Sadly despite the quality on the design front, the Beats have a serious problem with their audio reproduction, which left various staffers with impressions from underwhelming to 'the worst headphones I have ever heard.' Considering some of the good things we've heard about Monster audio products, and the £130 price tag on the Solos, we were understandably disappointed.
The problem is the overwhelming bass response of the Solos, and when we say overwhelming we don't just mean strong. Unless you listen to music with a very anaemic low-end, or adjust your player's equalizer to compensate, bass lines throb over every other facet of the Solos' output. In the Solos' limited defence, there's a good level of detail in this powerful low-end, and it has a warm enveloping texture to it, but with all but the most limited selection of music it's so enveloping as to be suffocating.
This is a shame because when there's plenty of detail hidden in the mid and high end when not being trampled on by the bass. In intros to songs we frequently found ourselves wondering whether we weren't being too harsh to the Solos, as the reproduction had real clarity, but then came the bass to ruin the reproduction. From Dr Dre's I Need a Doctor through Muse's Space Dementia to Wagner's Die Walkure it was the same story.
We can't help but point out that the less attractively named Fanny Wang On-Ear Wang headphones do a much better job of targeting the bassy, but still detailed style that the Beats Solos are aiming for. It's also worth noting that the Beat's Solos seem to need a lot of power, as our resident iPod nano wasn't able to supply much volume (although ironically this was almost an improvement as it helped de-bass the tone a little) .
After listening to the Skullcandy Aviator's, we weren't expecting that any fashion headphone could have a greater low-end bias, but the Monster Beats Solos manage it. Monster's headphones redeem themselves somewhat with their design and build quality, but not enough to justify the asking price.