Beats by Dr Dre Wireless review

Pros

  • Powerful, distortion-free audio
  • Deep bass response
  • Can be used passively via included cable
  • Aesthetically pleasing

Cons

  • Audiophiles won’t like exaggerated bass
  • Headband can be slightly uncomfortable

We are now several models into the Beats by Dr Dre line of headphones and speakers, and as ever, you know what you’re getting with this range – namely, an intense and heightened bass response. Therefore, audiophiles and purists are not likely to be interested in the latest Beats by Dr Dre offering, a good looking Bluetooth headphone pair that offers powerful audio, along with bass response that's extremely boosted. The headphones are aesthetically pleasing and well made, but the price is a bit on the high side at the £210 mark.

Design

Beats does branding better than most, and you immediately know what you're looking at. The headphones boast a shiny plastic band and "b" logo, combined with either white or black frames with grey and red highlights. The black, supra-aural (on-ear) earpads for the Beats Wireless are plush and comfortable, and though they sit on the ear, they are almost (but not quite) large enough to enclose it like a circumaural pair would.

Most headphone pairs with well-cushioned earcups also have well-padded headbands, but the interior of the Beats Wireless headband employs a thin, rubbery cushion that offers very little in the way of comfort. For short listening periods, you're unlikely to notice, but wear these for an hour or so, and it can start to feel like it's pressing on your skull a little too much.

No one will accuse Beats of not including enough controls on its Bluetooth headphones. The right earcup has a Power/Pairing button, a Play/Pause control, along with Track Forward and Backward buttons, and Volume controls. Though it can take a while to memorise the position of each, they are thoughtfully covered with Braille-like bumps so you can feel where to press.

Included with the headphones is a USB charging cable, a 3.5mm audio cable with phone controls, a cleaning cloth, and a padded zip-up carrying case that the headphones fold into. Both cables (and the cloth) are the trademark Beats red. The inclusion of the audio cable is a thoughtful move – one that manufacturers often skip. This allows you to use the headphones in passive mode, without depleting the battery (or when the battery has already been depleted).

The Beats by Dr Dre Wireless headphones offer support for Bluetooth SBC, aptX, and AAC codecs, and pairing with Bluetooth mobile devices is a simple and quick process.

Performance

Audiophiles and purists tend to prefer headphones with flat responses or less exaggerated bass response, and are not likely to enjoy the Wireless Beats. These headphones have serious low-end, to the extent that classical music such as John Adams' "The Chairman Dances" can occasionally sound almost comical, with the already ominous, intense presence of lower register strings, brass, and percussion boosted to the point where they sound more like massive synthesisers rather than acoustic instruments, overpowering the rest of the mix with added rumble and resonance.

If the world were only for audio purists, though, what a boring world it would be. The Beats line works best, generally, with modern mixes for pop, rock, and hip hop, where deep, sub-bass frequencies are often par for the course. Not only can the Beats Wireless reproduce intense low end, like the electronic synth beat at the opening of the Knife's "Silent Shout" without a hint of distortion at maximum volume (on both the sound source and the headphones), but it sounds good doing so.

It may not be the most accurate reproduction of sound, but it can feel as if you're in a club or at a concert when playing Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" or Lower Dens' "Brains." If the intense thump of the kick drum or rumble of a bass line is what you're looking for, who cares what audiophiles say? The Beats Wireless delivers the rest of the frequency range with a reasonable enough level of integrity so that you can enjoy being a bass fiend without sacrificing too much clarity, though some mixes can lean towards the muddy end of the spectrum.

Verdict

While this Beats by Dr Dre offering looks great and offers powerful audio, it is a tad pricey, and cost-wise it pushes into the realm of headphones that are usually more devoted to accurate audio reproduction. When you pay for Beats, you are paying for powerful audio, but also for looks and Dr Dre's implicit endorsement.

However, there’s no doubting that this is an excellent wireless choice for the target audience of bass lovers, with its distortion-free, thumping sound, not to mention passive/wired functionality. But I can't help feeling it would have been nice to see these headphones pitched a bit lower than the £200 mark, as opposed to over it.