29
Mar
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Last Updated: April 30th, 2012

In the world of premium headphones, there is an emerging market for "designer" products - a niche Beats By Dre has been all too happy to fill in cooperation with Monster Cable (until now - HTC will be taking over Beats' headphone production). In fact, Beats accounts for over half of the $1 billion headphone market in the US - succeeding in ways and in markets brands like Sennheiser and Grado could only dream of. My high school-going younger brother even has a pair of these flashy phones - and he really doesn't listen to much music.

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In fact, Beats By Dre headphones are the cool electronic piece of high-fashion among people in the teenage group, thanks in large part to their flashy, designer look. Everyone who's anyone has a smartphone - coolness in upper-middle class suburbia is now a matter of what's attached to the cord coming out of the pocket of your $150 jeans. And you've got to admit, a pair of Beats headphones will definitely draw more attention than some Koss PortaPros (which, coincidentally, are a truly amazing pair of headphones).

The Beats Wireless are among the last headphone products that will come out of the Beats / Monster partnership, and the only wireless headphone produced under that collaboration. And at $280 (!), they're certainly not going to turn any heads for value. The question, then, is are these headphones any good? That really depends on the music you listen to, and what your priorities are when shopping for headphones. For me, this wasn't a headphone I'd consider purchasing. But if you're into more bass-heavy genres (dubstep, pop, techno, hip-hop, etc.), hate cords, and care immensely that your headphones look "hip," you might be interested in the Beats Wireless.

Breakdown

  • What are they? On-ear headphones. Really shiny ones.
  • How much? $280.
  • What's in the box? The headphones and a USB charging cable.
  • Do I want them? If you're an audiophile, no, probably not. But if you know you want Beats headphones, then yes, you'll probably want these, too.

The Good

  • Holy mother of bass - these things absolutely thump. I had them cranked so high that it was actually tickling my ears.
  • The quality of the bass on these is good, very good even. Lows came in clear, tight, and with good dynamic range. You'll hear the "texture" of your music.
  • They're pretty comfy - and they fold up for easy travel. I wouldn't stuff them in stowed carry-on luggage, though - they seem a little fragile.
  • Battery life is great - I have yet to charge them after 3 days of moderate use (there is no specification-listed figure for battery life).
  • There's no denying Beats on/over-ear headphones are in vogue, so you'll be stylin'.
  • There are small but very easily found bumps on the function buttons so you can feel out where they are. Brilliant.

The Not So Good

  • Search the internet and you'll find piles of complaints (and fix videos) about the plastic headband used on these and other Beats headphones cracking and breaking unusually easily - not exactly confidence-inspiring.
  • Speaking of plastic - it is everywhere on these headphones, and it is very shiny. Fingerprint magnet for sure.
  • These aren't the sort of headphones for busting out your Stravinsky & Friends or Moody Miles Davis playlists - subtlety is not the name of the game when it comes to the look or sound of Beats products.
  • High frequencies, in particular, lose that quality of "piercing" clarity a set of more balanced, natural sounding headphones will produce.
  • Price. At $280, have no doubts - a good chunk of your money goes toward that logo on the side.

Comfort And Design

One thing I will give the Beats Wireless headphones without hesitation is good marks for comfort. The leather around the ear-cups is supremely soft, and breathes very well. While the headphones are a bit weighty, I found they sat on my ears for long durations without becoming tiresome. My only complaint in the comfort department is that for someone with a head as large as mine, they do fit a little tight, but not enough for me to be annoyed by it.

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The folding action seems well-made enough, but as I said in the bulleted section, I don't trust throwing these in my bag or luggage without carefully considering the various ways in which they could be destroyed if I'm not careful. I've been keeping them in my messenger bag, and so long as I remember not to throw it on the floor when I get home or haphazardly into the back seat of my car, I've not been to worried about them. Considering the large number of complaints on the web about the plastic headband breaking, handling these cans with care is probably a good idea in the first place.

This gets us back to the plastic issue. These headphones are riddled with it, and it's definitely the Achilles' heel of the Beats Wireless. It creaks, there is no way to keep it clean for more than 30 seconds, and it just kind of reeks of cheapness. Nothing on my demo unit has broken or cracked, but the choice of materials by Beats is just not what I'd expect for a headphone costing nearly $300.

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On a more positive note, my favorite part of the Beats Wireless has to be the exterior controls. Since the ear-cans are fairly large, there's plenty of room to space out the buttons on these appropriately. Not only are the buttons (next/previous track, play/pause center button, power, volume up/down) well-spaced, they all (except the center button) have little bumps that make it very easy to figure out just which one you're pressing. One of the problems on the last pair of Bluetooth on-ear headphones I tried was that I could never be sure exactly what button I was hitting, but I've not had any problem in this regard with the Beats Wireless.

