Link: Beats By Dre — Price: $399/€399/£349
Here we are again — a place I never thought I’d be because I’d become convinced that Beats were genuinely too scared to send us anything due to the notoriously tough industry standard reviews cycle that we put headphones through. But that was back in the Monster days, where they simply would have fallen at the first hurdle. We’re now in a new realm of Beats — Pro to be precise, and sitting on Duncan’s head in the worxlab are a pair of very heavy Beats By Dre Pro headphones. More production that DJ, but still worth checking out, if only because they’re over-ear and because they span 2 distinct areas (DJing and production) and are likely to find love in both. One headphone to rule them all as it where.
As discussed in the Beats By Dre Mixr review, now we have our own high level operative working inside Beats. Drew Bach, better known as ProfessorBX has recently become the Global Sales Manager for Beats’ Pro and MI channels. For complete transparency, Drew is also one of my best friends, which you might think would give him an easy ride, but most certainly doesn’t. He, like the whole DJ industry, values our impartial opinion, so that is exactly what we’ll give him.
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
As with the Mixrs, there’s too much packaging. It’s a swish but large box that will essentially never be touched again after delivery. Just stop it now. But once inside, you’ll find the headphones, a very meaty partially coiled rubber cable, a less meaty but still worthy straight and mobile friendly cable, a Beats specific 1/4″ adaptor, soft bag (in contrast to the shell case found with the Mixrs), plus a wealth of printed materials and a soft cloth.
The obvious branding on the cups and headband make these decidedly Beats, as does the general construction, albeit chunkier than the rest of the beats range. And chunkier than a lot of other cans out there too, for the thick headband and generous ear pads do not sit subtly on your head, especially if you go for the White, Red or Black/Red variants. These make a very strong Beats based statement.
This is the accepted preconception that dogs Beats as a brand. Generally thought to be weak plastic not worth of a DJ’s attention, the Beats By Dre Pros are the heaviest and most rigid headphones I have ever come across. Bar the earpieces and headband, everything else is metal, something that I hadn’t expected, but became clear once I’d picked them up.
Given the rigid metal structure, and distinct lack of moving parts bar a metal pivot, it would be fair to describe these colloquially a “built like a brick shit house”. I think I could possibly bludgeon someone to death with these. I could certainly slice them us afterwards as the edges are a wee bit too sharp for me. Granted, they add to the overall slick look and feel, but I kept thinking that I was going to hurt my fingers.
The cables are worthy of a mention too. These are the now trademark Red rubber variety, one lightweight one with mobile controls, and another part coiled Pro-specific one that is significantly beefier than the other and comes with a locking jack that fits into either cup. This also comes with a screw fit 1/4″ adaptor, that rather usefully can be attached to the cable with a rubber clip. No more losing that adaptor. Hopefully anyway.
This is a section that I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with. As my collection of high-end headphones grows, I’m constantly revising my opinion based on experience and the dawning realisation that graphs and charts tell us one thing, and our ears tell us another. And as driver profiles change, I’m beginning to adjust my baseline as to what is normal and what is exaggerated. So I’m sat here with a pair of Sennheiser HD25-1 IIs, Pioneer HDJ-2000s, and Beats Mixrs to make some highly subjective comparisons.
Drew set me a test of how to accurately prove this, so I sat with the Beats Pros for a couple of hours, and then tried the same music on the above headphones. Suddenly the established standards of Sennheiser and Pioneer sounded quiet and a bit thin. Over time, our ears adjust and set a new normal, and anything else will sound wrong. Go back the next day, start with say the Sennheisers, and then the Beats Pro will sound too full.
That said, most people have their own preferences and baselines to work from, and so that people can relate more my subjective observations, I’ll start with Sennheisers and Pioneers and then make comparisons accordingly. Like the Beats Mixrs, these Pros are loud, with a decidedly full sound across the entire range. If there were one characteristic I could pick out, it would be that the mids are pushed up a little more, leading to said fuller sound. The separation is perhaps better in the Beats Pros as well, which I’m putting down to the large drivers and bigger cup size.
Make no mistake though — these sound amazing. But when you’ve got the best part of £1k’s worth of headphones in front of you, all of which sound amazing, picking out the detail that makes the difference. It’s when I put on the Behringer HPX6000s that come in at 1/5th of the price that I noticed the real difference.
Normally, my head prefers on-ear headphones from an isolation perspective. There’s something about my head and ears that makes it work better. So I was very pleasantly surprised when the isolation on the Beats By Dre Pros proved to be excellent. Better than the Pioneers but still not quite up there with the Sennheisers though. What I was really pleased about was the external isolation. You can drive these up to ear bleeding volumes, and still not annoy people around you too much.
Comfort and Stability
Given the incredibly solid build, with little in the way of actual movement, I did worry that the Beats By Dre Pros wouldn’t find a comfortable place to sit on my head. The cups are very generously padded with soft leatherette earpieces which sucker to your head quite well. The headband however could do with a tad more padding in my book. That said, it’s a common complaint of mine — it find most headbands feel like they’re working their way into my skull after a while, and this is even more the case because of the weight of the Pros.
This weight also impacts on the amount of time that I felt comfortable wearing them. Once I’d found a comfortable position, I found that after something like an hour of working and leaning forward a little, I was experiencing a little neck ache. They were still pretty comfortable on my head, but I really needed a break from them. This weight also makes them feel less stable if you’re an active performer too. Bizarrely, I found that they were more stable with one ear piece swiveled 90°.
In their open form, the Beats Pros are big. But like the Mixrs, the earpieces swivel a full 180° into the headband, allowing them to fold down into a deceptively compact space inside the soft suedish bag. including the chunky cable. Clearly this is something Beats have thought about, and have done a very good job in getting something so big to fold down so small.
Value for money
Having established that the Beats By Dre Pros are extremely worthy headphones, we must now factor in the price, which more often than not is the deciding factor for potential buyers. The price is $399, just $50 above the Pioneer HDJ-2000s. In the UK, the price difference is a full £100 (or $152 at today’s exchange rate). So in the US, it’s a harder decision to make, but this side of the pond however, it’s incredibly hard to justify the price difference. I could only really pinpoint build quality as a definite plus in this respect. But stacked up against the Sennheisers, the Beats Pros really don’t stand a chance in most DJ’s minds and wallets.
Producers and audiophiles however are more likely to invest serious cash in a pair of high quality headphones, and this is where the Beats Pros might find a few more friends. They’ll certainly last a very long time, and depending on your own sound preferences may well be the best headphone you’ve every heard. Only you can decide that.
This is one of those moments where you really need to decide for yourself. You can try Beats Pros just about anywhere. Hell, you’re tripping over them in just about every retail electrical chain. But this is definitely an area that Beats need to have a long hard look at their range and price policies if they’re to win more friends outside of the US.
With the second Beats review done, it’s clear to me that not all Beats headphones are created equal. Sure, pushing anything less than the Mixrs or Pros through the rigours of DJing is likely to be met with less than stellar performance, especially given the premium price. But have no doubt that Beats can and do make excellent headphones that are well worthy of your attention.
If you’ve read that above review first, you’ll know that bar some reservations about long-term comfort, I rate the Beats By Dre Pros highly. They’re very well specced, built to withstand a significant beating and sound amazing. The issue really is price, especially in European markets. If you try a pair, you’ll have no doubt that these are extremely high quality headphones in every respect. But only you can decide if the sound is compatible with your preferences, and then if you’re prepared to drop this kind of cash for a pair of headphones.
Hype: Build quality, audio quality, and overall package
Gripe: Value for money especially in Europe, and weight for long-term comfort