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Verdict

The Beats Solo 4 can sound good, easily handling all genres of music without focusing too much on bass. They’re small, light and play well with iOS and Android. If you’re a fan of the standard AirPods sound profile, these will feel familiar.

Pros

  • Small package
  • Plenty of features
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Uncomfortable
  • No ANC

Key Features

  • Mega battery lifeThey can last for around 50 hours per charge
  • Spatial audioDolby Atmos support for 360 audio

Introduction

Apple has finally updated the Beats Solo line with a new model in the Solo 4. Can these match the popularity of its predecessors?

Since Apple acquired Beats, the brand has become something of a mid-range alternative to the iPhone maker’s high-end products.

Priced at £199 / $199, the Solo 4s could be seen as an on-ear version of the base AirPods and in many ways they are similar products likely aiming at a similar buyer. 

The important question is whether they’re worth it or if you’d be better off with one of the many alternatives featured in our best headphone list. I’ve spent nearly a month with the latest cans and Beats and here’s my definitive verdict.

Design

  • On-ear design is an acquired taste
  • Three tasteful colour options
  • They fold up into a very small package

The Solo 4’s are an on-ear style of headphones, meaning rather than covering up the ear (like AirPods Max does) they sit on it. The nature of this design means that some people will find them uncomfortable due to the cups pressing into the ear, rather than surrounding them. I am one of those such people.

When I would first put them on, all was fine. The circular pads on each ear cup sat comfortably on my ear and the headband seemed stretchy enough to ensure the fit wasn’t too tight. I never found that comfort last though, and if I wore the Solo 4s for a couple of hours the edges of my ears would get incredibly sore. This was most noticeable on a transatlantic flight where the Beats Solo 4 were much more uncomfortable than the over-ear Bowers and Wilkins PX7 S2e.

I will put some of the ear strain down to my big head, and a few people I gave the headphones to try with smaller heads didn’t have the same issues. So it’s probably a lot to do with personal preference, and of course, Beats sells the over-ear Studio Pro for those, like me, who find that style more comfortable.

Beats Solo 4 side profile
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Going with an on-ear fit does have benefits though and I am glad Beats still caters to multiple people’s needs. The ear cups are far smaller than larger rivals like the Sony WH-1000XM5 and that makes a far smaller, more discrete product. 

These can fold up very small and slip in a smaller bag, even a cross-body one, with ease and they don’t feel quite so all-encompassing when being worn. They are great for the gym too, as they’re far lighter than over-ear pairs. I know some people will take the trade-offs I mentioned above for these benefits, and if that’s you these are a good choice I can recommend.

The Beats design is a little Marmite: some love it, some don’t. The Solo 4s looks very much like the Solo 3, just with a little extra flair. The new metal hinges, for instance, are a nice addition that adds both a contrasting colour and a higher-end finish. The branding is slightly more subtle this time around, with the garish ‘wireless’ wording removed for a simple ‘4’. There are still large Beat logos on each cup, which I am not a huge fan of.

Beats Solo 4 hinge
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

There are three colour options at launch, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some extra hues are added (possibly tied to some celebrity endorsements). My review pair was the ‘Matt Black’ option, though the ‘Cloud Pink’ and ‘Slate Blue’ stand out a little more. All the colours are quite subtle and tasteful though, a long way away from the bright red of older Beats products.

As is the case with most plastic products, there’s definitely some creak with the Beats Solo 4 when you give them a stretch. The play/pause button embedded inside the Beats logo on the left cup is also a little rattly, echoing through my ear when pressed.

Beats Solo 4 and case
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Features

  • No active noise cancelling
  • Excellent battery life and quick to charge
  • Spatial audio support with head tracking

The on-ear design means there’s no active noise cancellation (ANC), a common selling point of over-ear options at this price. Instead of a series of microphones that block out noise, the Beats use passive noise cancelling to block out some ambient noise. 

I wore these on both a plane and the London Underground and while the result is better than the basic AirPods which let a lot of noise in, the additional ear cover can’t compete with true ANC in curtailing engine and carriage noise. It’s a better story in an office situation, where the Solo 4s can comfortably remove some background chatter.

Lack of ANC aside, most of the typical headphone features are found here. There’s a USB-C port for charging, a 3.5mm headphone jack for wired listening and a carrying case included in the package that has space for cables.

