Released in 2010, Beats Solo HD was intended to be a replacement for the original Beats Solo after multiple problems surfaced with the latter and an upgrade from the bulky Beats Studio. The question to ask is, has Beats Solo HD upped the status quo?
Design and Comfort
In terms of hardware, Beats Solo HD has retained its traditional sleek and luxurious look that most of the world would be able to spot from a mile away. Eight captivating colors are provided in high gloss finish, a shift from the matte of the original Solo. A special RED edition can also be purchased where you can look good for a good cause. A percentage of the proceeds will go to Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
At 0.16 kg, this pair was designed to be a more compact version of Beats Studio. As with its predecessor, it folds up neat and tidy in a carrying case. Although the ear cups are padded with real leather, they do feel a little tight around the ears. However, after a few days you can expect this to go away as they loosen up with repeated use. Another gratifying thing is that the ear cups are made to swivel to follow the movement of your head. Short of shaking your head violently, Beats Solo HD is not easily displaced.
Nonetheless, a few intentional mistreatments have resulted in the padding of the ear cups to separate slightly at the seams. Conclusion: handle with care. For the headband, you can expect it to be perceptibly more durable than the original Solo, as the headband has been reinforced with a metal strip. There are some claims of it snapping suddenly (even with the metal strip in) so keep in mind that purchasing a longer warranty is wise here.
Praises are heaped on the in-line remote and microphone cable, known otherwise as ControlTalk, and it’s easy to see why. The microphone’s transmissions are clear and crisp, the remote easy to use and intuitive, and the cable itself just the right length and tangle-free. All these make Beats Solo HD a classic for travelling, as you can receive calls and skip tracks easily. There’s no need to hold your phone or even the ControlTalk up, as it’s located just at your collar. It’s awkward positioning for skipping tracks, but for clear, hands-free conversations, it’s only a small price to pay.
Be warned though, that ControlTalk may not work as well with products that are decidedly not Apple. Some functions, such as pausing and skipping tracks may work on Android phones, but others remain beyond reach. Seeing as Android phones like Samsung are gaining ground, it’s imperative that Beats sort this issue out. After all, ControlTalk may well be Beats Solo HD’s greatest feature.
The difference between Beats Solo HD and Beats Solo is that former claims to bring high-definition music to the table. That was a promise unfulfilled. At best, it can be said that the pair of headphones provide mediocre audio clarity. It does have great bass, making genres like rock, pop, hip hop and techno sound exceptional. But the bass more often than not get in the way of the mid tones, drowning them in a constant hum. The highs are subdued, with none of the crystallite accuracy that you would expect from something high-definition. Other genres should have sounded better, a disappointment to those with a varied music taste.
What you get is a muddy concoction that won’t let you appreciate the unique instrumental sounds in the music. The plus points are that there are practically no distortion at high volumes, and even at 80%, there’s only a minor amount of sound leaks. Only the most screechy of vocals made it way to the outside world, and that a faint hint.
Another pleasant surprise is Beats Solo HD has also earned a thumbs-up in the isolation department. Considering that for this pair they only employ passive noise-cancellation via the ear cups’ thick padding, they do a good job of turning loud conversations and honks into a muffled background. Not a perfect job by any means, but above average.
There’s no disputing that Beats Solo HD is an improvement from the original Solo, in aspects such as build and audio quality. However, judged on its own merit, this pair of headphones has only chosen to serve some genres while neglecting others. Retailing at about $200, you should get this if you travel or commute and need an aid for the journey, love hip hop or bass-heavy music, and appreciates the practicality of the ControlTalk. If not, you’re better off looking elsewhere.