The smartphone - I don't have to tell you - is nowadays far more than just a mobile phone with touchscreen but as important functionalities like phone and Internet access are, as important are features like the camera and music playback. No wonder that, according to a recent survey of Germany BITKOM, 93 % of the Germans between 14 and 29 use headsets and that around 54 % of all headset users use them with smartphones. Now it comes to the questions which headset is the right one. There's hardly the ultimate answer but during the past 3 weeks, I had the pleasure to test the new Beats by Dre Beats Studio over-ear headsets which were introduced earlier this summer and which replaced the original Beats Studio headsets.
Like other Beats headsets, the new Beats Studio also comes with a foldable design which makes it more convenient to carry it, if not used. However, unlike other Betas headset like the Solo or Mixr, the Studio isn't just an on-ear headset but an over-ear headphone which nicely clasps around the ears.
The updated design is much lighter and comfortable to wear. And that's what headsets are about, a combination of comfiness and bright, clear sound. Therefore, the new Beats Studio headphones are said to be precisely tuned with new custom digital software called the Beats Acoustic Engine (BAE), to perfectly deliver a reengineered and reimagined Beats sound experience. As said, every detail of the new Beats Studio was crafted to re-create a streamlined look, feel and fit. And therefore, the new design features lighter materials, increased strength and improved flexibility. The new design also features an ergonomic adjustment mechanism around the ear cups that enables them to adjust to the head without restriction via a single floating pivot. And the ear cups are much softer and comfortable than any Beats headset I've used and tried before.
Unlike other Beats headsets before, except the previous Beats Studio and the current Beats Executive, the new Beats Studio also features adaptive noise cancellation, which switches between two modes. In music mode, sound quality and noise cancellation are said to be "perfectly balanced to deliver a premium listening experience". When unplugged, the headphone provides a more aggressive noise reduction experience. And since active noise cancellation requires power, the new Beats Studio are now coming with a 20 hour lasting inbuilt Lithium-Ion battery which can be charged with any USB port or outlet. A 5 light LED battery fuel gauge indicates how much charge is left.
Therefore the Studio headset comes with a wider range of cables and adapters than other Beats headsets. This includes the Beats typical red 3.5 mm standard audio cable and the - so called "RemoteTalk" - cable which acts as a music remote control but also features a microphone for hands-free phone calls, as well as a red USB 2.0 charging cable, a 2.1 mAh USB power adapter and the Beats typical hard shell carrying case plus snap hook.
While the headset also features an on/off button on the side next to the USB port and 5 LEDs, the Beats Studio are also featuring an auto on/off functionality which automatically shuts down the headphone once it is unplugged and turn it on again if plugged.
That's indeed a convenient and clever way to prevent a drained battery. However, the on/off button can be also used to turn on the headset, even if it's not wired, to use it as a noise canceling headset, for instance in louder environments like flights, train rides or open-plan offices. This - so called - ANC (Adaptive Noise Cancellation) only mode increases noise cancellation even further.
While the Beats logo on the right side (right photo above) has no function at all, the left Beats logo (left photo above) works as a so called "speak through" button which mutes the music and allows to listen to people around.
First of all reviewing a headset is so subjective because everything depends on your own ears and the music you listen. Since I can't change my ears, at least I tried to listen cross-over from Opera Arias to Rock to R&B to Rap to Techno to get the widest possible impression what the new Beats Studio can serve. And while I'm just a consumer, which consumes music, and not a producer, at least I'm in the 54 % above which are using headsets with smartphones and I use headsets a lot while traveling, flying and commuting.
So let me start with the quality and comfiness. Beats is often blamed that their headsets don't last for too long. That's something I can't confirm; at least not with the headsets I used. I'm frequently using my Beats Mixr and used it daily for 9 months. They never failed and I don't see a reason why the new Beats Studio should be anything different? They seem to be well engineered and built and I appreciate the new design. The old Studio design was far too clunky for me. They might served well for a studio engineer but they didn't for being used while traveling or commuting. The new Studio headset is different. They are much lighter and somehow smaller and the ear cups are so soft which nevertheless still clasps around the ears. Especially the weight and the ear cups make it a pleasure to wear the new Studios for a longer time, for instance during an intercontinental flight. I actually wrote this review while wearing them all the time.
Let's talk about the sound quality, something not less important for a headphone which was designed for music lovers. As initially mentioned, Beats said it has "reengineered and reimagined" the Beats sound experience and compared to the Mixr, I take here as my personal the reference model, the music sounds somehow broader and clearer. The bass is solid but not too strong, maybe a little bit too weak if you are this kind of bass beat-lover. The heights are well balanced and not annoying or overlying at all. All toether, everything sounds well balanced and clear.
I'm not exactly sure if this is due to the "new custom digital software" or the noise cancellation feature or both, but in loud environments you can clearly notice a positive difference. Not so in silent environments if you only listening to music at a reduced volume. In this case you can clearly hear a kind of background hissing as we know it from active noise cancellation anyway. It's the same kind of hissing which you can hear with Bose QC 15. However, even then the music quality is much better and broader than with the QC 15, even if the Bose headphone is not beaten if it comes to noise cancellation. That said, the Beats Studio can also be used unwired, just as a pair of noise cancelling headphones and this works fairly good; even if it's not the headset's main task.
However, all this has also a massive drawback. If the headset is out of battery juice, it's not working anymore. Thankfully has Beats replaced the previous system, which required two AAA batteries, with a rechargeable battery which can be recharged with a simple micro USB cable. But out of battery power is out of power and without power the headphones stay silent. The LED notification does a good job to inform users about the charging status but it's another device which needs to be maintained and charged; unlike passive headphones.
The Beats Studio is Beats' new flagship headphone in both - quality and sound as well as price. No other Beats headset is as expensive as the new Studio. Sure, you pay a lot for the brand and marketing, if you like it or not. But Beats archived what only Apple archived before with its white wires. If you see read wires, you know it's (most likely) Beats - which is the original. Are the Beats Studio the best money can buy? By far not - I fear. But maybe the best if it comes to the combination of hip and stylish and well designed headphones. Nevertheless, this costs you roughly US$ 300 which is a lot for a pair of headphones which aren't outstanding at all. On the other hand, similar headphones, like the Bose QC 15, cost the same with being even weaker if it comes to music playback.
As always, the Beats Studio are available in black, white, red and now also in orange.
Cheers ~ Arne