Review: Beats Studio Wireless headphones

100% human

Hip-hop is another area we expect good things from the Beats cans, and they don’t disappoint here at all, with Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” showcasing each part of the track distinctively with a solid punch of bass in the back end of the sound, while Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” is punchy and vibrant, keeping your attention as the highs, mids, and lows call out in between the vocal lines, flute, hooks, and percussion elements.

Even jazz sounds good through these cans, the first of our instrumental tracks being the relaxed sounds of the Dave Brubeck Quartet playing “Maria,” with a clear double bass obvious through the piano, drums, and horns.

It’s not quite the rounded bass we’ve heard from other headphones, but it’s relaxing all the same and very clear, which is a similar experience we have from the Rudy Van Gelder edition of John Coltrane’s “Blue Train,” though there’s a touch more bass here, likely from the quality of the remaster.

Finally in classical, you’ll find soft highs and mids, with obvious distinction between each, which was what we felt from Thomas Newman’s Wall-E piece “Define Dancing,” as well as Nigel Kennedy’s version of “Gymnopedie No. 1,” though each of these could have been a little warmer.

Beyond the consistent sound test, we’re also beginning to set up a high-resolution audio test, and it’s nice to see some support for high-res audio in these cans.

We’re not sure if it’s a feature Beats mentions — actually, we’re more or less sure the company hasn’t spoken about it — but we were able to hear our high-resolution tracks quite nicely through these cans, which surprised us greatly.

But we have some pretty severe reservations about the Studio Wireless, even if they do offer solid sound, and our chief reservation comes from the obsession with powered headphones by Beats.

We saw it on the first pair we reviewed — the Beats Studio — and here it is again in a pair of headphones that we can understand would need power when they’re acting as Bluetooth wireless headphones, because that makes sense, but should be able to work passively when the headphones are connected by cable to your phone.

Unfortunately, the Studio Wireless require power, require a charge, if they’re to work with your smartphone or tablet even if you’re opting to plug in using the cable, a move which is downright confusing and silly. Passive headphones have been around longer than active headphones, so we’re surprised not to see any aspect of the technology here, with the Studio Wireless requiring an active power source to function.

That is — simply put — nuts, and it’s frustrating to think that if you haven’t charged up the headphones, they won’t work at all, even corded, plugged into your mobile phone.

Crazy.

Worse is that there’s no cut off switch built into the Beats hinge, so that when you do decide to collapse the headphones — because they can collapse quite nicely with hinges built into the headband — the power stays on.

Who knew you could listen to music while the they were collapsed and in your backpack?

We’re not sure if this is one of those things Beats has just forgotten, but really, it shouldn’t have, because if the hinge were a power cut-off, you’d probably find happier customers.

That power is used to drive the active noise cancellation (ANC), which doesn’t seem to be able to be switched off, but it doesn’t matter much anyway, because it’s not very good.

Think of this as weak ANC technology at best, designed mostly for use in your regular day to day, quelling the sound

There’s also no Near-Field Communication, and that’s a problem because sometimes the Bluetooth can be a little hard to connect. We’re not sure why the Beats headphones throw up so much resistance, but if you have problems, turn them off and then on again, and then hold the main Beats button down for a second or two to get the cans into a pairing mode.

And then there’s that Beats button, and its awkward and cumbersome control scheme. There’s a single Beats button for skipping tracks when Bluetooth is engaged — press once to pause, twice to go forward, and three times to go backwards — as well as a volume up and volume down around it.

It works, but it’s clunky, and we’ve seen better, plus the whole press twice or three times thing will more than likely not work a few times, and you’ll be left pulling out your phone to skip tracks because seriously, that’s just so much easier.

At least the corded plug includes a remote, though it’s only compatible with iOS. But hey, it’s something.

Conclusion

Dr. Dre’s option to making your ears sing the praises of music without wires does result in a pair of cans with decent sound, but it’s lacking in usability and common sense as far as design and engineering go.

Headphones shouldn’t need power to work. That’s not a thing people have ever liked, and even though these have a modicum of active noise cancelling, it’s not enough to make us like the idea of powered noise cancellation over unpowered sound.

Seriously, this whole power requirement needs to just go away, and that feature alone makes the headphones lose some serious marks.

We can get around the awkward controls which really could do with a reworking, and we can deal with the lack of NFC. We can even deal with the exorbitant nearly $500 price tag, which is just way too much, but is likely something to come from the brand producing these headphones.

But that power problem is a stinger, and a deal breaker for us.

If you’re not bothered by either that or the price, chances are you’ll be in heaven because the Beats Studio Wireless cans sounds quite good, but with the price this high, we’d look around because there’s more out there than just cans carrying the Beats name.

 

Overall
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pretty good sound across the board; Supports high-resolution audio; Can be wired or wireless; “Fashionable”; Portable, thanks to the ability to fold up;
Controls are cumbersome; No NFC; Expensive; Headphones have to be powered to work, even when wired; Weak active noise cancellation; No cut-off switch when you collapse the headphones, staying on the entire time;
3.7