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Beats Solo 4 headphones review: Great audio quality and features

Blue Beats Solo 4 headphones on a wooden desk with a black case and reflections in a room.

Beats Solo 4

4.5 / 5

The new Beats Solo 4 announced on Tuesday is probably the best choice for people wanting near-premium headphones in the Apple ecosystem without dealing with nosebleed prices.

The Beats Solo3 has been a long-standing pair of entry-level headphones in the company's lineup. It's held up well over time.

Seven years after its debut, you'd expect there would have been another version available before now.

The wait is over — Apple's audio brand has finally released an updated version, simply called the Beats Solo 4. The new headphones aim to offer a familiar yet vastly improved experience over the Solo3.

After spending time with the Solo 4, it seems like it could be one of the best options for Apple ecosystem headphones. Especially if you're looking for headphones without paying a lot for them, like the AirPods Max.

Beats Solo 4 review - Design

Supplied in an environmentally-conscious 100% fiber-based packaging, the Beats Solo 4 are classic in their appearance. Put next to the Solo3, you can tell that there are some changes, but it's very much part of the same product family.

For this iteration, the Beats Solo 4 are available in three colorways: Matte Black, Slate Blue, and Cloud Pink.

Beats Solo 4 ear cup cushions
The Beats Solo 4 use comfortable cushions in the ear cups

Using a matte-like plastic exterior, the Solo 4 has metal accents around the extenders, complete with a number 4 label. The extendable sections are also metal, color-matching the smaller band elements.

The underside of the headband has a rubberized padded section, which is quite wipe-clean friendly.

The earcups offer just enough articulation from the band to be comfortable for a variety of head sizes and ears. The ear cushions are on-ear in styling, with fairly comfortable padding, and fine finish.

Beats also made the Solo 4 very compact, with folding mechanisms allowing them to shrink down in size. A supplied fabric carry case can hold the headphones and supplied USB-C and 3.5mm audio cables.

They are also very light at 217 grams (7.65 ounces). While they weren't invisible to the wearer over the course of a day, they do at least feel comfortable to be worn for long periods.

By contrast, the ultra-premium AirPods Max weighs in at 384.8 grams (13.6 ounces), almost double the weight. At least the Solo 4 can be worn without such a weight on your shoulders.

Beats Solo 4 USB-C and 3.5mm jack
USB-C and a 3.5mm jack at the base of the Beats Solo 4

On the underside of each earcup are a USB-C port and a 3.5mm jack, and a tiny LED light for power. There's also a small button on the right earcup used to wake the headphones.

Both earcups have the signature B branding, but the left earcup's version is also used for control. The outer ring can be pressed up and down for volume control.

The central B can also be pressed in as a button, with multiple presses resulting in different functions. A single tap is play and pause, and to answer calls, with twice and three times for skipping tracks.

Beats Solo 4 review - Audio quality

As you would expect for a follow-on product, Beats used the Solo3 as a base for the Solo 4's acoustics. Except that it also put many years of research and design improvements to make it a lot better.

This starts with Beats custom-designed and passively tuned dynamic diaphragm transducer. Instead of active equalization, Beats worked to tune its passive version as much as possible to match its ideal sound profile.

The custom 40mm transducers reduce electronic artifacts and distortion. This is all to make an extremely clear and wide-ranging audio profile.

The black carry case on a wooden table
The carry case for the Beats Solo 4

The expectations before the review were memories of Beats headphones from the past. Those were mostly bass-heavy headphones that yearned to do better.

Years later, and the audio quality is sky-high, as you would expect from an Apple-connected product. You still have an ever-present bass, but it's not in any way overwhelming the audio.

Instead, you have a much more balanced and clear experience. Mids and highs are really on show here, but without becoming tinny either.

One small external sign these are the Beats Solo 4
One small external sign these are the Beats Solo 4

When listening to Dolby Atmos content, the Solo 4 includes support for Spatial Audio with head tracking. This advanced processing can certainly help make movies and music more immersive.

There's also Personalized Spatial Audio support, improving the feature more after scanning your head with an iPhone.

Improvements have also been made to the microphone, which has been upgraded from an analog one to Digital MEMS mics. They also boast of having digital beamforming and a high signal-to-noise ratio.

Beats also uses a new machine learning algorithm trained on over 7,000 hours of real-world environments, to help spot the user's voice. The algorithm also rejects other background noises and wind.

In practice, this works pretty decently, as far as Bluetooth headphones usually fare. It's not broadcast-quality, but it does a good job at isolating the user's voice from a moderately noise-filled environment.

Beats Solo 4 review - Features and Android

Going from the Solo3 to Solo 4, Beats has switched from Apple's W1 chip to its own version. This gives Beats quite a few advantages, especially when dealing with Android.

