A little while back I reviewed Monster's initial foray into high-end headphones and came away less than impressed. It wasn't that the original Beats by Dr. Dre headphones were bad - they were atrocious. So it may come as a bit of a surprise to learn that I wanted to review another Beats by Dr. Dre product, specifically the Beats Pro, which sits atop the Beats by Dr. Dre product line like Dre himself.
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The Beats Pro are Monster and Dr. Dre's flagship effort and carry a price tag of $449.95 to match. At first glance they appear very similar to previous Beats by Dr. Dre designs, though upon closer inspection you soon discover that the Beats Pro are a different animal entirely, one that has traded its plastic for lightweight aluminum for starters. The Beats Pro come in either a white or black finish and feature large, over-the-ear cups branded with Monster and Dre's trademark "b." The ear cups are secured in aluminum with ample padding along the edges and across the top of the over-the-head band for added comfort. The ear cushions themselves can easily be removed and washed, a cool feature and one I wish more headphones had, for if you're one to share your cans (which many studio artists do), being able to keep them clean and sterile is paramount.
Another neat feature the Beats Pro has is its dual input/output cable port, which allows the Beats Pro to be daisy chained with another set of headphones, preferably Beats by Dr. Dre branded ones I'm sure, without having to add an additional source or portable device. Speaking of inputs - the included Beats Pro headphone cable can easily be detached from either of the ear cup-mounted inputs and changed to a third party cable for better sound if you like - something that can't always be said for the competition. Also, the included cable can stretch from 1.8 meters to 2.1 meters, thanks to its coiled design. The Beats Pro come with an eight inch to quarter inch adaptor which is tethered to the cable itself to ensure it never gets lost. Like earlier Dr. Dre branded headphones, the Beats Pro are sound isolating designs and feature collapsible ear cups to assist in greater portability; however because of its bulkier size and more robust build quality, the Beats Pro aren't exactly as portable as earlier designs.
Monster doesn't specify what type of drivers are used in the Beats Pro headphones suffice to say that they're "proprietary." They also discuss necessary figures such as the Beats Pro's frequency response or sensitivity. I powered my review pair using my iPhone, for despite being "pro" branded cans, I doubt the vast majority of Beats Pro owners will ever spend time in a studio. In terms of sound I must say I walked away rather impressed. Gone was the flat, harsh, hollow sound that I was treated to with earlier Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. In its place was a sound that was far more refined, firm, textural and composed. The Beats Pro's solid construction produced greater sense of weight both physically and aurally, which grounded everything and served as a rock solid foundation for the music to build upon. Bass was prodigious but now felt appropriate versus boomy or bloated. The Beats Pro bass had texture and nuance but more importantly it had the sense of air, which aided the midrange substantially, giving it a more palpable presence. The high frequencies were a touch rolled off but sounded, again, far more airy and organic than with previous offerings. Dynamics were solid, though at high volumes the Beats Pro headphones would compress, sometimes substantially, producing a thin, two-dimensional sound. I'm sure had I used a different source component or a dedicated headphone amp the Beats Pro's "butter zone" would have been a bit larger but like I said, I just don't see a lot of Beats Pro customers plugging them into anything other than a portable device or laptop.
Read about the high points and low points of the Beats Pro headphones on Page 2.
• The Beats Pro are still garish in terms of design, one that screams, "Look at me," but there's no denying their build quality which appears very solid and built for the long haul.
• The Beats Pro's ear cups are well padded and comfortable and able to be removed and even washed to ensure they remain so fresh and so clean.
• The Beats Pro's dual input/output option is a nice feature and one that is sure to come in handy with younger buyers.
• The Beats Pro's sound is now one of maturity, for everything about its performance is improved over previous incarnations. Bass is still the focus of these headphones but the midrange and high frequencies have not been left out of the upgrade equation.
• The Beats Pro headphones are not as travel friendly as earlier designs, thanks to their more robust padding and construction, though I'd take their improved build quality over portability any day.
• The Beats Pro headphones are heavy, really heavy and while comfortable they're not easily forgotten, making extended listening sessions a bit fatiguing.
• The Beats Pro headphones can be powered by portable devices such as an iPhone but I have to imagine their sonic performance as well as dynamic envelope would improve if connected to a proper headphone amp or device; however I just don't see teens and young adults going to such lengths.
• At high volumes the Beats Pro headphones do become a bit one dimensional and flat sounding, though they're not as aggressive as previous designs.
Competition and Comparison
At around $450 retail the Beats Pro face some stiff competition, for they're not what I would classify as "affordable" for many looking to replace a pair of free Apple ear buds. The Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphones are cheaper than the Beats Pro at $299.99, look decidedly more up-market and sound better in my opinion. Another possible and even cheaper option would be Klipsch's Image ONE headphones at $149.99 followed by Skullcandy's Roc Nation Aviator headphones at $149.99. The Image ONE headphones are far more compact and lightweight but produce a substantial punch, whereas the Roc Nations match and in some ways surpass the Beats Pro's garish appearance, which is partially what headphones such as the Beats Pros are all about.
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It's always nice to revisit a
formerly dreadful product and come away the second time pleasantly surprised, which is precisely what has happened following my demo of the Beats Pro headphones. Across the board, everything about the Beats Pro's performance is improved and not only that, it feels as if its matured, for the Beats Pro's sound is decidedly more audiophile than its predecessors. Are they worth their asking price? For me, no, but I still don't believe I'm the target market, even though I spend time in studios. While everyone and their mother within and around the music and entertainment industry can be spotted sporting a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre, the core market for these and other Dre branded headphones is still consumers my brother's age, for which $450 is a lot of coin.