After the news broke yesterday of Apple officially acquiring Dr. Dre's headphone and music streaming business, Beats isn't putting the new product announcements on hold. The success of the brand is without question, and its most popular set of cans just got a refresh. This is the Beats Solo²: a redesigned on-ear model with re-tuned audio that does quite a bit to combat the "too much bass" argument.
Let's start with the sound, shall we? As I've already mentioned, Beats touts "updated and improved acoustics" that boast "a wider range of sound and enhanced clarity." That summary is pretty much spot-on. When I unboxed the Solo², I was quick to queue up some bass-heavy tunes to see if the company would remain consistent with its affinity for the low end. Well, the best way I can describe the sound here is "more balanced." Don't get me wrong: There's still plenty of bass when tunes call for it, but you can also clearly pick up other elements -- things like hi-hats, snares and others all seem to stand out more when compared to previous releases.
As recently as the Pill XL, the extra bass was great for some genres, but just seemed to muddy others. That's not the case here. When switching from hip-hop to metal, and then on to something mellower, like bluegrass, each tune I threw at the headphones came through clearly and with a wider range of tones than existing efforts. Those looking for a truckload of bass will still get it when a playlist demands, but folks who prefer a myriad of styles in their music libraries are catered to as well.
Where Beats didn't excel with the new model is comfort.
Where Beats didn't excel with the new model is comfort. I've never been a fan of the way this brand of headphones feels when I wear them, and unfortunately, the Solo² is more of the same. Despite a new headband and ergonomic, pivoting earcups, the headphones still feel like they're pinching in on my head -- a feeling that gets uncomfortable about 15 to 20 minutes into a listening session. That's a common criticism of the Solo HD set, too. This new model is 45g (1.6 ounces) heavier than the Solo HD, and while it's 25g (0.88 ounce) lighter than my usual (albeit more pricey) B&O H6 set, the way the headphones take hold makes them feel a lot heavier. There's new material wrapping the earcups to help dissipate heat though, and that tweak was quite noticeable after several minutes of listening.
In terms of aesthetics, the area housing the iconic circle logo on the outside of the earcups is concave and the leather-esque material meets the plastic on the inside seamlessly. That bunched-up hemline is no more. There's still a color-coordinated in-line remote for toggling tracks, adjusting volume and taking calls, but only on iOS devices. The center play/pause button was all that worked with both Spotify and Google Play Music or answering calls on my Moto X. Finally, the cans still fold in on themselves just like the previous version, should you feel the need to toss 'em in a bag or the included carrying case for transport.
If you're looking to update from the latest model, or opt in for the first time, the Beats Solo² headphones are available for a $200 investment starting today. As you might expect, there are six color options (gray is pictured) to match your smartphone, wardrobe or football cleats.