3,081 word post, approx. 5-6 min. read
Let’s take a quick look at the Solo 3, our overall pick:
Beats Solo 3
Hello there friend and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the Beats Solo 2 vs. Solo 3 comparison, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
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What I will bring you in this review
Today I’ll quickly run down the Similarities & Differences so you can make a quick decision. Then I’ll outline the Solo 3 in it’s entirety, while directly comparing it to the Solo 2 for each category. Strap your seat belts on folks!
Table of Contents
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Similarities & Differences
What’s in the Box?
Features & Usage
I had the chance to demo both the Beats Solo2 and Solo3 recently, and surprisingly I actually enjoyed the sound! Some of the older models of this headphone were absolutely awful, and got a lot of deserved negative criticism.
Since Apple took over Beats, everything has improved tremendously. The sound quality, build, ergonomics, etc. are all much better than during the early years. I had come across an interesting article from Inner Fidelity concerning Beats’ marketing techniques and had to laugh because what Tyll said was so true.
When Beats first came out, it was all about style over substance. They were flashy, flamboyant, and to me downright ridiculous. There’s no way I could ever walk around with a pair of those on at the time, mostly because I didn’t want to flaunt terrible sound quality. Let’s face it though: most people were buying them based off of marketing, looks, and bass response above all. It was simply the cool thing to do just a couple of years ago, and still is in a way.
As other companies started catching on and copying this trend by releasing their own weird looking headphones, Beats then does a complete 180 and starts making the Solo series extremely utilitarian looking. It’s the classic bait and switch.
Nowadays, Beats is more known for being a company that actually puts out decent sounding headphones!
Anyways, both the Solo2 and Solo3 are very good sounding headphones, but one does trump the other in terms of sound quality and to me it’s not even close.
Similarities & Differences
- They have almost exactly the same look, feel, and build. I believe the Solo2’s are just a smidgen smaller in stature, but that could be my imagination. Both have the same durability, which is very good overall. I wasn’t really afraid of manhandling them a little.
- Both have identical batteries. You may be wondering then why one has significantly longer battery life. It’s due to Apple’s new technology. More on that below.
- Both have remote talk, and both include a cable. However, the remote talk on the Solo3 is on the headphones, whereas before on the Solo2 it was on the cable itself.
- The Solo2’s have a fraction of the battery life at only 12 hours, while the Solo3’s come in at an astonishing 40. This is one of the main differences.
- The Solo3 comes with that W1 pairing which makes it really easy to connect to Bluetooth if you have an iPhone. You basically don’t have to do anything. If your phone and the headphones are in the same vicinity, it will connect automatically. The Solo2’s do not have this feature.
- The plastic circuit board inside the Solo3 is smaller and is black, while the one in the Solo2 is blue.
- The cable seems to be sturdier on the Solo3.
- As mentioned above, I thought the Solo2’s were just a little smaller and they are. 7.23 oz. compared to 7.58 for the Solo3.
- The Solo3 only needs 5 minutes on a charge for 3 hours of battery life. The Solo2 gets 12 hours of use with 120 minutes of charging.
- Overall sound. Here is where things get interesting. I heard a clear difference in quality between the two. The Solo3 was much smoother and balanced, while the Solo2 came across as harsh and intense to my ears. It just seemed like the 2’s were out of control and couldn’t adequately dictate the pace of the music, while the 3’s handled it with ease.
Considering those things, I would opt for the Solo 3 today if you wanted my personal opinion. I think it sounds much better and comes power packed with a lot of great upgraded features from the Solo 2.
What’s in the Box?
With the Solo 3, you’ll get:
- The Headphones
- A Carrying Case
- A 3.5mm Remote Talk Cable
- A Universal USB Charging Cable (USB-A to USB Micro-B)
- A Quick Start Guide
- A Warranty Card
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
- Dimensions: Height: 7.8 in / 19.8 cm
- Weight: 7.58 oz / 215 g
- Type: On Ear (Supra-Aural)
- Connections: Bluetooth, Wireless, Wired
- Power: Rechargeable Lithium Ion
The build of the Solo 3 is excellent.
While past Beats models may have really suffered, the quality has improved tremendously since Apple took over.
In your hand they feel quite rugged, and fold up rather easily into a small package perfect for portable use.
To me they are lightweight but don’t feel cheap at all. I enjoy holding them in my hand and the design is excellent. They are compact and fairly minimalist/utilitarian, which is something that Beats wasn’t always known for.
Instead of the overly flamboyant early days when Dr. Dre was in charge, we now have a streamlined headphone that echoes Apples’ own methodologies in terms of design and aesthetic.
