Beats Solo 4 headset review: it’s €50 too much

Beats launches the fourth generation of its iconic Solo headphones. On the menu: few aesthetic changes, convincing passive insulation and a reworked sound signature.

Is there anything more iconic for Beats than its best-selling Solo headphones, the third generation of which dates back to 2016? We had to wait eight long years to see a successor arrive: the Solo 4, launched in May 2024. The goal of the audio brand is obviously to build on the heritage of the product, while improving certain essential criteria .

However, the Beats Solo 4 surprisingly ignores active noise reduction, which could immediately appear to be a flaw for an accessory sold at €230. This feature, very popular for immersing yourself in your playlists, is reserved for the Solo Pro released in 2019 or the Studio Pro, sold almost twice as expensive. From then on, it relies on its recognizable design from afar.

Beats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama

Sober finishes for the Beats Solo 4

Three finishes for the Solo 4

The Beats Solo 4 comes in three finishes: matte black, pastel pink, and slate blue.

Historically, Beats was known for its bling-bling products, combining shiny plastic with flashy inserts. Those days are now over, and it is sobriety that now drives the design philosophy at Beats. In this sense, the Solo 4 resembles a Solo 3, but which would have abandoned its fashion clothes for a more chic suit. The result is a more discreet matte finish (which quickly marks fingerprints on our black model), and brushed metal with the most beautiful effect. No flashy inscription either, apart from the B logo present on each earpiece, and a small number “4” written on the right hinge of the headband. You could almost say that Beats has become too wise.

The Solo 4 looks like a Solo 3, but which would have abandoned its fashion clothes for a more chic suit

In the wake of the Studio Pro, the Solo 4 is delivered in a carrying pouch that inspires confidence (like the finishes of the headset, which is rather well assembled). Padded and compact, it includes two compartments for the supplied cables: USB-C and audio (3.5 mm). The Solo 4 folds in on itself to fit inside. On the other hand, the earpieces do not rotate.

Beats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for NumeramaBeats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama
The Beats Solo 4 when folded. // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama

The Solo 4 is an on-ear design, meaning it won’t cover your ears. This choice may be prohibitive for some people, given the questionable comfort after several tens of minutes. This is all the more true as the padding under the headband is not thick enough to relieve the top of the head. Tight, the Solo 4 needs to be tried on to ensure that no discomfort will be felt too quickly. Users of a Solo 3 will not be disoriented.

Beats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for NumeramaBeats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama
The Beats Solo 4 and its carrying pouch. // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama

Versatility for iOS, as for Android

Beats may be owned by Apple, but its products reach out to Android (the Solo 4 has an in-house chip). This is a source of pride displayed on the presentation page: “ Whether you use an iOS or Android device, you benefit from the same compatibility », Announces the brand. We’re talking about pairing in a single gesture, location features, audio sharing or even automatic association with all your devices in the same account. On iOS, we still gain the “Hey Siri” voice command or even personalized spatial audio rendering (with optional head tracking). On Android, a companion application is available.

Beats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for NumeramaBeats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama
A button is hidden on the B of the Beats Solo 4 headphones. // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama

The Solo 4 only has one visible button, which is used for power. The left earcup hides a control panel: the B logo is a multifunction button (one click for playback, two to move to the next song, etc.) while clicking above or below allows you to manage the volume. The possibilities for customizing the controls remain basic – as is already the case on the Studio Pro. We will also deplore the absence of a sensor to authorize automatic playback when the headphones are removed/replaced or even an equalizer. Technologically speaking, there are some shortcomings.

Like the Studio Pro, the Solo 4 can offer lossless rendering if the playback device is compatible and if it is wired (via USB-C or 3.5 mm audio). Another appreciable quality: the Solo 4 can become a 100% wired headset with the audio cable provided, that is to say without needing to draw on its battery normally capable of providing a battery life of 50 hours.

Beats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for NumeramaBeats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama
The Beats Solo 4 headphones are available in three colors (matte black, here). // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama

Amazing passive insulation

The thing that’s amazing when you wear the Beats Solo 4 for the first time is the effectiveness of its passive insulation. It naturally isolates external noise very well, with a cocoon effect which works quite well for an on-ear headset. This helps compensate for its lack of active noise reduction – technology supposed to isolate even more. In any case, she was not convinced about the Studio Pro.

If you haven’t been following the news from the Beats brand in recent years, then you may not know that it has watered down its wine regarding acoustic balance. Once known for their emphasis on bass, headphones are now much more accurate. The Solo 4 is part of this trend, with 40mm drivers that do the job without flashing. The experience is a little confusing if you listen carefully, but at least listening will never be tiring.

Beats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for NumeramaBeats Solo 4 // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama
The Beats Solo 4 headphones. // Source: Nino Barbey for Numerama

There is therefore a significant evolution between Solo 3 and Solo 4, which seriously gains in clarity, without being hyper precise. It will undoubtedly be a little flat for some – or those accustomed to the brand’s first models. But the dynamics should suit a majority of people, knowing that Beats imposes its signature. We are still entitled to expect a little better from a headset at €230, especially in 2024, especially in a market rich in solutions adapted to all budgets.

The verdict

The Beats Solo 4 is an interesting evolution of the Solo 3. It marks the transition to sobriety of a brand long known for its bling-bling positioning. Well finished and with an iconic design, the Solo 4 stands out for its versatility, both on iOS and Android, as well as its more balanced sound reproduction. It also boasts quite astonishing passive isolation, which compensates for the lack of active noise reduction.

But the fact remains that the Beats Solo 4 is launching into a very saturated market in 2024. And, for its fairly high price (€230), some competitors do much better. It is also necessary to accept this on-ear design which can quickly become uncomfortable depending on your body shape. At €50 less, it would already be much more recommendable.

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