Link: Beats By Dre — Price: $240/€249/£220
Beats by Dre.
Still here? Thanks for making it this far — I suspect that some haven’t simply because of the brand name. But the consumer brand that permeates civilisation at a societal level is not the same Beats Pro brand that we’re looking at here. Yes I said Pro, for Beats has a separate line of headphones (the Beats PRO & Beats MIXR) for rather more demanding and discerning users who care more for function than being seen in the same cans as their favourite celebrity. So please stick around for the rest of the review, as I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
In the past, I have tried and failed to obtain Beats headphones to squeeze through the stringent DJWORX review assault course. But now we have our own sleeper agent planted in the organisation. Drew Bach, better known as ProfessorBX has recently become the Global Sales Manager for Beats’ Pro and MI channels. Drew is also one of my best friends, so you would be forgiven for thinking that given this decade long relationship, that I would go easy on Beats headphones. But you would be quite wrong. Drew knows that I’m more likely to be like an over-compensating parent teacher with a child in the same school.
We must also factor in that I have nothing to lose by giving these a good or bad review. We don’t sell anything here, nor do Beats advertise on DJWORX. I care more about being true to the tens of thousands of loyal readers than I do for keeping a single manufacturer happy. So let’s get to it.
In The Box
Starting off with my pet peeve — packaging. There is simply too much of it. Beats do like to make a statement, and while it lends to the feel good factor and air of opulence, it is nothing but an expensive piece of landfill and not the way to reduce carbon footprints or impact on natural resources. Rant over.
Inside the lavish box are the headphones (more detail later), a DJ friendly partially coiled cable, an Apple friendly TRRS equipped straight cable with volume controls and play/pause button, a push fit 1/4″ adaptor and a highly tactile clamshell case. The box also contains a heap of printed instructional, warranty and marketing gubbins, as well a rather large sticker for you to declare your allegiance to Beats upon your expensive laptop.
Given the consumer heritage, aesthetics are paramount for Beats. And the Mixrs are no slouch in the area either. The brand is strong, but not overpowering (well at least not on the Black ones I have here). But the looks are as important as the engineering, but thankfully functionality hasn’t been compromised by style choices.
The Mixrs are sleek, curved and free from sharp edges, and because of the 40mm driver on-ear design are quite discrete on your head. And while the flourishes are bold (Red cables for example), the overall aesthetic is minimalism. The vast majority of DJ headphones are generally understated, and it’s good that the Beats Mixrs continue down this route too. But if you want to make more of a statement, you can grab White or Red ones.
The construction is minimal, eschewing the hinge-tastic designs of yesteryear that would ordinarily lead to near instant breakages. The combination of metal and dense plastic work well together to add weight, and the overall high precision finish lends itself to the overall feeling of quality. There are no creaks, rattles, or obvious weak spots either. You’ve all seen how harsh I am when I test, and the Beats Mixrs withstood every full on bend, stretch, and twist I threw at them. I think I would literally have to try to break them to actually break them. This doesn’t mean they won’t break, but it’ll be over a sustained period that weaknesses may show up.
The cables are Beats specific — both are Red rubber with straight connectors at one end and right angles at the other. The DJ cable is more robust though, and because of the construction both are nearly impossible to tangle. I have an issue with the resistance of the headphone cable into the earpiece though — it doesn’t lock or screw, and is likely to come out if your cable gets caught up in your gear. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing yet though. I doesn’t fall out, but I just wished it had more resistance to coming out. And with the adaptor being a push fit, and the plugs being small, you may end up leaving the adaptor in the mixer if you leave in a hurry.
On a related note, each earpiece has a jack, giving you a choice of which side to plug into and also to daily chain to other headphone users. A nice touch.
As for spares — seems you can buy fresh cables should you break or lose them. Foam earpieces don’t seem to be available though. So unlike the Sennheiser HD25s that you would naturally compare these to, should they break, you’re probably looking for a new pair.
To preface this — I listened to a mixture of House, Hip Hop, Classical and Jazz though mixture of iOS devices, audio interfaces and straight from vinyl to get the best spread of sources and qualities to get an overall picture.
But I hate writing this part, because it’s an entirely subjective opinion, based on personal preference and individual hearing characteristics. One thing is a fact — they are loud. The 40mm drivers deliver a massive amount of volume, and even when driven don’t appear to distort. I did try to find the actual numerical specs to see how they compared to others, but bugger me if they’re just about impossible to find, neither in the box, on the Beats site or anywhere else for that matter. And while I know people make buying decisions based on scientific data, I don’t and especially in the case of headphones, I use my ears. So I was sort of happy that this info was tough to find.
If I were to describe the sound in meaningful words, it would most probably be “full” and “lively”. DJ headphones are typically bass driven to try and simulate what the dance floor is hearing, and the Beats Mixrs certain feature plenty of bottom end. But it’s as if all frequencies have been turned up as well, making the Mixrs great for monitoring the mix, but perhaps giving a different image of what’s happening on the floor. I certainly wouldn’t recommend them for production, but for DJing and casual listening to your collection, they’re pretty good, although I found that depending on what I was listening to, I needed a break from the often full on sound.