The headphones compliment the look and feel of the company itself, which should be a welcome change for you.
The ear cups are equally as impressive.
They are made of a soft and supple protein leather, which I think most companies should employ.
It’s a rugged material that doesn’t flake or peel, and feels nice to the touch. Also, if you press the pad with your fingers the memory foam inside (I presume) returns the cup to it’s normal position rather nicely.
These are ear pads that will resist wearing out over time. Users needing a headphone with a heavy work load capacity will find the Solo 3 the perfect solution.
The headphone itself is built with plastic, metal, and protein leather (as mentioned).
BUILD QUALITY SCORE: A
Comparison to the Solo 2
The build on both is just about the same, with the same materials. The Solo 2 may be a tad smaller in stature.
Comfort on the Solo 3 is pretty good. I wouldn’t call it excellent, but it’s probably about average to a little bit above average.
The great thing about them is how soft the ear pads are, and how light the headphone feels on your head.
Both come together to deliver a comfort level that’s very very good considering these headphones rest on your ears (Supra-Aural).
You may end up making some slight adjustments from time to time. Surprisingly enough, I’m not wanting to rip them off my head although they can dig slightly into your ears after about an hour.
Depending on what you’re doing, the pads may also get hot and semi-sweaty on your ears.
If you’re working out, they may get a bit damp, it just depends. If you’re the type that sweats after the first rep of your first set, it might be an issue.
Still, these are perfect gym headphones as far as I’m concerned and do very well with regard to comfort overall.
COMFORT SCORE: B+/A-
Comparison to the Solo 2
Both of these are about equal with regard to comfort.
Overall, you won’t notice them too much in your day to day listening. They’re both going to sit comfortably on your dome with a nice clamp force that isn’t too tight over overbearing like a vice grip.
The sound of the Beats Solo 3 is definitely V-shaped, but it doesn’t feel obnoxious or muddy sounding.
Apple has definitely taken note of what’s going on in the audiophile world I think. If I had to bet, I would say they did some research into what actually makes a headphone sound good.
Spoiler alert: It’s not throwing heaps upon heaps of extra bass into the sound signature.
No, what Apple did here is impressive especially considering that the past iterations of Beats headphones were atrocious in all aspects.
The response here is definitely boosted in the mid-bass area (similar to an M40 or M50x) but it doesn’t feel overbearing or bloated. Related: Audio Technica ATH M40x vs. M50x
There’s a phenomenal sense of thump and life to the region, with a low end that is accentuated but not out of line.
Of course it’s going to be pushed back some, but that’s to be expected with a headphone like this that tends to place more emphasis on the bass and treble. Still, like the V Moda Crossfade M100, it’s got a really impressive amount of clarity with all things considered.
I found it shockingly detailed for a bass head affair, and was thorough impressed in listening to vocals and instruments especially. There’s a nice sense of intimacy that you’ll really be happy with.
The treble is actually a bit darker than a typical V-shaped headphone, and I don’t find it too shrill or over the top. It may come off a tad metallic/fuzzy at times, but that’s also to be expected out of most standard issue bass head cans, and even many audiophile ones as well. Related: The best audiophile headphones!
I was surprised to find that the Solo3 has this really nice sheen of warmth over top of the sound, and in a way does smooth out the rough edges in music to the point of more enjoyment and less sterility/harshness.
It’s a detailed sound, but doesn’t come across cold or clinical. There’s certainly a time and place for that, but I don’t think it applies to Beats headphones in general.
SOUND SCORE: A-
Comparison to the Solo 2
I do think the Solo 2 sounds more abrasive and grainy than the Solo 3. As mentioned in the open, it seems the Solo 2 has this harsh and kind of overly intense character to it, as if it’s somewhat out of control and still finding it’s bearings.
You could say this is precisely the issue; that Apple was still experimenting with the sound and honing in on what works and what doesn’t.
The relationship between these two headphones reminds me a lot of the HIFIMAN HE400i vs. 400S.
- 400S = Abrasive, grainy, trying too hard, but still detailed.
- 400i = Detailed, warm, smoothed over and pleasant.
No good headphone review or comparison is complete without a word on the ever important imaging aspect.
You’ll be pretty surprised to find out that the Solo 3 does a fairly good job with this despite it being an on ear, closed back set of headphones. Learn more: Closed back vs. Open back Headphones
A lot of people will claim the opposite, but I stand by it to this day that closed backs can provide really great Soundstage, and a sort of out-of-your-head feeling. Related: What is Soundstage?
2013 and the M50
2013 was a year in which I understood what the term meant on a deeper level. I had just received the M50 for Christmas and had some Hip-Hop blaring during lab hours in college.
