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Beats by Dr. Dre Executive headphones review: Better Beats but not Bose killers

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MSRP: $299.95

The Good The Beats by Dr. Dre Executive noise-canceling headphones have a sleek, sturdy design, fit comfortably, offer good sound for noise-canceling headphones, and come with two cords, one of which has an inline remote with microphone.

The Bad They're expensive and a bit heavy, and there's a faint hiss with noise cancellation activated, and noise cancellation must be activated to get sound.

The Bottom Line The Beats by Dr. Dre Executive noise-canceling headphones have an appealing design, strong features, and good sound, but they don't quite measure up to the Bose QuietComfort 15 noise-canceling headphones.

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7.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

You probably don't associate the Beats by Dr. Dre brand with corporate chic, but that's the vibe the company is going for with its Executive noise-canceling headphones.

In its marketing pitch, Beats says the Executives are designed to "take you from [the] boardroom to the tarmac and everywhere in between. These headphones deliver the legendary Beats sound now in a refined premium package that's easier than ever to take on the road."

In other words, it's trying to dip into the same crowd that Bose runs with -- and why not, those are the guys and gals who can afford to pay $300 for a pair of headphones.

So, are the Executives as good as the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 headphones, which retail for the same price? No, not quite; but they're still quite decent noise-canceling headphones, with a sleek look, good build quality, and a comfortable fit.

In the past, a lot of people complained that Beats headphones just weren't that sturdy and didn't hold up that well over time. I've only tested this pair for a week, so I can't comment on how well they'll do over several months, but they seem much better built than previous Beats models and have a good sturdy feel to them, with some parts made out of metal instead plastic, thick wires, an L-shaped plug, and a nicely padded headband and earcups. They have a slightly more refined, understated look than some of the other Beats models.

The Beats Executives have a sturdy design with a thick, detachable cable. Sarah Tew/CNET

While one of the hinges squeaked a little -- a spritz of WD-40 remedied that -- I liked the design and found the headphones very comfortable, though they are somewhat hefty (the adjectives sturdy and hefty often seem to go together).

The Executives have a double hinge and fold flat and up slightly to fit into a fairly compact case that's about the same size as the case for the Bose QC15s. A diagram inside the case informs you how they should be folded to fit properly. However, there's no pocket inside the case for storing an extra set of batteries or the two-pronged adapter.

The headphones have a nicely padded headband and earcups. Sarah Tew/CNET

In a nice touch, the door to the battery compartment in the left earcup adheres magnetically and is easy to get on and off. Two AAA batteries are required to power the noise cancellation; the switch is at the top of the right earcup. Alas, like with Bose's QuietComfort headphones, you have to activate the noise-canceling to get any sound out of the headphones -- so if the batteries die, you can't listen to anything.

The included case. Sarah Tew/CNET

Beyond the active noise cancellation, the headphones ship with a two-pronged airline adapter and two different headphone cables (yes, the cables are detachable). One is a standard straight cord while the other has an Apple-friendly inline remote with a microphone for making cell phone calls.

You get two cable options; one has an inline remote with a microphone. Sarah Tew/CNET

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