If you haven't been living under a rock you are probably aware of the domination Beats have had on the market. They are among the bestselling sets of headphones alongside the likes of Bose and Audio-Technica.
Their flagship, Wireless Solo 2, was released on May 29, 2014. The headphones met a mix of fanfare from wide adoption from the everyday listener to condemnation by the audiophile community.
Many critics denounced the headphones as harsh and bass loaded. Many consumers were buying the headphones based on the marketing alone.
However, there is no denying the level of success of the Solo 2s.
Beats was recently acquired by Apple. Trying to live up to the previous success of the Solo 2, Beats released a new model dubbed Solo 3. Three years of additional development and tweaking resulted in a new set of headphones with a slightly increased price tag. This lead to the question many of you have been asking - what's the difference?
Is the additional $30 worth it? Or has Beats taken a step backward? Has Apple improved the original concept or is it still better to stick with the classic Solo 2s?
This article will provide you a side-by-side comparison of the two headphones so you can make up your own mind. I've had the chance to demo both sets of headphones and have written my opinion the sound quality levels of both headphones. You may be surprised with the conclusion.
Battery Life - Where The Money Is
There has been a large adoption of wireless headphones. This demand has put pressure on companies to develop improved batteries that can last for days without the need to charge them. I remember the days when you could only expect 3-5 hours out of your wireless headphone!
Piggybacking on the new lithium battery tech developed for smartphones, wireless technology has come a long way. This is no more evident than in the new generation of Solo headphones. The new Solo 3s have a whopping 40 hours of battery life!
It's difficult to find another set of headphones that can match this level. It means, under normal conditions, you are able to listen to the headphones for almost 2 days straight!
The Solo 2s only have a 12 hour battery life - the industry standard back in 2014.
The interesting thing is both headphones use the same battery. How is it possible that the Solo 3s have over 3x the battery life? What it really comes down to is connectivity.
The Connectivity Game Changer
One of the benefits of being acquired by Apple is you get instant access to the best engineers. You are able to borrow proprietary new technology in ways that other headphone companies can't manage.
This is clearly evident in the new Solo 3s. Apple has developed a new connection technology called Apple W1.
The W1 technology was developed in order to seamlessly connect with the stock Apple wireless earbuds. W1 technology uses Bluetooth 4.1 (developed specifically for the internet of things), and advanced power management. It also allows for any device with W1 to seamless interface with your iPhone.
It's as easy as your device being within the vicinity and you will be paired. They just work.
This seamless pairing is a huge plus for anyone who is skeptical of having wireless tech. Keep in mind that this pairing capability is assuming you are using Apple devices.
Sound Quality - Are The Solo 3s Still A Fail?
As I mentioned above, the sound quality of the Solo 2s was nothing to write home about. It was harsh, undistinguished, and heavily weighted on the low-end. Its frequency response was so bad that it was almost painful to listen to music with them.
This was evident from the first time I put them on and was still the same when I recently demoed them.
What about the Solo 3's?
Surprisingly, Apple has taken the criticism and made a few much needed improvements. The Solo 3's were much more balanced and smooth. The subtleties were there and each frequency band was distinguished. I could actually see myself listening to a few different genres of music and enjoying it.
The new aim of Apple seems to be to make the Beats Solo 3 Wireless sound something like a hi-fi system backed up by a subwoofer.
However, even if the Solo 3's shine in comparison to the Solo 2's, they still are somewhat mediocre for the price range. The definition falls short of something like the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 with the mid-range sounding flat and lacking dynamics.
I'd summarize the sound quality as something that is perfect for dance music.
If you regularly listen to classical or jazz you'll want to look elsewhere.
Other Differences and Similarities
As you are likely aware, there is a small difference in price. Last time I check, it was about a $30 difference on Amazon. In my opinion, given the superior sound quality as well as the 3x of battery life, the Solo 3's are easily worth the difference.
The Solo 3's also have what is called Fast Fuel charging. This drastically reduces the time it takes to charge your headphones to full battery. 5 minutes of charging will provide you with at least 3 hours of battery life! If you compare that to the 2 hour charging time for 12 hours battery life from the 2's you'll see where the new tech really shines.
In terms of weight, both headphones are fairly similar. The Solo 3's weigh in a little more at 7.58 ounces whereas the Solo 2's are at 7.23 ounces. Are you going to be able to notice 35 ounces? I think not.
The both have remote talk capabilities with the 3's housing the mic in the headset itself whereas the 2's use the inline cable mic.
The upgraded Solo 3's are worth every penny. In my opinion, they are leaps and bounds ahead of the 2's. They will work perfectly if you have any Apple devices and can be used with any modern genres.
Beats have really upped their headphone game and have produced something that the audiophiles won't be able to complain about.