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Beats Solo 4 review: Apple's headphones get an Android upgrade | Headphones

Beats Solo 4 review: Apple's headphones get an Android upgrade | Headphones


The Solo 4 headphones are an improvement on the fan-favorite headphones that made Beats famous, upgraded with longer battery life, improved sound quality, and the latest features favored by Apple and Android.

The original Solo HD was launched in 2009, and after Apple's acquisition of Beats, an update was released in 2016 as the Solo 3. Now in its fourth generation, the Solo are the company's smallest and lightest headphones, priced at $200 ($230 / £200 / AU$330), positioning them below the 350 Studio Pro.

The design remains essentially the same but has been updated with premium materials and color options, and while competitors have pivoted away from this shape, Beats remains a set of on-ear headphones that sit on top of the ears rather than around them.

A slight reduction in pressure on the sides of your head and softer ear cushions make these headphones more comfortable than previous models, but like any on-ear design, they can get painful after a while.The headphones fold up for easy transport and come with a compact, easy-to-use case.

The B logo and the volume buttons in the ring surrounding it make a satisfying click when you press them, making them easy to use. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

On the left ear cup is a Beats button with playback controls and a volume rocker, a small, easy-to-miss white LED indicates power and connection status, and next to it is a 3.5mm headphone socket for the detachable cable, a rarity on wireless headphones these days.

The right cup houses the power button and a USB-C socket for charging the headphones, or for wired listening or calls with USB-equipped devices. The battery lasts up to 50 hours with Bluetooth playback, and the headphones can also be used without battery power using the included 3.5mm analog cable.


Weight: 217g

Dimensions: 177 x 158 x 68mm

Driver: 40mm

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3, 3.5mm, USB-C audio and charging

Bluetooth Codec: SBC, AAC

Battery life: 50 hours

Advanced system features for Android and iPhone. Solo 4 is integrated into the system settings of Apple devices and has much the same functionality on Android. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

As with the recent Studio Buds+, the big advantage of the Beats is their broad cross-compatibility with Android and iOS.

It also offers better iPhone integration than competitors, with hands-free Siri, access to controls through Quick Settings, and instant pairing.

Apple products can be used with iPhones, iPads, Macs and other devices by simply pairing one device with them, and also take advantage of the company's personalized spatial audio technology with audio sharing for two sets of headphones on one device and head tracking for surround sound.

Whether you have an Android or Google device, it supports many of the same features, including instant pairing, syncing, and switching between Google devices. The Beats Android app provides controls, a battery widget, settings, and more.

Finally, the headphones are integrated with Apple and Google's Find My system, meaning you can locate them if you lose them, regardless of platform.

Cleaner Beats sound. Luxurious ear cushions fit snugly around your ears and amplify the bass. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Beats' sound quality has improved dramatically in recent years, and the Solo 4 is no exception. They produce a clean, clear sound with good tonal separation that's easy to listen to across any genre, but you'll need to turn the volume up a bit to get the best sound.

These emphasize the treble to accentuate vocals, and produce a flatter response with bass only when needed, without the bass-heavy tendencies of their predecessors. Those looking for big, booming bass may want to look elsewhere.

The lack of noise cancellation and relatively poor passive isolation make them not the best choice for quiet listening, but call quality is excellent in both quiet and noisy environments, with relatively natural-sounding clarity and good protection from background noise bleeding into the receiving end.


Apple doesn't publish expected battery lifespans, but a typical lithium battery can withstand more than 500 full charge cycles at at least 80% of its original capacity.

Apple will replace out-of-warranty batteries for $95. The headphones are made from recycled plastic, but Apple doesn't release an Environmental Impact Report for its accessories, including its headphones. The company offers trade-ins and free recycling for non-Apple products.


The Beats Solo 4 costs $199.95 ($229.95 / £199.99 / AU$329.95).

In comparison, the Beats Studio Pro costs 350, the Sony ULT Wear costs 150, and the Marshall Major V costs 130.


The Beats Solo 4 is a great update to the popular headphones. Not much has changed in terms of design, just some small refinements here and there, but the upgrades in sound and features are very welcome.

Full cross-platform support for Android and iPhone will be an appealing feature for users of both, and USB-C charging and audio, plus the 3.5mm headphone socket, are all very handy. They're fairly comfortable to wear, but as with all on-ear headphones, they can get tiring after extended periods of listening.

The improved, bass-heavy sound is an upgrade for anyone who isn't looking for big, booming bass, but the lack of noise-cancelling and little bells and whistles like a wearable sensor that pauses the music when you take them off makes them less appealing than similarly priced competitors.

You're certainly paying for the brand, but the Beats Solo 4 are a solid product that should prove just as popular as its trend-leading predecessor, given the decline of on-ear competition.

Pros: Great sound cross-platform compatibility with enhanced features for iPhone and Android, head-tracking spatial audio, works with USB-C or 3.5mm cable as well as Bluetooth, long battery life, good button control, recycled materials.

Cons: Expensive, don't pause music when removed, no noise cancelling, design hasn't changed much over the years, no support for high quality Bluetooth audio formats.

You can listen wirelessly using either the USB-C or 3.5mm headphone socket. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian




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