Known for their bass-centric sound and stylish designs, Beats makes some of the most recognizable headphones around. They hit the consumer audio tech scene in 2008 and immediately made a big splash with celebrity endorsements, clever marketing and a premium price. They managed to draw a loyal following and quickly became one of the most popular headphones brands around.
The higher price point and mixed response to audio style have led many people to wonder if they are truly worth the cost. As with many things in life, the answer to this question isn’t so cut and dry.
Beats headphones started in 2007 as a collaboration between legendary hip-hop artist Dr. Dre, music producer Jimmy Iovine and Monster Cable. They released their first pair of headphones, the Monster Beats by Dr. Dre Studio, in 2008. Thanks to their many celebrity endorsements, impactful marketing and fashionable designs, they quickly became a top-selling brand and were a household name by 2011.
In 2012, the brand began branching out with the release of the Beats Pill line of portable speakers and the purchase of MOG Inc. This online music streaming service would eventually become Apple Music in 2015, just one year after Apple bought the Beats brand. Since Apple’s takeover, Beats has continued to position itself as a premium brand of consumer audio equipment with a correspondingly high price point.
When listening to Beats headphones, the first thing you’ll notice is the bass-forward sound signature. This is perhaps a nod to Dr. Dre’s hip-hop background. This sound profile is a bit of a double-edged sword because it appeals to just as many people as it turns away. It’s great when listening to bass-heavy songs and music genres, but less so when listening to tunes where the vocals should take center stage. You may notice that the mids and highs seem to take a backseat to the low frequencies and can sometimes become muddied.
With some of their models, Beats has moved away from emphasizing bass, which could be a trend that continues with future models. For example, the Beats Studio3, one of their newer over-ear releases, has a more rounded sound signature than many other pairs. Still, they aren’t as neutral as headphones you would get from a company like Shure or Sennheiser.
For many years, Beats headphones received criticism for their build quality. While there have been some improvements, they still often feel more flimsy than headphones in a comparable price range from other brands. They are inflexible and made with mostly plastic components. However, this does make them lightweight and comfortable to wear for long periods. Their earbuds do feel more durable than their over and on-ear models.
Without a doubt, Beats headphones stand out for their style. They often come in vibrant, eye-catching colors, like the club red Solo3 Wireless headphones or the magenta Powerbeats3 Wireless Pop Collection in-ear buds. This makes them appeal to young consumers who may consider their headphones just as much a fashion accessory as an audio device. The majority of their over and on-ear models have a sleek design, so they don’t feel bulky on the head like those from other companies.
Whether or not Beats headphones are worth the money is a personal preference. Undoubtedly, you are paying for the brand name and notoriety that goes along with it, and the same is true for Bose headphones and other well-known brands.
If you like bass-heavy sound signatures, you’ll most likely enjoy listening to Beats headphones and find them to be worth the cost. Likewise, if you aren’t overly particular about the clarity of mids and highs in your music, and you place a greater emphasis on style and a lightweight build, Beats headphones might be worth every penny. Audiophiles, those who prefer a neutral sound signature and people who want their headphones to have a premium look and feel will likely look elsewhere.
Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds
A good choice for working out and running, the Powerbeats Pro Earbuds have a lightweight construction and over-the-ear hooks that keep them securely in place through all kinds of intense activities. They feature the brand’s signature bass-forward sound.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Kohl's
Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones
Offering up to a 40-hour battery life, the Solo3 can easily get you through a few days of jamming out to your favorite tunes before needing to recharge, and their well-cushioned earcups and adjustable fit ensure they will be comfortable the whole time. They have punchy sound, are available in several flashy colors and carry a reasonable price tag.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Beats Studio3 Wireless Headphones
The brand’s most expensive pair, the Studio3 has a more balanced sound than many other models. It features excellent active noise cancellation to block out background noise that could detract from the listening experience. A 10-minute charge provides an extra three hours of playback time, and the multifunction on-ear controls make it easy to skip tracks and adjust the volume.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Kohl’s
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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.