Unlike me, I’m sure you haven’t forgotten about Dre, or have you? His Beats Studio headphones — the ones that started the whole celebrity-endorsed portable-audio craze in 2008 — finally got a full-on revamp. Well into its post-Monster life and sans Bon Ive’s acquisition. Beats Electronics has addressed the chief complaints of the original. An extension of a modernized silhouette, the new Studio is 13 grams lighter (263g), with improved padding and ergonomics to provide better comfort. Better yet, these over-ear cans pack a headband that won’t snap so easily during extreme bends. Updated noise-cancellation tech enables the Studio to automatically adjust depending on your surroundings — it even intensifies the effect for further noise reduction when the cable (which naturally features an in-line remote and mic) isn’t plugged in. But… Read on for a more detailed review.
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Let’s start with the sound, shall we? As I’ve already mentioned, Beats touts “updated and improved acoustics” that boast “a wider range of sound and enhanced clarity.” That summary is pretty much spot-on. When I unboxed the Studio’s, I was quick to queue up some bass-heavy tunes to see if the company would remain consistent with its affinity for the low end. Well, the best way I can describe the sound here is “more balanced.” Don’t get me wrong: There’s still plenty of bass when tunes call for it, but you can also clearly pick up other elements — things like hi-hats, snares and others all seem to stand out more when compared to previous releases.
As recently as the Pill XL, the extra bass was great for some genres, but just seemed to muddy others. That’s not the case here. When switching from hip-hop to metal, and then on to something mellower, like bluegrass – hehe, dad would be so proud – each tune I threw at the headphones came through clearly and with a wider range of tones than existing efforts. Those looking for a truckload of bass will still get it when a playlist demands, but folks who prefer a myriad of styles in their music libraries are catered to as well. Even my 4 year old Zonke album sounded as crisp.
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Where Beats didn’t excel with the new model is comfort. I’ve never been a fan of the way this brand of headphones feels when I wear them, and unfortunately, the Studio is more of the same. Despite a new headband and ergonomic, pivoting earcups, the headphones still feel like they’re pinching in on my head – a feeling that gets uncomfortable about 15 to 20 minutes into a listening session. That’s a common criticism of the smaller Solo HD sets, too. I’ll review these later.
In terms of aesthetics, the area housing the iconic circle logo on the outside of the earcups is concave and the leather-esque material meets the plastic on the inside seamlessly. That bunched-up hemline is no more. There’s no in-line remote for toggling tracks, adjusting volume and taking calls here – they lost my interest for good. I guess that’s where the ‘Studio’ name comes to play. Finally, the cans still fold in on themselves just like all other versions, should you feel the need to toss ’em in a bag or the included carrying case for transport.
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The days of needing to carry an extra pack of Duracells are gone too; the Li-Ion battery promises 20 hours of music playback. Meanwhile, five LEDs display juice levels and an automatic power control keeps the cells from draining if you forget to turn ’em off. The company’s new DSP, Beats Acoustic Engine (BAE), aims for a voicing of “balance, accuracy and emotion,” and the cans apparently leak out less sound to those around you. So, is it more than just a new take on the bass-heavy S-curve that’s managed to “Keep Their Heads Ringin'” for five years? You can find it at your favourite tech store, in your choice of black, white or red.