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Beats Solo Pro: Do the Apple owned noise cancelling headphones live up to the hype?

When Beats first introduced itself to the market, there was much fanfare. Promising to create a brand that focussed on quality of sound and build were secondary to the hype from a meeting of music and fashion.

Although Beats headphones have always been decent, audiophiles have had a tumultuous history with the company, with many critics pointing to flaws in design and audio.

Since a buy-out by Apple in 2014, the brand’s developers have gone about showing a pretty rapid improvement in both areas, partly thanks to Apple’s range of premium chips.

The solo range is one of Beats’s most popular – it’s probably the range you’re most familiar with, due to the snazzy production values of Beats advertising.

The latest iteration, the solo pro on-ear headphones, promise to produce pure active noise cancelling (ANC) – that is, the ability to shut out the vast majority of the outside world, leaving you free to focus on whatever you choose to put in your ears.

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With wireless connectivity also a huge draw here, Beats will be hoping that the headphones’ performance matches the initial promise.

After a good few hours running through our favourite back catalogues, and asking various friends and family members to shout at us on the street and down the phone, we feel we’re in a position to tell you if Beats has managed to deliver.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Beats solo pro wireless Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones

Design

The Solo Pros are on-ear headphones, resting on your ears as opposed to cupping around them. This can be a bit of a marmite design, as many examples can begin to squash your ears after long periods of use. However, we didn’t have much of an issue with the solo pros, with the cans amply cushioned and the fit not too overbearing, if a little tight. One accidental side-effect of the tighter fit is that after a little bit of fiddling, our glasses were locked nicely in place by the headphones. Bonus points to Beats.

Moving on from the on-ear approach, the headphones look the part. There’s a sleekness to the solo pros that has somehow been missing from previous Beats headphones without us realising. They feel like a step up from previous outings, with a more mature aesthetic. Their build backs up the premium price point: the sturdy headband adjusts effortlessly, and the aforementioned cushioned cups feel the real deal.

There’s a neat felt zip-up case that comes with the headphones, but the solo pros feel as if they’d cope with a little rough and tumble in a rucksack. Although a luxury box isn’t necessarily a sign of the quality of its contents, it does help with the initial experience, and the box that these headphones arrive in opens up like you’re revealing a Fabergé egg.

Read more: Are the Bose 700 noise cancelling headphones as slick as they look?

The battery lasts a respectable 22 hours at normal listening levels, more than enough for most long haul flights or a couple of particularly intense working days (give yourself a break), while a quick 10 minute charge can give you up to three hours of emergency listening. The solo pros enjoy easy cross-device connectivity, thanks to their Apple association, with connection as easy as unfolding the headphones and tapping a button.

The Beats app isn’t essential if you’re pairing with an Apple product, but is a straightforward bit of software, enabling you to connect multiple Beats products to the same device, and for the solo pros, letting you switch between ANC on, ANC off and transparent modes without having to touch your headphones. The on-product buttons are subtle, seeing as there’s only one visible, and controlling volume, play/pause and calls is done via tapping the right cup. It’s all very intuitive and sophisticated.

Sound

The sound here is a world away from the Beats profile that audiophiles used to rail against. Since Apple’s acquisition, audio technology in Beats products has gone from strength to strength. Even the arguable over-reliance on bass doesn’t make an appearance when it comes to the solo pros, with mid-range and treble given an equal footing. No more heavy bass drowning out the rest of the track.

The ANC is excellent. It’s always a reassuring sign when there’s a vacuum-type pop at the press of the ANC button, and it’s no different here, with microphones continuously analysing your surroundings to tweak how much cancellation is needed.

The ear cups are designed in such a way that their passive noise cancellation – the curbing of outside noise through the headphones’ physical shape – could well be enough for many users. But with the extra noise-cancelling tech, the solo pros put themselves in some impressive company at the top end of ANC headphones.

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The audio output is actually better when ANC is turned off, giving the headphones more space to open up and produce a more measured, balanced sound. This isn’t to say that ANC audio isn’t great itself, but there is a discernible improvement. There’s a balance to be struck between shutting out the world and elevating your music: perhaps the difference between making your daily commute more bearable, or really enjoying your music in more serene, leisurely circumstances.

There’s also a transparent mode that filters in some extra sound from your surroundings, letting you have conversations with those nearby without sounding completely unhinged.

Hands free phone calls are standard with headphones like this, and Beats has done a decent enough job with this. Input is as clear as any similar headphones we’ve tested, and those on the other end of the phone reported only slight “tinniness” in our voice. All in all, a solid aspect to the solo pros.

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The verdict: Beats solo pro headphones

The Beats solo pros are good premium headphones. They offer probably the brand’s best sound, and the ANC is particularly impressive. The look is unmistakably Beats, but there’s an added elegance – almost as if these are Beats that are all grown up.

The tech inside backs up this sophistication, with Apple’s H1 chip and easy cross-device connectivity. While the fit might be too tight for some, we found it pretty comfortable, and it helped with general noise cancellation. The usual vacuum effect of the ANC wasn’t over the top, and the technology is used here to its full effect.

The audio is much more considered than previous offerings from Beats, with a clarity not heard from the brand until now. Trebles are crystal clear, and the mid range holds its own against the bass, which has been toned down. If you’re a Beats enthusiast, the solo pro headphones are a no-brainer. If you’ve previously steered clear or had doubts about the brand’s credentials, these should persuade you otherwise.

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