2013 Beats Studio Wireless review

Because I need to take a break, I thought I would share my thoughts on a Christmas gift I received this year: a pair of matte black 2013 Beats Studio wireless headphones. As some of you may know, I have been a Bose headphone advocate for a while. Sure, they have always been more expensive than the competition but every Bose pair of headphones I've owned has been extremely comfortable and produced great sound quality. I first had a pair of blue Bose TriPorts, I then upgraded those to a pair of QuietComfort 2 headphones for when I required noise canceling. Even last year, I purchased a pair of Bose earbuds (the MIE2i sports) so that I could exercise without worrying about sweat ruining my two over-the-ear headphones. Plus it can't stand my ears getting all sweaty whenever I exercise with large cans.

I have always always been a strong proponent against Beats headphones. Before 2013, all Beats headphones were made by Monster. Monster is an absolute evil that needs to die. All of their products are overpriced and cheaply made. I never thought the original Beats Studios were worth their $300+ price tag (which was eventually lowered to $250). They were made of cheap plastic that easily broke, had small exposed screws that often fell out, and their sound quality was muddy with too much bass and no attention to the mids or highs. That's why I always kept my QuietComfort 2 headphones.

Then, a future relative gave me a pair of the new Beats Studios, the Bluetooth wireless models. So I thought I would compare them to my Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones (which are ~7 years old at this point and needing replaced). iLounge has already reviewed the wired versions giving them a score of B (recommended). I have the matte black color with Bluetooth wireless so mine are a little different. Same headphones, just wireless and not glossy.

I do have to say, the new Studios are very nice looking. I was never a fan of the obnoxious neon green, orange, pink, blue, etc. colors of the older Beats Studio headphones (made by Monster). However, Beats is now it's own independent company. They have revamped their entire headphone lineup and they are no longer co-designed or made by Monster. The new designs are sleeker, lighter, and sturdier. I can bend the headband so that it's nearly fully flat and it will spring right back. The earcups don't stick out near as much as before and the padding around them been taken from the Beats Executive models. This leads to a very flashy pair of headphones that are a clear upgrade from the previous models. Beats also did away with the requirement of carrying around AAA batteries and instead opted to put a rechargeable Li-ion in the new Studios. The battery is rated for 20 hours of wired playback and 12 hours of Bluetooth wireless playback. I've found that their numbers are pretty accurate when you're listening at around 50% volume and below. Cranking the volume up will cause the battery life to decrease but that is normal behavior.

Beats also went with a design where all the screws are hidden. Not only did they get rid of the creaky plastic of old but you don't have to worry about the screws falling out. These headphones definitely look like they're worth their MSRP of $379.99. The matte black color looks elegant, doesn't attract hairline scratches or fingerprints like the glossy plastic coating (though facial and hair grease still stick), yet it still stands out as being definitively Beats headphones. In comparison to my Bose, these rely on more plastic but I do prefer their look. People complaining about the durability of the last Studios will definitely like this upgrade.

The new Studios, just like the old, feature adaptive noise canceling. This differs from active noise canceling as white noise is emitted by the headphones covering up outside noise. It isn't as effective as active noise canceling but my eardrums don't hurt after using the 2013 Studios due to pressure from active noise canceling. Both methods have their pros and cons. I personally prefer adaptive now. Most outside noise is covered up once music starts playing anyway. I haven't tested them on a plane yet but I have walked outside next to a noisy road, worked in a lab with all sorts of noises, and worn them in a shared office with three other people pounding away on their keyboards. All outside noise has been drowned out.

Another upgrade for the Studios is the new LED battery indicator lights. A series of LED lights now light up giving you an indication of how much charge is remaining. It's a whole lot better than the colored LED implementation of the old Studios. iOS users will also see a battery icon in the status bar next to the Bluetooth icon (just like with a JamBox Big or UE Boom speaker). It's a handy little feature as I don't have to take my headphones off to gauge how much juice the headphones have left.

