Beats, an Apple subsidiary, has historically determined what’s fashionable among consumer audio products. Its Beats Solo3 Wireless may be a few years old, but the aesthetic could easily fit into the company’s 2020 lineup. If you don’t need the latest and greatest features, these on-ear headphones will serve you well with its W1 chip integration, fast charging, and exceptionally long battery life.
Editor’s note: this post was updated on December 21st, 2020 to include information about the AirPods Max and to reflect changes in pricin.
Who should get the Beats Solo3 Wireless?
- iPhone users will benefit from the W1 chip. Although it’s not quite as efficient as the newer H1 chip, iOS users still benefit from quick pairing and device switching as well as improved efficiency relative to products sans-W1 chip integration. What’s more AAC support ensures reliable high-quality streaming on iPhones, iPads, and Macbooks.
- Fashion-conscious listeners will enjoy the subdued design of the Beats Solo3 Wireless. This headset is available in a wide variety of colors, guaranteed to scratch your style itch. The on-ear design may not be the most comfortable but its low-profile compliments almost all outfits.
Using the Beats Solo3 Wireless
The Beats Solo3 Wireless are akin to the senior Solo2 and Solo Pro on-ear headsets. Our original review unit featured a glossy black finish, which proved a fingerprint magnet. However, our current matte-grey model effectively resists oil smudges but remains easily scuffed. The hard plastic seems durable enough, but the hinges and headband flexibility are cause for concern. A pleather material hugs the foam ear pads, making these a fine option for vegans.
Clamping force may pose an issue for listeners prone to tension headaches: by nature of the on-ear design, an undue amount of pressure is placed on the ears to isolate the listener from their surroundings and keep the headset in place. If you wear glasses, do yourself a favor and skip on-ears altogether. You’ll be much more comfortable with earbuds or over-ear headphones.
Beats includes a few accessories with its Solo3 Wireless; you’re afforded a soft zippered carrying case with a carabiner, 3.5mm aux cable, and microUSB charging cable. Yes, these headphones were before Apple made its huge proprietary Lightning cable push and blissfully ignored anything USB-C. The zippered case is an ok inclusion and great for anyone with limited bag space as you can just hook it on externally, but if you actually want to protect the Solo3 Wireless, get a hardshell case.
The Beats Solo3 Wireless give listeners the liberty to choose between wired and wireless listening.
Unlike the Beats Solo Pro, the Beats Solo3 Wireless includes a 3.5mm input for your headphone jack. Assuming you have a compatible smartphone, you can enjoy high-quality wired audio with ease. When listening in wired mode, on-board controls from the left ear cup are ineffective on Android devices. When going wireless, you can access Siri or Google Assistant by triple-tapping the center multifunction button (the “b” logo).
Pairing the Beats Solo3 Wireless to an iOS or Android device
When Adam first reviewed these headphones, he found that pairing to his iPhone 6s was a seamless experience. A pop-up card prompted him to pair the headset to his phone, and they were immediately paired to every device on his iCloud account. Adam’s iPhone 6s doesn’t even have the W1 chip found in the Beats Solo3 Wireless; the W1 wasn’t introduced until the iPhone 7. It may be a bit mind-boggling to see the W1 chip work with a device sans-chip, but the W1 chip is only half of the equation. The other half is on the software side, which Apple pushed through in an iOS 10 update. If you have any iOS device after the iPhone 7, you won’t have any issues at all pairing to these headphones. That brings me to the downside of the W1 magic: if you’re on anything other than an iOS device you’re out of luck and have to jump through your phone’s Bluetooth menu.
Connection strength and Bluetooth codec support
Thanks to the W1 chip range was also given a huge boost. If the phone is in your pocket or backpack, you won’t have an issue at all. We were able to get to around 30 meters easily without skipping at all. When using them wired you’ll only get full functionality on iOS devices. On Android, you won’t be able to adjust the volume or return to previous tracks using the built-in mic and remote.
The headset supports AAC for high-quality streaming on iPhones. If you have an Android, you’re better off forcing SBC streaming as AAC’s performance is a bit inconsistent across non-iOS devices. Then again, you could always reach for that included headphone cable, too.
Battery life on the Beats Solo3 Wireless is exceptional
Our battery testing yielded an incredible 45 hours 8 minutes of playback before the headset was drained. As if this weren’t impressive enough, the Beats Solo3 Wireless’ Fast Fuel technology is remarkable: just five minutes of charging supplies approximately three hours of playtime. This is great for listeners in a pinch, and is sure to get you through a round trip commute to and from work.
How do the Beats Solo3 Wireless sound?
The Beats Solo3 Wireless has a less emphatic bass response than initially anticipated. Yes, low notes are amplified over mids and treble but not so much so as to completely degrade audio quality. The relatively gentle bass emphasis can’t make up for the fact that the dynamic drivers struggle to separate instrumental nuances, especially during a cacophonous musical section (e.g. the bridge in any Dave Matthews Band song). If you like hip-hop and pop, this is the sound signature for you. It won’t be winning any awards from us but will please a large portion of general consumers.
Since these are on-ear headphones, isolation is just okay. High-frequency noises are well tempered, but low-frequency noise, like a jet engine, can easily cut through the Solo3 Wireless. If you want more effective isolation but like the look of on-ears, you may want to consider over-ear headphones or save up for the Beats Solo Pro. The Solo Pro have an exceptionally strong clamping force, which was too painful for me but isolates well in tandem with noise cancelling technology.
