The Beats Solo Pro take sound and design seriously—among the best beats headphones out there. These are the company’s first noise cancelling on-ears, and Beats hit it out of the park with one exception: comfort. Time to find out if it’s worth pushing past the pain for these otherwise exceptional on-ear headphones.
Editor’s note: this Beats Solo Pro review was updated on January 18, 2021, to address the Apple AirPods Max and include a contents menu.
Who is the Beats Solo Pro for?
- iPhone users will get the most out of the Beats Solo Pro because of the H1 chip. This allows for hands-free access to Siri, immediate pairing, and greater power efficiency than when used with Android devices.
- Fashion-forward listeners will turn heads at these headphones. Whether you go with a muted or vivid color palette, the physical design of the headset is clean and attractive.
- Commuters should really get a pair of noise cancelling headphones, and you can easily travel with the Beats Solo Pro on-ear design.
What are the Beats Solo Pro like?
The Beats Solo Pro noise cancelling headphones showcase a striking, mature appearance. The concealed hinges maintain a streamlined design, and the headband extension mechanism is nearly undetectable. Limited degrees of rotation are allowed in every direction. This design is meant to increase comfort by allowing the ear cups to rest along with the natural angle of your ears. Yet, it can’t negate the immense pressure placed on the head. After an hour of listening, it felt like I was removing an expensive clamp, rather than a pair of headphones. If you have glasses, comfortable listening time is halved.
Just like a Thanksgiving turkey, these headphones are stuffed. A speech-detecting accelerometer works in tandem with the beam-forming microphones to detect when you’re speaking. Ideally, these technologies work to transmit just your voice and reduce background noise by combating sound caused by the movement of your head. Unfortunately, the microphone performance falls a little bit short of our expectations.
The Beats Solo Pro are some of the best Beats headphones to date.
The Beats Solo Pro are available in six colorways: light blue, dark blue, red, black, gray, and ivory. No matter which color you get, a soft zippered pouch and Lightning cable are included. Apple-owned Beats didn’t integrate a 3.5mm input. This makes sense seeing as Apple leads the charge in killing off the headphone jack. However, it’s a shame for Android users whose phones retain the auxiliary audio connection.
See more: Best noise cancelling headphones
How to make commands and switch between listening modes
The left ear cup houses a new button for toggling between noise cancelling, transparency, and extended power mode. Transparency allows ambient noise in, so you can stay aware of your surroundings.
In order to make playback or call controls, you have to press the right ear cup. This large, tactile button is easy to operate bare-handed or with gloves. Pressing the Beats logo acts as a multifunction command, while pressing on the edge above or below the logo adjusts the volume. If you have an iPhone, you can just say, “Hey Siri,” for hands-free virtual assistant access. Google or Alexa users need to hold the “b” logo down for a few seconds.
Do the Beats Solo Pro have good noise cancelling?
In a departure from their early noise-cancelling models, Beats hit the nail on the head with its on-ear ANC technology in the Beats Solo Pro. It uses real-time audio calibration to automatically adjust noise cancelling intensity. A big problem with on-ears is their inability to passively isolate listeners from their surroundings. If you can’t get a good seal with the headphones, ANC is usually a lost cause. The clamping force of the headset is so great, however, that a secure fit is easy to come by. Again, performance is at the expense of comfort.
Related: Sony WH-1000XM3 review
The chart above depicts just how well the Beats Solo Pro cancel noise. The higher up the line, the more those notes are attenuated. As you can see, even bass frequencies (everything left of 260 on the plot above) are blocked out by the Solo Pro. This is impressive since low sounds are the hardest to block out. However these aren’t going to compete with something like the Sony WH-1000XM3. On-ears don’t seal around your ears, so outside noise can still reach your eardrums through the gap between the headphone padding and the side of your head.
How do you connect the Beats Solo Pro?
