You can trace the resurgence in the popularity of over-ear headphones back to the release of Dr Dre’s Beats Headphones in 2008. Due to some expert marketing the bulky headphones suddenly became the must-have fashion accessory for footballers, celebrities and the world’s most successful hip hop producer, Dr Dre.
Four years later, Beats has finally decided to re-imagine their flagship headphones – so how do the company’s new Studio Beats compared to the original Studio HD headphones? Well, quite well actually. Beats have tried to address several of the flaws that plagued the original design. Having owned two pairs, I know first-hand where the last headphones fell down compared to the competition.
First of all, Beats thought that having battery-powered headphones was a good idea. But in practice it was one of their biggest flaws. There’s nothing worse than getting on a plane or a train to find out you’ve forgot to turn them off, and you’ve drained the batteries. Now, you might think that’s fine: they’ll still work just minus the noise-cancelling tech, right? Well you’re wrong, with no juice they’re rendered completely useless and for the £269 price tag that’s almost unforgivable.
This time around the company has looked to improve this situation with the inclusion of a 20-hour rechargeable battery, which powers the headphone’s adaptive noise cancelling technology, now as soon as you unplug the headphones from your device they shut down completely.
Beats have also gone to great lengths to make their flagship cans as light as possible, shaving 13% off the total weight, which makes them a lot more comfortable during prolonged listening periods.
Despite the eye-watering price tag, and the word “studio”, Beats’ headphones should never be let near a studio, let alone a music producer – this is because they’re famed for being incredibly inaccurate when it comes to sound reproduction. Beats’ headphones are notoriously bass heavy, incredibly punchy and while that might turn some audiophiles off there’s no doubt they sound relatively impressive despite the woeful sound accuracy. The decision to go bass-heavy is Beats’ realisation that your average music fan is listening to crappy mp3s where quality takes a back seat to overall audio fidelity.
The decision by Beats to continue to utilise noise-cancelling tech is once again a double-edge sword; at its best it can pretty much cancel out, say, the drone of an aircraft engine. But at worst it requires power and if you haven’t got any left you’re essentially left with a rather expensive headband.
And that’s the main problem with Beats’ Studio headphones; they’re less about audio fidelity and more about a fashion statement – if you want highly accurate headphones we’d recommend you checking out some other headphones, but if you want to make a fashion-statement then Beats headphones offer a premium price alongside solid branding.
Here’s what some of our fellow critics had to say about the Studio headphones:
“What is irritating is the hiss you get with the Studio’s active noise-cancelling technology. That hiss is cranked up a notch when there is no music being played through the headphones, which means that the Studio can’t be used to just provide some peace and quiet on things like a noisy aeroplane.” – DigitalSpy
“The Beats Studio are fine-sounding headphones, but they don’t have the qualities that separate a good £100 headphone from a good £270 one. The Beats Studio improve upon their predecessors with simpler active noise cancellation and a more streamlines design. They’re enjoyable headphones, but thanks to a few sound issues we’d recommend checking out a few other sets for becoming part of the Beats brigade.” – TrustedReviews
“There’s another port to be aware of: the micro USB port is an essential as this is where the headphones need to connect to charge up their built-in battery. That’s right, they’re not passive so you’ll need to juice up these cans to listen to your favourite beats. That’s better than the lesser-lasting AAA batteries of the original model, and while a full charge claims to deliver 20-hours of audio – we’ve run them non-stop and, fresh out the box on first charge at least, the time claim rings true – outside of the charge and it’s audio out. Radio silence. Nada. Zilch.” – Pocketlint