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Dr. Dre’s been known for crafting party-starting beats since the mid-1980s when he was part of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru. While the Cru’s break-dance tracks and electro slow-jams would later be eclipsed by his work with N.W.A. and as a solo artist, there’s no doubt that Dre’s been rocking our headphones since the days of the Walkman. And now we get a chance rock his ’phones.
Solo is the entry-level headphone model in Monster’s line of Beats by Dr. Dre, which also include studio and DJ headphones, as well as in-ear models. As you might expect, Beats are all about beats…and the Solo doesn’t disappoint in that regard. In fact, we were surprised and delighted by how much we liked them once we got them in the lab. Our previous experience with Beats had been at trade shows, where Monster shows them off attached to kiosks blasting lackluster hip-hop at ear-numbing volumes. Not exactly the best scenario for really evaluating their performance.
In our tests, we found the Solo headphones to be great for beat-heavy genres--no surprise there, of course. Bass was deep and taut, lending a heavy sound whether we were listening to the artificial drum machine cadences of a Dr. Dre production or the bass/drums/guitars instrumentation of our favorite Big Star record. The Solo handled the rest of the audio spectrum just fine--mid-range was slightly less prominent than we like, but that was really a matter of sounding different than some of our other favorite cans, not necessarily better or worse. Naturally, this bass-heavy sound isn’t for everyone, but Solo was a surprisingly listenable experience at normal volumes.
Solo is also targeted squarely at legions of iPhone 3GS users looking to upgrade their headset. The headphones--which sit on-ear and provide a fair amount of noise isolation--also feature an inline mic and remote, which can be used with an iPhone 3GS or recent-model iPods. We were able to make and receive calls easily with the now-familiar three-button inline remote, and we could also use the Solo to initiate Voice Control commands on our iPhone. Our only quibble with using Solo to make calls was that since the headphones block out a good deal of outside noise, we often found ourselves yelling--rather than talking--into the headset. Once we got used to resisting the urge to holler, it wasn’t a problem.
When its time to travel, the Solo folds up compactly and comes with a padded travel pouch. The cable is detachable, which is great since the cable connection is the most common point of failure in headphones. We couldn’t find replacement cables available for sale on Monster’s website, but a Monster rep assured us that the company will replace malfunctioning cables if necessary.