Bass, midrange, and treble
Midrange detail takes a hit due to bass emphasis; Generator ^ Second Floor by Freelance Whales really showcase this issue when the consistent drum kicks come in about 40 seconds into the song. Everything is pushed out of the way when the bass kicks start and the banjo all but disappears. Even the vocals don’t have decent detail until the bass kicks drop out.
Considering how loud these get Beats did a pretty good job at pulling back the highs. Songs that normally have loud piercing sounds aren’t really painful, but the highs are also really lacking in detail. The finger pick scratches in Naked As We Came by Iron & Wine which usually lend a nice live feel to the song is barely noticeable here.
One thing that’s worth mentioning is that sound leakage is pretty real with these. If you’re listening to with the volume above 60%, the people next to you will probably be able to sing along.
How is the microphone quality?
The microphone isn’t great. In fact, it would be accurate to qualify the microphone quality as bad. The low-end attenuation and old hardware do a poor job at concentrating on the designated speaker’s voice and transmitting it clearly. The voice demo below is me speaking from my empty kitchen; I attempted to record a sample from a coffee shop but it captured far too much of the ambiance and shop’s speaker system to serve as a passable demo. If you intend to make any kind of business call, I implore you to use your smartphone’s mic over the Beats Solo3 Wireless’.
Beats Solo3 Wireless microphone demo:
Are the Beats Solo3 Wireless noise cancelling?
No, they’re not. If you’re after noise cancelling headphones there are plenty of other options to choose from that are superb. You can go with the Sony WH-1000XM3 if you want top of the line ANC or even the newer Bose Noise Cancelling headphones 700 which are surprisingly good and have a sleek new design that many people will find attractive. If what you’re after is Beats however, we recommend skipping the Studio3 Wireless as the active noise cancelling on those is below average at best. Instead opt for the Beats Solo Pro headphones which are also on-ears just like these, but have some solid active noise cancelling and an impressive battery life.
Should you get the Beats Solo3 Wireless?
When Adam initially reviewed this headset, he was stoked about what it meant for the future of headphones: connecting to iOS devices was uniquely easy and the W1 chip’s wireless range made Bluetooth enjoyable to use during a time when it typically headache-inducing at best. In 2020, the Beats Solo3 Wireless is still a fine option, but they’re just not worth the money.
The older chipset does not afford hands-free access to Siri which might not be a big deal to some, but seeing as the asking price is still hovering around $200 you’d be better off with something else. That said, if you do decide to go with these you’ll still get important features like top-notch battery life, Class 1 Bluetooth, AAC support, and quick charging, all in an attractive, portable form factor.
Athletes should get the Beats Powerbeats Pro
First, there are true wireless models that you might want to consider. If you were interested in the Beats Solo3 Wireless to use at the gym, then you might want to check out the new PowerBeats Pro instead. These were designed for athletes with an around-ear hook design that keeps them securely in place, an IPX4 certification that protects them against sweat, a 10+ hour battery life, and a charging case small enough to toss in your gym bag as well.
Need noise cancelling? Try the Apple AirPods Pro
Considering that the Beats Solo3 Wireless headphones are still going for about $200, we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t point out that at that price range you’re not too far off from the price tag of the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro are much smaller, have been improved from the earlier version of the AirPods with a better fit, and they’re also great for working out thanks to the IPX4 sweat-resistance. Frequent flyers will also appreciate the solid active noise cancelling, something that you’re missing if you go with the Solo3 Wireless.
What about the AirPods Max?
Apple recently announced a new pair of over-ear noise cancelling headphones called the AirPods Max and if you’re wondering whether you should get those instead, the main thing you need to consider is the price. Those will run you about $550 USD which is, needless to say, a significantly higher price tag. You’ll also get active noise cancelling and a premium metal build, but at the expense of some battery. The AirPods Max are spec’d to only provide about 20 hours of battery life, which is average at best for headphones in this category. Of course, we can’t recommend you buy these just yet until we get them in to review ourselves, but we’ll be sure to update this when we do.
Keep the Beats Solo3 form factor with the noise cancelling Beats Solo Pro
If you had your heart set on a pair of on-ears, then the new Beats Solo Pro is an updated version with better build quality, Bluetooth 5.0, and even active noise cancelling to block out the world around you. Of course, there’s no 3.5mm input so make sure that you’re okay with going completely wireless before picking these up, but if you are then you won’t be disappointed. The Beats Solo Pro headphones are the best Beats headphones to date, and it isn’t hard to see why. So if what you want are the best Beats you can get, then those should be your go-to.
There are sub-$200 headphones available with better audio quality and greater comfort. One of our favorites is the Bose SoundLink On-Ear, which remains one of the most comfortable pairs of on-ear headphones to date. Another option for listeners who are rough with their gear is the V-Moda XS headset. These are MIL-STD 810G tested, meaning they can withstand a whole lot before breaking. Unlike the Beats Solo3 Wireless, the headband can be bent every which way, and if you do come across any issues, V-Moda has a stellar warranty program. Lastly, you can also go with the Jabra Elite 45h. These headphones last over 54 hours on a single charge, and support Bluetooth multipoint. This means you can connect to two devices at a time.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you're on iOS, there is a handy battery widget that you can add in the widgets section of your phone in order to keep track of the battery life of all of your connected devices. If you don't feel like pulling out your phone every time you want to check battery life of your Beats Solo3 Wireless (or if you're on Android) there's another simple way to check battery life as well. Simply press and release the power button and it will light up the LED lights corresponding to how much battery is left.