a flood with a chain-link fence, the Solo Pro creates a predictable seal against that outside noise. This lets the internal microphones and noise-canceling drivers actually do some great work suppressing any of the noise that does make it through that seal.
That being said, the Solo Pro's noise cancellation is about on par with that of most budget over-ear noise-canceling models. Background chatter and the clicking of rails on a subway car are still noticeable when listening to music at low volumes, but so much less conspicuous than it would be otherwise. Perhaps more importantly, you can almost completely drown out that type of noise by playing music at a moderate volume rather than blaring it as most over-ear models would require.
The Beats Solo also offers a transparency mode, which actively uses the microphones to pipe outside noise into your ears. This is mainly for times when you want to hear an announcement or generally be aware of your surroundings but don't want to take the headphones off.
Unfortunately, the tight seal that allows the Solo Pro's earcups comes at the price of overall comfort.
Beats has opted for a borderline clamp-like tightness on the headband to facilitate that tight seal. Reactions to this tightness in our comfort testers ranged from, "It's kind of annoying, but I don't mind it for an hour or so," to "My ears are instantly itchy; I dislike this, please let me take them off." We think most people will fall into the former category and be able to wear these headphones for about an hour, long enough to keep you entertained and block out noise on your commute before needing a break. However, since we did have some harshly negative reactions to the fit, we would strongly recommend that you either try these headphones on before you buy or purchase them from a retailer with a good return policy.
As they are owned by Apple, Beats knows how to create a great experience for iOS users. The Solo Pro is still friendly for Android users but loses a few special features when used without an Apple device.
To turn the headphones on and off, you simply unfold and refold them — no need for a power button here. If you're an Apple user, you just need to open the headphones next to an unlocked iPhone, and they will pair automatically, thanks to Apple's proprietary H1 chip. Android users will have to put the headphones into pairing mode and dig through their Bluetooth menu.
Beats kept the on-headphones controls sleek and simple for the Solo Pro. One small button on the left earcup toggles between noise cancellation on/off and transparency mode, which actively transmits outside sounds to your ears. The large "b" logo on the right earcup also serves as a play/pause button. Pressing long on this button can also summon virtual assistants, though Apple users can just say, "Hey Siri."
This logo button can also skip tracks, with two quick presses skipping forward and three presses skipping backward.
Buttons just to the top and bottom of that logo can raise and lower the volume, respectively.
The Solo Pro charges via Apple's lightning port. Notably, there is no other port on the headphones, not even an auxiliary audio connection. This is a bummer for those that want the option of using the headphones in wired mode if the battery is running low but don't want to pay extra for a lightning adapter.
The relatively slim and double-hinged Solo Pro packs down smaller than most headphones. The included recycled felt case is somewhat floppy and offers little protection beyond minor scratches. We had no issue throwing the headphones in their case into the top of a daily bag but got nervous stuffing them into an overpacked carry-on. Also, the lack of rigidity in the case can make getting the headphones inside and correctly oriented somewhat difficult.
While we would have hoped for a better case considering the price of these headphones, it's an easy fix. Multiple companies are already making more protective cases designed for these headphones at fairly reasonable prices.
Should You Buy the Beats Solo Pro?
Possibly the perfect city commuting wireless headphones on the market right now, the Beats Solo Pro shine for morning subway rides but fails as all-day companions. While the Beats Solo Pro offers field-leading performance in on-ear noise cancellation, it occupies a relatively narrow useful niche — city commuters that want to block out noise on the subway without overly large over-ear headphones, but that also don't like having earbuds in their ears. If your use case fits that scenario exactly, then the premium price of the Beats Solo Pro is well worth it. But, if you want headphones that can do anything beyond sound good and be bearably comfortable for stints no longer than an hour at a time, these headphones will end up being a waste of money.
What Other Wireless Headphones Should You Consider?
The Solo Pro has a fairly high price in the group, though not the highest. However, if this is your budget, there are better options within fifty or so dollars that bring more to the table for most users. The Sony WH-1000XM4 are some of the best we've ever tested bring impressive performance for sound quality and noise cancellation; we think they are the better pick and value even for the slightly higher price. The Jabra Elite 85h has a lower price and better performance for noise cancellation, comfort, and portability.
— Michelle Powell and Max Mutter
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