That 3.5mm port and included cable are both welcome, as it allows for easy listening on a plane where Bluetooth connectivity will be lacking on all but the most modern of planes. You can connect the USB-C cable to a device and listen to music in lossless formats too. You can’t however, stream in higher-res formats, as there’s only the standard AAC and SBC and no aptX or LDAC.

While Beats is part of Apple, these headphones work well with both Android and iOS devices – more so than any set of AirPods. There’s quick pairing for both operating systems and if you have the Beats app installed on Android, Find My Device functions a lot like Find My on iOS.

Beats Solo 4 on surface
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

There are some iOS-exclusive perks though, like head-tracked spatial audio in apps like Apple Music, the ability to share audio with other Beats and AirPods products and the Siri voice assistant.

One missing feature is multi-point pairing between different operating systems. You can’t have these headphones connected to one of the best Windows laptops and an iPhone at the same time and switch between the two devices without reconnecting each time. If you’re thoroughly deep into the iOS ecosystem the Beats Solo 4 will link up to all your devices via an iCloud account.

Battery Life is excellent. As there’s no ANC to power, the Beats Solo 4 can go and go without running out of juice. Apple claims 50 hours, and in my tests, I managed to match this. A full charge will take about 90 minutes, and a quick 10 minute juice up offered enough playtime for a couple of days commute.

Sound Quality

  • Lossless audio via USB-C or 3.5mm cable
  • Spatial Audio support
  • Good, if not standout, sound quality

A lot of the upgrades the Beats Solo 4 have over the Solo 3 are focused around audio. There are 40mm drivers, along with a new acoustic architecture for reduced distortion. Beats also talks up improved frequency response. 

Beats headphones were once known for their bassy sound profile; since the Apple acquisition that isn’t really the case anymore. In the simplest terms, the sound profile here is quite basic and caters to all music genres. No single genre excelled in my tests, but nothing sounded awful. I’d compare the sound quality terms to the standard AirPods, so if you’re a fan of that sound profile you’ll feel at home here.

If there was a genre that sounded the best, it would be pop. Charli xcx’s 360 sounds good, with the intense beats at the start coming through with plenty of pop and clarity. When the vocals kick in, they’re clear and detailed. Vocal representation on the whole impressed. 

Pop songs with a little more oomph, Billie Elish’s Bad Guy for example, come through with good amounts of bass, though not the ear-thumping amounts of Beats cans of the pre-Apple days. There’s plenty of clarity here too and enough detail to pick out individual elements of the backing track without everything turning messy.

Beats Solo 4 top down
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Skepta’s It Ain’t Safe lacked punch and songs full of guitars, like The Vaccines Heartbreak Kid, sounded harsh in the louder parts of the song. I found it hard to listen to busy rock genres at higher volumes on the whole, as everything felt muddy and messy.

Moving across to Dolby Atmos tracks from Apple Music, the results can be decent – for the price. There’s a little extra separation in Beyonce’s Cuff It, but the effect isn’t as all-encompassing as it is on the AirPods Max. Atmos-enabled media, from apps like Disney Plus, can sound excellent, though.

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Should you buy it?

You want a small set of on-ear headphones that tick lots of boxes

There’s a lot to like here. The Beats Solo 4 are small, collapsable and packs down into a handy case. They feature things like spatial audio support, lossless playback via USB-C and have very long battery life.

You want to fully block out noise

The on-ear design means no ANC – so they don’t block out much ambient noise. If you’re after ANC, our best noise-cancelling headphone list has plenty of excellent options.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not the Beats Solo 4 are for you depends on a few factors. If you’re against the over-ear style of headphones and aren’t buying them to tune out plane and train noises, I think they’re a good buy.

They can sound good, easily handling most genres of music without focusing too much on bass, and they’re small, light and play well with iOS and Android. If you’re a fan of the standard AirPods sound profile, these will feel familiar.

But for £199 / $199 there are less expensive choices. The Sennheiser Accentum Plus have ANC as do the Monoprice Dual Driver – both of these are more comfortable to wear for longer periods.

Apple’s AirPods Pro sound much better and can be had for only slightly more – although they can’t match the Beats for battery life.

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How we test

We test every set of headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.

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Tested across several weeks

Tested with real world use

Battery drain carried out

FAQs

Do they work with both iOS and Android?

Yes, they do and they have more Android features than a set of AirPods, including Fast Pair. Some features, like Find My, are exclusive to iOS devices, though.

Full specs

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