Beats has been pretty quiet of late, but with the launch of the new iPhone 7 and iOS 10 the company has released four new headphones – including an update to its popular Solo range.
The Solo 3 headphones come with Apple’s new W1 chip inside, promising greater battery, greater range, and greater connectivity options for iPhone users. They will work for other brands too.
We’ve been listening to see if the Beats Solo 3 revolutionise wireless listening or if these bass-heavy cans are out-performed by the competition.
Beats Solo 3 wireless headphones review: Design
If you’ve seen the Beats Solo range before then you’ll be instantly familiar with the Solo 3. The design hasn’t really changed since the last iteration – although there are a number of new colours to match the colours of the iPhones. Yes, you now can get a finish in rose gold.
For those not familiar with the design, the over-ear Solo 3 headphones come with a hinge design, allowing you to fold them for travel. The headphones themselves are very rigid, with their plastic design sitting tight and snug on your head. That means you can shake your head pretty vigorously before they’ll fly off, but can also means that over time they can feel a bit “tight”.
That ID and iconography is clearly Beats. People who know the brand will instantly know you are wearing Beats even from a glance. The iconic “b” found on the outside of both earcups and the word “beats” across the headband make that clear.
Basic playback and volume controls are found hidden on the left earcup, while a four LED battery gauge allows you quickly see how much charge you’ve got left from the built-in battery. There is also a built in hidden mic so you can take calls and bark orders as Siri without touching your phone.
Charging is via micro USB rather than Lightning cable (that’s reserved for the new Beats X model) and there is an option to plug in a 3.5mm cable for when you don’t want to be listening wirelessly. That all means the Solo 3 are perhaps best set as the headphones for all users – iPhone or not.
Beats Solo 3 wireless headphones review: Connectivity
However, there is a lean towards Apple users because, just like the new Apple AirPods wireless in-ears released in September, the Beats Solo 3 also feature the new W1 processor. This makes connecting them to your iPhone or Apple device incredibly simple.
Turn the Beats Solo 3 on, put them near your Apple device and they connect. That’s it.
That connection profile is then shared with your Apple iCloud account – meaning you can quickly use the headphones with any other Apple devices, such as your Watch, MacBook, or iPad. It can get a little confused if you are constantly switching between devices all sat on your desk in front of you (#firstworldproblems), but on the whole, the experience is seamless.
The W1 connectivity approach is an Apple-only feature, although the Solo 3 do work with Android and any other Bluetooth device, such as a Windows laptop. It’s simply a case of connecting via Bluetooth just as you ususally would.
Beats Solo 3 wireless headphones review: Battery and range
The Apple W1 processor doesn’t just bring improved connectivity options, but also improved battery life and range compared to the earlier Solo 2 headphones.
The Solo 3 offer a whopping 40 hours of battery life (compared the 12 hours previously offered by the Solo 2), which makes a huge difference and means you won’t have to spend hours charging everyday.
If you do run out of battery the Solo 3 come with a technology that Beats called Fast Fuel technology. Put into English that means you’ll be able get three hours of playback from five minutes of charge. Good stuff.
The W1 also seems to increase range of connectivity. We’ve been able to get a good 30m away from the iPhone and still listen to music using the Solo 3. Furthermore we’ve yet to experience any dropouts that you can sometimes get with standard Bluetooth headphones (note: the Solo 3 simply use Bluetooth technology, however, the W1 is the pairing mechanism).
Beats Solo 3 wireless headphones review: Sound quality
Beats has always been known for a more bass-heavy experience, and that doesn’t change with the Solo 3 headphones. Yep, bass is the defining focus. Which is great for hip-hop and dance, but no so great for more delicate vocal and guitar led tracks.
Listening to Paul McCartney or Daniel Powter, for example, can lead the vocals feeling lost – drowned out by a sea of low-end addition from all the instruments. It just means the higher frequencies can sound a little lost. Even Adele’s powerful voice struggles at times against the bass these headphones focus on. Strangely they do cope well with classical music though.
Choose tracks that play to the headphones’ bass strengths, though, and the results are great considering their diminutive size. Artists like Massive Attack, Daft Punk, Feist, and Jay Z are all able to cope with the sound set up the headphones offer.
The Beats Solo 3 headphones offer a great music experience for a certain listener. The W1 connectivity options and huge battery life are certainly the stars of the show for the Solo 3.
When it comes to sound quality the headphones perform, but not for all genres: as we’ve come to expect from Beats the bass heavy listen won’t suit all music tastes. Others will love that low-end focus though.
If you spend a lot of time listening to delicate vocal music then the Beats Solo 3 probably aren’t for you. However, if you’re into your Dre, West and Snoop then you’ll be as happy as if in a club – without 99 problems.