Beats.jpgYou’ve no doubt heard of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. Since they first came on the scene in 2008 they’ve exploded in popularity, and now you’d be hard pressed to get through a day without seeing at least one iconic “b” logo on the side of a pair of headphones. I’ve always wanted a pair, but never took the plunge. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I was asked to take the new Beats Solo 2 Wireless On-Ear headphones for a test drive. Here’s my take on their function and performance.

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Design

The Beats Solo 2 Bluetooth Wireless headphones are exactly what their name implies–a wireless version of the original Beats Solo 2. They feature the same design as their wired cousins, but with slightly larger earcups to accommodate the battery, built-in controls, and of course, Bluetooth connectivity.

I was sent the Special Edition gold Solo 2 Wireless headphones to review and I must say that I immediately feel in love with their aesthetic. The gold isn’t too shiny, and the white leather earcups complement the colour perfectly. I must admit I felt pretty cool as I ran through my neighbourhood wearing them. A lot of people seemed to take notice–or perhaps they were simply blown away by my impressively slow jog.

The majority of the Beats Solo 2 Wireless is made of plastic, but regardless, they are remarkably sturdy. They are also quite flexible and the headband can be adjusted to accommodate different sized heads, or to fit over a ball cap or hoodie. On the inside of the headband, near the top of the earcups are small letters to indicate which side is for the right ear and which side is for the left. However, it is on the exterior of the earcups where all the magic happens, for this is where all the controls are placed. On the right earcup you’ll find the power button, LED Fuel Gauge and micro-USB port for charging, and on the left are controls for pausing, playing or skipping a track, volume, and audio cable input.

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The Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones are also collapsible, which makes them super easy to tote from place to place, especially when they are stored in their accompanying carrying case.

Beats-Charge.pngCharging, Pairing & Battery Life

Charging and pairing the Solo 2 Wireless headphones was a breeze. To charge, I simply connected them to my laptop with the charging cable that came in the box and in under an hour, the LED Fuel Gauge showed four solid lights to indicate they were fully juiced. As far as how long the battery lasts, Beats says that you should get 12 hours of life on one charge, which will get you through your week’s workouts and commutes, a couple of days behind a desk, or an overseas flight, and in my testing, I felt their estimate is pretty accurate. That said, if your battery does run out, you can simply connect the Solo 2 Wireless to your audio device via the audio cable and continue listening in wired mode.

Pairing the Beats Solo 2 Wireless to my smartphone was equally as easy. I tend to encounter at least one stumbling block when I set up new products to test and review, but that just wasn’t the case this time around. I will say though that it is important to disconnect from Bluetooth when the headphones aren’t in use, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

 

Collage.jpgFunctionality & Testing 

Once my Solo 2 Wireless headphones were charged and paired, I was ready to give them a whirl. When I put them on I was immediately impressed. While they don’t offer active noise cancellation, the earcup padding does an amazing job buffering out ambient sound. I was so surprised that I forced a handful of friends to put them on so they could understand my excitement (and get me to shut up).

TEST #1 – COMMUTING 

My first real test and interaction with the Solo 2 Wireless headphones was wearing them on my transit commute to and from work. If you take transit like I do, you know just how important it is to be able to tune out your surroundings. While wearing the Solo 2 Wireless headphones, not only was I able to get into a positive mindset en route to the office thanks to some great tunes, but I couldn’t hear anything that was going on around me. Add to that the fact that I didn’t need to worry about being wired to my phone, and I was a happy camper.

I have to admit that based on previous experiences with on-ear and in-line controls, I was expecting those of the Solo 2 Wireless to be much more finicky than they were, but they were so easy to use! The second a Justin Beiber song came on, I immediately hit the “skip track” button to advance to the next song on the playlist (and by “skip track” I meant “increase volume” … don’t judge). I felt pretty cool tapping my ear to advance songs and change the volume of my music while I was on the bus. I’m pretty sure people were jealous.

 

Stacey-Running.jpgTEST #2 – RUNNING 

My second test was a lot more intense than a ride on the bus–I went for a run. Now, I think it has to be noted here that I am NOT a runner. I play volleyball, hike, swim and go to the gym, but I’ve never really embraced the whole concept of running. That said, I am forcing myself to do it a handful of times a week, so thought my run-jog-fast-walk would be a great test for the Beats Solo 2 Wireless, especially considering the fact that they are on-ear headphones.

In my experience, on-ear and over-ear headphones aren’t the greatest at staying put when you move and jump around. Or, they stay put until the second you break a sweat and then they just slip right off. The Solo 2 Wireless are clearly an anomaly because as I was run-jog-fast-walking not only did they stay put, but they did so so well that I forgot I was wearing on-ear headphones at times. They literally did not budge. True, this could be attributed to the fact that I am not a very fast run-jog-fast-walker, but even so, they killed it.

On top of that, the fact that I was able to control my music selection and volume while my phone was safely stowed in my hoodie’s zippered pocket was awesome. I could skip songs, increase or decrease the volume, and pause with the tap of a finger while run-jog-fast-walking, and didn’t have to worry about wires getting in the way, or me dropping my phone while exercising.

TEST #3 – CALLING 

My third test was one of the Solo 2 Wireless’ phone capabilities. While wearing the headphones, I called my parents on my smartphone. When I told them I was talking to them through headphones while standing on my balcony and that my phone was in my bedroom, I could actually hear their confusion come through the Beats earcups. They told me my voice was crystal clear, however on my end, they were a bit tinny and muffled, which is no different from other headphones with phone capabilities I’ve had the opportunity to test.

Sound

While I’m no audiophile, I do know what good music sounds like on a set of headphones, and the Beats Solo 2 Wireless delivered. My measure of “quality” is whether or not the sound makes me start dancing no matter where I am, and I must admit I danced a lot while testing the Solo 2 Wireless headphones. I felt that they delivered a crisp, balanced sound with just the right amount of bass.

Caveat
One thing worth mentioning is that if you don’t un-pair the Solo 2 Wireless headphones when not in use, you may struggle to make phone calls or play music on your portable device; at least, that’s what happened to me. I was sent a voice memo text message, but couldn’t get it to play, and then I tried making a phone call, but the call wouldn’t connect, even though it said it had. Well, as it turns out, my voice memo and my call worked perfectly fine, but they were streaming through the Solo 2s, which were in another room of my apartment. Needless to say they aren’t kidding when they say they have a 30m range.

Verdict 

I’ve tested and reviewed a number of headphones for Best Buy Canada; in fact I reviewed 12 different headphones last year alone. By no means am I an expert, but I’ve come to understand what makes a pair of headphones good or bad. Outside of my commute and my run-jog-fast-walk, I also took the Solo 2 Wireless Headphones for a hike, a kayak, a bike ride, several exceptionally long walks, and a couple of excursions to the grocery store. In a nutshell, I’m in love. They are ridiculously easy to use, you don’t need to worry about wires so can keep your phone in your back pocket or purse, they are comfortable, and the sound quality is dance-worthy. For anyone who is at all active and enjoys music, the Beats Solo 2 Wireless should definitely be considered.