How much is a name worth? Beats, by Apple's standards at least, is a $3 billion brand.
Costing a cool $379.95 (about £224, AU$404), I ask again: how much is a name worth? It's difficult to review the Beats Studio Wireless headphones without dwelling on the price tag. But if you're ready and willing to spend, you'll find Beats makes a mean pair of cans.
Hearing Beats Studio Wireless for the first time is an amazing experience – especially if you're accustomed to lower-end headsets. Music is crisp and sharp, even listening to less-than-lossless media. Small details come through crystal clear. That said, the Beats have a tendency to cater to the lower end of the audio spectrum, leaving some of the high and mid registers' nuances somewhat muted.
Aesthetics and build quality
Simply put, these headphones are drop dead gorgeous. The headset's narrow bridge has a sleek black finish and sports the company's understated logo. The underlying padding is a cushiony plastic that, while not what I'm used to, conformed to my cranium comfortably.
Moving down the arms of the headphones are expandable rails; they're functional and slim, but nowhere near being fragile. They extend 2 inches and should accommodate a variety of head sizes. Below those are the minimalistic exterior earcups. There's a single button located on the "B" of the left cup – a Bluetooth sync switch. Pairing took a few seconds on my iPhone 4s and, once connected, never lost the signal. You can run a standard, 3.5mm auxiliary cable, too, if you've yet to hop on the Bluetooth wave.
The reflective black plastic makes for a beautiful sheen, and a red accent along the rim completes the package. On the inside, leather padding helps form a passive seal, while a barrier of foam separates the driver from your outer ear. The leather helped keep my head pleasantly cool during longer listening sessions. Only once or twice did I feel the need to stop due to overheating.
Here's where things get hazy. The Beats sound darn good. The bass pleasantly thumps and rattles the ears, while high notes delightfully twill in the latest pop songs. Rap, rock, metal, J-Pop – you name it, the Studio Wireless set can handle it.
Listening to David Bowie's "Space Oddity" was an experience unlike anything I've ever heard before. The bass line in The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" made me feel like a proper Londoner, while Flogging Molly's "Devil's Dance Floor" reminded me how repressive "the man" is. It was downright emotional, and that is about the best compliment that a reviewer can give a pair of headphones.
However – and there's always one of those – the way I heard these songs through these headphones wasn't how they were intended. In fact, everything you hear through a pair of Beats isn't true to the source. Again, the bass is enhanced to the point of dulling the mids and highs.
I didn't find it offensive, though there are many who would. Beats would be better off making a balanced pair of headphones with an equalizer inside the Beats Music app.
There's also a bit of sound leakage that starts to escape around medium volume. It almost goes unnoticed in quieter numbers. But turn on bass-heavy music, and everyone on the bus will know what era of rap you're into. Despite everything, though, they sound good – just not $400 good.