Sound / Bluetooth Connectivity

If you're looking for an "all-season" sort of wireless on-ear headphone, these need not be on your list. Beats headphones are designed with a clear set of music genres in mind, and the sound on them is optimized for those genres and nothing else. Techno, dubstep, hip-rop, rap, pop, and house music fans will enjoy the extreme low-frequency performance of the Beats, which outmatches any other headphone I've used in terms of sheer power. Accuracy of response at low frequency also seems very good, and is very tight (sounds do not "blend" into one another).

Can you listen to and enjoy other varieties on the Beats Wireless? Sure, but there are better, cheaper options that will yield a more balanced (and potentially, superior - depending on application) listening experience. Classic rock tracks sounded bloated and muddled on the Beats, and more modern rock and indie tracks suffered from the heavily emphasized bass, which would overpower the rest of the song. Let's just say jazz and classical weren't on my test list.

Still, subtle details are easy to make out on the Beats, and they don't produce any noticeably bad distortion at high volumes. And for Bluetooth headphones, they sound particularly good - no small feat. I got a few of the standard Bluetooth "cuts" in audio from time to time, but they were quite rare.

The sound is just so colored and tuned that you'll definitely notice the difference whenever you play your favorite songs, and depending on what those songs are, you may not like what you hear. Considering how readily available Beats headphones are in retail outlets across the US, it's probably worth trying out a pair of them to see if you like the distinct sound signature they impart on music.

As for connecting them, it's dead simple. Turn them on the first time, and connect with your Bluetooth device, and they'll auto-pair. Best of all, all, the Bluetooth control buttons on these headphones work with Android just fine (the last pair I used did not). Battery life so far has been good, too - I haven't had to charge them after 3+ days of moderate use.

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Conclusion

The elephant in the room here is price. For $280, I can say with absolutely certainty there is no way I would go out and buy the Beats Wireless tomorrow unless I was a DJ with a clinical phobia of cords. That said, there's a reason Beats' products have sold so well here in the states. They're stylish, flashy, and provide excellent listening for the genres of music most popular in the US today. If you're looking for a wireless headphone that combines good looks with a hip-hop and electronica audio pedigree, and price isn't much of a concern, the Beats Wireless won't disappoint. Just know that like any designer product, you're buying the logo as much as you are the thing itself.

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • jjrudey

    The idea of bluetooth headphones was always cool to me. I've only used one pair and they audio was pretty bad. What is the best pair?

    • Alex Sandy

      It pretty much depends on what you'll use them for. For myself I use Jaybird's Sportsband pretty much for anything outdoors. Inside I stay wired.

      • dandmcd

        I can second Jaybirds for outdoor use or on the go. I personally se the in-ear model, though. I throw them in my bag for the coffee shop, or listening on a bus/metro). Also great for being active at a gym. The sports band you own Ithink sounds better, but still not sound quality that will blow your mind, but still better than anything else bluetooth under $99. So nice to not have to lug around headphones the size of your head. Lifetime warranty from sweat is a huge perk, since I always short out my headphones.

        Beats do have decent sound quality ,but you are paying a huge premium to carry a logo around your neck. You can save $100 to $180 and get the same exact quality of sound from another respected brand, and not the cheap plastic like Beats uses. I've had audiophiles that have complimented my V-Moda's, but guarantee they would laugh at me if I wore Beats.

        • Alex Sandy

          The Freedoms? They do rock for workouts! I agree with the sound quality but bluetooth headphones/earphones are usually not known for their sound.

          +1 on audiophiles on beats

    • chicosuave

      Parrot zix the absolute best bluetooth headphones.

  • Dave

    I don't understand all this beats business...it's garbage. I honestly can't remember a brand that more people have followed blindly when their product is so inferior and overpriced (probably are others, but this is all I can think of)

    • Zachary Jacob Zblewski

      iAnything.

      /Somebody had to say it.

    • Daniel Christensen

      I'm betting you never gave them a chance. Unless you listen to classical music, they are very good. It is quite popular to dump on Beats these days. all the wannabe audiophiles love to do so.

      • Deltaechoe

        no, they really aren't, I honestly cannot fathom why people pay so much for headphones that are only worth about 1/3rd of the price you pay for the beats.

        It's like bose, they are far overpriced, not saying they're terrible cans, but they are definitely well behind what they should be for the price they come at

  • Ickkii

    You could get a pair of beyerdynamic dt990s for that price! Consumerism has gone too far.

  • http://learnfree.eu/ lokster

    I don't understand what's with this beatsaudio craze - essentially it's just a louder (and unnaturally sounding) bass.
    Plain and simple marketing.

  • Tyler C

    beats are just as much of a scam as iDevices, people are generally stupid and will pay for the name because they care too much about what other people think of them.

    • Daniel Christensen

      The people looking for recognition from all the other wannabe "audiophiles", are the morons crying about how bad Beats are.

      • Sootie

        Very quick to defend them on all occasions Daniel. I have listened to many different pairs of headphones and like to try out as many as I can whenever I walk into an audio shop and for my taste I just dont like the sound of the beats headphones. If there were the same price as most of the other headphones in the same quality bracket (low end sennheiser for example) this wouldn't be a problem however they are pricing all of them towards the top of the mainstream headphones, for this sort of money they just dont make sense for me. Try listening to the beats (anything, they are all fairly similar sounding the higher end ones just seem to me to have better noise isolation and more powerful drivers) and then a set of Sennheisers or AKG's for around the same money back to back the beats will probably win the bass contents but fall flat at least in my ears for everything else. I actually liked the $40 akg cheapies headphones better than the $260 ish beats for sound.

