Beats Solo 2 Wireless Headphones Review
The Beats Solo 2 Wireless are sleek, lightweight, on-ear headphones that deliver an above-average sound. They're sturdy, comfortable and stable enough to use while jogging. They're a well-built wireless headset. However, they're a little leaky at high volumes, and they don't block much noise.
The Beats Solo 2 Wireless are a decently versatile set of on-ear headphones. They deliver a well-balanced sound and a good wireless design. They feel sturdy and have a comfortable fit but don't isolate very well, which limits a bit their use in loud, noisy environments.
- Above-average audio reproduction.
- Comfortable and stable fit.
- Poor isolation from ambient noise.
- A little leaky at high volumes.
The Beats Solo 2 Wireless have an above-average audio reproduction with a well-balanced bass-range that doesn't overpower the instruments and vocals. The high frequencies are also not too sharp, but due to their small ear cups, they can't create a spacious soundstage. This makes them a little less ideal for critical listening, but they sound good enough for most casual listeners.
Average for commuting. They won't be sufficiently isolating for loud, noisy environments. However, the compact, wireless design and convenient, easy to use control scheme make them a decent option to use while traveling.
Above-average for sports. They're stable enough to jog with and have a comfortable fit. They're also wireless with a good control scheme. However, they get a little steamy during intense exercise and although relatively compact they still feel a bit bulky to go to the gym with.
Above-average for office use. The Beats Solo 2 Wireless have a good wireless range, and they're comfortable. However, they won't be ideal for loud, lively offices due to the subpar isolation.
Subpar for home theater use. The Beats Solo 2 Wireless have a bit too much latency for watching videos and movies. They're also a bit tight on the head so they may not be comfortable enough to wear for long viewing sessions.
- 7.1Mixed Usage
- 7.4Critical Listening
- 5.9Home Theater
- Updated Aug 10, 2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.0.
- Updated Oct 24, 2016: Review published.
Set up and use your Solo2 Wireless headphones
Learn how to charge, pair, use, and reset your Solo2 Wireless headphones.
Turn on and charge your headphones
To turn your headphones on or off, press and hold the power button for 1 second.
To charge your headphones, plug them into a power source using the included micro USB cable. As the headphones charge, the Fuel Gauge lights flash. When charging is complete, all five lights remain lit.
To check the Fuel Gauge, which shows battery level and charging status, press and release the power button.
Your headphones provide up to 12 hours of playback from 2 hours of charging.
To conserve battery or use your headphones when the battery is depleted, plug in the RemoteTalk cable to use your headphones in wired mode.
Pair your headphones
To pair your headphones with your device, follow these steps:
- If you were using the RemoteTalk cable, unplug it.
- Turn on your headphones. Hold the "b" button down for 2 seconds to put your headphones into pairing mode. The LED indicator light will pulse white.
- To connect your headphones to your device, select Solo2 Wireless on your device. If you’ve used Beats Updater to rename your headphones, that name will display in the list.
Your headphones reconnect automatically to the last device that you used with them.
Use your headphones
Learn how to play music, change the volume, and answer calls.
To play music, use the "b" button on the left earcup, or use the center button on the RemoteTalk cable in wired mode.
- To pause or play a track, press once.
- To skip to the next track, press twice. To skip backward, press three times.
- To scan forward through a track, press twice and hold on the second press. To scan backward through a track, press three times and hold on the third press.
Change the volume
To control the playback volume or call volume, use the volume buttons above and below the "b" button on the left earcup. Or you can use the volume buttons on the RemoteTalk cable.
- Press and release the volume up button, or press and hold to increase volume continuously.
- Press and release volume down button, or press and hold to decrease volume continuously.
To answer phone calls, use the "b" button on the left earcup, or use the center button on the RemoteTalk cable.
- To answer or end a call, press once.
- To answer a second incoming call and put the first call on hold, press once. When two calls are active, this switches between calls.
- To reject an incoming call, press and hold for 1 second.
- To stop listening through your headphones and send the call to the phone, press twice.
Reset your headphones
If you have sound, Bluetooth, or charging issues with your headphones, you might want to reset them.
Beats Solo 2 Wireless review: A very good on-ear wireless headphone, but no bargain
So why am I not quite as enamored with the Solo2 Wireless, which looks similar to its wired sibling but weighs slightly more due to some extra electronic components and rechargeable battery built into the headphone?