Like the AirPods and Beats Powerbeats Pro, the Beats Solo Pro feature Apple’s latest H1 chipset. Upon unfolding the headset, pairing is instantaneous with iPhones. If you’re an Android user, you’ll still have to manually open your phone’s Bluetooth settings and select the Solo Pro. Once paired, the headphones will automatically reconnect to the last used device when unfolded. The act of folding or unfolding the headphones acts as the power toggle, too.
These Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 headphones support high-quality AAC streaming. Our testing indicates iPhone users will get the most out of this, as the codec’s performance on Android is unreliable. If you’re an Android user who wants optimal wireless audio quality, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of great Beats alternatives.
iPhone users benefit from Apple's H1 chip in side of the Solo Pro.
To my dismay, these don’t support multiconnect. Alternating between source devices requires manual intervention. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it is annoying given how expensive the headphones are. On the flipside, connection strength is excellent. I never experienced any connection stutters or skips during testing.
How to update the firmware
Anyone running iOS 10.3 or later will notice their Beats Solo Pro automatically update, thanks to the integrated H1 chip. This same functionality is also afforded to W1 chip devices. For us Android users, however, we have to download the Beats updater for Windows. You must be running Windows 10, and it works for the following products: Solo Pro, Studio3 Wireless, Studio Wireless, Solo3 Wireless, Solo2 Wireless, Powerbeats3 Wireless, Powerbeats2 Wireless, Powerbeats Pro, Pill 2.0, Beats Pill Plus, and BeatsX.
Battery life is very good
Beats claims a 22-hour battery life with noise cancelling turned on. We recorded nearly that, squeezing out 21 hours, 53 minutes of 75dB playback from a single charge. If you need more than that, you can get approximately 40 hours of battery life with noise cancelling and transparency mode turned off. Like other Beats products, the Beats Solo Pro support Fast Fuel charging. By charging the Solo Pro via the included Lightning cable for 10 minutes, you get three hours of juice. That’s enough for a round-trip work commute and then some.
What do the Beats Solo Pro sound like?
As is typical of Beats headphones, the Solo Pro adopt a bass-heavy sound. The sub-bass is relayed twice as loud as fundamental vocal frequencies (~250-400Hz), which causes some noticeable “missing” notes in your music (see: auditory masking). Additionally, you can hear some string instrument resonances in spite of the exaggerated bass response.
Learn more: What is frequency response?
Despite being closed-back on-ears, the Beats Solo Pro do a fine job at rendering a seemingly realistic representation of 3D space. If you want to get the most out of their default sound: hip-hop, rap, and pop are the best genres to listen to. As discussed earlier, passive isolation is great. This enhances low-end reproduction and makes the active noise cancelling technology evermore effective.
Lows, mids, and highs
The Tones and I’s song Jimmy opens with a Db-Ab chord pattern to set the somber tone. Toni Watson enters after the second pass. The detail in her voice remains fairly clear until the first chorus at 0:34. Here, the clapping, bass line, and more aggressive piano chords mask Watson’s vocal resonances. The words are still audible, but you don’t perceive the same sense of detail and slight vibrato as you do with more neutral-leaning sound signatures.
The Solo Pro emphasizes sub-bass notes the most.
Bass frequencies bode well for this song in particular as the extra low-note impact emphasizes the pained reminiscent feelings the song elicits from the listener. The final chorus (2:42) feels more effective in the immediate sense because of the emphatic bass reproduction. The low notes are produced even louder than the audio engineer intended which works to further underscore Watson’s forlorn, yet powerful tone.
How good is the microphone?
If there’s a downside to the Beats Solo Pro, it’s the microphone. The beam-forming mics led me to have high hopes for the microphone quality. Unfortunately, low-end attenuation is too great to accurately reproduce vocals. As illustrated by the demonstration below, my voice sounds muffled, distant, and outstandingly inaccurate. Put plainly, you’re best off using your smartphone’s microphone for both professional and personal calls.
