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Dr. Dre, one of the world’s most influential hip-hop artists and producers, teamed up with the good folks over at Monster to create high quality, stylish headphones specifically designed to take advantage of the painstaking detail that goes into the music of today's digital artists. Available in around-ear and in-ear models, I took both for a spin to see just what the Doctor has ordered.
The model I tested out in the Beats series were the black Beats Studio Headphones (which are also available in white, and if you’re a baseball fan, there’s a Red Sox Edition). These traditional-style cans feature active noise-cancellation technology, an integrated digital amplifier and a comfy design that fully surrounds your ears.
The attention to detail that goes into these headphones is apparent before you even open the box. The de-boxing experience is "Apple-like," starting with top-notch quality and layout. Inside are the headphones, a rigid carrying case with a nice, soft feel and an inner pouch for accessories, a couple of cables, connector adapters, an anti-microbial cleaning cloth and a pair of AAA batteries.
Getting the headphones up and running is quick and simple. The battery cover is found in the left ear cup. A simple twist and it pops off for installing the batteries. The ON switch on the right ear cup has a red LED that lights to let you know the headphones are turned on. Once on, the extra-large drivers and noise-cancellation technology are ready for action.
The noise-cancellation feature in the headphones works quite well. Hearing my surroundings while wearing the headphones was pretty difficult, even with no music playing. A handy feature related to the cancellation tech is a built-in mute button that allows you to listen to your surroundings without having to remove the headphones. The soft, thick ear cushions provide some natural noise isolation, as well as a comfortable fit. Even during long listening sessions, I didn't experience any fatigue. These are made for all-day use.
The headphones have jumbo-sized drivers and a built-in digital amplifier designed to give music plenty of punch. They definitely deliver in that department. I was able to set the volume level on my music player lower than usual without missing any details. The headphones performed well with a variety of genres, but really excelled with bass-heavy tracks (such as those produced by Dr. Dre). While the bass in these headphones is strong, mid-level and treble frequencies are well represented.
I'm a bit of a stickler regarding headphone cables. The Beats more than exceeded my expectations in this area. The headphones come with two cables, which are easily swapped. One of the cables (black in color) includes a built-in mic/button combo unit for use with smartphones such as the iPhone or Blackberry. The other (red in color) is a standard cable for use with a variety of players.
Each cable has a robust build quality with a soft and flexible coating. The cables also use what Monster calls its "Quadripole" construction, which provides improved balance and clarity while reducing signal loss. Each cable has a gold-plated 3.5mm connector for use with a wide variety of devices. I did a brief test of the built-in mic and control button with an iPhone, and found the call quality and use of the button to be as good as or better than any other smartphone-compatible headset I've used. An added bonus is that you can wear the headphones without any cable at all for music-free noise isolation.
The bundled accessories provide a bit of icing on the cake. The 1/4" adapter and airplane adapter make it easy to connect to higher-level audio gear or in-flight entertainment systems. The carrying case fits the headphones snugly and contains a small inner pouch for keeping your accessories handy. The cleaning cloth is very soft, and is treated with AEGIS microbe-shield technology to keep your headphones clean and shiny.
There are a number of other Beats headphone models available, in addition to the Beats Studio Headphones. The top-of-the-line, around-ear model is the Beats Pro, available in black and white. The Pros have thicker padding, swiveling ear cups that enable you to expose an ear without having to remove the headphones, and there’s an audio output which enables you to daisy-chain another pair of headphones. The Pros have active noise cancellation and all of the perks that make the Beats Studio headphones so coveted.
If the Studios and the Pros are a bit out of your budget and if you prefer somewhat smaller headphones, you should check out the on-ear Beats Solo series, which are available in black and white. The Solos also feature a built-in mic and the ControlTalk remote, and they fold up and fit into an included case. Monster Power also makes an HD version of the Solo series, which feature a titanium-coated driver for even better sonic performance. The Solo HDs are available in black, white and red.
If you’re not into larger headphones and prefer in-ears, there are Beats models available in this category as well. iBeats are in-ear headphones that deliver superior sound and are built to survive the hard-knock world that these tiny headphones are subjected to, and they’re available in black, white and chrome. They feature the built-in mic and ControlTalk remote, so you can navigate your iPod and answer calls on your iPhone hands-free. They come with a travel case as well.
If you like to exercise and listen to music at the same time, you should check out the PowerBeats Sport in-ear headphones, which are available in black, white and red. They have an adjustable ear clip, travel case, the ControlTalk remote, and they’re designed not to cut out the sound of the outside world completely, so you’ll be able to hear if there’s a truck gaining on you when you’re jogging.