Rag on Beats all you want, it knows how to shift headphones. And though getting bought by Apple hasn't done much for its 'cool to hate' problem, the Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones mean the haters are running out of reasons to complain.
[Update: Beats has been busy in the years since the Solo 2 were released. More recently it's not only released the Solo 3 Wireless, but it's also released updated versions of its other headphones such as the PowerBeats 3 and Beats Studio 3.
So what are you giving up if you want to snag a bargain with the slightly older Solo 2s? For one thing, although they're still wireless, they lack the W1 chip of the Solo 3 headphones, meaning their wireless connectivity isn't quite as solid.
They also don't sound as good, thanks to the improvements to the sound that Beats has made over the years.
But if you're prepared to make those compromises, keep an eye out for discounts.]
Beats has liberated the 2 Wireless cans by cutting the cord and adding Bluetooth connectivity. Well, not entirely - the wired option is there if you want it but now you have the option of blissful wireless connectivity of up to 30 feet.
The Wireless model retains the same design of the Solo 2, and that's no criticism. Those cans were molded beautifully, and aside from using some slightly larger cups to account for the battery and built-in controls, all Beats has done differently here is throw in Bluetooth connectivity. Oh, and a power button.
As for those of you still rocking out with the original Solo, the Solo 2 are crafted for a softer, more comfortable fit. They're still mostly plastic, and as long as it's keeping the weight to a minimum that's fine with me - but don't think that makes them brittle. They're durable, free to bend and twist (within reason) without threatening to snap, neatly folding up in the familiar Beats style for storing in their soft case, before you chuck them in a bag.
Ditching the wire obviously means ditching the handy wire remote too, but fear not - the Beats logo on the side of the left can is actually a controller in disguise. You can adjust the volume (push the top and bottom sections), pause (press the middle button once) or skip track (press it twice).
However, that logo also comes at a price - £270 (US$300) to be exact. Yes, these aren't the sorts of headphones you'll purchase lightly. Beats has built a brand on its premium image, and it seems happy to keep riding that wave for now. Now you're starting to see why it gets along with Apple so well.
One of the biggest criticisms of Beats in the past (and one I had agreed with for some time) was sound quality. For all their looks and celebrity backing, Beats headphones hadn't quite nailed it in performance, and in many ways they still have some distance to go. But the difference between the Solo and the Solo 2 is significant. The bass has been tamed and its now less overpowering than it was before.
The whole range sounds a lot clearer and warmer. While the Solo 2s are still primarily tuned for hip hop and electronic, I found that stringed instruments now come through clearer than before. However, the low levels are still a tad distorted when pushed up to higher volumes.
There's no active noise cancellation, which you might scoff at considering the price, but the cans do a pretty good job of minimising outside sound.
Certainly, Beats still isn't punching at the weight of some rivals in its price range, but it's come a long way in a short space of time.
Times have changed - Bluetooth headphones no longer suck battery life like a thirsty toddler with a juice box. Beats says that the headphones should last for around 12 hours of wireless action, which is pretty good. If you're the kind of person who only listens to headphones on their work commute, you'll probably get a week's worth of use from a single charge.
I found Beats' estimate to be pretty accurate during my time using the cans, but should you run out of juice when you're halfway home, you can just pop in the cable and keep listening without any noticeable change in sound quality.
Charging only takes a couple of hours max and is done via micro USB, so chance are you often won't be far from a power source.
Beats has made a great pair of headphones even better by cutting the cord, with few other tweaks. The battery life is good, the cans still feel comfortable on your ears, and the design is more handsome than ever.
The sound range is much improved over the Solo and Solo HD, though still pretty bassy, but there are better sounding headphones for this price. Perhaps not for this level of design, though.
The Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones look great, feel great and sound great. Sure, you can get better-sounding cans for this price, but with Beats you're ultimately paying for fashion. Thankfully, the gap between style and substance is now smaller than ever.
Original review published February 2015