Beats Solo Buds review: headphones that are as durable as they are minimalist

Beats Solo Buds review: headphones that are as durable as they are minimalist
Beats Solo Buds review: headphones that are as durable as they are minimalist

Don’t look for a technological demonstration with the Solo Buds: these earphones intentionally reduce the experience true wireless as we know it, like Skullcandy’s EcoBuds. Things that we would normally consider mandatory in 2024 are missing. Forget about active noise reduction or any IP certification, for example. Forget even the presence of a battery in the storage case, which only serves as a charging interface.

Beats’ proposition is therefore simple: to offer good sound, titanic autonomy (single charge), but above all universal operation, as complete on Android systems as on Apple.

Price & Availability

The Beats Solo Buds have been available since June 20, 2024 at a price of €89.95. Four colors coexist: black, polar purple (tested version), transparent red and storm gray.

Test conditions

We tested the headphones under firmware version 3A112. The settings are accessible natively under iOS. Under Android, we used the Beats app in version 2.8 (22060).

Construction & Confort

It’s no surprise that the Solo Buds look very similar to the Studio Buds+, with the few variations being quite anecdotal. Their design, not necessarily atypical, but very recognizable, is generally spherical with the integration of a flat bean-shaped area on the back.

The Beats formula, admittedly simplified because it unfortunately abandons any IP certification, remains generally well-oiled. A certain density is there, the assembly is excellent and the matte tones are not lacking in allure.

The observation is just as positive on comfort, despite a format that flirts with that of in-ear. The cannula is not too thick, the tips are sufficiently numerous (four sizes), and the shape of the product, more optimized than its spherical shape suggests, offers a certain universality of wearing. The vast majority of ear morphologies will find what they are looking for. In fact, the sensation of intrusion of the tips into the canal, or of pressure on the concha, is limited. The Beats Solo Buds remain however behind big names like the AirPods Pro 2.

Housing

The very illustration of Solo Buds-style minimalism, the charging case has the elementary elegance of being equipped with a cover, unlike that of the Skullcandy EcoBuds. For the rest, this accessory only ensures the essentials… and even then.

Compact, lightweight and sufficiently well finished, it is not compatible with induction charging and, above all, does not integrate any form of battery. It thus allows you to turn off the Beats once they are placed in its two notches and to serve as a charging hub (by connecting a cable to its USB-C port). Inevitably, such simplicity will not be to everyone’s taste.

User experience

Orders

Like Jabra, Beats still opts for button controls. Directly integrated into the structure, as is the case on the latest Studio Buds+, these prove effective, with two reservations. First, they are arranged on only a portion of the back of each earphone. Second, pressing the button can, at certain angles, push the cannula further into the ear canal.

On the other hand, it’s hard to get lost with the controls. In addition to the classic one, two and three-click layout, which ensures navigation, Beats adds a long press that increases/decreases the volume or triggers the voice assistant.

Application

The brand’s strength is that it is the only one that currently offers as much wealth on the Apple side as on the Google side. However, the term wealth is far too strong, because the Solo Buds do not shine with the number of settings available. Whether it is the Beats app on Android or the settings accessible on iOS, the functions and adjustments are close to nothing. A few button adjustments, a few thin automatisms, and we’ve done the rounds. In short, a simple reminiscence of what we had already observed with the Solo 4 headphones.

Connectivity

Compatible with Google and Apple’s quick pairing, the Beats Solo Buds score points when it comes to taking the novice user by the hand. This dual pairing is also accompanied by a native (very precise) display of the battery level on both OS.

Unfortunately, we would have liked to have a little more. While the presence of only the SBC and AAC codecs is very secondary, and the absence of LE Audio logical, a multipoint connection seems almost mandatory for good headphones. Apple’s proprietary Spatial Audio technology is well supported, but in a truncated way. The effect is only activated on tracks mixed in Atmos, and the headphones do not benefit from head movement tracking.