I kept thinking there was something going on outside, but it ended up being the headphones time and time again. I was shocked, amazed, and ecstatic to say the least.
Here was a closed back headphone with tons of bass and a V-shaped sound, providing details that seemed so far off in the distance I could have sworn the apocalypse was going on outside.
There was a great sense of spacing even considering the sound was completely isolated from the outside world.
The Solo 3 is similar in this regard, but of course does not envelop your ears.
It’s also not going to consistently provide an ultra wide image. That’s not it’s forte. Still, the separation between instruments is very good, and a welcome change from most other consumer grade headphones.
IMAGING SCORE: B+
Comparison to the Solo 2
The Imaging on both is about the same. I wouldn’t get too carried away in choosing one or the other based on this category. Look for each to have similar separation and width.
Normally an audiophile headphone doesn’t have many features. It comes with a 1/4″ adapter and the cable might be detachable, but that’s usually about it.
With a headphone such as this every day casual one, things are a bit different.
The Solo 3 is a wireless, noise cancelling, Bluetooth headphone that can also be used with a cable. The cable specifically is a 3.5mm Remote Talk cable, equipped with a built in microphone and remote. Related: How Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Work?
The remote adjusts volume and skip songs.
Not only that, but you’ve got on-board call and music controls, on-board volume control, a Beamforming mic for optimal call clarity, noise isolation, LED fuel gauge, and it charges via micro USB cable.
- Take calls
- Control your music
- and activate Siri with the multi-function on-ear controls
As mentioned at the start, the Solo 3 also benefits from the Fast Fuel Charging feature, providing 3 hours of battery life from a 5 minute charge, with a whopping 40 total hours before you need to re-up. The Solo 2’s takes 2 hours charging time for 12 hours of play time.
No contest really.
The Solo 3 is an incredibly versatile headphone to say the least, with a ton of features that make it a worthwhile and valuable purchase.
Comparison to the Solo 2
The Solo 2 also has a remote talk audio cable and the same general features with regard to volume, skip, pause, and play, but cannot take calls without being in wired mode. Here is the link to the Beats website if you were interested. 🙂
I think by now it’s pretty obvious what these headphones will work best with.
Anything involving Hip-Hop, Indie, Pop, EDM, and whatever else bass oriented is your best bet. You’re going to get a lot of nice impact and slam, which will work for the majority of genres that most people listen to regularly.
Jazz & Classical
I would probably steer clear of Jazz and Classical, but that’s to be expected considering the sound signature isn’t quite conducive.
Still, it may work in a pinch.
Rock & Metal
I would probably consider these for Rock and Metal second behind Bass oriented genres. The treble isn’t overly bright, which I find advantageous for these genres actually.
A very bright treble sometimes works, but the bass has to be right as well or it will come off as very shrill and harsh.
The Solo 3’s treble takes a different approach than your average V-shaped headphone.
It’s got detail and zing, but doesn’t sound harsh although it will be a tad metallic at times (as mentioned earlier).
I appreciate the fact that Beats kind of went in a different direction than your standard peaky high end around 9-10k. Looking at a graph you can see it’s a bit more subdued, and does come across as much more tolerable than the average Joe.
There’s a rise in the lower treble, but it never really peaks out.
In fact, the entire sound signature is V-shaped, but it’s a bit more mellowed out than you would expect. The sound has zest but it’s not overly cold and clinical like an audiophile type headphone you might find in studio.
Overall, this is a headphone that works well for most genres.
A Wireless, Bluetooth headphone packed full of features, with a great sound, above average build, good comfort, and nice portability. It’s a headphone that works well for 99% of people and in most listening circumstances. This is something you can quickly stow away in your pack and take on the road. Play time is much improved over the Solo 2, and you can listen for quite awhile without having to re-charge.
The Solo 3 gets an A- from me.
Definitely not a perfect headphone, but will satisfy bass lovers and casual listeners a like.
To be honest, even an audiophile would be hard pressed to give this thing a poor score.
What’s not to like? Sure, the signature isn’t perfect, but what headphone is?
Well that’s basically it! I would definitely recommend the Solo3’s over the 2’s. I really enjoyed them immensely, and they have recently come down in price. I think the entire package and what you’re getting is worth it. They’re comfortable, durable, have Bluetooth, are portable and convenient especially with your iPhone, and they have great sound. It’s balanced, but yet places enough emphasis on bass to still remain a fun headphone. Beats has really revamped their image with this iteration, and I do think they’re the solution for the casual consumer looking for phenomenal sound.
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Beats Solo 2 vs. Solo 3 comparison.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Looking for something else? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Is the Solo 3 worth the asking price? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..
All the best and God bless,