The Beats Solo Pro takes sound and design seriously—among the best beats headphones out there. These are the company’s first noise cancelling on-ears, and Beats hit it out of the park with one exception: comfort. Time to find out if it’s worth pushing past the pain for these otherwise exceptional on-ear headphones.
Editor’s note: this Beats Solo Pro review was updated on November 2, 2021, to address product discontinuation and to include the Bose QuietComfort 45 as an alternative.
Who should get the Beats Solo Pro?
- iPhone users will get the most out of the Beats Solo Pro because of the H1 chip. This allows for hands-free access to Siri, immediate pairing, and greater power efficiency than when used with Android devices.
- Fashion-forward listeners will turn heads at these headphones. Whether you go with a muted or vivid color palette, the physical design of the headset is clean and attractive.
- Commuters should really get a pair of noise cancelling headphones, and you can easily travel with the Beats Solo Pro on-ear design.
What is it like to use the Beats Solo Pro?
The Beats Solo Pro noise cancelling headset showcases a striking, mature appearance. The concealed hinges maintain a streamlined design, and the headband extension mechanism is nearly undetectable. Limited degrees of rotation is allowed in every direction. This design is meant to increase comfort by allowing the ear cups to rest along with the natural angle of your ears. Yet, it can’t negate the immense pressure placed on the head. After an hour of listening, it felt like I was removing an expensive clamp, rather than a pair of headphones. If you have glasses, comfortable listening time is halved.
Just like a Thanksgiving turkey, these headphones are stuffed. A speech-detecting accelerometer works in tandem with the beam-forming microphones to detect when you’re speaking. Ideally, these technologies work to transmit just your voice and reduce background noise by combating sound caused by the movement of your head. Unfortunately, the microphone performance falls a little bit short of our expectations.
The Beats Solo Pro is available in six colorways: light blue, dark blue, red, black, gray, and ivory. No matter which color you get, a soft zippered pouch and Lightning cable are included. Apple-owned Beats didn’t integrate a 3.5mm input. This makes sense seeing as Apple leads the charge in killing off the headphone jack. However, it’s a shame for Android users whose phones retain the auxiliary audio connection.
How to make commands and switch between listening modes
The left ear cup houses a new button for toggling between noise cancelling, transparency, and extended power mode. Transparency allows ambient noise in, so you can stay aware of your surroundings.
Related: Ultimate headphone buying guide
In order to make playback or call controls, you have to press the right ear cup. This large, tactile button is easy to operate bare-handed or with gloves. Pressing the Beats logo acts as a multifunction command while pressing on the edge above or below the logo adjusts the volume. If you have an iPhone, you can just say, “Hey Siri,” for hands-free virtual assistant access. Google or Alexa users need to hold the “b” logo down for a few seconds.
Does the Beats Solo Pro have good noise cancelling?
In a departure from their early noise cancelling models, Beats hit the nail on the head with its on-ear ANC technology in the Beats Solo Pro. It uses real-time audio calibration to automatically adjust noise cancelling intensity. A big problem with on-ears is their inability to passively isolate listeners from their surroundings. If you can’t get a good seal with the headphones, ANC is usually a lost cause. The clamping force of the headset is so great, however, that a secure fit is easy to come by. Again, performance is at the expense of comfort.
See more: Best noise cancelling headphones
The chart above depicts just how well the Beats Solo Pro cancels noise. The higher up the line, the more those notes are attenuated. As you can see, even bass frequencies (everything left of 260Hz on the plot above) are blocked out by the Solo Pro. While this is quite good, it doesn’t with something like the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort 45. On-ears don’t seal around your ears, so outside noise can still reach your eardrums through the gap between the headphone padding and the side of your head.
How do you connect the Beats Solo Pro?
Like the AirPods and Beats Powerbeats Pro, the Beats Solo Pro feature Apple’s latest H1 chipset. Upon unfolding the headset, pairing is instantaneous with iPhones. If you’re an Android user, you’ll still have to manually open your phone’s Bluetooth settings and select the Solo Pro. Once paired, the headset will automatically reconnect to the last used device when unfolded. The act of folding or unfolding the headphones acts as the power toggle, too.
These Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 headphones support high-quality AAC streaming. Our testing indicates iPhone users will get the most out of this, as the codec’s performance on Android is unreliable. If you’re an Android user who wants optimal wireless audio quality, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of great Beats alternatives.
iPhone users benefit from Apple's H1 chip in side of the Solo Pro.
To my dismay, these don’t support Bluetooth multipoint. Alternating between source devices requires manual intervention. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it is annoying given how expensive the headphones are. On the flipside, connection strength is excellent. I never experienced any connection stutters or skips during testing.
How to update the firmware
Anyone running iOS 10.3 or later will notice their Beats Solo Pro automatically updates, thanks to the integrated H1 chip. This same functionality is also afforded to W1 chip devices. For us Android users, however, we have to download the Beats updater for Windows. You must be running Windows 10, and it works for the following products: Solo Pro, Studio3 Wireless, Studio Wireless, Solo3 Wireless, Solo2 Wireless, Powerbeats3 Wireless, Powerbeats2 Wireless, Powerbeats Pro, Pill 2.0, Beats Pill Plus, and BeatsX.
How long does the battery last?
Beats claims a 22-hour battery life with noise cancelling turned on. We recorded nearly that, squeezing out 21 hours, 53 minutes of 75dB(SPL) playback from a single charge. If you need more than that, you can get approximately 40 hours of battery life with noise cancelling and transparency mode turned off. Like other Beats products, the Beats Solo Pro supports Fast Fuel charging. By charging the Solo Pro via the included Lightning cable for 10 minutes, you get 180 minutes of juice. That’s enough for a round-trip work commute and then some.
What does the Beats Solo Pro sound like?
As is typical of Beats headphones, the Solo Pro adopts a bass-heavy sound. The sub-bass is relayed twice as loud as fundamental vocal frequencies (~250-400Hz), which causes some noticeable “missing” notes in your music (see: auditory masking). Additionally, you can hear some string instrument resonances in spite of the exaggerated bass response.
Learn more: What is frequency response?
Despite being closed-back on-ears, the Beats Solo Pro does a fine job at rendering left-to-right audio pans. If you want to get the most out of their default sound: hip-hop, rap, and pop are the best genres to listen to. As discussed earlier, passive isolation is great. This enhances low-end reproduction and makes the active noise cancelling technology evermore effective.
Lows, mids, and highs
The Tones and I’s song Jimmy opens with a Db-Ab chord pattern to set the somber tone. Toni Watson enters after the second pass. The detail in her voice remains fairly clear until the first chorus at 0:34. Here, the clapping, bass line, and more aggressive piano chords mask Watson’s vocals. The words are still audible, but you don’t perceive the same sense of detail and slight vibrato as you do with more neutral-leaning headsets.
The Solo Pro emphasizes sub-bass notes the most.
Bass frequencies bode well for this song in particular as the extra low-note impact emphasizes the pained reminiscent feelings the song elicits from the listener. The final chorus (2:42) feels more effective in the immediate sense because of the emphatic bass reproduction. The low notes are produced even louder than the audio engineer intended which works to further underscore Watson’s forlorn, yet powerful tone.
How good is the microphone on the Beats Solo Pro?
If there’s a downside to the Beats Solo Pro, it’s the microphone. The beam-forming mics led me to have high hopes for the microphone quality. Unfortunately, low-end attenuation is too great to accurately reproduce vocals. As illustrated by the demonstration below, my voice sounds muffled, distant, and outstandingly inaccurate. Put plainly, you’re best off using your smartphone’s microphone for both professional and personal calls.
Beats Solo Pro microphone demo:
As of April 5, 2021, 508 readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “bad” and “okay.” This is a below-average result for this kind of microphone system.
Beats Solo Pro vs Beats Solo3 Wireless: What’s the difference
The most obvious comparison we consumers are likely to make is between the Beats Solo Pro and Beats Solo3 Wireless on-ear headphones. The Solo3 Wireless is the Solo Pro’s senior and naturally has outdated hardware like the microUSB input and older W1 chip. Interestingly, the Beats Solo3 Wireless is still available (November 2021), while the company discontinued the Solo Pro. Still, you may be able to find the Solo Pro through outlet stores.