Beats Solo Pro microphone demo:
Beats Solo Pro vs Beats Solo3 Wireless
The most obvious comparison we consumers are likely to make is between the Beats Solo Pro and Beats Solo3 Wireless on-ear headphones. The Solo3 Wireless is the Solo Pro’s three-year senior, and naturally has some outdated hardware. For one, the older iteration charges via microUSB and integrates the older W1 chip, rather than Apple’s H1 chip for hands-free access to Siri.
The biggest difference between the two headsets, though, is the Beats Solo Pro’s noise cancelling capabilities, compared to the Beats Solo3 Wireless which is only able to passively isolate you from external noise. If you happen tow work in a noisy office or can’t stand subway din, the Solo Pro may be worth the extra few bucks. Then again, in order for the ANC to work effectively, Beats tightened up the clamping force; for something more comfortable with just as much style, the Solo3 may be a better fit.
The Beats Solo3 Wireless may have outdated hardware, but extended battery life and a 3.5mm headphone jack may be appealing to listeners.
Battery life is another reason you may want to pick up the Solo3 Wireless instead of the Beats Solo Pro. The antiquated Solo3 affords just over 45 hours of playtime on a single charge, while the Solo Pro provides just under 22 hours on a single charge with noise cancelling turned on. After you pass the 24-hour mark, it’s really a matter of diminishing returns, but the doubled battery life is impressive especially on such an old model.
Ultimately, the choice is yours, but for $200, the Beats Solo3 Wireless is an appealing alternative that actually has a headphone jack for wired listening.
Should you buy the Beats Solo Pro?
These are the best Beats Solo headphones to date, and are worth buying if you’re a Beats fan. Listeners who can can pardon the microphone quality, expense, and comfort, will find the Beats Solo Pro an easy-to-love pair of daily headphones. For better or worse, the discomfort is a necessary evil that enables such excellent noise cancelling.
If you decide to purchase the Beats Solo Pro, be sure to do a little research on various headphone vendors. Some retailers have very good warranties, while others have stellar customer service. We have a full explainer that runs through everything you need to know about the best places to buy headphones from.
Alternatives to the Beats Solo Pro
If you’re not willing to sacrifice comfort for a slightly smaller build, the Sony WH-1000XM4, rather than the WH-1000XM3, are our go-to ANC headphones. These afford plenty of features like Ambient Aware mode, touch controls, and granular EQ adjustments. By nature of Sony’s over-ear design, you’re bound to find WH-1000XM4 much more comfortable than the Beats Solo Pro. If you want a more sophisticated design with excellent low-frequency noise cancelling, consider the Shure AONIC 50. This headset easily attenuates low frequency sounds like an engine or A/C unit. Plus, microphone quality is great and certainly good enough for conference calls.
Should iPhone owners just get the Apple AirPods Max?
The Apple AirPods Max are the company’s first full-fledged, over-ear headphones. The headset supports Spatial Audio, Transparency Mode, Adaptive EQ, hands-free access to Siri, and more thanks to the two integrated H1 chips. Each headphone houses a 40mm dynamic driver, and the headset connects seamlessly to other Apple devices associated with your iCloud account.
Apple’s active noise cancelling is very good, and relies on three outward-facing mics and one inward-facing mic per headphone to combat external noise and inner-ear resonances. The company’s computational audio forces the ANC to constantly adjust to the headset’s fit and your movements.
Frequently Asked Questions
To reset the Beats Solo Pro, hold down the mode and volume down buttons for 10 seconds. The LED indicator will flash red to indicate the manual reset has been performed successfully.
The AKG N60NC are much more comfortable than the Beats Solo Pro, because the clamping force is less intense. Contrary to what you may think, this isn't to the detriment of noise cancelling performance. In fact, AKG's on-ear ANC headphones do a better job of combatting external noise than Beats'. The tradeoffs are in hardware and build quality. Neither headset is exceptionally durable, but the pivot points on the N60NC are more prone to breakage compared to the Solo Pro. For less than $100, though, the AKG N60NC are an absolute steal.