The Beats Solo 2 Wireless is a headphone I’ve always been curious to try. For some inexplicable reason, Best Buy has had them on a large discount for months now. I thought this heralded the announcement of a new product, but so far…nothing. I had some rewards points, so I took the plunge.
They’re okay. But the market has left them behind.
The most impressive thing about the Solo 2 Wireless is that it manages to cram in wireless technology without a noticeable weight increase over the wired version. Normally, when a company produces a Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth version of the same headphone, the Bluetooth version is much heavier. This makes some amount of sense; the Bluetooth receiver and battery have mass, and as such, they have weight.
Miraculously, the Solo 2 Wireless avoids this. The internals must be deftly engineered. They’re just as light and comfy as the wired version, with only a tiny increase in weight. It’s really impressive.
The same great Beats design is here too. They fold to a compact shape for easy portability. They come in a bunch of colors. The ear cups are a little thicker than the original wired version. The rubber membrane that lets them twist for a better fit has holes cut into it. Many reviews out there identify these holes as bass vents, but I believe that’s incorrect. The sound compartment is still fully sealed. I think these vents are to improve Bluetooth reception, and to let the battery vent heat.
The ear pads isolate surprisingly well, even for an on-ear headphone. These will work just fine in a loud environment.
Many Bluetooth headphones sound different than their wired counterparts. Bluetooth headphones have their own built-in DAC (digital-to-analog converter)and amplifier. If these components are not high-quality, or not tuned correctly, sound performance suffers. The Beats Studio Wireless has these problems, with a sound quality that’s muffled and weird compared to its wired brother. Many other headphones show similar traits in their Bluetooth version.
The Solo 2 Wireless has no such issues. It has the same great, punchy, fun sound as the wired version. If you have golden ears, you’ll notice the Bluetooth compression, but it won’t be an issue for 99 percent of listeners. If you’re in that 1 percent, a wire is included that transforms these into a completely identical copy of their wired version, sound-wise.
I know that the “Beats Sound” is not for everyone. That’s fine! But in the Solo 2, the company perfected its sound signature. The bass is punchy and powerful. Vocals are strong, and slightly smooth. Treble is present but not grainy or irritating. These produce a great sound, that competes adequately in their price range. As long as you like some bass.
The Solo 2 Wireless comes with a nice little neoprene case. The Beats logo is styled to match the color of the headphones. The included wire includes iPhone-compatible buttons. It also matches your chosen headphone color. There’s also a high-quality USB cable in the box with Beats branding, for charging. They charge quickly and the battery lasts 12 hours in wireless mode. The hidden buttons on the side of the left earcup work great in Bluetooth mode, and even work with Apple computers. Great!
Here’s where I fall out of love a bit.
My big problem with the Solo 2 has always been that they start to pinch after 30–60 minutes. I had read online that the wireless model has slightly better padding. This is true! The ear pads are slightly softer and more premium-feeling than on the wired version. The headband feels a little more robust. And yet…
These still start to pinch my head after about 30 minutes. I used them exclusively for a week in the hopes that they’d loosen up, and they did…a little. I think it’s going to be another week before they even begin to approach the comfort of other sets.
Users shouldn’t have to break in their headphones this long.
I get that a high clamping force improves bass, and helps these to stay on your head if you go running or something…but the comfort sacrifice just isn’t worth it.
Hopefully the next Beats headphone figures this issue out. They’re so close to being long-term comfy. The pads are good…but the clamp is just too tight.
I would not have purchased these if they hadn’t been almost 50 percent off. The standard retail price is $299. That’s about $100 dollars more than I think they should be, honestly, especially in today’s headphone market. These are a totally competent headphone…but they struggle to compete in the $300 dollar range today. Yes, the sound, design, and extras are all solid…but the market is fierce. Other companies have really made a go of it, and all Beats has done so far is release new colors.
The big elephant in the room is market position, even against other Beats products. The wired Solo 2 has an MSRP of $199, and often goes for far less. It gets you essentially everything this wireless model has without the bluetooth. Is wireless worth 100 extra bucks to you? Hmm. The $89 dollar Skullcandy Grind Wireless is 80 percent the quality of this headphone. It doesn’t isolate nearly as well, or sound quite as good, but otherwise it’s a feature-for-feature match.
The $350 dollar Bose QC35 offers best-in-class noise cancelling, slightly cleaner sound, longer battery life, and a vastly more comfortable fit. The QC35 didn’t exist when the current Beats wireless lineup launched, but now that it does…it’s hard to recommend the Beats offerings in 2016.
The Solo 2 Wireless is a solid on-ear wireless headphone, with a good design, punchy sound, and decent extras. But it gets pinchy after 30 minutes and has been priced out of the market. If you’re looking for a good intersection of portability, style, and sound, then this should still be on your list of contenders…but DO NOT pay full price. The Skullcandy Grind wireless and Bose QC35 are both better products in their respective price ranges.
The Solo 3 has the chance to destroy them both, and I will await it with great anticipation. But right now, Beats is on the back foot.