Time to Rethink Beats, the Solo2 is Excellent Page 2


Sound Quality
The sound quality of the Beats Solo2 is very good indeed for an on-ear, sealed headphone and, to my ears, makes a hearty attempt at best-in-class sound in a number of ways. In the end, however, the niggly details have it meeting, but not exceeding, the best performers in the field.

Bass is solid, tight, and impact-full, though mildly over-emphasized. I would venture to say maybe 3dB too much bass tilt overall. The bass emphasis extends to about 500Hz, where it should stop at about 120Hz in my opinion. The result is a warm headphone (due to the overall tilt) with a tendency to sound a bit thick due to too much relative energy between 120Hz and 500Hz. Adding a bit of veil to the impression of a slightly thick sound is the very top treble octave above 10kHz, which is a bit suddenly rolled off, maybe about 3dB too much.

All that said, the response overall is very smooth and even. Once used to the slightly excessive warm tilt, these become a very forgiving and listenable headphone. Contemporary music with lots of bass punches hard, and though slightly thick, doesn't get murky or loose. The treble is likewise well behaved—though a little low in level, upper-treble details are articulated accurately without harshness or grain, it's performance elsewhere in the treble and upper-mids is very nicely coherent and smooth.

After looking at the measurements of the Beats Solo2 and comparing them with measurements for the Beyerdynamic DT1350, V-Moda XS, and Sennheiser Aluminum and Momentum On-Ear, I would have thought the Solo2 would have been markedly superior (see measurement section next page), but yet again this was one of those times where the measurements don't tell all. (Maybe more accurately, this was one of those times where our lack of deep knowledge about measurements obscures our ability to interpret them with the subtlety available through our ears.)

I listened also to the above mentioned headphones, but spent most of my time comparing the Solo2 with the similarly priced Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear ($199) and V-Moda XS ($212), both InnerFidelity "Wall of Fame" headphones. Changing types of music would change the magnitude of the various differences heard, but in the end I decided that:

  • The Beats Solo2 delivered the most natural midrange and tended to deliver superior vocals.
  • The Beats Solo2 delivered the tightest most impact-full bass response, but the excesses in upper-bass/low-mid-range made it sound as off, though in a different way, as the looser bass response of the other two.
  • The more articulate and resolving treble of the Sennheiser Momentum made it superior with some types of complex contemporary music, delivering a more exciting listening experience.
  • The V-Moda XS spit the difference between the two having a bit tighter bass and more linear response than the Momentum, and more treble emphasis than the Solo2, but it didn't have the resolving power of the Momentum's treble or the impact of the Solo2's bass.

In sum, I find the Beats Solo2 a more even sounding headphone, but lacking a bit of excitement due to slightly excessive upper-bass/low-mid-range and rolled-off top octave. I found the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear more exciting and resolving, but a somewhat emphasized low-treble and loose bass make it sound a bit too "V" shaped. The V-Moda split the difference to some extent not having as obvious "problems" as the preceding two, but also not having their strengths. In the end, it's a bit of a toss-up between the three—they're all good sounding for an on-ear, sealed headphone, but none are perfect.

The Beats by Dre Solo2 is a truly excellent headphone for the general public. It's not over priced; its handsome yet understated design will not overly narrow its appeal; a wide color selection allows for a little personal expression; its well built and the folding features allow for compact storage and transport; good efficiency and isolation make for a good general purpose portable headphone; and last but not least it sounds very good for a sealed, on-ear headphone.

This is a moderately warm sounding headphone with a little too much emphasis between 120Hz and 500Hz, and with the top octave being somewhat rolled-off, resulting in a slightly veiled and thick sound. However, bass response is tight and punchy, and mid-range through mid-treble response is very nicely smooth and coherent.

I had no problem coming to the conclusion that the Solo2 belongs on the "Wall of Fame" as a reference on-ear, sealed headphone at the $200 mark. In the end, if I had to pick only one, I would choose the Solo2 over either the Momentum On-Ear or V-Moda XS due to it's smooth and coherent mid-range and warm character, which I tend to prefer, but only by the smallest of margins and I'm sure others would make different choices depending on tastes.

The tougher question is which headphone to knock off the WoF to make room for it. I could make a spreadsheet identifying all the plusses and minuses of these cans, but I doubt that would reveal a clear winner or looser—all three of these headphones are very good in this category. As always, the telling metric is my willingness to give one up and loose it as a reference...and I can't make myself give up on any of them. So they'll all stay up on the WoF. Hopefully sometime in the near future something will come along to knock them all off. We'll see. 'Til then, the Beats Solo2 will be my go-to recommendation with the Momentum On-Ear and V-Moda XS close, very close, behind.


Beats by Dre home page and Solo2 product page.
Head-Fi thread here.

Beats by Dre