Apple recently launched a new product in the Beats Solo line. I’ve been testing the Pros for a couple of days and have my first impressions.

Since the launch of the Powerbeats Pro, I’ve been excited about the direction that Beats are being taken. No longer are we listening to bass-heavy tunes that muddle the clarity of some of our favorite guitar riffs. The Powerbeats Pro are my new favorite in-ear headphones, so when the Solo Pro active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones were announced, I was very excited to see what else could come from the Beats line. I’ve been testing the Beats Solo Pro headphones for just a few days, but I already have some strong opinions.

I’ll have a full review of them coming soon, complete with a comparison against the Powerbeats Pro and the Beats Solo3, but for now, let me share my first impressions.

Isolated audio

Beats Solo Pro

$300 at Apple

Similar Solo design. New ANC sound.

Beats Solo has gone Pro and brought with it active noise cancelling, Lightning charging, and a new set of colors (including More Matte red).

How do they sound?

Absolutely stunning.

Reference my review of the Powerbeats Pro for more information on the details of why Beats no longer have that deep bass sound, but the TL;DR is that the audio engineers at Beats have decidedly take a different route with how they EQ for sound. The Beats Curve is no longer designed to “front the bass.” At the same time, however, the Solo Pro headphones do not work in the high end range of audio balance.

With the ear cups resting firmly on my head, isolating outside noises, the Solo Pro headphones remind me of listening to the HomePod for the first time. Because I’m hearing music piped directly into my ears with almost no other ambient sound, I’m hearing vocals with impeccable clarity (including the labored breathing of Johnny Cash as he sings The Man Comes Around or the two-dozen individual choir singers behind Leonard Cohen as he belts out Hallelujah).

I’ve been listening to a variety of music for as many hours as possible over the past few days and can say without question that the Solo Pro headphones never distort bass or muddy up crunchy guitar tracks. Sound is clear, crisp, highs are bright and lows are clean.

I’d almost say that the Beats audio engineers have gone the other way with it. I spent quite a few hours listening to various rap albums, including Dr. Dre’s Chronic, and was a little surprised at the lack of heavy bass on songs that were built with that sound in mind. This is likely due to the nature of ANC, which can sometimes introduce some added high-frequency waveforms.

I’m reserving full judgement here, however, because I don’t think I’ve had enough time to listen to a wide enough variety of music to really determine whether the Solo Pros have lowered the level of bass.

How much sound do they cut out?

A lot.

These are active noise canceling headphones, which means there is a system built in that measures outside sound and sends out an opposite patterned waveform to cancel it out. While turned on, the Solo Pro headphones cut out most audio sound, but not all.

Can you use them while cutting the lawn with your gas-powered lawn mower and still hear your podcasts? Yes. You’ll still hear the lawn mower — they don’t work like ear plugs — but you don’t have to turn the volume up to 11 to hear even quiet tracks like an audio book.

You’ll still hear that baby screaming next to you on the airplane (though you won’t hear the airplane’s engine), but it won’t distract you, or even wake you up if you’re wearing the Solo Pros while you’re sleeping.

Ambient noise is still audible (if it’s loud enough), it just doesn’t compel you to turn up the volume. I never managed to turn up the volume on anything above halfway, and that was loud in some situations. The Noise app was only registering sound at around 35 – 55 dB.

What about when ANC is off?

The Solo Pro headphones are active noise canceling, but you don’t have to keep things active. In fact, ANC is a battery hog and you’ll probably want to leave it off in situations when you don’t need to isolate audio. To turn off ANC, all you have to do is double-press a small button at the bottom of the left ear cup.

The Solo Pro actually has three settings, ANC, Transparency, and both off. Transparency filters in ambient sound so while you’re walking down a busy street you can hear those cars flying by and won’t accidentally end up in a dangerous situation.

What happens when you turn ANC off? The biggest difference is that you can hear a lot more outside sound. Is your cat meowing at you? Oh, yes. There it is. Is your keyboard clickety-clacking? Yep. You can hear all of these sounds again when you turn off ANC, though it’s still fairly isolated due to the sound buffering nature of the cushioned headphones.

One noticeable oddity that I caught when setting the headphones to Transparency, however, is that I can hear low-frequency sounds unusually loud. The sound of the refrigerator running, for example, is being piped into my ears along with my music, even though the headphones seem to muffle other sounds. I realize this is intentional, but its more distracting than just turning everything off.

Again, I’m still testing how ANC and Transparency works, so I’m holding off on judging its efficiency.

Does the battery last a long time?

I’m used to wearing earbuds that pretty much need to be recharged after about 5 hours of listening, so the stark difference between those and the Solo Pro headphones is noticeable. I received my review unit with 75% of battery life left. On day three, there is still 43% left and I’ve had ANC turned on much of the time.

The product description notes that the Solo Pro headphones can have up to 22 hours of ANC-on listening time and up to 40 hours if you turn off ANC and Transparency. I think that’s a fairly accurate representation of the battery’s performance.

Rene has a pair to review, as well. We’ll both have deeper dives into the Solo Pro headphones, including how comfortable they are (or aren’t) soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for them.

Isolated audio

Beats Solo Pro

$300 at Apple

Similar Solo design. New ANC sound.

Beats Solo has gone Pro and brought with it active noise cancelling, Lightning charging, and a new set of colors (including More Matte red).

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