The next popular on-ear variant of the Beats headphone range should actually be the Solo 4, but the Apple division has instead put a “Pro” on the table – for good reason. If “Pro” equates with “progress”, then this pretty much applies to a product that, in this fourth version, can finally be considered to be a fully-fledged member of the Apple family.
The Solo Pro embeds itself more than ever into the world of the Apple operating system, and shows the Android world the cold shoulder. Apart from Bluetooth connection and clean headphone functionality, there’s not much more to report to non-Apple users, and others can ultimately do the same things…
First a look at the packaging. Anything that passes over the desks of the people at Apple is usually a joy in terms of packaging. The box opens out flat to reveal the felt-covered carry case. Unzip to find the folded headphones inside. The Lightning cable is tightly wound, and attached to card beside the carabineer clip, which can be attached to the carry case. This serves as a cover for a 16-page leaflet, where the basic operating steps are printed in several languages in white writing on a black background. The case can be attached to your luggage via a loop and the aforementioned carabineer. Even in larger bags, there is a place for the soft felt case.
The Solo Pro is available in two shades of blue; one of red, white, grey and black, and it is a damn fine looking, finely crafted on-ear with very high wearing comfort. Both sides can be folded in, making it a very compact unit.
The right hinged bracket is also the on/off switch of the headphones, which is pretty stingy when it comes to controls. On the right, the outer cover acts as an oversized rocker switch that clicks mechanically when pressed to turn the volume up or down. Tap the Beats logo to pause, skip or answer a phone call. A double click turns the music down. A longer press in the middle turns down the music and awaits a command for Siri, and we’re straight into the centre of the Apple universe.
If you’re well equipped with Apple devices at home and at work, then you will be used to receiving welcome messages. A prerequisite for these headphones is that your iOS, iPadOS, macOS and watchOS are all up to date. The corresponding versions were only available when the new Beats- and Apple headphones were delivered. If the Apple devices are up to date on the software side, the new functions run smoothly, even if one or the other still seems to be a little buggy.
The good news first: If Siri is activated, the Solo Pro can be voice-controlled. If music is playing, it is turned down, and a conversation with Siri via headphones is extremely pleasant. Asking about the weather, reaching loved ones by telephone and expressing your wishes about what music you want to hear were all successful during our test, and all done with hands in pockets! There was no need to touch the phone or the headphones. Everything was done by voice.
We also tested the headphones making Facetime video calls. The voice quality is particularly noteworthy here, and Skype video calls also went surprisingly well. WhatsApp video chats had a slight delay. Basically, the Solo Pro was very smooth, especially in connection with iOS devices. This also applies to the Apple Watch, the ANC or transparency modes could be switched conveniently, and the Apple Music work-out playlist could even be played on the treadmill.
What didn’t really flow so smoothly was the transfer from a player like the iMac to the iPhone. All too often, you had to go to the Bluetooth menu to actively restart the Bluetooth connection. The first tests using macOS Catalina, iOS 13.2 and watchOS 6.1 with the Solo Pro, showed that a few update patches would be needed before the latest generation of Beats headphones would run smoothly. We plan to do some more tests in the near future with the updates.
Very convenient and a clear advantage for the Apple community is the ability to share music or video streams with another listener. The prerequisite for this is that both listeners have an Apple device with the latest iOS version and connected Apple or Beats headphones with W1/H1 chip. The message dialog makes it very easy to share audio. Extremely practical if you want to watch a video together while traveling, or simply want to share the same listening experience.
What the Solo Pro doesn’t have is Multipoint. So you can’t keep two Bluetooth connections open at the same time, like with the latest Bowers & Wilkins headphones, or accept a smooth phone call via iPhone while watching a video over an iMac.
Now we come to “noise suppression”, where the Solo Pro makes an absolutely convincing performance. On the left side, you can toggle between ANC on and off by pressing the function key or set the transparency mode. Both the very effective noise cancelling and the transparency mode were absolutely convincing. No matter which acoustic space I was in, the Beats Solo always intelligently faded out the “interfering signals”. What was striking here was the even attenuation of the sounds. A rumbling tram did not leave behind a dull noise; sirens and barking dogs were evenly regulated down. Noise was not noticeable during ANC actions, and the transparency mode was just as convincing. The Beats Solo Pro are virtually able to transmit external noise 1:1 via the headphones. The Beats Solo Pro were able to follow even tricky sounds, such as conversations with strong background noise, both in stereo image and in terms of spatial depth. The Solo Pro’s microphones and audio processing are capable of producing astonishingly good ambient transmissions.
The headphones don’t have much in common with the Beats sound of the early years, at least not those from before Apple started calling the shots. They are supposed to sound universal, so it’s not really surprising that the Solo Pro hardly shows any signs of their Dr. Dre genes in the bass range. The customer for the Solo Pro also likes to listen to operas and doesn’t necessarily have to physically feel the low bass when experiencing more powerful beats. The Solo Beats are prepared to give good results when listening to different situations. Listening to a live recording of a piano sonata by Franz Liszt from Carnegie Hall on the sofa without ANC, is just as comfortable as listening to a playlist of the most popular pop numbers on a long tram ride through the city.
The change between ANC is audible, but is just like the acoustic effect of sitting in a concert hall, opening a door and hearing noises from the foyer, which are as good as gone when the door is closed.
With the Solo Pro Beats by Dre, Apple clearly show where developments are going. The new Solo is an on-ear headphone that really feels at home in the Apple world and offers clear advantages for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch users. Even if there were some inconsistencies in the early days, once the operating system versions were updated, the Solo Pro made a very good impression in the basic disciplines of listening to music and telecommunications. The good sound, excellent speech intelligibility for video and audio calls, as well as the very effective noise cancelling and convincing transparency mode, make the Solo Pro a recommended purchase from the Apple Store. For everyone else, the following applies: Other manufacturers also make beautiful headphones that are on a par with the Solo Pro in terms of functionality and sound.
- Ear couplingOn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Weight without cable267 g
What's in the box
- Lightning to USB-A charging cable
- Transport case
- available in black, white, dark blue, light blue, red and grey
- BT version: 4.0
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC