Apple/Beats recently updated the Solo3 headphones with new features on par with the Apple AirPods. That specifically includes the company’s own W1 chip which offers significant performance and connectivity benefits over the Solo2. At $299.95, they’re still a bit overpriced though clearly a step ahead in the right direction.
The most expensive Beats headphones, the Studio Wireless, have not received an update and don’t look to get one any time. At $379.95, they’re no easy purchase. So if Solo3 is newer, does that make the pair of headphones better than the older yet more expensive Studio Wireless? Let’s compare the two to find out.
The Solo3 W1 Chip
The Solo3 right away offers significant advantages over the Studio Wireless thanks to the new Apple W1 chip. It’s the same chip Apple boasts about in the AirPods as well as the BeatsX earbuds and PowerBeats. The chip delivers unparalleled battery life to the wireless headphones plus easy pairing with Apple devices.
The Solo3 gets 40 hours of playback before needing a recharge, which is pretty close to unheard of in the industry. The older Studio Wireless sans W1 only gets a sad 12 hours. There’s no comparison here.
Studio Wireless also has to pair using traditional Bluetooth methods. Press the pairing button, wait for activation, then go to the Bluetooth settings on your device, find your Beats and hope for success.
Meanwhile, as soon as you hold your Solo3 headphones up to an Apple device, the device asks you to connect. Boom, you’re all done. As an added bonus, this connection heads up into iCloud so your other devices can automatically connect to the Solo3 too.
On-Ear vs. Over-Ear
If comfort is a high priority, you’re more likely to see success with an over-ear pair such as Studio Wireless.
If you’re already leaning towards the Solo3 headphones, you might need to make one major sacrifice: comfort. The Beats Solo3 are on-ear headphones while the Beats Studio Wireless are over-ear. The Solo3 cups rest against your ears while the Studio Wireless are big enough to wrap entirely around them.
Over-ear headphones are generally more comfortable for extended usage because they don’t put pressure on the ear. As an added benefit, the enclosure of over-ear headphones is better at filtering out unwanted noise.
Many on-ear headphones are comfortable enough though. In fact, most reviewers didn’t have any particularly negative comments about the Solo3’s comfort. While it usually comes down to personal preference, if comfort is a high priority, you’re more likely to see success with an over-ear pair such as Studio Wireless.
Beats headphones have always had a reputation for subpar sound quality. It’s not that they ever sounded bad per se, but they definitely sounded bad for the price.
Sound was way off balance and gave preference to a large boomy bass over decent mids or highs. That’s great for genres like hip hop, but falls short of adequate for classical, rock or even pop.
However, reviews of the Solo3 are pretty universally positive. It seems like with Apple in larger control since the acquisition, the company is pushing for more balanced sound to target a wider audience. Generally, you shouldn’t be too worried about sound quality if you go with the Solo3 headphones.
The Studio Wireless headphones haven’t been updated since 2014, but never suffered as much from the sound quality issue compared to other Beats headphones.
They’re heavy on the bass too, but are more in line with the Solo3 than Solo2. They also include noise cancelling too. That said, Studio Wireless are still $80 more and one of the more expensive wireless headphones on the market.
I’m shocked to say this, but it does look like as of now Solo3 headphones are superior to the Studio Wireless. Since sound quality isn’t really an issue for either — both are fairly balanced and clear with minimal distortion — Solo3 wins solely on features. The battery life is stellar as is easy connectivity to Apple devices.
Hopefully, Studio Wireless gets some W1 love in 2017.
The only reason why you might prefer Studio Wireless (and I certainly would as a big over-ear fan) is comfort level. Don’t get Solo3 if you don’t like headphones that rest directly on your ears.
But even then, you’re probably just better off waiting for Studio Wireless to get a refresh. Shelling out $380 on a pair of outdated headphones doesn’t sound worth it.