Before rapper Dr. Dre became a billionaire by selling his eponymous headphone company Beats by Dr. Dre to Apple, he propelled the company into first place among the lucrative millennial mobile/computer/home headphone market with relentless marketing and colourful products that were deemed ‘cool’ by the kids. And in marketing and profitability, nothing beats ‘cool’.
His first headphone, the Beats by Dr. Dre Studio (2008), was a bass monster. And not in a good way. Listening to anything but rap or electronica on those things was a waste of time. Complex classical? Forget it. Coherence was a mess. I remember a laughable Mahler 1.
The company’s second effort, the Beats Executive Headphone was much improved, but still bass heavy.
Since the sale to Apple, the cool factor has worn off a little, but Beats products still have some sway with the kids.
Apple is not interested in great sound. It seems for Apple Music and AirPods, ‘good enough’ is the mantra. Although the HomePod has superior sound through some pretty clever technology, it is still single point source no matter the aural trickery, and because of Siri’s inhibitions and Apple’s walled garden in the name of security, the HomePod has been a spectacular flop. At least in the world of Apple sales numbers.
To replace the massively popular AirPods with a better looking, gym-friendly, cool looking model, Apple nudged Beats to come up with the Powerbeats Pro.
A hook around the ear type, the Powerbeats Pro driver fits snugly in the ear canal, comes with four different sized ear tips, are available in four colors—cream, navy, olive and black—and retail for $250. That’s a fair hike above the $159 for the AirPods.
Ownership has it privileges. And the biggest for the Apple/Beats partnership is the cross company use of Apple chips, in this case the wonderful H1 chip. This chip allows for the same error-free, super-fast connectivity as the AirPods with an iPhone. Android? Gotta pair the old fashioned way, via Bluetooth. I never experienced a drop out.
Charging is via Lightning Connector with no wireless charging. I listened for hours and hours before needing a charge.
The Powerbeats Pros top the AirPods in all ways important for use & sound—they fit better, they look better and they sound better. Also, buttons are mirrored on each earphone—volume up and down and a large centred button for pause, skip and to accept or decline phone calls. Phone calls sound superb on the Powerbeats. Clear without the annoying echo heard on many earphones of this type.
The hooks that go around the ear are adjustable. It took a few tries to get mine comfortable. After a while, you’ll forget you are wearing them. And though my gym activity these days is a session on a recumbent bike, no amount of head shaking got them out of my ears.
It will take a few hours to get rid of a treble balance. Give them at least 25 hours in your ears before you make a final judgement. Once broken in, try all the ear tips. Although the tips on the earphones fit well, the bass only balanced with the energetic treble when I replaced them with the largest tips. Only then could the ear tip seal completely so my eardrum could be used as a bass trampoline.
Midrange? You’re kidding? We’re talking about a $250 earphone. Let’s simply say, the sound is ‘effective’. You want subtle string timbres, you’ll need a good two channel system or a live concert. But, for casual listening, while your partner’s sleeping, walking outside or in the gym, they’re the bomb. And they perform quite well on planes, too. Not full noise cancelling, but they go old school with canal filling tips.
While reviewing the new Reference Recordings’ Bruckner Symphony No. 9 with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony in quiet environs, a lot of the subtlety and power of this very fine new release was heard easily. They don’t offer scrutiny (often a bad, unrealistic thing anyway) like over the ear gems by Audeze or M&D, but, recording dependent, you’ll get a glimpse of what the artist is attempting to convey.
On electronica and house, they are predictably thrilling. The layers are clear and the emphasized bass can be very impressive. ‘Light Through The Veins’ from Insides by Jon Hopkins was musically effective and artistically satisfying through the Powerbeats Pros. Hopkins’ Baroque Pop, minimalistic style is infused to the last degree in this gorgeously hypnotic track. The earphones allowed the ostinato bass coloured with delicate shafts of light disguised as synthesizers and sampled sounds. More like a Passacaglia with a seven minute crescendo, ‘Light’ is a mesmerizingly beautiful track. Play late at night on the Beats and see where your mind takes you.
The Powerbeats Pro earphones are a definite improvement in every area over AirPods. I think the improvements are reflected in a fair price hike and worth your investment.
The comfort level, superb connectivity—the H1 chip is techno gem—and solid sound make these an easy choice for active Apple fanboys and girls.
Further information: Beats