While you had iOS one-touch pairing on the Solo3, the Solo 4 does the same for both Apple and Android hardware. There's iCloud pairing on iOS, but there's also ecosystem pairing on Android.

A smartphone displaying a music app and battery status of Beats Solo 4 headphones resting on a wooden surface.
Rapid pairing of the Beats Solo 4 with an iPhone

There's also audio switching on both platforms, with Android users able to seamlessly switch between devices. Apple's version consists of automatic hand-off to an Apple Watch when the iPhone is out of range.

Keeping track of the Solo 4 is also even easier, as both Android and Apple users can use Google Find My Device and Find My, respectively. Ultra-Wideband location detection isn't included, but it's still helpful to know where they were last connected.

Despite working a lot better with Android, one thing Beats can't get away from is needing its app on that platform. Customization and software updates are only available through the app on Android.

Meanwhile, iPhone users don't need a separate app. This is due to the deep integration with Apple's operating systems.

This integration also means you can use hands-free "Hey Siri" with the Solo 4 connected to Apple's hardware.

What isn't present is Active Noise Cancellation, a feature that is becoming more standard in the market. It just isn't in the Solo 4.

There's the matter of needing to justify the extra cost of other headphones in the Apple and Beats lineup which do have ANC. Specifically the Beats Studio Pro at $349 (on sale at Amazon) and the $549 AirPods Max (also on sale at Amazon).

The on-ear design also doesn't lend itself too well to isolating the ears, making ANC quite impractical for a start in the Solo 4. Both the AirPods Max and the Studio Pro have over-ear earcups and cushioning, which benefits the ANC systems they use.

But, then again, we're talking about a more budget-friendly lower-spec model of headphones here. There's already a lot on offer here, without needing the premium ANC features.

Beats Solo 4 review - Connectivity and power

The Solo 4 primarily connect to mobile devices using Bluetooth, with it having Bluetooth 5.3 Class 1 support. In our trial of the headphones, the Bluetooth connection was quite rock solid, only failing in the most extreme conditions.

Wired connectivity is also an option, with Beats including a pair of cables for USB-C and 3.5mm connections. The former can be used both for the audio connection and for recharging the headphones.

If the battery has run out, the Solo 4 will still work using the 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Solo 4 are also capable of playing lossless audio when connected to a source using a cable.

Close-up of a blue over-ear headphone with a circular logo on the side, blurry background with a desk and computer.
One Beats logo on the Beats Solo 4 can be used to control media

Battery life has been given a boost, once again. While the Solo3 could manage up to 40 hours of battery life, the Solo 4 offers up to 50 hours from a single charge. As far as taking calls goes, you can get up to 36 hours of usage. Our testing effectively bore these figures out.

As for regaining power, that's also extremely rapid. Like many other Apple and Beats items, Fast Fuel means a ten-minute charge can result in up to 5 hours of music playback.

Beats Solo 4 review - A very much needed update

The Beats Solo3 has hung around for quite a few years, and has been the de facto entry-level model in the Beats headphone range.

The Beats Solo 4 therefore had to undergo many improvements to make it worthy of replacing the Solo3. It's safe to say that there's a considerable amount of change present here.

The Solo 4 are a pair of premium headphones that occupies the more budget-conscious end of the scale. Yet they can offer features like Spatial Audio with head tracking and an extensive 50-hour battery life.

That's not to mention the fantastic audio quality, caused by Beats' tuning and multiple changes to the form.

There's a lot here to make people in the market for premium headphones happy. However, there's no ANC available.

Even so, the lack of ANC isn't a real problem here. Anyone wanting Apple-ecosystem headphones with ANC will probably want the AirPods Max or Beats Studio Pro.

In either case, you're paying a lot for the addition of ANC as a feature. That's an extra $150 on top of the Solo 4's $199.99 price tag for the Beats Studio Pro.

Wooden mannequin holding blue headphones against a blurred background with computer monitors.
The Beats Solo 4 are extremely lightweight, but pack a punch.The Beats Solo 4 are extremely lightweight, but pack a punch.The Beats Solo 4 are extremely lightweight, but pack a punch.

The Beats Solo 4 are punching above its weight in terms of audio quality and features. It's a pair of headphones that will keep people who want some form of Apple-sourced headphones on a budget happy.

Especially if they want actual headphones instead of earbuds.

Arriving seven years after its predecessor, the Beats Solo 4 had to knock its upgrades out of the park on arrival. It does so while also maintaining a reasonable price for consumers.

If it takes another seven years for Beats to bring out the Solo 5, users will still be happy picking up a Solo 4 for years to come.

Beats Solo 4 review - Pros

  • Great audio quality
  • Spatial Audio with head tracking
  • Android functionality improvements
  • 50-hour battery life

Beats Solo 4 review - Cons

  • No ANC

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the Beats Solo 4

The Beats Solo 4 is available to order from Best Buy for $199.99. Shipping starts May 2.