The biggest difference between the two headsets, though, is the Beats Solo Pro’s noise cancelling capabilities, compared to the Beats Solo3 Wireless which is only able to passively isolate you from external noise. If you happen to work in a noisy office or can’t stand subway din, the Solo Pro may be worth the extra few bucks. Then again, in order for the ANC to work effectively, Beats tightened up the clamping force; for something more comfortable with just as much style, the Solo3 may be a better fit.
The Beats Solo3 Wireless may have outdated hardware, but extended battery life and a 3.5mm headphone jack may be appealing to listeners.
Battery life is another reason you may want to pick up the Solo3 Wireless instead of the Beats Solo Pro. The antiquated Solo3 affords just over 45 hours of playtime on a single charge, while the Solo Pro provides just under 22 hours on a single charge with noise cancelling turned on. After you pass the 24-hour mark, it’s really a matter of diminishing returns, but the doubled battery life is impressive especially on such an old model.
Should you buy the Beats Solo Pro?
In November 2021, Beats discontinued the Beats Solo Pro, which is a shame since it was the best noise cancelling Beats headset to date. If you can find it on promotion from an outlet vendor, the Solo Pro is worth buying. Listeners who can pardon the microphone quality, expense, and comfort, will find the Beats Solo Pro an easy-to-love pair of daily headphones. For better or worse, discomfort is a necessary evil that enables such excellent noise cancelling.
What should you get instead of the Beats Solo Pro?
If you’re not willing to sacrifice comfort for a slightly smaller build, the Sony WH-1000XM4, rather than the WH-1000XM3, are our go-to ANC headphones. You get plenty of features like Ambient Aware mode, touch controls, and granular EQ adjustments. By nature of Sony’s over-ear design, you’re bound to find WH-1000XM4 much more comfortable than the Beats Solo Pro.
Listeners who want something even more compact than the Solo Pro while remaining within the Beats family should consider the Beats Studio Buds. This set of true wireless noise cancelling earphones works just as well on Android as it does on iOS. While this is great for Android smartphone owners, it means that iPhone owners miss out on important features like automatic device switching and Spatial Audio, features found in the Apple-branded AirPods (3rd generation) and AirPods Pro instead. Still, the Studio Buds is a fine pair of earbuds for daily use if you appreciate the Beats design.
Is the Bose QuietComfort 45 better than the Beats Solo Pro?
The Bose QuietComfort 45 undoubtedly has better ANC than the Solo Pro, and a more comfortable fit thanks to the over-ear design. Bose’s synthetic leather ear pads leave plenty of room for ears of all sizes, and the lightweight plastic build makes it easy to take on a flight or on the train.
Bose’s shortcoming with the QC 45 is the boosted treble response, which is so loud that it can really bring out the worst in poorly mixed songs (especially punk and early-aughts music). As of November 2, 2021, Bose hasn’t released the ability to EQ the headset, but it’s within reason seeing how Bose retroactively added a custom EQ to the comparable Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
If you’re about to purchase the Bose QuietComfort 45, take a moment to think about how much more valuable slightly better ANC and newer hardware (USB-C port instead of microUSB) are to you. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is a few years old, but it holds up incredibly well compared to the QC 45, and it costs quite a bit less and even dips below $200 USD around the holidays.
Should iPhone owners just get the Apple AirPods Max?
The Apple AirPods Max is the company’s first set of over-ear headphones and it supports Spatial Audio, Transparency Mode, Adaptive EQ, hands-free access to Siri, and more thanks to the two integrated H1 chips. Each headphone houses a 40mm dynamic driver, and the headset connects seamlessly to other Apple devices associated with your iCloud account. The AirPods Max noise cancelling outperforms that of the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which is quite a feat. Though we still wager that most consumers will be perfectly happy with almost all of the top-tier ANC headphones, and the extra cash saved.
Frequently asked questions