NOTE: I knew Drew would throw a bunch of science and numbers at me, so for those that care, it seems that the treble response on the MIxrs is fairly similar to the HD25, but because the bass response of the Mixrs is less than the HD25s, they appear flatter. But as Drew quite rightly points out, your ears hear what they want to hear.
If you read any of my previous headphone reviews, you’ll know that I prefer on-ear headphones. They tend to seal against my head that little bit better than over-ear headphones, and that is still the case with the Mixrs too.
Keeping noise out wasn’t a problem at all, either at low or high volumes. The soft memory foam ear pads did a great job of sealing my head off from the outside world. Sadly, they’re not great at keeping noise in. Turned up to a moderate public transport volume, it was quite clear what tracks were being played. So great for you and your own closed off world, but not so great for the people around you.
Comfort and Stability
Again, this is another area where success depends on a number of factors, most of which is your physiology. I found that despite the limited swivel movement of the earpieces, the Beats Mixrs adjusted really well to my head, clamping themselves on like a Ridley Scott Alien. Even extreme head-nodding and banging wouldn’t shift these from my head. I also appreciate the 90° swivels that allow me to run with a single ear, with no loss of noggin traction. Much of this is down to the lightweight nature of the Mixrs too, which has been achieved with no loss of quality.
I’ve sat for 2 hours solid without needing to remove the Mixrs, but beyond that I’ve needed a break, if only for the headband beginning to make itself known to the top of my skull. As übersexy as the headband material is (touch it and you’ll know what I mean), it could do with a wee bit more padding in there. It’s only an inch wide after all.
Given the overall rigidity and lack of moving parts, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the Mixrs folded into the supplied case. The cups swivel a full 180° into the headband and sit very snugly and are well protected. I’d recommend taking the cable out first though. And even unfolded, they’re pretty diddy as well.
Value for money
And here is where things usually fall apart for high end headphones, especially Beats. DJs prefer to spend less than they should and then moan about how their headphones keep breaking. Over the years, I’ve learned that generally you get what you pay for, so if you spend a little more on your cans, you’ll have them for proportionally longer, especially if you actually look after them rather than abuse them.
Beats Mixrs are pitched at the top end of the DJ market. So for £220, they’re some way above the Sennheiser HD 25-1 IIs by a good £90, but still a little below the Pioneer HDJ-2000. I use these examples because they’re probably the logical competitors. What you do get with the Mixrs is a hard case and spare cables, whereas Sennheiser and Pioneer offer neither of those things. I could throw the AIAIAI TMA-1 cans in there too, which also falls into this category, and again doesn’t have the hard case or spare cable. The V-MODA M-100 however are most probably the closest comparison — designer looks, compact size, spare cables and a hard case, and do come in a smidgeon under the Beats Mixr street price too.
So in an increasingly diverse market, it’s a mixed bag value wise. The overall Mixr package is extremely high quality, but doesn’t stack up well to the established and logical HD25 competitor. It beats the HDJ-2000 for price, but not necessarily in other areas. And head to head from a lifestyle perspective, the Beats Mixr and V-MODA M100s are neck and neck. BTW M100 review is in the worx.
INTERESTING SIDEBAR: I’m writing this from my own perspective i.e. being an English man. But to balance the issue of value for money, it seems that HD25s are more or less the same price as Mixrs in the US. Funny how things work out. So for my US readership, you have a tougher choice than we Brits.
When I started writing this review, I had no preconceptions that Drew had hyped up the Mixrs, simply because he repped them. He’s a bigger headphone whore than I am, and had bought himself a pair before even getting the chance of an interview at Beats. I took that as evidence enough to try them with an open mind. And you should too.
It’s easy to dismiss Beats By Dre as cheap (although not) plastic lifestyle cans for the masses, but the whole Beats range shouldn’t be viewed this way. I’m quite sure that they do the job from a consumer perspective, but there’s no way I’d recommend a regular pair of Solos or Studios to withstand the rigours of a playing out DJ.
The Beats By Dre Mixr DJ headphones however, for what it’s worth, get my seal of approval. The price is perhaps a little to rich for some, and made to look worse against the natural HD25 competitor. The sound subjectively is a tad lively for prolonged listening and not at all suitable for production, but great for DJing. But the build quality, construction, comfort and compactness are without question of the highest order.
So if you can look past your preconceptions of the Beats By Dre brand, you’ll find a pair of high quality DJ headphones well worthy of your consideration. I know I’ll be installing them in the worxlab and will see what other DJs passing through think.
Hype: Overall package, quality, comfort, and compactness.
Gripe: Value for money against the leading HD25 brand (outside of the US anyway), and the sound getting wearing when just listening.