Unsurprisingly, the connection stability and range are both excellent. Finally, the latency is 175 ms, which is average for the genre, no more, no less. To put it simply, the lag between sound and image remains too significant when using it in a game or in video (uncompensated).

Audio

Children of Apple’s Beats era, the Solo Buds are logically expected to be headphones with fairly balanced, if not too light, bass. We are particularly reminded of the Solo 4 headphones which lacked a little body.

Despite our fears, it’s hard to talk about anemic bass. On the contrary, an accentuation in this frequency range is clearly present, although it appears more measured than in many competitors, such as the recent FreeBuds 6i. This setting (as well as that of the treble) results in a low end of the spectrum that seems drier than truly warm. If the sound base is not lacking, some will prefer more breadth.

We can note a correct technical level here, the homemade transducer being sufficiently well worked to bring out the nuances of a purring or percussive sound, failing to be without accident. Yes, a certain mastery is there, but small overflows and imprecisions remain present. The Solo Buds lack a little argument in the face of complexity. Let us note a crucial point concerning the bass: you have to be particularly attentive to the tips used. A size may seem adapted to the user’s ear (good comfort, feeling of correct isolation), but in practice barely bring out the bass.

A special feature that already exists on the Studio Buds+: if the mids are generally well-held, rather natural, because far from being phagocytized by the bass, the high-mids are clearly highlighted. This has the effect, among other things, of projecting the soundstage forward at the same time as the voices, sometimes overplaying the clarity of the latter. On certain tracks, particularly those giving pride of place to female voices, we note a certain excess of zeal. We cannot strictly speak of aggressiveness, but we would have liked more appeasement.


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Membrane reactivity measurement: response to square waves at 50 Hz Membrane reactivity measurement: response to square waves at 500 Hz

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In the highs, the oscillations are there, but the quality of the transducers is quite correct. The Beats Solo Buds do not have the most demonstrative sound profile in the world, they are not the most detailed either, but everything manages to link effectively despite a small lack of ventilation.

Indeed, the soundstage is rather deep, the separation of instruments is effective, and the absence of any prohibitive sound defect makes listening quite versatile. With a little more linearity in the high end of the spectrum, and a little more softness in the high-mids, listening would clearly gain in quality. As it is, the headphones still offer a pleasant rendering, which has little to envy that of its direct competitors.

Isolation

In the absence of active noise reduction, the Beats Solo Buds obviously do not break records in terms of silence. However, their design close to in-ear slightly compensates for this deficiency. We find, both in the bass and the midrange, a beginning of isolation which can reach around ten decibels in the best case. Of course, this is clearly not enough to eliminate sounds such as an airplane engine, but it is already a small feat.

Of course, the isolation of the high-mids (beyond 1 kHz) and the highs allows the Beats Buds Solo to get back in the race. Without being perfect, these headphones effectively protect users from the most aggressive noises.

Along with the absence of RBA, the other downside of these true wireless is inevitably the absence of sound feedback/transparency mode. By not allowing the recovery of useful frequencies in the pockets of the voice, high-mids in particular, the Beats are difficult to use to follow a conversation or immerse yourself in a natural sound environment.

Points forts

  • Well-tuned bass.

  • Very good projection of the soundstage forward.

  • Huge autonomy on a single charge.

  • Comfortable.

  • Dual quick pairing (iOS/Android).

Weak points

  • Some overflow in the high-mids.

  • No noise reduction or transparency mode.

  • Mediocre hands-free kit.

  • No multipoint.

  • No resistance to the elements (IP certification).

Conclusion

Global mark

How does the rating work?

Simple and turnkey, the Solo Buds clearly are. But by wanting to strip down its formula a little too much and by giving up some fundamentals of true wirelessBeats inevitably makes its creation less attractive. Faced with the Huawei FreeBuds 6i or Nothing Ears (a), which are much more complete, it is difficult to exist, even by waving the argument of dual Android/iOS compatibility.

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