I’m a bit behind the curve on this one – Monster Cable teamed up with rapper Dr. Dre a while ago to introduce the "Beats by Dre" headphones. I’ve been giving them a bit of a workout over the past few months, so how do they stack up?
In typical Monster fashion the Beats are very well packaged. Opening the box reveals a carrying / storage case containing the headphones and a variety of accessories. The beats fold away into the case and have a very solid feel to them, with a well padded headband and a great polished black finish.
They’re not what I’d call "Portable". They do fold away but they’re very much styled around more traditional hifi headphones rather than something you’d go jogging with! They’re also battery powered – this is presumably because of the active noise cancellation function which reduces background noise.
Included in the box are a standard headphone cable and a dedicated iPhone / blackberry cable with built in microphone. You also get a 1/4" headphone adapter (the larger size is more commonly used in non-portable hifi equipment) and an airplane in-seat adapter. They even included a cleaning cloth to look after that polished finish.
Disclaimer: I’m a bit of an audio nut. Now that’s out of the way…
It’s hard to describe sound quality objectively, since our impressions depend so much on what we’re used to and what we’re measuring against. Descending into audiophile-speak for a minute I’d describe the beats as "Clinical". What that means in general terms is that you can hear every nuance of the music. I heard subtle details I’d never heard before, even in music I know well.
There’s oodles of bass on tap too and it’s very well reproduced. "Good" bass is hard to do; it’s too easy for the bass to overpower everything else and lead to a very muffled sound. There’s none of that with the Beats; the bass is clean, clear and very deep.
This clearly lends the Beats to reproducing a certain style of music – bass heavy rap and modern pop music comes across with brilliant clarity. If your tastes run more towards classical or jazz you may find something lacking – although there’s masses of bass and treble on offer it sounded very "discrete". I could hear every instrument individually, but I didn’t get a sense of them blending together.
Like I said, it’s a fairly clinical presentation and whether this is a sound that works for you is very much down to personal preference. To be honest, the fact that I can start nit-picking about the presentation means the overall sound quality is very good.
The active noise cancellation seems to work very well on low frequencies but leave high frequencies largely untouched. I would have thought this would work well on an aircraft – it should pretty much kill the constant drone of engine and cabin noise (although I haven’t had a chance to test that).
If you don’t plug any headphone cables in you can still use the headphones are pure noise cancellation devices – in fact there doesn’t seem to be a way to bypass the cancellation, it’s active all the time the headphones are powered.
Because these are powered headphones they don’t work without battery power. Once while testing I inadvertently forgot to switch the headphones off when I’d finished, resulting in a dead set of batteries the next time I came to use them. It’s not the end of the earth but you do have to get into the habit of turning them off when you’ve finished with them. I’d like to see an "auto off" option in a future version that would turn them off after a period of inactivity.
If you’re in the market for spending $350 on a pair of headphones I’d put these on the shortlist for an audition. The sound won’t be to everybody’s taste but if you listen to modern bass heavy music I think you’ll like them.
One Comment on “Beats By Dre”4:44 am
[...] Over on Coolest Reviews we take a look at the Beats by Dre headphones. These have made a bit of a splash in the blogsphere over the past few months – are they worth asking price? Ultimately that’s down to you, but you can see what we thought here. [...]
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