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Beats Solo Pro review: on-ear noise cancellation, finally

Beats headphones are everywhere. You see them on your commute, at the gym, on the heads of celebritiesand star athletes. Beats have sold over 30 million units of its Solo line of headphones and now, there's a brand new version. These are the $300 Solo Pros and they add a long-awaitedfeature, noise cancellation. (laid back rhythmic music) These are the secondrelease in what Beat says is a new generation of products that began with thefantastic Powerbeats Pro. They come in the soft case which is made from a lotof recycled materials and when you take them out, they definitely look like Beats, but they're somehow more refined. All that glossy, greasyplastic is gone now and the Solo Pros onlycome in matte finishes. And these exposed aluminum sliders make them feel just alittle bit more classy than previous Beats headphones did. So there's no power buttonon these headphones. To turn them on you justunfold them and they power on. If you wanna shut them off, just fold them back up and they turn off. Now some people like me like to wear their headphones aroundtheir neck sometimes so as long as no music is playing, these enter a low power state and save battery life automatically. Beats has made other improvements that you might not notice justby looking at the Solo Pros.

 The surface area of thecushions has increased by 70% and your ears will appreciatethat added foam padding and since Solo headphonesare so popular at the gym, Beats also changed things internally to make them more sweatand rain resistant. Now, inside the SoloPros is Apple's H1 chip so these can instantly pair to any nearby iPhone or iPad and they have hands-free"Hey Siri" voice commands and a new iOS 13 featurecalled audio sharing so you and a friend who has AirPods can listen to the same song or watch a video togetherat the same time. Don't worry Android people. These headphones work perfectlyfine with your phones too. They charge with a lighteningconnector, not USBC, I know, I know, but there is a cable in the box. What you won't find on these headphones is a 3.5 millimeter input. Apple is determined tokill the headphone jack and Beats has not been spared, so if you wanna usethese headphones wired, you've gotta pay $35for a cable from Apple. Otherwise, it's all wireless,all Bluetooth, all the time. I think that might frustratesome frequent flyers. Put the Solo Pros onto your dome and well, here's the thing, theydon't fit me so great. Now, I've got an enormous head. Back in little league, I had to us this special batter's helmet which was one size biggerthan the biggest size for people with normal sizedheads so I am an exception. Don't focus on that. I wanted more input,so I gave the Solo Pros to the folks around the officeand had them wear them around but that same theme kept coming up. People said they felt tight, a lot of pressure on their ears, and for folks who have also big heads they feel a little small sometimes. But there's a reason why these clamp down on your ears so hard. See, for noise cancellation to work well, there has to be a good seal, so the ear pads need a lot ofpressure up against your ears to cut off outside noise. Makes sense, I get that, but I also think some peoplemight find these fatiguing or just straight upuncomfortable after a few hours, say if you're on a long fight somewhere.

 Okay, so Beats' noisecancellation is pretty good. I don't think it's quite at the level of Bose's noise canceling headphones700 or Sony's 1000XM3s. (sighs) Those names. But it does a pretty good job of cutting out the rumble of the subways or the clamor of city streets. Now, unlike the noise canceling headphones from Bose or Microsoft and some others, Beats does not allow you to adjust the level of noise cancellation. It's all automatic andit adjusts automatically based on your environment. So in a quiet room, it'll ratchet down and if you step onto a plane,it'll crank right back up, but if you have to hearwhat's going on around you for safety reasons or to payfor a coffee or whatever, you can press this buttonto enter transparency mode. And on that note, the Solo Pros have one ofthe most natural sounding passive modes I've ever heard. Conversations sound natural, not overly processed or digital. Battery life is 22 hours of noise cancellationmode or transparency mode but you can turn all of that off and get up to 40 hours ofgood old music listening, but if you somehow do manageto run out of battery, you can charge them up for 10 minutes and get three hours of listening time. So, let's do it. Sound quality. You know the reputationthat Beats has and so do I. For years, it was abouthead rattling, thumping bass at the expense of everything else, but that's not true anymore and it hasn't been true for a while now. Things started turning aroundwith Solo3s a few years ago and then got really goodwith the Powerbeats Pro. For the Solo Pros, thebass is still pronounced but it's not too boomy or overwhelming. It feels restrained comparedto older Beats headphones, even those Solo3s. One word I would associatethese headphones is clarity. They don't have the widestsound stage in the world but they're balanced and pretty enjoyable. Now, do they sound as good as Sennheiser's $400 noisecanceling headphones?

 No, but there's also nothingwrong with them either. Now, Beats doesn't offerany kind of EQ customization so definitely put theseon in a store, try them and make sure you're in to that sound. The bottom line is that theseare not audiophile headphones but they fill the role of every day, take everywhere headphones pretty well, so long as your head isn'tquite as big as mine. And then there's the nitpicky stuff. I wish these paused music automatically when you take them off yourhead and they don't do that, plus these controls on the right ear cup could be a lot better. You press up or down to adjust volume and you press the centerarea to pause or play music. Pressing twice skips a trackand three times goes back but I keep trying to press left or right for those same functions just like the iPod clickwheel back in the day. I wish that was thecase here, but it's not. And then there's that $35cable if you want wired audio. Come on Apple. But with all of that said,if you find these comfortable and you're okay with that $300 price, I think the Solo Pros are pretty much the best Beat headphones ever. No, the noise cancellationisn't best in class. If you care about thatmost or you travel a bunch, stick with Sony or Bose, but I suspect, justlike their predecessors, these are the new headphones you're gonna start seeing pop up pretty much everywhere very soon. Hey everybody, thanksso much for watching. It seems like new headphonesand earbuds just keep coming so we've got more tech reviews on the way and for all of those and everything else, subscribe to "The Verge"at YouTube.com/TheVerge. 

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