The headphones can also be used wired to an audio source instead of Bluetooth. It's a nice option but I can't think of any scenario where that would be beneficial unless you really need 20 hours of audio playback. A micro-USB port is used to recharge the Studios when their battery is depleted. I've found Bluetooth wireless performance to be spot on. They have a range of ~30ft (less when there are walls/doors between the Studios and an audio source) but I have never had it drop out when using the Studios from normal distances. The left earcup has built-in controls so that you can play/pause, skip forward/fast forward, and skip back/rewind media. It's handy to have basic controls built into the headphones as that means I don't have to take my iPhone 5 out of my pocket to listen to music.

Sound Quality
This is one area where the Beats lines have always fallen short but, like every other aspect about the Studio headphones, they have drastically improved the sound quality. It's no longer muddy as the highs are given just as much attention as the lows. The mids are still lacking. Beats updated the audio engine and drivers for the Studios and it's clearly evident. I compare their dynamic compression to that of what you would hear at a rock, metal, pop, techno/dubstep, modern country (think Luke Bryan, I'm going to go throw up now), indie rock, and a rap concert. It's definitely not a bad mix but it isn't accurate. Then again, despite what Dr. Dre says, the Beats were never meant to accurately represent music. Those looking for accuracy should stay far away from these and instead stick with Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, or Grado headphones.

As I said, I like the mix as the genres of music I listen to really sound nice with these. People who listen to classical music, pieces that are simple with singular instruments/singing, real country, and real bluegrass (i.e. not Mumford & Sons, they are pop) will want to look elsewhere as those genres lack the "wall of sound" the genres I previously listed have. That's where the 2013 Studio headphones produce their best sound. Compared to my Bose headphones, the bass is definitely more present but so are the highs. The QuietComfort 2's are much more balanced than the Beats Studios but, at the same time, the Studios can reach a louder volume.

This is the area where people will differ the most but I enjoy the sound quality of the 2013 Studio models.

It's weird in this day and age to mention product packaging but I still enjoy opening new tech. Beats give the 2013 Studio headphones a very old school Apple-influence box. They come in a huge box that opens up to reveal a semi-rigid case. The Studios are inside of this case. Remove that and another cardboard panel to find a box for the documentation and warranty along with another box containing a soft cleaning cloth, standard 3.5mm male-to-male cable (black), a 3.5mm male-to-male cable with Apple device controls and a built-in microphone (the Beats signature red), a micro-USB cable (Beats red), and a 2.1watt/5amp AC adapter (it will rapidly charge an iPhone and can charge an iPad as normal). Beats did a good job of making the package a joy to open along with including all of the necessary accessories for using the Studios. My only real complaint comes from the semi-rigid case. It is large enough to house the headphones but not much else. It would have been nice to see a bigger case that had a dedicated section for housing the AC adapter and various cables. Instead, it's a bit crowded once you throw the AC adapter and USB cable in with the headphones. Toss in one of the audio cables and it's a mess.

So, in the end, are these headphones worth it? They come with a ton of accessories and have been improved in every single way over the previous Studios. However, due to their inaccurate sound stage, I don't think they are worth paying $380 for. I still recommend them for people who want Bluetooth wireless headphones with noise canceling but you have to be willing to pay a lot. I would fully recommend these if the MSRP was reduced to $299 for the wireless Studios and $249 for the wired only versions. $380 is a lot to ask just to gain Bluetooth wireless. If I was on the market for a new set of wired headphones, I would greatly consider the wired 2013 Studios especially since the glossy black versions are on Amazon for $260 right now.

As of now, my QuietComfort 2 headphones are headed to eBay as these have become my new "high end" cans. Again, they aren't accurate but I really enjoy their sound, design, and comfort level. Fans of the original Studios should enjoy the new ones. In fact, I think the upgrades warrant selling the old Studios and putting the money towards these (even just the wired version). Every single aspect about the 2013 Studios are a clear upgrade over the old ones.