Well, for starters, the price. This is a $300 headphone -- UK and Australian pricing hasn't been announced yet -- which is a lot to pay for headphone, wired or wireless. When you get into that price range, your expectations tend to go up and while you may not expect greatness, you certainly expect something close to it.
The Beats Solo2 Wireless doesn't quite get there. It's very good for a Bluetooth headphone, but it doesn't reach the "excellent" level of the Apple-owned brand's bigger and more expensive brother, the Studio Wireless . ($380). The reason for that is partly because it isn't as comfortable and partly because it doesn't sound as good.
To be clear, that doesn't mean the Beats Solo 2 is a bad headphone. In fact, as I said, it's quite good in a lot of ways. But there are arguably better wireless headphones for the money, including the Studio Wireless.
Design and features
I usually don't spend a lot of time comparing an on-ear headphone to an over-ear model, but I suspect a lot of people will be trying to decide between the more compact Solo 2 Wireless and the larger Studio Wireless.
That compactness has some advantages. This is a lighter headphone than the Studio Wireless and folds and stows away in a smaller carrying case. Yes, it's more travel friendly, but it also isn't as light as some competing on-ear headphones, such as the $250, £220, AU$329 Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth (the Bose is lighter by about 2.2 ounces or 62 grams).
It's also worth mentioning that because Beats Solo 2 Wireless offers a very snug fit -- the headphones do stay securely on your head, even while running -- they end up pressing down on your ears somewhat firmly.
While I found them relatively comfortable for an on-ear model, a couple of other editors in our New York offices found their fit a bit too snug (both experienced a bit of a pinching sensation). By comparison, while the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth wiggles around a bit when you shake your head vigorously, we all thought it offered a more comfortable fit.
I also liked the fit the Studio Wireless better. However, I do prefer the fit of over-ear headphones in general, so I come into the review with a slight bias.
As far as features go, like most Bluetooth headphones, you can stream audio from up to 30 feet (10m) away from Bluetooth-enabled devices and there are controls on the earcup to raise and lower volume, as well as take calls and skip tracks forward and back. As noted, a cable is included for wired playback in case you run out of juice.
This model doesn't offer the active noise cancellation included with the Studio Wireless (there's also no AptX support, though I don't think that's a big deal). In fact, Beats has truly used the Solo 2 as its foundation for this headphone and when you connect a headphone cord to it, it sounds almost identical to a wired Solo 2, which is to say, quite good. That's something the Bose can't boast. When it's in wired mode, its sound quality falls down. The sound quality of the Beats doesn't.
As for battery life, it's rated at 12 hours, which is less than what the larger Studio Wireless offers, but is still pretty decent. A set of LED lights on the earcups act as a battery life indicator and you can also see how much battery you have via an indicator on your phone or tablet.
As with all stereo Bluetooth headphones, this model has a built-in microphone for making calls, and call quality was good, though the step-up Studio Wireless has a small advantage in this department.
A good Bluetooth headphone is one that sounds like a good wired headphone and the Solo 2 Wireless succeeds in this regard, retaining many of the qualities of the wired Solo 2. But it does lose a little something in wireless mode. It's got a slightly harsher edge and isn't quite as clean or as tight in the bass.
When I wrote my review of the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth headphone, I said we liked the Bose a little more because the Bose offered more balanced sound with more warmth in the midrange. While the Solo 2 produced more bass, instruments sounded a little more distinct on the Bose and the overall listening experience was more pleasant to our ears.
I also reiterated that the Beats Solo 2 Wireless is a strong Bluetooth headphone -- and its faster sound may suit some listeners' musical tastes better -- but we came away liking the sound of the Bose a little more. It just sounds a little more clear and open.
Of course, everybody's sound and aesthetic tastes are different, and some people will like both the look and sound of this Beats better than the Bose.
At the end of the day, my gut feeling about this headphone is that I'd rather spend the extra $80 to get the Studio Wireless, a more comfortable headphone and a notch up in terms of sound quality. Yes, this is a smaller, less bulky headphone and some people will find its compact size appealing. But at their current price points, the Wireless Studio is arguably the better deal, even thought it's more expensive.
