The first offering from Beats by Dr. Dre and Monster Cable, Beats Studio is the headphones that took the world by storm. Marketed and promoted intensely with endorsements by athletes and celebrities, it quickly became the $250 pair of headphones ($350 from Monster Cable) that people just had to have.
Design and Comfort
At first glance, Beats Studio is attractive and elegant. With its gleaming gloss finish available in nine colors, it draws the eye no matter what color you pick. There is also an Ekocycle version of the headphone, where 31% of the pair is made from recycled PET plastic bottles. However, the downside to all that gleaming goodness is that the surface is prone to smudges (which is why a cleaning cloth is included with the set). There is also a certain plastic feel to the material (original, not Ekocycle), which does not scream superiority.
What is proportionate to its price is the quality of the ear cups. Large, comfortable and made from soft leather, they enclose your ears perfectly. They can be swiveled back and forth, and from side to side, allowing you to adjust them individually. The headband is also padded with the same soft leather. One of the problems with the pair is their durability. Putting on the headphones had to be a delicate affair, for fear of damaging the headband’s structural integrity. Again, this is quite disappointing considering the price.
When unboxed, the headphones sat pretty and folded in their carrying case. This, coupled with fact that they weigh only 0.24 kg, makes them mobile and adequately migratory.
Noise-cancellation is a very important feature for those who want to be in the fortress of solitude with their music, but why Beats Studio went with active noise-cancellation seems to be a mystery. There is a switch on the right ear cup dedicated to turning on the feature. Powered by two AAA batteries, they can last for approximately two weeks if you are an active user, so long as you don’t leave it on when not in use. It should be noted that the batteries are also for amplification purposes. Without them, you’re left with a near useless pair of headphones.
Does the feature work? Perhaps it will not block out a jet engine as claimed in the site, but satisfactory for tuning out the everyday whistles and babbles. The secret to this is that the noise-cancelling circuitry is integrated into the ear cups themselves, rather than positioned outside. However, this may have affected the audio quality, which will be examined later.
Another feature that has earned a resounding yes is the mute button ingeniously located under the Beats logo on the right ear cup. When you suddenly find yourself on the receiving end of a conversation, simply hold down the logo gently and the music will be muted. Release to unmute. This is much more convenient than fumbling for the control piece or taking out an ear bud.
Bass delivered by Beats Studio is impressive. Tight and not overflowing, the pair serves genres with crunchy beats well. Of course, this is homage to the name “Beats”. However, the same cannot be said for genres with a wider frequency range. The highs are muted, the mid-range overpowered by the bass. In terms of clarity, this pair of headphones is found wanting.
Besides that, the acoustic engineering is such that it feels like there’s no space and depth in the surround sound. Everything seems to be on a single plane. There’s almost no separation between the instruments, as everything seems to originate from a single source. The delicacy and refinement that you would expect from an expensive pair are not available here.
The noise-cancellation feature mentioned earlier also seems to have inserted a persistent hissing sound into the music, more than what would be ordinarily accepted. If this is the price to be paid for the feature, then it won’t be one audiophiles or music producers will pay. The hissing further muddles the precision you would want to enjoy from your music.
Sound leakage is an issue as well. Although you might be isolated from outside noise, the world is not isolated from your music. Even at 25% (which is a pretty low volume level), others would have a faint hint of what you’re listening to. Definitely not the pair of headphones to take to the library.
Beats Studio is a pair that rates slightly above average, but for the price that they’re asking, it’s five steps behind other high-end headphones. $250 for its fragile and plastic-y build, battery dependence and just-OK audio quality, you should get this if you’re not fussy on precision, travels a lot, and want to look good with money to spare.