        As mentioned below however sound is a subjective thing and not everyone likes the same thing.

        Having said all of the above though I dont really like the sound of any wireless headphones something about how they amplify the sound afterwoods makes them sound not as nice as the wired versions and this applies to all headphones I have tried including both beats and sennheisers

        • Sootie

          wait, WTH? This is not the right comments thread for this post? or this post was on the front page again for no reason

  • Jacob

    Oh dear, looks like the anti-Beats and Apple groups are out in full force.

    1.) Those who say they're a "scam" - how are Beats fraudulent? They do what they say on the box.

    2.) People aren't "stupid" for choosing something different to what you would choose. They may well prioritise fashion over functionality, or they may just want headphones with bass. Or maybe both.

    3.) Sound is very subjective - you cannot define what's "unnaturally" sounding.

  • Johnny Vu

    This could be an upgrade to my LG bluetooth headphone.

  • Tig

    I've got the Nokia 905i

    still going strong...

  • CT

    You reviewed the earlier model of beats, The newer Studio Pro edition at 399.99 is made of aluminum instead of plastic therefore improving on the 'Not So Good'

    The noise canceling is also a lot better with this model.

  • palmer nyako

    bet armtem got these.
    ;)

  • Deltaechoe

    You're better off dropping the money on sennheiser, beyerdynamic or just about anything you will find with favorable reviews over at forums like Head-fi. Beats just aren't that good for their price, if they were priced at about 33% of their current MSRP then I wouldn't have any problems telling people they might as well drop some cash on them.

    • Deltaechoe

      on top of that, if you are looking for power, you are better off just getting a headphone amp, there are some pretty cheap ones out there (made by fiio) that will satisfy just about everyone

  • reggjoo

    Sennheisers are one of the best in sound quality, and durable construction. Over hyped bass is for kids, let them spend money on flash type things. As a adult, who ironically as a kid, made his own speakers(using theile/small formulas for his calculations, and phased array ideas) , I liked top-heavy bass too, but grew up. Let the kids have fun.

  • Sky

    Bought a pair of white sony headphones almost a year ago at Ross for under $10..and since im a Dj ive got my Audio interface to make that $10 well worth it. :)-
    I will not fork up $300 for style.. Pfft

  • http://www.tenqa.com/remxd-bluetooth-headphones.php Dustin
  • rvichar

    Is it true they can be hard wired when your battery is dead? These are apparently like studio hd when running through a cable but the point is to make use of the wireless ans skip annoying cables. are they Bluetooth 4.0 I think I will pass for cheaper sennheisers or wait until the new monsterless generation which should eliminate the price gouging.

  • Calvin Williams

    fun times guess its time to get some new phones , my sony Mdrnc7 are getting old now and sound like well crap... lol

  • siypion

    whats the point they cost to much 

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.kate.12 Lee Kate

    I think they feel amazing, Beats Headphones is so comfortable and feel luxurious and Beats Headphones is the best sounding headphones that I've ever heard. http://www.beatsheadphonesmonster.co.uk/

  • Kyle

    I'm wearing these now and actually am considering returning them because of the tight feel. Granted I feel I have a big head. However I love the headphones! Everything is easy, it's wireless (which I've wanted for years). The only thing that I would change about these is the over ear part instead of on ear. I'm thinking about returning these for the over ear Studio's and hopefully they will release a pair of over ear Bluetooth soon and then I will upgrade when they happens.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BTR6LZ726GDL5EEC6HPHGW4O3M ZackS

    These are no good. The headband cracked on me in 5 months from regular use. I called customer service and they said they can't fix it and it is not considered a warranty item.

    I am now stuck with a $300 paper weight because Beats and Monster do not care about there customers.

    Save yourself the torment and do not get these headphones.

    • Ulquiorra Cifer

      had mine for a year...they never cracked..one ear went dead and they replaced the whole set for free.

  • George McBride

    I had 2 other wireless headphones before, some unknown Sony brand and Jaybirds. I use it everyday for 30 mins, and I charge it once every 2 weeks. Which is by far the longest battery life than any wireless headphone I have ever experienced. Not to mention the excellent sound quality, and easy playback controls.

    I recommend them for everyday use, just like they do at http://www.bestbluetoothheadphonesguide.com, but not when working out as they will be too heavy. Also in hot climates, your ears tend to sweat when using them for long time. Also I can not wear them for long time when I have my glasses on. But I dont consider these as cons, as it's normal side effect when having your ears cushioned with superior sound quality.

  • Syncere

    I had my wireless beats for almost a week now and luv them regardless of negative comments beats wireless ain't for everyone

  • hunter

    On my beats headphones no sound is coming out what should i do