Rag on Beats headphones all you want, it knows how to shift headphones. And though getting bought by Apple hasn't done much for its 'cool to hate' problem, the Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones mean the haters are running out of reasons to complain.
[Update: Beats has been busy in the years since the Solo 2 were released. More recently it's not only released the Solo 3 Wireless, but it's also released updated versions of its other headphones such as the PowerBeats 3 and Beats Studio 3.
So what are you giving up if you want to snag a bargain with the slightly older Solo 2s? For one thing, although they're still wireless, they lack the W1 chip of the Solo 3 headphones, meaning their wireless connectivity isn't quite as solid.
They also don't sound as good, thanks to the improvements to the sound that Beats has made over the years.
But if you're prepared to make those compromises, keep an eye out for discounts.]
Beats has liberated the 2 Wireless cans by cutting the cord and adding Bluetooth connectivity. Well, not entirely - the wired option is there if you want it but now you have the option of blissful wireless connectivity of up to 30 feet.
The Wireless model retains the same design of the Solo 2, and that's no criticism. Those cans were molded beautifully, and aside from using some slightly larger cups to account for the battery and built-in controls, all Beats has done differently here is throw in Bluetooth connectivity. Oh, and a power button.
As for those of you still rocking out with the original Solo, the Solo 2 are crafted for a softer, more comfortable fit. They're still mostly plastic, and as long as it's keeping the weight to a minimum that's fine with me - but don't think that makes them brittle. They're durable, free to bend and twist (within reason) without threatening to snap, neatly folding up in the familiar Beats style for storing in their soft case, before you chuck them in a bag.
Ditching the wire obviously means ditching the handy wire remote too, but fear not - the Beats logo on the side of the left can is actually a controller in disguise. You can adjust the volume (push the top and bottom sections), pause (press the middle button once) or skip track (press it twice).
However, that logo also comes at a price - £270 (US$300) to be exact. Yes, these aren't the sorts of headphones you'll purchase lightly. Beats has built a brand on its premium image, and it seems happy to keep riding that wave for now. Now you're starting to see why it gets along with Apple so well.
One of the biggest criticisms of Beats in the past (and one I had agreed with for some time) was sound quality. For all their looks and celebrity backing, Beats headphones hadn't quite nailed it in performance, and in many ways they still have some distance to go. But the difference between the Solo and the Solo 2 is significant. The bass has been tamed and its now less overpowering than it was before.
The whole range sounds a lot clearer and warmer. While the Solo 2s are still primarily tuned for hip hop and electronic, I found that stringed instruments now come through clearer than before. However, the low levels are still a tad distorted when pushed up to higher volumes.
There's no active noise cancellation, which you might scoff at considering the price, but the cans do a pretty good job of minimising outside sound.
Certainly, Beats still isn't punching at the weight of some rivals in its price range, but it's come a long way in a short space of time.
Times have changed - Bluetooth headphones no longer suck battery life like a thirsty toddler with a juice box. Beats says that the headphones should last for around 12 hours of wireless action, which is pretty good. If you're the kind of person who only listens to headphones on their work commute, you'll probably get a week's worth of use from a single charge.
I found Beats' estimate to be pretty accurate during my time using the cans, but should you run out of juice when you're halfway home, you can just pop in the cable and keep listening without any noticeable change in sound quality.
Charging only takes a couple of hours max and is done via micro USB, so chance are you often won't be far from a power source.
Beats has made a great pair of headphones even better by cutting the cord, with few other tweaks. The battery life is good, the cans still feel comfortable on your ears, and the design is more handsome than ever.
The sound range is much improved over the Solo and Solo HD, though still pretty bassy, but there are better sounding headphones for this price. Perhaps not for this level of design, though.
The Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones look great, feel great and sound great. Sure, you can get better-sounding cans for this price, but with Beats you're ultimately paying for fashion. Thankfully, the gap between style and substance is now smaller than ever.
Original review published February 2015
Prices - Beats Solo 2 Wireless:▼
Hugh Langley is the Senior Tech Reporter at Business Insider. He wrote for many magazines and websites including Business Insider, The Telegraph, IGN, Gizmodo, Entrepreneur Magazine, TechRadar, WIRED (UK), TrustedReviews, Business Insider Australia, Business Insider India, Business Insider Singapore and more.
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