Beats Solo3 Special Disney Edition Bluetooth Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Feb 3, 2019.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    EQ Curve: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Beats_Solo3_Decade.jpg

    I'm writing this review of the Beats Solo3 Disney 90-year anniversary edition, in spite of having previously written a review of the Solo3 in Beats' own 10-year anniversary version, for these reasons:

    1) The manufacturer has announced a temporary price reduction on this special Disney edition. 2) Most headphones, especially those made by companies much smaller than Apple, have significant sample-to-sample variances in their sound, and when it's possible to get another sample, I can test for any possible differences. 3) The finish of this headphone is different from the standard versions, as are the accessories. 4) After using several other Bluetooth headphones in recent months, in both wired and wireless modes, outdoors as well as indoors, I've come to some conclusions that aren't in my original Solo3 review.

    The Solo3 Disney edition sounds essentially the same as the previous version. There could be a one-DB difference here or there, but from the low bass to the high highs, I don't find a significant difference. Note that since most audiophile industry testing shows fairly wild differences among even the expensive flagship headphones above 10 khz or so, I don't try to match levels there as closely as I do for the bass and midrange, although I do check for steep rolloffs, strong peaks and suckouts, etc. This Disney edition is a weak performer above 12 khz or so compared to some of the Sennheisers and Beyerdynamics I've had, but no different from other Solo3's.

    I'm very favorably impressed by the physical quality of this headphone and its drivers, insofar as (or in spite of) the small earcup size, that the sound can be equalized for a decent hi-fi response. I think most audiophiles will sense the difference between the Solo3 and the better headphones costing 2-3 times as much, given the lesser resolution and detail with the Solo3. Still, the 16 hz pedal note from the Kellogg Auditorium organ is very satisfying, both in weight and a sense of hearing the 16-cycle-per-second "beats" of that tone. On the other end of the scale, this Solo3 does an acceptable job resolving the extreme treble in David Chesky's Girl From Guatemala, as well as the brass climaxes in Jimmy Smith's Basin Street Blues.

    This Solo3 doesn't leak enough sound to bother anyone close by in moderately noisy environments, but when playing music at audiophile volume levels in very quiet offices or libraries, anyone sitting within a 2-4 foot range could hear faint sounds coming from the headphone. The isolation is more interesting as I alluded to above in using several Bluetooth headphones outdoors, whether in wired or wireless modes. Open-back headphones such as the Grado GW-100 or Apple's Airpods are nearly useless for audiophile listening in many outdoor environments, particularly around traffic or construction zones, etc.

    I've found the Solo3 to be very satisfactory in those situations for casual walk-around listening, because the isolation is "just enough" to hear the basic musical details, at least 99 percent of the time, with the exception of extreme continuous noises like jackhammers or emergency horns and sirens. In the time that I've been using v-moda's Lightning DAC cable with my iPhone/iPad/iPods, I've found that it's just as convenient to use that cable in most situations as to go wireless with Bluetooth, but even in cases where the cable does get in the way, having such a cable tucked away in a pocket or bag can come in handy when transitioning into a quieter area, for more serious listening with better fidelity.

    Apparently there are other manufacturers of these one-piece DAC cables that have USB-C plugs to fit some of the newer phones and music players, and if their DACs are good enough, I'd recommend carrying one as a higher-fidelity listening option, or at least as a backup when a wireless headphone's battery runs out. Note that the Solo3 can be used with a cable when the power is exhausted, unlike some Bluetooth headphones such as the Beats Studio3.
     
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